Fingletoad, Strange & Siho Mazzola

[Shadoks; 2006]

Rating: 3/5

Styles: rock, classic rock, psychedelic rock
Others: Neil Young and whoever else tickles your DeLorean loving fancy

With labels like Shadoks, Sunbeam, Water, and EM dishing out handfuls of new-old albums each month, reissues aren't just competing with new releases for our attention — they have to avail themselves against other repressed albums, too. Outside of obvious classics like This Heat's debut, the reissues that get the heartiest recommendations from unshaven record store clerks and the most enthusiastic write-ups in rock rags are those with the most novel connections to music normal folks have heard of and those with the most absurd backstories. If Jim O'Rourke tells Perfect Sound Forever he's been digging on it since his grad school days, or the liner notes reveal that Jan Hammer dropped in to pound out an off-the-cuff vibraphone solo, an obscurity suddenly becomes a lost classic. If the reissue compiles two years worth of never-before-released jams from three Indiana school friends, it's a really fucking obscure obscurity.

The latter's the case with Mazzola, a two-fer containing the only songs ever recorded by this Midwestern trio. Like a lot of capable artists who never catapult into the limelight, Fingletoad, Strange & Siho bear the stamp of influence like a pathology, obsessively crafting an entire album from a single flashpoint. Or at least that's what it sounds like is going on here, as practically all of their second album hearkens back to Neil Young's "Cowgirl in the Sand" and "Down by the River." Like the two side-ending tracks from Young's Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere, FS&S's 1970 recordings project ennui and male desire onto knotted electric guitars. By dwelling in this melancholy, anxious space for a spell, these guys transformed standard insecure-young-adult fare into fantastical and absurd imagery. In "Marshlands," an evening "with a lover in the dusk" is interspersed with images of a nihilistic hobo and the prince of darkness, while "Screaming Spiders" makes a bizarre case for isolation as a universal male experience: "And the President of the United States / Sitting so sadly on the john, / Wandering [sic] what it was that his wife ate / To make her feel so all alone. So all alone!"

The second disc, a 1969 outing that doesn't feature Siho, weighs the collection down a bit. Lyrics are more banal than surreal ("I love you so babe / But you hurt me tonight"), and the songs sound like shoddy demos, lacking the guitar acrobatics that make the 1970 disc so affecting. So Mazzola is neither as consistent nor cosmopolitan as, say, the new Ike Yard retrospective. But if it weren't for these fellows' devil-may-care attitude and relative isolation from any kind of viable music scene, they probably wouldn't have sung about the commander-in-chief writhing in torment on the shitter, and, honestly, the world would be a less awesome place.

1. Marshlands
2. Forsaken
3. Salvation
4. Make You Mine
5. On the Morning You're Gone
6. Screaming Spiders
7. Woman
8. Stormy Day

1. Union Station
2. A Happy Song
3. Angela Lee
4. Babe, Don't Try to Tell Me
5. Having Been There and Back
6. City Woman
7. Twelfth Night into Summer
8. It Came and it Went (Bob's Rag)