Blue Cheer - Vincebus Eruptum - Review
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critics' view

A lot of people will frustratingly inform you that the genius of Vincebus Eruptum lies in its overlapping of blues riffs and heavy metal guitars. A lot of people are also wrong. First, let's define the term:

Vincebus Eruptum (v.): to completely dispense with traditionally composed blues song by frantically bending every string on a guitar, strumming without playing any actual notes, ramming your head against the speakers, and generally inducing a psychotic thunderstorm of sound and fury signifying nothing.

There's only one reason anyone has ever been interested in Eruptuming: Leigh Stephens. In the summer of 1967, Stephens heard the accumulations of blues and rock inside his head, and formed Blue Cheer, situating himself between Cream's rhythmic tightness and Hendrix's flamboyant excess. Fortunately for us, Stephens was resolutely less experienced than either, and in the process of developing this incompetence, he inadvertently birthed punk, heavy metal, and the most primal version of the inexorable and inept guitar freak-out. Vincebus essentially acts as the juncture of the lethally lethargic, basement-murder morass of Sabbath and the vomit-spewing anxiety of early punk rock. There may be occasional blues passages, but trust me, there's no overlap. When Stephens solos, there is nothing but wind-howling terror.

Blue Cheer's signature song, "Summertime Blues", is a prime example of this bludgeoning. The band makes several attempts to get their instruments to sound like they're playing together, but whenever singer/bassist Dickie Peterson and drummer Paul Whaley accidentally forget that they're in the same band, Stephens rushes into the mix with a mind-expanding psychedelic gundown. Eddie Cochran's version actually sounded like summer; this sounds like whatever kind of season they have in a coal mine with skeleton scaffolds. The production is so lo-fi, it's practically transcendent. Whereas psychedelic used to be all about the Grateful Dead and Strawberry Alarm Clock (maybe "Tomorrow Never Knows" on a good day), Stephens was one of the progenitors of those gloriously nauseating spaz-outs we now know was to be the future of rock.

On "Doctor Please", a sort of less subtle "Doctor Robert", Peterson yelps, "I need your pain killers!" while Stephens unleashes undulations of deafening wreckage and turbulent reverb. The rhythm section is barely audible, and when it is, it can barely stay ahead of Stephens. This is the kind of music Lester Bangs must have loved and Spinal Tap and Tenacious D must have mocked: musicians who, like the bands on Nuggets, live not to perfect their technique, but to simply rock. And while Blue Cheer, at this early stage, have yet to work out their kinks, their songs are already stunning: "Out of Focus" croaks tales of "the magic madness" and "mystic dream," a prepubescent version of Zeppelin's bombast, while "Second Time Around" is a grimier and more explosive predecessor to Yes' "Heart of the Sunrise".

Vincebus is all catharsis and psychedelic mayhem; it's cataclysmic insanity naturally influential.

Alexander Lloyd Linhardt
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Pitchfork is an American online magazine launched in 1995 by Ryan Schreiber, based in Chicago, Illinois, and owned by Condé Nast. Being developed during Schreiber's tenure in a record store at the time, the magazine developed a reputation for its extensive focus on independent music, but has since expanded to a variety of coverage on both indie and popular music. The site generally concentrates on new music, but Pitchfork journalists have also reviewed reissues and box sets. Since 2016, it has published retrospective reviews of classic or otherwise important albums every Sunday. The site has also published "best-of" lists – such as the best albums of the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s, and the best songs of the 1960s – as well as annual features detailing the best albums and tracks of each year since 1999 (and a retrospective Best Albums of 1998 list in 2018).
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