Ah, America — she loves a comeback, she does. Even the hint of its possibility tantalizes. Plays so well in Peoria (and elsewhere). Is it part of the USA’s national character to welcome back its own to any notable prominence, to celebrate a reclamation earned through reassertion, revivifying accomplishment — or retrospective reassessment?
Trumans Water never really went away. Scarce in their native land, yes — that, indeed, the veteran American “spazz-rock”/”squiggle-core” group has been in recent years. (Increasingly more obscure as well, relatively unknown to untold pods of younger blog-rockin’ folk — sharp-eared discerners, who might well luv TW were they to know TW — if still deemed “legendary” by those who, a) remember Trumans’ halcyon days in America’s early/mid-’90s “guitar-rock” underground; b) recall the life-altering praise from abroad, with the late great all-time tip-top good-taste-making radio DJ John Peel championing them over international airwaves, and the Melody Maker making this pithy 1993 assessment: “Sonic freaks with a lust for life, Trumans Water make Pavement sound like U2.” Hear, hear? Not bad — but your call.)
For over a dozen years, the Water’s arguably been more of a foreign affair, with releases on European labels, touring almost exclusively “over there” yet consistently recording stateside. But enough with the history (for now). Because the rock o’ Trumans Water lives in the present. Their new album O Zeta Zunis sounds remarkably fresh if also in keeping with a fistful of enduring collective aesthetic TW identities: the ever-active, wildly clawing, rough-toned brace of guitars; the sour-sweet sing-shout screech-croon ‘n’ power-yowl; the explosive rhythms, herking here and jerking there, none too predictable anywhere.
O Zeta Zunis may be Trumans Water’s studio album-proper #13 — or not, if ya count such various full-length Trumans cassette releases as Couch of the Spastics on Chocolate Monk or Cough Forth Such Dilemmas on Union Pole. Whatev. It certainly is their first new album since 2003 and, so importantly, it is coming out in these United States (and elsewhere) on Asthmatic Kitty Records. (The label will offer quality downloads; the band will put out a limited number of vinyl copies on their Justice My Eye/Elevated Loin imprint.) AKR will be their first truly stable domestic label home of the new millennium. (What’s more, Asthmatic Kitty is planning to catch up any interested parties in coming months by digitally re-releasing elusive albums of the Trumans Water discography.).
O Zeta Zunis is a cohesive foursome ripping confidently, a few slowed-up passages helping to accentuate the melodic riff-drive of “Last Time” or the balls-out whizz-bang of “Greased Water,” the twitchy-catchy frolic of “5-7-10 Split” or the rubbery buzz-chug of “You Live Out Loud.” Nice. There’re loping jams and snappy sputter-blasts as well. Essence of Trumans. And, as detailed, O Zeta Zunis brings the Water back to the United States — in some literal ways that’ve not been seen in over a dozen years. (Along with playing Europe, TW plan to do some actual North American touring to support this/other Asthmatic Kitty product.) Yeah, Trumans Water — those friendly fellows are of the world but they’re America’s and they never left so won’t you please welcome them back?
Trumans Water: the band history retains mystery. That’s a telling achievement here in the 21st Century’s second decade. L’information ain’t what it used to be. Curriculum vitae; elusive back-story; shadowy career arc; hard-won cumulative ‘n’ contextualizing data: specify, Google it — just a Wiki click away, eh?
Even TW’s maddeningly scattered discography can be had. Notably, said list includes three Peel Sessions — as in, live sets done/recorded/broadcast in/from London at the behest of the great BBC deejay John Peel, a name that is key to Trumans’ tale. It was the beloved rock-era-spanning Peelie (1939-2004, RIP) who plucked TW’s self-released ’92 debut LP Of Thick Tum off a pile … That engaging disc — 300 pressed, “issued” by band in recycled album jackets; each faintly spray-painted-over and lovingly hand-crayoned back at Brockbank, TW’s legendary ancestral home in San Diego — was, at first, semi-randomly tracked by Peel on his influential show, aired worldwide. He loved it, expressing same via more talk/more rock: raved, phoned said band-house in SoCal live on-air for nascent group details from charmingly unaware residents — so très après ‘net, non? — and, wow, played the entire rec … and so on.
Many older Trumans fans know this story. And to this day, owing to Peel from way back and ongoing reliable Euro-good-taste tendencies, the Water is way bigger in the British Isles and on the Continent than stateside. They’ve not been on any American label in years, micro-indie or otherwise. So it’s major that US indie Asthmatic Kitty is releasing Trumans Water’s new album O Zeta Zunis back home in the USA (see OZZ one-sheet deets). And, amidst swelling cheers, AK will also digitally present much of TW’s rich back-catalog.
Nonetheless, there are still telling names connected to the history of Trumans Water that may not signify to even the most devoted Water devotees, much less new acquaintances. Seek out/etc., and ye may find/perceive yer own non-linear narrative …
Oh, Thurston Moore, sure, already a known quantity: early fan of Trumans (who indeed got some then-correct comparisons to “early mid-period Sonic Youth” in those heady early-mid ’90s). He actually contributed to the 1995 Trumans alb Milktrain to Paydirt. But what about Santee, CA mechanic Thurman Swanner? (And don’t think you got it figured out just cuz you know that young Santee sportsman Stephen Strasburg also went to SDSU as did TW’s Branstetter brothers [fierce ballers, Kirk ‘n’ Kevin B., BTW — recollection indicates Team Water tanned Polvo’s hide in hoops back ‘n the day].)
Beck? Check. Big fan. Got Trumans off the road in Europe to come open for him while mega-touring during his breakthrough/how-ya-doin’-America “Loser”/Mellow Gold era — and what’s more, would himself cover TW’s epic “Aroma of Gina Arnold” (a Spasm Smash goldie), enlisting sundry Trumans-men to assist on stage.
Azalia Snail? Don’t say you don’t — you kinda should. (“American avant-garde singer-songwriter … …psych folk and indie rock  …the 1990s lo-fi music scene … … dubbed the “Queen of lo-fi …” — now, was that so hard?) She and Trumans Water (and Supreme Dicks-ter Daniel Oxenberg) did a sui generis fab free-form-y rock/out album that, um, is, let’s say, less a trib to a famous Argie tango pianist (lo siento, Atilio) and more a nod to a certain Osmotic Tongue Pressure-championing scribe …
And, well-well-well, how about that enduringly, awesomely enigmatic “69-year-old drummer [surely now in his 80s] Andres Malinao”? Still in the mix 15-yrs-+ down the road!
Yes, all this and more awaits, to a soundtrack of inspired Trumans Water guitar-strangle — and nary a misplaced possessive apostrophe, merci v. much.
–David R. Stampone