REVIEW ARCHIVE: The Godz- The Third Testament

I wrote the following for my old blogspot page (which doesn’t exist anymore) in 2009. Rereading it, I think the sentiments bear repeating, so here’s an encore presentation.

You can purchase most of the Godz discography as one album from iTunes (it involves paying for some recently recorded stuff by one of the original members, which has virtually nothing to do with the original band, and it’s missing integral tracks like “Travelin’ Salesman”), and you can still get Contact High on CD from ESP-Disk. Unfortunately, The Third Testament is currently out of print in any physical format.

-DK

___________________________________________

Watch what you say, friends. Any sentence, any flip opinion, has the potential to change the course of history. At the very least, it could surely change the popular interpretation of same. This is doubly so if your opinion is ever published and/or disseminated widely.

I bring this up today because I feel that Lester Bangs, that eternal poet laureate of rock and roll (sorry, Richard Meltzer, although it must be said that Smegma with you on vocals, not to mention Vom, was always way better than Birdland ever stood a chance of being… but man, that’s a whole other THING), could be said to be at fault for the short shrift long allotted to The Third Testament, the third (der) album by The Godz.

Now, I’m not railing on Bangs: perish the thought! Homeboy’s writing is such an essential part of my cultural upbringing (hopefully not TOO obvious an influence on my writing, but honestly, probably so) that it would feel like straight heresy to say anything too harsh about the guy or his ouveure. However, that doesn’t mean I don’t have any bones to pick, re: his opinions.

To wit: in his well-known piece “Do The Godz Speak Esperanto?” (which is basically a love letter to the ESP-Disk label in general, and the Godz in particular), Bangs suggests that Third Testament is, after the joyously inept acoustic caterwaul of their classic debut Contact High With The Godz and the yakkety pot punk of Godz 2, the point where the Godz fell off. I quote:

“[The Godz] were exciting to think about because they promised to break through and become even more outrageous by dynamiting all the stupid Standards by which esthetic-minded critics and technique-bound musicians sought to raise rock from pigmy squawl to Art-Form. Sadly, they blew that chance in the worst possible way. The Third Testament is a lame, psychedelically stereotyped, even smug album that sounds like everything their detractors might ever have accused the Godz of being.”

…and so forth (although he does go on to lay heavy praise on the track “Womban”, which is indeed among the best tracks on the album). Given that this is perhaps the only major press that the Godz received at the time, it has since been generally accepted FACT that Third Testament is, at least on a relative scale, BUNK.

Well, then: let it be said that I, for one, call bullshit. In fact, I’m going to go on record (risky) saying that The Third Testament is not only a very good record (riskier), but in fact the best Godz record (riskiest?) and an honest-to-Jehovah CLASSIC (WHAT THE FUCK, FOR REAL?!?!?!?!), at that. On Third Testament, the Godz stew the primitive yowl of Contact High in with both the more rockist as well as the more aut elements of Godz 2, throw in some avant-malarkey straight out of Red Krayola’s Parable Of Arable Land (except funnier) or Henry Jacobs (except not as good, but c’mon, they’re not magicians), and brings the whole thing to a boil that will BURN YOUR FACE OFF. Except in a good way. Got me?

Jeez, this platter is a hoedown joy to spin! I admit that it’s maybe not solid in that you wanna listen to the whole damn thing all the time, like Marquee Moon or whatever classique you wanna pull out: the extended freakout “The First Multitude”, while essential in context, requires patience and the right mood, just like “L.A. Blues” or “Revolution #9″ or any of those psych “experiments” that squares either don’t get and/or regard too highly just ‘cuz they’ve never heard anything like it (outside of “psychedelic” pop records). Still, though, how many records do you actually, regularly sit through from start to finish? Like, ten? Twenty if you’re being nice? Who cares, the whole concept of the “album-as-artistic-statement” is overrated, anyway.

Ah, but I digress. Anyway, there’s a boatload of killer stuff on here. Ya ask me, the ratio is WAY high in favor of it being a stone classic. A quick rundown of some of the high points:

-“Like A Sparrow” is a slop-folk/punk classic on par with whatever you wanna throw at me (“Hey! Little Child” by Alex Chilton, perhaps, although it’s only similar in that it’s sloppy, and that it rules). It’s romantic as hell, to boot. It’s probably gone on every mixtape I’ve made for a girl I’m tryin’ to make the moves on since 2002. Not bad!

-The aforementioned “Womban” is a great homage/parody to the Burdon/Jagger/Troggs/Farner school of scumbag rocker chest-beating, and back in ’68 (pre-Farner!), to boot!

-“Ruby Red” is like a Charles Manson outtake (were there any real outtakes from those sessions? That whole album sounds like an outtake, albeit a great one), but without the eerie baggage.

-The companion pieces “ABC” and “KLM” are completely fucking stupid. I know that’s a rude way to put it, but I mean it in a nice way…? Listen to ’em, and YOU try to figure out how else to put it.

I could go on. Even “Walking Guitar Blues”, the track that most offended Bangs and indeed the most cheese-dick song on the LP, grows on you in its dunced-out minstrelsy. At least, that is to say, it did on me.

If you can track down Third Testament, by whatever means you kids track nowadays (it’s readily available from Amazon and other CD/mp3 merchants, and I’m sure you could steal it from some Torrent whatchamacallit… but where’s the joy in that? Ya gotta stare at the cover and things like that…) [Like I said, it’s now available as part of an album on iTunes -ed], give it a couple spins and tell me I’m wrong. We’ll surely have to agree to disagree, but damned if it ain’t entertaining to hear Radiohead fans try to talk me out of my most deeply-held beliefs. It’s like Christians tryin’ to get me worried about Hell. I’m not saying they’re wrong, but how are they gonna prove it?

-Dustin K.
8.5.09

Dustin Krcatovich is a cartoonist, writer, designer, founder of FM DUST, and a collector of certain curios and ephemera (with a focus on 20th century "junk culture"). His writing and illustration work appears frequently in The Quietus, Tiny Mix Tapes, and Esquire's Culture Blog. He is also a former editor and contributor to Secret Zen Garden,Saagara's illustrated mindfulness/wellness blog for young people. He currently resides in Portland, OR.

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