Gary Lucas is an odd bird, all the more so because he camouflages so well in so many ways. An ex-Captain Beefheart guitarist, the guy crafts psych rock, prog, off-jazz, mutant folk, collided eclectica, and just about anything that crosses his mind. Then, when you least expect it, he goes off on a tear and completely turns the song around. More than once, he echoes the solemnly arch demeanor of Random Hold but also grabs the handle of a serrated edge of folk and drifts into a pocket that mutates as you listen. The Ordeal of Civility follows in a tradition he's held for quite some time now…but that doesn't mean you'll know quite what to expect.
For this release, Lucas chose Talking Heads' Jerry Harrison as producer and then recruited gents from Television, The Modern Lovers, and elsewhere in order to cement a solid rock fundament in what has ever been a prog bent kinda in line with what Dave Stewart decided to craft in his way-post-Egg-&-Khan years, a cobbled but not hobbled blend of sinuous rhythms perhaps best shown in Swamp T'ing, a high-toned and energetic cut blending Steely Dan, Dick Wagner, epileptic Kraftwerk, semi-orchestral fusion a la Keef Hartley, and an almost Ramones-esque vocal slur. In any of the 20 releases Lucas has issued since departing the estimable and now deceased Captain, one is ever, as I inferred above, assured of a cornucopia of varied strains making each CD unpidgeonholeable.
Hot and Cold Everything" waxes Brian Setzer/Stray Cats-ish but with a heavy side falling out from behind a horn section, while Lady of Shalott gets Blackmore's Night-ish, as would be expected from such a trad subject. Then glom the Entwhistley horns and sway in Peep Show Bible just before the Kottke / Faces Around the Plinth-ish segue in Whirligig. Fittingly, the closer, Jedwabne, is a requiem, Nick Cave-ish, an arch lament crushing hope with doom but not apocalypse, a remonstration in the Biblical sense, spanking conservative behinds while glowering at the rest, forgiving none in the, as the release title denotes, ordeal of civilization.
Oh, and I'm not sure if there's any influence therein, but ET Thorngren co-engineered the disc with Harrison. I'm always glad to see Thorngren pop up no matter where it's at, and I sure as hell wish people would pay a bit more attention to his old obscure groups Bulldog and Pepper, with the righteous Billy Hocher on vocals.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2011, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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