POP ‘N’ POETRY FROM FRINGE
In this feature, The Times’ Pop Music writers spotlight out-of-the-way albums of special merit. Album: “A Diamond Hidden in the Mouth of a Corpse” (Giorno Poetry Systems Records).
Artists: Husker Du, David Johansen, John Giorno Band, William S. Burroughs, Sonic Youth, Cabaret Voltaire, Diamanda Galas, Coil, Michael Gira, David Van Tieghem, Jessica Hagedorn & the Gangster Choir.
History: New York poet John Giorno has been releasing poetry and other spoken-word records for 16 years on his nonprofit Giorno Poetry Systems label. As Giorno himself has headed in a more musical direction in his performing, his company’s compilation albums have increasingly included acts that might be familiar to pop music fans, from the far fringe (Throbbing Gristle offshoot Coil, noise-mongers Sonic Youth) to semi-mainstream (Minneapolis beyond-punk trio Husker Du, ex-New York Doll David Johansen). The common thread is that they’re all of interest to Giorno and company. According to the record’s associate producer Peter Wright, several of the artists were attracted by the prospect of appearing with author William S. Burroughs. “A Diamond Hidden in the Mouth of a Corpse” (the title is from a Giorno poem) will be followed by a compilation this fall that’s expected to include Tom Waits, Nick Cave and Einsturzende Neubauten.
Sound: Most of the acts on “Diamond” hail from roughly the same artistic neighborhood, but the collection spreads things around enough to keep it varied and lively. Husker Du kicks it off with the punky rocket blast of “Won’t Change,” then the sassy Johansen struts in with a terrific, pungent R&B; epic called “Johnsonius.” You shift gears for Giornio, who strikes a preacher-poet vocal pose on the raunchy rock-out of “Scum & Slime,” and for underground avatar Burroughs, who reads his sardonic, subversive prose in a wicked, baked-dry voice--a sharp contrast to Sonic Youth’s watery twilight trance, “Halloween,” which follows. Side 2 is more erratic, ranging from Cabaret Voltaire’s electro-jazz-funk exercise to experimental diva Diamanda Galas’ vocal impressions of a creaking door, from a bouncy instrumental by Coil to a grisly love poem read deadpan by Michael Gira, from the colorful clatter of a David Van Tieghem ballet score excerpt to poet Jessica Hagedorn’s Latin-rock sketch of love in the urban jungle. (Information: Giornio Poetry Systems Institute Inc., 222 Bowery, New York 10012.)