Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Beer Cans On The Moon - Ed Sanders



Beer Cans On The Moon
Ed Sanders
Reprise MS 2105
1972

This is Ed Sanders' second solo album.  I bought it because I'm a big fan of his group, the Fugs.  It is not nearly as good as the classic Fugs albums.  I like Sanders' songs with the Fugs, but I generally like his partner Tuli Kupferberg's songs better.  Sanders isn't much of a singer and I find forty unrelenting minutes of his vocalizing to be pretty tough to take.  The album is satirical in nature, but it is rarely as funny or provocative as the Fugs' best work.  One of the better songs is the opening cut, "Rock & Roll People."  It has a 50s rock and roll flavor to it and it celebrates rock and roll culture.  "Nonviolent Direct Action" is an ode to pacifism that introduces the country music flavor that permeates most of the album.  "Henry Kissinger" mocks the title figure in a heavy handed manner.  I loathe Kissinger as much as most lefties do and still this song makes me wince.  It is pure self-indulgent tedium, by far the worst song on the record.  "The Shredding Machine" has a Middle Eastern flavor to it that will be familiar to Fugs fans but then it abruptly goes country for the section about the journalist Jack Anderson for reasons I can't fathom.  The song is about the cover-up associated with the ITT bribery scandal and the Republican Party.  I guess it was topical in 1972 but I doubt many listeners nowadays know or care about it.  "Pity The Bird" is about oil spills.  Sanders' vocal really irritates me, it sounds like a fake childrens song.  The country-style "Kaw River Valley Progressive Hempune" is about a hemp-growing commune in Kansas that gets Napalm dropped on it by the government.  The song borrows from the Beatles "Happiness is A Warm Gun" awkwardly substituting "hempune on the prairie" for "warm gun."  "Beer Cans on the Moon" is another country song.  The twang Sanders uses when he tries to sing country-style gives me a headache.  The song is about space colonizers and pollution.  "Albion Crags" is my favorite song on the album and is the one that reminds me the most of the Fugs.  It is more of a rock song with some nice wailing organ lines and guitar jamming although the song exposes Sanders' feeble vocals even more than the country ditties do.  The song is a tribute to William Blake and features his poem "The Sick Rose."  "Yodeling Robot" is about an android working in an interstellar mine in love with Dolly Parton.  Not your typical pop song, that's for sure.  I'd probably like it were it not for Sanders' horrible yodeling.  "Priestess" is about a pagan cult led by an abusive priestess.  Musically it sounds like the Jethro Bodine from "The Beverly Hillbillies" fronting the Incredible String Band.  The ragtime style of "Universal Rent Strike Rag" suits Sanders' wobbly warbling better than the more robust demands of country music.  He croons about a hippie utopia free from authority and oppression.  It reminds me of the early Country Joe and the Fish recordings before they recorded for Vanguard.  The album closes with the country sing-a-long "Six Pack of Sunshine" which I think is about trying to maintain optimism in the face of fears that there is no redemption for our sins.  The song actually name checks Plato and his ideas about the transmigration of souls which I'm fairly certain is a pop music first.  I've got to hand it to Sanders, he is a very creative and original lyricist.  If only he could sing.  Recommended to tone-deaf beatniks who like country music. 

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