Sunburned Hand of the Man

Too many goofy, tie-dyed Deadheads ruined the noisy improvisational meltdown of the Grateful Dead. Too many burned-out suburban dreads and frat-boy pot dealers sanitized the group's countercultural roots into boring classic-rock nostalgia. That's why punk-rock stoners had to go to Germany for their psychedelic freak-out music. That's why kraut rockers Can and Amon Düül II are the lysergic forebears of latter-day bands like Sunburned Hand of the Man even though the birth parents of the eleven-person Massachusetts collective probably mated in a VW bus outside the Fillmore Auditorium in 1966.

Sunburned Hand of the Man's Headdress -- like the nearly impossible-to-find CD-R series that makes up the bulk of the band's output -- is a series of jam sessions. Throughout each excursion members of the ensemble moan and whoop and shred their guitars. Others patter away on organs or drums or blow into horns and flutes. Sometimes the whole thing falls together and starts heading down the highway like Hawkwind; other times it sounds like a beachfront drum circle dumbing down a cover of something off Miles Davis's Live Evil. Along with recent releases from the No-Neck Blues Band, Black Dice, and the Boredoms, Sunburned's Headdress offers a return to the sloppy, primal elements of psychedelic improvisation that Phish, the String Cheese Incident, and other clownish inheritors of the Dead's legacy have glossed over.

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Daniel Chamberlin