I do love Jerry Garcia and co., so I always smile fondly when I get my regular dose of Grateful Dead pastiche artwork in the mail from some band or another. Well it's 2012 and this year's tribute comes in the from of a live tape from Brooklyn's Guardian Alien. At least they go out on a limb and name their tape Drums>Space>Jam after the regularly occurring mid second set journey that was either your pee break or the peak of your acid trip depending on what kind of deadhead you happened to be. While this group, made up of Turner Williams on Japanese lap guitar, Greg Fox on Drums and Alex Drewchin on vocals (plus guests Brad Hass and Camilla PC), doesn't come anywhere near the MIDIfied cornball atonality of late 80s and early 90s Grateful Dead, they are most certainly a jamband, and an rather uneven one at that.
I believe the lap guitar in question is similar or same to the instrument Mick Flower plays on those lovely Corsano-Flower records. It seems to be rather easy to create an inoffensive major key arpeggio on the instrument, but it's strictly defined tonality can become somewhat limiting. In the hands of a master like Mr. Flower, the results are trance inducing, but here it veers too often into go-nowhere noodling. The drumming is perhaps the most exciting part of the tape, and there are some moments in this amphetamine space rock where the endlessly repeating patterns played by Mssrs. Fox & Williams begin to interlock in a just exactly perfect way, but all too often it's just a bunch of music school bullshit.
It's the vocals what really sends this tape out into the timbers of Fennario (a cold wolf infested place, not fit for human habitation). Oh boy, someone hoarsely screaming some generic hippie shit over and over again until it degenerates into mindless "Eastern" chanting and moaning. Hey, I'm all for unpolished and discordant (you should see my record collection), and the singer surely offsets any of the chops the instrumentalists display, but this all just rubs me in absolutely the wrong way. It's definitely equal parts punk rock Hawkwind and Krishna loving nincompoopery , and it's 100% annoying. If I didn't know better, I would think the singer was some tie-dyed burnout having the worst drug experience of her life being recorded for posterity by some some unsettled true-blues in the taper's section of Soldier Field in '95 (in other words: bad vibes/dark times). Your mic pole isn't long enough Bob Wagner.