Home Read Now Hear This: Eugene Chadbourne & Jim McHugh | Bad Scene

Now Hear This: Eugene Chadbourne & Jim McHugh | Bad Scene

The multigenerational protest duo revisit the past on this home-recorded treat.

THE EDITED PRESS RELEASE:Bad Scene is an LP of guitar improvisations and songs by the multigenerational protest duo Eugene Chadbourne and Jim McHugh. Made mostly in Eugene’s living room in Greensboro, N.C. on Jan 21 and 23, 2020 during a family visit between Sunwatchers tours by McHugh, Bad Scene was recorded live in single takes to Jim’s portable multitrack rig. Augmented by overdubs in some cases to create chamber-quartets or full-band vibes, all songs remain, at their hearts, duets — with one notable, freaky exception.

McHugh envisioned a casual snapshot of his friendship with Doc Chadbourne, someone he’s revered since he was a local teen teaching himself enough guitar to start punk bands in the 1990s. In recent years, they’ve grown close as collaborators: Touring together in duo and with Sunwatchers, while McHugh produced 3 Characters (2018), the celebrated double-LP of songs by Minutemen, Doug Sahm and fellow Greensborian Henry Flynt made by Eugene with Sunwatchers as his band.

As 2020 grew monstrous, motivations behind the project shifted. Empty months compelled McHugh to expand arrangements and edit passages into new forms. The snapshot became an oil painting portraying their tandem energy: Figurative and abstract all at once, cast in dayglo chiaroscuro — a sonic fact made manifest by Gary Panter’s amazing cover art. See: The title track, a Ten Years After tune with tear-ass guitars crazed ragged by a rhythm section cut from the Swell Maps’ funny papers.

The soul of Bad Scene, tho, lives in the stark numbers, spacious and comfortable to reveal the personal bond that propels them: Doc’s Shockabilly classic Hattiesburg, Miss, Woody Guthrie’s dire Hang Knot, and a raging take on the IWW anthem We Have Fed You All A Thousand Years that recalls D.Boon, Bill Orcutt, Doc’s historical Albert Ayler versions and, of course, Utah Phillips, with whom Eugene shared stages at folk festivals more than four decades back.

Resonant from beyond the grave is Jimmy Carl Black’s voice on Willin’ — the throbbing sore thumb in this dual fist of duets. Smacking of Michael Hurley, Keith Hudson, and (tourmates of Doc’s at their peak mid-’80s weird) Butthole Surfers, its basis is a 2007 Tokyo audience tape of Eugene and Jimmy playing the Lowell George gem on what would be their final tour as The Jack and Jim Show. Spaces gouged in the song by Jimmy’s rusty/tipsy singing, and widened subsequently by his two-ton rhythmic pocket in Tokyo (and as the drummer on the original Little Feat version!), provided impetus for Doc and Jim to layer improv on the archival recording; back in Brooklyn as the weather warmed, it transmogrified in the studio of McHugh’s frequent cohort Jon Erickson into the seasick country-dub creation you hear now.”