The Assholes - "Johnny And The Big Prairie Fire"
(self-released 2002, CDR)
From Aural Innovations #24 (July 2003)
Having enjoyed sound artist Marcelo Radulovich's Accretions label CD's, hearing this much earlier work from his teenage years as a budding artist was an interesting listening experience. Based in Fresno, California, The Assholes were a quartet of Radulovich, Joel Smith, Christopher Stephens and Christian Sondergard. The CD consists of the music and sounds The Assholes recorded between 1979 and 1982 on low grade analog cassette recorders, but "sprinkled on top", as Marcelo's web site says, are samples of more recent recordings made on DAT. The result is a hodgepodge collage of samples and riotous music of all manner of styles. When The Assholes get down to playing we hear wild gloms of punk/thrash/free-improv mania. The promo sheet states that the band was inspired by stoner rock, British punk and California hardcore, though I have to believe that The Residents and/or Faust made their way to these guys turntables at some point.
This is raw stuff indeed. But there are lots of good ideas that are fleshed out and mangled quite nicely, especially when you consider that it was recorded over 20 years ago by a bunch of teenagers flexing their creative muscles. And even amidst the most chaotic moments there is some damn fine guitar work. These guys did an impressive job in the cut n splice room, blending and morphing the various music, samples and live bits together to create a listening experience that is an aural roller coaster ride that deliberately hurtles from the track and crashes into the ferris wheel. (Though it may be that much of the splicing and dicing of tapes was part of the work done more recently.)
The Assholes blaze through a parade of music and themes... screaming punk rock, experimental free-improv, sound art collages, loads of crazed and efx'd voice samples, spacey ambient and experimental electronic bits, and oodles of fun. (I won't even try to describe it but I love the bunny rabbits song too much not to mention it.) Overall, a fun listen for sound art fans that fondly recall their days of punk and general musical anarchy. I also got a kick out of reading that The Assholes only played one public performance, opening for Black Flag. They were supposed to play a second gig opening for Flipper but had to cancel because the show was in San Francisco and none of the members was yet old enough to drive.
For more information you can visit The Assholes web site at: http://www.marceloradulovich.com/theassholes.htm.
While you're there, read about Marcelo Radulovich's current activities at: http://www.marceloradulovich.com.
Contact via snail mail c/o Marcelo Radulovich; 444 Norfolk Dr; Cardiff, CA 92007.
Reviewed by Jerry Kranitz