Colossal Yes – Acapulco Roughs

Colossal Yes
Acapulco Roughs

Utrillo Kushner has been harboring a secret all these years. In all those venues, in all those studios, in all those practice spaces while he was pounding away, leading Comets on Fire along their fiery march, the secret dwelled deep within him. Kushner’s fingers no longer wished to batter his kit with rigid, close-fisted abandon. No, they wished to spread out, move around, show they were more than just a firm grip. They wanted to play piano. And by God, they did.

At first it was clandestine, a gentle refining of technique, known by few and still greatly masked by their tough-guy front in the boiling Comets on Fire. The fingers practiced for years, never letting their hi-hat women acquaintances and double-bass brethren know about their sensitive side. Their nostalgic side. Soon the fingers could not be stopped, and it was time for the world to know. It was time for a new, positive, affirming name. Colossal Yes. It was time for Acapulco Roughs.

When the time came that Kushner could no longer silence the fingers’ wishes, he recruited a crew of several more fingers to assist them: some fingers to take the place of his own as drum-pounding fists, some fingers to tickle the ol’ four-strings, and here and there some fingers to dance atop brass or skitter along the length of a woodwind. The results are to be expected, given the fact that in their day job, the fingers spend a lot of time prostrated in Hawkwind and MC5 worship. Acapulco Roughs comes from roughly the same era, just from the other side of the musical coin, the more aired-out arenas of piano-rock rather than the dark garages and basements of dirty psychedelia. The fingers enjoyed The Band, Bill Fay, maybe a little John Cale. Where Julian Cope once said that Kushner played as though he were two drummers who think they’re Keith Moon, the fingers wanted the world to know that they can sound like two pianists who think they’re Billy Joel. And for the most part, they do.

The overall tone of Acapulco Roughs doesn’t change drastically or dramatically. The fingers chose to plod along at a moderate pace, save the breakout upbeat swagger of “A Fig for Misfortune,” carried by its choppy bass line, intoxicated horn sweeps, and some drunken barroom finger work (ah, they really are like Billy Joel!). Rhythmically, the songs recall some of the Beatles’ later work, most notably opener “Just Like Mademoiselle” and portions of the massively epic “Poor Boy’s Zodiac.”

Ultimately, it is this 11-minute tune that reveals whether the new sound of Kushner’s fingers was ready to be heard by all: both yes and no. For the most part, Kushner pulls off such a mammoth tune with relative ease, especially considering how alien its length is to the chosen genre. However, the song is still about two minutes longer than it needs to be, and it also finds Kushner at one of his most vocally weak moments, an aspect of Colossal Yes his fingers could sadly do little to influence. The vocal cords seem to be risk takers. They often teeter dangerously at the edge of some precipice of cracked notes and foolish falsetto, charming in their inexperience yet occasionally alarming in their audacity.

However, though Kushner can be called out vocally on several occasions, he can never be faulted instrumentally (or is it phalangeally?). The music the fingers penned for Acapulco Roughs has existed for many years, previously belonging to the brain, albeit in a much more skeletal form. The songs bear a sophistication telltale of careful and patient polishing as only can be burnished by the sands of time (and a healthy dose of influence from music that has stood the test of that very same time).

Colossal Yes is a welcome change from the frantic brainmelt of Comets on Fire. Utrillo Kushner’s musical talents (and those of his fingers) extend well beyond his “drunken master” drumming style. With Acapulco Roughs, he reveals himself to be a masterful pianist, a competent melodist, and an unabashed nostalgist. The fingers have brought the rock yet again. Here’s to hoping they’re willing to hold down both jobs. Or maybe it goes: Comets on Fire is the backbreaking manual labor, and Colossal Yes is the elbows on the bar later that evening, the cathartic exhalation after a day’s worth of dirty psychedelic grunge.

There’s little else to give Colossal Yes other than just that; a colossal yes. How would the fingers express that? Easy. They’d ask their close neighbors to rise in acknowledgement. Two thumbs up.