Wayne Rogers – Constant Displacement (1999)

“Try, if you can
there’s so much to know and more to understand”

r-2626882-1402920849-2039-jpegNo, not the dearly departed Trapper John from M*A*S*H, but the precocious teenage genius behind the decidedly un-paisley 80s psych band Crystalized Movements. He began making solo albums after that band’s demise, continued to do so through his time leading the dreamier Magic Hour (with life partner Kate), and this one dates from the founding of their current band, Major Stars.

Opening blast “Far” is the crushing sound of every instrument he’s playing himself, and the pileup includes the barking voice he will employ as needed in the alternating quiet-loud song sequence. The bridge at less than a minute in is one of the most thrilling album starts I’ve ever heard—hairs on neck standing at attention. I can scarcely understand a word, but Wayne clearly means it when he hollers “well ain’t it a shame?” After 90 seconds, the song proper gives way to two minutes of controlled demolition fired by thundering drums (played proficiently enough) and the wails of lord-knows-how-many guitars. Sustained feedback trailing off, the plug is abruptly pulled, and an acoustic strum ushers in the more subdued “Oh (Ah).” But even here one guitar won’t do, and Wayne can’t help but lay a little electricity on top of the resonant wood. The bark is back on “Dead & Rising,” a twisted blues, complete with the “woke up in the morning” refrain, but it’s also heavy metal for people who know not to take such a thing too seriously—the over-the-top vocal, clanging percussion and shredding guitars (again more than you can count) make me smile every time. True to form, emerging from the din is the introspective “Everything’s Real.” I remember 14 years ago, on a confusing date with someone who wasn’t even supposed to be partial to my gender, my insistence that we linger in the car and listen attentively on cassette to these most profound two minutes (“everything‘s real but it don’t mean a thing you see.”). After politely enduring it she said: “sounds like something a white heterosexual man would like.” Precisely pegged and put in my place, but sadly not the last time I’ve come up short on reaching deaf ears.

An anthem of a generation other than mine, “Something In The Air” is the Thunderclap Newman tune, and not being sacred to me, I’ll take this less earnest, more noisy interpretation. Best moment is Wayne clanking everything in the studio with a stick when counting off the final solo and rideout (sure beats the corny music hall piano of the original). Side two opens just as fiercely as the first with the thrashing assault of “Wonder,” and design dictates that only a ballad can follow, and indeed we get the brief and lovely “Lives.” I don’t hear lyrics unless they are bad (and fortunately none of Wayne’s are) and occasionally a deep thought leaps out, like the one at top of this page plucked from the next song “Around” (confusingly listed as “There” on the CD edition issued a couple years after—first line is: “There, still around”—so take your pick). A bit surprising to hear something new in his arsenal so late in the record, but a keyboard part states the melody on the album’s most sublime pop gem. A simple drum part propels the whole thing, and Wayne’s most restrained and best guitar playing is featured here. Concluding is the epic instrumental “As Of Yesterday”—one riff is gradually layered on top of another, followed by a pounding beat and the album’s first discernible bass part. Ever building, we get another killer solo followed by a truly cosmic caterwaul, made infinite-sounding with some delay effects.

Constant Displacement is easily his most varied yet consistent record, and I hope it’s not the last. Wayne & Kate’s Cambridge, MA record store Twisted Village has been shuttered for years, and the label of the same name (which self-issued this LP) is also presently dormant. While Major Stars still play in the Boston area and apparently have some new songs, Wayne relinquished the microphone to a revolving door of young ladies a decade ago and hasn’t released a solo record since 2008. All these projects have minimal web presence (I can’t even find the name of the current Stars singer) but I can only hope he is quietly making a loud record even half as good as this one.

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