Roky Erickson I Have Always Been Here Before

[Shout Factory; 2005]

Rating: 2/5

Styles: bubblegum garage rock, full on cock rock, bland folk-rock
Others: Strawberry Alarm Clock, Deep Purple, Rick Rubin produced Donovan

Roky Erickson's story is one of the saddest stories in rock history. His tragedy lies not just in his personal story but also in his music. Roky had a definite talent but improper outlets. He also struggled to find a voice in his writing and, ultimately, succumbed to the public's perception of him during each of the three stages of his career. He has played the parts of LSD troubadour during his tenure with the 13th Floor Elevators, insane sci-fi pimping freak with The Aliens, and all growed up John Fogerty with his latter day solo albums. None of these parts are as satisfying as the role of Roky Erickson, a role which Roky chooses to play when he doesn't feel like singing about zombies or evil or LSD. All these postures and more are collected in the overly long anthology I Have Always Been Here Before.

Erickson is not that clever of a songwriter. Who could blame him? The most clever thing he ever did was plead insanity at a hearing for possession of marijuana and that landed him a stint in a mental institution for the better half of the '70s. "You're Gonna Miss Me," the one, undeniable hit in Erickson's catalog, also happens to be one of the best songs ever written. "You're Gonna Miss Me" is a not just a flaming chunk of garage rock, but it is a simple man's "Hot Burrito # 2," a song so powerful that the singer is overwhelmed with a passion that drives the song. Its simple lyrics are driven by a flame that bears its head all too infrequently during Erickson's career.

The rest of Erickson's tenure with the 13th Floor Elevators is riddled with butt-stupid drug reference songs ("Slip Inside This House," "Postures (Leave Your Body Behind)") and dumb love metaphors ("Fire House"). It is horribly dated music best used as an example of why the ideology of the '60s failed (namely, because people listened to Dr. Leary instead of Aldous Huxley).

Erickson's stint with the backing band The Aliens is one of the worst match-ups in rock and roll history, famously assembled by A&R people after the chic punkers of the late '70s started an Erickson revival. The band sounds like the bastard son of Thin Lizzy and Deep Purple. During this period, Erickson wrote songs about aliens, zombies and Satan. Sound interesting? It's not. He was the insane monkey boy of the late '70s, and early '80s a la Wesley Willis. At best, it's fun, and at worst, Erickson sounds like a caricature of himself. At the end of "Red Temple Prayer (Two Headed Dog)," a god-awful scream-along featuring Roky's Sweet-sound alike backing band Blieb Alien, you can almost hear a greasy EMI producer shouting, "Dance, monkey boy, dance."

The later part of Erickson's career is just bland. The occasional decent song is lost in a murk of bland and blander songs about love and satan and UFOs and zombies and love and... I'm falling asleep just thinking about these songs.

I Have Always Been Here Before could have been a single disc with two songs: "We Sell Soul" and "You're Gonna Miss Me." It would have been an instant classic. Instead, the anthology is a mere curiosity. Buy it at your own risk.

Disc One:

1. We Sell Soul
2. You're Gonna Miss Me
3. Reverberation (Doubt)
4. Tried to Hide
5. Fire Engine
6. She Lives (In a Time of Her Own)
7. Slip Inside This House
8. Splash 1
9. Dust
10. I Had to Tell You
11. Postures (Leave Your Body Behind)
12. Right Track Now
13. Red Temple Prayer (Two Headed Dog)
14. Starry Eyes
15. Bermuda
16. The Interpreter (with Nichole Kidman)
17. Mine Mine Mind
18. I Have Always Been Here Before
19. Click Your Fingers Applauding the Play
20. I Think Up Demons
21. Don't Shake Me Lucifer
22. White Faces

Disc Two:

1. It's a Cold Night for Alligators
2. Creature with the Atom Bomb
3. Stand for the Fire Demon
4. Bloody Hammer
5. The Wind and More
6. If You Have Ghosts
7. Song to Abe Lincoln
8. Anthem (I Promise)
9. Warning (Social and Social-Political Injusticees)
10. The Beast
11. You Don't Love Me Yet
12. Clear Night for Love
13. Don't Slander Me
14. Nothing in Return
15. Burn the Flames
16. When You Get Delighted
17. True Love Cast Out All Evil
18. For You (I'll Do Anything)
19. Please Judge
20. We Are Never Talking
21. I'm Gonna Free Her

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