Home and Garden
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Home and Garden

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As a musical journey, these "post-Pere Ubu" episodes from drummer Scott Krauss and bassist Tony Maimone -- both multi-instrumentalists here -- and the man who would become a latter-day Pere Ubu guitarist, Jim Jones, are a delicious blend of sound and innovation. Conspicuous in its absence is the Dave Thomas voice from the dark cosmos, replaced by a John Cale-ish drawl from vocalist Jeff Morrison. "Monkey Town" is discordant fun and games while "From the Life of King John" is the lost art of new wave searching for its Sky Saxon roots. For those bored with the elitist and overblown music of Mission of Burma, these soldiers are the real deal on this collection of magic restored and enhanced for the new millennium. The 75 minutes of sound and music here are nonstop relentless entertainment. The 18 tracks are so all over the map that it is hard to get a grasp on what is taking place, which works well for repeated spins -- and perhaps the random avant-garde car alarm going off outside your house (if you're so lucky) while this disc is spinning. "Marco Polo: The City of Kin-Sai" is just one such exploration, taking the Velvet Underground's riff from "Lady Godiva's Operation" and bringing it up a notch. On this delightful set of complex minimal music that is inviting and satisfying, Exit Stencil Recordings also includes the How I Spent My Vacation EP and other goodies. History and Geography is a revelation that unveils new secrets every time it is played, the kind of homework high-school teachers ought to seriously consider assigning to their students. - All Music Guide


The Rhythm section of drummer Scott Krauss and bass guitarist Tony Maimone may be largely unsung, but it is one of rock music's most accomplished and inventive. They are, of course, most closely associated with Pere Ubu, but they briefly emerged together as Home and Garden in the hiatus between that group splitting in 1982 and reforming five years later.

For History and Geography, Krauss and Maimone were joined by fellow Clevelander and future Ubu guitarist Jim Jones, who also played synthesizers alongside Maimone.

This album demonstrates how important their input was to Pere Ubu's music, especially the albums that followed after their reformation, like The Tenement Year (1988) and Worlds In Collision (1991).

"Marco Polo: The Voyage" is a shop window for their skills. Krauss drives the song along with open hi-hat and plenty of snare drum whomp, aided by Jones's staccato chord work, while Maimone's basslines are muscular and full of melodic hooks, like a lead instrument, and his EML synthesizer overdub splashes color like an action painting.

The vocals are semi-recitations by Jeff Morrison, a poet who had gravitated to Cleveland because of Pere Ubu and ended up joining this short-lived group. His half-sung narratives are full of fascinating characters, locations and conundrums.

"Bells of Ever and Never" is a striking abstract tableau stacked up with synths, mellotron and ecclesiastical organ, and is punctuated by sudden drum flurries.

On "King Penguin" - with its steam organ-like hooks - and the groovy "The Life of King John", Morrison is swept along by the strength of the music, but at times one wishes he would really take the songs by the reins and sing out.

The original album is augmented by extra tracks and the instrumental "How I Spent My Vacation EP", a looser, more improvised selection of pieces involving field recordings and abstract noise.

Even taking their short lifespan into consideration, it's amazing how something as potent as Home and Garden disappeared under the radar. The group are active again now, and so hopefully "History and Geography" might finally get its own fabulous sequel. - The Wire UK


Home and Garden’s History and Geography is an obscure gem; this underappreciated early ‘80s Cleveland-based act deserved more. Probably best known for having Pere Ubu’s Dub Housing rhythm section, Home and Garden imploded just after its inception (apparently lasting only three shows). Obviously, the rhythm section is fucking amazing; this is probably Maimone and Kraus at their most primal. Vocalist/ lyricist Jeff Morrison is surprisingly poetic (I mean this band’s from Cleveland. Two strong lyricists—David Thomas and Peter Laughner—coming from a town best known for steel production and flammable rivers boggles the mind. Three seems impossible.) Anyway, yeah, Morrison spits out these brilliant existentialist, dada-influenced lines fans of LiLiput, Jean Paul-Sartre, and Pere Ubu will love. The Roxy Music influence is charming—Eno synth pervades (or should I say Allen Ravenstine?)—and Morrison sounds like a less melodramatic Bryan Ferry. Easily as rewarding as Savage Republic and 100 Flowers at their best, History and Geography is one of the few records I wholeheartedly endorse. Stuff it up your ass, Christgau. LEACH CONSUMER GUIDE RATING: A+ - Razorcake


Yuck, I know—skimming an earnest vouch for a Pere-Ubu-hiatus placeholding project risks briefly unsexying yr best summer ever, but please indulge my froth-typing about an awesome track that should be a dance-night staple in every straw village where the anxious scene kids staff restaurants for the self-possessed college kids’ bankcards. Warning, spoiler ahead: the awesome song is called "From The Life Of King John," and it can be found on last summer’s re-release of Home and Garden’s 1984 album History and Geography, via Exit Stencil Recordings—that’s a pun on "existential," and if you didn’t get it, that’s because WE ARE ALL ALONE AND MEANINGLESS. (Exit Stencil’s name is fitting; recall that the playwright David Ives described the metaphysical tenor of the label’s home base, Cleveland, as "like death, without the advantages.")

Obscure reissues almost always queer my hustle—the vinty-freshness of a text both "new" and "classic" is irresistible bait to aspirant hear-it-alls, and History and Geography stands as my fave weird-white-male resurfacing since Drag City went public in 1994 with Corky’s Debt To His Father, by relevant-to-the-remainder-of-this-sentence Mayo Thompson; see, that ubiquitous ambassador of free-form pomp played in one incarnation of Pere Ubu alongside Home & Garden’s future rhythm section, and his unkillable Red Krayola co-gigged H&G's reunion shows. (These guys reel mad connection-cred, as evidenced by the Mekons principals on stage at their coming-back-party.) Borrring, tho, because, for all their odd-to-plain-geeked affectations, H&G are ironically most singular for their circumspect soundalikeness; they generate epic echoes of the spazzy pop dropped by their legendary precursors and then-contemporaries. Jeff "my poetry is as sketchy as Jim" Morrison can sound uncannily like David Byrne and Bryan Ferry as he intones his unremarkable-to-silly verse with portentous, dorxcellent gusto. Shamelessly unsubtle solo-Eno swaths obtain throughout the album, whenever the band isn’t mixing King Crimson with disco, or organ-damaged art-gospel with Silver Apples, or untrad jazz with, um, Pere Ubu (version X.0 of which H&G guitarist Jim Jones would graduate to in the late eighties). The liner notes admit—and even an uninvolved listen testifies—that this band revels in the ecstasy of influence.

Holy shitwhistle, "From The Life Of King John": it’s got cheapo-chic drum machine whose retro-enuff moment has come, sweet for the CYHSY apologists. It’s got Morrison’s most assured vocals and most chorus-esque chorus—even though he’s yelling "I am the king of Ireland," you can get your Joe Lieberman on and hear/scream "Iran"! It’s got guitars and keyboards that eerily and perfectly bump early Joy Division into those "Ceremony" blokes doomed to become New Order. It’s got a wtf funk breakdown worthy of Liquid Liquid that bursts into rawk again as if tracing a timeline from soul music’s bullseye to post-punk’s catchall spittoon; like, you’ll picture Fab 5 Freddy playing the dozens with, I don’t know, Dee Dee Ramone’s dealer in a deleted scene from Downtown 81. "From The Life Of King John" holds its own indie-genitals with any of this semester’s bandwidth sensations. It simply must be heard.

I'm not even telling you about the rest of the album, really, about the biomechanical hydraulics of "Birthday," or the synthesized bagpipes of "Prairie Sailors." What I will do is warn quaint ol’ militant feminists and postcolonial theorists—bless your hearts—about Morrison’s irksome-in-megadoses lyrical fixation with masculinity, patriarchy, royalty, etc. But seriously, you might not even care, on account of how these jams jam. For example, I am totally against animal cruelty, and I think graffiti tagging is a sad mimicry of corporate branding, but the grimly propulsive "From The Life Of King John" makes me want to carve my name into my neighbor's dog. - Village Voice


Discography

- How I Spent My Vacation EP - (Bizart Records) 1982
- History and Geography LP - (AfterHours Records) 1984/(Dead Man’s Curve U.K.) 1986
- Hideout EP - (AfterHours Records) 1985
- Melville B/W Sir Flea 7" 45 - (AfterHours Records) 1986
- Killjoy 7" EP - (Herb Jackson Records) 1988
- V/A From The Eerie Shore CD - (Synthetic Records/Jim Clevo) 1989
- V/A The Killer Blow CD - (Blue Bus Records/Jim Clevo) 1989
- V/A Clearing The Air CD - (Jim Clevo Presentations) 1990
- V/A Terminal Drive CD - (from Pere Ubu box set Datapanik in the Year Zero) (DGC) 1996
- V/A Cleveland Squawks CD - (CLE Magazine 5.0) 1997
- History and Geography (re-mixed and expanded) - (Exit Stencil Recordings) 2006

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Bio

By 1982, Pere Ubu, a band that had blazed a trail of influence (if not outright commercial success) through the punk/new wave scene, had broken up. Scott Krauss, Ubu’s founding drummer, who had left shortly before the band’s dissolution, was already exploring new musical avenues when he was joined by Ubu bass player Tony Maimone. Together they entered the recording studio as Home and Garden. Freed from the expectations put on an established band, they indulged their artier impulses and recorded “How I Spent My Vacation,” an EP of killer grooves and airy, ambient explorations. Joined by long time friends Pat & Doug Morgan on guitar and former Ubu sound-techs Jim Jones and Pat Ryan on production, Home and Garden was conceived to be more of a studio project, a non-group with a fluid line-up, than a proper “band.”

Feeling the need to expand their sonic pallette, Krauss and Maimone recruited Jones to be the continuing guitarist. On vocals, they brought in writer/poet/performer Jeff Morrison. Not a traditional singer or lyricist, Morrison set his spoke/sung lyrics in exotic locales throughout history: Marco Polo making his way through China, King John bemoaning his place in history, the adventures of penguins in a side-show. Musically, the boys in the band followed suit creating interesting sounds, textures, and arrangements to complement the imagery, which while “strange,” and “exotic” on the surface, were in fact pop songs at heart. The band was set free to indulge whatever musical idea came their way - from the garage-ballast of “The Voyage,” to the proto-electronic world groove of “Monkey Town,” to the prog-leaning “Bells of Ever and Never.” Toss some free-jazz riffs, some Motown grooves, and some New Wave rock into the mix and you had a rich and surprisingly coherent stew of musical experimentation called “History and Geography.”

This version of Home and Garden only played out live a handful of times. Before “History and Geography” was completed, musical wanderlust set in, and Maimone set off on his way, eventually making Brooklyn, NY his home and playing with the likes of Bob Mould, Frank Black, They Might Be Giants, Jon Langford, and many others. The remaining members put the finishing touches on the LP.

Released in 1985 on Randy Meggitt’s After Hours label, “History and Geography,” garnered favorable reviews and charted well on the burgeoning college radio scene.

*Terminal Magazine* wrote:
“The LP shows a wide range of inputs all grounded in the rhythm section that made Pere Ubu one of the live wonders of the ‘70s, but with a more refined sensibility.”

*CMJ* wrote:
“Beautiful impressionistic lyrics are coupled with melodic freeflow. We like this one lots!”

The U.K.’s *Outlet Magazine* said:
“[Home and Garden] has done a real custom job on this and it’s made to last more than a term!”

In *SPIN*, Andrea ‘Enthal wrote:
“It’s the ability to make all the technology sound human rather than all the humans sound technological that makes ‘History and Geography’....stand out from the synthmonger pack.”

Perhaps the LP’s most effusive praise came from Byron Coley:
“Imagine literate. Imagine beautiful. Imagine real goddamn good.”

With an album to promote and more music swirling through their heads, Home and Garden regrouped; adding Michele Temple on bass and guitar, and Robert Wheeler on synths. The project had become a band. They gigged constantly in the Cleveland-area and embarked on mini-tours of the east coast. With Jones switching off between keys and guitar and Temple between guitar and bass, this line-up could translate the complicated studio arrangements into a live setting. They quickly established a reputation as one of Cleveland’s best live bands. They continued to record new music, releasing the “Hideout” EP in quick order. More singles, compilation tracks, and gigging followed. Eventually, the grind of it all got to Jones, who left the band (but would return on occasion to play an odd show). He was replaced by Rick Christyson.

By 1987, Tony Maimone and Jim Jones were playing with Ubu frontman David Thomas’ Wooden Birds. A compilation of early Pere Ubu singles had been released earlier and had done surprisingly well. It was beginning to seem like Pere Ubu had unfinished business that could be tended to. Krauss made overtures, and in 1987 Pere Ubu was reborn. The core band that had recorded “History and Geography,” would form the core of Pere Ubu for that band’s next four albums (“The Tenement Year,” “Cloudland,” “Worlds in Collision,” and “Story of My Life”).

With Pere Ubu demanding progressively more of Krauss’ attention, Home and Garden began to fade into the background. Christyson left the group. The band continued on as a four piece composed of Krauss-Morrison-Temple-Wheeler, and continued to record and play out, but by 1990 had pretty well stopped.

As Pere Ubu was preparing to embark on its 1993 tour to promote “Story of My Life,” Maimone left the group, r