Jesse Jarnow

“basically frightened” – col. bruce hampton

“Basically Frightened” – Col. Bruce Hampton (download here)
from Arkansas (1987)
reissued by Terminus (buy)

(file expires February 19th)

For all his ballyhooed weirdness, Col. Bruce Hampton’s two albums with the Aquarium Rescue Unit sound remarkably straight in retrospect. His four ’80s records on Landslide, reissued a few years ago by Terminus, are anything but. Like a lo-fi Captain Beefheart, a good deal of it is virtually unlistenable to most, however fun to others, but 1987’s Arkansas is a masterpiece. Many of the bizarro orchestrations are lashed to the decade by excessive synth use, but the studio rendering of Hampton’s perennial staple, “Basically Frightened,” is gloriously unadorned. Though it would later be a jazz boogie for the ARU, here it’s just existential blues: acoustic guitar, bass, and cosmic lamentations. Some make no sense. Hampton, for example, is basically frightened of “Young men in helmets who are occupied for women in–” and Hampton coughs. But, his surreal index occasionally strikes notes that are, well, real: “I’m afraid of losing bookmarks and, of course, politicians with no hobbies,” Hampton moans. Aren’t we all?