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House Of Tudor 

Silke Tudor swoons over Foetus, cowboy space tunes, and Tentacle Sessions

Wednesday, Jun 13 2001
The Foetus All Nude Revue abducted my teenage heart. With lyrics like "a woman's place is on my face" snarled in accordance with a red-light-district wallop of upright bass, pelvis-grinding organ, and sinister West Side Story finger snaps, it's no wonder I swooned. On the band's 1987 track "Bedrock," main Foetus man J.G. Thirlwell cooed, "We could take in a strip show/ Then go down to the Bowery and set fire to a few bums," as brass horns recoiled in the arms of distorted electric guitars and shark-toothed minions. Thirlwell continued singing -- "Cause some havoc in the shroud of darkness" -- filling my adolescent mind with fiery halos of curly red clown hair. Under the sadistic claw of Thirlwell, swing music became the harmony of demons, something cozy and familiar to seduce the ear and suck the soul into the depths of industrial chaos. It took a while for the rest of the world to catch onto both swing and industrial musics, and even then, nothing compared to Thirlwell's sound.

Flow is the first full-length Foetus album since 1997's York and well worth the wait. While Thirlwell's newfound confessionals draw inspiration from squishy lullabies and daily meditations, they are also spun from hunger, hate, and hollowness -- given substance by a man who, having lived beyond his expiration date, recognizes the horror in both destruction and majesty. On "Grace of God," Thirlwell howls, "I sharpened my pencil with my teeth/ And fueled it with grief and disbelief," and whips through a jazzy wash of hysterical horns and sophisticated trapwork. "The Need Machine" is an unrelenting locomotive of synthesizer, guitar, drums, and sheet metal, fueled by drugs that Thirlwell promises to filter for nutrients. "Suspect" is a cinematic composition laced with tense violin, piano, and snare drum, ripe with Thirlwell's murmurings: "I have but one regret/ That I have not killed you yet" and "Mirror mirror on my back/ Who will be the first to crack." On "Mandelay," strains of sitar and saxophone flit over a Noah-scale torrent of ferocious guitar, seething synthesizers, and clanging samples, demanding Thirlwell's immediate, if unrepentant, surrender. "Heuldock #7B" sounds like a demented industrial/big band medley, with Thirlwell cheerfully shrieking, "C is for contamination, U undergoing litigation, N is never never land, and T is for the tramp I am"; "Victim or Victor?" is a go-go accident gone nuclear, with a relentlessly snarling monkey hiding in the corner. The prized toy rattle of the bunch, however, is "Cirrhosis of the Heart," a sardonic Bacharach bossa nova that jiggles through marimba-laced falsetto choruses and smoky trumpet interludes: "Floatin' gently, feelin' lightheaded/ Prostrate on the floor/ Stirring up selective amnesia ... worry seems to be the final word."

Apparently, kicking the shit has cleared Thirlwell's head, but it hasn't repaired his heart or stopped the bile from coursing through his veins -- which should be a relief to his fans and admirers. My only complaint is that Foetus will not be accompanied by a full orchestra when the group performs on Wednesday, June 13, at Slim's with Blectum From Blechdom opening at 9 p.m. Tickets are $14-15; call 255-0333.

On Drizzoletto's lengthy cowboy space tune "Daughter of Spring," the hero, Teddy, travels to space on an asteroid and kills a quarrelsome spaceman. Later in the song he ventures to Cuba in his submarine Coupe de Ville, beats Billy the Kid at poker, rescues Jane from Tarzan, travels through the portals of time, tames a den of lions, fires Al Capone, and marries the daughter of spring. One could imagine the ever-nimble Teddy choosing Drizzoletto to chronicle his historic life. Consisting of Ralph Carney on all wind-blown devices, the Mermen's Allen Whitman on bass, the mysterious Ted Savarese on vocals and guitar, and a revolving cast of others, Drizzoletto creates queer and capricious music that floats suavely from western ballads to pop songs to cocktail-sipping fare without ever breaking a sweat. Drizzoletto performs at the fifth annual Mission Creek Music Festival on Saturday, June 16, at El Rio along with Angel's Camp, Xtra Action Marching Band, Virgil Shaw, Court and Spark, Centimeters, and Roofies at 3 p.m. on the patio; Zmrzlina, Blectum From Blechdom, Persephone's Bees, and Live Human at 8:30 p.m. Tickets are $8 and include a free omnivore barbecue; call 282-3325.

There are few men in San Francisco who can supply you with the recipe for the perfect vodka gimlet and tell you how many bones are in the foot of your average monkey. The California Academy of Science's Dr. Douglas Long is one such man. During his career, Long has battled land mines, cobras, delinquent elephants, malaria, rebel insurgencies, the CIA, and the poor cocktail-mixing conditions in West Africa, Argentina, New Zealand, Guam, Burma, and Patagonia, and he has pictures to prove it. Dr. Long will present a slide show and lecture of sorts for the Laughing Squid's "Tentacle Session No. 23" on Sunday, June 17, at Cafe Du Nord at 7 p.m. Tickets are $5-15; call 861-5016.

About The Author

Silke Tudor


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