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Uncle Jim - Superstars of Greenwich Meantime

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Artist: Uncle Jim

Album: Superstars of Greenwich Meantime

Label: Black Velvet Fuckere

Review date: Dec. 8, 2005

Arizona art-rockers Sun City Girls never got into a situation they couldn’t confuse. The depth and breadth of their catalogue, not to mention their indifference to chronology, defies hack journos to graph the band on any sort of an arc. They probably enjoy money – albums go out of print within months and then fetch bone-breaking sums on the band’s website. But Sun City Girls never wanted a career. All they ever wanted was absolute freedom. They aim to document journeys, not to save listeners the trouble of making their own. The agenda forms around the circumstances. The politics, if any, are strictly libertarian. And freedom is all Uncle Jim, SCG’s woken-spurred incarnation, seems to care about. His thirst for it, and your abuse of it.

Over some jazzy guitar vamping, a cigarette is lit. A rusty voice proclaims, "This is your Uncle Jim speakin’… fellas."

Uncle Jim has been around for a minute. He first surfaced on the Girls’ eponymous debut, the better part of two decades ago. He was best represented, until now, by "Geography of the Swastika," a fractured rant from the sprawling Dante’s Disneyland Inferno LP. It included this immortal dis to college radio, who might’ve been among the few who heard it: "You’re countin’ up your numbers / To see who’s on the charts / See who’s Number One, baby / Yeah, Number Two’s more like it / You know, bowel movement."

That was nothing. This is it, guys. The Uncle Jim crim-dah-lah-crim, fellas. Crimony. Forty minutes of trademark verbal tics, curmudgeon bluster, spiteful social commentary and Dadaist standup.

Uncle Jim is most easily stapled to Alan Bishop, the Girls’ loudest participant, and Bishop does Uncle Jim Classic, but I’m not sure it’s the same guy doing his voice through Superstars of Greenwich Meantime. For Uncle Jim has two distinct personae here. On the booze-drenched "After Hours," and particularly on "Foggy Lake of Swill," he’s much the same Uncle Jim he was on "Geography." He uses the words "fellas" and "guys" as punctuation marks. He’s a collage of boasts, put-downs, threats and incantations, a mix of Lenny Bruce’s sophisticated dumbness, Rudy Ray Moore’s comic aggression and Alan Ginsberg’s epic playfulness. He’s not for everyone. A lot of Sun City Girls fans despise him. But he’s often funny as hell. He has a ton of fun with the English language. And if you look for something in his words, you’re likely to find it, which is a good first step toward finding out what you really think.

On "Liberties," the hip hop-infused "Graduation Day" and the 16-minute title track, he’s something colder, meaner, less ambiguous, more infuriating and more brilliant.

If there’s anything consistent about Uncle Jim, it’s his tendency to consider any and all consistency tantamount to cowardice. That describes everything else under the Sun City Girls umbrella, too, as much as anything can. Sun City Girls have been on the fringes for long enough to forget that a lot of people (most?) are simply happier being boring. Uncle Jim’s raps would more likely confuse his targets ("terminal café dwellers," "pen scrawlers" and other perpetuators of "Piccadilly predictability") than frighten or inspire them.

"With so much room for greatness," goes one obvious pull quote, "it’s surprising the room is empty." Sad. Hardly surprising.

By Emerson Dameron

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