The Second Disc

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Review: Hackamore Brick, “One Kiss Leads to Another”

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Hackamore BrickFor the title of their 1970 album on the Kama Sutra label, the members of Hackamore Brick opined that One Kiss Leads to Another.  One album clearly didn’t lead to another, though, as the four-man Brooklyn band didn’t release more music until 2009 – and even then, with only two of the founding members.  Yet Hackamore Brick’s one and only record has grown in stature over the years, well-regarded in cult circles for its proto-punk, Velvet Underground-like mood.  Real Gone has just reissued One Kiss Leads to Another in a beautifully remastered, expanded edition, revealing it as one cult curio that defies easy categorization.

On One Kiss Leads to Another, minimalist folk-rock guitars coexist with laconic, Lou Reed-meets-country vocals, ragged harmonies, and Doors-like keyboard textures.  As produced by Richard Robinson, it has a lo-fi, primal sound that was in marked contrast to that of the band’s Kama Sutra labelmates.  Tommy Moonlight (guitar/keyboards/vocals), Chick Newman (guitar/keyboards/vocals), Robbie Biegel (drums) and Bob Roman (bass) were signed by Kama Sutra when the label was seeking to diversify from the likes of the 1910 Fruitgum Company and the Ohio Express.  Bubblegum, this is not.

It’s hard to avoid Velvet Underground comparisons, particularly to the group’s self-titled third album.  Yet Hackamore Brick’s songwriting team of Newman and Moonlight claimed to have finished writing before ever hearing of Lou, Maureen, Sterling and company.  Nonetheless, Newman’s dry, deadpan vocals recall Reed’s, while the hypnotic drone of many songs here echoes the Velvets’ approach, too.  As much as the Velvets themselves, though, One Kiss Leads to Another brings to mind disciples like Television and The Modern Lovers.  Hackamore Brick’s simple rock-and-roll circa 1970 sounds, today, almost shockingly ahead of its time, and not too far from today’s crop of low-key indie rockers, either.   But if commercial pop or rock was the aim, it apparently didn’t come easy to Moonlight and Newman.  Much of the album sounds like the work of two creative, energized young men trying hard – and failing – to write pop hits.  (Even The Velvet Underground was pursuing a more accessible direction at the time with the eponymous album and follow-up Loaded.)   Hackamore Brick’s gloriously offbeat failure, though, was unquestionably an artistic success for underground rock.  It’s easy to see why crate-diggers have conspiratorially spoken of One Kiss Leads to Another as a must-listen.

Hit the jump for a closer look at One Kiss Leads to Another!

Though Hackamore Brick hailed from the mean streets of New York (as depicted on that striking and hip cover), there’s a beguiling, youthful innocence behind the often-oblique lyrics.  (That alone differentiates the group from the Velvet Underground!)  Darkness lurks around the edges of otherwise-mellow tracks like the album-opening “Reachin’.”  Newman’s elegiac melody and the ragged harmony vocals contribute to an atmosphere of paranoia:  “What will you do when they’re comin’ after you, tellin’ you to move?  Start hidin’…”  Haunting, spare and atmospheric arrangements color Moonlight’s “Got a Gal Named Wilma,” Moonlight and Bob Roman’s “Peace Has Come,” and Newman’s “And I Wonder.”  The latter builds to an extended keyboard jam-freakout, and makes it one of the few tracks on One Kiss that seem of its time; others, like “Zip Gun Woman,” sound straight out of the CBGB’s scene of a few years later.

The title of Moonlight’s “Oh! Those Sweet Bananas” proves that the band’s proclivity for offbeat turns of phrase didn’t end with the name Hackamore Brick.  The girl group-esque title One Kiss Leads to Another is drawn from this song which might have been a good candidate for single release.  At under 2-1/2 minutes’ length, “Bananas” is the kind of pop that Frank Zappa might have been proud of:  “Papa owned a business selling fruits and vege-tables/The old man, he was lonely, there was nobody to eat his apples…”  Perhaps, too, it’s the only pop song to attempt a rhyme of vegetables and apples!  Musically, it’s a stripped-down variation on fifties R&B.  That connection is underscored by a rough-and-tumble, aggressive cover of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller’s Coasters hit “Searchin’” which underplays the familiar “Gonna find her” refrain.  “Searchin’” was released as a single only, and it’s included here as one of three bonus tracks.

Tommy Moonlight’s “Radio” was released by Kama Sutra on a promotional single: “It’s so groovy, you can sit yourself down, tune into your favorite station, get in some good relaxation as you listen for dedication that you called in to the radio.”  With its “AM, FM, all day, all night radio” chorus, it begins as lyrically bizarre as Brian Wilson’s mid-seventies D.I.Y. music-making – think “Solar System” or “Johnny Carson.”  But the song gets unexpectedly stranger when a drag race ensues with an off-putting result. “Finger” and “window” get rhymed (!) and “Radio” has become a “death disc” that never was.  It’s a memorable, almost-commercial track with just the right amount of depraved kookiness.  The boogie-woogie piano on Moonlight’s “I Watched You Rhumba” (“You got a heart sweet as country cider, and you know the sun shines brighter whenever you’re around”) adds another instrumental color to the mix.

In addition to “Searchin’,” producers Gordon Anderson (for Real Gone) and Rob Santos (for Sony) have included the promotional single of “Radio” b/w “Rhumba.”  All three bonus tracks are in punchy mono.  The former emphasizes the vocals a bit more, and the piano sounds more subtle on the latter.  The single of “Radio” is a particularly welcome inclusion here, seeing as the lyrics are somewhat difficult to decipher on the proper album thanks to a muddy mix frequently obscuring them.  The mix also features a pronounced use of stereo panning.

The raw, unpolished sound of Hackamore Brick may have been too outré for Kama Sutra, but it shouldn’t be missed by those listeners willing to take a walk on the wild side.  This slow-burning New York underground classic has come into its own with Real Gone’s stellar reissue, impeccably remastered by Vic Anesini.  Tony Rettman has supplied new liner notes to top off the package, assessing it as a favorite album of his while acknowledging its “peculiar – and sometimes gritty – edge.”  That edge sets it apart from virtually every other genre occupying the Top 40 in 1970, and as such, it’s worth exploring for the musically adventurous out there.  Though undoubtedly a rock curiosity, One Kiss just might lead to a new favorite album.

You can order One Kiss Leads to Another here!

Written by Joe Marchese

July 12, 2013 at 11:43

Posted in Hackamore Brick, Reissues, Reviews

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5 Responses

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  1. Just got this the other day. I’ll be honest: Until I read the announcement of this reissue here on Second Disc a while back, I had ZERO clue who the hell Hackamore Brick were–even though I was born and raised in their neck of the woods in the late ’60s. Go figure. But after listening to samples, I decided to take the plunge. Yes, indeedy, they sure do sound a LOT like “Loaded”-era Underground on many of the songs. Maybe coincidence (like the members seem to claim), maybe not. Who knows? But the similarity is definitely there. That aside, though, I was surprised at how good much of the material is. Well constructed and very melodic. The remastering, as I have come to expect from Real Gone and Vic Anesini, is absolutely top-notch. I’m not sure if this will ever be in regular rotation at my place, but it is a quality ’70s pop/rock record that’s clearly good enough to warrant rediscovery by many more discerning rock lovers.

    Chief Brody

    July 12, 2013 at 12:30

    • Where were you able to hear samples of this CD? I’ve been waiting for them to post on Amazon and they still aren’t up.

      Zubb

      July 12, 2013 at 13:14

  2. CD Universe has samples of the whole album. Best Buy Online may as well. Before that, I checked out some promo footage posted on YouTube. FYI, in my experience, CD Universe often (but not always) has clips up before Amazon, for some reason. Hope this helps.

    Chief Brody

    July 12, 2013 at 15:05

    • Thanks for the tip

      Zubb

      July 12, 2013 at 22:20

  3. “Got a Gal Named Wilma” is on Rhino’s 1985 vinyl “Nuggets Volume Five: Pop, Part III.” The liner notes by Harold Bronson are as follows: “While Hackamore Brick’s ‘Got a Gal Named Wilma’ dates from 1971, it easily could pass as a 1960s artifact. Among the more obscure groups present [on my LP], their only LP aroused some attention from Richard Meltzer’s rave review in Rolling Stone, when he likened their sound to that of the Zombies. Says Richard, ‘Live, they were more guitar heavy, and had a sound that was like an early 60s psychedelic band. The fact that they couldn’t find a regular drummer probably prevented them from playing much outside of Brooklyn.'”

    Nuggets Fan

    July 13, 2013 at 17:03


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