PRINT March 1998


Andrew Hultkrans

Andrew Hultkrans is a frequent contributor to Artforum.


    Mutantes (Polygram) A trio formed in the late ’60s consisting of two Brazilian brothers and an American woman, Os Mutantes lift the wiggiest elements of Summer-of-Love psychedelia (the Rolling Stones’ “Their Satanic Majesties Request” is an obvious touchstone), mixing in a heady brew of Brazilian music (Gilberto Gil and Tom Ze) and left-field sound effects. While almost entirely in Portuguese, their lyrics I’d guess fall somewhere between the Incredible String Band and “She’s A Rainbow,” but for all I know they could be singing about ritual animal sacrifice. Understanding Portuguese would probably hamper enjoyment of their music, which fascinates because of its inability to communicate anything other than free—floating cultural and genre signifiers—a touch of madrigals, a blast of Haight—Ashbury fuzzbox guitar, some Mamas & Papas vocalizing, borrowed riffs (several bars of “Satisfaction” in the middle of an otherwise original tune), and equal doses of lysergic lunacy and Brazilian folk tradition. Surprisingly, the record covers do a serviceable job of warning you of the unhinged behavior within, presenting the three Mutantes in “groovy” garb that makes outfits on “Satanic Majesties” look like Armani suits.


    If You’re Feeling Sinister (The Enclave). A record so reminiscent of Donovan, it’s embarrassing to love it, but you do. Fortunately, this seven-member Scottish collective also recalls Ray Davies’ more delicate moments, saving not only your self-image but that ailing, bloated beast known as Britpop.


    (PopMafia). A dizzying journey to the gum-stained bottom of the dustbin of history, guided by a boy and his sampler. Probably operating out of some godawful dungeon somewhere in the Bay Area, Eddie Miller sutures affectless motivational tapes, prostitute banter, women imploring our aid in “saturating China with truckloads of Bibles,” and hundreds of other dead voices on the air, lacing it all with music sometimes funky, often beautiful, and always disturbing.


    Celebrities... at their Worst (Mad Deadly Worldwide Communist Gangster Computer God). These surreptitious documents of aging jazz drummer and nightmare boss Buddy Rich are legendary among collectors of taped ephemera. Rich was a hothead who lambasted his band night after night for missed cues, playing “clams,” even for growing beards. “This is not the goddamn House of David or a fucking baseball team! This is the Buddy Rich Band, young people with faces!!!” is just one of the bilious eruptions captured by a disgruntled employee, who secretly taped Rich to make a complaint to the musicians’ union.


    Live at the Future Primitive Sound-session. While many worthy turntablist records have appeared in the past two years, this seventy-minute scratch symphony trumps them all by being performed live, on the fly, with “no mistakes allowed,” as Rakim once said. Listen slack-jawed as four hands rewrite the history of hip-hop, and music itself, on five turntables.


    Police Pictures: The Photograph as Evidence (Chronicle Books). This strange image of J. Edgar Hoover and Clayton Moore reveals such a wealth of covert information that it is astonishing Hoover let it escape from his files. The two men pose side by side, hands clasped. Hoover’s rest loosely over his genitals; Moore’s are held higher, tighter, as if wringing themselves, or trying to wash off something unspeakably dirty. Both men wear suits. Hoover wears a Mona Lisa smile, Moore wears a mask. The photo seems an almost intentional symbol of Hoover’s deeply closeted sexuality. “Who was that masked man?” indeed.


    (Bulfinch and Little, Brown). Finally, a quality coffee-table treatment of the great Arthur Fellig, unsung father of both paparazzi and film noir. Like noir cinematographer John Alton, he painted with light, capturing blacks that were “none more black,” but unlike anyone else, he made crime scenes funny and celebrations sad.


    Boogie Nights (New Line Cinema). Molina’s brilliant portrayal of an early-’80s coke fiend inspired the most stressed-out scene in recent cinema history, while embodying everything loathsome about that disposable era—the tacky decadence, the casual nihilism, the bad drugs, and worst of all, the music. “Sister Christian,” “Jessie’s Girl,” “99 Luft Balloons,” everything on his “My Awesome Mixed Tape #6,” are immune to even ironic appropriation, and render the ’70s disco earlier in the film positively timeless.


    (Rhino). So that’s where all those samples came from. Rhino excavates an absolutely essential missing link in hip-hop history. Hard to believe that such a vibrant underground scene existed at the precise moment that Molina karaoked over Night Ranger and a base pipe.


    (Spanish-language TV). Everyone knows that Spanish channels offer steamier soaps and racier talk shows than Fox. They have also aired the best infomercial of all time, for a male sexual stimulant known as “Poder Sexual.” This half-hour plugfest guarantees the mystery elixir to be “100% Aphrodisiaco!” before plunging the viewer into a tempestuous dramatization of impotence. The plot: man can’t get it up, wife is frustrated, man is devastated, sticks gun in his mouth, sees promo for Poder Sexual, orders product, produces baby with wife, becomes a real man. I don’t know the last time I saw someone stick a gun in their mouth during a commercial, but it had me reaching for the phone.