Recently we posted an album by "The Rattles," a curious early German take on rock-n-roll. The Lords were another band from the '60s pre-Krautrock era, very famous and successful in their homeland, but more likely to rise eyebrows and cause mutterings of "WTF..?" from elsewhere. Their English lyrics in particular are, er, interesting. And how 'bout those fashion-challenged album covers?
"Some Folks By The Lords" (1967) is largely a collection of covers, many of them strangely inappropriate for an alleged rock band to be performing. Perhaps they and/or their audience simply didn't know enough about American music to make genre distinctions. Or maybe they were geniuses who realized it didn't matter: "Miss Otis Regrets" may be a Cole Porter showtune, but it's still a great song. Much of it, like "East Virginia" and "Sing Hallelujah," are inspired by 'down-home' folk and gospel. "San Miguel" is sung in a ludicrous Spanish accent on top of their usual sometimes-thick German accent. And I must admit: "Greensleeves" made me giggle.
"Ulleogamaxbe" (1969): No more fake-folk Americana covers - it's fake UK psych this time. Tho it's two years after the fact, they finally betray a 'Sgt Pepper' (or at least a BeeGees) influence, what with all the strings, horns, and "poetic" ambition. After six songs of this, we get an unexpected proto-metal garage fuzz blast in the excellently apocalyptic "The World Is Falling Down". The frantic "Fire" could be a Roger Corman exploitation film theme song. Musically, "Poor Chin-Lee" is a Pet Sound-alike; vocally and lyrically, however, not even Brian Wilson was this weird. On "Cut My Hair" they "get back" to basic rock n roll, tho I don't recall Little Richard ever penning lyrics that detail instructions to his barber. The bonus single "John Brown's Body" goes back to the American folk/gospel of the first album, but now with added flutes and intrusive sound-collage elements. And it's b-side is a cover of Eddie Cochran's "Somethin' Else" that out-punks the Sid Vicious version of a decade later. Apparently, these guys will do any style at least once, and do it strangely. Does anyone have any idea what that album title means?
"Shakin' All Over '70" is a bit of a hodge-podge, with a few tracks repeated from "Ulleogamaxbe." The title track recasts the rockbilly swinger into a "heavy" acid-rock-with horns biker stomper. "Feeling Chicago" is a response to modern bad-man ballads like "Rocky Racoon" or "Bad Bad Leroy Brown." "Four O'Clock In New York" is a swell bit of Bay City Rollers-ish bubblegum, while the chicken-squawking "Talk About Love" from 1970 might be the most ridiculous thing these guys did, and that's saying something. Needless to say, it's one of my favorites.
Elsewhere, the flower-power sounds continue as if it were still the Summer of Love. The fact that they cover not one but two songs from the "Hair" soundtrack suggest that they either never really understood what rock'n'roll was all about, or they were just went straight for mainstream commercialism. I actually love "Hair," but it's purely musical theater, hippie culture depoliticized and sensationalized for tourists. In any case, it's pretty awesome to hear 'em try to wrap their accents around the wordy nugget, "Manchester England."
A big danke to Count Otto Black!