psychedelic deer heads in kick drums, bottles of piss / bottles of beer, blood and vomit, tinfoil art pieces. short fuses, creative minds, never playing what you want to hear cause we cant remember how. 26" ludwig. freak-went campers. good times, moose knuckeles, juno's, the rhodes. spray painting in hot pink. attic parties, dirty vinyl, helping friends, the trap, sleeping in the bathroom, taking baths together, driving a hearse, eating dinner, a birdcage full of legs and leaves, trash art. the lost showman and bassman. double time midget stories. dear sir, madam, cutty sark, shimmer, old black - river of sadness. broken tines, bloody fingers, blue mattresssss. Hey Pig, strands beach (&U)<3
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Sometimes they call him “War,” coincidentally a term for an extremely energetic state of destruction, but today Warren Thomas finds himself enjoying most his calmer moments, and as the members of his Grand Elegance get married and have kids and graduate grad school (and plan a van trip to Panama), he sees how an auspicious new era for his band could begin.
Peace through power, as Strategic Air Command put it in the hopes the Stooges could learn a lesson, but sadly the Stooges still flipped out and broke up. But Grand Elegance go on and even grow, a lean band with a coyote’s sense of humor and sense of self-preservation: “You’d think we’d break up by now but we won’t—we just won’t give up now!” says drummer Tony Matarazzo. “Time never passes when we hang out. It’s like ex-sex—you never forget how to touch that person!”
He laughs, since it’s such a sleazy way to put it—but I used to call the same weird band bond “telepathy” and I’m tired of how timid that sounds, so he’s right. Grand Elegance don’t live together anymore but they are still a band with that private kind of compatibility. They may be most known locally from residency at Long Beach’s Booby Trap, the storied old Victorian where they’d practice almost every night, but they started nine years ago as kids (Warren, Tony, guitarist/bassist Kyle Mullarky and pianist Chris Badger) slowly sliding northwest out of Laguna from a sealed-up practice space where they’d play all night. (“We’d come out in the mornings,” Tony remembers, “and it would be bright as hell, and we felt like our eyes were gonna melt!”)
Then in 2003, that long-lived line-up adopted guitarist Orlando Sanchez—one of Long Beach’s most distinctive guitarists—and later recorded their currently definitive Warm Summer Nights LP, self-released last year by Badger on his Weather Machine label with help from Chase Corum’s Prime Directive. It finds them at an unexpected best.
Grand Elegance live can be a lot of different things—the nine-years-ago Elegance was some screwy punk hairball with Warren singing at the top of his register—but the vinyl grabs the band in what must be their most natural state.
Twenty years back pawing through the stacks gives them Kid Congo/Richard Lloyd twin-helix guitars and vocals that swing pretty Iggy—Warren laughs at the idea of him doing “Gimme Danger” in front of a mirror to keep his voice in practice. But past that is a perfect kind of psychedelia practiced by bands who could listen to Charley Patton or Blind Willie Johnson the same way they listened to the Stooges or the Seeds, whose perforated guitar lines (from the underrated Jan Savage on songs like “Can’t Seem To Make You Mine”) and histrionic vocals grant as much to Grand Elegance’s creepy-crawl songs as last-gen locals like the Starvations (one of the three most significant cultural events in Laguna Beach not attached to an arson charge.)
“Lock With No Key” (“The sun will set but the moon will rise again . . . ” drawls Warren with gunslinger laziness) drowns in resonance so deep as to be bottomless and “Wandern’” knocks along between the wrecked old grawge zombie-walk and a chorus like the last Germs recordings. Those were the bands who never quite came in from the woods—well, not until recently—and whatever Elvis and the Beatles did never made a difference to them. Iggy Pop was born in a trailer and Hank Williams died in the back of a Cadillac—in between, there was a lot of empty road to cover.
Written by: Chris Ziegler