Sunday, January 16, 2005

Six Finger Satellite MEGAPOST!

"Six Finger Satellite is serious business. The business of doing pleasure. There is an integrity that not all can muster. There is an emotional level that not all can understand. There is a past and a future that only a handful really know."

Confusing and foreign to the great majority of now-graphic designers and micro-brewery enthusiasts who populated the indie/college rock circles of the early and mid-90s, Providence, Rhode Island's original mercurial art-school hedonists Six Finger Satellite were underestimated, especially compared to colleagues Brainiac, who had a tragic death (the singer perished in a car accident - though 6FS bassist Kurt Neimand overdosed and passed away prior to the release of Law of Ruins as well) and an association with Kim Deal that guaranteed them a vague, if rather macabre and shameful nod towards recognition. More DAF than Devo and darkly teutonic than subversively quirky (but also, thankfully, angst-less) Six Finger Satellite were only signed to SubPop on the basis of a prank - a demo-tape sent to Seattle's finest , contained bunk "grunge-styled" songs the group had recorded as a joke.

Shimkus Yell.mp3

The Weapon EP is the poorly regarded bastard child of that original prank, four hookless songs pulling heavily from SST releases that appeased the higher-ups, but now leaves most listeners today with a slightly bilous and unpleasant tinge.

Crippled Monster Bearing Malice.wav (SAMPLE)

Released in 1992, Declaration Of Technocolonial Independance is a best-left forgotten slab of leaden post-hardcore. Nice spandex, though.

1993's The Pigeon Is The Most Popular Bird was the first album, produced by the poor man's Steve Albini, Bob Weston , and mastered by John Golden, who also mastered Drive Like Jehu, and Jehu's predecessor, Pitchfork.

The 10" Machine Cuisine was recorded using only electronic instruments, and remains out of my grasp... It's described by Trouser Press as...
"a conceptual mini-album of eight songs on 10-inch vinyl. Temporarily restaffed as a scientific guitar-free trio, 6FS plays heartless Germanic proto-techno with amoral undertones. The pulsing flow is about as warm as Ian Curtis' ashtray, but the construction is genuinely clever and dryly hilarious. Robotic vocals revisit Devo's neurotic erotica, stoking the fires of computer desire on the opening "Love (via Machine)"; catchy electro-pops like "The Magic Bus" (an original) and "The Greek Arts" modulate G-funk style synth over tight Kraftwerk rhythms and intentionally trite lyrics."

Parlour Games VIDEO CLIP

1995's Severe Exposure is my favourite 6FS album by far - digestible but inherently toxic, it's a cutting slab of heady paranoia and manic claustrophobia that earns its Chrome comparisons and laid a post-punk template that wouldn't be picked up on for another couple of years, possibly because that generation hadn't been brought up on ritalin and easy access to internet pornography like today's 20somethings. Rabies (Baby's Got The) has been covered by local Quebec City transplants Duchess Says and Parlour Games is my choice for best 6FS song. I first picked this record up in Victoria at the second-rate record store specializing in Bob Marley posters and surly, unsatisfied staff, where (thankfully) only the obscure metal CDs are priced at $35 a pop.

Both the Massive Cocaine Seizure and Man Behind The Glasses 7"s have also eluded capture...

The White Shadow.mp3

Paranormalized features The White Shadow, which shamelessly lifts the bassline from James Chance and the Contortion's no-wave dancefloor filler Contort Yrself, and the anti-Degreassi High hit Do The Suicide".

Race Against Space.mp3

Law of Ruins is an open-ended and gargantuan sounding affair, occasionally dubbed-out in that perverse Bauhaus-like way, but as engrossing and hypnotic as Can. Recorded by DFA head-honcho James Murphy.

a fitting finale to the career of the only band that used a key-tar frequently throughout the 1990s, this album was recorded in 1996 and only released years later on Providence's Load Records, who've been home to that city's crop of stoner, afghan-collecting art-student bands' recorded outputs for a while now.


Strangely, 6FS backed up the B-52's Fred Schneider on his Albini-produced solo album Just Fred. There's a Live at the ACI 7" put out by the group that I have precious little informtaion on as well... James Apt was fired from the band by e-mail, and according to messageboard gossip, doesn't perform music anymore and works for a non-profit organization in Boston. Drummer Rick Pelletier plays bass in The Chinese Stars, (Thanks for the correction, Chloe!) who feature two former members of perverse noise act Arab on Radar. Alex Minoff was a brief member of 6FS, but devoted most of his time to Golden, and now plays in Weird War, fronted by rocknroll astrologer and former Sassiest Boy in America Ian Svenonius. John MacLean now records under the moniker Juan McLean, and records for Tim Goldsworth and James Murphy's DFA label.

Some readers might recall a Vice magazine story published two years or so back by John MacLean, in which he discusses coming to Toronto on tour, desperately itching for heroin and shooting up prior to a meeting with some SubPop people... In the end he realizes that he and his pal have just shot up with crack. The same story was published in Index magazine, it's revealed that his pal was Kurt Cobain.

Calgary's Fake Cops are a band that manage to channel a bit of the 6FS sound, though I expect they're less prone to the self-destructive outburts and drug-problems that make up some of the legend of 6FS, and both The Apes and the now-broken up Trans Am have certainly tread the same ground that Law of Ruins was built upon, but it's unlikely that there will ever be a band capable of transcending or exploding whatever it was that 6FS did. (To say little of James Murphy's pre-LCD Soundsystem group Speedking or Northwesterner's Satisfact.) (Yes, yes, even that crackhead from the Libertines...) Within Montreal, you can find 6FS albums finally sitting on record store shelves, after years of being ignored and passed over. (Cheap Thrills, for example, re-stocked their entire SubPop back-catalogue this past summer...)


20jazzfunkgreats said...

They didn’t get much recognition in England either.
First time I got any of there stuff was off melody maker now plan b guy Everet True.
I was obviously fascinated by an electronic band being on sub pop and was like, yes!
Never new any of the DFA connection, which is all a bit odd and shown maybe it is time for a revival – they might even be trendy in London soon, odder things have happened. Excellent informative piece that makes me want to listen to some more (I’m off to ebay).Thanks and keep up the great work.

wil murray said...

A bit out of date now.....but I'm looking to sell some records and one of them is "Machine Cuisine" it's yours for 15 bucks if you want it.

Anonymous said...

For your info, this is a new service for sellers to find buyers on eBay: Please feel free to delete this comment if you wish. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

It wasn't Kurt Cobain, it was Kurt Neimand the old bass player that was drugging in Toronto in that satirical article, FYI. There was a tape issued by 6FS around the time of The Pigeon is the Most Popular Bird record that James Murphy's LCD Soundsystem completely rips off note for note. Kiddies will never know that but it is the truth.

Jay said...

You weren't kidding when you said megapost. Very informative! The only thing I don't like about your post is that it makes MY post look very very non-mega.