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Henry Flynt and the Insurrections - I Don't Wanna

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Artist: Henry Flynt and the Insurrections

Album: I Don't Wanna

Label: Locust

Review date: Apr. 28, 2004


Walking home from a particularly tough day in the library - spent, probably coincidentally, trying to figure out if any parts of Richard Meltzerís The Aesthetics of Rock could be swallowed almost-whole into the God-Damn Thesis (answer: No) - I stumbled upon local legend Kami, waiting for a bus, listening to Henry Flyntís I Donít Wanna on his headphones at spine-crushing volume. Wandering off from our brief entente cordiale, I mused on the disjunction Kami must have been experiencing between the outside world, and the mind-bogglingly singular universe of Henry Flynt, ace Renaissance man.

Henry Flynt: present in the 1960s, absent in the 1970s, one lone-show cassette release in the 1980s, absent again through the 1990s, omni-present in the old new millennium. If the steely clutch that reissue/repackage/revamp/remake/remodel culture has upon the cognoscentiís credit card rating has led everyone down innumerable blind alleyways, rarity-before-quality scenarios, and general barrel-scraping Ďjoysí, itís also lit up the collected hidden-works of a number of interstitial masters, those who float between orbits.

Tony Conrad, Charlemagne Palestine, and Henry Flynt. All three artists were voracious spirits in the NYC loft underground of the 1960s, all of them did various disappearing acts over the following few decades, and all of them, on closer examination, are absolutely part of a trajectory of outsider American music; in Flyntís case, resolutely outside, whether by design or not.

I Donít Wanna sends another of Flyntís archival tapes out to the boho record bin. Recorded in 1966, after Flynt took guitar lessons from Lou Reed (which makes for great mindís-eye melodrama: ďNo, Henry, ďProminent MenĒ goes like this...Ē), this is Flyntís most direct protest music. And although four members appear on the recording, itís really the interplay between Flyntís nervous-twitch guitar playing, like a blues player stoked up on amphetamines and electricity - um, like Lou Reed, really - and artist Walter deMariaís feverish drumming that makes the record. On ďMissionary Stew,Ē Flynt plays the guitar like he canít quite figure out where to place the notes, how to string them together; it infuses the music with free spirit, something deMaria responds to with rolling drums, accenting different moments, lending Flyntís nasal, declamatory whine of a vocal the central role. This jumpy energy characterizes the songwriting and delivery, songs that sound as though theyíre being squeezed out of the musicians and theyíre not sure if they like the experience or not... but with music borne of such impulses, itís all about the flustered, wild ride.

Flyntís music canít help but echo and forecast other music. Yes, you can hear American folk/hillbilly/blues music of the early 20th century feeding through Flyntís song-writing; yes, it also sounds rather like any number of rock bands whoíve leaned on the twin crutches of loose-limb playing and classicist chord progressions. In his essay The Meaning of My Avant-Garde Hillbilly and Blues Music, Flynt makes it clear: ďMy music is a sophisticated, personal extension of the ethnic music of my native region of the United States.Ē Itís also a staggeringly strange and personal vision of rock music, still in its emergent stages, and of rockís possibilities as both abstract and direct protest.

By Jon Dale

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