Welcome to the very delicious November 2010 GMR AotM!
- Ice Age The Hitmen 3:21
- The Stuff The Hitmen 2:50
- Cold War The Hitmen 2:28
- My Love Ran Out The Hitmen 3:57
- I Love Your Poems Of Love The Hitmen 4:31
- Saturday The Hitmen 2:28
- Medicine Hat The Hitmen 2:59
- Thrasher's Corner The Hitmen 3:50
- I Can Fly The Hitmen 3:30
- Sense of Sound The Hitmen 2:28
- This Must Be The Place The Hitmen 3:44
- Repeat The Hitmen 2:15
- Instrumental The Hitmen 2:13
- Perfect Pain The Hitmen 3:35
- Tiger Carpet The Hitmen 4:26
Let us give thanks – it is time for The Hitmen’s long-lost SMASHFACE! You didn’t even have a clue how much you needed this.
Twenty years ago I went into a small studio with Arnie, Joe, Bill and Dan. This is what we came out with. It combined their fine musicianship and general weirdness with what was probably the pinnacle of my eight-track recording/production skills. As songwriters go, Joe was pretty much a weirdo, but you can’t listen to The Stuff without thinking there is something wrong with Arnie as well. And no matter how weird they got, Arnie sang them with aplomb.
This record was really fun to make. We didn’t worry too much about whether they could do every little bit live, we just made the coolest damn record we could. We pulled in your basic Northwest cast of thousands to sing, to play some bits here and there, and to help make SMASHFACE the masterpiece that it is.
I love this record. I love it even more now than I did then. I think it totally holds its own after all this time and I AM NOT WRONG! Of course, when this came out, it didn’t do boo. Plain and simple, these guys didn’t have a live following and were not able to develop one. If you wanna sell records that mattered then and it still matters.
But this is the evidence and you are the witnesses: The Hitmen had their shining moment and made their one great record. Then they grew up and got on with life. I don’t think you can complain about that.
PS. I ramble on further about this album in the liner notes for It Crawled From the Basement: The Green Monkey Records Anthology.
PPS. Despite what Arnie thinks, This Must Be the Place is sublime.
Joe Leonard Speaks:
With headphones, a laptop and a cup of coffee I’m enjoying Green Monkey’s fresh digital version of our 1989 debut LP SMASHFACE recorded just over 20 years ago at Tom’s TDS Productions and Conrad Uno’s Egg studio. The album was a follow-up to our first single with Mr. Dyer (Tiger Carpet / Perfect Pain, – also on this new CD, along with one additional track from our demo).
I joined the band per an ad for lead guitarist in The Rocket and met Arnie, Bill and Dan for the first time in a second story house near Highway 99 on Queen Anne. A recording of the demo was in the works at that time. During our short tenure we had the opportunity to work with many great musicians (check out the guest artists who graciously contributed to SMASHFACE), perform at hallowed halls including the Central, Vogue, Offramp, Bumbershoot and a rare Blue Moon live gig. We sat in on local radio shows at KISW, KXRX, KCMU & KGRG and as well as a few local cable shows including Spud Goodman.
We had a fabulous time (at times), enjoyed road trips and of course wrote and practiced music. At the end of the day it was the music – writing, crafting, experimenting and bringing anything to the table. For me being in the band was, if you will, a combination of finger painting and snowboarding – colorful soundscapes speeding downhill – good thing for Tom’s interest in the band to capture on record our unique collaborations.
If you have a moment to indulge me please close your eyes and imagine briefly John Lennon singing the first verses of Freebird. This is how one could describe the irony of The Hit Men. A native Englishman, a Seattle born left handed guitarist, and a bass/drums combo as solid as the granite mountains of their Bellingham home, we assembled in the late ‘pre-grunge’ moments of the Seattle music scene, delighted in our own musical expression. This can best be heard on back to back songs Cold War and The Stuff. Each song takes the listener to a different aesthetic and energetic landscape. Both make me proud – but apart from this album I wouldn’t expect to find them together – Cold War might be on a disc for five-year-olds and The Stuff, with its grinding chords and dreamy dangerous storyline instead I’ll play for my current beer buddies to prove indeed we did rock. In all we used a wide brush to paint the moments of our music – held together by a mixture of talent and witty seriousness (or maybe serious wittiness).
Sharing composition duties were Arnie (vocal Englishman) and myself (whammy bar/distortion box/wah pedal = enlightenment) though each member contributed to the overall arrangement. Backing vocals by Dan (don’t underplay the fifths and sure fretless bass belongs on this track) and Bill (he hits the drums a bit harder when he’s pissed). For a short period Bernie joined us on sax which expanded our live possibilities and made rehearsals a bit more fun. We had a next set of songs in the works, but alas other work opportunities took Dan & Bill in new directions. Arnie and I gave it a shot with some new guys but as we know from Reunion Tour cash – you just can’t replace the magic.
Listening to SMASHFACE now some songs quite impress me (Sense of Sound) and others remind me a bit of John Lennon singing Freebird. Or it could be that, even now, I’m too close to Thrasher’s Corner (named for the town off I-5 returning late night from Bellingham gigs) – a Seattle guitarist experimenting with chicken pluck is almost as bad/good. Medicine Hat sounds good now – I recall thinking, as every artist suffers, the recorded version just didn’t capture our live energy. And finally a nod to My Love Ran Out, thankfully, if I recall correctly, I didn’t play on the recorded version of this track (Jeff Kelly helped on piano). I did know when to hold back…sometimes, but not in Ice Age. And speaking of Englishmen singing Freebird – in our ‘need money for a single era’ we played a local 70’s reunion in which the only specific requirement was to include this, their class song, in the set. I suppose they didn’t consider it might be sung by an Englishman.
Oakland CA, 2010
Mark Palmer (Arnie) Speaks:
Great stuff Joe! That about sums it up. I wanted to add that Joe had the most varied guitar influences of anyone I had ever met; from Iron Maiden to The Grateful Dead. Joe had them all covered – sometimes in the same song. But the effect was always alluring.
By astonishing coincidence my horrified grimace on the back of the original LP has me looking directly at the line from Joe’s story “would chomp off his penis”. Not planned. Sometimes Ruth is stranger than Richard.
A few comments about the songs:
I talked to Jon Auer at a Big Star gig at the Fillmore in SF a few years ago. He told me that Ice Age had been whirling through his head for months. A song with staying power I think.
The Stuff was written in less than an hour from several dreams that I had the night before.
“I met you in a church at midnight, starring in a porno flick. A gang of nuns they broke the door down and cast me as a gay Old Nick”, is just too strange to have come from a conscious mind – even mine.
Cold War is Joe and Tom’s meisterpiece. All the special effects and background vocals make this song so memorable. “Woke up three times more”, resonates through my being frequently.
My Love Ran Out is simple and drunken – as it should be. A cautionary tale of distiller’s droop. It almost falls over itself at times. The clarinet is a special bonus and so essential to the boozy feel.
I Love Your Poems Of Love. When we recorded this I thought lyrically it was naive and juvenile. But 20 years later I realize that’s exactly why it works. Funky, soulful and again completely unlike anything else the Hitmen ever did.
Saturday. Paranoia incarnate. A chimey guitar riff sets off a message of impending doom.
Tense and taut. Joe’s guitar is just brutal.
Medicine Hat. Wickedly insistent. You’ll be whistling this one for years.
Thrasher’s Corner. That rising middle section “with his devil’s grin and his mandolin…..”
brings a smile to my face every time.
I Can Fly. Space you can’t waste.
Sense Of Sound. A rocker in sheep’s clothing.
This Must Be The Place. Certainly the slowest and most introspective song on the album.
Doesn’t quite fit with the rest. But who gives a shit.
Repeat. A cautionary tale on the dangers of getting into a rut.
That’s about it.
The Sierra Foothills CA, 2010
Bill Bowman Speaks:
I played drums.
Seattle WA, 2010
The Hitmen are:
L to R; Mark Palmer, Lead Vocals, R. Guitar; Joe Leonard, L. Guitar, Keyboards, Backing Vocals; Dan Swank, Bass, Backing Vocals; Bill Bowman, Drums, Backing Vocals.
Additional and welcomed musicians:
On The Stuff: Jon Auer, Ken Stringfellow, Keith Livingston, Backing Vocals; On My Love Ran Out: Jeff Kelly, Piano; Mike Jones, Clarinet; On This Must Be the Place: Jimm McIver, Backing Vocal; The Angelic Voices (This Must Be… and I Can Fly): Ava Chakravarti, Marie Chauvan,Wendi A. Dunlap; The Ice Age Choir: Jon, Ken, Keith, Jimm, and Mark from above, also Casey Allen, Tony Driscoll, Todd Davis and the Guy from Handful of Dust.
Produced by Tom Dyer
Remastered by Tom Dyer at TDS Productions 2010.
Recorded at TDS Productions, January 1990.
Basic trax recorded with Conrad Uno at Egg Studios.
|Side 1||Side 2|
|Ice Age (Leonard)||Medicine Hat (Leonard)|
|The Stuff (Palmer)||Thrasher’s Corner (Leonard)|
|Cold War (Leonard)||I Can Fly (Leonard)|
|My Love Ran Out (Palmer)||Sense Of Sound (Leonard)|
|I Love Your Poems Of Love (Leonard)||This Must Be The Place (Palmer)|
|Saturday (Palmer)||Repeat (Palmer)|
Perfect Pain and Tiger Carpet originally released 1988 as Green Monkey single GM031, Engineered by Keith Livingston, Produced by Tom Dyer.
Instrumental is previously unreleased. Recorded at Egg Studios 1988 by Conrad Uno, produced by The Hitmen.
Original cover art and photography by Ben Thompson. CD cover work by Carlton IV. Inside art for Perfect Pain/Tiger Carpet single by Mark Palmer & Joe Leonard.
© 1988 & 1990 Half the World Publishing