Been waiting for this album to release officially for a good while now. A very interesting look into the origins of the 90s indie-rock enigma indeed. If you're into lo-fi and/or experimental/indie rock of that era, definitely give this one a look!
For Immediate Release
May 25, 2020
The Revolutionary Hydra - The Left-Handed Scissors Incident
Explanatory, exculpatory note on the occasion of the unearthing of The Revolutionary Hydra’s debut cassette album, The Left-Handed Scissors Incident.
Greetings. Today I am legally obligated to write to you in response to an extraordinary correspondence received from Joe Chilcote, disgraced former Chief Executive Officer of Elsinor Records. You will have to take my word for it but my morning has been a mixture of astonishment, unrepressed memories, TMJ, and several hours spent deciding if I should have a second piece of toast, with jam, or not. Eventually I decided I should.
As I sit on my veranda with its dramatic view of the Twann River gorge, from the estate near Lamboing in Switzerland that I rent from my ex-wife’s dear friend Gastmann, sipping my 2018 Chateau de Berne Rosé from a glass I stole from the green room at the Hollywood Bowl, I no longer see the lakes, or mountains, or swans, of my adopted country (adopted due to complex, international legal and tax reasons, yes, but, more importantly, emotionally adopted as well). Instead I see the small inlet town of Bellingham, in the green state of Washington, in the raw unbridled Northwest of the American United States. More specifically, I see the basement of Der Humdinger Haus, outside of which a trail of cigarette smoke follows a line of bands eager to audition for the Elsinor recording label in response to an open invitation posted in The Echo news-rag: twee bands with twee guitars and twee dimples in their twee cheeks; chamber pop groops with bassoons and French horns but with, sadly, more hair than harmony; garage bands that were more like carport bands; metal that was on the overweight side of heavy; and so forth. Indeed, all of them, without exception, vastly superior to Elsinor’s own erstwhile flagship band, The Revolutionary Hydra.
How, then, does one explain the Hydra’s enig-magnetic attraction for what was, arguably, at the height of their heyday, a dozen or so local fans? Was it extremely localized mass hypnosis? Fluoride in the baywater? Jazz herbal cigarettes?
It matters not.
Flash forward to the ‘recording’ of their ‘album’ The Left-Handed Scissors Incident. I was there. I can attest to what happened that fateful day, though I’ve long tried to purge it from my mind. Joe, his brother Jay, and bandmate Barton Sharp barricaded themselves in the offices of The Echo newspaper, gathered around a single boombox, rubbing their hands together as if for its life-giving warmth. The band was extremely new, had only existed for a matter of hours, and wanted to put out a release celebrating their formation, using songs and demos recorded over the prior months. Joe and Jay alternated mixing down from their 4-track machines. At one point Jay played guitar and sang directly into the boombox, for the song “Our League Together”; when finished, Bart began clapping, in what will forever be etched in my mind as the ‘sound of one fan clapping’ moment, an appropriately inauspicious beginning to a doomed recording career.
The song titles were bewildering. I begged them, from a legal if not aesthetic basis, to leave aside titles like “Lamron Dnoyeb Sdnoces” and “Queen of the Gravity Urge”. Alas, my persuasion failed me, for they had tasted the power of appeasing their own insular focus group, by making themselves laugh.
I did, however, succeed when it came to the next steps. As I listened to the lads talking about international bus tours, widespread distribution deals, marketing campaigns, and paying for billboards with flush forwardings from major labels, I suggested a different tack. “What if,” I began, interrupting Jay as he was laying out a planned full-page New York Times ad on The Echo’s paper table, “instead of an all-out media blitz, which would take away from your budget for potato burritos...” I paused while they slowly nodded at this unassailable logic. “What if, instead, we buried this master recording in a time vault, and vowed not to open it for, say, 23 years, or more. Possibly much, much more?” The lads jumped at the idea until one of them, I think it was Jay, frowned and said, “Shouldn’t we make copies for ourselves, and for those kids we met over at KUGS, Ben and Chris?”
“Absolutely,” I said, and, with heroic effort, managed to not spew my breakfast of kippers and lox at the thought of how this accursed cassette could go on to affect, in hazardous, unforeseen ways, some of Bellingham's finest up-and-coming talent. “Just a few copies. That will only add to the aura of mystery.” Joe thanked me for my sage legal and managerial advice. I nodded modestly, something at which I was quite adept, even then.
Then we absconded to procure some potato burritos, and all was forgotten. Until now.
Alas, here we are, 23 years on, and either Joe or Jay have gone ahead and exhumed that tape from the time vault, presumably trying to cash in on the name of their more famous co-conspirators to pay off gambling debts, no doubt. They had wrapped the master cassette inside an old TV Guide with googly eyes drawn over the Golden Girls, and after spending a few days giggling at the advertisements, they decided they had better get around to, quote, digitizing the shit, unquote, out of the, quote, songs, unquote.
It is only appropriate that in the midst of a worldwide pandemic, The Revolutionary Hydra would finally, widely, indiscriminately, unleash the first of their audio bacillus. I leave it to you, and the judgment of future generations of cultural scholars, whether or not the time was right.
I’m suddenly hungry for kippers. Now go away and don’t contact me again.
released May 25, 2020
Songs 1, 5, 12, 13, 23, 24 written, performed and recorded by Joe Chilcote. All other songs written, performed and recorded by Jay Chilcote, except:
2 included Patrick (don’t remember last name) who read from an article about the world-wide web onto Jay’s answering machine.
5 Joe provided backup vocals.
19 was a live jam with Joe on drums (and yelling) and Jay on vocals and guitar… we played the riff a few times and then Jay said let’s make it a song and made up the lyrics as he went, something about a NYC tailor who was also in the Army, maybe, and makes suits for members of the mob, possibly.
20 was recorded directly into a boombox while the album was being sequenced (Jay couldn’t find his original recording); Barton Sharp provides the clapping at the end.
25 another live exploratory riff jam with Brian Willett on bass, Jeffrey Warden on drums, Jay on guitar.
10 was originally entitled Queen of the Gravity Urgitate, for the completists among you.
11 turned out, against all possible odds, to be our most famous song, thanks to the insurmountable lack of judgment on the part of our Bellingham co-pats Death Cab for Cutie.
12 is a reference to Notsur Dnuora Selcric by Sebadoh, which was also obligatory in the '90s.
17 Stroszcek references a Werner Herzog movie, because this was obligatory at the time.
23 Joe used the phrase ‘the full smell of Pablo’ from Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls, but it was also at one point a possible band name. We even had t-shirts screen printed.
26 “Rooks dropping cool cries from the high blue” is a line from Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse.
27 a live recording from when we opened for This Busy Monster and Modest Mouse in Bellingham in early 1997; this song was custom written for the occasion.
supported by 4 fans who also own “Left-Handed Scissors Incident”
Early Death Cab is untouchable. Something to do with Ben's elliptical writing. Everything after Narrow Stairs has to me felt a little vacant: but this show reminds me of the special urgency and tension still inherent, here, at their inchoate origins. narvikwinter