Tuesday, May 29, 2012
Glands of External Secretion - Reverse Atheism
Glands of External Secretion - Reverse Atheism
BUFMS. BUFMS32. 2 X LP
Before I listened to Reverse Atheism I never knew that Edgar Winter had made a record with lyrics supplied by L Ron Hubbard, I never knew that in 1973 The Osmonds had made a philosophy of life concept album with a track on it called ‘Last Days’:
Nations take up their battle stations
Patrons of zodiac revelations
Lustations breaking family relations
Litigation allowing shoot up sensations
That's what they said, someday it would be
Now just look around if that's what you see
It's gotta be the last days
Gotta be the last days
I never knew that Andy Partridge had written a song highlighting his dissatisfaction with God, I never knew that there was a Canadian Jesus rock trio called New Creation who sound like a slightly more competent Shaggs only with added God, I’d never heard of off the scale whacko Dan Ashwander either, a man who claims he has scientific proof that he is both Jesus Christ and God combined. Alongside these revelations I found Hugo Ball rubbing shoulders with Nick Cave, the Hippocrattic oath sitting cheek by jowl with Alejandro Jodorowsky, the 23rd Psalm bisecting David Crosby and God’s Gift. I also found a fold out poster that reproduced images of everybody involved and an enlarged American one dollar bill printed on which was a Biblical quotation and the words 'Ronald  Wilson  Reagan [6'] and if all this wasn’t enough there’s also a colour by numbers Last Supper should you fancy getting your crayons out.
Barbara Manning and Seymour Glass have taken songs, tracts of text, Psalms and the odd Dada poem to construct a pean to the follies of religion. Helped along the way by a mass of Butte County volunteers [including Bruce Russell, Dave Gulbis, Ukuzuna and Alistair Gilbraith, to name but a few] they dismantle and reconstruct until you end up with something as bizarre the 23rd Psalm delivered pub singer style followed by a reading of one of Elizabeth Clare Prophets’ anti rock music sermons in which waling tortured souls are to be heard against some backward tape and a warbling vocal.
Songs like XTC’s ‘Dear God’ spell it out plainly enough but in case you still haven’t got it by side two there’s Gods Gift and their none too subtle ‘No God’. By side four we’re into more oblique territory and a cover of Hank Williams ‘I’ll Never Get Out Of This World Alive’ followed by a morbid and decidedly creepy version of the The Birthday’s Party’s ‘Mutiny In Heaven’ [a song that carries the memorable line - ‘From slum-chuch to slum-church, ah spilt mah heart to some fat cunt behind a screen’].
Side three is the deepest and darkest of the four; a sublime series of segued spoken word tracks all helped along by Glass’s treated tape manipulations and Manning’s deft electric guitar work. ‘We Have Control of The Mind’ is taken from a Dan Ashwander tract in which he claims these words, as spoken by John F Kennedy, were directed specifically at him. Its a matted thicket of voices, tape loops, odd sounds, twanged guitar; repeated phrases mention secret societies, electroshock therapy, telepathy and then a Jesus rock group singing hallelujah to the sound of manic laughing. ‘The Hippocratic Oath’ exists amidst a background of lo-fi squeaks, whistles and scratchy violin with various bodies revealing talk of pessaries and abortion, as the side progresses tracks dissolve into each other leaving this listener in a state of warped discombobulated bliss.
Glass’ tape manipulations warble and churn, voices are looped, snippets of music come and go, a distant voice, an odd bell sound, the singing of monks, a myriad of sounds, numberless in measure. Manning’s guitar work is subtle, sometimes Bailey-esque pluck, at times a shimmering strum, her vocals are a crumbled distortion sounding like someone singing down a dodgy long distance telephone line, an ethereal disconnected voice that is both eerie and hollow [in a good way that is]. Each track is imbued with immense depth so that repeated listens reveal deeper and deeper layers of nuance. And then there’s the numerous collaborators who flit in and out of this release leaving their voice or their trademark scrape as evidence of their being there.
And then there's the philosophy that lies behind all this. Something I feel less than qualified to write about but which points a big dirty finger at religion, theology and most probably existentialism. One day somebody will disseminate this remarkable double album and its true greatness will be revealed. As for me I’m still digging around in Jodorowsky’s background and wondering how Roald Dahl ended up getting credited on the same album as L. Ron Hubbard. The Glands have given us an album that continues that great tradition of taking an experimental approach to popular music and infused it with a religious health warning. Not something you come across everyday.
What saddens me about Reverse Atheism is that its greatness has yet to be recognised. I’m not sure how long this has been on release but a cursory scan of the internet reveals that little has been said in its support. As an intelligent listener the least you can do is buy a copy and find out what’s going on for yourself.