Double Bummer

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Beginning an album career with an utterly schizophrenic double album that ran the gamut from reinterpretations of Led Zeppelin songs with Chinese lyrics to such zingily titled rants as "David Bowie Wants Ideas" might not seem like the most sane approach. Then again, Bongwater were one insane group. Kramer and Magnuson's screwy take on art rock รก la Henry Cow or early Faust is fairly overwhelming, though perhaps this is the whole point. With the help of Kramer's fellow Shockabilly vet David Licht on drums and King Missile guitarist Dave Rick, not to mention free jazz legend Don Cherry on a cut or two, the duo cranks up the overall weirdness factor, whether quiet or loud, to great effect. One definite carryover from Kramer and Licht's Shockabilly days is a fondness for tweaked reinterpretations of older tunes. Gary Glitter's "Rock and Roll, Pt. 2," Michael Nesmith's "Just May Be the One," and the Beatles' "Love You Too" and "Rain" are among some of the victims, at points rendered unrecognizable. Johnny Cash's "There You Go," however, gets a lovely, straightforward take. The musicians' overall abilities are quite impressive; given all the recording took place at Kramer's hole-in-the-wall studio, everything sounds pretty sharp throughout, and the use of various multi-tracking and production tricks fills out Double Bummer very well. Magnuson, though, steals the show with both her strong singing and witty, nutty spoken word pieces. "Decadent Iranian Country Club" recounts a dream set at such a location -- "pre-Ayatollah," she carefully notes -- with a sweetly off semi-whisper over an increasingly queasy guitar arrangement. As for the Bowie number, she details receiving a form letter from the Thin White Duke accidentally inviting her to contribute to a new album before meeting David Byrne out of nowhere and drinking perfume, the band doing a weird-ass psych jam behind it all. The CD version includes a three-song epilogue, the Breaking No New Ground EP, and a single featuring covers of Roky Erickson's "You Don't Love Me Yet" and the Monkees' "The Porpoise Song."

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