Why The Piranhas “Piscis Clangor” is the Best Album of 2004 and Other Things You Don’t Want to Know

by Scott Soriano, 34th grade (held behind twice)

      Yeah, I know. You hate the Piscis Clangor, the last album by the late, great Piranhas. “It doesn’t make sense,” you whine. “It’s the musical equivelent to William Burroughs cut-ups and I don’t like to read those,” you mule. “It doesn’t sound like the Lost Sounds (or whatever band is the “It” group among the sub-underground),” you twiddle. “Ewwww, it’s gross,” you piddle. Yeah, great.
     You know, some people can count past 1-2-3-4. And after four there are some really cool numbers, like eight or eleven or seventeen. Pi is a really cool number. In fact, it is probably the number that this swirling balance beam act known as Piscis Clangor is based on.
     In case you haven’t figured it out, the Piranhas’ last isn’t about verse-chorus-verse-chorus. Actually, I don’t think many of its detractors have figured that out. Piscis Clangor was received with much reservation. The album previous, Erotic Grit Movies, got so-so reviews, most of them making references to the Piranhas of yore, who were a great garage punk band but barely adventurous. Erotic Grit changed that perception. On that fine piece of plastic, Detroit’s finest started tweaking their songs. It’s like they completely ignored the Detroit of the MC5 and started warping out to fellow Detroiter Sun Ra. By the time Piscis Clangor hit, the Piranhas were well on their way to Saturn.
     For many reasons, none of which I care to go into right now, punk rock has gotten very very orthodox and as hip and groovy and cool many of its adherents believe themselves to be, much to many dirty their Depends when something pops up that destroys their conservative world of power chord, ugh, kaplunk. Adding a synthesizer to power chord, ugh, kaplunk just means you get power chord, ugh, tweep tweep, kaplunk and, to me, that ain’t progress.
     Perhaps this is the old man in me speaking. Perhaps this is the dude who grew up before punk rock was so safe and predictable that it could be used to sell cookies, deodorant, and life insurance. Perhaps I remember the days that when anything weird and musically left-of-center was punk rock. Perhaps perhaps perhaps. Whatever it is, I do know that the Piranhas’ Piscis Clangor challenges the cozy little world so many of garage punk’s intelligencia (and that is what you are if you are reading this site). It pisses people off. It spoils their expectations.
     If it was just that the Pirhanas’ last pissed off the dullards, I’d still be a very happy man. But the damn thing is good musically. It is a ride through confusion and anger and depression. It is a pretty damn good representation of the world around up. It is playful (if you allow it to infect you). The first time I listened to it, I cocked my ear a bit but still was stuck on the last record. The second listen, I found something to hold on to and let the thing take me. Without preconceived notions of that the Piranhas should be, I accepted the Piranhas as is. And with that I found the best record of 2004.


     Ahhh but the best song of 2004, well that goes to “Fire in the Dead of Night” by Oolanbator. “Fire...” appears on the mind-blowing comp, 1382 The Persian New Wave: Underground out of the Islamic Republic of Iran put out by the Tian An Min 89 label. Oolanbator’s ear-twister is a six minute plus piece of weirdness that brings together mutant guitar noodling, brat vocals and a sample from the Crazy World of Arthur Brown's Fire. It starts off with a gentle but sub-primitive guitar intro and then stumbles into an ever-evolving musical mutation. The song’s reference points are so random and obscure that it is hard to imagine it not being created in a cultural vacuum like Islamic Iran. Word has it, a Northern California upstart label is looking to make Oolanbator their first signing. Let’s hope so. I wanna hear more of this mutant goo.
     And then I bought myself “The Holy Spirit,” the nine CD box set of Albert Ayler music and words, released by the amazing Revenant Records label. Does Ayler deserve mention on a punk rock web site? Read my Piranhas screed and you know the answer is “Yes.” If not punk rock, Ayler certainly was filled with the spirit of punk, that rebellious nature that seeks to challenge convention from an emotional base. That is not to say that Ayler wasn’t a thinking man. He was, but the soul of his sound comes from deep within. During his short run in the late 60s and early 70s, Ayler was loathed by conventional music critics. His support came from the jazz avant garde and what we now think of as proto-punkers. His fellow Clevelanders, the Electric Eel and Pere Ubu, were certainly aware of him and very much inspired by his noise, energy and spirit, as were many other cued in people, from Lester Bangs and R. Meltzer to the Child Molesters and PiL. If you were involved in challenging music or music that challenged, Ayler was an energy it was impossible ignore.
     So Revenant does a great service compiling these rare Ayler recordings - both music and interviews. There is so much here that I’ve only skimmed it. To fully appreciate this monster, I will have to give this months of listening time. But I know enough Ayler to state for sure, with only a once or twice through, that this is an amazing box set. From CDs to the great hardcover book that illuminates the music inside.

Other tasty tidbits of 2004:
Antennas Erupt - s/t 7 (Weird Forest)
Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings - This land is your land 45 (Daptone)
Sightings - Arrived in Gold LP
Patty Waters - You Thrill Me CD
Wire - Wire on the Box: 1979 DVD/CD (Pink Flag)
Billy Syndrome - Beyond CD (Slutfish)
Steve Treatment - 25 “A” Sides 2CD (H2D)
The Homosexuals - Astral Glamour (Messthetics)
Zuby Nehty - Best of...& Rarity 2CD (Indies)