Friday, July 20, 2012

FDF Volume 3 Issue 274 - Screaming Blue Messiahs - Totally Religious

Album – Totally Religious
Artist – The Screaming Blue Messiahs
Key Players - Kenny Harris – Drums. Chris Thompson – bass guitar, percussion. Bill Carter – Vocals, guitar, harmonica

Produced By – Howard Gray and Rob Stevens

Release Date - 1989

What caused me to blow off the dust? -I've had this cd on the brain for months now to do an FDF for. It is the lone cd of theirs that I own and I remember seeing the video for the lead off song. It got me to get the whole thing.

Overview – Formed in London England in the early 1980s the Screaming Blue Messiahs would blend rock with punk and mix in the blues and top it off with rockabilly. They'd release three major label albums, each with decent critical praise and become well known for rowdy, noisy shows. David Bowie would sing their praises in the late 1980's and invite them on tour. By this, their third record the label had started to give up and dropped the record just a month after it was released and the band was then released as well. They'd disband the same year.

FDF Comments (aka the songs) - Ten Tracks in under 40 minutes gets underway with “Four Engines Burning (Over the USA)”. Carter cuts his guitar over the drum line of Harris. The vocals match the tempo of the song as the power trio moves it along. Carter hits a high vocal point during the chorus and the song clangs back to its almost industrial feel. There are no keyboards from this trio, it just makes a shit ton of noise. That sounds real good to boot. Thompson takes the bass line out of the second chorus before Carter grinds a quick guitar solo that is full of whammy bar delayed chords. A final verse/chorus to bring it all to a close. An outstanding and horribly ignored track, then and now. “Mega City 1” is another really big sounding track. The guitar from Carter might be simple but it really grabs the listener. Harris keeps the drum line simple as well and Thompson seems to be a bit buried in the mix here. The guitar overdubs are great with one giving the short choppy lines and the second buzzing out longer chords. The band is not afraid to offer up the backing vocals either. Carter takes a short solo before the chorus returns and the track works its way to a conclusion. Carter is alone as “Wall of Shame” begins. A clean guitar line rings before he starts to sing. Just a man and his guitar as has been said. With a yell he brings in the rest of the band. The big clang down swallows you up as the drums are struck big and heavy, but remain steady. Carter has a voice made for this type of band. They are hard, but not too hard, so the urgency needs to be there. He has a solid range but also understands his range is not the key focus. This is just a really solid rock track. Thompson gets to show off his chops right out of the gate on “Nitro”. The slap/pop of his bass really stands out as Carter attacks his guitar. Harris continues to keep precision time on the drums. Carter finds that good blend of chopping guitar lines with the big chord bursts every 8th beat for that big “rock” moment. Thompson comes back around in the mix and you realize he has been slapping and popping all along. “Big Big Sky” was a single I recall either having a video for or getting very VERY light airplay. It is odd since the song has a great guitar hook and the lyrics are easy to sing along with. There is even a mouth a harmonica one of those twangy mouth harp things. Come on..that is rock and roll. This is a really solid track, horribly under appreciated. The reason it may have been held up for radio is the 5 minute run time, but a radio edit would fixed that. For a band that is “rockin”the track “Watusi Wedding” really seems to step it up some. A more frantic “rock” tune here. Everything is just faster on this track. The band find their punk roots and get in and out of this track in 2:41. “Here Comes Lucky” is a good stretch for the band. Carter starts singing solo with no music. He sings a full verse and it all comes in at once. The bass, guitar and drums just fall like an avalanche on the listener. Thompson's bass work is up in the mix again which is nice as he has some interesting progressions. The buzz/swirl of the guitar from Carter in to the chorus with long sustained vocal lines is another shining example of their good musical sense. There is a great harmonica section as well, not your typical Bob Dylan/Neil Young type either (not that there is anything wrong with their styles mind you). Speaking of harmonica it is heavily used at the start of “Gunfight”. Buzz saw guitars again are the norm with a tight solid back beat. This is almost a 12 bar blues rock track. The guitar really has a slide to it and the bass and drums seem to just want to keep Carter in check. A quick and decent track. Harris, for the first time, seems to lead“Martian” out of the gate. The drums don't seem to “open”tracks on this record. Usual stuff here, a good solid example of their ability as a trio. We close out the record with “Gassed Up”another rock-a-billy vibe track. Harris just keeps a steady solid beat and Thompson will throw in a few room shakers, but Cater wants the harmonica out one last time and just attacks it, like everything else on the record.

Where are they now? - Thompson is in a band called “Killer B's” and they released an album called “Love is a Cadillac” in 2010. Harris appeared on that record as well. Harris is also a published author.
Cater has been quiet, releasing some stuff via his myspace page. He also is an artist.

FDF Personal Comments (aka the Live experience) – I never saw the band live.

FDF Overall Take – There are some really really solid tracks on this record. Power trios might be a cliché and people are always saying how wild it is that “three people can make this much noise” but such is the case here. The band probably didn't have the look or the right folks behind them, but there is some very “radio friendly” rock tracks on this album. If you can track down this record grab it. If you liked that late 80's alternative stuff this is right in your wheelhouse. Dig in.


Myspace for Bill

Curious? Check out some MUSIC!

Four Engines Burning (Over the USA)

Big Big Sky

Wall of Shame

Long out of print but you can find a copy here

Disclaimer – I am just a music fan. Feel free to comment about something that may be written incorrectly about the band/members etc. I strive to have a fun and enjoyable site. This site used to post mp3s but ran in to many issues. The audio clips provided are usually from YouTube. No copy write infringement is intended. Please alert me if something should be pulled. Finally, support the artist featured, or your favorite artist by purchasing their music, seeing their shows if possible and saying hi. They need your support.


At 11:30 AM, Anonymous BBS said...

I have(had) the two prior, they had lost whatever it was that interested me by this record.


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