Outside of its art college, Rhode Island hasn’t exactly been a storehouse for modern rock music. But the state has a group to be proud of in Plan 9, whose Frustration is exciting garage psychedelia. The swirling, mesmerizing effect of four (!) guitars recalls the best of the late ’60s and gives able support to Eric Stumpo’s emotional vocals. There are no original songs here, just covers of period gems like Them’s “I Can Only Give You Everything.”
The French-only Plan 9 is an assortment of 1981-’84 studio recordings (plus a live cut) by various lineups, including a poppy five-piece fronted by singer/guitarist Brian Thomas. (Three songs — two of which overlap the LP — by that formulation also appear on the “Hideaway” maxi-single.) Surprisingly, these recordings manage to hang together as an album.
Dealing with the Dead features eight originals, played with a ’60s sound so convincing you’ll swear you can smell incense burning. Stumpo’s vocals are great, a whiny growl cross-breeding Michael J. Pollard and John Kay; the massed guitars and Deborah DeMarco’s atmospheric keyboards increase the sense of déj… entendu even further. Far more convincing than a lot of other similar-minded outfits, Plan 9 knows just how to launch a magic carpet ride to the center of your mind. Diabolical.
I’ve Just Killed a Man is a steamy live album recorded as a six-piece in Boston, Washington, DC, New Haven and back home in Providence. A trio of ace covers, including the MC5’s “Looking at You,” and a guest appearance by head Lyre Jeff Conolly on “I’m Gone” add extra excitement to the spirited fun.
Keep Your Cool covers lots of stylistic ground, including the film noir ambience of “Street of Painted Lips” sung by DeMarco, an unclassifiable rollicking instrumental (“King 9 Will Not Return”) and various stripes of ’60s rock, running the stylistic gamut from Spirit to Steppenwolf. Although some are a little undeveloped, the band’s songs are solid; the two covers are righteously arcane.
Anytime Anyplace Anywhere is a five-song EP of new material, including the title tune and “Green Animals.”
A revised seven-person lineup on Sea Hunt cuts the guitar army down to three and adds a female sax player. The LP removes Plan 9 from revivalism, leaving in the resulting vacuum a rather plain-sounding rock band with a predilection for guitar solos. Sea Hunt is by no means bad, but the lack of focus creates an imbalance that Stumpo’s unexciting originals doesn’t resolve. The dreamy title track drifts along aimlessly for almost fourteen instrumental minutes; it’s followed by the Ramonesque eleven-second “Human Mertzes.” Faced with a choice of the lady or the tiger, Plan 9 fluffs it.
Eric, Debora and the rhythm section from Sea Hunt drafted a cool new lead singer named Pip and made Ham and Sam Jammin’ as an economical quintet. Although the band’s direction hasn’t really changed, the elimination of two guitarists leaves DeMarco’s colorful keyboards room to stretch out and be noticed; a guest violinist provides a provocative alternative to Stumpo’s fevered riffing on most of the songs. Overall, Ham and Sam is better than Sea Hunt, although still nowhere as wacky or enjoyable as the band’s early work.
Virginian singer/guitarist Hosier was in Plan 9 briefly (he appears on half of Keep Your Cool); his intriguing and not overly stylized psychpunk solo album is a weird blend of David Bowie’s Anthony Newley vocal period, a variety of players’ brisk guitar work and colorful songs inspired by exploitation films.