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Kim Fowley - Animal God of the Street (1974)


Beyond its original intention as a demo/outtakes/odds’n’ends collection of material to shop around to prospective groups, “Animal God Of The Streets” works hilariously well on its own two crazy legs as a collection of reckless, rough-hewn fury.

I believe the information listed (with the obvious exception of the song titles, songwriting credits and Fowley’s own comments on the tracks) is not entirely accurate. For starters, the tracks are all described as being cut in the years of 1969, 1970 and 1971 (all in New Zealand) but Fowley himself name checks Woodstock and the Toronto Pop Festival occurring “last summer” on a track dating from 1971. I only mention this because: a) I wanna know!!!! and b) Kim was and is such a man of the moment, I don’t think he’d be inserting those lines into a song recorded a full two years after, that’s all. But since anything is possible with Kim Fowley, the true history of “Animal God Of The Streets” will probably remain a mystery and since Fowley himself probably wants it that way, then who am I criticise this frenzied, freewheelin’ outpouring of rock’n’roll? Because as much as the liners are flawed and suspect, the music is anything but and Fowley’s thin crust of controlled and thirsty vocals shatters all again and again during outbreaks of pandemonium and manically freaking with no fair warning whatsoever. And to cover so much rock’n’roll terrain in one album of outtakes and demos is truly inspiring, as Fowley flings ‘em all out atcha as he barks out lyrics as tirades and glottal threats as promises in the same roughshod manner he well and truly nailed on his incredible “Outrageous” album. And most of the tracks here are similarly related in its ranting, one-take visions, Fowley directing the whole thing up, down or sideways as he sings, yelps and carries on with amazing abandon.

It’s both fitting and hysterical that Fowley’s first vocal appearance is a deeply gulped orgasmic moan that opens “Night Of The Hunter,” which he describes in the notes as a “motorcycle saga in the tradition of ‘Easy Rider.’” And since it is like “Who Do You Love,” The Byrds’ “Lover Of The Bayou” and “Born To Be Wild” all at once it’s an appropriate appraisal as it kicks off the album in fine, flying style as Fowley’s organ riffs hover directly above his Harley chopper at top speed with a feeling of hair flying down the highway like all the danger, thrills and kicks in the world are just up around the bend. “Long Live Rock’n’Roll” is coyly short and sweet although in reality a secretly demented, arms and legs akimbo dedication to the proto-Ziggy spirit of rock’n’roller Vince Taylor. It’s strung out upon a high-tension wire with a monophonic rhythm guitar line that is thrust to the fore as a wah-wah guitar riff accents the end of every sung line as it trades off with the Fowley vocal. “Werewolf Dynamite” reprises another biker-angled theme, everything from the opening line “Rockin’ down the dirt road” to “Tearin’ up the badlands/My tire’s getting hurt” pointing to more dementia on the open road until he finally admits, “I think my brains are fried!” The track ends with Fowley’s hoarsely barking the word “Dynamite!” over and over until stopping on an elongated and exquisitely rolled ‘R.’

The epic “Is America Dead?” is as exploratory and totally off onto the furthest reaches of the thinnest branch of the associative free form tree as “When The Music’s Over” and just as true to its vision. Mentally checking his country’s pulse, the song suffers innumerable instrumental breakdowns, ravings, musings, deep truths, jokes, insults, snatches of patriotic hymns and...you name it: it’s all there, up against Kim’s streaming organ chords of flapping freak flag flying. “Is America Dead?” stretches out all the way to Europe and back as Kim ponders, fumbles, moans and freaks out uncontrollably, while the chorus continually asks and prods the song’s title’s question:

“Baby,
Is America dead?
Are we the brave new world
Or the end instead?
Baby,
Is America dead?”

“Is America’s Dead?” -- Man, it’s a killer track and one long, provocative and crazed moment. Ending the first side is a trashed up version of Link Wray’s “Rumble.” It gets tossed on the damp basement floor in a rendition about as slashing, violent and brutal as the original. Side two is comprised of tracks from 1969 but they sound as though they’re all from the same session as side one, despite a shift in the backing instrumentation to more countrified tones and luckily, they are no less crazy. The down home scuzz of “California Swamp Dance” (co-written by Fowley with bearded Byrds bassist Skip Battin) takes off and plunders simultaneously the entire ‘Swamp Rock’ genre in particular and every song recorded by a white rock band with the word “Bayou” in it in general. Kim seasons it with amazingly heartfelt and accurate pantomiming of 1969-era Jaggerisms, drawling out lines like “Lezz heeyuh sum swamp drahms” for a country mile and of course, has to slip the word “chicken” in there somewhere (twice, no less.) “Hobo Wine” sees Kim unearthing one of the earliest rock’n’roll tracks, “Drinkin’ Wine Spo-Dee-O-Dee” and over-amplifying it with vintage, grating guitar into an earthly, jumpy R&B number and thus doing proud one of rock’n’roll’s earliest founders, Stick McGhee. The mid-tempo “Dangerous Visions” follows, where Fowley ‘screams about tomorrow’ (then again, he screams about EVERYTHING on this album) and it’s an apocalyptic reflection buffeted by billowing Al Kooper-type organ like the weary and dragging tick-tock tempo from Dylan’s grandfather clock of “Sooner Or Later (One Of Us Must Know).” Kim observes “Deeply engrossed in our preservation/We’re not feeling anymore” as the track slowly pendulums between hope and uncertainty standing at the threshold leading into an unknown and alien new decade. By the end, Kim is stuttering the words, gasping for breath and totally worked up facing the impending new year/decade of 1970 as he vocally wriggles out of his Silver Sixties skin.

The final track, “Ain’t Got No Transportation” was composed by Fowley with The Stooges in mind to record it and I truly believe it. There’s only a faint smattering of background piano behind the sparsest of cymbal-less and simpleton drum beating and half chord guitar rhythms and draped with a single, early Magic Band slide guitar. Fowley’s vision of The Stooges totally hit the mark, as he sets about describing in an accurately drawn out Iggy vocal style walking a cold highway far from the city of lights. Fowley soon drops even using words for as he starts working from within a repeating phrase that goes “A whaw oh, uh ain’t got!” over and over in a jittery, rhythmic mantra as though echoing the road’s vanishing point up ahead and it’s one that never recedes, gets any closer but just stays hanging in space and time like an inverted female pubic triangle always in reach but never attainable. “A whaw oh, uh ain’t got!” “A whaw oh, uh ain’t got!” Fowley blurts, as though it’s gonna get him home that much quicker and away from the lonesome howls, owls, werewolves and zombies in the dark by the side of that cold road’s shoulder. The slide guitar and Fowley’s vocals start zapping over and over in crescendo exhaustively and after six minutes of stillborn repetition, it ends. A pity it never got the break it deserved in the hands and mouth of The Stooges as it woulda been a great meeting of the minds from the Inland Empire of rock’n’roll -- the very geography this stylistically jumping and humping record embraces so fully.  (source)

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