Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Mephistopheles ● In Frustration I Hear Singing

Can you believe there was once a band called Mephistopheles? Of course you can. It’s 1969 and you’re visiting The “I-Own-Every-Record-You’d-Never-Buy” CD Consumer’s Guide. Taking its name from 16th century Faustian legend—Mephistopheles was the devil to whom Faust sold his soul—this six-piece outfit emerged from the psychedelic underground and recorded one album, the strangely titled In Frustration I Hear Singing. This 12-song lp, lost and found from the vaults of Reprise Records, is prototypical late ‘60s psychedelia, a musical exercise in odd song titles (“The Cricket Song,” “The Girl Who Self-Destroyed”), bizarre lyrical content (“Listen to the crickets/listen everyday/listen to the crickets/tell me what they say”) and awkward rock instrumentation (“Do Not Expect a Garden” features a trumpet; “Vagabond Queen” is saddled with a flute). Despite the hippie-ness of it all, Mephistopheles features an expert ensemble of skilled musicians with a strong sense of melody. The guitar work, especially on songs like “Dead Ringer” and the title track, is particularly impressive. It’s the vocals, however, that very nearly turn this record into rock and roll roadkill (God bless the tortured soul singing “Sleeping Deeply”). Legend has it that three of the band’s members became Jehovah’s Witnesses, which ultimately led to the group’s demise. I’m not sure how true that is, but of this I’m certain: Guitarist Fred Tackett has been a member of Little Feat since 1988.

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