|The best album Art Bergmann never made|
Vancouver Sun / March 26, 2009 / by John Mackie
On the face of it, matching Vancouver's underground hero Art Bergmann with the legendary producer John Cale (of Velvet Underground fame) sounded great; in practice, it was a bit of a disaster. Cale didn't seem to get Bergman's guitar playing or sound, so he toned down the solos and sonic edge. The resultant album, Crawl With Me, was still quite good, but really didn't capture Bergman the way his demos with local producers Bob Rock and Paul Hyde had. To add insult to injury, Rock went on to become one of the biggest producers in the world -- choosing Cale over Rock was dumb artistically and commercially.
Two decades later, Art's old bassist Ray Fulber has baked the old Rock & Hyde demos and packaged them for official release. And guess what? They're the best thing Bergmann's ever released. The song list is virtually the same as Crawl With Me, but the sound is much more in your face -- the guitars slash and burn, the band rumbles along like a tank crashing through a building.
It's not for the faint of heart, though, 'cause the subject matter is very, very dark -- drugs (The Junkie Don't Care), incest (Our Little Secret), murder-suicide (My Empty House). Hard to imagine this ever getting on the radio, but Rock's mix gives it a professional sheen and sonic power that the Cale stuff sorely lacked.
With 20/20 hindsight, Art should have moved to Seattle and cast himself as a grunger -- he was much, much too gnarly for mainstream success in Canada, but probably could have been Nick Cave-sized internationally, if he could have only received an American release.
Art is now retired and living on a farm just north of Calgary, of all places. But he'll be reunited with his old bandmates in Poisoned to play his first live gig in eons tonight at Richard's on Richards to mark the release of the album. It may be the only gig he'll do for years, maybe ever -- he has bad arthritis, and recently had an operation to insert a steel rod in his back because his spine was deteriorating.
It should be quite an event -- every old punk rocker who isn't dead will probably be there.