Sun City Girls - Funeral Mariachi (2010)

We had long heard rumors that the Sun City Girls had been working on a cinematic album as something of a follow-up to Torch Of The Mystics and 330,003 Crossdressers From Beyond The Rig Veda, two of our all-time favorite, classic albums from the Girls' idiosyncratic catalogue of punky psychedelia dissolved through Southeast Asian pop, free jazz, and Ennio Morricone soundtracks. But with the tragic death of drummer, poet, and polyglot savant Charles Goucher in 2007, it seemed that the Girls would end their career with the grand tease of an album of this sort never to be released. Fortunately, those recordings were not the stuff of urban legend or of unfounded fantasy, and the Sun City Girls' Alan Bishop has finally completed the album with the help of long time SCG cohort Scott Colburn! So here it is, the final SCGs album, and it's a worthy (and really quite accessible) capstone to their idiosyncratic discography.
Morricone has long been an influence and inspiration for the Sun City Girls, and especially Alan Bishop. In fact, he's been responsible for some of the best Morricone compilations issued over the years (i.e. Morricone 2000 and the Crime & Dissonance 2cd on Ipecac). As much as Bishop had been infatuated with Morricone, the homages to Morricone had been heavily disfigured and mutilated within the playfully murderous aesthetic of the Sun City Girls, where nothing is sacred and everything is fair game with the Girls' crosscultural appropriation. But for Funeral Mariachi, the Morricone riffs are situated in beguiling songs wholly devoid of the Sun City Girls' curmudgeonly fuck-you stances. In other words, Funeral Marachi is a damn good record. So good that it will probably invite a lot more people to investigate the wonderfully frustrating and woefully inaccessible back catalogue of the Sun City Girls.
Introspective, haunting, and at times beautiful, Funeral Mariachi opens with "Ben's Radio" where the Bishop brothers breakthrough a mid-tempo spy thriller number with a staccato duet of call and response avant-weirdness coupled with blurting atonal horns. Unmistakably Sun City Girls. In "Black Orchid", the group turns in the first of many Morricone references, where the Girls' are equally enamored by the incidental vocal melodies that worked throughout all of his scores. Here the Girls' offer a sad ballad for Richard Bishop's always stunning acoustic guitar and Alan's falsetto vocals bellowing his polyglot language. "Blue West," with its high-lonesome chorales, bad-ass guitar licks, and a mournful arrangements, could have been straight out of a John Ford movie. "Holy Ground" might as well be the Girls' answer to Pink Floyd's "Set The Controls to the Heart of the Sun" with Alan's caterwauling voice droning behind the diabolically chanted vocals, beautiful guitar leads, shadowy atmospherics, and weirdly playful calliope melodies. "Mineral Wells" and "El Solo" turn towards the more saccharine moments of the Morricone oeuvre with loungy piano, reverb whistled melodies, and actual female vocals (and not Alan mimicking a woman's voice). "Come Maddalena" is in fact a Morricone cover, from the 1971 Italian film Maddalena, perhaps known only for its soundtrack. Again, a rather moody atmosphere is set for plaintive, yet fuzzed out guitar melody.
Sun City Girls
Funeral Mariachi
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A1. Ben's Radio
A2. The Imam
A3. Black Orchid
A4. This Is My Name
A5. Vine Street Piano (Orchestral)
B1. Blue West
B2. Holy Ground
B3. Mineral Wells
B4. El Solo
B5. Come Maddalena
B6. Funeral Mariachi

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