The Acids: “Ace of Base Are Belong to
by Shemp Denk
The iconoclastic rock band takes on pop music ca. 1995 in this album,
with its single, the south-Asian-inspired “The Singh” reminiscent
of George Harrison’s 1960s flirtation with the sitar combined
with the mating of jet airliners plus the ironic addition of a hip-hop
beat. This is pop downforce at its finest, the smarm degraded only by
the driving guitar work, like Big Country having a minor tiff with Slade.
It all works out in the end, of course, and many pints of beer are,
of course, consumed. I’d give it four out of five stars if I gave
stars, which I don’t. But for this album I might start. It’s
The Acids phenomenon can be traced back, as all things, to the Thatcher
era in early 1980s Great Britain. Frontman Nigel Wallinsfordcottingsdale
was standing in the same unemployment line as Mac Stump, later to become
bassist and sometime rhythm guitarist. They got to talking post-Marxist
economics and indeterminacy theory, retired to a pub after receiving
their share of the dole, and, after sufficiently adequate inebriation,
decided to start a band.
“We spent the next six weeks drunk” explained Wallinsfordcottingsdale
in a 1998 interview with VH-1 that never aired. “But that gave
us just enough courage to form a band with Pete [Wombat, lead guitar
and a distant relative of EWR’s own P.B. Wombat] and Hank [Frishbrine,
the drummer and lone American in the band]. Hank was here on a Rouges
Scholarship and was studying particle physics at the time. You can believe
the scholarship people were upset to find out he’d dropped out
and joined a post-punk band.”
Hank’s indirect influence on Nigel’s lyrics has been postulated
as the origin for such classic anti-establishment anthems as “Quarks
4-ever” and “Bozons Run the Country (And I Don’t Feel
So Well Myself)”.
“He was always bugging us to chat up Stephen Hawking for a spot
on an album,” recounts Stump on Frishbrine in an interview with
the author, “but you gotta be Pink Floyd to get that kind of treatment.”
“We got close to naming the band the Feynmen,” adds Wombat,
“but we eventually all agreed nobody’d get it.”
In their first tour of the U.S. they opened for the Ramones.
“It was a tour of Brooklyn pubs, basically,” recalls Wallinsfordcottingsdale.
“It was great, but we Brits kept asking ‘Where’s all
the cowboys?’ while Hank just shook his head. Little did we know
they were all at Studio 54 in plastic chaps.”
What distinguishes The Acids to this day is their ever-budding punk
“It’s an intellectual anti-intellectualism,” explains
Wombat, “like maybe Shaw on a bender, only not as good,”
and represents the inevitable trend in all punk, the trend that eventually
killed it, when overdoses and the synthesizer didn’t.
“We didn’t feel trapped in a specific punk modality,”
according to Stump. “I mean, we weren’t really a punk band
at all, other than that we played really loud and badly and were impossible
to understand.” Which is why the band began, early in its career,
to project song lyrics an a screen above the stage during live performances
with a bouncing ball that followed the lines being delivered. In a purely
po-mo audience interaction, this inspired fans to sing along.
“It was bizarre,” recalls Wombat.
“It was quantum,” rejoins Frishbrine.
And it may very well have been. Quantum mechanics postulates, among
other things, that the velocity and the position of a photon cannot
be known simultaneously, that, in fact, the act of observation itself
imposes a static state on a normally quantum one. In the very act of
revealing their lyrics, in essence, of measuring them, The Acids revealed
the quantum state of live performance. The audience, in turn, by singing
along, revealed themselves to have been participants in the quantum
state to begin with.
“It’s in the dissertation I’m still writing,”
notes Frishbrine. “I’m almost done. I’ve only been
ABD for two decades, so I figure I can squeeze out a few more years
while we finish this world tour and put out a follow-up record.”
The Acids join the Patio Girls Reunion Tour and Side Show this summer
as they swing through the upper Midwest. They’ll play Mishawaka,
Indiana on September 13.
“The Amish love us,” notes Stump “but we’ve
got to play live shows because, you know, no CD players.”