Agony Shorthand

Friday, March 11, 2005
ICKY BOYFRIENDS : "A LOVE OBSCENE" 2xCD....I'm sure you'll agree that if any band deserves the 2xCD retrospective treatment, it's the ICKY BOYFRIENDS, right? Long in the making, "A Love Obscene" compiles their "I'm Not Fascinating" LP, most tracks from their 45s, and the posthumous "Talking To You Is Like Being Dead" oddities LP collection. The band's freakshow was one of my favorite live rock experiences during the first half of the nineties, and while they were likely a "you had to be there, and be drunk" experience for many, their vinyl offerings were often a demented blast. I was asked to write some liner notes for this collection that were ultimately chopped -- so here they are for your perusal:

by Jay Hinman

I must have seen the ICKY BOYFRIENDS a good dozen-plus times, maybe twenty even, but two particularly notable occasions stand out. By coincidence or not, these happen to be the first and last times I witnessed their crash-and-flail symphony of developmentally-delayed sound. The first time was in 1990 at a decrepit junkie bar called the 6th Street Rendezvous, located in San Francisco’s absolute worst neighborhood, and where I’d recently been punched and kicked during a previous jaunt down the half-block gauntlet off the bus line. Obviously these boys had come recommended. I walked in at a precise moment so quintessentially ICKY that it seemed to have been choreographed for maximum effect. There was Jon Swift, white man’s afro piled to the heavens, poised in the middle of a blood-curdling woman’s scream (his own) during what I later found out to be the flimflammed-consumer ode “Pay and Pak”. Swift was just so out-and-out wrong for the part of the rock and roll front man that watching him brought me an immediate and overwhelming feeling of pure joy. Coming into focus soon thereafter were what looked to be a hippie playing bass – no lead guitar, just a thudding lead bass – and a fists-of-fury drummer in constant (albeit unnoted) danger of spraying his kit into six different directions at any time. This was certainly a band I needed to see more of – and did, semi-religiously, over the course of the next five years.

Flash forward to 1995. The Icky Boyfriends have recently “wrapped” their dramatic film debut and are hungry for big-ticket gigs, the likes of which they’ve unfortunately – and criminally – never experienced. Due to mutual admiration (true), they are asked by underground rock heavyweights Mudhoney to open for them at a San Francisco club owned and operated by one Boz Scaggs (also true). The results were, shall we say, very interesting. My best recollection, standing in the center of the crowd at about mid-floor, were a number of requests by the audience to, and I quote, “Get the fuck off the stage!” and “You fucking suck! Stop playing, NOW!”. Yet it was the longest, most wearying Icky Boyfriends show I’d seen (and I was a fan) – a good 90 minutes of stop/start sixty-second bass workouts, bizarre medleys, screams, interminable broken string interludes and straight-up bashing garage punk. It was as if the band had somehow sensed the crowd’s buzzing excitement for Mudhoney’s “imminent” arrival and used transference to channel it into their own on-stage mojo. At the set’s terminus, a shattered audience and broken band parted company, this time for good. I wonder: Did Jon, Shea and Anthony each sleep alone that evening? Hell, I doubt it. My friends didn’t always get the Icky Boyfriends, nor did the rock community at large, but you know what they say about misunderstood visionaries: “...but the little girls understand...”.