Parasites of the Western World.

Post-Punk-Psychedelic Space from 1978

My wife, Kimberly Haas,  sent me a text message from a record store in New York City.

“We stopped in a used vinyl store.  What LP would earn this description?  “Fucked up longhaired love child of Chrome and Cluster from 1978.”   Hint: An obscure LP we used to play one track from on Diaspar”

It took me one second to text back: Parasites of the Western World.  The Cluster reference was misleading.  It should’ve been Neu!. And we actually played several tracks on Diaspar, a progressive rock show on WXPN from 1974-1989.  But that description instantly called to mind the 1978 album from a duo out of Portland, Oregon.  In those days when DIY was really DIY, the cover was just the bands name, with white on black lettering and the back cover featured two overly serious long-haired musicians slinging twin Gibson SGs and wearing very thick ski gloves that would not be conducive to playing the guitar.

Parasites of the Western World were mostly Patrick Burke and Terry Censky and they created a slab of post-psychedelic punk full of distorted guitars, squigly synths and metronome drumming, at least  when they weren’t playing dirges like “Funeral for a Mouse” and “God or Just a Slow Breeze.”  The Chrome reference is a good one for that Sex Pistols meets LSD  sound full of snarling feedback guitars and ominous vocals,and they wave their psychedelic flag with a cover of The Beatles’ “Flying,” but a more apt point of reference was the space-metal of Hawkwind.    Songs like “Mo” and and the multi-part “Accessories,” each with crushing grooves and wailing, blues-drenched acid guitar were at once dated and prescient in 1978.

The hit of the album, especially on Diaspar, was “You Must Be Joe King” a tab of doomy punk pop, with a persistant ostinato bassline and a  killer chorus that would’ve fit on  Radiohead’s OK Computer.  And then there are verses like:

I take my cats and dogs to doctors

They give them shots and feed them pills

They take me out for runs and walks

It’s up to them to pay the bills.

This album has never come out on CD, although you can buy a CDr and it’s on iTunes.  They released one more album, Substrata, a much more conventional rock affair and Burke apparently has some solo releases that I haven’t heard.  But if you want to slip one over on your arty alt-rock friends, slide this album onto the turntable, preferably on vintage vinyl from Criminal Records.  It was rough and ready, but listening back after 32 years, I’d still play it on the air.

John Diliberto ((( echoes )))

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2 Responses to “Parasites of the Western World.”

  1. Kimberly Haas Says:

    Well, I’m probably the last person in the world to figure this out (that is, the last one of the few who know the LP The Parasites of the Western World), but when I took a close look at the lyrics only recently, I suddenly realized:

    You Must Be Joe King = You Must Be Joking

    Hah!

  2. Patrick Burke Says:

    John, thanks for the great review!

    Kimberly, I’m Joe King.

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