As a rule of thumb, I will buy and enjoy any record by bands that remind me even slightly of Captain Beefheart. Edgar Broughton Band, Hampton Grease Band, Bloodloss, Sapat, etc. are all great. Portland, Oregon, band The Hellcows are also on the list. Like The U-Men (who they shared record labels with), The Hellcows’ singer does a pretty good Beefheart imitation. I’d also say they were less rooted in garage rock or The Birthday Party than the U-Men and more prone to art/noise spazziness. It’s not surprising that The Hellcows were also closely aligned with the great, long running Portland by way of the Los Angeles Free Music Society band, Smegma: Mike Lastra recorded them at Smegma Studios, and the two bands shared bills and released a split single.
The band comprised Brian Koelling (vocals, trombone, percussion), Gerry Ostrem (sax, guitar, harmonica), Eric Stotik (guitar, tape, percussion), Carl Annala (bass, guitar, percussion), and Mike King (drums, percussion), and their 1987 debut EP, G-Spot Crush, was so good that it was released twice by two different labels: Smegma’s Pigface Records (#12) and Black Label Records (based out of Fallout Records). Black Label then released the Toothless (BLR-005) full-length in 1988 and the Carrot Show EP in 1990. Fallout Records were selling copies of Toothless until they closed in 2003. Maybe the inside photo of two band member sporting White Zombie shirts scared off potential record buyers. I’m pretty sure Toothless also came out on tape, much like The U-Men’s Step on a Bug record. The band also released the Idiodyssey split single with Smegma in 1989 on Portland’s Rockport Records (#002, 950 pressed) and the Paver EP in 1991 on T/K records (TK917003). By the time of the Paver EP, Sean Croghan of Crackerbash/ Junior High was playing in the band. The band also appeared on a couple compilation records. They contributed the song "Shortnin' Bread" to SST's 1988 Melting Plot compilation, which also included songs by Sonic Youth, Das Damen, and Painted Willies, and they included the song "The Five" to Tulpa's 1990 Fog 3 EP (TP #11), which also included songs by Wayne Roger's amazing band, Crystalized Movements, way outside free jazzers Paul Flahery and Randall Colbourne, and the Larry Mondello Band.
Pre- and post-Hellcow history is a bit hard to find, but all of the band members were involved in many other bands or the Portland art/book scene. We sorely regret not mentioning Carl Annala’s brief involvement in Earth in our otherwise brilliant post and that the bands played some shows together. Carl and Eric also reunited in a band called Plastic Horn Devil (a nod to Captain Beefheart’s song “Telephone”), who put some cool records.
Since we are still feeling the Holiday spirit, we thought we would include the Hell Cows/Smegma split single as an extra gift to you. In a perfect world, there would be tens of thousands of blogs devoted solely to Wolf Eyes’ godparents, Smegma, but our society is just not there yet. We also relish at the opportunity to tell our great, great grandkids about the time we saw Smegma, Ghost, and Six Organs of Admittance at Chop Suey or Smegma and Caroliner at the Re-Bar. I’m sure they will be impressed.
*THIS JUST IN* You can buy the Fog 3 Comp here.
G-Spot Crush EP
Hellcows - "Black Pearl" (parts 1 and 2)
Smegma - "Tent"