Variousı Artists - The East Village Other [ESP Disk - 2014]
"The East Village Other" is a re-issue of a very odd 1966 ESP Disk compilation, which has quite of 'beat' cred right off the bat for including Andy Warhol, The Velvet Underground, Allens Ginsberg and others. It's largely a non-musical release: most of the album is comprised of snippets of dialogue or TV programs in fuzzy vintage fidelity. The subject matter discussed is as random a selection as one would get from choosing an article at random from the newspaper.
Most interesting about what it is included is its dated quality. This brief, insubstantial feeling collage of an album is most certainly a time capsule; it's no coincidence that the packaging reads "Electric Newspaper". Most strikingly constrasted to today, perhaps, is a sample from some kind of broadcast in which a couple's relationship is being described in picturesque, idealized terms. It is outlined how the wife entertains guests. Such a thing can be mindblowing to hear in a sensitive state of mind. Entire value systems are being lost as society transforms, and within less than the span of a lifetime!
From a musical and artistic standpoint, most of the album almost entirely coasts on the perceived 'coolness' of the involved individuals: Allen Ginsberg, The Velvet Underground, Andy Warhol, etc. There are moments on the album where smug pretense gets the better of it, particularly the dragging final track which is little more than a rambling interview with Warhol in which he describes a blowjob from a girl with cold teeth, only to be questioned for further details for many minutes afterward. He is unable to provide any further interesting information or detail, laughs with a smug 'aheh' every couple of seconds, and ends up sounding like he made the whole thing up. It's quite the awkward, pointless track that seems to go for 'edginess' to no real purpose. Flaws like this are worsened by the fact that this track is over 8 minutes, while most of the short LP is brief snippets of less than 2 minutes.
The best musical moment of the album is the 10 minutes of chanting provided in the middle of the album by Allen Ginsberg and Peter Orlovsky, titled "Mantras". While the singing is rough, out of tune and occasionally silly in the improvised lyrics department, it seems sincere and impassioned. It is certainly a classic example of a 1960's American attempt to integrate Eastern spirituality and ideas: it may lean too close to stereotypes, but it is endearing in its naivete.
In conclusion, I feel like there isn't too much of note to be found on this album; one could likely tantalize the mind with thoughts of bygones eras to greater effect using youtube, as the selection of material on this album seems random, and hardly effectively paced for listening. I can't help but think any reputation this album might have is solely due to the famous individuals involved. There could hardly be said to much of a philosophy or attitude to be discovered on this album. That said, I'm glad I heard it once, as I learned a small piece of what the 'beat' movement might've meant, and decided I was right all along to dislike Andy Warhol! I can't recommend this to anyone but the most obsessed beat generation fans.Josh Landry