Aggravation Overdose Records
After a while of digging new trenches to skeins of DIY music, it becomes hard not to wonder if there are/were any real world parallels to the handful of genius singer-songwriters who rode the rails of DIY culture – guys who might make you think of a Nudge Squidfish or Jim Shepard or Fred Cole, but with even less exposure. This belated compilation of songs by Flint, MI based guitarist Dan Russell certainly would fit the profile; he had been playing out in his hometown, as well as in Chicago and Portland, from 1971 through his recent passing, heading up a slew of outfits no one had heard (The Need – not that one, The Bumps – also not that one, Fer Cryin’ Out Loud, Stabbitty Stabbitty Stab-Stab Stab!, Uncle Daddy, Sissyfist, Brass Knuckles, and a whole bunch more you missed if you weren’t literally in the room with the guy), and without a single vinyl release to his credit. This collection, spanning output of Russell’s from 1983 through 1999, and either recorded on a 4-track or live, is as all over the map as you might expect, but still contains signature touches that can only come from the mind of someone who’s played long enough to develop an original voice that is strong enough to cut through the trappings of genre. Glam, then new wave, show that they can’t survive on their own terms when pushed through Russell’s unfiltered ways of hearing, as respective openers “Granite Man” and “Knuckle Sandwich” (both by The Rub) display: here’s a guy who is comfortable blowing oout the midsection of a grandiose, synth-led pop track with uncompromising strangeness, a guy whose view up at the rest of the world afforded him a lot of what-the-fuck moments that respectable musicians would have passed on; for example, a chorus of “I shit my pants” abutting the bucolic and sincere wander of the ballad “I Don’t Sleep” (which itself ends in a maddening prog-rock coda). Russell finally gets near the paranoia his music had been hinting at with two tracks from Fer Cryin’ Out Loud, resembling a blasted clone of Nomeansno, but the remainder of the tracks offered here find a balance between the possibly-commercial aspects that records on the private press circuit often hint at, and the realities of a musician too willfully far gone to play by the assigned rules. This guy lived in Flint as it died, then came back to rest inside the city’s bones. Put that into context with the music presented here, and it’s no wonder none of this really got out into the world when it could have done Russell some good. Thankfully, it’s here now, and worth exploring if any of the words above make sense to you. And let this be a lesson to all the fools who too quickly show their hand by releasing a physical record right away. Dues are still a thing, they still have to be paid, and at the end of the day, what you make may not belong to you anymore, but will serve as a reflection of you and your level of talent and insight into making music. Sure, there are plenty of other ways to publicly embarrass yourself these days that don’t involve such a strain on valuable resources as well. Dan Russell could blow most of you away, and yet we have to wait to commemorate his thankless life’s work (he’s credited by his brother and former bandmate Tom as the guy who “started the Flint, MI underground music scene”) to get to what made him special. I’m not saying you should take a queue and off yourselves, not by any means – I’m just saying, think about it. I’m also not pulling that right-wing “you’re not a special snowflake” mantra (even if you really aren’t). I’m just saying: what is it that you do, why do you do it, and could you possibly distance yourself from your ego long enough to know if you could do it better? Also, could you cut as striking a figure as Russell, playing live in his underpants? Case = rested.
(Doug Mosurock -- Still Single)