Lake of Dracula

Friday, January 1, 1999

I have more CDs than most folks would ever want or need. I buy more on a semi-weekly (or, more often, daily) basis. And, in some strange O. Henry twist of fate, my passion for music decreases with every purchase. I've lost my passion, my zeal, my je ne sais quoi. I've lost that damned naive desire to hear something NEW and EXCITING, to take a chance and try out something different. Instead, I find myself collecting CDs, completing discographies, listlessly wandering music racks like a zombie stuck in a remedial English class. At this rate, I'll be purchasing Top 40 CDs just for a change of pace. (And, you know, I DO hear a definite improvement in Britney Spears' newest song - she seems to be shaking off the shackles and clothing that typified her _Baby, One More Time_ phase, and...)

Um. Yeah.

So, in a desperate attempt to regain some of this lost passion, I'm going to write about a CD I purchased simply because of association and name-value. Lake of Dracula - even before I knew who was in the band, I thought, "Damn, that's a GREAT name for a band; like a long lost Hammer film." Images of bloody hands emerging from murky lagoons did the Sugar Plum Fairy dance in my sleeping little head. Indeed, as I look at the cover of this CD, such a hand is pictured on the cover.

Now, if the name of the band / album isn't enough to get your fangs throbbing, let's just say that two-thirds of this combo also did / do time in some of the more invigorating rock outfits available for (non-)popular consumption. On guitar is Walter Weasel, the brains & beat behind free-jazz terrorists The Flying Luttenbachers (and also a good-lookin' zombie-type in thick metallers Heatwave). Heather M, on the drums on this record, also beat the logs for the Scissor Girls, the closest an American band has come to approximating the chaos embodied by the Fall. And if that's not enough, you can find the pseudonymously-credited Al Johnson (the mewler / moaner that leads the broken-leg marching of US Maple) offering a few bon mots here and there. (I think that mention of KoKo Taylor is all his.)

If you know anything about the bands I just namedropped, you have a vague idea of what you're in for. (Did I mention that this was released on Skin Graft? Does that tighten the canvas any?) However, even if you think this will be another run-of-the-mill No-Wave excursion into polysyllabic yawping and Shaggs-like instrument-mangling, you'd be selling this Lake a bit short. What's contained on this disc is THE epitome of No-Wave polysyllabic instrument-mangling.

You have Walter Weasel beating his guitar the same way he beats the drums in the Luttenbachers - violently and thickly. You have Heather M simplifying the chuga-chuga rhythms of Moe Tucker, but with the volume knob stuck at 11, and with drumsticks the size of a wrestler's legs. And you have newcomer Marlon Magas, reading his high-school angst-ridden poetry upside-down and cut-up into confetti-sized pieces and mixed with Misfit lyrics and stupid missent e-mail scrawls (complete with punctuation miscues). You'll be hard pressed to find a vocalist that hawks up phlegm as well as he does. And to this, you add Jim O'Rourke's rogue streaks of inspiration behind the boards, adding some string interludes at the beginning of the album, letting the sound of a car alarm sneak onto the tape, slicing and dicing tape like a Benihana chef on speed, and (most importantly) knowing when to let things be. The grooves this combo hits (whether they be beats the Stooge would find too stupid, or proto-tribal shambling) are unstoppable, the sorts of beats that make your body move regardless of your desires. In that sense, it's a beautiful album. But then, an album you might consider "pretty" doesn't have a song called "Plague of Frogs".

Actually, this IS a beautiful album in every sense - the sort of thing that gets more folks off their asses, gets their hands wrapped around sticks and strings and make them (the instruments, and maybe the people) scream in ways they never thought possible, gets them (the people, and maybe the instruments) thinking. Hot, hot damn.


Reviewed by David Raposa
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