I've known Alec Palao for about ten years now. I've been over to his studio in El Cerrito a number of times and he's always got some astounding tape to play for me, or some amazing photos, etc. But I still haven't seen his Golden Crowbar. I'll bet you could fill a bus with guys that have tried to get those Charlatans demos over the years. Or the Frumious Bandersnatch stuff. Hey, it's all in a days work for the Man With The Golden Crowbar. I'll bet Ace Records is still wondering how they're ever gonna balance the scales of karma on this guy. Last year, he ventured into South America and loosened up a bagful of early Shakers material on Por Favor! (CDWIKD 201), a release that you undoubtedly already have - and now he's plundering the Viking punk vaults! I happen to know that he has pass keys to both the front and back doors on this project, though.
I've known Larry Otis for about twenty years, but it wasn't until I was thumbing through his record collection in 1990 that I learned of his close ties to the band they called the Icelandic Beatles: Thor's Hammer, aka Hlj??mar, and later to be known in their progressive phase as Trubrot. Imagine my surprise! Larry! You've got Trubrot records! What the heck?!!" And his friendship with the band is ongoing: as recently as 1992 Larry travel led to Iceland and recorded a rock'n'roll album, R??nar & Otis, with R??nar J??l?åusson, the bass player of Thor's Hammer. All this becomes significant when you read the comprehensive liner notes of the new Big Beat International release From Keflav?åk With Love. Larry was stationed in Iceland during the mid-1960s and was witness to Thor's Hammer explosive rise to fame in their native land. His and the band's memoirs are a lot of fun to read: one only wishes the story went on and on.
And then there's the music. Thor's Hammer sound like one of those awesome Dutch 1960s beat groups through a prism - a Scandanavian Jay-Jays, Motions or Outsiders. There's that same focused, high energy delivery for sure, but it comes from a place where humans are perpetually wired, because the sun doesn't set like it's supposed to. There's a bunch of incredible songs on From Keflav?åk With Love, but this CD is most truly mindblowing on tracks like I Don't Care and My Life where the band put the hammer down. Hell, man - these guys are the Hammer! There's so much fuzz on these tracks that you'll need to vacuum the carpet in front of the speakers after you play 'em! True, some of this material has been made available elsewhere, but here for the first time since 1966 THE MASTER TAPES were accessed (witness the power of the Golden Crowbar! You will bow before the Golden Crowbar!), so of course it sounds quite amazing and is not to be missed. Ditch those bootlegs!
One is left to wonder what Mr Palao will unearth next. Wild fuzzpunk from Estonia? The lost studio masters of Burning Sacrifice, Madagascar's only late 60s psychedelic band? Personally, I like knowing that he's out there looking, but really - it's gonna be hard to top this CD.
By Clark Faville
(Clark Faville is a world-renowned record collector who lives in the wilds of northern California)