(November 1978 thru January 1979)
Guitar and voice
Guitar, bass, and organ
Guitar, bass, and voice
Donna and Tara Sevakis:
XANADU was born out of the ashes of DESTROY ALL MONSTERS.
Exclusively a recording project only, XANADU managed to release one record
in it's short three month life span. A four-song 33 1/3 rpm 7" vinyl record titled
"BLACK OUT IN THE CITY"
"DAYS OF DIAMONDS"
A bootleg Destroy All Monsters EP, was released a few months prior by
members of XANADU. This record sported rough basement material from early
D.A.M. rehearsals, including a silly multitrack song of Laurence's recorded in 1977
at Cary Loren's request, called "There Is No End". If only it were true...
"BLACK OUT IN THE CITY"
Black Hole Records
Less than 10 records left!
BLACKOUT IN THE CITY
SWITCH THE TOPIC
Special Guest: Donna Sevakis
"LOST IN THE GROOVES"
Scram's Capricious Guide to the Music You Missed
by Matthew Smith / Fall 1996
XANADU Blackout in the City EP (Black Hole Records, 1979)
Detroit in the late seventies was an exciting, gloomy, demented void. It was the nuclear aftermath of the Motown era. You could hang out at Bookie's Club 870 and go to record stores where you'd meet all kind s of acid-blasted walking ghosts still recovering from the shock of seeing, or being in, The Stooges, MC5, Funkadelic or countless lesser-known groups. Great music existed, but it was destined to fall into the same black hole that had swallowed ? and the Mysterians. While Ted Nugent ruled the airwaves, people couldn't have cared less about "City Slang" by Sonic's Rendezvous Band. At a record convention in 1980, I came across strange magazines by the Ann Arbor-based collective DESTROY ALL MONSTERS. I already owned their "Days of Diamonds" EP, featuring founding member Cary Loren. Having read various accounts of his mysterious disappearance, I asked the guy behind the table, "Whatever happened to Cary Loren?" "I am Cary Loren," he replied. I told him how much I loved "Diamonds". He said, "If you like that, you'll probably like this" and handed me the XANADU EP. I think it cost $4.00.
XANADU featured Cary and longhaired siblings Larry and Ben Miller. The Miller brothers played in countless bands, including SPROTON LAYER (1969-70, with their brother Roger, who later formed MISSION OF BURMA). The XANADU record is all acid flashbacks, atom-age uneasiness, fuzz-guitar storms, slithering prog-grooves, and lyrics that describe a panorama of astral destruction.
In an interview (Yeti #1), Cary explains that the lyrics to "Blackout in the City" were inspired by a vision of "an expressionistic black Jesus dripping blood from the sky". Twenty years later, Cary Loren explores similar vibrations with acid-folk improvisers MONSTER ISLAND and a reunited DESTROY ALL MONSTERS. Still, nothing quite captures the "darkness before more darkness" that was Detroit at the end of the seventies, the way this vinyl artifact does.
Xanadu— No Change EP ( incorrectly titled )
But enough of the sleeve -- what does it sound like? Well, it begins with “No Change” as a pre-recorded toddler’s voice counts off “1-2-3-4”, but when the guitar bursts in like a twitching Ronnie Montrose overdosed on diet pills, the riffs come fast and furious and rock out to the max. As well they should, because they’re pushed up in the mix to dwarf everything but the Lou Reed vocals of Larry Miller who deadpans against his guitar riffs behind cool black shades. It really is one of the most unpredictable guitar lines ever as it stops, starts before it then begins all over again but never loses the rhythm for a second, which nearly herky-jerks itself off into a fit. It’s almost like Radio Birdman playing within a hollowed-out Rush exoskeleton -- but minus all the excruciating drum fills, temple bells, crotales and gong-agongs. The guitar is searching its pockets for yet another reason to riff on, and suspending disbelief, it manages to in the most incredible way. Miller searches his back pocket -- there’s another one! -- And from his left jeans pocket: another. It’s as though he had some many great ideas for riffs he couldn’t decide so compromised by chucking them all in and be damned with the consequences, which are awesome. Or he’s about to forget how to play guitar permanently by session’s end, so he’s got to get them all out right now. It’s a run on sentence of verbal guitar tersely reigned in against the pre-recorded rhythm guitar and faint drumming, which is bulldozed to the back wall. Oddly enough, “No Change” is the name of the song, and the lyrics are all checked off like a list: “No change in your pocket/No change in your mind/What’s the difference when you can’t decide?” He should know, as he can barely settle on two riffs for the song, so he trickily strings them all together. What did they treat the water supply of Michigan with -- amphetamines?!! Miller’s still singing behind his shades, interrupting his previous guitar line with yet another different one, and never once does it scatter into discord, but it dares to at any moment. Under-recorded handclaps then go neck and neck with an ever-stinging solo that stretches beyond the limits of its capabilities as it reaches out and throttles it out to the horizon of its eternal tangledness far beyond the fade out.
The other track on side one of this 33 1/3 EP is “Time Bomb,” a completely kettle of fish altogether. Least of all because Miller has now slowed his guitar down to a pimp walk with palms curled a good yard behind his back, threatening to grind them into the sleazy downtown pavement where he now shuffles. The vocals now sound not a bit Lou but strangely like his one-time Verve label mate Frank Zappa. It’s exactly the tone and meter of Frank’s near-spoken delivery on “Trouble Comin’ Every Day.” Ron Asheton also cops a credit on “Time Bomb” -- probably for the bomb explosion that occurs at the end of this burning fuse of a garage shuffle.
The flipside sees two further aspects of Xanadu with “Switch The Topic,” beginning with detuned noise guitar as Carey Loren drawls/drools into an over compressed microphone a conversation between himself and…himself. He doesn’t even try to change the voice of the other party who’s trying to crawl out of sticking to the facts as Loren even gets the lyrics wrong over doomy bass and swooping guitar interference: “No, I don’t think so...gimme a cigarette...Why don’t we change the subject?” ‘Subject’?! Wait a minute: what happened to ‘topic’? Why do I ask? Because that’s the name of the song!! He got his own lyrics wrong! Either that, or he’s changing the ‘topic’, er, I mean, the ‘subject’. This scores an immediate and direct hit to the heart of that rarest of classic rock’n’roll stoopiditty you gotta wait eons for it to finally hit. And when it does, you can almost see the world as being perfect if there were at least five equally as hilariously self-contained perfections of humour per hour!! Everyone could live in peace just busting a gut all day long! Oh, “Switch The Topic” is one fuckin’ funny, FUNNY moment and I wouldn’t trade it for an all-night hallucinogenic goose-greased broomstick ride with Liz Hurley, all expenses paid (And Miz Liz is the cat’s PJs, methinks.) And then pre-recorded tapes of applause, more strangled guitar noise and general white noise static are all thrown in as the (‘subject’ -- uh -- or the ‘topic’) changes by going down the drain with so much under-recorded feedback it sounds like you’re listening to it through a detached vacuum hose.
Concluding the EP is the elegiac “Blackout In The City” with the appearance of acoustic strumming and added electric guitar counterpoint over on a rafting of organ wafting as Rob King’s minimal drumming is rendered into an almost non-existent corner of the mix. It’s a sparse recollection of an urban nightmare as Loren mono(in)tones fragmentary lyrics of desolation as “the city’s dying slowly and the people left behind” where “the heat of night is frozen” within a calm garage enigma. A woman’s voice enters in and out, speaking snatches of indecipherable epigrams. The entire EP almost seems like something heard in a dream but no: it’s real. And to prove it, the matrix number is 0000.