Friday, July 25, 2008

Sacred Miracle Cave

SMC was a late 80’s/early 90’s L.A. “supergroup” made up of members of the Lazy Cowgirls and Clawhammer led by singer Betsy Palmer. Betsy has a cool, rockin’, sexy voice and gives a good edge to these heavy/noisy tunes filled with loud guitars.

There are a number of cover songs on this CD, which is not surprising since they weren’t a “real” band, but the opening song, “Salvation”, is a surprise as it came from fellow local band, Crowbar Salvation. Great tune, cool lyrics and that band was fantastic, as well (and incredibly underrecorded), but still unusual to cover a pal’s band.

“I’ll Remain” has a definite Velvet Underground feel, with quiet, finger-picking overlaid with a feedback drenched guitar. The oddly named “Motor Takes To Sink” starts as a pretty, melodic piece before kicking into high gear with guitarist Chris taking over the vocals with his raspy singing complimenting the edge of the tune. This shifts back and forth throughout the song and makes it one of the most interesting of the set as it blasts into a wild, distorted solo.

The band cleverly covers Bill Withers’ excellent song, “Ain’t No Sunshine” and is actually fairly true to the original, other than using electric instead of acoustic guitars and including a crazed lead guitar section.

Moving into twisted and heavy psychedelia with “The Tub Was White”, the band continues to combine melody with mania. Then there’s a real ballad in “The Ghost of Elizabeth Shaw” before their self-descriptive “Heavy Black Noise”, another duet between Chris and Betsy that has nods to the more avant-garde screech and wail of some of Patti Smith’s early works.

“Cosmic Jimi Link” is cacophonous, dissonant, clamorous and damned beautiful! Gawd, I love crazed guitars fighting it out with each other! SMC creates another lovely tune in “Sister Blue” before it is all washed away in waves of power and distortion. Opening with backwards guitars, “Liquid in Me” is pure psychedelia and probably more Hendrix-y than “Cosmic Jimi Link”.

This all culminates in a libidinous romp through the Troggs’ already sex-drenched “Summertime”. Layers of guitars wash over you as Betsy breathlessly moans the lyrics “it’s oh so good, it’s all so fine”. Pretty freakin’ genius!

I was a huge fan of Chris in Clawhammer (one of the best twin guitar attacks to come out of LA) and of the Cowgirls and with Palmer’s vocals, this is a resounding mix of everyone’s influences that truly works as a fantastic, psyche-noise-guitar masterpiece!