Obscurity is the true lucre of the rock collector. Grubby paper denominations are mere asswipe in comparison. As long as pasty, malodorous pop Gnostics quest for rare titles to brag of owning, certain price tags will continue to inflate. Creed-era Chrome? First-press Fugs? Shaggs, still in the shrink-wrap? A dingy cash register awaits out there somewhere, with chimes ready to toll for your $500. (Much cheaper to bandy about unheard-of names or "I was there" anecdotes, and just as snobbish.) Hipster archivists might greet the re-release of Hampton Grease Band's Music to Eat with some reservation. Not having heard of the Grease Band before, I wouldn't know; surely the original vinyl will remain just as cherished, or just as worthless, despite its second wind on CD. The liner notes proudly proclaim Music to Eat as the second-worst-selling record in Columbia's history, right behind a yoga album. Contemporaries (or imitators) of Frank Zappa and Captain Beefheart, the Hampton Grease Band displayed the same sort of humor, or dada, or pretense. Whatever the desired effect, the prankish spirit motivating them was just as "important" in their music as it was for punk. But there's a reason Music to Eat is obscure -- why it barely moved more units than that lowest-rung yoga record. For however welcome the irreverence of using an encyclopedia entry ("Halifax") or a spray-paint label ("Hendon") as lyric sources might be, the music remains unlistenable. Zappa and Beefheart performed adequate pranking -- a third attempt made in the same mode need not endure. Even hotfoots, eggings, and TP-ings grow tiresome given dogged repetition. Columbia shows spunk in allowing its second-worst seller to be disinterred (perhaps banking on cult status), and flaunting piss-poor sales as the mark of genius is a frugal marketing tactic indeed; even the initial waste serves as investment. But obscurity -- as every collector snob knows -- is sometimes invaluable.
-- Michael Batty
If three scenesters from New York's East Village were melded into one hipster band, could you call it a supergroup? Such is the dilemma in trying to pin down Butter 08, starring Miho Hatori and Yuka Honda of Cibo Matto and Jon Spencer Blues Explosion drummer Russell Simins. At their worst, supergroups offer pathetic egofests (see Asia, featuring members of Yes, ELP, and King Crimson). But at their best, they allow members to fuse talents from their regular acts into something better than their respective individual parts (see Blind Faith, and excuse the classic rock reference). Butter 08 actually tops each constituent pedigree, bringing femininity to the Blues Explosion's swagger and rock 'n' roll to Cibo Matto's hip-hop atmospherics.
Beyond that, the debut record is a 30-year rock and pop hodgepodge, tossing an organ into punk ("It's the Rage"), a barbarous guitar riff into Stereolab-esque jams ("Mono Lisa"), and a Santana-like solo into a spy thriller ("Dick Serious"). Call it pastiche pop if you want, but what more can you ask from a band than musical chops and a good record collection? Well, lyrics for one. Although Hatori can glide from airy falsetto to punk growl, most songs on Butter 08 don't get past Cibo Matto's silly food fixation. On "Degobrah," for example, guest madman Evan Bernard rants about the importance of "eating squishies" and joining an "intergalactic youth community" while the rest of the band chants "It's Yoda." Hmmm. Then again, both Cibo Matto and the Blues Explosion get by on attitude, not smarts. And even if Butter 08 only amounts to three hipsters tearing through those same 30 years like a record junkie rifling through crates on a vinyl binge, at least this supergroup has found the best music shack in town.
-- Jeff Stark