The internet's a funny thing, isn't it?
About two years ago, I wrote up a little post about a certain album cover by Alien Sex Fiend. I'm prone to mentioning them here from time to time, given my dogged affinity for their second LP from 1984, Acid Bath. In fact, I birthed a sweepingly over-written paen to Acid Bath on the ILX music discussion board that went a little something like this:
Been re-discovering much of my long dormant music collection now that I've made the jump to iTunes/iPod, etc. Dug this little numbah out of dark corner and rediscovered its riotously naughty majesty.
Prior to first hearing the `Fiend, I was of the mindset that the gloomy gothic contingent of the mid-to-early 80's UK occupied a stridently cerebral place in the food chain.....with bands like Siouxsie & the Banshees, Theatre of Hate, Sisters of Mercy and Bauhaus concentrating more on sombre, highbrow themes. My sister brought home the bat-shaped e.p. by the Specimen ("Kiss Kiss Bang Bang"/"Returning from a Journey"), which was certainly a campier taste -- closer to, say, the Cramps, but nothing prepared me for Acid Bath by their Batcave peers in Alien Sex Fiend.
After befriending a 6'8" swimmer with a peroxide mohawk by the name of Jef my freshman year of college, I kept hearing this magnificently droney, busy, buzzing, mind-warping record come sonically seeping out of his room down the hall like a noxious purple cloud of goop-splattered evil.Wrongfully comparing them to a cross between Killing Joke and New Order, he slapped a copy of Acid Bath in my hand and guaranteed that after a solitary listen, I'd be addicted.
Like Killing Joke and New Order only in their utlization of dance rhthyms and aggressively punky guitars, Alien Sex Fiend were entirely their own band otherwise (despite this album being produced by erstwhile Joke bassist, Youth). Rapturously sloppy, depraved and utterly rude (the album is rife with burps, belches, grunts, prurient groans and a tireless parade of slackjawed allusions to sex and drugs), if Alien Sex Fiend were to be included within the same community as the Banshees, Bauhaus et al., they were very assuredly representing the bottom half (gleefully steeping themselves in lowbrow humor and campy horror as opposed aspirations of anything resembling art that takes itself seriously).
But art it is! From the garish, messy cover painting (rife with subtle difference depending on which edition you've gotten ahold of) to the music contained therein (ditto), Acid Bath -- like albums I've extolled the merits of here before -- boasts a sound and aesthetic that is entirely and distinctively all its own (like Kiss' Destroyer, This Mortal Coil's It'll End in Tears and Adam & the Ants' Kings of the Wild Frontier). Nothing else sounds like it.
Best experienced either on headphones or in a dark, black-lit room with massive speakers that drown everything in the toxic murk, to listen to Acid Bath is to roam about in a dimly-lit labywrinth wherein voices and instrumentation reveal themselves in blurry patches and frightening avalanches. The only real constant being Nik Fiend's distinctive, theatrical growl (somewhere between obvious mentors Alice Cooper and Peter O'Toole). Odd samples (including an incongruous snippet of a proto-hip hop radio station, WKTU identifying itself on "Attack #2") and echoey beats that recall the heady ganja-stoked sounds of Dub race for domniance against Yaxi High Riser's fuzzed out guitars and Johnny Ha Ha's live drums. You can dance to it, scream for help, slash your wrists, laugh hysterically or roll around on the floor. The choice is yours.
Further adding to its mystique, there seems to be a few different versions floating around out there. The copy of it I later prized for myself featured slightly different mixes of tracks like "E.S.T. (Trip to the Moon)" and "Dead & Re-Buried". The liner notes are so sloppily compiled that a straight explanation was pretty elusive. The version on compact disc I tracked down about a decade later was different still. Not hugely different, mind you, but enough to notice.
From the obvious Cramps homage at the end ("Boneshaker") through the surreally bleak "Breakdown And Cry (Lay Down & Die Goodbye)", its a gigglingly evil ride, but an entirely enjoyable one, so long as you don't mind utter, abject silliness with little regard for good taste.
Later albums were never as cohesive nor fun. But for a brief, gooey moment in 1984, Alien Sex Fiend were perfect.
Anyway, the post about the album cover wasn't about Acid Bath, but rather its predecessor, Who's Been Sleeping in My Brain? I'd been in a habit, for a while, of showcasing album covers that featured depictions of New York City, and as said album did just that, I felt that that trivial little point was more than enough reason to post it up. Funnily enough, that edition of the record is now quite scarce. Later compact disc versions featured entirely different cover art.
Like countless other posts on this weblog, the entry in question went largely ignored by virtually everyone apart from EV Grieve, a fellow blogger and comparably rabid fan of album covers with New York on'em, vanishing ever further with each passing day back into the dusty, largely-undisturbed archives of this blog.
As it happens, a former member of Alien Sex Fiend -- namely drummer Johnnie "Ha Ha" Freshwater -- must have been doing some frivolous Googling, and came across the post. Regarding the details of the album cover of Who's Been Sleeping in My Brain?, the estimable Mr. Ha Ha (he's the gent in the hat in the foreground of the picture at the top of this post) had the following to say:
The painting was done by a guy called Greg who with his partner Dimitrius, ran a heavy gay club called Dam (I think). We played there in 1983 and the record company agreed to let us use Greg's painting on the cover.
Johnnie Ha Ha, 2012.
Far out, eh? I did a bit of Gooling myself, and as it turns out that while he left the ranks of Alien Sex Fiend quite some time ago, Johnnie is still composing music, along with being a digital artist, a graphic designer and a drum seller. You can hear his stuff here.
Anyway, I thought that was pretty cool. If you're unfamiliar with Alien Sex Fiend, meanwhile, please avail yourself to the selection below -- one of my favorites.