Re-up. Tons ‘o’ bonus tracks! Probably gonna be better than any new albums released this year. Years before The Pixies and Nirvana. I don’t think I’ve listened to one album more than THE BRIGHT ORANGE YEARS in the past 2-3 years.
Don’t worry, I haven’t forgotten about the rest of the GBV stuff! -Ian!
Rising out of the ashes of the disbanded Mission of Burma, drummer Peter Prescott put together the Volcano Suns with bassist Jeff Weigand and guitarist Jon Williams to continue making rock music, but to do it in a lighter, less serious way than Prescott’s former band. 1985 saw the band’s debut, The Bright Orange Years, released on Homestead.
Between Ian MacKaye and “Sherman the Tank,” the thank-you list on the back of The Bright Orange Years tellingly acknowledges beer. Somewhat akin to what would follow with the remainder of the Volcano Suns’ records, their 1985 debut is a messy sprawl of basement jams. Regardless of how long it took for the record to be made, the restless energy gives the feel of 12 songs written and recorded in one alcohol-soaked night. A batch of fast and furious raucous blasts form the basis of the record (“Descent into Hell,” “Promise Me,” “Animals”), broken up by the occasional instrumental (“Truth Is Stranger Than Fishing”) and midtempo breather (“Balancing Act”). The arrangements are more straight-ahead and less experimental than Peter Prescott’s former band, but they’re no less interesting. Structural conventions are rarely messed with. During “Cornfield,” a noisy piano comes into play that sounds like Nicky Hopkins attempting to beat a wind chime at its own game, and a couple short spates of weird interplay between Prescott and new partners Jeff Weigand (bass) and Jon Williams (guitar) break the mainly hyper-folk and ’60s garage band flow. Lead-off track “Jak” is the real standout, one of the Suns’ most tuneful and strummy numbers. Solid and endlessly fun, it’s their finest record.
Volcano Suns followed their best album, The Bright Orange Years, with a set that is decidedly less melodic and more rambunctious — less sing-along hyper-folk and more, well, noisy (but still fun). The slight change could be attributed to the increased participation of Jon Williams and Jeff Weigand in the songwriting; half the album features full involvement of the whole trio, while Peter Prescott is the lone writer on only four songs. (Prescott seems to make up for this reduction with a much greater frequency of whooping and bellowing — no problem there.) The noisier abandon is immediately apparent from Jon Williams’ nasty abrasion at the beginning of “White Elephant,” undeniably sounding much like some of Roger Miller’s more memorable antics in Mission of Burma. And with that song, as with The Bright Orange Years’ “Jak,” the band once again sticks their catchiest (and funniest) song at the very beginning, as if to grab the listener by the throat, and the grip here never really slackens. Aside from the near-ballad “Room with a View” and the schizo tempo shifts in “Blown Stack,” the first side — also highlighted by the charmingly sloppy neo-rockabilly of “Cans” and the hurtling “Walk Around” — whips by at breakneck speed, while the second side is slower yet no less rowdy or welcoming.
-Andy Kellman, AMG
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