Saturday, June 29, 2013

CARGOES - gruesome dream ship for GUNHILL ROAD

Something about an ocean voyage…that terrifies people. As well it should. It's beyond me why anyone would feel comfortable isolated in the middle of the ocean, at the whim of everything from a tsunami to Legionairre's Disease to a magic act that was on "Britain's Got Talent."

Assholes who go on a "Carnival Cruise" deserve what they get. The fascination with the Titanic, and the endless disaster films about other ocean liners, plus the look-alike movies involving various ghost ships and death ships….has led to a variety of eerie songs full of creepy symbolism about various ships of fools.

Among the eeriest and creepiest is Gunhill Road's "Cargoes," which may be a distant, drowned cousin to the trapped Bee Gees of the "New York Mining Disaster, 1941." What exactly was the point of that song? To be creepy. To enjoy some sweet sorrow. Same deal here, with images of misery stuck aboard some Styx-crossing steamboat to hell. Gunhill Road was a Bronx trio led by two founding members Glenn Leopold and Steven Goldrich (who both were on hand for a surprising re-union gig in New Jersey a few years ago after a 35 year hiatus). They had fashionable Bee-Gee nasal voices and pop sensibilities.

The problem with the band was, unlike the Bee-Gees, they could flake off their sugar coating and sneak in some wicked lyrics or some less than savory subject matter.Kama Sutra, who released their second (and last) album, insisted on censoring some songs. Gone was the reference to heroin on "42nd Street," and a re-write was needed for "Back when My Hair was Short," on the lines about being into a "heavy scene reading Screw magazine," taking hard drugs while "selling dope to some kids. Only a couple of lids…" To give Kama Sutra credit, the speeded up and sanitized version they got did produce a minor regional hit for the band...BUT not enough for the label to keep them around.

"Cargoes," is on their Mercury debut "First Stop," and it's a dark waltz of destroyed lives and gruesome losers. The hero tells us he's "stowed away on a dream ship," standing in brine up to his neck. From this vantage point he can view "life's precious cargo huddled in knots on the deck." You'll hear ripe pathos (a barefoot kid given rags by some kind soul) gore movie fodder (somebody on board has a jar of human remains) and the obligatory reference to whores. Things seems to get ever-weirder and more grotesque…including the lines about a guy who served in three wars, "losing a limb in each one." Why you'd send a soldier to fight after losing an arm or a leg then another arm or a leg….

The song enjoys track space with another grimly amusing cut, "Man of Trade," about a guy who happens to be a drug dealer and a pimp. "42nd Street" you can hear elsewhere on the blog, and appears in different tempo, on both of their albums. It's those songs that get them eternal praise here! Quite a few of their other songs, like "She Made a Man Out of Me" or "My Lady Loves the Day" are just too nice and normal to even discuss here.

Now leaving from GUNHILL ROAD.... a ship of fools containing a cargo of creepiness

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