California’s Heavy Vegetable was a close group of friends — the Encinitas addresses listed in Frisbie locate guitarist/singer/songwriter Rob Crow and singer Eléa Tenuta living together, bass player Travis Nelson in the apartment next door and drummer Manuel Turner a stone’s throw away.
The band’s first recorded appearance, a split single with Powerdresser, sounds very much like Slint. The four-song EP, A Bunch of Stuff, however, sounds like a great first single by four different bands, none of which resembles Slint at all: it goes from gorgeous airy harmonies to high-speed precision pounding to acoustic playfulness in the blink of an eye.
The Amazing Undersea Adventures of Aqua Kitty and Friends is more stylistically homogeneous-a rush of seventeen racing, pounding, slightly geeky, rhythmically twisted tunes (including a much faster electric take on A Bunch of Stuff’s “Doesn’t Mean Shit”) with a few acoustic interludes. Clever vocal arrangements, weird time signatures and terrific musicianship are the order of the day. The terrifying, hardcore-velocity hospital death fantasy “Black Suit” is the highlight, though there’s some wonderful lyrical or instrumental detail in almost every song. Best title: “Listen to This Song, Kill Pigs, and Try to Sue Me.”
Crow’s half of his split CD with Lesser consists of 25 short, mostly acoustic home recordings, including three punkish tracks recorded with Fantasy Mission Force. Pleasant, but nothing to write home about.
The cover of Frisbie again features a domestic pet out of its element — a dog in mid-air (Aqua Kitty Photoshopped the titular feline into a seal tank) — and adds a few songs by Nelson to the mix. Heavy Vegetable’s compression paradigm is operating at top efficiency here: the album’s first 26 songs (plus the six-second “Tune Travis Tune”) are over with in less than 40 minutes. They’re followed by the majestic six-minute “Going Steady With the Limes,” a slow polyrhythm that builds into an unforgettable three-part vocal arrangement. Song topics include friends in the band, Wesley Willis (notably the hum-along 81-second “Song for Wesley”), Crow’s stolen guitar (“Spatula”) and whatever else came to mind (“It’s so fucking hard to find a job/when you don’t drive/I don’t even fucking know how/My rent is way overdue”). It’s a wonderful album; unfortunately, the band split in the middle of a subsequent tour.
In ’96, New Jersey native Crow released Lactose Adept, a 30-song solo album recorded on borrowed tape machines, while launching a new band, Thingy (named for a song on the first Heavy Veg LP) with Tenuta.