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Snakefinger — Chewing Hides the Sound
(East Side Digital ESD 81392, 1979/1999, CD)

Snakefinger — Greener Postures
(East Side Digital ESD 81402, 1980/1999, CD)

by Jon Davis, Published 1999-11-01

Chewing Hides the Sound Cover artGreener Postures Cover art

Here we have the welcome reissue of two great albums by Residents’ cohort and collaborator guitarist Snakefinger (AKA Philip Charles Lithman). Many of the songs on these albums were cowritten with the Residents, and there is much stylistic similarity with that group’s recordings of the same period (not surprising since Snakefinger contributed guitar to Duck Stab and others). The dominant sounds are wild, unusual guitar playing (mostly electric) and processed vocals. Backing is provided mostly by primitive drum machine and quivering keyboards. The lyrics are on the cryptic side, so while the words are often decipherable, you’ll be left confused as to what they’re about (“Jesus was a leprechaun / His name Tidy Tom / He tried to have a little fun / Jesus: But my hands and feet are so numb!”). A quirky sense of humor prevails throughout. Between the two discs I have trouble picking a favorite – each has some great tunes. “The Model” and “The Vivian Girls” off Chewing are wonderful. And I’ve always loved “The Man in the Black Sedan” and “Trashing All the Great Loves of History” from Postures.

A good reference for Snakefinger’s sound, strangely enough, could be Eno’s first few solo albums, only a bit wackier. The same freshness of discovery is in evidence, of creative people playing around in a studio, not worrying if they are great musicians, just putting together tunes that make sense to them. And in the same way Fripp’s inventive guitar colors Eno’s albums, Snakefinger leaves his stamp on these. Snakefinger only produced two other studio albums before his 1987 death: Manual of Errors (1982) and Night of Desirable Objects (1986). Let’s hope reissues of those are in the works.

Filed under: Reissues, Issue 18, 1999 releases, 1979 recordings, 1980 recordings

Related artist(s): Philip Charles Lithman (Snakefinger)

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