Let's all try to be really open-minded for a hot second.
Records Ad Nauseam, a niche record label run out of the Hollywood boutique Beauty is Pain, just put out a vinyl LP of never-before-released Charles Manson music. Recorded on tape in a room above the chapel at Vacaville Medical Facility in the 1980s, this iteration of Manson's music passed hands a few times before coming to Manuel Vasquez, the label's owner. Vasquez, 26, raised funds through a Kickstarter campaign (obviously) and is selling them at his boutique, online and through local record purveyors like Echo Park's Oragami Vinyl.
Vasquez is selling the record for $18 and may soon run out of the first 500 he's pressed. (His Kickstarter was budgeted for a run of 999 — 666 upside down, get it?)
The Hippie Generation's least favorite houseguest, Manson is serving a life sentence at Corcoran State Prison for orchestrating the murders of actress Sharon Tate, hairstylist Jay Sebring, screenwriter Wojciech Frykowski and coffee heiress Abigail Folger in Tate's Benedict Canyon home, and participating in the Los Feliz murders of Leno and Rosemary LaBianca at the hands of his cult followers.
And this is where it gets hard to be open-minded. Not for Vasquez, though. He told the LA Times that he's pretty sure that Manson's innocent. Manson never actually killed anyone himself, right? And he took guitar lessons from deceased Beach Boy Dennis Wilson, to boot.
Yeah, so we'll stick with the Oxford definition of Manson — the unrepentant psychopath, not Vasquez's — the unfairly maligned cult guru. In that sense, Just Fucking Around is pretty shady. Thankfully, we were assured that none of the cash we shelled-out for the record goes anywhere near Manson. (Yes, we actually bought it.) High rolling backers over $100 got vials of Spahn Ranch's “sacred soil” in addition to the album.
But the record's cover has some crayon coloring and a drawing that Manson did with a fellow inmate. The vinyl is labeled with a rendition of Manson's steadfast forehead swastika.
What about the music? We write about music here. The music is what Vasquez calls “probably an acquired taste.” Uh huh. This isn't the first Manson musical release; it's one of dozens, in fact. Even Gun's N' Roses and White Zombie have covered his older tunes — some of it is actually passable folk.
But this one we found to be more of a rudderless stream of poorly recorded brain diarrhea set to guitar-strumming. Taste has nothing do with it. Of the seven untitled tracks on the 40-minute album, two stand out. Actually, they're the first tracks we listened to. We'll call them Tracks One and Two.
Side A – Track One:
There's some poetry / rambling going on here to start. The, um, poetics lead into a some nasally prison blues, we think. Can a voice be both nasally and gravelly? He's definitely bummed about something. Are we missing something here? Seven minutes and change.
Side A – Track Two:
Ok, this is definitely what a meth-fried step-uncle sounds like when he picks up a guitar. Strains of bad flower child blues-folk are infused with even worse lyrics. When we hear a “Baby …” something “… baby …” our skin starts to crawl. This is the point where we realize that there's nothing to get. This is bad. It's not going to get any better. Twelve whole minutes.
Aw, who fucking cares? There's that swastika again — it's on both sides! It's staring at us. It's telling us, “Go do something else. For my sake? Bake a cake, plant a tree … anything!” Roger that, spinning swastika. We're putting on the new Cat Power.
At this point, we'd even listen to Bon Iver.
Not to shock you, but musically this record has no more musical value than, say, practice tapes of your failed high school garage band. Artistically, less so.
But, and this is where Vasquez and his label shine, the obscurely morbid cultural value is top notch. If you've ever thought, “Aw cool, an insane murderous fuckface made this!” nab this and put it next to your John Wayne Gacy oil paintings. Vasquez is no fool, he's just peculiar — and that's why we have Hollywood boutiques and record labels like his. There's clearly a market for macabre Manson musings — it's just not us.
Oh, and Chuck? Please don't quit your day job. You stay put, man.