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Mad Scene - Blip

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Artist: Mad Scene

Album: Blip

Label: Siltbreeze

Review date: Apr. 17, 2012

The name Blip probably refers to the Mad Scene’s assessment of the impact that this record is likely to make on the collective record-buyer conscious. While Hamish Kilgour (also of The Clean, Great Unwashed, and Bailterspace) and Lisa Siegel have never been totally off the scene, the couple’s combo hasn’t released an album in 17 years, and this one’s coming out in a vinyl pressing of just 500 copies. But if they hadn’t settled on that name, another one comes to mind — Repurposed Timber. This record is rife with brazen rip-offs of songs that probably first slayed Kilgour in the late ’70s, when he was just another underground music fan in Dunedin, New Zealand. The Velvet Underground is well represented; “Quiet Day” approximates the melody of “Lady Godiva’s Operation,” and “Nasty Girl” appropriates “Foggy Notion’s” tune. “Cupid,” which begins and ends side one, sounds like it has a “Roadrunner” knock-off running under its hood, and “T. Rex” quite lives up to its name. I’ll get back to you when I remember which Fall song used “Fontaine’s” insistent scale first. And “Cat Burglar,” for good measure, sounds like Television Personalities c. 1978 covering The Great Unwashed. Or maybe it’s the other way around.

But I come to praise Mad Scene, not knock them. Why shouldn’t they use these materials? After all, Lou Reed and Jonathan Richman haven’t known what to do with them for about 30 years, and Marc Bolan is indisposed. Kilgour, Siegel, and producer Sonic Boom know what to do with them. They bash ‘em around, drive them on the wrong side of the road whilst going faster than the posted speed limit, and squint at them through mismatched, garishly colored shades. Mr. Boom’s influence is indispensible; he makes a handful of instruments sound modestly scruffy at the same time that he gets them to fill the entire sonic spectrum with frequencies that shimmer like the air on the Bonneville salt flats in July.

Previously Siegel’s been a pretty dominant force in Mad Scene, singing at least half the songs, but Kilgour handles all but one of the vocals on Blip. His voice, in tandem with the woozy production, makes this feel like the psychedelic record I’ve been wishing The Clean would make for at least 20 years. If they never do, I won’t mind anymore; this one totally hits the spot. But the ringleaders aren’t the whole show. Ladybug Transistor’s Gary Olson, WFMU’s Brian Turner, and Yo La Tengo’s Georgia Hubley are all part of the contributing cast. There’s a whole lot of good taste on board, but it sounds more like they’re all trying to make something that tastes good. They succeed.

By Bill Meyer

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