Various Artists - "Ant Lunch Musick Presents: What?!! Are You On Drugs?" (Ant Lunch Musick, ALM V-2)

From Aural Innovations #23 (April 2003)

Whether all of the contributers to this compilation actually are or not, they all succeed in putting across that impression (and if they aren't on drugs now, they WERE at some time in the past). As with most compilations, this is a mixed bag, but the artists you'd expect to... do deliver. It certainly kicks off on a high point with the Mediums (Brother JT and Sister April) presenting a singalong version of the late Ian Dury's anthem, "Sex, Drugs, And Rock'n'Roll" with JT's trademark fuzz guitar, stoned-out vocals, and weird processing on just about everything. Nutty, good-timey, and tripped-out. ST37 and the Baby Robots both also contribute standout tracks, which is a good thing, since most of the folks on the compilation seem to be associated with these two bands, one way or another. As one would expect, a number of the participants are clearly related to the aforementioned Baby Robots' Ant Lunch Musick label in Pompano Beach (near Boca Raton), Florida. Among the better of those are Doersam (one Dan Hosker), whose "Away" is a nice bit of creepy tripped ambience with acoustic guitar and backwards guitar/voice, The (unidentified) Kaptain's relentless one-man but densely layered pounding space drone with pummeling drums, synth noise, and other supportive instruments, "A Generation Ago" by Whirlaway - languid psych with jazzy chords and melodic feedback which stretches out to My Bloody Valentine land, and Wolfboy and the Fantods, who somehow manage to channel a bit of Amon Dul II as possessed by the spirit of the Bonzos (minus the old-timey/music hall-isms). On the other hand, Vick Lament's ambient(literally)/incidental & drone noise, Boxcar Timmy's bit of quiet (acoustic?) lo-fi mess, and Larry USA's guitar crunch are entertaining, but inconsequential, while Gary Caustictones, U Can Unlearn Guitar, and Fields of Gaffney (ex-Sebadoh, but at least not sounding like a 90s-indierock retread) are pretty unnecessary-to-annoying (the latter two being non-Florida acts). Yet Mr. Entertainment and the Marihuana Orchestra are quite enyojable when they finish the compilation off with a bit of noisy nursery rhyme silliness; inconsequnetial, perhaps, but an appropriate closer. "White Powder (MDMA I?)" by the Baby Robots, is, not surprisingly, something of a mini-ecstasy symphony, languid and intensely spacey - imagine Galaxie 500 with a synth player, or Spacemen 3 with pretty male/female vocals; the only complaint is that it's too short. Meanwhile, from the Austin contingent, ST37 (with Carlton Crutcher still in the band) collaborate with long-time acquaintence Coz The Shroom for a version of his "Darkness In Tabriz", one of their most anthemic recordings yet, with soaring guitar & vocals from mr. Shroom adding to ST37's expectedly heavy mix. Three Day Stubble (actually from San Francisco, but featuring ST37 drummer Dave Cameron) come across as primitively Beefheartian here, mercifully largely avoiding the "nerd" schtick that they sometimes allow to detract from their natural weirdo tendencies. Longtime/founding (but recently departed) ST37 voice/synth man Carlton Crutcher creates gorgeous, spacey drones with his SH-101 and his wife Sharon's vocals as Book of Shadows. Bahrain is fronted by ST37 bassist Scott Telles (here playing synth/keys), with Doug Boone on crunchy guitar and the very driving female rhythm section of Colleen Gugan & Melissa J on drums; definitely a side project that will appeal to fans of Telles' main band. And although there's no solid evidence that Jherri Sigghnfeld's Atropheed Sac is actually the members of ST37 playing different instruments (and sloppily ripping off Bauhaus - or Flipper - or late-period Black Flag - or someone), I like that theory enough to stick with it, since it's the most enjoyably over-the-top track on the compilation. Creeperweed are another Austin band, whose connection with ST37 I'm unaware of. But their albient space drone of "Tunnel Vision" makes for a very trippy "intermission" a third of the way through the album. The Dumbwaiters (location unknown) are also worth mentioning for their heavy indie-psych trudge, as melodically-stunted as the Deviants. Definitely a worthwhile compilation, just keep in mind that (as with most comps), you'll be grateful for your CD player's programming or track skip functions.

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Reviewed by Doug Pearson

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