Tuesday, September 12, 2006


People who are into noise/psych/weird/underground rock rarely seem to like the Dead, or admit they like the Dead. Most likely, being born after 1970, they'll align themselves with what they perceive as the punk ethos and hate them outright. Believe me, I know it's completely understandable to hate the Dead, especially if you're going for a punk style. That's the beauty of the Dead, their ugliness -- they truly allow the listener to be free to love them or hate them or whatever in between. I can even understand if someone who is into noise, psych, weirdness, and underground music hates the Dead, even though I think they are representative of all four of those things, perhaps more significantly on all counts than any other band in rock history. However, I will refuse to understand a psych head who hates the Dead but claims that Tripsichord are great.

Tripsichord was another, much lesser known band from San Francisco. They weren't exactly part of the initial Haight/Ash heyday, recording a single album's worth of material in 1969. It wasn't actually released until 1971, and has been reissued by the Akarma label here in the mid-2000's. Naturally, a lot of psych and noise and weirdo heads are into this album. It has an over-the-top glittery medieval-psych cover, and it has weird obscure proggy guitar rock on it that sounds like all the SF classics (the Dead, the Airplane, Moby Grape, etcetera), but weirdly once-removed, a little more proggy and bombastic -- slightly ham-fisted, even. There is a lot of wild, gutsy (but also rather confused) songwriting and guitar playing on here, but the songs just aren't memorable. Of course, sometimes I think that's what these new young psych heads are looking for, because if the songs were memorable, they'd be commercial, and better known today. They want to find something obscure, that no one has really heard of, because it's fun to be a successful archivist, and they hope that the obscurities they dig up will trump what's better known. Sometimes they do, just like Neil, Frank and Van Zandt will always trump Waits, Browne, and Taylor. And of course everyone wants to take down the Dead with some undersung obscuro hero, because of all those grody hippie fans and all those silly twinkly lyrics and all that out-of-tune noodling and all that tye-dye and hackysack and all the money that they made. Of course. But Tripsichord do NOT trump the Dead. It's a lot like putting a CDR by some noise trumpeter next to the oeuvre of Miles Davis. Both are cool, of course, but don't say the obscuro hero is more worthy than the long-timer.

I really don't want to take Tripsichord down -- their album is certainly kinda cool, and undersung, but don't spend outrageous psych reissue prices on it for the music (the cover on this Akarma edition does look amazing, on the other hand, and might be worth the money by itself). I've been listening to it for a few days in the changer and, believe me, nothing is taking. One day I thought I was getting a nibble, with a great laid-back sunny SF-style ballad that went "Here comes suuuuuun.....shiiiiine....." "Ah, Tripsichord does rule," I thought, and I went to the CD player to get the title of the song. But getting there, I realized, oh snap . . . it was a song by the Dead after all. I had bought a used copy of Wake of the Flood the same day, and that was in the CD player too, on random shuffle.


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