Friday, June 10, 2016

Song(s) of the Day # 873 Speed, Glue & Shinki

There are certain countries and scenes that I feel I could begin to post from and almost never come to an end. Brazil and France come to mind and also Japan. I perused and ordered Julian Cope's Japrocksampler a couple of days ago, all the while listening to some of the extraodinary bands from the sixties and seventies that he writes about. Speed, Glue & Shiki among the most remarkable, and frankly unbelievable of them all, but yes they actually did exist.Perhaps best to leave Cope to write say more about them in his quite inimitable way.

'Speed, Glue & Shinki ... now, there's a name to conjure with. Talk about wearing your influences on your sleeve, this lot named their band after their drug habits. Put crudely and succinctly, which is the only way to talk about anything to do with this bunch, Speed, Glue & Shinki were a drug-addled early-'70s Japanese free-blues power trio whose eulogies to snorting speed, shooting heroin, taking marijuana and sniffing paint thinners and Marusan Pro Bond glue manifested in such songs as 'Sniffing & Snorting', 'Stoned out of My Mind' and their debut single 'Mr Walking Drugstore Man', which concluded with the unaccompanied voice of the singer hissing at his audience: 'Hey, d'you wanna buy some speed? I mean ... d'you wanna buy some speed?' 

'Starting as they meant to go on, or what? Indeed, with just a few notable exceptions (degraded sex, glimpses of nirvana, alcoholic oblivion) there are only three recurring song themes that emerge from Speed, Glue & Shinki's entire canon of work, namely: 1) I'm taking too many drugs; 2) the Man is a Bitch so I'm taking too many drugs; and 3) my Bitch is a Man so I'm taking too many drugs. Moreover, Speed, Glue & Shinki's overall sound was the sloppiest and most unrestrained garage noise of its time, bringing forth an Ur-klang of extremely abrasive and repulsively degraded rock'n'roll riffs played in the grindingly trudgeful style of the Move's 'Brontosaurus' and 'When Alice Comes Back to the Farm' via the Beatles' 'I Want You (She's So Heavy)'. With the single exception of the almighty land almightily underrated) Leigh Stephens-period Blue Cheer, heavy blues never lent itself much to free rock until Speed, Glue & Shinki came along three years later and reduced the blues' three chords to just one, snottily flouting all of the tense white boys' rules so painstakingly amassed by the likes of Mountain's Leslie West and Cream's Eric Clapton. Indeed, comparing Speed, Glue & Shinki to heavy contemporaries such as Mountain and Cream is pointless because, whereas those guys - even at their lowest ebb - at least always remembered to repeat their riffs the same every time, Speed, Glue & Shinki were far too wayward and, urn, individual to muster up such consistencies. 

And seeing as they were powered by a Filipino singing drummer with a bad amphetamine habit and a propensity for setting his kit on fire with paraffin, inconsistency became the band's byword, their benchmark, their modus operandi, their raison d'être, as the ecstatically disjointed moves of their brilliant but erratic percussion powerhouse informed the rest of the band and everyone who worked for them. It was as though even the recording technicians involved with the band became temporarily zombified with that same inconsistency malaise, recovering only long after the session was over. A typical Speed, Glue & Shinki track would not only speed up and slow down radically during the same song, but it could also become extremely loud at points, tailing off just when you least needed such an effect. If ex-Iguanas drummer Iggy Pop had remained behind the drums when he became lead singer of the Stooges, you'd probably have already heard something close to Speed, Glue & Shinki. 

But then, even 5'1" Iggy would have fitted in with the Japanese rock'n'roll scene better than these barbarians. For, in a society where 5'7" is considered tall for a guy, these three rizla-thin loons were each well over six feet tall. Yup, these Joey Ramones wuz born to stand out. There's a town in southern Spain which shoulda been the home of Speed, Glue & Shinki. It's called Moron de la Frontera, and these guys were truly morons at the frontier of rock'n'roll. '

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