Bright Kid From a Shadowy Planet

Having little more space for records, I now shop for quality rather than quantity. I also try to replace lost cassettes or cds with pristine vinyl, and at the Archive of Contemprary Music’s sale the other day my quantitatively meagre take included PIL’s Second Edition and the Hoodoo Gurus’ Mars Needs Guitars (1985). Great price, too: together for a whopping 10 bucks (thanks, Phast Phreddie). Had the PIL on cassette until grad school, when a tool roommate stole it. Now I have this, again:

PIL – Careering

Mars Needs Guitars I picked up because my cassette copy has languished in a gutter somewhere around exit 105 of the Garden State Parkway since 1988, and because I figured my 1.5-year old daughter might like it. She’s cool like that. And she did, digging “Bittersweet” and especially “Death Defying,” which is now officially the ‘ooo-eee” song, if by request.

She liked it enough to give it her stomp of approval:

And then she had her babybear weeblewobble step on it too.

She’s a new wave gal.

This being Lost Oughts Friday, I’m handing you the treat of treats: Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet. Most known for the incidental and theme music for The Kids in the Hall, SMOASP were much more, a guitar-instrumental outfit easily transcending the surf genre; their only peers were the Mermen, Link Wray, and maybe Dick Dale. And they had a fantastic name.

SMOASP – Having an Average Weekend (Kids in the Hall Theme).

They’re also known for 2/3 of the band going on to form Phono Comb, a one-album-wonder in turn known for being Jad Fair’s backing band in the mid-to-late nineties. Bassist Reid Diamond died of cancer not too long ago, so there won’t be a reunion, sadly. I had a chance to see SMOASP back in 1995, right before the breakup, but stayed home for some reason that mght make me want to kill myself if I happen to remember it.

The above theme and a slew of early singles were collected for the fun-as-drugs Savvy Show Stoppers in 1990; its consistency and quality allows it to pass as a real album. Try these yummies:

SMOASP- Egypt Texas

SMOASP – Harlem by the Sea

1991’s Dim the Lights, Chill the Ham ups the proverbial ante; song titles, for one, improve considerably. You have to have nifty song titles if you’re gonna record instrumentals. And then there’s a Sonny Bono cover, “Bang Bang,” which can never be a bad thing. We’ll ignore his political ‘career.’

SMOASP – Bang Bang
SMOASP – Who Painted Whistler’s Mother
SMOASP -Hunter S. Thompson’s Younger Brother
SMOASP -Exit From Vince Lombardi High School

1993’s Sport Fishin’ changes things up, partially due to the presence of that Albini fuckbird behind the board, and due to what looked to be growing ennui with their path, hinted oh so subtly with the track “We’re Not a Fucking Surf Band.” But changes are good, here, especially, as the guitar sound gets larger, and Albini’s recording methods lend themselves to SMOASP’s at once versatile and strong rhthym section; never before has a ‘surf’ band had three equally-skilled lead players. Maybe the Ventures, but their experiments were awful. On Sport Fishin’, the drums click, the melodies embarrass the sun, and the ideas swarm like bats from a freshly opened cave.

SMOASP -Honey, You’re Wasting Ammo
SMOASP – Three Piece Suit
SMOASP -(Relax) You Will Think You Are A Chicken
SMOASP -What I Like About Grease
SMOASP -Spy School Graduation Theme

Best of all, they come from Canada, that country that becomes more like its own country the more this country becomes some weird, theocratic, economically fragile, war-mongering fuckstain. That I love.

Have an average, good, great, or awful weekend.


7 thoughts on “Bright Kid From a Shadowy Planet

  1. Mr. Parnell:Mars needs guitars is one of the first and best rock albums I ever bought. The first three Gurus albums are what people mean when they talk about “gems.” If you recall a surprise party about 6 months back, I found a cd of Mars Needs Gutiars outside on the street in a pile of crap a few hours before the party started. Makes some sense because when Big Time went out of business they flooded the cheap bin with their backstock. In 1989 or 90 I saw the Gurus at Trenton Shitty Gardens. GREAT SHOW. Kind of like the buzzcocks. Not pretnetious at all, played their best stuff, almost apologized for the songs they played that weren’t crowd pleasers. You are corrrect about the Grifters being better than Das Damen. The thing is, and I say this sincerely, Das Damen could have been Dinosaur Jr if they were only a little better (ok, a lot better) at what they did. One could make a case that Das Damen has as much to do with “grunge” as anyone else. When Dinosaur Jr. released “Living all over me,” that was the album I wanted from Das Damen. They just missed the boat, but they knew there was a boat to be missed.


  2. But imagine if you could own stock in toast? You’d be rich, cause no one hates it, and everyone eats it now and then. Admiring America since 2000 is like admiring Alfred E. Newman.Oh wait, he’s president.


  3. You know, that niche blog isn’t so crazy an idea. There’s a listserve here in NYC dedicated to parents in my larger ‘hood, and one night someone asked what music is good for 1-3 year olds; I chimed in and mention AC, but added a few like the Clientele, whom The Munchkin loves, and the Long Blondes, side one of Yellow Submarine, Frank Black’s slower lullaby versions of Pixies songs on his <>Frank Black Francis<> record, and Richard Hawley’s latest. The response to my email was pretty thankful and happy for the recommendations; it sounded like a lot of parents are ready to assualt Dan Zanes, which wouldn’t be good, because he’s less painful than all the other specifically kid-targeting acts, although I hear TMBG and Devo 2.0 work well also.And she loooooooooooves Neko Case. I had wanted her to be president someday, but I’ll settle for her being able to sing and write like NK. She has the right hair color already.


  4. < HREF="" REL="nofollow">((sm))all ages<> kind of addresses the topic of non-insipid music for kids.All your suggestions are good ones; I’d like to suggest Jonathan Richman as well. And of course, when/if my kids arrive, Harry Nillson’s <>The Point<> will be on all the time, I’m sure. I might also throw in some quirky ubertwee bands like Architecture in Helsinki and Bearsuit and The Boy Least Likely To…I have a friend whose little girl ADORES The Fall, and does a great Mark E. Smith impersonation, apparently. This pleases me to no end. Another friend’s 8 year old son is utterly obsessed with The Decemberists, which seems wonderfully appropriate for a little boy. They’re kind of like the Classics Illustrated of indie rock.I have a soft spot for TMBG, but knowing how addictive their songs are, and how kids can get hooked on listening to something over and over and over again, that might drive me mad.The Clientele and Neko Case? Your daughter has excellent taste in addition to being totally adorable!


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