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Some of My Best Friends Are Records 

SF Weekly writers pick their favorite Bay Area records of all time

Wednesday, Mar 15 2006
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Hello, My Name Is: Justin F. Farrar

A quick scan of my 10 picks reveals that, yes, I did indeed apply affirmative action when determining my all-time fave Frisco jammers. I got the punks, the hippies, the blacks, the gays, the Mexicans, the indie rockers, and so on. Sure, that's liberal cornball behavior. However, if I ever had to call a desert island home, which maybe I will considering how we're flushing our environment down the toilet, then all that diversity will surely come in handy.

The Beau Brummels

Triangle

(Warner Bros.)

Nobody in San Fran knows just how good the Brummels really were, and that's a total pisser, because this "new wave of psychedelic Tin Pan Alley" song cycle about one man's journey through a "magic forest" has aged far more gracefully than that almighty concept record from '67, Sgt. Pepper's ... . In fact, Triangle is the only pop album from a Bay Area outfit that can be uttered in the same breath as the Beach Boys' Pet Sounds and Love's Forever Changes.

Royal Trux

Twin Infinitives

(Drag City)

From '89 to '90, the Trux called our little urban vortex home. While here, this former boogie-noise duo constructed Twin Infinitives, a sprawling psychedelic mind-fuck possessing more free-form psychosis than the Dead's Anthem of the Sun, more junked-out street desolation than Flipper's Gone Fishin', and more stoned Beat spirituality than Alan Watts' This Is It.

Moby Grape

Self-titled

(Columbia)

The Dead and the Airplane defined Frisco psychedelia as wandering, acid-induced improvised jamming, while the Grape, with its triple-axe attack, searing rhythm section, and three soulful lead vocalists, crafted concise, tense, and fast pop tunes fusing country, rhythm and blues, folk, and hard rock. This debut might be a Summer of Love artifact, but the nervy desperation of punk lurks just beneath the surface.

Chrome

Half Machine Lip Moves

(Siren)

Straight-up punk rock is dullsville (no Avengers on my list). However, raw punk energy processed through druggy, sci-fi production wizardry, proto-techno dance grooves, sample-heavy alien soundscapes, and shattered rock structures make this skull-fuckery one of the most surreal releases of the early-'80s new wave.

Sir Douglas Quintet

Mendocino

(Mercury)

Circa '69, SDQ, a bluesy, country-rocking Tex-Mex outfit from San Antonio, relocates to San Fran, immerses itself in psychedelia, and records Mendocino -- a song cycle revolving around a Texan who falls deeply in love with our city's colorful street life as well as the mystical countryside. But then that Lone Star fella realizes something: San Francisco will never be where his heart is, and eventually, when the party's over, he'll return to that "local bar in my hometown."

Sly & the Family Stone

There's a Riot Going On

(Epic)

Alexander "Skip" Spence recorded Oar in Nashville, and Sly recorded Riot in Los Angeles. Regardless, both musicians are genuine Bay Area characters, and each one released a record that was a brief glimpse into a fragile and often tormented mind. So I'm listing both discs but only mentioning Sly's in the header.

Icky Boyfriends

I'm Not Fascinating

(Past It)

The Ickies turned themselves inside out, exposing their raw, throbbing nerves, pounding hearts, and frantically buzzing brains as they pounded lo-fi punk-noise into hideously twisted sculptures ultimately resembling the utter train wrecks each of their lives had become. I'm Not Fascinating is far from pretty, but it's honest, almost beautifully so. (Shout-outs to Monoshock and Liquorball.)

Sylvester

Step II

(Fantasy)

The sinewy, 6-foot-plus Sylvester was an absolutely innovative artist and skilled, gender-bending chanteuse and/or crooner who in the early '70s joined the Cockettes, a hippie-fried, cross-dressing song and dance revue, and then, by the end of the decade, had teamed up with this remix whiz kid by the name of Patrick Cowley. Together they crafted mechanically pulsating disco jams featuring Sylvester's impassioned, operatic gospel love howl.

Jefferson Airplane

After Bathing at Baxter's

(RCA)

Any Frisco Top 10 should include one record from either the Airplane or the Dead. The Dead's new Fillmore West 1969 is an instant classic, but it's the Airplane's most "out there" freakout from '67, After Bathing at Baxter's, that truly lives up to the mind-altering promises of psychedelic acid rock. This is one of the great marriages of free jazz-inspired improv and the electrified aggression of hard rock.

The German Shepherds

Music for Sick Queers

(Del Amo)

Between the years 1975 and 1985, San Francisco was the stomping ground for numerous electronic freaks and industrial artists, including the Residents, Tuxedo Moon, Minimal Man, Bay of Pigs, and Factrix. But the strangest of them all had to be the German Shepherds, because their percolating buzz, snap, and howl don't feel like a well-executed, postmodern art project but a very intuitive, unrefined externalization of three rather perverse minds.


Hello, My Name Is: Mark Keresman

If "San Francisco Bay Area music scene" were an image in a Rorschach test, it could represent many things: psychedelic flagship, vital hip hop testing ground, home to the most caustic (and funny) punk bands, a woefully underappreciated jazz community, etc. But whichever you identify with the most, be aware that there are kids across town with a whole different set of vital documents. Here are mine:

Fifty Foot Hose

Cauldron

(Ace/Big Beat import)

New York had the Velvet Underground, we had Fifty Foot Hose. From 1967 to 1970, FFH made jams that anticipated the sonic experimentalism of Einstürzende Neubauten and Pere Ubu, combining musique concrète and noise with Jefferson Airplane-like psychedelia.

New E-Z Devils

Digging for Bones

(Ripe)

This '90s East Bay foursome presented kitsch- and paisley-free, white-hot psychedelic pop/rock, recalling mid-'60s Who and Yardbirds over, under, sideways, down. Unlike most neopsych pretenders, the Devils had chops to spare, disallowed noodle-y soloing, and always remembered to rock.

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