Phil Dirt - Reverb Central - PO Box 1609, Felton, CA 95018-1609 USA
The Ultras - Surf Pop Sludgedotdotdotdot
artworkSan Francisco legend Eric Lenchner used to front this highly creative band. He was a member of SF post-punk pop legends the Readymades, hung with the Contractions, and was known in those heady days as Ricky Sludge. He played trumpet with Richard Berry at Maximum Louie Louie in 1983. Recreating himself in his own image, as he was likened to say, he was transformed into Vanilla Sludge in the early nineties, and founded the Ultras with "String" Bing Nathan and Trey "Cool" Sabotelli. String Bean plays the best upright bass this side of the Cadillac Angels' Mickey Rae, and Trey created the perfect backdrop for Eric's dementia to take flight from. This is a great surf based fanciful CD. It sports two vocals as only Sir Sludge can sing them. King Of The Sludge Guitar is a vocal track, sorta. Sludge takes a cue from the Dickster's self-celebrative epic. This isn't marred by silly girls, but does contain a chorus of sludgoid lyrics about the King of the Sludge guitar. Quite fun, though entirely too vocal. Like Duane Eddy on a boogie board with the boys at the tav' singing over their brew. Only Vanilla Sludge could celebrate himself with such tongue in cheek humor. No ego, just a good laugh. Head Cleaner is a chunky, bass perfection, menacing beach front erosion on the march. Like El Niño come to getcha. Free of melody, but highly effective from the route of it's relentless progression, and overlaid by almost early Amon Duul II-like vocals. Brooding and psychotic. This is a must have launch pad CD from a brilliant performer and writer.
Picks: Here Come The Sludge, Nice Face, Clean! Bright! Fresh!, Mambo Italiano, Magic Wand, Strait Arrow (Davie's Theme), The Bender, Death Tube, Night Walk / Night Run / Third Man Theme, Chickens On Parade, Sludge Beat, Pul-Say-Tor, Telstar

Track by Track Review

Here Come The Sludge dotdotdot
Fifties Twang (Instrumental)

This is a moderately interesting track, less melodic than any other track here. It has a fifties oriented twang, like a relatively calm Duane Eddy thing, with a very cool tribal break. I have to wonder why it opens the CD.

Nice Face dotdotdotdot
Ominous Surf Monster (Instrumental)

Evil dark surf sludge twang. This depends on string bending, and that ominous low-E drive. It is occasionally punctuated with "nice face" comments, which bring out the Vegas runway aspects of this very tribal and primal tune. It's hard not to like this, with it's power and major twang. The middle part is completely different, with a lighter, more delicate melody, and an almost playful lilt, just before it breaks into a heavy low-E twistorama of intense energy. This is an unusual and bitchin' track.

Clean! Bright! Fresh! dotdotdotdot
Surf Laundry (Instrumental)

Somewhere near the intersection of Aqua Velvets street and Cadillac Angels court, this fine left turn sports truly tribal mambo drums, perfecto upright bass playfulness, and feathery light damped guitar, punctuated by occasional words of laundry correctness from the title. Think of it as a party at the laundromat, a swaying line of domestics waiting for the dryer. Very cool. This should be on an ad for Tide.

Mambo Italiano dotdotdot
Mambo Surf (Instrumental)

Suave mambo exotica, slyly flowing from the guitar of Ricky Sludge. This would be quite acceptable at the prom, the debutante's ball, or the surf tavern. Very spiffy indeed.

Magic Wand dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

This was written for Dick Dale, when he was trying to record his Tribal Thunder album, and was still out of new ideas. Word on the street was that songs might get picked up if the writing jam wasn't cleared. Well, Dick never heard it, but then he also didn't write anything new. This is a double picked monster, with lots of flair and Sludgomatic flourishes, and halting drama. Powerful and filigree laden. Cool.

Strait Arrow (Davie's Theme) dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

This is dedicated to Davie Allan aka King Fuzz. It has that Davie Allan melody sense, but employs Sludge's reverby guitar. Like a prancing celebration from one of Davie's B-movie soundtracks, this laughs with you, and features Davie's signature end of the line whammy. Very cool nod, and I happen to know it was written with immense respect to King Fuzz.

The Bender dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Like an Eddie Angel / Los Straitjackets chicken yard marvel, this plays with your senses, dances on your brain, and shreds your seriousness. Fine playful, and perfect for the Mexican Wrestler crowd. Remember, this is 1993, before the Nashville cats overtook us.

Death Tube dotdotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

From the beginning rising notes that climb to a fever pitch of double picked power, this is a monster. Sludgoramic hugeness is everywhere. This is dangerous, evil, and like Link Wray on a 9'6 McCoy with his Fender after too much coffee. Very strong track! You're completely spent when it finally settles into it's dribbling break. You better rest fast, 'cause the mayhem hinted at by the dementia as the break ends is unavoidable when the song comes to a crashing end, or is it? Nope, there's manic reverb crashing yet to come, and another verse of the power melody. Finally, it settles to a swoosh of whitewater at the edge of the sand. Whew!

Night Walk / Night Run / Third Man Theme dotdotdotdot
Garage Grind Dementia (Instrumental)

Night Walk features slow stretched ringing chords, efficient use of notes a la Link Wray, and an evil minimal melody. Big time cool for cats danger. Then, like Rawhide, Night Run comes in and grinds the peace to a pulp with a relentless minimalist garage grind. As it comes to a close, it is met by a refrain from Night Walk. The melody line here is Reventlos twisted, making nightmares a real possibility. Then, another bout of Night Run. There's no rest for the wicked. A gentle dementia drops into a few licks of Third Man Theme under Eric's lamenting how he's too old.

Chickens On Parade dotdotdot
Thanksgiving Rock (Instrumental)

Like Los Straitjackets (before there was Los Straitjackets), this sports that Link Wray chicken pickin' thing. Eric intros it with "alright, let's cook the bird," and then it's off to the coop with you. Like Buck Owens at KFC.

Sludge Beat dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Like the back beat to La Paloma, this odd number double picks across the sand like a sandcrab, never finding the water, but avoiding becoming a seagull's lunch. Infectiously playful.

Pul-Say-Tor dotdotdotdot
Pulsating Danger (Instrumental)

Evil words of "Pul-Say-Tor" and dark heavily effected guitar tones, vibrato bass lines, and pulsating ominous darkness. No drums, just huge guitar and bass tones. As John Blair would say, "Gawd!" This is amazing and HUGE!

Telstar dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Monster effects, threatening globes overhead, and spinning guitar tones combine to completely change Joe Meek's intent. Lot's of bite and howling tone.