It’s been a year of greats in Hidden Gems lately and rolling down the list of psych luminaries for contributors, the latest sees Wayne Rogers (Major Stars, Crystalized Movements, Magic Hour) take a turn looking inward for inspiration. This year has already seen Rogers add to his legacy with a solo LP on his own Twisted Village imprint and a new Major Stars on the way from Drag City next week. The guitar work of Rogers can be seen making an impact all over recent accolytes, from the cinder n’ smoke of Feral Ohms to the ragged grace of Wet Tuna. Wayne turns back to his earlier years with Crystalized Movements for a psych nugget that pushed his own boundaries. Check Wayne’s dive into the one-off wonders of The Plastic Cloud.
“Back in the early ’80’s,” recalls Wayne, “I was playing in a band (my first) called Crystalized Movements. We had started out typically jacked on the punk/new wave movement, but as that stuff turned into American hardcore and British synth bands, my interest had strayed to other stuff. Hearing the first Pebbles volume in 1980 pointed the way ahead, and I began searching for older, weirder sounds. A couple of pals at a local record store were older and wiser record collectors, and they turned me onto hit after hit: Velvet Underground, Blue Cheer, 13th Floor Elevators, Chocolate Watch Band, and scores of obscure singles that they’d give me mixtapes of at regular intervals.”
“One record few could find or afford at the time was the whispered-about Plastic Cloud LP. They were a band of Canadian kids who put out one LP in 1968, and its commercial success (or lack thereof) was evident from the fact that virtually every copy seemed to have a cut-out hole in it. One of my record store connections finally scored one in late ’82 and slipped me a tape of it. I still remember talking to him when he got it, and him saying that yes, the whispers were true; It really was that good. I couldn’t get my cassette home quickly enough.”
“Plastic Cloud starts on a bit of a whisper, muses Rogers, “with “Epistle To Paradise,” a lovely song with a bit of broken-battery fuzz sprinkled in. Then it’s ON. “Shadows of Your Mind” establishes the Plastic Cloud formula: strongly melodic songs with any number of verses, and some maniac blaring fuzz guitar all over them. Not just in the “guitar solo” spots, but everywhere. Verse, chorus, verse, chorus, break, everywhere. It’s exhilarating and completely weird, breaking pretty much any rule a guitarist might reasonably be expected to follow.”
“Side one ends with the first of two long pieces, the masterful “You Don’t Care.” A stunner of a song to begin with, then the guitarist buzzes loudly over the verses and breaks loose after every chorus with blistering free form guitar breaks that alternately follow the chords, play the blues, or indulge in atonality depending on whatever the guitarist feels like playing. This goes on for 10 plus minutes, with the lead guitar getting louder and louder as the song progresses. By the fourth verse, the fuzz leads have taken over the mix, and the vocals have become a dull blur beneath the noise. So absolutely wrong, so incredibly brilliant.”
“The other epic ends Side Two,” Rogers continues, “Civilization Machine.” Another great song, to which the guitarist does not yield for one second. He is at full intensity from the start. For nine minutes he goes nuts, blasting thru every pattern he can think of and everything that had never occurred to him before, becoming more unhinged every minute. Halfway through the song the channel his guitar is on begins to phase and lose its top end: it’s as if he has finally, after 35 minutes, completely fried the channel of the board his amp is being fed through. The song ends pretty much the only way it could after everything that had come before, with a giant atomic explosion.”
So, naturally the question of the album’s impact leads Wayne to note, “I was preparing to start recording my first album when I first heard this (Crystalized Movements Mind Disaster, from 1983), and the lesson was clear and never forgotten: that the only reason to be holding an electric guitar is to absolutely go for broke at every opportunity. A little creativity and a total lack of restraint are the keys to magic.”
Wayne’s right, this one is a killer nugget that’s since been unearthed by a few outfits in the late nineties and currently sitting with a reissue on Lion Records, which makes scrounging for a copy less of an issue. As for Wayne’s own upcoming and current ventures, if you missed out on The Air Below earlier this year, its highly recommended that you look it up and Major Stars latest is one of their most ravaged and wrecked to date, an absolute necessity headed your way shortly via the good folks at Drag City.
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