Friday, May 04, 2007

Crippled Pilgrims

When I was going through my record collection looking for long out-of-print material, I was pretty sure that Head Down-Hand Out and Under Water by Washington D.C.'s Crippled Pilgrims wouldn't be available on CD. I knew of the group largely as a local act growing up outside D.C. (and they weren't even that popular there). But to my surprise and delight, Reaction Recordings has reissued the band's entire recorded output on a single CD, Down Here: Collected Recordings (1983-1985).

Crippled Pilgrims were the right band in the wrong place during the wrong time with the wrong name. Back in the early eighties D.C. was known mostly for harDCore (Minor Threat, Bad Brains, Govt. Issue, etc.). But Crippled Pilgrims were closer in sound and spirit to fellow D.C. misfits The Velvet Monkeys (in fact legendary Velvet Monkey's drummer The Rummager sat in on drums for the band's early gigs). It probably didn't help that the name Crippled Pilgrims kind of sounds like it could belong to a hardcore band. But Crippled Pilgrims sound was quite far removed from the orthodoxies of the harDCore scene. Instead they played a variation of college rock that mixed parts psychedelia, depressive U.K. post-punk, and jangly, Byrdsian guitars. Eventually this kind of music would become known as "alternative" rock. If Crippled Pilgrims had hailed from L.A. they would have been lumped together with The Rain Parade and The Dream Syndicate as part of the "Paisley Underground" and sold a decent amount of records. Likewise, if they had gotten their start in D.C. circa 1990, they would likely sold respectably on Mark Robinson's indie-pop Teen Beat label. But in 1984, nobody in D.C. knew quite what to make of their music, so they languished in obscurity.

In many ways the Crippled Pilgrims music sounds like a lot of "alternative" music that has followed in the band's invisible wake. But, perhaps because songwriter Jay Moglia and guitarist Scott Wingo more or less stumbled upon the ingredients in their sonic stew by happenstance rather than allegiance to an already codified style, there is an element of freshness and innocence to it missing from much later alt-rock/indie-pop.

The liner notes to the CD are fantastic, shedding light on a little remembered band. Kudos again to Reaction Recordings, for saving some terrific music from eternal obscurity. The download "So Clean" is via Parasol's free downloads page. It's not the track I would have picked (I would have gone with "Black and White" or "People Going Nowhere" from the EP), but hopefully it's good enough to convince you that the rest of the CD is worth checking out, because it is.

So Clean [right click to download]

7 comments:

sukoto said...

Thanks for the fine review. I was the Crippled Pilgrim's "lead" guitarist, and I just wanted to mention that fellow Crippled Pilgrim Jay and I have been hard at work creating a new CD on Night World Records. We've been playing together on and off for about ten years in a band called Rambling Shadows (along with ex-Velvet Monkeys bassist Charles Steck). The disc is tentatively entitled The Tools and the Stuff and will hopefully be out within a few months. I'd say the material is a bit more on the "hard rock" side of the fence than Crippled Pilgrims, but for all intents and purposes, Rambling Shadows really is Crippled Pilgrims 23 years later! At least give it a chance . . .

Pete Bilderback said...

Hi Scott. Thanks for stopping by. I look forward to hearing Rambling Shadows--I will definitely check it out. Night World Records looks like an interesting label. I was particularly interested in their recording philosophy (all analogue as far as possible). Will your next album be released on LP as well?

sukoto said...

Not only is Night World all analogue, but it's a mere eight tracks of all analogue! I don't say this in a boastful manner because, believe me, there have been many moments during these sessions when I've craved the freedom of an all-digital setup. However, we have a good chemistry with the studio owner (Philip Stevenson--it's basically a one-man operation), and the price was right. I guess there is sort of a vintage charm to it as well. As for releasing it on vinyl, that would be nice, but seeing that we're all quite strapped for cash, we'll start off on the CD/digital-download path and see how it goes. Yeah, I'd love to see it on vinyl!

Pete Bilderback said...

Scott, that sounds great. Props to you. I can only imagine how much easier ProTools makes life for musicians, but IMO it tends to suck the life out of music. Looking forward to hearing the results of your efforts.

Dumbek said...

Yeah - I was pretty excited when I discovered this cd too. Great, underrated DC band.

sukoto said...

Hello! I just want to let everyone know that The Tools and the Stuff has finally been released. If you get a chance, please check it out and let us know what you think.

http://cdbaby.com/cd/ramblingshadows
http://www.ramblingshadows.com
http://myspace.com/ramblingshadows

Anonymous said...

Wow. Love the Crippled Pilgrims. I was a DJ back in the mid-eighties at a college radio station. Played the Crippled Pilgrims every set.