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George Brigman - Jungle Rot

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Artist: George Brigman

Album: Jungle Rot

Label: Anopheles

Review date: Aug. 9, 2005

At age 18, the most a musician should ever hope for is an ill-fated, ramshackle band to fill backyards and basements, a pennant to someday pin on the brick wall of nostalgia. George Brigman wasn’t like most musicians. He came away from the latter part of his youth with an impressive lot of recordings pressed on his own imprint, Solid Records, and a legion of fans eager to get their hands on his tomes of blissful, bluesy sludge. The first of these albums was Jungle Rot and the year was 1975. In the interim between the debut’s release and its 30-year anniversary in 2005, numerous bootlegs would appear of questionable quality, leaving ample room for a proper, dutiful reissue. Enter Karl Ikola and Rick Noll, respective proprietors of Anopheles Records and Bona Fide Records.

But don’t call Brigman the Rimbaud of self-produced psychedelia. Unlike many of his contemporaries, he’s seemingly uninterested in masturbatory poetics; Brigman’s lyrics stand as elemental and unadorned as a rite of passage, allowing for some of the fuzziest layering of guttural guitar chops in ages, not unlike Jim and William Reid’s eventual idolatry of Bo Diddley and “Teenage Lust.” Brigman’s voice takes on a deepness that casts a bizarre patina on the whole record; it’s as if you’re privy to a teenager jumping forward and psychically channeling his formative years, calling forth every hormone-laden scene with a new ferocity that only a few jaded years and a wobbly leg up could bring. These are not the crystalline teenage anthems of the Ramones, nor is this the idle dabbling of a rock ‘n’ roll whippersnapper. This, folks, is what all those white blues brothers from South London were getting at in the late ’60s and early ’70s before the keyboard symphonies came into play. Jungle Rot is up there with Twink’s Think Pink, May Blitz’s Second of May, or any of Ron Warren Ganderton’s material. Fans of Dead Meadow take heed, you can now put down that Blue Cheer record.

Brigman’s tendencies draw comparison to those of the Groundhogs’ Tony McPhee, so it should be no surprise that he covers the icon’s music in later releases. In fact, three tracks from Brigman’s former band, Hogwash, presumably named for the 1972 Groundhogs album of the same name, are included on Jungle Rot for good measure. You’ll hear traces of everyone from Dick Dale to Willie Dixon on this LP, with licks as leveling as Ry Cooder’s. Imagine a less schizophrenic, never-ending version of Todd Rundgren’s “No. 1 Lowest Common Denominator” from the standout Todd LP, spread across a hazy battery of intoxicated but brutal songs. Brigman’s take on the bad boy serenade is equal parts Martin Sheen in “Badlands,” and a sleepier Johnny Burnette.

“Schoolgirl” rivals the Dennis Wilson song of the same name. Its rebel Casanova mentality is contrasted with an appropriately weepy guitar – it sounds just as bombastic as Wilson’s track from the unfinished album, Bamboo. “Don't Bother Me," much like I Can Hear the Ants Dancin's "Blowin' Smoke," first released as a 45 in 1977, punishes as much as the rest of his musical taunts; Brigman is clearly warming up to assume the role that titles his Human Scrawl Vagabond LP, itself still waiting for reissue in European boots."

So what was once lost is now found. Baltimore continues to stand as an unexpected American vortex that occasionally regurgitates clandestine fodder of decidedly potent value. Between George Brigman’s quiet genius and Fortune Teller’s monumental Inner-City Scream LP from 1978, ’70s Baltimore seemed like a serious place to be. John Waters just may have to fork over his throne as Maryland’s King of the Wasteland. It’s now time for Guy Blakeslee to have a glass of Kool-Aid with his predecessor and really get something going. Imagine the possibilities.

The CD version of Jungle Rot is available on Bona Fide Records. Their address is: Bona Fide, PO Box 185, Red Lion, PA 17356. More info available here.

By Allison Wisk

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