Friday, 10 July 2015

Oliver: The Thing - Blu 4 U/Kiss the Sun [Peel Session] (21 December 1991)

Blu 4 U - taken from the Peel Session.

Kiss the Sun - Re-recorded by Electric Frankenstein, the band who rose out of the ashes of The Thing, but this is pretty much a dead ringer for what The Thing recorded for Peel.

Peel's selection of sessions over his "Best of 91" shows was typically democratic and eclectic.  There was plenty of giving the audience what he knew they wanted (Nirvana, The Pixies, The Fall, The Farm), some sessions celebrating new faces who would go on to future prominence (PJ Harvey, The Boo Radleys) and a handful of sessions that were strictly personal choices from the man himself (Babes in Toyland, Ragga Twins, Dr. Oloh and his Milo Jazz Band).  New Jersey based acid rock band, The Thing also fell into that latter category and the two tracks that I heard were immediate choices for inclusion.

The first thing to say about The Thing is that their sound is massive.  In some respects, they remind me of Catherine Wheel but much louder and without the reticence that characterised some of the British acid rock bands of the time.  The riff on Blu 4 U sounds like a planet being spun off its axis.  There's not just big sound but real anger in these tracks.  Blu 4 U sounds as though it's been written from the perspective of a heartbroken shooter, carrying out his massacre because he's been dumped.
The lyrics allude to dark concepts and deeds.  "Assassinating beauty in a parking lot"; How "The
ends justify the screams"; "Her true love kills her again and again.  Exercise the power to dominate her dreams". There's a quiet midsection, where the pace slows down, the musical equivalent of a gunman stalking more victims after the first wave of massacre, or the aural opposite of My Bloody Valentine's "holocaust" section from You Made Me Realise.  But the calm is deceptive, eventually the love manhunt restarts "Loving the curse I'm alone!" And off it goes again, with singer Jesse Ostbaum getting more and more maniacal and obsessive ("I can see you when you're asleep.  I'm always with you.  I can put out your light....Just like you murdered me!") as the music rises in intensity behind him before it concludes with a final death scream.  Perhaps his metaphorical loaded gun has found its ultimate target.

The suicide/spirtual allusion isn't so far fetched when you consider the themes of Kiss the Sun.  Starting out of the relative serenity of a drum pattern, and with lines like " In the secret place within.  I first passed away.  And there was no more sin.  I saw the holy city.  Coming from within me."  There are further meditations on the after death form which see the protagonist move in successive lines from angel to vampire to zombie.  It's obvious which one Ostbaum wants to become judging by his impassioned cry of "I wanna believe!"

Sadly, despite demonstrating such obvious appeal, belief was in short supply for The Thing in the following year as they went through that most soul sucking of experiences - recording an album which went unreleased.  Maybe grunge made them sound passé but on this evidence they made murder and purgatory sound a good deal more enjoyable than it should do.

Videos courtesy of  MarsHottentot and Various Artists.

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