Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Toiling Midgets-God's Man; 1989, digital download via Toiling Midgets Bandcamp

Disaster Amnesiac can recall a period, back in the early 2000's, when I was pretty obsessed with Toiling Midgets' web page. I checked it a lot, and it said, for years, something to the effect of "more coming soon". I was dearly hoping for archival recordings to be posted, but, years passed, my circumstances changed, and I just stopped going to that particular URL.
Having remained a big fan of Toiling Midgets, I was happy to see their presence on Facebook, and pretty well delighted to see that, in recent months, they've set up a Bandcamp page, and are finally getting archival, as well as new, sounds up for public consumption.
Out of the current five archival releases at toilingmidgets.bandcamp.com/, Disaster Amnesiac just had to start with God's Man, six pieces of prime Toiling Midgets tune-age from 1989. It strikes me that these songs are kind of transitional ones, as they were waxed right in between the Ricky Williams and Mark Eitzel eras. More on that in a bit.
One of the compromises that bands make seems to be that, if they have a lead singer, this individual will inevitably become the main focus of most audiences; some bands just dispense with the lead singer altogether, something Toiling Midgets have done more than once. That said, in Williams in particular, they really lucked out as far as having compelling front men goes. Still, the sense I get is that, save for one tune here, they wanted to stick with their all-instrumental format with this material.
God's Man can be broken down into two halves. The first  half, comprising about two-thirds of the release, feature Toiling Midgets in their more Dead Beats mode, with the sublime twin guitar harmonizing of Paul Hood and Craig Gray swooping, chiming, clicking, and wailing. Forget Page and Beck, or Downing and Tipton, it's Hood and Grey who have perfected the twin guitar attack within a Rock band. On songs like It Is Home and The Brush, their playing is by turns harrowing and gorgeous, and always a thrill. These instrumental tunes get their rhythmic push from the late, great Tim Mooney's tom tom/tambourine heavy drum patterns and Lisa Davis' tight, plectrum-strummed bass lines. Toiling Midgets have always had their own, distinct and distinctive rhythmic feel, and it's very much on display on God's Man. Seeing as how they've had so many bass players, this is mostly due to Mooney's prodigious talents behind the traps; from the consistency of the bass sounds, though, it's clear that they have always chosen bassists who understand and fit it with their musical conceptions. The bass often carries the melodic frame of their tunes, as Mooney's drumming propels them forward and the guitarists' go off from there.Take a listen to the title track for ample proof of that.
Returning to the "transitional" theme, Disaster Amnesiac gets that sense from God's Man's second half, the tracks Mr. Spine and Wet Ash. These two feature a bit of the more heavily produced sounds that would emanate from 1992's Son, in that the orchestrations feature horn, string, and vocal sounds. Tom Mallon's Wet Ash Orchestra, presumably made up of synthesizer patches, plays the tune on Wet Ash, while Paul Hood's vocals presage the coming cries from Mark Eitzel in the early 1990's. The two tunes sound to me as if they are thematically linked, a small suite of sorts. Along with sounding a lot like Eitzel, the overall theme on Wet Ash has a lot of his trademark depressive feel. Of course, Toiling Midgets have always had a darker, ominous edge to their sound, so it's not that big a stretch. Interesting, nonetheless.
The band did a great job with the sound of this release. It is listed as having been sourced from cassette recordings, but all elements are clear; it's a fine, listenable mix. It's clear that they put some TLC into this one's post-production.
"All good things in their good time" would be an apt descriptor for Toiling Midgets. In their 30 plus year career (!), they've not been as prolific as many of their fans have probably wanted them to be. If you count yourself within that demographic, you'll probably be excited as Disaster Amnesiac is, about their rapid (for their pace) on-line release schedule. Hail the Micro Age!

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