PAUL CARY - GHOST OF A MAN
stankhouse 2010, edition of ?
"Haunting, soulful, and honest, Paul Cary has stripped down garage rock to its purest, most vulnerable form, and created a truly amazing piece of work. This record will break your heart and shake your legs." - STANKHOUSE
"Chicago's Paul Cary knows a thing or two about grit. In his Iowa days, Cary was the front man for the seminal In The Red band The Horrors (not the UK band, the gritty garage rockers from the depths of Iowa). During that time, Paul Cary drove taxis, hopped trains from Iowa City to San Diego, worked the door at local dive bars and toured Europe with The Horrors. While on In the Red, The Horrors released two albums: 2000 self-titled recorded by Mike McHugh at the Distillery and 2004 Vent, recorded by both Mike at the Distillery and by Doug Easley and Greg Cartwright at Easley McCain Studios.
In 2005, Cary woke up, wised up, and moved all of his worldly belongings to Chicago. Once there, he buckled down, apprenticed with a carpenter, and continued to work on songs. With no band to support him, he enlisted the help of percussionist and engineer Johnathan Crawford (Head of Femur, William Elliott Whitmore, Grey Ghost, Tim Wehrle), and together they began to work out arrangements of new material. In late 2007, Paul and Johnathan set out to record Cary's first solo album, Ghost of a Man, with Mike Lust at Phantom Manor Studio, and Toby Summerfield joined on bass.
Ghost of a Man was later self-recorded and completed at Clown Town Studios in Chicago – basically a small room with some old mics and a tape deck, just the sound they were after. In total, the album took two years to record. Upon completion, Portland's Stank House Records offered to release the album on vinyl, Chicago's free music label Candy Dinner released it as a download. Stank House recently released a split 7" with Paul Cary and Thee Oh Sees, and it quickly sold out." - PAULCARYMUSIC.COM
there are discrepancies between what i know and what the internet says when it comes to GHOST - i was driving the hype train well before it hit the shelves, though i suspect it didn't hit many shelves - GUESTROOM OKC was probably one of a handful of shops that stocked the vinyl in the spring of 2010 - don't let discogs et al fool you on the physical release date - the STANKHOUSE vinyl wasn't available until CANDY DINNER offered a $12 pre-order (and free dl) in late march - i got my copy in early april - if i recall correctly it was briefly distributed by MIDHEAVEN that summer, but by the time we needed to restock it had already dried up
but if you dig around you will find that GHOST apparently existed as early as march 2009 as an abandoned digital only album on amazon via RECORDED RECORDS (?) - all i have on that is what PAUL CARY briefly summarized in an email that november - "my label and i had a falling out and i took the album off the web for a while"
"take my hands off the wheel / throw away my maps / give me somethin I can feel, honey / tie my hands off behind my back / drop me in the desert, baby / you can take off all my clothes / i wanna feel alive now, honey / i want to know where the coyotes go" - coyote
back it up a bit -- i had never heard of PAUL CARY until that emergent split ep with THEE OH SEES via STANKHOUSE in late 2009 - at the time i was a helpless JOHN DWYER fanatic - i had been hard selling THEE OH SEES to anyone who would listen for the previous year and a half - i bought that split without care or consideration for the flipside, then i -heard- the flipside and it seemed like the ground shifted beneath me - "coyote" very quickly became and still remains one of my favorite songs ever - i must've played CARY's side of that split fifty times before the year was out
"Formed when they were all just 18, The Horrors found a cure for their midwestern boredom: making obnoxious, intrusive rock n roll music. In your face and fucked up-this shit is harsh. They draw on the sounds they dig – Leadbelly, Sabbath, Dr Dre, Pussy Galore, Prince – the list goes on and on. The Horrors just wanna make a racket, kick ass and clean house. Hopefully they can make some people get up, shake their butts and stomp they feet too – this happens sometimes. Mostly people back away to the rear of the room to avoid physical injury or just stare dumbfounded." - IN THE RED
CARY's stint as frontman of the HORRORS -a raw bluesy garage punk outfit in the early 2000s- sets the scene for GHOST quite nicely - i was a big fan of ITR at the time and i still am to some degree, but the HORRORS were five years disbanded and all but forgotten by the time i found em, and probably not all that much unforgotten now, which is a shame because those HORRORS records are killer, in the vicinity of loud blistering (blues) punk legends the GORIES and the MUMMIES, but the HORRORS pursued the style to its implosive conclusion with such psychotic farm boy rock n roll fervor as to challenge everything this side of the the KEGGS "to find out" and TRASHMEN's "surfin bird" and the LEGENDARY STARDUST COWBOY's "paralyzed"
"this Cedar Rapids terror unit was the beast to be reckoned with before Black Lips flower plowered their way through the 00s. a safe bet that this self-titled LP is probably responsible for getting John Dwyer out of his pink pajama/art-school noise bands and off emulating the BFTG series, more than anything. The band seemed so broken, tired and pissed, I feared that they'd phone it in or pack it up. Not the case. Front mouth Cary was yelping away over a creaky blues chord, barely facing the mic. Guitarist and drummer held back, awaiting Paul's command to explode. A full thirty seconds or so into that first song, it blew up - real good. The small crowd backed up for fear of losing teeth. This is how the evening rang out. Every song was a verse / chorus / collision, then pray enough gear was left working in the rubble to make it to the bottom of the set-list. This is not an exaggeration. One of the greatest and most terrifying show-going experiences I've ever had." - ROB VERTIGO, TERMINAL BOREDOM
but the HORRORS in all their overlooked glory weren't enough - so as i mentioned i contacted CARY that november concerning GHOST as found nominally on amazon - he briefly explained said limbo and mailed me a cdr of GHOST under one condition - "i could burn you a copy if you promise to play it for everyone you know" - so i did
"all those punk rock lies i told myself / wish i would've told em to someone else" - the curse of china bull
i was floored when i first heard GHOST - it vastly exceeded my cursory tagline "country fried TY SEGALL" as if CARY desert-wandered and soul-searched in the aftermath of recording some of the best sides ITR ever cut, then emerged with this sound of a hard headed snot nosed punk who is older and wiser and has the scars to prove it - what stands out about CARY's solo recordings is how much he pours into it, perhaps inspired by copious amounts of SON HOUSE and HANK WILLIAMS - to be sure, CARY's sound is such an earnest expression of roots music that to some extent it -becomes- roots music - like CCR's instant nostalgia and SPRINGSTEEN's intimate reflection on NEBRASKA, those songs existed in spirit long before they were ever recorded, and that same spirit haunts GHOST
"i've been playing with magnets, thinkin bout things that i can't see" - iryna
"slow-burn rockabilly with Cary's sneer pasted all over it, then this raggedy-ass sax solo comes skronking along in the middle like a drunken noir soundtrack, rough, dirty and full of bitter soul, running on fumes, blistered-fingers blues, all ruckus and drooling static, electrifying without losing that ragged songwriter's heart. he takes the spirit of the music that influences him and filters it through the aesthetic he knows and loves, resulting in these bloody-edged songs that sound alive and essential. It's the same trick that Greg Cartwright pulls off time and again, and it's no small compliment to say that Cary's work on this album is right up there with the best of Cartwright's." - SAM OLSON, BEATS PER MINUTE
sure, CARY gives favored clever, rugged and wry songwriters GREG CARTWRIGHT (of REIGNING SOUND and OBLIVIANS fame) and JAMES TOTH aka WOODEN WAND a run for their hard earned hard luck money - CARY's breathless rambling and woozy howling runs on a similar mixture of heart, soul and booze, strained through a mud-covered mic - GHOST was an undeniable instant classic to my ears, and apparently ripe for the taking - a lost album of sorts in search of a label - i tried and failed to get GUESTROOM to seize the opportunity - shortly thereafter GHOST landed in STANKHOUSE's lap - i never found out how many they pressed, maybe 500, maybe less, i'd probably take the under - still, i was a bit surprised to find the last one on discogs sold for $100 - not that i wouldn't pay that
"punk rock started dyin on the day day she started tryin / but i never really cared much at all / cause i'll be singin in my casket, stompin my foot and fingers snappin / no i never really cared much at all / yeah sometimes it seems it's just the same with all these scenes / and it don't matter which one you choose / soon as somethin starts a happenin, you better make room for the chain reactions / oh yeah good ideas get bought and abused" - yes machine
thing is, there never was a happenin - consider split juxtaposition with THEE OH SEES, who have a rather popular lineage of influences, predecessors, contemporaries and followers, some courtesy DWYER's label CASTLE FACE, as part of a scene that helped shape DWYER and vice versa - on the flipside, music like CARY's is scarce, isolated and disparate - i've long been searching and have little to show for it - there's WOODEN WAND, but that comparison only goes so far - GREG ASHLEY's MEDICINE F*CK DREAM and MARK ALEXANDER MCINTYRE's GRAPES and DONOVAN QUINN's YOUR WICKED MAN cut closer in some ways, as does IRMA VEP's recent masterpiece NO HANDSHAKE BLUES [REC# 186] - more weirdo stuff like DAN MELCHIOR and SPENCER DOBBS [REC #116] and JOE KILE [REC #78] can help fill out a riyl profile but that's already pushing it - there's no scene, no chain reaction - hell, BISHOP PERRY TILLIS is third on CARY's last fm similar artists page -- it's this anti-legacy of sorts -unfortunate though it may be by some measure- that i think helps make this stuff exceptional, discouraging those who lack conviction and fueling those who do while protecting these vulnerable outsider sounds from getting "bought and abused"
"it's a classic tale of good versus evil / and it starts and it ends with just two people / and i wouldn't blame y'all or stop you from snoring / if it wasn't for the devil the bible would be so boring / can you imagine for a minute what it would be like / if everyone was good and everyone was nice / they'd say 'how's your day', 'just great, why do you ask' / 'they're all pretty much the same, just the same as the last' / so burn your books and put your movies on magnets / think i already know just how it's gonna happen / in a town so hard to touch, tell me, how does it feel / if it stings and it burns then you know it's real / bad people make the world go round" - bad people
GHOST's exhibition of busted-up garage rock, drunken rockabilly stomp and countrified blues punk came and went for most who bothered to noticed, i'm sure, maybe earning a spot on a year end list then out with the old and in with the new - i imagine few were still regularly blasting their STANKHOUSE vinyl the following spring - i went to sxsw 2011 with CARY at the top of the list - it was a gold mine of cool free shows - OH SEES, TY, MOON DUO, SUN ARAW - a good year to see those bands for sure, but i have forgotten most of that trip except CARY's performance at TRAILER SPACE, which remains crystallized in my mind
there were maybe 20 people there, including employees and the band -an anti-power trio of sorts with CARY on guitar/vocals, dude on hammond (?), dude behind a bare bones drum kit- it was so damn good that we were painfully disappointed when we listened to GHOST on the road back to OKC --thankfully that faded as time wore on-- if i ever had to pick a least favorite song on GHOST it would have to be "yes machine" and yet they made it sound like the best song on the album that day - and then there's no words for how good "coyote" was - they dragged the tempo extra hard, the drums were explosive, CARY slowly backed away from the mic as he howled, intuitively using the acoustics of that stuffy claustrophobic shop - you could have heard a pin drop on the hot cement floor
he played three new songs, eventually appearing on CARY's sophomore album COYOTE, which rather coolly does not reprise the eponymous song which ignited this whole thing - he ended the set with "don't kiss me" (title unknown at the time), which i described as "a killer down-and-out ballad, he said he was gonna get personal, standout lyric 'all the tail i'd been chasin' / turned out to be my own'" - a perfect song to close a perfect set
there aren't many live shows that rise above "drink a beer, have a cool time" level -- SLEEP spring 2013 at 35 denton (hangin with EXPO 70 and PALLBEARER) was downright religious, MT EERIE fall 2012 at the opolis during a thunderstorm was rapturous, EXPO 70 spring 2013 at stash was transcendental - CARY spring 2011 at sxsw is right there with em
after the show i talked with CARY a bit - he said a new album was in the works, three years later COYOTE was released digital only - in january 2015 CARY's facebook said COYOTE vinyl and a GHOST repress would happen that summer, with a new album shortly after that - sadly none of that came to pass - sometime between then and now CARY moved to portland i think - to be honest i haven't closely followed since COYOTE came and went, a fine album in its own right, but he might have used up all his magic on GHOST, which is quite alright by me - most never manage a song the likes of "coyote" let alone an album the likes of GHOST