Monday, February 23, 2009



I don’t know much about Brattleboro, Vermont, to be honest with you. I know it’s a rich hippie liberal arts college town, and I know I’ve been there because I remember getting into a huge fight when I was eighteen with my father at a gas station there over a wrong turn we made on the highway. I also know it’s situated in the most southeastern part of the state, bordering on New Hampshire directly, and it’s just a few minutes north from the Massachusetts boarder. And it lies on Route 9, which heading west takes you through a bunch of other sleepy hippie liberal arts college towns along the Massachusetts boarder, like Marlboro and Bennington, the latter home of the infamous hippie liberal arts college, and the seventh most expensive university in the United States.

I’ve been to both of these towns and they’re kind of surreal in how they are both the kind of towns that remind you of old timey times, when people churned butter and hit their kids with rulers, but are also still trying to desperately hold onto the last vestiges of liberal / hippie idealism that showed up there in the 1960s. Up until very recently, public nudity was rarely contested in these parts and not recognized as a violation under local legislature until 2007. During my one visit to Bennington College in 2004, I saw at least one college nudist dude, and people treated him as though he was just any other dude . . . Fuck, I can imagine this guy probably even went to class naked. That’s some far out shit, man! In Marlboro, I’ve driven by several times this insane roadside art installation of twisted metal monsters and insects on the property of an ex-liberal college arts professor that looks sort of like a cross between rural hippie folk art and post-oil / nuclear apocalypse shit like Mad Max. Yup, this strip of southern Vermont truly is the epicenter of the hippies who stayed behind and refused to sell out, as well as consequently the place that all the sellout hippies send their kids for four years to forget about how pathetic and greedy they became.

Its exactly the kind of place that perfectly suits the music of KING TUFF – aka- Kyle Thomas - front man of The Witch (a band that I admittingly know very little about other than J Mascis is the drummer), as well as a member of the Brattleboro based experimental whimsical pop band Feathers. Besides that, I know absolutely nothing about Thomas, and searches on Google did very little to enlighten me on the dude. My record label colleague Graeme Langdon was the first person to tell me about how great this KING TUFF shit was, and shortly after that, I checked out his MySpace and fell head over heels.

I was immediately blown away by the bombastic Neil Young-esque guitar solos and ridiculous hippie lyrics of the acoustic tinged “Sun Medallion.” That song is absolutely perfect: a time capsule back to an era in late 60s / early 70s rock when playing this kind of shit still meant something. And the lyrics . . . Jesus Christ, they are absolute fucking genius:

“Well, I had a dream today. . . in the graveyard where I do my dreamin’ / I tied my hair in braids . . . yeah the colors, big wheel spinnin’ / Smoking pipes . . . thought I’d get away / But I can’t go anywhere . . . without my Sun Medallion.”

This song is so hilarious and so fucking awesome, I feel like I should be lying in a field, sipping on organic buckwheat beer, blowing on dandelion seeds, tripping my balls off on mushrooms listening to this shit. I’ve probably listened to this song fifteen times in the last hour alone, imaging that exact scenario.

It takes someone pretty cleaver and hilarious to write a song this catchy and tongue in cheek, so it’s no surprise that the other two songs on here are no slouches, either. “A Pretty Dress” sounds almost exactly like The Seeds at their catchiest, with tough 60s garage riffing over strange reverb chamber explosion sounds. Thomas sounds very Sky Saxon-esque on this track, employing a snottier vocal delivery than on the other two tracks present here. Not quite on the level of “Sun Medallion,” but nevertheless a solid song.

The hippie dippy themes and acoustic guitar accompaniment return on the third track, the soaring “Freak When I’m Dead,” which has an oh-so-familiar jangle rock riff omnipresent in so much classic 60s American garage rock, and sounds absolutely perfect here. More amazing nuggets of hilarious lyrics pop up on this song, which articulately captures the absurdity of the flower power era :

“When you bury my body . . . Oh, make sure I’m wearing all of my rings / And favorite clothes . . . Yeah, everything with patches and everything with holes / Cause I don’t care what my grandma says . . . I don’t care at all / Cause you know I’ll still be . . . a freak when I’m dead.”

The lead guitar on this track really carries it into the next stratosphere, though, recalling Neil Young yet again with a face melting solo that reminds me of the one Shakey busts out on the Buffalo Springfield’s “Mr. Soul.” Groooovy, baby!

For all of these reasons, I will be trying my damnedest to track down the Was Dead LP, which I’m sure will be an absolute gem.
Rarely does anyone capture the roots and feeling of a time and place (as metaphysical as that may actually be) like this.

-Shaun Anderson


982 rue Sainte Marguerite
Montreal, Quebec
H4C 2X8

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