Sunday, September 23, 2007

Art for Spastics Review

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Speaking of bands that tried to out-Flipper Flipper, the first to make a serious attempt might've been the Church Police, who rose briefly in the early 1980s from perhaps the most reviled of Bay Area edge cities, Concord, California. Most of the few people who know the band are only familiar with their contribution to the definitive Bay Area hardcore document, the Not So Quiet on the Western Front compilation. "The Oven Is My Friend" (later covered by Sebadoh on their Siltbreeze 7") was one of the two great weird songs to grace that LP (the other was Flipper's "Sacrifice"). Even fewer people noticed in the mid 1990s that the enigmatic Stomach Ache Records released a 7" (cooperatively with RRRecords) of rambling freer-form songs by the Church Police with minimal sleeve info. I stupidly sold that record away about six years ago, but "Robots" was a song so memorable that I can replay it in my mind whenever I think about it, and "Killing Myself to Live" might be the best song title ever.

I doubted that any other Church Police songs existed, so I was so pleased when Ry of Snake Apartment--who runs the very tasteful Skulltones imprint--delivered a copy of Gilligan's Wings in person to KDVS. These recordings from 1982 are of plenty good quality, and the songs are much more coherent than the rather rambly mysterious 7". Rumor has it that this is an appetizer for another label's full-course retrospective release.

A Negative Review

This is from the blog Fuck You, Counselor:

Call me a cynical Northerner (read: a Northerner), but Skulltones is pretty over--and I don't mean that in a carny/pro-wrestling way--right?. I mean, they're finished, washed-up & 86'ed. I generally mount up on anything Tom Lax gets his mitts on, but I guess I missed the Der TPK debutante ball. I had the directions straight, but apparently my feet thought better.
So here we are. Another Jewelled Antler-sponsored drunk-in-the-studio one-off to be consumed by 8 people who all know each other. To the credit of the whole JA crew, they's got a sense of humor their peers oughta envy. I'd much rather give 16-minutes to something that at the very least sounds like a blast to make than something that sounds like it's supposed to have been "a really intense trip, man. We totally got out there. Really stretching and reaching through some doors." That is, if it's going to suck about 5 different ways regardless. Which this mostly does. "Life is Fun" is the best delirious wastoid rumble never to be on a Footprints of God 7"--for whatever it's worth. Kind of like the Bunnybrains doing German Oak. Yeah. There's my press release quote, Skulltones. Dine and be merry, for tomorrow you're boots. For rill.



Here's what the Fusetron website has to say about the Gilligan's Wings single:

"A fantastic collection of unreleased recordings from northern California, 1982. You may recall their contribution "The Oven Is My Friend" as on of the most memorable tracks on the Not So Quiet On The Western Front compilation. This single picks up where that left off-thick downer punk with stumbling drums and a thick plodding bass wall march the songs forward in slow motion. Layered on top, the guitar lines add a sort of meandering melody, bending and detuning in wild synchronicity with the psychedelic deadpan vocals. The material holds its own against Flipper (whom CP played with), Negative Trend, and foreshadowed the mid-to-late-80s SST sound. Limited to 300 copies." - Skulltones. Highly recommended!!


This morning I noticed that the Church Police have a biography on the Last.FM website. It was not sufficiently informative in my opinion so I wrote this one to replace it. I'm posting it here so that if the website admins deny it or edit it for length, I won't lose the text.

Church Police were an highly experiential (not experimental, since they never applied any theories or hypotheses to their music) punk band from Concord, California. They had a track on the "Not So Quiet On The Western Front" compiliation, which was released on Alternative Tentacles in 1982. This track was pulled from the band's one and only professional studio recording session. Other tracks from that same session have surfaced on the internet over the years. Two limited edition 7" EPs were released decades after the recordings were first produced. In 1996, Stomach Ache Records released the tracks "Killing Myself To Live," "Jarhead," "Bag Of Lumps," "Robots" and "The Red Glow." In 2007, Skulltones released "Gilligans Wings," b/w "Gourmet Cooking" and "Life Is Fun."

The Church Police were formed in 1980 when singer Tim Gallaher and drummer Eric Lundmark wrote a bunch of lyrics one afternoon. Afterward, either that same day or within a day or two, they showed the lyrics to guitarist Dave Blakeslee. The three of them got together and bashed out the rudimentary tunes and rhythms that would constitute most of the Church Police repertoire over the next two years of the band's existence. The band derived its name from a Monty Python skit. Eventually, bassist Bruce Gauld joined the group because he had a good amp and the most actual musical talent of anyone interested in joining the group.

The Church Police were one of the earliest underground punk bands to emerge from suburbia. The band performed their first live gig at the Sound of Music, a cheap, sleazy and accessible club in San Francisco's Tenderloin district, in the fall of 1980. An amateur studio recording was made around that same time at Diablo Valley College, in which the band's guitars were plugged directly into the sound board because live electrical performances would have been too loud and disruptive to the nearby classes. Only the drums were mic'ed. A cassette recording of this session began circulating through the San Francisco scene, gaining particular favor with two bands who had identified themselves as "pet rock" bands: Animal Things and Flipper. The Church Police, mainly through Bruce's persistence, were able to land weeknight gigs at the Sound of Music with some regularity. One particularly memorable show occurred when Bruce Loose, lead singer of Flipper, made his enthusiastic appreciation of the band highly visible by dancing wildly in front of the stage as they performed. This convinced many trendies in the audience to consider the Church Police "cool." Even though their musical abilities were lacking, they had a unique stage presence and represented something fresh and unpredictable within the local punk community.

A series of musical and personal adventures followed. The band performed at many clubs that have become part of San Franscico's musical lore and legend, including the Mabuhay Gardens (where they were eventually blacklisted for "disruptive performances"), the On Broadway, the Club Foot, Barrington Hall, and elsewhere. The Church Police became known as young proteges of Flipper for awhile, though the two bands only played a handful of shows on the same bill. They opened for the Dead Kennedys, Black Flag and (unofficially) Throbbing Gristle.

The band broke up on at least two occasions due to conflicts between band members and complications arising from drug abuse, financial hardships and disorganization when it came to actually being a band. The final dissolution took place in early 1983 when Dave left the San Francisco area and eventually moved back to his home town of Grand Rapids, MI. The four members went on to live stable and productive lives and contribute in various ways to the on-going betterment of society.