Billy Syndrome - "2000 Pounds Of Joy" (Slutfish Records 2001, SLUT 029)
The Billy Syndrome - "The Stupidest Show On Earth" (Slutfish Records 2001, SLUT 001
From Aural Innovations #18 (January 2002)
My introduction to Billy Syndrome was through his current band, JFK Jr Royal Airforce, one of the best acid meat-grinder crash-boom-bang space rock bands on the current scene. But the guy has a history that goes back to 1980, playing uncompromising music to fuck the mind and give us something to..... think about? Having met up with Billy and Evil Jim Friendly briefly at this year's Strange Daze festival where JFK Jr Royal Airforce performed (see review this issue), Billy handed over two new CD's from his Slutfish label featuring music from incarnations of the Billy Syndrome band circa 1990-93.
Recorded during 1990-91, 2000 Pounds Of Joy is a set of "Anti-folk" songs. The music has that creatively raw and garagey feel that we've come to expect from Billy, and the songs are sung with passion and a 60's consciousness in the lyrics. There's a bit of ground covered here. We've got the acid freak-rock rapping of "No Power" and "You Can't Stop Me". Remember when Dylan had passion? Check out "Fish In The Rain", "Pet", and "Hee-Haw". "Hee-Haw" is a standout track being kind of a combination of the raw acid space of JFK Jr and the TV Party Tonight craziness of Killing Joke. "Clean My Toilet Cause I Love You" and "Let's Be Real" are a couple tracks on which Billy and Bonnie Kane team up for aggressive tripped out songs with freaky noise samples and insane saxophone. "Used To You" is self described as an anti-folk Monkees Mike Nesmith type thing. I'd say that's pretty accurate. I dig the banjo (which crops up frequently on the CD) and yeah, if you think of Nesmith's solo albums this does have that feel, but with the added crazed Syndrome element.
"Completely" and "Hot Car" are among Billy's more sedate moments, the former being something of a love tune sung to a simple electric piano melody, and "Hot Car" featuring twiddly child-like keyboards and the simplest of drum machine beats. "Grow Up" is a bit of a milestone for us JFK fans, being Billy and Scott Prato's first recording together. Shades of freakiness to come are apparent, especially from the squeaky toys Billy is credited with and makes full use of. Makes me wonder if that's what the Beatles used on "Tomorrow Never Knows"? "2000 Light Years Away From You" is the most purely psychedelic song on the album. Both enjoyably trippy and brain bashing aggressive. There's also two uncredited tracks, which includes 10 minutes of what is, musically speaking, some of the most tasty stuff on the disc.
The Stupidest Show On Earth was recorded in 1993 and, as this lineup of the band broke up before the album could be released, only half the songs have been previously released as singles over a period of years. Talking about the album in the liner notes Billy states that "Anti-folk was out and rock ‘n roll was here to stay." And rock ‘n roll they do. Raw... and anchored firmly in the garage. Right from the beginning I could tell this would be a fun album. A brief rant about the music business leads to a circus intro with The Billy Syndrome in the center ring. There's oodles of head-bashing rock ‘n roll across the CD's 21 tracks, covering lots of stylistic territory and plenty for the space/psych crowd to enjoy.
"Karma", "Jesus Finger", and "Brown Bag" are the tunes that are closest to space rock. "Karma, particular, is in Hawkwind, maybe Farflung territory. It's got trippy ragas and droning synths and some mucho blazing guitar. Things move along at an intense pace until in true Billy Syndrome fashion chaos and craziness ensues. Very cool song. And I really dig the garage space rock ‘n roll sound of "Jesus Finger" with it's bubbly synths. Smell my Jesus finger! "Neurotic" is a rock ‘n roll tribute to friends with a noise-psych guitar wail running throughout. Good tune. "Sammy The Ulcer" is another kick ass garage psych rocker. Dig those sitar-like guitars. "The Vision Of Argaphnj Grungmhe" features Indian ragas with growling doomy vocals. A weird combo and with healthy doses of humor I suspect. "If I Was A Painting" is similar but with bouncy funky rhythms, acid guitars, and freaky trip loops. There's plenty of more of this stuff though I should also mention "Funky Monkey", is a good fun mixture of funk, psychedelia, and rap.
Taking a bit of a twist on things is "The Rock Opera", a track I thought was a riot and a bit difficult to describe. There's lots of dialog and it sounds like a band trying to deal with arranging their scheduled slot at a show. Lots of funny observations about the crowd and music marketing, and some killer crashing bashing rock ‘n roll. "Goldylocks Who's Been Sleeping In My Bed" is somewhat similar. This is the rock ‘n roll version of the classic story, except here we see Goldylocks getting into far more than just porridge and other people's beds. Also worth mentioning is an 11 minute cover of Led Zeppelin's "How Many More Times". (when was the last time you listened to the first Zeppelin album?) The Billy Syndrome retain the spirit of the original while simultaneously turning it into a doomy acid mindfuck excursion.
In summary, Billy Syndrome cranks out some killer garage psych that is raw and includes plenty of humor. I'd say there's a lot here for the non-hardcore punk crowd to enjoy as well.
For more information you can visit the Slutfish Records web site at: http://www.slutfishrecords.com/.
Contact via snail mail c/o Slutfish Worldwide; 327 Bedford Ave #A2; Brooklyn, NY 11211.
Reviewed by Jerry Kranitz