Tav Falco's Panther Burns / Tav Falco

Behind the Magnolia Curtain

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AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek

Behind the Magnolia Curtain was recorded at Memphis' Ardent Studios, and issued by Rough Trade in 1981. The lineup was Falco with Alex Chilton and Jim Duckworth alternating on guitars and drums (original drummer Ross Johnson had been kicked out just before recording), and bassist Ron Miller. Also on board for four tracks was the Tate County Fife & Drum Corps, which included Abe Young and Jesse Mae Hemphill. The music, simultaneously drenched in and made in reaction to Memphis music history is equal parts primal, early rock & roll, deviant Delta-style blues, and avant-garde art -- played without cynicism. In these songs, completely off-the-rails psychobilly, blues, tangos, wrecked '40s-era tunes, and more often co-exist in the same moment. The sound is dense, the time is elastic (if you're looking for a constant rhythm, forget it). This is ramshackle, raw, unholy, and utterly amazing; a timeless classic. It took the band a tad over six hours to record, and you can hear that. It sounds like swampy scraped mud, but somehow Falco's acoustic guitar comes through. The songs are all covers --in those days Falco felt there were too many songs in existence already. While it's true that the Cramps had an aesthetic that seemed similar, on the surface, Falco's Panther Burns was at least as much about conceptual art as it was about music -- this was revealed more in the band's live show. Behind the Magnolia Curtain is one of the great recordings to emerge from the post-punk era and remains the essential Panther Burns document. [In 2012, Fat Possum reissued the album with its follow-up EP, 1982's Blow Your Top, in a deluxe edition entitled Lore & Testament, Vol. 1 Behind the Magnolia Curtain. It contains rare photos and wonderful, lengthy essays by Falco, Miller, and even Johnson.]

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