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Pink and Brown - Shame Fantasy II

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Artist: Pink and Brown

Album: Shame Fantasy II

Label: Load

Review date: Jun. 5, 2003

Goodnight to the Rock and Roll Era

Pink (John Dwyer) and Brown (Jeff Rosenberg) died at the age of three. They are survived by the Coachwhips, the Young People and all of those other Dwyer side projects. Sources close to the band eulogized them as “the shit” and “the best band to wear the colored body suits since that last band wore the colored body suits.”

Pink and Brown released exactly one full-length album and one 12 inch split during their career. They also contributed the same song (“888 Freeze”) to three or four compilations – prolific, they were not. The band staked much of their reputation on live performances that involved, among other things, fights between the two band members, broken bones, broken furniture, broken hearts, broken ear drums and the breaking of anything else that could possibly be broken. The San Francisco Bay Guardian summed them up best as “The fine art of destroying everything.”

This posthumous release of Shame Fantasy II on Load Records compiles all previously recorded output as well as songs that sprung from a 2003 New Year’s Day recording session. The duo originally hailed from Providence and later relocated to Los Angeles (Brown) and San Francisco (Pink), which was as close as the two could live to each other without inflicting any physical harm. It is unclear why the relationship became so strained, but it probably has something to do with one of them getting laid more than the other. Suffice it to say, it was a sad day when they finally called it quits with a short R.I.P. message on the Pink and Brown message board. “Mommy and daddy still love you but they just can't stay married. We hope this doesn't put a damper on your childhood but we think you'll be just fine.” Ahh, the trials of domestic life, leaves us, the survivors, to bear the brunt of this pain.

For the most part, the discernable differences between the recordings are their sound quality. “Final Foods,” released on Toyo Records in 2001, sounds like it was recorded in someone’s basement. The vocals are a tinny screech – nearly incomprehensible, but the playing by both musicians is impeccable. Songs like “Enter Officer, Exit Wound” thunk against your head like a syncopated hurricane. “Christ Balls” and “Two Clicks Communicator” (to single out just two) are an exercise in a bizzaro version of musical gymnastics. Head-jerk rhythms and super fast riffing (as well as a chalkboard-scratching shriek in “Two Clicks”) will fuck up most speakers. “Final Foods” is condensed James Brown gunk-funk meets Minor Threat, but with heavier drug use.

Cleaner sounding, but a little less heavy, are the songs from the P & B / Death Drug split 12 inch. “Sheriff Jessum” is one of the best Dwyer tunes hands down. A groovy stomp augmented by some vocal machismo that, come to think of it, is being sung by a man shrouded in a dirt-stained pink body suit. Contradictions this juicy are hard to come by, and Dwyer never shrinks from them. Similarly, “Prison in My Eye” (vocals vaguely audible now) hits hard with a doubled guitar / drum riff that flattens everything, and out of necessity must be the last song on the P & B side of the split. Have I ever even listened to the Death Drug side? No. But I’m sure it’s decent.

The New Year’s Day 2003 sessions are the best-recorded songs of this lot. The opener, “Black Pearl,” comes from a depraved space. Tension and release is the main theme here and it sounds like the two players keep up the speedball pace so that they can finish themselves off, once and for all. (Does it really come as a surprise that they might be obsessed with self-destruction?) “Messy Bessy, Get Undressy” slams all over the place before visiting some familiar Landed-sounding Dwyer territory of treble-overloaded guitar spazz. “Puddles of Acid Part 1 & 2” is the Pink and Brown take on Led Zeppelin, with Brown laying down some seriously thick skull-buzzing beats

In an age where absolute garbage passes for rock and roll, the loss of this dynamic duo is difficult. Although both members continue on with various bands – Brown sometimes (gulp) wears a scarf on stage with the Young People, whereas Dwyer hasn’t skipped a beat with the Coachwhips and his 1,000 other projects – the thrill is gone. Shame Fantasy II is a hefty and fitting document, a snapshot of the heady times when two men clad head to toe in colored body stockings ruled the planet.

By Marc Gilman

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