Friday, February 08, 2008

HAVE YOU HEARD THE TFUL282?

There are a handful of bands from my live rock heyday of roughly 1986-1995 that I saw play live over fifteen times each, as obsessive as that sounds, and is. CLAW HAMMER are easily #1, pushing at least 40+ shows, but then again I went on tour with them, and they were friends to boot. MUDHONEY – at least 25 shows, partly driven by their longevity, and partly by the fact that I lived in Seattle a few years & wormed my way onto a few pest lists. LAZY COWGIRLS – absolute crazed late 80s mania for these guys. If they played in Los Angeles, where they lived and played live every month during 1986-89, I was there. I missed one show in the desert and one in Long Beach that I know of, and I’m pretty sure that’s about it. Sick! THE ICKY BOYFRIENDS and MONOSHOCK – between one and three dozen times respectively, but then again, those fellas were also friends, in addition to being a blast live.

There is one band in the 15+ club whom I’m never really met, broken bread with, nor followed too obsessively, and yet whom I delightedly saw play live somewhere between 20 and 25 times. I’m talking of course of THE THINKING FELLERS UNION LOCAL 282. “The Fellers” need to have a reeducation campaign conducted around them, lest they be forgotten to time. In their day they were such a goddamn powerhouse – a wacked amalgamation of convoluted BEEFHEART riffs, Krautrock propulsion, raging punk rock-styled banjo & mandolin, and a noisy and strange take on then-current independent rock flavors. Some of their live shows, especially around 1991 or so, are among the jaw-dropping best I’ve ever seen. Their San Francisco Bay Area-based fans devotedly hopped from gig to gig, and for a year or two it was absolutely worship-like at the shows themselves, with lots of drunken screaming, rolling in the aisles (or in the “pit”), good-natured heckling, and general speaking in tongues. Their core early contingent was largely made up of friends of theirs in bands whose names repeatedly got dropped in BANANAFISH fanzine, which was at the time the ultimate inside “noise” joke, a perplexing, maddening and yet somehow compelling read that centered around editor Seymour Glass’s noisy and offbeat musical favorites, as well as on iconoclastic weirdos of all stripes. Then there were dorks like me who just sorta showed up and witnessed every single show, because it was the best entertainment option available that night, which it most certainly always was.

Now the 22-year-old me had a slightly less robust BS detector than the 40-year-old me does, and I’ll admit that the band’s recordings don’t hold up that well, except for the great “Mother Of All Saints” 2xLP and a few tracks from each album and 45. The Thinking Fellers had this ridiculous, “look at us, we’re really, really weird” show-off thing going on that even bugged me back then (exhibit A: their dumb band name), with some of the guys in the band wearing dresses at times, and actual recordings that consisted solely of farts. Not that I’m not one, mind you – but the Thinking Fellers were TOTAL NERDS. They were nerds that also made some of the most joyously twisted, scraping and fun music of their day, and I’ve picked a couple of representative tracks – their “hits”, if you will – to illustrate this point. Sorry, no YouTube videos of the band live at the 6th Street Rendezvous in 1990 appear to be available (yet)!

Play or Download THINKING FELLERS UNION LOCAL 282 – “Sister Hell” (from 1989 LP, “Tangle”)
Play or Download THINKING FELLERS UNION LOCAL 282 – “2x4s” (from 1990 Nuf Sed 45)

8 comments:

Dave said...

Hey Jay,

Glad you wrote about these guys, a real blast from the past for me, and a band I got into via (cough!) your incessant rantings in Superdope back in the day. I haven't listened to them in about a decade, and I distinctly remember being disappointed by their post-'93 work, but I shall dig through the vaults for a reappraisal.

Michael Day said...

Jay, wasn't Heavenly Ten Stems an offshoot of Thinking Fellers? They were that group that played covers of Western-influenced Asian pop tunes sung phonetically, much like there Asian counterparts were doing with the likes of the Beatles back in the 60s. Great concept.

They didn't go down too well in ultra-PC era San Francisco. I remember one Chameleon show where the singer got dowsed with paint from an audience member who then jumped on stage and started a wild cat fight.

Jay said...

Michael, you are correct. That was a legendary show. I wasn't at it, but I was at a gathering in the Mission that night, and some friends came over afterward and told us the whole story. there was a big story about the brouhaha in "Rollerderby" the next year.

Anonymous said...

give a listen to some mindbogglin sounds from mexico

http://www.myspace.com/mytrustingodandman

nehoccramcire said...

thanks for goosing feller-rock...it's a tfu truism that the records hold no candle to their live perfs, but I submit that 'the funeral pudding' and 'admonishing the bishops', not to mention 'wormed by leonard' (early stuff, but pressed up to vinyl in the late 90s) are records well worth hunting down...untouchable weirdness, singularity of vision, sweet guitar dissonances like toothaches, and at least one golden anne track per record...

janabond21 said...

Hey Jay. It's Jana. Jana Bond. Remember me. Ahhhh the memories: Lazy Cowgirls, Claw Hammer. I still have the mixed tapes. So glad to see you're still into the music. What have you been up to?

Anonymous said...

I love the Thinking Fellers - I envy you seeing them live so many times. Being a Brit, I only got to see them once when they played London in 94 - they were simply stunning. I think all their records are pretty great (although not so keen on the last one). Lovelyville is probably my favourite, although the Nuf Sed version of 2x4s is superior to the album's. What was the Lovelyville material like live? The whole Nuf Sed/ Amarillo/ TFUL 282/ Caroliner/ Sun City Girls/ WoP "thing" remain for me the best music released in the late 80's and early 90's. How about some mp3's from "Not All That Terrifies Harms"? - Mark Davies' White Shark side project was really great too.

thanks again, Iain.

squinchy said...

Having recently aquired TFUL's 3 CD Duck Duck Chimp collection of couttakes and rarities, I must take issue with your assessment of TFUL's
recorded output, and their silliness in general. I mean....the Beatles made some silly-ass songs, too. It's probably a valid observation that TFUL's biggest fans were people in bands (and thus some folks' tolerance and even enjoyment of the feller filler practice tape jams included on the records--I know I like that stuff, it makes me feel warm and soft) but why shouldn't rock music be silly? Should TFUL be covering John Cage like sonic youth and aspire to play lincoln center? They could if they wanted to, but why shouldn't musicians with "chops" instead choose to compose a song with a title "boob feeler"?