The Godz

godz2

Our thanks to reader Srimad1 for reminding us that, while we did once write a post about freak-folk/noise-rock pioneers The Godz, we never actually got around to adding them to The Weird List. Well, we’re gonna fix that right now, Sri. Can we call you Sri? We feel like we’re already on a nickname basis, since we’re all in the extremely small club of Godz lovers.

The Godz (not to be confused with the awesome-in-their-own-way-but-far-less-mindblowing hard rock back from Ohio of the same name) came together in mid-1960s New York City. Their official bio says they were “born out of the grimy streets of the Lower East Side”; another account, which we find far more entertaining, says they met at a Sam Goody record store in midtown Manhattan. United by a love of marijuana and pretending not to know how to play their instruments, they began laying down improvised, repetitive jams that resembled no sound anyone had ever produced before, unless somewhere in Greenwich Village before 1966 a jug band attempted to play three different songs simultaneously while falling down a flight of stairs.

All 25 minutes of The Godz’s nine-song debut album, Contact High With The Godz (or Contact High With Da Godz, as the ransom-note lettering on the cover reads), is equal parts brilliant, deranged and insufferable. It’s one of the first — maybe the first — great weirdo artifacts of ’60s psychedelic music, predating The Velvet Underground & Nico by a year and Cromagnon‘s Orgasm by three. We posted it once before and it’s so great we’ll post it again. Warning: If you have cats, don’t play track two, “White Cat Heat,” on a large home stereo system. I’m not saying my cats are scarred for life or anything, but they’re definitely a lot jumpier than they were the day before they heard it.

Contact High With The Godz was released on the great ESP-Disk label, best-known as one of the vanguards of free jazz but also responsible for putting out some of the most mind-warping folk music to come out of New York in the ’60s (including records by The Fugs, Holy Modal Rounders and the aforementioned Cromagnon). Apparently Godz bassist Larry Kessler worked at the label at the time and arranged for them to audition. It’s a safe guess that everyone treated the whole thing like a joke at first, but somewhere along the way an actual recording session took place and lightning in a bottle was captured.

The Godz released three more albums over the next seven years, each weird and charming in its own primitive way, but never quite surpassing the magic of their unhinged debut. Godz 2, released in 1967, kept the droning, hypnotic qualities of Contact High but sounded more inspired when the guys delved into actual songcraft, as on the proto-punk rave-up “Radar Eyes.” 1968’s The Third Testament leavened the noise with some straight-up acoustic numbers that wouldn’t have sounded out of place in a Richie Havens set. Following a few years of inactivity, The Godz got back together after famously contrarian rock critic Lester Bangs sang the praises of their early work in a 1971 article for Creem. But 1973’s Godzundheit, which featured a ragged but surprisingly faithful cover of “Jumpin’ Jack Flash,” would prove to be the final chapter in their first act.

Over the years, The Godz achieved semi-legendary status — especially in the NYC post-punk/no wave scene, where they came to be viewed as godfathers, championed by Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore among many others. They finally reunited in late 2007 and early 2008 to record several new songs that later turned up on a pair of compilation albums called The Godz Remastered (a kind of hilarious title, given the deliberately lo-fi nature of their early work) and Gift From The Godz. Those recordings featured all three surviving members: Kessler, guitarist Jim McCarthy and drummer Paul Thornton — but inevitably, they’ve ditched the most aggressively abrasive elements of their early work, though they still rock out with youthful punk enthusiasm. (The fourth original member, autoharpist Jay Dillon, died in 2005.)

In 2014, Kessler put together a touring version of the band called L.L. Kessler’s “GODZ” that initially did not include McCarthy or Thornton, though Thornton later signed on to celebrate the band’s 50th anniversary. According to their official website, they’ve recorded a new album called America — but as far as we’ve been able to tell, only the title track, a jaunty protest song with a horn section, has been released so far.

Even though it’s far from their weirdest song, we’re gonna play this post out with “Radar Eyes” because it fucking rocks. Long live The Godz!

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Weird of the Day: The Godz, “Contact High with the Godz”

The Godz

We rarely post entire album streams on this site, for a variety of reasons: a.) Most of the full album streams on YouTube are of questionable provenance, and we don’t wanna get sued; b.) We have very short attention spans; and c.) Most albums are, let’s face it, not compelling enough to listen to from beginning to end. But The Godz’s 1966 debut, Contact High with the Godz, is too amazing not to share in its entirety. So with apologies to the great ESP-Disk label, which reissues all sorts of great half-forgotten freakery from the ’60s (including the tribal noise pioneers Cromagnon), we present Contact High with the Godz in all its glory. Enjoy!

A bit of backstory as you listen: The Godz emerged from the same underground New York folk-rock scene as The Fugs. They went on to release three more albums before breaking up in 1973, although they did reunite a few times in recent years. As the ESP-Disk website says, “There was no precedent for what they did. The weirdest and most far-out bands around at that time were the Monks and the Mothers of Invention. The first albums of the Velvet Underground, the Stooges, and the Grateful Dead all lay in the future.” They also pre-dated Cromagnon and The Shaggs by several years. So whatever you want to call what they’re doing—freak folk, psych-folk, avant noise-rock, proto-punk—they were pretty much inventing it out of whole cloth.

A tip of the hat to reader Lowell Brams for suggesting we do a Godz post. Lowell, incidentally, runs a fantastic label called Asthmatic Kitty that many of you are probably familiar with. If you’re not familiar, please check them out.  The new My Brightest Diamond video is especially stunning (not in a weird way, just in a lovely way—think of it as a palette-cleanser after 25 minutes of Godz).

Weird of the Day: AroarA, “#4”

AroarA

I know it’s the Fourth of July and we should probably be featuring Ted Nugent or something instead of some random Canadian band. But we got turned onto this track from Montreal duo AroarA earlier this week and we can’t stop playing it. Plus it’s based a book by American poet Alice Notley, and poetry is nearly as American as burgers, hot dogs and blowing shit up. So put your Independence Day festivities on hold for five minutes and crank this shit up.

Amazing, right? If I may continue stuffing way too many Fourth of July references into this post, it’s like someone grilled up some American dustbowl folk music, shoved it into a bun of Canadian indie pop and topped it with a squirt of African desert blues. Or as Leslie Feist, who sometimes jams with them, puts it, far more succinctly, they play “ghost science faux-folk.”

AroarA is the work of Andrew Whiteman, best-known for his work with Broken Social Scene, and Ariel Engle, formerly part of Montreal orchestral pop collective Land of Kush. This track is from their debut album, In the Pines, which as we mentioned earlier takes its name from the Alice Notley book of the same name. It’s already been nominated for the Polaris Prize, which is sort of Canada’s version of the Mercury Prize. It’s available in a vinyl+digital package from the duo’s website.

OK, you may resume stuffing your face with barbecue and/or watching the World Cup. Happy July 4th, y’all!

Weird of the Day: Andy the Doorbum, “Evocation: The Beast of Change”

Andy the Doorbum

For some reason, most of the really weird shit people are sending us these days is from North Carolina. Turns out there’s more to the Tarheel State than college hoops and vinegary barbecue.

The latest weirdo from the state that also gave us Your Fuzzy Friends, Surgical Vacations and Weird Band Poll contenders Emily Brontësaurus is a redneck singer-songwriter name of Andy Fenstermaker, who goes by the nom de weird of Andy the Doorbum. Most of Andy’s earlier stuff, as far as we can tell, is more quirky than weird, in sort of a Mountain Goats meets Tom Waits way. But he went off the fucking deep end with his latest video, “Evocation: The Beast of Change,” which we understand is the first track off his coming-soon album The Fool.

Not sure when The Fool drops, but he’s got a sold-out record release show this Friday, so it must be any day now. To hear more of his stuff, visit his Bandcamp page.

P.S. Our thanks to reader Eel for sending the “Evocation” video our way. You haunt our dreams, Eel.