Released in the hazy crossfade of the late-’60s burn-out and the early-’70s tribal pyres, Simon Finn’s debut album Pass the Distance has long languished in obscurity. Put out by Vic Keary’s ill-fated Mushroom Records in 1970, it was yanked off shelves almost immediately due to some legal wrangles resulting in an extremely accelerated record store half-life. In the next three decades, it was resurrected in dodgy bootleg likenesses or prohibitively expensive original mints. All the while its composer made his way from London to Montreal, taught karate and only now has begun work on its follow-up. Thanks to the enthusiasm of Current 93’s David Tibet and his Durtro label, Finn’s troubled LP has finally been issued on CD, remastered and explained via various liner essays from Tibet, Keary, Finn himself and his collaborator David Toop.
Wizards, mermaids and the requisite metaphorical fauna may crop up in Finn’s lyrics, but his words mostly ring with vague bleakness made even more desperate by the singer’s absinthe-drunk channeling of Tim Buckley’s range. In near epileptic bursts Finn shatters his damaged serenading for phlegm-laden sturm und drang croaks and gasps, most notably in the album’s centerpiece – and dealmaker for Tibet – “Jerusalem.” A post-hippy mantra that swells from threadbare melancholy to caustic fervor with Finn incanting a“dropout”, ”political revolutionary” Jesus who rode a lame donkey and lives on in the worship of “200 million hypocrites.”
On this and the rest of Pass the Distance’s compositions, the scrawled hieroglyphic trim is provided by Paul Burwel’s ably fluid percussion and Toop’s loose dawdling on various instruments, many he was never trained on. The music-scribe-to-be’s scrapes, drones and various other freeform skiffle expertly preludes the dissections and mystical trawls that was to come from Nurse With Wound to the Jewelled Antler collective.
Mixed with maximum panning, as was de rigueur, and often warbling in an echoplexed ether, Pass the Distance is more than an unearthed relic from yesteryear’s endtimes. With the exception of the four “bonus” tracks tacked on to the CD – the shrill histrionics of “Children’s Eye” and soft-pedal pop of “Good Morning,” both sides of a projected 7”, along with solo takes on two unremarkable early Finn tunes – these 10frayed yarns still merit study and genuflection.
01. Very Close Friend 1:20
02. The Courtyard 5:44
03. What a Day 3:16
04. Fades (Pass the Distance) 3:40
05. Jerusalem 6:44
06. Where's Your Master Gone 3:14
07. Laughing 'Til Tomorrow 2:54
08. Hiawatha 4:58
09. Patrice 2:49
10. Big White Car 5:41
11. Feeling in My Feet 1:40
12. Look in the Children's Eyes 4:36
13. Good Morning 3:00
14. Butterfly 3:27
15. Colonel Bleep 3:05
16. Dirty Old River 0:50