Tijuana Hercules drop the trash-blues masterpiece they delayed for COVID | Gossip Wolf | Chicago Reader

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Tijuana Hercules drop the trash-blues masterpiece they delayed for COVID

Plus: Johnny Caluya of Verma and Surgery Boys debuts as JC Tascam, and Pivot Gang rappers Frsh Waters and MFn Melo release new singles.

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The new Tijuana Hercules album features Reid Coker, John Vernon Forbes, Tony Mendoza . . . and 18 other musicians. - JOHN WAITS
  • John Waits
  • The new Tijuana Hercules album features Reid Coker, John Vernon Forbes, Tony Mendoza . . . and 18 other musicians.

Last June, Gossip Wolf celebrated when whacked-out local trash-blues necromancers Tijuana Hercules dropped a killer seven-song EP, Evening Dressings, on Skin Graft Records. As it turns out, that EP was just an appetizer—a sort of pandemic stopgap—and now the main course is here! According to Skin Graft boss Mark Fischer, in spring 2020 the band had already finished a new full-length album, recorded over many years and involving 20 musicians—among them the core band of guitarist and front man John Vernon Forbes, drummer Joe Patt, saxophonist Doug Abram, bassist Arman Mabry, organist Tony Mendoza, and "junk" player Mike Young. "I turned the album in for manufacture early last year," Fischer says, "but at the last minute we decided to hold off on releasing it until it looked like the world was starting to get back on track."

On Friday, May 7, Skin Graft finally drops Mudslod & the Singles, and it's worth the wait. Tijuana Hercules squeeze out grimy boogie riffs that would make John Lee Hooker and Bo Diddley proud, and the bonkers roster of guest musicians includes Velcro Lewis Group guitarist Travers Gaunt, Wet Wallet bassist Gina Herzik on vocals, and Califone's Jim Becker on harmonica and bass. Skin Graft is selling the LP via Bandcamp in a wide range of editions, as the label is wont to do—among them a literally one-of-a-kind version, already snapped up, that features Forbes's signed original cover artwork.

  • Tijuana Hercules bandleader John Vernon Forbes created this video for "Chilanta."

Chicago psych multi-instrumentalist Johnny Caluya has kept busy since his old bands Verma and Where the Moon Came From ceased to exist. These days he plays in synth-driven power trio Surgery Boys with Joe Carsello (Lasers and Fast and Shit) and Steve Reidell (Air Credits, the Hood Internet) and in experimental duo 100 Years of Solid 'Tude (also with Reidell). Caluya, Carsello, and Reidell are among the founders of Volutus Records, which last month released the ace compilation Vol2tus, which includes a Surgery Boys cut and a divine solo Caluya track called "Big Moon." Caluya also included "Big Moon" on his solo full-length debut, 2010-2020, which he released last week under the name JC Tascam. As its title implies, this contemplative psych-pop album collects material he's tinkered with over the past decade.

Over the weekend, Pivot Gang rapper and crew cofounder Frsh Waters dropped "Cloudy Days," where his leisurely verses swerve through clattering percussion and shards of a soulful vocal sample. "Cloudy Days" arrives on the heels of a track by fellow Pivot rapper MFnMelo: on "LL Cool J" he speeds up his delivery atop a terrifically sweet summertime instrumental from Pivot producer Squeak.  v

Got a tip? Tweet @Gossip_Wolf or e-mail gossipwolf@chicagoreader.com.

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