Linus Pauling Quartet, Horns of Ammon

Linus Pauling Quartet, Horns of Ammon

First things first: no, this isn’t the next “real” Linus Pauling Quartet full-length. Per the LP4 guys, that’ll be the Bag of Hammers double-LP(!), which’ll be out sometime next year. So, what the hell is Horns of Ammon, then? Well, it’s a mixed pile of odds ‘n ends, random tracks from the veteran psych-rock outfit’s last two albums, All Things Are Light and C6H8O6, that didn’t really fit with the band’s overall sound.

Don’t take that to mean that it’s all B-side second-string stuff, mind you. Most of the songs on Horns are a far cry from the typically heavy, semi-slidgy, headbang-inducing stoner-rock/psych stomp the band’s known for, but what the album shows is really that the Linus Pauling dudes aren’t a one-trick pony — truthfully, they can pretty much pull off anything they want.

The bulk of the album takes it cue from lead-in track “Lost It All,” a drifting, hazy slice of dreamy pop goodness that features bleak, resigned vocals by guitarist/vocalist (they’ve got three of each) Clinton Heider and these awesomely chiming, nearly siren-like guitars that seesaw back and forth beautifully over a heavy-ass bed of fuzzy-thick rhythm guitars. The whole thing swirls and meanders along a bright, warm path through the woods, but there’s still a heavy feeling of regret underpinning it all. The song has a close cousin on Horns, too, the somnolent, psych-bluesy “I’ve Been Down,” which is flat-out pretty, all shimmery melodies and Hendrix-y guitars.

Then there’s “Monster,” which some might’ve caught not too long ago on a split-7″ the band did with ST-37; the track starts off raga-like, a seeming nod to the Indian-influenced sounds of the ’60s, but it shifts into straight-ahead psych-garage for the chorus, which is an ominous, snarling warning that something ain’t right. I’d originally thought the song was all about mental illness, a la Dax Riggs’ “Demon Tied To A Chair In My Brain,” but that’s apparently not the case — it’s actually about being, um, possessed by an alien, as it turns out.

For my money, though, the two best songs on here are the two Charlie Horshack-sung ditties, “Nowhere” and “Porno In The Sink.” The former is a disarmingly down-to-earth, charming declaration of love for the simple things in Charlie’s life, notably his car, bars (in general), and Brazos Bend State Park. And hell, who’m I to disagree with any of those? Better still, when the overfuzzed, nearly solid guitars kick in — naturally, after one of the guys in the band (Ramon, maybe?) leans over to a mic and matter-of-factly says “Rock.” — it makes me think less of the overtly psychedelic stuff and more of Hüsker Dü followers Overwhelming Colorfast.

“Porno In The Sink” goes even further, a rollicking, wild, raunchy, yet surprisingly sweet confrontation song over the, um, unsavory habits of somebody who’s a roommate, lover, spouse, or all three, told in Horshack’s Wayne Coyne-esque voice over a steadily-escalating classic rock roar. The funniest part, really, is that the narrator’s not mad or furious or anything like that, just disappointed, like it was something that they’d expected could have happened but was hoping wouldn’t.

It’s funny as hell, obviously — “It’s where I wash the baby!” kills me every time — and clever without being irritating, something the LP4 guys have always had a knack for. Even on the floating, melancholy “I’ve Been Down,” the band can’t help but throw in a few jabs, like, say, “I hope that someday I find Jesus / That dude owes me ’bout five bucks.” It doesn’t always work, of course, and the one-note joke of “Concubine” is pretty much proof of that, but heck, that track itself still isn’t bad, almost NOFX-like at points.

The album finishes up with “HAWG!!!”, previously only available to the select few Houstonians (like me) who managed to snap up the Linus Pauling Quartet’s entry in John Sears’ much-loved Blue Ghost series of CDs, and it’s great to see the song being made available to folks on a larger scale. The 11-minute song is probably the closest to the “normal” LP4 sound, although it’s a bit more tongue-in-cheek and loopy even for a lot of the stuff off of All Things Are Light; it mutters and stomps its way along, throwing out every rock-n-roll and biker trope in the universe and gleefully kicking ’em around.

I feel compelled to point out, again, that this isn’t a “real” album, but hell, it may as well be. The songs flow right along like they were always meant to fit together, and there’s not a single throwaway track here. Anybody who can honestly make that claim for an album’s worth of what are basically B-sides gets a big high-five from me.

Feature photo by Rosa Guerrero.

[The Linus Pauling Quartet is playing 10/23/10 at Cactus Music (3PM) and again on the roof of Khon’s, along with The Mathletes, Hearts of Animals, & Chris Cascio.]
(Homeskool Records; Linus Pauling Quartet --
BUY ME: Amazon

Review by . Review posted Saturday, October 23rd, 2010. Filed under Features, Reviews.

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2 Responses to “Linus Pauling Quartet, Horns of Ammon

  1. cybernaut on January 1st, 2011 at 10:26 am

    sweet review :)

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