Thursday, January 24, 2008

Columbus Discount Winter Odyssey, Part Two

I was planning on posting up my review of Tommy Jay's Tall Tales of Trauma at some point this week but my brother beat me to it, and did a great job for a wonderful album. Read it HERE. Buy it HERE.
Seriously, fans of the Ego Summit record, Mike Rep's Stupor Hiatus, Lou Reed's mid-70's output, late 70's and 80's loner folk, etc...this is absolutely essential, sure to be one of the best reissues of the year. I've seen it on every turntable I've passed in Columbus this month. A new classic.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Guinea Worms' Box of Records 7"

It warms my heart and eases the pain in my liver to know that there is already a buzz about the new batch of Columbus Discount releases weeks before their official street date. After years of scraping together enough dough to get from one release to the next, their label has become a name that triggers automatic pre-ordering by paypalling collectors before records even hit the shelves. Records are pressed. Records sell-out. Business is good. Sounds simple enough now, but whole lot more goes into it with these gents, so let me tell you some about the great trio of records they bring to you this Winter.
Today, the Guinea Worms. One of the great mysteries of my musical existence so far is why Will Foster and Co. now have a grand total of only five tracks down to vinyl after ten years of banging it out in dive bars around Columbus. I know the Cheater Slicks have essentially crushed any longevity surprise with their 25th birthday last year, but ten years is a long time. I could write pages about the GW history and I am surely fit to be doing so, having witnessed every lineup and heard nearly every CDR Foster has put together (impossible, even Foster hasn't heard them all...I'll get to that later) over the last decade, but I'll try and keep it as brief as possible.
After playing bass in a local band named Clay for much of the late nineties, Will Foster decided to start a band which he would front, naming the project Guinea Worms. He quickly recruited a couple of inexperienced gals to play rhythm and rotated second guitarists until Bill Wagner moved in, solidifying the first great lineup. They were a really fucking great band, playing Bernies, the most divin-est rock club in Ohio (though not nearly the wasteland it is today), nearly every weekend, Foster drinking heavily, a wildcard out front. You never knew if he would finish the show in the bar or at home. Wagner was a perfect compliment to Foster, playing some slide and other more complex parts to his Slates-era Fall styled hillbilly drunk punk. Around this time is when they recorded the "Hello From Ohio b/w "Spring Rage" 7", an all-time CLASSIC Ohio single, without a doubt the anthem for Columbus in those days. Foster followed the single up with a number of self-made CDR's of all original material. Some were solo synth experiments, others contained classic GW tracks like "Kick in the Door"; some were made in editions of 5, others more widely distributed.
Unfortunately Foster and Co. never toured much and none of the music got any attention outside of a small circle of friends in Columbus and some acquaintances Foster made outside of Ohio. S-S Records out of Sacramento included the Guinea Worms on their Babyhead compilation and that was about the only attention they'd get. To make an even longer story as short as possible, around the time he became obsessed with late actor Oliver Reed, Foster recruited a new batch of friends - notably Gary Brownsteen on guitar and Danny Moreland on bass - to play with, this group even better a fit for the Guinea Worms live show. Foster quits drinking and with that newfound clear-headedness becomes more prolific than ever, taking a more serious direction with touring and finding like-minded bands and tastemakers like Detroit's Tyvek and Terre T from WFMU. That pretty much brings us up to date.
I mention all of this because a) a lot more people are going to begin inquiring about this band because b) the Box of Records 7" is the best thing they've done, ever, and will end up being one of the best singles you'll hear all year. "Box of Records", much like "Hello From Ohio" is a Will Foster mission-statement slammed into four minutes of an a-side. You can't say he doesn't make these 7" moments count. It's a Back From the Grave inspired dance/party tune about why records are great; direct and simple. Even better is that it's Lovingly Fucked With by Mike Rep (a long-time Foster friend/collaborator), which makes sense on paper and makes even more sense once you hear the way it sounds, rattling off of stacks of used vinyl. It's been called Foster's "Louie Louie" by Rep himself - a song that surely developed out of nowhere in Will's brain and became that instant hit he'd been looking for. Not that I don't love songs about commercial pastries (see "Zingers"), but "Box of Records" just feels like something that'll last forever. I'm going to say that on top of alla that it's also the greatest rambling ballad to ever come out of Columbus.
B-side "I'm a Cobweb" is more typical of the Guinea Worms sound, a perfect example of Foster's listener-as-subject interplay he's been perfecting these years, complete with sleeve-specific artwork. A punk-spike foil to garage twist of "Box of Records", making the single as a whole damn near essential. Okay, not damn near essential, this thing is absolutely REQUIRED. I'm not telling you to buy it, because if you've made it this far you already know that it's a must. Here's to the Guinea Worms making 2008 their best year yet. I'm guessing you'll hear much more from them in the months to come.

Stay tuned for the remainder of the CDR Winter Odyssey.