Thursday, March 19, 2009

Mr. GeeBee's Cassette Tape Trials: Das Damen & Celibate Rifles


ALBUM SIDE A: Jupiter Eye

ARTIST SIDE B: The Celibate Rifles
ALBUM SIDE B: Turgid Miasma of Existence

DESCRIPTION OF MEDIA: Home-recorded Maxell XLII-60 (both recorded from vinyl)

IMPRESSIONS: This was one of my ill-fated attempts at getting two albums onto a short (60 minutes instead of 90) cassette. I'm not certain of the reason for this, but I did own a Walkman-type cassette player that seemed to have trouble playing longer cassettes (they would be really slow and wobbly towards the end of a side). This tape may have been a concession to that cassette player. Unfortunately, I could not fit the entirety of both albums onto the tape. Jupiter Eye spilled over onto side B, and I think I only got about half of Turgid Miasma. The sound on this tape is pretty crappy these days due to poor recording (too "hot") and over-use. Its muddy, distorted, crackly, and uneven.

Jupiter Eye is the only Das Damen album I am familiar with. (I did buy a later album titled, I think, "Triskadekaphobia", but was unimpressed and sold it soon afterward.) This band didn't seem to get much attention from either critics or listeners during their "heyday" (mid-/late-'80s), and faded away pretty quietly (despite, or partially because of, an ill-fated publicity stunt involving Michael Jackson and the Beatles). On this album, they sound a bit like Husker Du with somewhat more "classic rock" leanings, which means they sound a lot like Twin Tone-era Soul Asylum (with psychedelic flavors substituted for that band's rootsy flirtations). The production on the album is pretty grim, the singing just barely adequate, and the rhythm section is kinda suspect (though some of the latter is, I think, an artifact of the poor drum-set miking). Still, I really like the overall idea. Tempo- and dynamic-changes, loud fuzzy guitars, some good (almost) melodies and harmonies, and a kind of "druggy jam" feel. I guess this album (released in 1986 or 1987) could be considered proto-"stoner rock" (a la Fu Manchu, Kyuss, etc) as well as proto-"grunge", though I doubt they had much direct influence on either of those genres/scenes.

The Celibate Rifles are an excellent Australian punk band that began in the late '70's/early '80's and, I think, continues to play to this day. What Radio Birdman was to the MC5 (a younger, more aggressive update) the Rifles are to Radio Birdman. Their playing is energetic but capable (i.e. its generally loud and fast but never sloppy), lyrics flirt with some politics and social commentary but don't usually get too strident, and the vocals are gruff (sometimes with a higher and smoother tandem voice) and quite unlike a lot of the adenoidal screaming of many American contemporaries. On this album (or at least, the half that made it onto this cassette), they also add some nice, unexpected instrumentation like heavily-echoed slide guitar and piano. I highly recommend anyone with an interest in "traditional" punk rock (I know, that's a totally stupid term but if you know what I mean I'm talking to you) to check these guys out—you'll probably like them. Unfortunately, I suspect a lot of their albums, if available, are really pricey imports. Here is a live clip of the Rifles playing "Bill Bonney Regrets" from Turgid Miasma of Existence.

VERDICT: Trash it, if for no other reason than it is so worn out and sounds so crappy. I will miss this tape because I do really like both albums, but it is just too unlistenable in its present form. I would buy both albums on CD if I could find them relatively cheap, but I'd guess Jupiter Eye may not be available, and Turgid Miasma of Existence would be prohibitively expensive.


  1. OK. No surprise, I don't know either of these groups. I like that clip of the Celibate Rifles (a play on Sex Pistols?). Its a good tune, played with confidence; and it has some more delicate instrument work and nice vocals. They really speed it up in the end there. I would like to hear more. Cool!

    An ill-fated publicity stunt that involves Michael Jackson and the Beatles??

    Nice post, GB.

  2. I like the Celibate Rifles. Never heard of them before. Good catch on the play on words with Sex Pistols, Jack.