Friday, August 2, 2013

Laurice “Best of Laurice Vol. 1”

(Mighty Mouth) This is, quite simply, my favorite record not only of the last year or two, but maybe of the last quarter century. Before I express why I'd just like to take a moment to state that Almost Ready Records  (with their imprints Last Laugh and Mighty Mouth) has emerged as one of the best record labels on earth over the last couple of years. While I hate to challenge Norton Records' position as the finest curator of reissued rarities and dynamic living artists during that label's post hurricane hammering-recovery period, I can't think of anyone who has released more interesting music recently than Almost Ready. Their reissues of punk, glam, weirdo, and private press 45s and LPs over the last few years includes such dedication to the original packaging and design, and more importantly, such  a vision of why weirdness matters, that I'm thrilled to open every new release, even if i've inevitably never heard of the obscure artist. They have balanced lowbrow, crude tastes with meticulous scholarship and a ridiculous sense of purpose, and most importantly, they love Laurice! More specifically, they appreciate this artist for his/her absurdity, yet are not making fun of the androgynous rock n roll superhero, but rather respectfully celebrating the magic. Perhaps the greatest compliment I can give a discovery is disbelief. Even though this LP features a variety of exquisitely produced songs in a variety of styles implying a long, varied career, this was so "too good to believe" that I spent hours doing skeptical research, made more difficult by Laurice's own website being so earnest and spare and outsider-ish and 90s neon colored background fake looking. What convinced me that Laurice was real was the Canadian via UK artist's appearance on a 1978 Canadian TV show performing "Disco Spaceship," which actually made everything seem faker (an afro perm, a metallic muu muu, heavy makeup that bordered on blackface, and an impossibly ridiculous performance in front of stiff Canuck disco dancers). Basically this production was such a perfectly Z-grade Don Kirschner Rock Concert disco episode, and the song featuring a cross dresser singing about Uranus was so note perfect that even if this is fake, it's real. That tremendous song is not even on this collection (Vol. 2?). Instead what we get are some of the boldest, catchiest, most exciting pre-punk/glam/cabaret music ever released. From the beginning what made Laurice special was obvious. With the act Grudge the artist released the thrilling 1973 single "When Christine Comes Around" b/w "I'm Gonna Smash Your Face In," which some may have seen as novelty songs, as they took the Gary Glitter retro rock n roll vibe but added the gay content of the unambiguous anti-hate crime "I'm Gonna Smash Your Face In" ("It's time for you to pay the price for saying I'm a queer").  The A-side (which I've actually heard a deejay it's real...I guess...though it's still too good to believe!) does not have gay content...except he sings as a woman in a girl fight and does Mae West impersonations! If anyone thought Laurice was making funny poofster jokes for laffs, his/her sincerity was made absolutely clear with "He's My Guy," a perfectly recreated girl group record about the rights, and beauty, of a man wanting to love another man. What's also amazing about the long, high quality career of Laurice is that he explored every aspect of gay pop, with cabaret style comic material, leather-loving rock, the Elton John-ish "Born to Serve," the  pre-disco (and sexually unambiguous) "Rock Hard," and "Wild Sugar," which is almost impossible to hear without imagining a sexy stage show with muscled mustache guys backing up the great singing.  That every genre of the 70s is covered, that Laurice boldly asserts his sexuality, and that every song is fun and funny and also functional as perfect rock 'n' roll makes this one of the most must have collections ever. That it is released looking like a budget LP with sorely lacking liner notes should be a deficit, but looking at Laurice's aesthetics on it's clear that this spare design is a respectful nod to a true artist rather than a cop out. This should have won all the Grammys and sold more copies than Bieber! This willbe the first record i wear out in the 21st Century!

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