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Retrofiles #3: Tiny Eyes, Electric Fruitbag (Pacific Records, 1973)

Tiny Eyes was a band formed when Organist 1st Class Beef “Good” Ritch was caught in a sandstorm aboard the USS Schweineschnitzel as it made its way down the treacherous Himalayas one evening, having boarded the vessel after mistaking it for his car.

It was there he met guitarist and mentalist Michel In, who, having just woken up and finding himself made first mate, decided to teach his sworn arch enemy and bunkmate Han Cook how to play the drums. No sooner had the three men played their first few musical notes together when who should land by balloon but bassist and occultist Goo D. Yeer, completing the lineup.

The band’s first recording, 1971’s Rock and Roll Sasquatch, sold well in the U.K., affording them the chance to open up for King Congo on their tour of Asia D Minor. Long periods of downtime spent writing songs led to the group’s next album, the breakthrough Electric Fruitbag, which, although largely forgotten today, was a major influence on the bog-rock scene of Wichita in the early ’70s.

Boasting an orchestral heritage (Ritch was the latest in a long line of bandleaders- his great grandmama led the aural assault on Zaian and his father conducted The Boston Poops{sic}) alongside a rawness born of the Kansas City apathetic streets where Yeer and Cook grew up, Tiny Eyes had a unique sound that was not merely a product of the times.

In’s versatile style meant he could rock-riff just as easily as strum and pluck with the best of them, his sound varying as needed. From the staccato crack of “Broken Salad” to the liquid metal of “Earful of Shit,” In made his guitar sing and squeal, firing off perfectly realized melodies that seem to “belong” there; these lines become an integral part of the songs. Yeer was a bit of an oddball bassist: playing a custom detuned Tender Recision bought at a yard sale, his low string rattled the bones of everyone he struck with it, eventually getting so good at whipping that wire into the audience whilst onstage that soon masochists of all creeds started following the band, hoping to get a front row seat. Drummer Cook, once taught, became a bit of a bam-bam on the skins, bashing his way through the band’s first record but showing a bit more restraint here, saving his hardest poundings for the stunning closing track, “Lost In Austin.” Ritch’s organings were first rate, his keyings also providing psychedelic eeriness and full-on mellotron effects, dating the band’s sound somewhat but also giving it an agreeably dramatic flair.

The complex arrangements and military precision of “Born On The Ceiling” is a highlight, as is the raucous side-two opener “Sewer Soup,” both penned by In and Ritch. The two might have had a long, fruitful career as a songwriting team if not for the tragedy of 1975 when the band, on tour in the West Indies, decided to go Dutch to a Double Dutch contest and In walked right into a Dutch door, which Ritch found “hilarious.” Calling him a “Dutch uncle,” In never reconciled with Ritch and the band finally disbanded during the tour for their final release, 1974’s Dutch Oven.

Worth hearing if you can track it down; Albino Recordings released a reissue back in the ’90s on compact disc.