Pentagram - The First Daze Here (1972-76)
This Pentagram record is that same kind of mop-up Album of the Month that we
got with the Electric Eels and the Mirrors a bunch of reviews back,
in that none of these groups ever made a ‘proper’
album at the time because they lived in the world’s biggest cultural desert,
America’s Mid West. However, whereas the Eels’ music was ignored because
they were actively doing their damnedest to wind up blue collardom,
and the Mirrors were treading too much on the toes of Kinksy Velvetdom when
even the two originators were themselves in a backwater, Bobby Liebling’s
Pentagram was deadly melodic proto-metal that would have
been huge and mainstream had they ever got that first LP away.
One single listen to FIRST DAZE HERE reveals the kind of compulsive refusenik
hookiness that the best Rawk is always imbued with, from the automatic
writing of Steppenwolf’s ‘Born to Be Wild’ to the roadtrips of Montrose’s
‘Bad Motor Scooter’. This Pentagram music ain’t unknown because it’s
difficult in any way, it’s unknown merely because of the obscurity of
the pond from which it chose to ooze. Yup, unfortunately,
that simple wrong place/wrong time syndrome seems to have been Pentagram’s
stumbling block; and their hometown Arlington,
Virginia weren’t never gonna see the rise of its own mavericks
without them all first re-locating Alice Cooper/Janis Joplin-stylee
to some rock’n’roll centre then returning be-limousined in snotbag
splendour to accompany their own single finger salute.
And so for Pentagram, although five of the songs herein were culled
from a single recording sesh, even getting into a proper studio was always
the biggest deal. Indeed, some of very best stuff on this record was caught
live in their rehearsal room – probbly the ONLY place they coulda
sung what they wanted without being paranoid that some urbane studio
engineer wasn’t smirking behind smoked glass. But that steaming hi-hat
heavy recorded-in-our-gang-HQ element only makes the sense of desperation more real.
And as Pentagram’s only contemporary 7” releases came out under
different monickers (as Macabre and Boffo Socko) in the misguided
attempts of local entrepreneurs to hoodwink the population that they was
pushing something brand new, so the sense of utter cultural
abandonment was made even greater! The great shame is that without
that big label deal, Pentagram never got into a position to do the unwieldy
long death tracks that surface only when you ain’t having to load the
gear in and out of the studio, but leaving it all set up for a coupla
days and settling into your own corner behind the percussion racks and Leslie cabinet.
Still, maybe Pentagram’s sense of urgency is precisely because they never
could do that comparatively bourgeois shit! I mean, although they do sound
superficially like Sabbath in a Too Much ‘Grease it out’ kind of way,
Pentagram didn’t sound anything at all like the sludge Blue Cheer spunked out.
In truth, this lot sounded mostly like a slower Dust only a fuck of a lot
better1 because they took the more obviously Goyisch side of Dust such as
the odes to shagging camels and the learning to die songs and the suicide
songs and did them better (Hail babies, Bobby Liebling musta sung Dust’s
‘Suicide’ in the shower 200 times at the very least).
Pentagram also trimmed the excess cling-ons off the Dustian butt
(but not all, natch), thus streamlining it,
distilling it and making it coherent and believable.
Pentagram’s songs are mainly short and brutal and flow from the Nornian
fountainhead of Bobby Liebling, whose name I drop regularly in
these reviews because he’s got the kind of one-of vocal and Muse-based
lyrical sensibility that only such Capt. Scarlet ‘shamanic other’-ly types as
Sean Bonniwell seemed to capture on record.2 When Bobby says he’s gonna die tonight,
U-Knows he’s gonna kick it! He’ll resurrect fer shit-damn-sure but that don’t
undermine a damn thing. When I use the term shamanic, you gots to understand
the shaman ain’t always successful but the mere fact that he’s cruisin’ for a
bruisin’ puts him right out of the regular space of thee average human being.
As I wrote of Faust in the KRAUTROCKSAMPLER all those years ago,
aiming for the stars is so much more than people generally do that you cain’t
beat on someone when they don’t actually achieve it.
Bobby Liebling was Lugh and his light reflected directly into the songs.
As he himself sang:
‘Now you’re confused so I’ll set you straight
Many men die ‘cause they left it too late
If you don’t know what I talk about
Walk in the blue light you can find out.’
Motherfucker! It’s not ‘Too “too too” to put a finger on’ as Tommy Verlaine
sung all those years ago. Give Bobby Liebling four lines and he says it all.
Moreover, there is a stomping refusenik heathenism herein that particularly
smokes my pole because I grew up in the West Midlands where those same attitudes
that stopped Pentagram were found in large doses, nay in fucking overdoses.
Hard to explain in the 21st Century, but growing up in the middle of the
English West Mid of the early ‘70s bred a weird sort of anarchy of cough
mixture surrogate trips and Amon Düül 2. The biggest thing in our school was
when my mate Barry Clempson’s older brother joined Humble Pie.
That the Pie was brownnosing the sub-sub-basement of the Everyblues was hardly the point,
dahlings. In our minds we were collectively on a major label and it was
fast times at Wincott High from here on in!
The first time I heard Pentagram was on the compilation A GATHERING OF THE TRIBES.
Their maudlin death trip ‘Be Forewarned’ particularly stood out among
the other stuff because it was like an ever-descending sibling of
1970-period Love’s OUT HERE version of ‘Signed D.C.’
It took a traditional 6/8 minor chord sequence,
stuck an ur-bass rumble underneath and sibilant Zildjian cymbal
tinitus-inducing percussion over the top, and told a traditional
tale of kidnapping your intended love in a manner redolent of
‘The Rape of the Sabine Women’ (only this weren’t no ‘SEVEN BRIDES FOR SEVEN BROTHERS’
whitewash, motherfuckers!). Even the presence of Josephus’ 16-minute ‘Dead Man’
across most of side two couldn’t deflect the power of this three and a half
minutes of doom and judgement, and boy was Bobby Liebling Judge Mental!3 So when
you listen to this Pentagram record, remember always that,
although most of it comes from one 1973 session,
the rest was culled from a whole bunch of stuff created between 1972 and 1976.
I don’t mean this as some kind of apologia for the band, babies,
I mean the exact opposite – that this weren’t no progressive rock that ‘improved’
therefore tidied up as it went along, and you don’t see any lessening of
sonic impact in later tracks, etc.
FIRST DAZE HERE
The album starts with three of the five songs that came from their March ’73
recording sesh and gives the album its real coherence. However, the album hits
its peak later on, so give it time if this stuff don’t smoke thy pole immediately.
‘Forever My Queen’ opens up just like Bang doing Sabbath in that remedial Bleib
Alien-meets-‘Future Shock’-style, a grunge-a-holic trawl through the lowest grade
of Iommi riffs. Vincent McAllister solos wildly and inappropriately all
through and then it just… fades and fucks off in my favourite kind of AM radio
fade – 3 secs max. Then, off into the next under 3-minutes bliss of
‘When the Screams Come’, complete with Bill Wardian bibles-at-the-sofa
drum fills and Sabbalong time changes. Man, these guys are screaming out
for an LP of their own but there’s not even bones for these dogs!
And slowly out of the mists comes the sub-Joy Division/E Pluribus
Sabbalong of ‘Walk in the Blue Light’ in which Vincent McAllister
exposes his bassist-turned-guitar hero provenance with another Bleib Alien
riff you always thought Ace Frehley woulda been knocking out before his
Kiss days (not true, I’m sure). In fact, that whole Roky Erikson/Bobby Liebling
thing that the Swedish band Witchcraft had going really manifests here in the
atmosphere of ‘Walk in the Blue Light’, enjoying a real soaring clarity and
openness that Sabbath obviously never approached because of their ubermetal
Greg Mayne RICKENBACKER BASSThen, ‘Starlady’ kicks in from three
years later and weez talking about a totally different, blazing,
auspicious rock experience that sounds like a band that’s huge.
Gone is the autistic, post-adolescent in-yer-boots vibe to be replaced with
a Horned God confidence that screams and struts. Also, here we gotta nutha
extra guitarist called Marty Iverson, who adds considerable weight to the sound
and pushes the whole Pentagram trip into a Dust-as-played-by-Montrose experience
even something like the Australian UGLY THINGS period of MC5/Yardbirds influenced groups.
I know I keep punishing the Dust metaphors but Leibling’s voice is
uncannily like Richie Wise’s at times.
Track 5 is that classic ‘Lazylady’ 7” they recorded a year before as Macabre,
and comes on with another ‘Walk in the Blue Light’ morons-on-the-frontier riff
(play ‘em back to back – they’ze virtually the same fucking riff: excellent)
over an Ace Frehley’s ‘Shock Me’/’Dark Light’-style throw away vocal
that meets dirty Frank Zappa around the time of OVERNIGHT SENSATION
(though this sucker is a year before that Mothers’ LP) –
extremely charming and funny too. This is the toon in which Liebling disses
his chick and kicks her out so she buys up the whole apartment block he
lives in and has him kicked out, too. Nice.
‘Review your Choices’ is the fourth track from that same session that
spawned the first three tracks on this disc. Again, we’re deep in Sabbath
territory both lyrically and in its per-riffery. Sounds like Liebling never
leaves the first four frets for his songwriting and Vincent McAllsiter is a
committed ex-bass player when it comes to copping then staying true to the Liebling lick.
He also exceeds at soloing like a flayling moron between each vocal delivery.
Satan’s coming round the bend in this one, and there’s a man with a pitchfork,
and.. oh whatever, I obviously suck this dung into every orifice
with more gusto than most, or you wouldn’t be getting it served up
as Album of the Month. Two months after that main sesh came the same
Boffo Socko alias 7” ‘Hurricane’ that appears on GUITAR EXPLOSION 2,
and is just Hendrix-filtered through Iommi’s week old socks.
Deeply excellent, relentless, by numbers and irksome that it ain’t
internationally known. A quick 2.05 classic, fade and outtahere.
Then it’s time for two of the three best tracks on the whole record,
and both recorded in their rehearsal with sometime extra guitarist Randy Palmer.
‘Living in a Ram’s Head’ (excellent fucking title, Herr Liebling) has a steaming
incessant freight train quality you wanna keep playing over and over and over.
Man, if they got more of this rehearsal room stuff in the can, clue me druids,
I gots to know! The following track is ‘Earth Flight’ which coulda be spunked out
in the late 1960s and appeared on PEBBLES VOLUME 5, or UGLY THINGS, or
any classic hard rock LP of the time. Monstrous and full of demons,
and worthy of ripping off forever. ’20 Buck Spin’ is the final one of
the five track session from March 1973, and man does it smoke my unyielding pole.
Vincent McAllister is as good here as he is rock in that photo of him you can see
in the review. And that SG is more burning here that Iommi’s ever was (honest!)
AND this guy never has to resort to soloing OVER his solos as Iommi did countless times
(whaddya mean, I cain’t diss Iommi? Only after 20 years did Iommi’s solos become
classic through sheer overplaying and I’ll challenge any non-motherfucker to
disprove my unhasty assertion!) Someone should release these five tracks
as 7” 33RPM European-style pic sleeve maxi single just so we can judge Pentagram
on a contemporary 1973 level and understand the songs in context.
This band will surely be revisited again and again in the next few years and will,
like lost greats such as the Blue Things and the Swamp Rats,
become an accepted part of Rock’s great canon like the little glitch that held
that first LP up weren’t fucking owt at all.
Geof O'Keefe DRUMS‘Be Forewarned’ is up next. What do I say? I been listening
to this on heavy rotation for 21 years and it is demented and suffused with the
kind of incandescant glow that marks it out as the work of the great.
Batman-meets-Lucifer Sam-as-played-by-Heavy period Love is not exactly obvious,
kiddies, and I think we see here the reason that Fleetwood Mac’s
‘The Green Manalishi’ influenced everyone (except its own writer):
it has that LOVE IT TO DEATH interweaving minor key dervish quality
that we all try to cop, but rarely even glimpse.
Then, we conclude with Pentagram’s finest hour by about ten bazzillion miles.
‘Last Daze Here’ is a beautiful, gleaming jewel of a death trip, with Bobby singing
like he’s staring out of some spectacular ice palace and ain’t never coming back
to the real world. He’s Mithra trapped in the mountain, he’s Loki
with the poison reigning down on him,, but there ain’t nobody there to
wipe it away in this particklier scenario. This song is imbued with a sense
of tragedy you rarely hear in heavy rock. For those who don’t quite get it… whatever.
But if you ever approached that post-everything vacuum, that empty cathedral in your head,
that hollow, unspeaking, unblinking, unhuman emotionless inertia that even Iggy
could only hint at in the flatness of ‘Sick of you’ then you truly NEED NEED NEED
this song in your life. If Pentagram had only done this one song and been killed
in a plane crash thereafter, we’d still be celebrating it 50 years from now.
And when Bobby takes it down from his dazed almost whispered tenor to flat
shark-eyed semi-spoken baritone and states: ‘Said it’s bin a little bit too long’,
you feel the ice melt, then re-freeze instantly, and you know in that moment
how tragic human life is, how intolerably short human life is,
how the moments of adolescence that resurface in adult life must be
celebrated and further celebrated, then howled about, shrieked out,
screamed out… man, we are dead and in the fucking ground for so long…
No No No No No No No… Gimme Life and gimme the six minutes of this toon
on endless rotation.
(info by: CGR)
1. Forever My Queen (1973)
2. When the Screams Come (1973)
3. Walk in the Blue Light (1973)
4. Starlady (1976
5. Lazylady (1972)
6. Review Your Choices (1973)
7. Hurricane (1973)
8. Livin’ in a Ram’s Head (1974)
9. Earth Flight (1974)
10.20 Buck Spin (1973)
11.Be Forewarned (1972)
12.Last Days Here (1974)
Size: 85 Mb
Bitrate: 256 mp3