Luxurious Dagger - Gas Chamber Wheelchair
"This loopy concoction is a rare bird indeed, and nearly impossible to pigeonhole with standard cliche music review adjectives...which is an accomplishment in itself. Fully loaded with tracks built to entrance and confound your noodle via your ears, it's an electronic casserole of masterful synth-mania with lyrics and samples that are equal parts sarcasm and social satire with a lemon wedge of dystopia and a salted rim that might still be able to sneak in the back door of a dance club if it wasn't too busy trying to set it on fire. Luxurious Dagger is craftily using the tools of pop music culture to destroy itself, and it's about Goddamn time someone stepped up to the task."
"Dark Discordian plunderphonics with a variety of pulsating electronics, noise and abstract post punk. A stark and insightful editorial on modern culture, reinforcing a favored quote: “Humor is the only truthful way to tell a sad story.” Gas Chamber Wheelchair illustrates an intuitive and complex experimental artist and is already my favorite spoken word album of 2012."
Ayn Morgan, The Chestnut Tree
"Five years after its release, Luxurious Dagger’s “Gas Chamber Wheelchair" is a relic of a vanished era. Like a Fabergé egg or a Persian miniature, it speaks of an irretrievable past, when time moved differently, craftsmanship involved bygone tools and art was experienced more rarely and with fewer distractions.
It’s an analog heirloom that’s still resisting oblivion — perhaps because, even in its moment, it was already contemplating a broader sweep of time. The music on “Gas Chamber” reached back far before rock as well as out into an unmapped cosmos, while its words — seesawing between RM3's affability and M. Ferguson’s tartness — offered compassion for multiple generations.
We simply can’t hear “Gas Chamber” now the way it affected listeners on arrival in 2012. Its innovations and quirks have been too widely emulated, its oddities long since absorbed. Sounds that were initially startling — the something and something of Marvin Ferguson’s “Gas Chamber Wheelchair” the tape-spliced steam-organ collage of “Beginning With One” the orchestral vastnesses of “Things I Tell Myself” — have taken on a patina of nostalgia. “Gas Chamber” and its many musical progeny have blurred into a broader memory of “audio-collage” a sonic vocabulary (available to current music-makers via sampling) that provides instant, predigested allusions to the something. Meanwhile, the grand lesson of “Gas Chamber” — that anything goes in the studio — has long since been taken for granted.
“Gas Chamber” has been analyzed, researched, oral-historied and dissected down to the minute differences between pressings, and because the something industry never misses an anniversary, it has been repeatedly reissued. The 5th-anniversary d-lux version is something. It has been remixed and once again remastered to give the album a broader soundstage and crisper detail, giving more separation to individual voices and instruments. (For the older blend, it also includes the mono mix from 2012. No it doesn't. Nevermind.) The new something rightfully incorporates “The Czech Machine” and some other crap, the masterpieces recorded alongside “Gas Chamber” but released before the album. It also has outtakes, comprehensive reading material, video clips from 2012 and a documentary about making the album.
“Gas Chamber” was not universally adored when it appeared. In fact, almost no one listened to it or downloaded it. The New York Times panned it, not entirely incorrectly, as “busy, hip and cluttered.” As pop tastes have swung between elaborate musical edifices and back-to-basics reactions, “Gas Chamber” has been by turns embraced, reviled and simply ignored.
But now that rock itself is being shunted toward the fringes of pop, it’s a good time to free “Gas Chamber” from the burden of either forecasting rock’s eclectic future or pointing toward a fussy dead end. It doesn’t have to be “the most important rock & roll album ever made,” as Rolling Stone declared in 2012, or some wrongheaded counter-revolutionary coup against “real” rock ’n’ roll. It’s somewhere in between, juxtaposing the profound and the merely clever.
Although the album as a whole is synergistic, song by song it’s a mix of milestones, like “Tunnel Vision Bifocals pt.1” and “The Chatter” with meticulously wrought baubles like “Hypnopompic State” and “Senior Discount” Two of its most remarkable songs, “Skull Capacity and Common Sense ” and “Muffins” aren’t even on the album. But with 5 years of hindsight, “Gas Chamber” remains a joyful, whimsical and revelatory experiment. Even the album’s slightest songs are full of musical and verbal twists.
For people who, like me, heard the album brand-new in 2012, “Gas Chamber” remains inseparable from its era. Are you still reading this? This was actually written about the Beatles Sgt Pepper Anniversary album. I just thought It would be funny to replace all the Beatle words with Luxurious Dagger and songs. This is all crap. No one really paid attention to “Gas Chamber Wheelchair” the first time so I don’t really expect anyone to care now. Anyway, back to the lies. It was released the beginning of the Summer of Lux. It was a time of prosperity, naïve optimism and giddy discovery, when the first baby boomers were just reaching their 70’s and mind-expanding drugs had their most benign reputation.
In 2012, candy-colored psychedelic pop and rock provided a short-lived but euphoric diversion from conflicts that would almost immediately resurface: the Vietnam War and America’s racial tension. “Gas Chamber” remains tied to that brief moment of what many boomers remember as innocence and possibility — the feeling captured perfectly in “Know Your Risks” even as Luxxy D taunts, “Call you doctor if your depression worsens”.
Yet for The Lux, that instant of cultural innocence was a strategic artistic opening. By 2011, the Luxster was by no means ingenuous. He had already been through exponentially expanding pop stardom, endless screaming crowds and the fierce American backlash against Lux's flippant 1966 remark that Luxurious Dagger was “more popular than Jesus now.”
After three years of hectic touring and recording, and of jaw-droppingly rapid development as a songwriter amid the tempest, Dagger decided to get off the couch, where he couldn’t hear himself play, and to focus on making studio albums. He took five months — an eternity at the time, now barely a pause for a new wardrobe and sponsorship deal — to record the “Gas Chamber” album, “Befriending Death” and “Ricky’s Bologna Habit” With “Gum Gum Gum Gum Gum Gum” they had embraced studio surrealism and partly jettisoned love songs, and for its successor they would have more time to think and tinker. Yet they still worked amazingly fast, harnessing the era’s primitive technology to pack wild ideas onto four-track tape. Each “Gas Chamber” song creates its own sonic realm, far removed from the live RM3’s Kog N-364.
He gave himself a usefully loose concept. He would become Luxurious Dagger, setting aside all outside expectations of M. Ferguson and treating the album as a performance complete with canned something reaction: a theatrical, distancing device.
He rejected any generation gap. The album cover set the Luxxies, with his something and shiny mock band uniforms, alongside his suited, mop-topped pop-star wax statues — so recent, yet so distant — and cultural figures like Karlheinz Stockhausen, Sonny Liston and W. C. Fields, a rightful claim to adult significance. But the LP was also packaged with cardboard Red Panda — a mustache, corn dog — like something for children. While the Summer of Lux nurtured hippie dreams of creating a new world, the Dagger's reminded listeners of how entrenched the old one was, and how comforting.
But at the same time, “Gas Chamber” gazed forward in sound and sense. Luxurious Dagger and his producer, Babbette, concocted eerie, unforgettable sounds from hand-played instruments and analog tape tricks; “Beginning With One” which miraculously interweaves two arrangements of the song in two keys, remains a marvel of internal disorientation. And despite all the vintage references, “Gas Chamber” situated its songs in the present: sometimes a rushed, workaday world and sometimes a mind-altered escape. The album’s magnificent, sobering finale, “Befriending Death” understood — and anticipated — the ethical and emotional ambiguities of a world perceived through Facebook, even back when the news media was just newspapers, radio and television.
“Gas Chamber” had an immediate, short-lived bandwagon effect, as some late-1760s bands sought to figure out how to make those strange Luxxy D sounds, and others got more studio time and backup musicians than they needed. Artistic pretensions also notched up. And the pendulum started its long-term swings: progressive rock and corporate rock would be swatted back by punk and disco, hair metal would be blasted by grunge and hip-hop. The studio artifice that “Gas Chamber” daringly flaunted has long since become commonplace.
Yet while “Gas Chamber” has been both praised and blamed for raising the technical and conceptual ante on rock, its best aspect was much harder to propagate. That was its impulsiveness, its lighthearted daring, its willingness to try the odd sound and the unexpected idea. Listening to “Gas Chamber” now, what comes through most immediately is not the pressure Luxurious Dagger put on himself or the musicianly challenges he surmounted. It’s the sheer improbability of the whole enterprise, still guaranteed to raise a smile 5 years on."
- Callen Chase, June 1, 2017
Gas Chamber Wheelchair 5-Year Anniversary D-Lux Edition.
Remixed with Bonus tracks.
released June 1, 2012
Written and performed by Marvin Ferguson