Few bands in the annals of rock & roll were stranger than the New York City-based Godz. Recording for the wonderfully idiosyncratic ESP-DISK label from the mid-'60s until the early '70s, the Godz coughed up some of the strangest, most dissonant, purposely incompetent rock noise ever produced. Part of the Lower East Side scene that produced post-Beat avant-hippie rockers/performance artists the Fugs and the Holy Modal Rounders, as well as honest-to-God beat performers like Allen Ginsberg, the Godz recorded the most extreme music while being secretive about themselves. As the late critic Lester Bangs noted in an essay in Creem in 1971, the Godz "...are a pure test of one of the supreme traditions of rock & roll: the process by which a musical band can evolve from beginnings of almost insulting illiteracy to wind up several albums later romping and stomping deft as champs."
Despite Bangs' essay, there are few, if any, detailed histories about this enigmatic band. What is known is that the Godz consisted of guitarist Jim McCarthy, bassist Larry Kessler, autoharpist Jay Dillon, and drummer Paul Thornton. McCarthy, the ostensible leader of the group, went solo in 1973, but the Godz were pretty much over by that point. As to what happened after they split, McCarthy became a photographer, Kessler is a record dealer, Thornton is an actor, and Dillon is living in the wilds of New Jersey. But none of that is as interesting as the three squalling bits of avant-garde noise/junk they recorded from 1966-1968. Sounding like a prototype for Half Japanese or the Shaggs, the Godz play as if they discovered their instruments ten minutes before the tape started rolling. The singing is intentionally off-key, almost parodic, and the songs...well, they sound more like improvised snippets than actual compositions. And while that may not be your idea of pop music, this works, in large part, due to the absolute glee and unself-consciousness with which they approached their peculiar brand of aural nonsense. You may not want to play this every day, but if your tastes run to the fringes of popular music, missing out on the Godz would be unforgivable.
Clocking in at a hair over 25 minutes, Contact High is an unholy mess of a record. Opening with the track "White Cat Heat," which consists of clumsily strummed acoustic guitars, arhythmic percussion, and Jim McCarthy and chester the molester Kessler screeching like a couple of, uh, cats in heat, it gets weirder. Best tracks are "1+1 Equals ?" and the hilarious "Lay in the Sun" (total lyrics: "All I want to do is lay in the sun"). For those who like their pop on the cutting edge, begin here and don't turn back.
Even further out than Contact High with the Godz, Godz Two is, at times, one of the most deliberately annoying, purposefully incompetent albums ever made. White Light/White Heat has nothing on it, though admittedly the much purer in intent, Philosophy of the World has it beat for sheer cacophony. But it's hard to get one's head around tracks like "Squeak," a nearly five-minute violin solo by chester the molester Kessler that sounds like what might happen if someone slowly fed a Stradivarius through a crosscut paper shredder, and the bewilderingly random "Riffin'," which sounds like the work of a set of off-their-meds paranoid schizophrenics posing as the Holy Modal Rounders. Other tracks, however, foretell the almost normal pop song direction that the Godz would explore on their next album: "Soon the Moon" and the closing "Permanent Green Light" foreshadow both the streamlined motorik sound of Neu! and other Krautrock-based bands and the inspired amateurism that was the stock in trade of the Flying Nun Records stable in the mid-'80s. A hacksawed cover of the Beatles' "You Won't See Me" splits the difference.
Although they went on to record into the 1970s, this is the last decent Godz record, primarily because it's the last one that incorporates their distinctive meandering and lack of technical merit with their growing interest in psychedelic rock. True Godz fanatics will tell you that Third Testament is a significant dropoff from Two, but not to these ears. And while it doesn't pack the visceral wallop of Contact High, there's enough dementia here for a lifetime of fun.