Saturday, February 13, 2010

heavy sarsaparilla

...any allusion to crème brûlée is entirely coincidental.

If you are diligent in keeping an ear close to the tracks, you will probably be familiar with Milwaukee's Creme Soda. Their sole release, 1975's "Tricky Zingers" has gathered a fair bit of attention; more so the proto-punk babble of the 45 it spawned, "(I'm) Chewing Gum", backed with the strikingly gentle, "Roses All Around", from the same album. The blog Ugly Things picked up the gum under a feature on "Primitive Shit Music" a few years back, as did The Lunatic Asylum operating out of Canada.

Somewhere down the line, although I forget where precisely, it adhered to my shoe - my sneaker soul, to be unkind - and I've never quite managed to scrape it loose. Carapaced on the outside only, "(I'm) Chewing Gum" attached itself like a limpet somewhere on my drive. Very occasionally I might stumble on it, and evey time I do I am reminded that what made Milwaukee famous is far from all she wrote.

The disparate four piece seemingly forged a working aliance sometime in 1972. Maybe they were just bored. It stretches credulity to believe they might have found genuine favour in their native Wisconsin, but who can say for sure. In an interview from 1974 which eventually ran, after a fashion, in an undisclosed Chicago based periodical, Creme Soda appear distracted if not downright uncooperative. Well. Keen to point out that they make use of a kitchen sink where a cowbell is suspected, at least.

That is not to suggest that Creme Soda were not prepared to make a desparate (lemonade) stand:

"On June 29, 1974, at about noon in downtown Milwaukee, at the southeast corner of Water & Michigan, on the fifth storey ledge of the Mitchell Building, Billy Tanon announced to the world that "Creme Soda is more than just soda-pop!" Armed with a megaphone he proceeded to 'broadcast' that mesage for five hours, all in vain - the world just wasn't listening. However, the police were listeningand helped our hero down from the dangers of the open ledge..."

- Nozmoe Wrabenawitz; sleevnotes, "Tricky Zingers", Trinity Records.

There is no mention that Tanon's antics attracted a crowd.

Unlike the Wild Bunch down in San Rafael, they bit the dust without much stir. Spilling copious amounts of syrup where William Holden and Ernest Borgnine laid it down in blood. Or. As copious a measure of Creme Soda as the tiny Trinity imprint could muster.

"Tricky Zingers" is an contrary animal. Every song on it wanders off tangentially at the drop of a hat, jerking the listener's ears this way and that as they stamp over tumbleweed before reining it in and heading off to the drugstore. As many flavours as sodas on the counter or out front in the gumball machine. "Keep It Heavy", in particular, is a wonderful song - a pristine gem with traces of Eno's "Baby's On Fire" as reinterpreted by Peter Laughner - wholly at odds with their Hasel Adkins tinged "(I'm) Chewing Gum". If Greg Shaw of Bomp! Records - who signed off the LP with on a glowing note - held real collateral then, Creme Soda might have made it onto a million doorsteps with the morning's milk delivery.

Then again, probably not. There and gone in the time it takes to grow a beard.
Billy Tanon: guitar, mandolin, bass, harp, bowed guitar, vocals;
Art Hicks: drums, bongos, dahka-de-bello, vocals;
Jim Wilson: bass guitar, piano, percussion, vocals;
Ron Juntunen: electric guitar, acoustic guitar, slide guitar, bass.

Recorded at Trinity "multi-hundred dollar international" Studios, Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

CREME SODA: KEEP IT HEAVY from "Tricky Zingers" LP (Trinity Records) 1975 (US)


Anonymous said...

Ramone666 said...

Never heard of these guys before... Weird song, laid back & poppy until they suddenly let it rip a bit. Nice find.

ib said...

Yeah. The album is a strange concoction of muddied thrills. I wonder how it might have sounded with marginally better production values ? Nothing too fancy. Just a bit of clarity and attack.

Definitely a killer, this. The guitar break - Billy Tanon or Ron Juntunen - really does remind me of Laughner doing "Baby's On Fire". A few seconds of manic bliss.