Altamont, Civil War Fantasy (1998)
If you don’t know Altamont, a side-project led by Dale Crover of the Melvins with Acid King‘s Joey Osbourne on drums and Dan Southwick (ex-Acid King) on bass, you’d have to be forgiven. It’s been a decade since their last album, 2005’s The Monkee’s Uncle, came out on Ipecac-offshoot AntAcidAudio, and their prior label, Man’s Ruin Records, went out of business in 2001. To the best of my knowledge, their 1997 debut EP, Wanted Dead or Alive, has never been reissued, but their first LP, 1998’s Civil War Fantasy, and their 2001 sophomore outing, Our Darling, were compiled onto a limited box set late in 2014 after being remastered by Crover and Toshi Kasai, and certainly Crover has been plenty busy with the Melvins‘ various incarnations in the last 10 years, also taking part in Shrinebuilder during their run, so I can’t imagine the guy is exactly flush with spare time. Still, to listen to Civil War Fantasy, the project certainly has its merits in showcasing Crover‘s songwriting, and though a weirdo chugger like “Whips” had some Melvins-ness to it, the vibe overall was different enough to warrant distinction. Presented in the then-style of Man’s Ruin with the front cover on the back tray of the jewel case — taking advantage of every inch available for artwork — it’s remained an album dug into its niche worthy of taking on by those who’d either happen upon it or purposefully seek it out either via the Melvins, Acid King or producer (also organist) Billy Anderson, maybe seeing it on a list alongside his other works of that era with Sleep and Neurosis.
However one might find it, Civil War Fantasy proves a worthy find, from the Jimi Hendrix cover “Exy Rider” to the noisy grit of “Black Tooth Powder,” an underlying straightforwardness of form allowing Crover, Osbourne and Southwick the space to work out either an early-Alice Cooper fetish or tap into ZZ Top as they willed, all the while retaining a post-grunge crunch that would continue to evolve one of the staples of heavy rock that remains prevalent to this day. Of its pre-digital age, for sure, but not necessarily dated either purposefully or inadvertently, the album offers an unpretentious take with some loosely experimental flourish that keeps things interesting for the duration. Altamont may have wound up something of a footnote in one of riffery’s most populous family trees — I’m pretty sure “Melvins” is its own plant species in that regard — but for its motoring catchiness and weirdo edge, Altamont‘s Civil War Fantasy is a footnote that begs investigation all the same.
As always, I hope you enjoy.
I would say this week was one for the ages, but the truth of it is they all have been since about late May when I started working again. It’s been a rush for time ever since, and either my nights are spent writing or trying to catch up on stuff like email, and even downloading releases of stuff I want to check out, let alone getting to the actual, physical mail, is something that hangs over my head. I’m not saying it’s a hardship — well, I guess I am, but only in terms of not having enough time or energy for it, not in the people-sending-me-stuff part; that part I like quite a bit — but I am saying I’m frickin’ tired. All the time.
Getting sick last week was a bummer as well. It carried over well into Wednesday and even a bit yesterday, but I’m more or less back at full speed — much as I’m ever at “speed” — today, so that’s good. And work is good. I feel like I’m decently settled in. I wish I was about a decade less jaded than I am, but one could apply that to any number of existential facets.
But, I’m going down to Jersey this weekend to see family — what could be more restorative than an additional four hours of weekend road time? — and going out tonight to catch Reign of Zaius in Worcester, so I expect that will be good. Look out for that review on Monday or Tuesday, followed by reviews for Bloodcow, Sons of Huns, and hopefully if there’s time, the Effervescent vinyl from All Them Witches. I also still have Radio Adds to do though, so a lot depends on time and energy, which if I was a betting man, is exactly what I’d bet against me having by the time the end of the week rolls around. Still, one does what one can.
I’m gonna get some Chinese food and then start driving. I hope you have a great and safe weekend. Please check out the forum and radio stream.