Friday, June 27, 2008

THE DIVINE HORSEMEN: URBAN PUNK ROCK TONKIN’

When Chris D.’s final 80s lineup of the FLESH EATERS breathed their last breath in 1983 (“Hard Road To Follow”), D, as I understand it, set about on hitching up with what was then a very distinct Los Angeles phenomenon: the urban, punk rock-schooled honky tonker. Remember Green On Red, Rank & File, Los Lobos, Tex & The Horseheads and those “Town South of Bakersfield” comps? Yeah, me too. Well D put out what was essentially a solo album filled up with guest stars from that scene called “Time Stands Still” in 1984, and dubbed the band that put it out CHRIS D. & THE DIVINE HORSEMEN. The “Divine Horsemen” reference, of course, was to the epic life-changer of a song on the Flesh Eaters’ second album (and the Maya Duren film of the same name). This act then morphed into a real band simply called THE DIVINE HORSEMEN featuring Chris D. and his wife Julie Christiansen as a sort of a dueling-vocal Sonny & Cher of the gritty, nails-tough urban honkin’ scene. The band played a number of club dates during 1985-88 or so, hit the road a few times, and released two very solid records on SST that still have yet to come out on CD. Given the economics of making and selling CDs these days, I highly doubt they ever will.

Since The Flesh Eaters are my all-time favorite band and I never got to see them in the 80s, I at least am proud to say I saw this version of THE DIVINE HORSEMEN in 1986, at the Variety Arts Center in LA. They were opening for fIREHOSE, and they were a blast. It was right around the time of their first group LP, “Devil’s River”, and its still that record and that era of the band that does it most for me. Calling it “country” is definitely a misnomer, as you’ll hear from listening or downloading the tracks below. This material hues a lot more closely to what the Flesh Eaters were going for, though Chris screams less and the band has an expansive twang to their sound that was definitely a little softer on the ears. "Roots rock", some have said. OK, whatever. I’ve picked what I think are the three best tracks on the record, but you should track the whole thing down if ya can, as it’s a real good one.

This LP was fairly quickly followed by an EP (or “mini-LP”) called “Middle Of The Night” that was also splendid. It has my absolute favorite thing the band ever did, a raw, soul-scraping cover of their own song “Little Sister”, which Chris D. & The Divine Horsemen did on that earlier, acoustic LP. Of course, it’s posted for you below. The EP also had a killer cover of “Voodoo Idol” by THE CRAMPS. At that time in my life listening to my #1 rock and roll hero (Chris D) pay tribute to the band that pretty much introduced me to “good music” (The Cramps) was exceptionally gratifying. I’m not going to pretend that it was all roses after this. Their next LP “Snake Handler” bored me to tears, and I can’t even listen to it to this day, no matter how much I heart Chris D. and his body of work. Nope, this is the best stuff right here:

From the “Devil’s River” LP

Play or Download THE DIVINE HORSEMEN – “My Sin”
Play or Download THE DIVINE HORSEMEN – “Love Call”
Play or Download THE DIVINE HORSEMEN – “It Doesn’t Matter”

From the “Middle Of The Night” EP

Play or Download THE DIVINE HORSEMEN – “Little Sister”

9 comments:

Chrissstopher said...

dude, some of these songs are mistitled.

Dave Martin said...

Yeah, "Mother's Worry" is actually "Little Sister" & "L.S." is actually "If Only I Could".

Jay said...

Guys, thanks for letting me know - I had to delete "Mother's Worry", but it's all fixed now.

Anonymous said...

Wow, really? I think Snake Handler is a great record...maybe the production is a bit tepid but great songs...

sonicgg

Dave said...

I'll second the readers' vote on Snake Handler. GREAT album from start to finish. "Blind Leading The Blind" is such a beautiful song. Come on, Jay, time for a revisit...

Anonymous said...

I think somebody in the blogosphere ought to embark on a Consumer's Guide of the entire Chris D canon... it's just too daunting to take on without some kind of map... (hint hint!)

Anonymous said...

Peter Andrus era live was great. He was even better in the much maligned (not by me) Crowbar Salvation who live I thought were excellent. Not everyone's cup of tea though.

JB

Chrissstopher said...

Jay, i have found the holy grail.

it's a fucking great quality recording of the Flesh Eaters 2006 LA reunion show.
perhaps you'd like to get a copy?

anyway you may reach me @ myspace.com/theflesheaterstribute

stonecupid said...

Julie Christensen here. Great to see all these nice comments here. I was just shamelessly googling the band and found this. I'm still alive, and Chris is doing great, too, with his books and readings and stuff.