Category: Recordings

What follows are the original liner notes that Bags producer/live soundman extraordinaire Carl Plaster wrote for the band’s self-titled sophomore LP, which, in case you weren’t paying attention, is now available in CD and digital formats with bonus tracks via Stanton Park, CD Baby, and iTunes. While they might be dated, I think these liner notes important, historical documentation of the making of the record and the state of The Bags at the time the record was made. It stands as a fun read; when I transcribed it recently, I included everything except for the cheeb stains on my copy’s dust jacket. Take it away, Carl…
Tim Kelly, WMBR’s Late Risers’ Club

Carl Plaster (and Lou Giordono, left) recording The Bags second album at Fort Appache, 1989

I fucked up. I should have kept my big, fat mouth shut, but I didn’t. I was talking with the guys about cover art and stuff during one of those ominous band meetings when I suggested that they ought to have some liner notes. Jon, in an act of infinite wisdom sadism, suggested that I be responsible for them. I don’t know where my mind was, no doubt thinking more about the lack of good snacks in their apartment or something, but for the life of me I can’t think of how I ever agreed to do this. In any case, I committed, so here I am, filling space while you are hopefully kicking back and enjoying this bub.

I guess you could say that these liner notes are part of what can almost be called an “Anti-CD” package. There’s no question that CD’s sound great, but don’t you think the packaging really sucks? The fact is, as far as cover art is concerned, you can have a lot more fun with a 12″ piece of cardboard than a 5″ jewel box, and with the record companies making fewer and fewer LP’s and more and more CD’s, the chance of coming across packages like Billion Dollar Babies, Quadrophenia, or even Zen Arcade seem less and less likely. With that in mind, the band wanted to make the most of the 12″ format, seeing as there’s no way of knowing how long said format will continue to exist. It’s a scary thought – a world without vinyl. So as part of this “pursuit of a package”, I’m writing this blurb for you folks. With that explained, I might as well get on to the music.

The guys didn’t want to print lyrics, but I had to make some sort of reference to the songs, so I figured a quickie running commentary might do the trick, while also giving you a little insight into the method behind the mess. So here goes…

BAGPIPE Nice “off and running…” sort of start. Simultaneously self-explanatory and nonsensical. You figure it out. I assume all the responsibility for the cannon shit at the beginning.

EVIL WaffleAss toms by Ludwig, wash cycle by Maytag. I know there’s a guitar in there somewhere, but I sure as hell can’t find it. Subsequently I remixed the song, cranked up the “Gi-tahh’s” and made the whole thing sound a lot raunchier, but the guys couldn’t get themselves to part with the stuipid-sick toms and the neat-o flange, so the original mix stands. What the hey, it’s a pop song. Line item veto courtesy of Crispin.

BEAUTY OF THE BUD Motthava’s (see end of liner notes) worst nightmare come to life. Destined to take its place amongst such classics as “Tom Dooley” and “Cum-Bay-Ya” as one of the favorite campfire songs of all time.

ATOMIC COCONUTS “Take two point fiiiiiive…” Can’t offer much of a defense for this one, it’s pretty silly, no two ways around it. Cool headphone stuff, in any case.

DROPOUT Crispin’s guitar, which has been laying low since getting the shaft on “Evil”, comes roaring out of the background and basically squashes everything in its path, meaning drums, vocals, bass, engineers’ eardrums, whatever. Eq’d and mixed for maximum pain, only a true maso can listen to this one cranked.

RIP YOU DOWN A gem of a non-sequitor, a “kinder, gentler” alternative to ending the side with “Dropout”, which would’ve been way too obvious.

DUMMY Who said Mountain didn’t influence anyone? Nice Gargle-matic vocals in part two.

THOUSAND ACRE WOODS Taken literally, you’d think it was about a plane crash, but it’s not. Besides, after Bloodrock and Lockerbie there’s no sense in trying to get any more mileage out of the “plane” angle but that’s another story. Anyway, this is about as ponderous as it gets, folks, but then again there’s Barb Jones.

SUPERPOWER A first taker, with vocals overdubbed later. Truly bizarre guitar sound, eh? Thanks to Joe Harvard for the fuzz boxes. Don’t sweat the indecipherable lyrics, they’re buried for a reason.

TAKE IT OR LEAVE IT Angst-ridden Odorono, fer sure. Seriously, though, while the other Plum studios stuff (Atomic Coconuts, Rip You Down, Thousand Acre Woods) was done in one or two takes, this one took like seven or eight. Don’t ask me why.

CLOSER THEN Power ballad, yes. Standard fare, no way. Plunkmaster bass tone thanks to a vintage Epiphone bass with old strings. On this one, Crispin is added to the long list of distinguished “Axemen” ( you’ve got to use the quotes when you use Berklee jargon) who’ve utilized the much ballyhooed Fort Apache electric sitar (it’s a Coral of course). At first, I thought the sitar was a sucky idea, but what can I say, I was wrong.

SWOG Last but definitely not least. When in doubt, pile it on and pile it on thick! With the overdub count reaching Stasiumesque proportions, Lou was definitely earning his pay on this one. Actually, it took three of us to run the mix when you get right down to it. Special guests Swamp Oaf appear courtesy of Stanton Park records. How convenient.

Well, that just about does it for the music. For those of you who bought this expecting “Rock Starve – The Sequel”, this record might be a bit of a shock, and it’s meant to be. One of our goals was to explore some new territory with the songs and the sounds, and to try to go easy on the generic AOR sonic boom. Combating potential aural monotony was easy, since the songs were pretty dissimilar to begin with, and on top of that they were recorded at three different places. With the exception of a few that shall remain nameless, the songs were each mixed in a couple of hours to keep them sounding fresh and loose.

Let’s see, what else is there… Gear! Actually, I’m not much of a fan of those celebrity equipment lists you see in the music mags, but there are some interesting events involved as well as some interesting toys, so why not?

Right before we were due to record at the Fort last June, Jim had his drums stolen out of the van, and had to scramble to buy a set of used Ludwigs to track with. A few months later, just before we went in to record at Plum, I found most of Jim’s stolen drums at an outdoor flea market out by Great Woods. As cheesy and trashed as they are, they’re still pretty great, and getting them back was a serious psychological boost. Not surprisingly, we used them for the Plum stuff.

Jon played a variety of basses, partially due to the fact that his Squier Jazz bass bought the farm during that midair collision at Citi, and also because there was a lot of fun stuff lying around the Fort, and we couldn’t just let it sit there. Just for the record, there was the Squier Jazz, a Gibson Thunderbird, a ’64 P-bass, an old Epiphone like Colin Moulding played in the “Urggh!” movie, a Guild acoustic bass, and a Guild Starfire that Drew Townson aptly named the Electric Tuba.

Crispin pretty much stuck to his guns, that being the strat thru Marshall and oddball Peavy cabinet.

The tracks were recorded at Fort Apache in Cambridge, Plum Studios in Newburyport, and Downtown Recorders in Boston. Everything except “Rip You Down” was mixed at the Fort at various times over the last few months. The Plum sessions served as a promising introduction to Neve recording (beware Barb Jones). Thanks to Richard Teigen at Plum for getting the job done fast.

Special thanks also go to Drew Townson for recording the majority of the vocals on the Plum stuff (at Downtown Recorders), as well as mixing “Rip You Down” in ultra-cool minimalist fashion. Keep your eyes open for Drew on the upcoming Foul Balls release, and also keep your eyes open for Motthava, the unsuspecting studio assistant who had a bit too much of the hi-test during one of those all-niters at Newbury, and hasn’t been seen since. “I felt torn and I felt spun…” While on the subject of Newbury, thanks for the warm hospitality Ken.

And of course, thanks to Lou for gargantuan technical and creative input on this thing (that means doing a lot of engineering, mixing, and critiquing). We would have been in big trouble if he hadn’t been in on it from the start.

Informative thanks to Emily for telling me about that movie with the guy dressed up like a box of Cream Of Wheat during the dream sequence. I haven’t found it but I’m still looking.

At the risk of making a clichéd, philosophical statement, this record is dedicated to the notion that no matter how seriously the average buff takes his music, it’s only rock music, and you can’t take it all that seriously.

For those of you who have been waiting for this slab, sorry it took so long, and for the uninitiated, welcome. But enough of the pointless rambling. I’m outta here. Oh yeah, one more thing. Do yourself a favor and don’t ask Pete Ryan about tape worm stories. You’ll wish you hadn’t.


Carl Plaster

Mount Rockmore

Recorded and mixed by Carl Plaster and Devin Charette at Mad Oak, Allston, MA, 2006-2007. Complete lyrics included.

Track listing: Tick Panic / Head On Sideways / Saddle Up Your Ass / That’s Right (He Died) / Radio Tower / Eye of the Goat / Mongolian She-Devil / High and Mighty / She Loves Cold Tongue / Green Maiden / I Really Wanna Go / Banana Peel / Dark Days in the Valley / Mount Rockmore

Buy it now at CD BABY or at Stanton Park or download it from iTunes

“The dubious marriage of punk and metal has produced some of the most horrid music to ever be inflicted upon human ears. But the few bands that get it right tend to really get it right. I mean, come on: fucking Turbonegro! I put The Bags in the same category. If Mount Rockmore fails to fill you with delight, if it does not quickly compel you to jack up your volume knob to neighbor-enraging decibels, I’ve got to wonder if you’re really capable of enjoying good music.

Of course we’re talking about the Boston Bags – famed for their late ’80s/early ’90s output and their considerable influence on Beantown punk-metal. They were broken up for a long time. Well, they’re back. Mount Rockmore is their second post-reunion album, and it’s just fucking great. Welding the thunder rock stylings of Sabbath, Motorhead, KISS, Dio, the Nuge, and Spinal Tap to the hard-slamming aggression of old school punk, this album has me banging my head and hoisting the horned-hand from start to finish. And while these guys have a great sense of humor and quite a flair for the comedic aspects of operatic metal, there’s nothing ironic about their commitment to rocking out. They genuinely love this music and play the hell out of it! Full of bonecrushing riffs, pummeling drum work, and kick-ass guitar shredding of the first order, this is the kind of record that would have had me drooling in awe when I was 12. The trio’s playing is tight and powerful; the songs are punchy and surprisingly hooky. I can just imagine Butt-Head telling Beavis, ‘This is the greatest album in the history of albums.’

Humorously rehashing medieval rock themes of epic quests and fantastical adventures, Mount Rockmore suggests what Tenacious D might be if they weren’t a joke band. Except The Bags are funnier. ‘She Loves Cold Tongue’ is about a girl whose interest in exotic foods is limited to one delicacy, while ‘Banana Peel’ is about the grave dangers of, uh, a banana peel. Surely The Bags are the only band I know of that are singing songs about Mongolian she-devils, killer ticks, and green maidens with sinister hypnotic powers. The title track is the sort of grand manifesto you rarely hear in today’s rock:

With Sherpas for roadies
We ascend and take the stage
And hail the gathered multitudes below

With the strength of the Saquatch
The widsom of the sage
We unleash an avalanche of rock and roll!

Is there really anything more that needs to be said?” -Lord Rutledge, NOW WAVE WEB-ZINE

Sharpen Your Sticks

Our first full length release after a 13 year hiatus! Sharpen Your Sticks contains 15 songs recorded by Carl Plaster at Mad Oak Studios in Allston.

Track listing: Bucket of Blood / Believer / Babbling Cadaver  / Here Come the Creeps / Want It All / Cavemen Rejoice / The Footprint / Thank You / Ivan The Terrible / Unbelievably Cool / Me Dumb / Ass Kicker / Gargoyle / Unlock the Cage / Anemone

Read all about it – here.

“Cavemen Rejoice” – from Sharpen Your Sticks – is featured in the hit PlayStation 2 video game Guitar Hero.

You can buy Sharpen Your Sticks online – either at Stanton Park , or CD Baby . Or buy it on iTunes.

The Boston Phoenix says:
“Along with Bullet LaVolta, the Bags are the band most often credited (or blamed, in some circles) for introducing punk metal to Boston. Which means that they don’t have to worry too much about their sound having gone out of style since they last rocked. In fact, to a large extent, the new CD picks up where 1991’s Night of the Corn People left off. There is a key difference, though: the CD of Corn People had 13 songs and ran 69 minutes. (Granted, one of those songs was “Waiting for Maloney,” the first and only lengthy rock opera about commuting from Allston to rehearse.) The new disc serves up 15 songs in 36 minutes: the sound is still metallic, but the songs are all punchy and punky. Meanwhile, the lyrics from Wood and Hardy amount to a puncturing of metal’s ponderous tendencies. Imagine the post-therapy self-loathing of Metallica’s St. Anger played for laughs and you’d have the Bags’ “Believer” or “Ass Kicker” (“You’re gonna kick my ass, that I do know — Kung Foe”). So forget about this being just a respectable comeback and call it the Bags’ best album. Period.” -Brett Milano

Track listing: Amsterdamned / The Mole / September / A Pile of Money / Covered Up / Who’s Laughing Now / Naked Lady / I Smell A Rat / Movin’ To The Country / Barb Jones / L. Frank Baum / Matter of Time / Hey Maloney / The Shower / Refrigerator Song / In My Headphones / Meanwhile / Maloney’s Trip / The Grand Mythooza
Bonus Tracks: Dr. Lb. / Frilly Underwear

You can buy Night of the Corn People at CD Baby or Stanton Park . Or buy it on iTunes.

“The Mole” – from Night of the Corn People – is featured in the film Air Guitar Nation (2007), and “I Smell A Rat” is covered by Sebadoh on the album Harmacy (1996).

Originally released by Stanton Park Records just prior to the band’s extended 12 year vacation, Night of the Corn People was described at the time as “a feast of a set which contains enough hardcore guitar overkill to satisfy most heavy guitar rock fans, enough strange poetic weirdness and odd signatures to have children of the psychedelic revolution revolving in their jelly baths, and just enough rock-operatic genius to satisfy the self-seeking progressive lovers of ‘serious’ rock & roll” (Phil McMullen, Ptolemaic Terrascope, April 1992).

This reissue includes bonus tracks and a 12-page booklet featuring old and new cover art, liner notes, lyrics and photos.

More press from 1992:

“No-one worships the god-like riff like Boston’s Bags. Theirs, as in “Amsterdamned,” is the neo 70’s riff that conclusively proves that Jimmy Page is dead…They are so tight they shit diamonds” (Gecko, Hartbeat #14).

“It’s simply a fun, fun, fun record. It’s got oodles of grungy guitar, some ripping solos, rollicking drum beats and dizzying tempo changes, cool lyrics, and even a mini-opera entitled “Waiting for Maloney,” which sounds like The Dead Milkmen doing “A Quick One” on the fourth side of the “White Album” (Michael Jordan, The Noise #115).

“Like all of their other stuff it’s fast, loud and a shitload of fun. Punk, pop, garunge and even a bit of metal are all tossed together with some biting lyrics to create that unique sound of The Bags. Once you’ve heard them, it’s hard not to recognize this band upon the next listen” (What Wave #21).

“It’s prime Bags at their very most powerful, and when they’re in that kind of mood, with the vocals bashing out rasps that sound like terrapins in a miked-up muesli grinder and the guitars switching between early Blue Cheer sonic thuds and way overblown laser-beam solos, there ain’t a band still around to touch them” (Phil McMullen, Ptolemaic Terrasope V3#2).

“The Bags have called it quits, but not without leaving us almost a double album’s worth of their grungy, hard-rocking best. Night of the Corn People is a perfect swan song because it fuses the best elements of The Bags sound – from the metallic punk of 1987’s Rock Starve to the power-trio jamming of 1990’s The Bags, with a stop along the way (after winning the 1989 Rumble) to indulge their experimental alter egos on Swamp Oaf (all available on Stanton Park Records, except for Rock Starve on Restless). Their lack of commercial success is probably due in part to the musical experiments and the sometimes morbid, sometimes bizarre sense of humor that make this final disc so entertaining.

“The Bags have always had the feel of a true garage band in the very best sense of the word: they sound as if they’d grown up together, listening to the same records and one another for so many hours on end that every move becomes instinctive. The sources might be elemental – the Stooges, Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, The Sex Pistols – but you can’t be taught to play together the way The Bags did, fusing hard rock, heavy metal, and punk into music that leans toward the dark, sometimes paranoid sensibility of the Stooges (“Naked Lady” could be Iggy circa Lust for Life) and Motorhead (“I Smell a Rat”). For the most part the Bags stake out their own territory with songs like “The Mole” (a Kafka-esque tale of a man turning into a mole) and five tunes that deal directly with the subject of death, including “Covered Up,” which puts an unusual spin on the subject with an infectiously hooky vocal harmony by bassist Jon Hardy and guitarist Crispin Wood.

“Hardy and drummer Jim Janota have developed into an intuitive and powerful rhythm section, which gives guitarist Crispin Wood a solid and tension-filled foundation for rhythm/lead playing. Wood’s trademarks are his wah-wah-drenched frantic speed runs and over-bent string solos that punctuate his churning rhythm playing and are particularly effective here on the bitter “Who’s Laughing Now.” He also pulls off a great distortion-laden, meandering, Neil Young-style solo on “Movin’ to the Country.”

“It isn’t until the end of the disc that the Bags indulge their mastery in the art of self-conscious imitation and parody. “L. Frank Baum” (previously released as a single) is the cleverest swipe at Tolkien-esque narrative heavy metal since Spinal Tap’s “Stonehenge.” The Bags actually one-up Spinal Tap by playing this metallic version of The Wizard of Oz with impressively precise technical proficiency, including thunderous double kick drums, a well executed Van Halen guitar lead, and some truly beautiful screaming falsetto vocals. It almost makes you think these guys could make a living as a cheesy heavy-metal band, though they would need new haircuts.

“The 22-minute “rock opera” “Waiting for Maloney” goes even further into the land of parody, bringing back a more focused taste of what the Bags were up to in their Swamp Oaf incarnation. This seven-part song cycle is the story of a band waiting for their leader Maloney (who might be related to Billy Shears of Beatles fame) to show up for a jam session. When you consider the title, it starts to look like a hybrid of Beckett’s Waiting for Godot and Malone Dies.” (Matt Ashare, Boston Phoenix, 1/10/92).

This disc features Ivan the Terrible and Hide and Seek, recorded live during the “comeback” show at the Middle East Downstairs in February 2004. Ivan the Terrible was a brand new song at the time, and later appeared on Sharpen Your Sticks. Hide and Seek is a chestnut from 1989, previously available only on rare 7″ vinyl (Stanton Park). This single was the first release on The Bags’ label, Oaf Records!

CDs can be ordered from Stanton Park Records.

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