Sun City Girls
|1984||Sun City Girls||7/10|
|1986||Grotto of Miracles||6.5/10|
|1987||Horse Cock Phepner||8/10|
|1990||Torch of the Mystics||7/10|
|1991||Dawn of the Devi||5.5/10|
|1991||>>Valentines from Matahari||.../...|
|1992||Live from Planet Boomerang||6.5/10|
|1993||Bright Surroundings, Dark Beginnings||6/10|
|1994||Alvarius B. - Alvarius B.||.../...|
|1996||330,003 Crossdressers from Beyond the Rig Veda||9/10|
|1996||Dante's Disneyland Inferno||7.5/10|
|1998||Sir Richard Bishop - Salvador Kali||.../...|
|2003*||>>God Is My Solar System/Superpower||.../...|
|2003*||>>Bleach Has Feelings, Too!/To Cover Up Your Right to Live||.../...|
|2004*||>>Fresh Kill of a Cape Hunting Dog/Def in Italy||.../...|
|2005||Alvarius B. - Blood Operatives of the Barium Sunset||.../...|
|2005||Uncle Jim - Superstars of Greenwich Meantime||.../...|
|2006||>>For Drummers Only||.../...|
|2006||Sir Richard Bishop - Fingering the Devil||.../...|
|2007||Sir Richard Bishop - While My Guitar Violently Bleeds||.../...|
|2008||Live at the Sit and Spin||7/10|
|2009*||>>Fruit of the Womb/Polite Deception||.../...|
|2011||Alvarius B. - Baroque Primitiva||.../...|
|2013||Alvarius B. - Fuck You and the Horse You Rode in On||.../...|
|2013||The Invisible Hands - The Invisible Hands||6.5/10|
|2014||The Invisible Hands - Teslam||6.5/10|
Review last updated: May 29, 2017
It amazes me how the esoteric riddle of passion, Sun City Girls, the creative occultist engine masquerading as a rock band, has still eluded mainstream and contemporary rock listeners. This group is an endless hot spring of ideas and originality. Their scarcely-heard self-titled is their purest work, their most representational rock freak-out sprawler. "Burning Nerve Ending Magic Trick", "Bible Set off My Smoke Alarm", "Helwa Shak", "Caravan of Scars" are hyper-expressionistic stream-of-consciousness exercises. Their second LP, Grotto of Miracles was a more adaptive traditional Eastern folk melody. Hear "Different Kind of Whore", "Lesbian Meadow", "My Old Friend the Future". Anyone interested in this fantastic trio should note that the majority of their recorded output was self-released on Cloaven Cassettes between 1984-1992. The studio LPs are just snapshots of their forward-thinking sporadic jams.
So then in 1987 you have the political allegory and slapstick puppet show Horse Cock Phepner. On the surface this album seems like a tail-chasing sex romp, completely vulgar and devoid of meaning. However, under the surface, it is a scathing hot political satire and social commentary. Listen to the absurdist expressionist suite "Without Compare", the Fugs cover "CIA Man", the emotive ballad "Dreamland", the breathless whisper "I Protect You from Me". This study of social degeneration ranges from global systematic apathy to rural psychological horror shows, like the incest confessional "Eyeball in a Quart Jar of Snot", and the visceral "It's Underneath the House". This album is a sprawling demonstration of ironic anti-establishment caricatures. The final track of this album is a sound collage of the forgotten Cloaven Cassettes releases.
That brings us to Torch of the Mystics, their chart-topping college radio hit. Torch is not as cerebral as <i>Horse Cock</i>, not as expressionistic as self-titled, but rather it focuses on East Asian and African-inspired adaptations (or at least masquerades). Hear the whistling campfire song "The Shining Path", and the sprawling interstellar jam "Space Prophet Dogon". It is Sun City Girls at their tamest and friendliest, which is probably why it became as successful as it did. This treasure of multi-cultural international collages is often mistakenly lumped into "world music" (which is just commercialized label for 'not American' music), so the band responded in a number of self-aware reflections.
The Sun City Girls masterpiece and timeless psychological dronescape, 330,003 Crossdressers from Beyond the Rig Veda is a humorous and cynical self-satire, that gradually transforms into an honest self-reflection. At this point, the Girls had become masters of imitating vaguely Asian or Indian sounding rock songs. The triumphs of international indulging in esoterica and niche interests, "Soi Cowboy", "Apna Desh", "Cruel and Thin", "Insect Dilemma", were hit singles that misled and mocked the audiences of Torch of the Mystics. It should be noted that the majority of this album's vocals are gibberish, spoken with a tone that is often mistaken for real foreign dialect. This is symbolic of how their commercial success is based on their "world music" aesthetic and not the substance underneath. But, it is nonetheless hilarious and wonderful to imagine Rick and Alan Bishop, with good ol Charlie Gocher with their masks and costumes jamming out to "Soi Cowboy". This album boasts a massive instrumental palette, with everything from Javanese gamelan to balalaika, lap steel guitar to flute, assorted sound devices and strings.
This aeshtetic-shifting turns into genuine ominous psych-scapes later in the album. The centerpiece is the live improv and metaphysical exercise "Ghost Ghat Tresspass/Sussmeier", which was performed with electric violinist Eyvind Kang. The violin on the first part of the suite is very melodic and meditative, reminiscent of Godspeed or other post-rock groups. However, the immediate shift on Sussmeier turns this melodic angel into a dissonant hellish tantrum. The violin playing becomes completely atonal, yet aggressive in delivery, to compliment the tempo-less hyper-stimulant guitar playing. This is the group's magnum opus and a triumph of progressive and spiritual rock music.
It should be noted that 1996 gave way to two, totally separate, two-hour-long double-albums. The acclaimed classic Crossdressers and the much less favored of the two, the literary cerebral nihilistic sociopath Dante's Disneyland Inferno. The reason both of these massive and totally original sprawling albums came out the same year, is because they were both worked on at the same time, over a period of years. However, on Crossdressers, the creative control is centered around the Bishop boys. On Disneyland, Charles Gocher has complete say over the content. Dante's Disneyland Inferno boasts triumphs of improvisation, but in a much different format than Crossdressers. It features songs like "The Geography of the Swastika", "The Harley of Horror", "Sexy Graveyard", "Fourteen", "Family of Nails", "Bloddy Zipper", and "Bird of Prey", where the lyrics and vocals are improvised simultaneously with the music, for a cohesive, collaborative jam in one take. It also contrasts these stream-of-consciousness rambles, with written and rehearsed country-rock swingers, "Soft Fragile Eggshell Minds", "Hector and Chino", "Ruby on the Ferris Wheel", "Bitter Cold Countryside", "Book of Revelations".
It is the most literary and academic of the Girls albums, because each of the 35 tracks is a story, a narrative, a plot with characters, even if it is senseless and improvised. The themes involve morbid topics like cannibalism, child abduction, infanticide, manslaughter, lynch mobs, but they are all addressed in a comedic, silly way, with self-assured alienation. The vinyl LP box set (because I own like all of this shit) includes a massive written work of fiction, where two guys descend into Hell just to check it out, never minding what the Big Guy Upstairs would think about all that. This album is almost more of a novel or an anthology than a musical work, because it has perhaps more written word content than musical content. The musical styles range from new age jazz guitar, to rural backwoods country, to atmospheric beatnik percussion, to busking junkie bard horror stories, to spoken-word Joyce or Burroughs-esque mindscapes. It is fantastic. This is the kind of album that would turn a Christian conservative family man into a devil-worshipping anarchist who has sex for money. I highly recommend you listen to all of it several times.
The most entertaining of the Girls live albums are Live at the Sit and Spin, Montreal Pop, and Djinn Funnel. At this point in their discography, things get a little blurry. But their massive body of work ends with the tragic and melancholic Funeral Mariachi, a tribute to the late creative renegade Charles Gocher, who died in 2007. This is easily the saddest and most emotive Sun City Girls work, using actual recordings made with Gocher to mourn the man's death, and celebrate his life. It is an appropriate and satisfying end to the Girls 25-year career.