Graded on a Curve: Ecstatic Vision,
Elusive Mojo

Iggy and the Stooges were probably the most influential rock band to ever wanna be your dog, but that influence doesn’t run across the board. Countless bands, both famous and anonymous, have covered “Raw Power,” “Search and Destroy,” and the aforementioned “I Wanna Be Your Dog,” but how many have dared try their hand at “Funhouse” from the 1970 album of the same name? One, so far as I can tell—the Birthday Party took a crack at it on Live 1981–82.

The reason is obvious. “Raw Power” and “Search and Destroy” were straight-up punk songs. “Funhouse” is pure sonic chaos, murky and anarchic, and no band in their right mind wanted to touch it. Iggy himself performs a self-exorcism, as his vocal cords crawl up the walls and across the ceiling—if he stops howling and making horrible noises, he’s afraid he’ll self-combust. It was for good reason the late rock critic Lester Bangs called him “a blowtorch in bondage.”

And so I’ve spent years convinced no one would be able to recapture the sound of “Funhouse,” much less its spirit. That is until I heard Philadelphia quartet Ecstatic Vision’s 2022 release Elusive Mojo on Heavy Psych Sound Records. They don’t exclusively mine Stooges territory—far from it—but the Stooges’ 1970 LP Funhouse is a primary template, and Ecstatic Vision are ballsy enough to ‘fess up to it. They loosely base “Deathwish70″ on the Stooges’ “1970, ” and that “Deathwish” isn’t so far from “Death Trip,” the final cut of 1973’s Raw Power.

Distinguishable from the muck and murk of Funhouse was Steve MacKaye’s saxophone skronk, and Ecstatic Vision goes the same route with Kevin Nickles, whose echoing horn is incorporated into the din of the unforgivably brief opening cut “March of the Troglodytes.” And you take yet another step into the funhouse on the feral title track, with Doug Sabolik’s Ron Asheton-school wah-wah guitar and Nickles’ sax, which comes squealing in to gain extra credit in anarchy. Sabolik’s vocals don’t evoke Iggy—his voice is too gruff (sounds like a two-pack a day guy), but it sounds like he has some demons of his own to expel.

“Times Up,” appropriately enough, significantly ups the tempo, and veers far more into psychedelic rock territory than the Stooges ever did. Sabolik turns on, tunes in, and turns up on guitar, shifting between wah-wah mayhem and mutant hard rock, while Nickles goes from Stooges splooge to an extended foray into the outer edges of inner space that definitely passes the Acid Test. “The Kenzo Shake” also goes the blotter route, with Sabolik’s non-stop guitar wail taking you into space rock territory while Nickles’ keyboards add a note of STP-flavored jazz to the freaky proceedings.

“Venom” is a psychedelic drone that features Sabolik delivering his lyrics in a relative quiet before he launches into a monstrous guitar riff that goes on and on until he commences screaming and goes into a wah-wah solo that would make Ron Asheton proud. It’s a nonstop assault on the senses, and only quiets down at the end, giving Sabolik the opportunity to deliver some final words of cosmic wisdom. “The Comedown” is a slow crawl and a showcase for Sabolik’s guitar, and grows louder as Sabolik launches into what could well be a diatribe about the shitty acid he scored at a Pig Destroyer gig.

“Deathwish1970″ is built on the Stooges’ “1970″ and more than any other song on Elusive Mojo captures the spirit of “Funhouse.” Maniacal tempo, check. Nickles’ saxophone freakout, check. Blown guitar amps, check. Needle in the red, for sure. “Deathwish1970″ is as close as anyone’s ever likely to get to the spirit of Funhouse, an album that changed everything and nothing, because it blew minds but didn’t fit anyone’s template—it inspires awe, not imitators.

Like the Velvet Underground, the Stooges were an unrecognized band that went on to inspire countless other bands, but it wasn’t Funhouse that was doing the inspiring—Funhouse was a plunge into Dante’s inferno, and who dares walk into an inferno? Ecstatic Vision, that’s who. Call it a death wish, if you want, but they pull it off. And you can only wonder what volcano they’ll throw themselves into next. Blowtorch in bondage indeed.

GRADED ON A CURVE:
A

This entry was posted in The TVD Storefront. Bookmark the permalink. Trackbacks are closed, but you can post a comment.
  • SUPPORTING YOUR LOCAL INDIE SHOPS SINCE 2007


  • Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text
  • Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text