Apr 15, 2015

RhoDeo 1515 Aetix


When considering the geographical origins of the paisley underground movement of the early '80s, the Midwest isn't the first place you would think of. During the West Coast uprising of bands like Dream Syndicate, Rain Parade, Thin White Rope, the Three O'Clock, and Green on Red, the Milwaukee-based Plasticland had already been knee-deep in psychedelia due, in part, to the rare record-collecting fetish of founding members Glenn Rehse (vocals, guitar, organ) and John Frankovic (bass). From the get-go, Plasticland bypassed the darker Velvet Underground influence that most bands of the era were paying lip service to. Their goal was to pursue a brighter, more melodic musical approach, thus avoiding pointless jamming behind walls of feedback when lacking inspiration. Instead, they embraced the sights and sounds of early British flower-power pop initiated 15 years earlier by such influences as Tomorrow, Pink Floyd with Syd Barrett, the Smoke, and the Creation....Something to  N'Joy

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Formed in 1980 out of the ashes of prog rockers Arousing Polaris, Plasticland included vocalist/guitarist/organist Glenn Rehse, guitarist Dan Mullen, bassist John Frankovic, and drummer Vic Demechei, who debuted that summer with the "Mink Dress" single on Scadillac. Several more singles and EPs followed, including 1982's Pop! Op Drops (whose material later became part of the band's first album); there were also several personnel shifts, as Demechei was replaced first by Bob DuBlon, then Rob McCuen. (Several tracks with the Violent Femmes' Brian Ritchie on guitar were also recorded during this era.)

Plasticland's first full-length, Color Appreciation, was issued on the French Lolita label in 1984; a year later, it was re-released in America by Pink Dust with two different tracks, titled simply Plasticland. The follow-up, Wonder Wonderful Wonderland, was released before the end of 1985, and featured Mellotron and bouzouki, among other vintage psychedelic accouterments. By the time of 1987's Salon, Demechei had returned to the fold. Plasticland subsequently resurfaced on the Midnight label with a pair of live albums: 1989's You Need a Fairy Godmother (featuring onetime Pink Fairies/Pretty Things drummer Twink) and 1990's Confetti. In the late '80s, a German fan commissioned an album, Dapper Snappings, for his Repulsion label. The album was eventually released in 1994. Some of the band's early recordings were collected on Mink Dress & Other Cats, while a career-spanning collection, Make Yourself a Happening Machine, was issued in 2006. An expanded and remastered version of the American debut album, with liner notes by Glenn Rehse, was released in 2014.

Several guitarists and drummers would rotate in and out of the band over time, but Glenn Rehse and John Frankovic have remained the core of the band. Dan Mullen was the second guitarist for most of the 1980s recordings and live appearances. Brian Ritchie, later of The Violent Femmes, played guitar briefly with the band on early recordings. Multiple singles, EPs, compilation appearances, studio and live albums appeared in the 1980s and early 1990s. Several compilation CDs chronicle the band's earlier years.

Color Appreciation (1984), their first album, was on the French Lolita label. Enigma Records in the US reissued the album in 1985, self-titling it, with track alterations and substitutions. Enigma subsidiary label Pink Dust released the next two albums, Wonder Wonderful Wonderland (1985) and Salon (1987). For Wonder Wonderful Wonderland the label wanted the band to use Paul Cutler, a producer and guitar player with The Dream Syndicate, but the band "generally ignored his advice". German label Repulsion issued their final studio album, Dapper Snappings in 1994, though it was recorded several years earlier. Two very different live albums were also released. You Need a Fairy Godmother (1989) and Confetti (1990) were both issued by Midnight Records. The former was recorded with Plasticland backing one of their musical heroes, Twink, legendary drummer of The Pretty Things and The Pink Fairies. Confetti consists of various live performances edited together.

The duo of Glenn Rehse and John Frankovic, with new bandmates, are still performing, recently opening for Blue Cheer in November 2007. In January 2008 John Frankovic and Victor Demechei retired their services from the group. The group has been sustained by Glenn Rehse and new guitarist Leroy Buth (previously of the legendary Milwaukee punk rock group The Lubricants).

In 2015, Plasticland will be inducted into the Wisconsin Area Music Industry Hall of Fame

Both Glenn Rehse and John Frankovic have had various side projects, releasing multiple albums and singles. As The Fabulon Triptometer, Glenn Rehse released The Padded Lounge (1992) on Midnight Records with Bob DuBlon on drums. John Frankovic has multiple solo albums to his credit: Under the Water Lily (1993) on Midnight Records, Frank-O-Fest (1995) on Father Yod Records and in 2004 Brainticket Records released Space Zombie. As well, he has issued multiple singles with The Gothics and The Cake People. Both have produced albums for other artists, including Dimentia 13 and The Petals.

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Hailing from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Plasticland emerged at a time when a new breed of East Coast and Midwest bands was reviving interest in '60s garage rock, while in California a handful of groups embraced psychedelia and folk-rock under the banner of the paisley underground. But even though Plasticland had a fair amount in common with both movements, at heart they were following a very different path -- at their best, Plasticland aspired to be the first American freakbeat group, seeking to re-create the brief but memorable era when British and European bands were mashing up R&B, proto-punk, and psychedelia into a gloriously volatile formula. Kicking off their debut album with a fuzz-laden cover of the Pretty Things' "Alexander," Plasticland were not afraid to wear their influences on their sleeve, and this album manages the remarkable feat of sounding powerfully addled and psychedelic with practically no hippie vibe to be found; the songs are superb evocations of classic freakbeat, roaring forth with soaring melodies that occasionally go into minor-key skydives and are punctuated by chimes, toy pianos, autoharps, or whatever arcane music-producing devices were on hand at the moment. "Disengaged from the World," "Sipping the Bitterness," "Pop! Op Drops," and "Euphoric Trapdoor Shoes" are as good as any of the vintage singles that influenced Plasticland, and the band's production is savvy, making use of classic engineering techniques that serve the songs well without allowing their paisley nostalgia to drown out the melodic elements of the songs. Most bands as preoccupied with a certain moment in rock & roll history tend to find themselves hoisted by the petard of their own obsessions, but Plasticland is that rare example of one such band getting it exactly right, and these speedy acid fantasies are a very potent good time.

Plasticland - Plasticland  (flac 285mb)

01 Alexander 3:27
02 Disengaged From The World 2:37
03 Her Decay 2:30
04 The Glove 2:20
05 Sipping The Bitterness 2:07
06 The Garden In Pain 2:00
07 Elongations 1:51
08 Driving Accident Prone 1:39
09 Color Appreciation 2:18
10 Wallflowers 3:19
11 Euphoric Trapdoor Shoes 2:34
12 Pop! Or Drops 1:11
13 Sections 1:57
14 Rattail Comb 1:54
15 Posing For Pictures 2:06
16 Magic Rocking Horse 3:39
17 Mushroom Hill 2:14

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Plasticlands' evolution from 84’s Color Appreciation to this mind warp in 85 was remarkable.  Totally psychedelic, way beyond other bands with similar chemical allegiances, this album was a brilliant commentary of acid fueled dementia, beautifully molded by producer Paul B. Cutler.

‘No Shine for the Shoes’ kicks things off with tripped out lyrics, reminding me a heavy duty mushroom meltdown.  Glenn Rehses' vocals sounding a little like a sympathetic cheese grater.  ‘Gloria Knight’ follows a simple enough (in theory) sixties tune with intense sound effects and distortion.  The album was obviously a well crafted creation, a long way ahead of other sixties influenced garage bands.  This band actually re-defined psychedelic.  This becomes apparent with the next track ‘Transparencies, Friends’ which travels into the land of the paranormal/ghosts in a song with tripping harmonic vocals (with organ) adding to the intense mystery of the track.  ‘Fairyland Hysteria’ kicks off with a huge feedback wail, followed by a thunderous guitar onslaught with great harmonies and chorus adding up to an engaging few minutes about hallucinations of grandeur.

‘Don’t Let It All Pass By’ is arguably the most lysergic of the tunes on this album.  Vocal interplay over-topping a beautiful organ sound.  ‘The Gingerbread House' closes off Side 1, once again focusing on a tripped out excursion into the land of demented Grimm Brothers fairy tales.  The song first sounds enticing, which leads the childlike listener into a house, where of course a very nasty witch lives inside, whose bad karma is described through fuzzed out guitars and paranoid and edgy vocals.

“Flower Scene" starts off Side 2, with the most overtly pop influenced slice of psychedelia on the album.   This is a great tune with clever changes in texture and great bass interplaying with sophisticated backing vocals.  ‘Process of the Silverness’ works well enough being a more standard 60’s like song (only weirder).  It’s basically another fuzzed out extravaganza, technically spot on and sounding like no other band.  They would have been as heavy as fuck live.  ‘Non-stop Kitchen’ sounds like a disco track gone mad.  Rehse singing about tripping in his kitchen and getting attacked and overwhelmed by all of his kitchen appliances - especially the spoons.  The song works OK if you get off on funky bass, drums and minimal guitar with some great fuzz at the end.  ‘Grassland of Reeds and Things’ is a very odd piece of psychodrama, probably with African percussion put into the pot, this song may have been recorded late at night with the studio filled with hash smoke and incense (maybe).  ‘Gloria Knight (Reprise)’ sounds like filler to me - fuzzed out filler of course.  The album closes with ‘Wonder, Wonderful, Wonderland’, a similar sounding tune to the 'Gingerbread House’ without the old witch to put you off your game.  This is a lovingly crafted masterwork.  Plasticland really were amongst the best of their generation and it is a sad world to see them remain relatively obscure and unknown.

Plasticland - Wonder Wonderful Wonderland  (flac 196mb)

01 No Shine For The Shoes 2:26
02 Gloria Knight 3:16
03 Transparencies, Friends 3:28
04 Fairytale Hysteria 2:28
05 Don't Let It All Pass By 1:28
06 The Gingerbread House 3:50
07 Flower Scene 2:24
08 Processes Of The Silverness 2:37
09 Non-Stop Kitchen 2:49
10 Grassland Of Reeds And Things 1:41
11 Gloria Knight (Reprise) 4:46
12 Wonder Wonderful Wonderland 2:49

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Not far from being a psychedelic masterpiece. Opens with "Go Go Time", which would have been a hit in a perfect world : a slowed down Motown bass/drums rythm and a perfect melody, with colours flashing everywhere. Absolutely splendid. Another highlight, "A Quick Commentary On Wax Museums" is, as the title may suggest, totally frightening and could have been written by Syd Barrett waking up from a Madame Tussauds nightmare. Some krautrock influences can be heard here and there. Salon is rather self-conscious about its psychedelic angle, doubtless a reaction to the amount of bad alterna-dance and gothy stuff  on college radio at the time.

Plasticland - Salon (flac 201mb)

01 Go A Go-Go Time 3:31
02 What Am I To Say 1:26
03 It's A Dog's Life 2:08
04 A Quick Commentary On Wax Museums 3:40
05 Abcessed Words To Climb 1:57
06 (The Lie Of) Great Sedan Pinocchio 2:10
07 We Can't 2:10
08 Serene It's True 2:33
09 Reserving The Right To Change My Mind 3:51
10 The Window Sills 2:37
11 Don't Antagonize Me 3:18

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An archival release of early singles, formative demos, and unreleased songs from the first recording sessions by this seminal Milwaukee psych band, Mink Dress and Other Cats is a great way to discover (or rediscover) Plasticland. One of the great neo-psych bands of the '80s, the quartet, led by singer/songwriters Glenn Rehse and John Frankovic, was occasionally dismissed as fashion-conscious lightweights due to their sartorial obsessions, but the records themselves are glorious blends of Syd Barrett whimsy; West Coast harmonies (more Peanut Butter Conspiracy than Jefferson Airplane, wisely); and good old-fashioned plane-crash guitar drones, with both a better sense of atmosphere and, most often, more hooks than most of the Californian paisley underground bands. Highlights here include the ringing, Byrdsian "In My Black and White"; the glorious "Mink Dress" (Plasticland's 1981 debut single); and the garage-punky "Office Skills," which resembles the freakier side of the Seeds. As always with this sort of compilation, some of the unreleased tracks had been unreleased for good reason, but overall, this is a solid overview of Plasticland's first three or four years. The disc includes a lengthy band history by Dave Luhrssen and notes on all the songs by Rehse.

Plasticland - Mink Dress And Other Cats (flac 240mb)

01 You Were Such A Bad Time 2:54
02 In My Black And White 1:57
03 I'm Gonna Emphasize 2:23
04 Pushy 2:11
05 The Prince's Playroom 2:03
06 Too Many Fingers 1:48
07 Standing In A Room 3:25
08 A Change In You 2:04
09 Mink Dress 2:50
10 They Wore Sequined Masks 0:22
11 The Lady Is No Lady 2:03
12 Some Ghost Ship Lollipop 0:31
13 Headlice Rags And Arrogance 1:45
14 Baby Scissors 0:26
15 Color Appreciation 2:15
16 Market Place Of Zesty Zeal 1:22
17  The Mushroom Hill 2:15
18 Office Skills 1:44
19 Skipping Down The Nature Trail 2:00

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Anonymous said...

Cool post. But "Wonder, Wonderful, Wonderland" links are not working!!!

Rho said...

Problem solved

AndieJames said...

Rho, Great post by a hugely overlooked band. Can you confirm the tracklist for Salon? Looks a little like To Tough Too Die.

Rho said...

Thanks Andie, problem solved

Anonymous said...

Salon flac link is dead :(

Rho said...

Hello well problem solved the Salon is back up

Anonymous said...

link of 1st album is dead please re-upload it
thanks in advance

Rho said...

Ok Artemis Plastcland's debut is back up..N'Joy

Anonymous said...

thank you so much for your instant answer-upload

any chance -if you have them-
for uploading
positive noise- heart of darkness
or astronauts- soon
or astronauts - seedy side of...
thanks again

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

thank you so much for your instant answer-upload

any chance -if you have them-
for uploading in lossless
positive noise- heart of darkness
or astronauts- soon
or astronauts - seedy side of...
thanks again

6/12/15, 10:14 PM

robgronotte said...

Would be great to get a reupload of Wonderland in FLAC. Thanks!

Chris Top HerB said...

So glad I found this, as these were one of my favourite bands to listen to while tripping. Acid or mushrooms. Cheers ;-)