Fake Music Review: Vivian Bismarck and the Soft Rats - Blind Alley Chartreuse Guillotine
Vivian Bismarck and the Soft Rats’ debut platter, Blind Alley Chartreuse Guillotine harkens back to days that never existed. Vivian, billed in the liner notes as being alternately from “Parts Unknown” and “The Isle of Malta,” though her caterwauling betrays the flat intonations of an upper Midwest childhood, can be smoky, sexy, frigid and contrapuntal all in one line, and her backing trio The Soft Rats (AKA the Saudade brothers from Cranston, RI: Henry on guitar, Aramingo on stand-up bass and Kip behind the drums – check out their UK released only split 7” with My Mother’s Hair Stinks Like Gasoline entitled Party Birds Taste Like Chicken to get a whiff of the sweet, post-rock calamity these triplets conjure up on “I Can Read A Book” when left alone with a six pack of hard cider) offer sympathetically antagonistic support. They’re like four illiterates reading each other’s minds in the best way possible. It’s must be like when The Television opened for The Ramones at CBGB’s back in the 70’s and jammed on “Louie Louie”.
The album leads off with an inverted deconstruction of a slow blues, “My Baby (Inverted Deconstruction of A Slow Blues) as Henry opens with a classic blues riff but since they record dressed as plush rodents the Blues are turned on their head as his claw-gloved hands run amok over the strings summoning up the Devil, Robert Johnson and Richard Marx, a trifecta of evil if ever there was one, as Bismarck warbles “My baby/ My baby/ I’m so blue…” in Portuguese, a language so bludgeoning you could tell someone you love them and it would still sound like your threatening to cut off their balls. Then Aramingo and Kip enter like they just got out Rahway and don’t have any Oreos, they’re hungry and they know you have some cookies. And their off careening through time signatures like they didn’t exist (rodent costumes again making their subtle presences known) until Vivian returns to moan, wail, scream, beseech the trio with a feminist declaration soaked in gin and juke joint vigor, “My uterus in the center of the universe!” Meshing such disparate colors in her blues palette marks her and the triplets as geniuses or sheer mental cases. Either way the song lasts 2:25. The real artistic coup of starting with this track is the value of not ending with it. When was the last time that music was made you think like that when you didn’t have to?
“Smoking Tracheas” is a rave up that strays into the musical global diaspora and ends up sounding like Neu! had baby with King Tubby; it’s that good. “Filching for Blood Diamonds” doesn’t shy away from scatology or mean people who could care less about where their diamonds came from, “I like blood diamonds, I don’t care where they come from!” exclaims Vivian (by now the intimacy bred by Viv and the hirsute bros is on you like stink on a shitbug and everyone will be on a first name basis) as the boys jam like the Chess house band with a Furbie Fetish. Never letting their reach exceed their grasp a deft cover of Gun Club’s “Jack on Fire” cements the quartet as having at least six to seven if not all four of their feet in the past with the balance, however many it might be depending on many they have in the past, firmly in the present. If there’s anything left over it’s in the future. I’m almost convinced they conjured up the dead spirit of Exene Cervanka recoding this album.
The rest of the album is filler but even by today’s standards when any lemur with a gift card can unlock his gas cap they rock, ahem, I mean RAWK. So that’s what you get with this platter; several songs with good titles and some catchy music. I’d think they were rewriting history if they weren’t already making it.