Monday, July 17, 2023

a CD review from 1976, the genuinely faddish Axe squats for the crowd


Axe is a rare example of Sixties psychedelia that ranks with the best of the Blues Magoos, 13th Floor Elevators, The Music Machine, The Count Five, The Electric Prunes, The Seeds, The Leaves, The Ambouy Dukes, The Barbarians, The Peanut Butter Conspiracy, Frijid Pink, David Axelrod and other obscure bands that have been shelved with other rock arcana. Psychedelic music occurred in the late Sixties when drugs, most notably LSD and other chemicals that transfigured one’s perception into a parabola of surrealism, became the latest fashion among youth culture. Many young rock bands flirted with the effects of these substances, and in their need to make their music more than throwaway pop culture (a symptom from the release of Sgt. Pepper), looked to express their “insights” and “understandings” in song. The results were naive lyrics about love, peace, the search for inner essences, fantasies about hijacking starships, the effusiveness of nature, paens against violence and in general expressions about the need to escape from the bummer of reality. To amplify the themes and the art-consciousness of the music, there were guitar solos with fuzz tone effects, sitar playing, classical quotes, serious singing that sounds like the mewling of a spoiled kid and so on. Sixties psychedelia, for all its seriousness and cerebral assertions, was a time of innocence that’s been lost forever to history. Those bands’ efforts were the prattling of a child playing with advanced concepts that the child was incapable of understanding. Psychedelia hasn’t been lost completely. Axis, the former backup band for Rick Derringer, are on the surface one of the many competent but undistinguished heavy metal bands vying for Nugent’s spotlight, but lyrically they’ve placed themselves in a cosmic time warp, distinct from Nugent’s machismo or hard rock’s penchant for cock pride themes. On “Juggler,” lead guitarist/songwriter Danny Johnson sings: “Time is like a monster/ … .it can never be stopped/Turn it all around, turn it upside down/You just can’t break God’s clock.” Who else but a child of the Sixties psychedelic naturalism would have the gall to deliver a fractured sermon to an audience that expects its heavy metal lyrics to be as Hobbesian as the music itself? In " Ray’s Electric Farm” (a perfect title), Johnson posits the worn out notion that he can find an earthly utopia: "I’m going down to Ray’s electric farm/Where the nights last for days and/Guitars grow on the lawn … " Johnson is a visionary who thinks that rock and roll ought to be organic and free of bills. Presumably, all a rocker need do on the “electric farm” is plug into the nearest bush and let the music rip. Johnson has a subversive personality at heart, a mind that seeks to undermine the murder mentality nihilism that dominates hard rock and replace it with the cosmic effusiveness that rock audiences repudiated long ago in favor of either nostalgia or cynicism .Johnson is a dumb kid who has assumed the piousness of progressive rock bands like Yes and Kansas and is delivering the message in plainer language through a more understood motif. It probably won’t be long when Johnson and Axis will have their lyrics on the lips of hard rock fans. The thought of it should terrify all of us who’ve remained sane up to this moment.

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