What if Blue Oyster Cult’s bassist, Sonic Youth’s drummer, one of Captain Beefheart’s crew of guitarists, and a noted musician-archivist-producer all ganged up and made noise behind a singer? And what if the singer was once in that early 1990s NYC underground band with a name that sounds more like a line from a song than a band name, When People Were Shorter and Lived Near the Water? And what if they recorded an album of ten retro-punk-ish, definitively NYC underground creations? You would end up with plum plum, the new debut by Kim Rancourt.
The aforementioned musician-archivist-producer (of Sonic Youth, Hole, Teenage Fanclub, Joan Jett, Nancy Sinatra, Alice Cooper, The Posies, The Dictators, etc., etc.), Don Fleming, assembled the band – Joe Bouchard, Steve Shelley and Gary Lucas – and, with frontman/lyricist Rancourt, has conjured up something schizomusical that sounds like Johnny Thunders reciting Zen poetry one minute, an off-kilter version of Steely Dan the next, and the best primitive, Stooges/Velvets-emulating garage band you ever heard just about every minute. And no, the band is not called the Kim Rancourt Experience. In fact, they’re not called anything (although on their Soundcloud page they’re named KimRancourtandtheDreamBand – ok, that fits).
Mr. Rancourt and friends get the party started in fine, whiney, Johnny Thunders style with “Walking the Trashline”…but with Johnny sitting cross-legged holding a flower and instructing, “The easy way can sometimes be the only way to see.” Somehow that works – the beats, the hippies, the punks… Then it’s off to a Stooges garage rehearsal and a song about circles and other shapes (“Circle’s Gotta Go”), and a dark brooder (gotta have at least one of those) entitled “Three Dimes” that features some dark, brooding guitarplay by Lucas and Fleming.
Poppy drums are next, signaling the bouncy love song “Claudine” and a chorus that brings to mind…some lost Steely Dan number recorded at 4 a.m. while Fagen and Becker were, uh, under the influence. On “I Kissed Pat Place” Rancourt recalls his exploits involving the no wave artist/Bush Tetras guitarist, then it’s back to the poetry corner with the eerie, echoey “Hail” and the wild “Arkansas Is Burning” (everybody sing along: “Arkansas is burning, everybody’s fucking!”).
Now the best track on the album, the ten-minute masterpiece “She Got Hit.” Imagine a mashup of “Sister Ray,” “Roadrunner,” and “Down on the Street”, with basically one line of lyrics and more guitar-obatics than you can shake a fuzzbox at. “The Thing That Is” is not necessarily a scary movie title (on the order of “The Thing That Ate Cleveland” or something) but does start off with some frighteningly monstrous guitar sounds. The album concludes on a spiritual note with the relatively mellow “Leave Your Light On” and some Richard Hell-ish punk rock crooning.
Fans of the short-lived HBO series Vinyl (like me) should note that Don Fleming, along with Sonic Youth’s Lee Renaldo and most of the plum plum all-star lineup, were responsible for much of the punk music heard on the show – visualized as “The Naughty Bits” and featuring James Jagger, son of Mick.
Kim Rancourt and company will be appearing at Bowery Electric, NYC on May 22, at what’s being billed as the official record release party for plum plum…so I would imagine they will be playing all this stuff. Come on down!
images courtesy amazon.com, popdose.com, theboweryelectric.ticketfly.com