By Alex Distefano
By Daniel Kohn
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Photo by Jack GouldPerhaps the least-strange thing about Long Beach electro-industro-hip-hop band Jesus Wore Dickies is their name. That's because "Jesus Wore Dickies" actually consists of real words which, when put together, seem to mean something—although who knows what exactly?
If things were only so easy with each band member's name. Since their inception, they've given themselves such monikers as SMI44177, S1V577, LEWP77 and my personal favorite, DOZE77. Making matters more complicated (according to S1V577, who also goes by SAVE), both SMI44177 (a.k.a. SMIDI) and another band mate —the more prosaically named Mike Marangon—died.
"Mike committed suicide—jumped off a building—and Brian [SMIDI] overdosed," said S1V577. "We don't know if he had a heart problem beforehand, though," he added.
See a pattern with those names, by the way? That's right—the number 77. Their record label is called Seven Seven Records, and the non-playable side of the band's 1998 CD, Terminal Island, has a big, blue "77" stamped onto a bright-orange field—similar to the Union 76 oil company's familiar corporate logo. Inside the CD is a map of Terminal Island—a desolate, post-industrial wasteland in Long Beach—and the message "DON'T THINK ABOUT 77," along with a seemingly random string of numbers—"213392521121929141715177"—that, needless to say, ends with the number 77.
Puzzling. And there's more. Although there are only 11 songs listed on the CD, it actually has 77 tracks. After the first 11 songs, each track is empty—exactly 7 seconds of silence—until track 77, which for some reason contains about three minutes of silence before some 90 seconds of programmed drumbeats and synthesizers kick in.
This would all be relatively harmless fun if it weren't for another message inscribed on the CD's liner notes, from somebody named Inspector 19 (Where's the number 77?): "Within the lyrics of this album are codes that give clues to buried treasures in Terminal Island. Break the codes, look at your map, and find what's hidden," the Inspector says. "I would tell you what treasures lie, but then I'd have to kill you."
Much like the band's CD, Jesus Wore Dickies are an enigma wrapped in a puzzle stuffed inside a riddle. Lead vocalist S1V577, for example, is reportedly homeless. This item apparently has something do with why all of Jesus Wore Dickies' songs seem to be about wandering around Terminal Island—exploring trash heaps, breaking windows, climbing fences and that sort of thing.
"We just started exploring Terminal Island because it was free entertainment and exciting," recalled S1V577, who claimed the group raised $20,000 from investors and then buried the money—along with a four-track tape of Mike on guitar and the single copy of an unpublished book by S1V577. According to S1V577, the band is working on a new album that will contain more clues about the buried treasure.
But the CD contains an ample supply of lyrical clues that could be interpreted as directions to this allegedly buried treasure (that is, if said treasure hasn't been uncovered by now—after all, Terminal Island did come out two years ago). The fourth tune in particular, "Map 3," is probably the weirdest song on the album. As with the rest of the disc, most of the lyrics are inaudible, thanks to the constant grinding of industrial noises and static that are supposed to pass for music. Here's a typical sample of what's either part of the secret to finding this treasure or just the band's general bizarreness:
"Get off the fans quick and keep your head down/Climbing the barbed wire all around/Kick out my leg, the blood runs down/And I hear the cops all around/If I break through the window with my flashlight hand . . ."
" . . . once inside, you will find/The cops know 'cause I broke a window. . . ."
"These are the things that you will need/If you want to follow me."
It's a lot like trying to decipher what Nixon was saying during that 18-and-a-half-minute gap.
You may want to pass on the barbed wire, but check out their show on Saturday. Despite all of their weird, weird shit, Jesus Wore Dickies' groove-heavy mixes do kick ass. And that's all that really counts.
JESUS WORE DICKIES PERFORMS WITH SONNY BOY, BEAT 2 DEATH AND WINK
MUSSELMAN AT THE LAVA LOUNGE, 3800 E. PACIFIC COAST HWY., LONG BEACH,
(562) 597-6171. SAT., 9 P.M. CALL FOR COVER. 21+.