By Eleni P. Austin
When the story of C.B.G.B.’s is told, the usual suspects are mentioned, The Ramones, Blondie, Patti Smith Talking Heads and Television. One band that seems to get lost in the shuffle is Mumps (sometimes known as The Mumps), and that’s a shame. Hilly Kristal’s iconic East Village venue was ground zero for burgeoning NYC Punk scene. Mumps were an integral part of that history. The nucleus of the band was charismatic front-man Lance Loud and keyboard player Kristian Hoffman. Both grew up in Santa Barbara and became pals at school. In the early ‘70s, along with his parents and four siblings, Lance participated in a PBS documentary, “American Family, that became a cause celebre when it aired in 1973. Not only did his parents’ marriage implode as the series unfolded, but Lance also came out as gay on national television.
The Loud family were invited to appear on “The Dick Cavett Show” to publicize the documentary. Pat Loud agreed, but only if her kids’ band could perform on the program. As Loud & The Mumps, Lance and Kristian were augmented by guitarist Dave Collert, drummer Jay Dee Daugherty, bassist Kevin Loud, Kim Cheeseman on organ, and Lance’s sisters Delilah and Michelle handling backing vocals. Reaction was, um, mixed, to say the least, but not many Garage bands make their debut on network television.
Undaunted, Lance, Kristian and Jay Dee Daugherty relocated to New York City, home to Lance’s cultural avatar, Andy Warhol. Truncating their name to just Mumps, the trio enlisted guitarist Rob DuPrey and bassist Aaron Kiely and immediately began playing around town. Landing a gig at the newly opened C.B.G.B.’s. They quickly began making a name for themselves alongside Punk progenitors like The Ramones, Blondie, Patti Smith, Talking Heads and Television.
In 1976, Aaron left the band and Jay Dee actually jumped ship to join the Patti Smith Group. But Lance, Kristian and Rob persevered, adding bassist Kevin Kiely and drummer Paul Rutner to the line-up. They continued to ply their trade at C.B.G.B.’s as well as Max’s Kansas City, and began making inroads into the thriving Punk scenes in L.A. and San Francisco.
Audiences responded to their brash Punk/New Wave sound, Mumps opened for Van Halen at the famed Whisky A Go-Go and Andy Warhol proclaimed them “one of the greatest bands of their time.” Rock superstars like Rod Stewart started checking out their shows and the band shared stages with Milk N’ Cookies, Cheap Trick and The Cramps. They released a double-sided single, “Crocodile Tears” b/w “I Like To Be Clean” via L.A.’s independent label, Bomp! Recordings. The single received positive reviews and garnered airplay on the few few radio stations that took a chance and played Punk and New Wave music. In 1978 a three-song set, “Rock & Roll This, Rock & Roll That,” “That Fatal Charm” and “Muscle Boys” arrived under the aegis of Perfect Records. Around the same time, Kevin quit and was replaced by bassist Joe Katz. Despite the fact that the Mumps had cultivated passionate fan-bases on both coasts, they couldn’t gain a foothold in middle America. Their sound was sharp and angular, displaying a caustic wit. It was slightly ahead of the curve, presaging artists like Oingo Boingo and Wall Of Voodoo. Even as their peers were scoring record deals, the band was left high and dry. Clearly, timid record labels couldn’t even try and figure out how to market a group fronted by two unapologetically out gay men. Frustrated, the band called it quits in 1979.
Lance went on to become a well-respected journalist, contributing to publications like The Advocate, Details, Interview and Creem. Kristian remained in music, working with everyone from Klaus Nomi, Lydia Lunch, ex-Kink Dave Davies, Ann Magnuson and Rufus Wainwright. He was also a part of bands like the Swingin’ Madisons and Congo Norvell, and made time to nurture a solo career.
Sadly, Lance contracted HIV and hepatitis C and passed away in 2001 at just 50 years old. There have been a couple of Mumps compilations, 1994’s Fatal Charm from eggbert Records and 2005’s How I Saved The World, released by the scrappy indie label, Sympathy For The Record Industry. The latter even included a DVD packed with rare performance footage. Regrettably, both anthologies are long out of print. But luckily, the cool kids at Omnivore Recordings have (once again) saved the day by releasing an exhaustive new collection cheekily entitled Rock & Roll This, Rock & Roll That: Best Case Scenario, You’ve Got MUMPS.
The opening cut, “I Like To Be Clean” starts with Lance’s deceptively delicate hygienic musings; “Elbows brush secrets couple in the darkness/Cheeks will blush semi-circles in the darkness, nestling close.” But rather quickly the instrumentation kicks in and Lance’s whisper becomes a scream, ping-ponging between twinkly keys, wiry bass and rapid-fire guitar riffs. Slightly ahead of the zeitgeist circa ’77, the band fuses a snarly arrangement and instrumentation to knotty, yet erudite lyrics like “Quite sensibly, I like to be clean, that’s how grubby experience denies itself a guest, holy rest comes only to those who have been good/Peace is absence of motion but the white gloves move to test if the guest has gathered more mildew than he should.”
Chronologically, this collection jumps back and forth, but to paraphrase from the “Sound Of Music,” we’re going to start at the very beginning, as it’s a very fine place to start. A couple of songs date back to 1974 and ’75. “We Ended Up” is powered by rev’d-up, fuzz-crusted guitars, supercharged bass, plinky piano notes and a walloping beat. Lance’s histrionic rasp and lurid mien land somewhere between Screamin’ Jay Hawkins and Frank N’ Furter, buttressed by Delilah and Michelle Loud’s effusive backing vocals. Lyrics offer a snapshot of a hedonistic existence; “We ended up in places that I’d like to take you, we ended up in places that I’d rather forget.”
“Forget-Me-Not,” recorded in 1975, is something of a homesick dispatch from the big city. Lance’s theatricality remains intact, anchored by flirty guitar riffs, shaky percussion, British Music Hall-style piano and a tip-toe-through-the-tulips beat. His tongue-in-cheek vocal delivery goes far in leavening sad-sack lyrics like “Well, the rain poured down in old Manhattan, made me feel so cold and blue, and when it does I think of you/Well, I used to sleep in sheets of satin, now some old burlap will do, and when it does, I think about you.”
As Punk Rock was exploding in Great Britain, Mumps were brandishing their acerbic wit and couching it in spiky melodies. Take “Crocodile Tears,” which weds smart-ass lyrics like “You bought the sofa that I wanted for years, and it makes me cry, but they’re crocodile tears” to descending guitar notes, barbed bass lines, rippling piano chords and a stop-start beat.
Then there’s “Anyone But You” which is built on jangly guitar riffs, snappy bass lines, warm piano and a kick-drum rhythm. Lyrics proffer a wilted bouquet of backhanded compliments; “You can make the mountains bow, me too, me too, you’re too bored to do it now, me too, me too/But I know it’s true-you know it too, I’d believe in anyone but you.” Less than affirmative sentiments are nearly camouflaged by a sweet arrangement and lithe instrumentation. 1978 is well-represented on three tracks, beginning with this collection’s title-cut. Fluttery keys give way to Lance’s swoony, Presley-fied vocals, gritty guitars, wailing saxophone and an infectious handclap beat. Conversational lyrics attempt to break the elusive musical morse code that unlocks the secrets of success; “Rock n’ Roll come see, Rock n’ Roll comme si, Rock n’ Roll comme sa, Rock n’ Roll que sera sera, two words preceding the object, make it admissible fare, press that button and put your mind on hold/If you want to be a teenage technocrat, you need a Rock n’ Roll this and a Rock n’ Roll that, the requirements for a correct chit and chat are a Rock n’ Roll this and that.”
“That Fatal Charm” is surprisingly muscular. Guitar riffs slash and scratch over marauding bass lines, blustery piano and a rollicking beat. Lance checks his modesty at the door and makes a case for his outsize personality and superior genes; “I have no second thoughts on how I came to ne, cause only students want to know that, I must confess that I can’t get enough of me and I am not ashamed to show that, and why should I be sorry, why should I care, I can’t help it if I’ve got that….. Fatal charm.”
Meanwhile, “Muscleboys” is exactly what you hoped it would be. Stabbing, sometimes flatulent keys partner with shang-a-lang guitars and a see-saw beat. The melody and instrumentation echo the British Bubblegum Glam of The Sweet, but the lyrics are pure post-Stonewall liberation filtered through a narcissistic lens. Announcing his presence with a Tarzan-flavored yodel, Lance is literally cruising for a bruising; “I’ve driven the street forever thinking how good it would taste if someone big and strong would kick some sand in my face!”
Mumps closed out the “Me Decade” with a quartet of killer cuts. The buoyant “Brain Massage” blends liquid guitars, clustered piano chords, boomerang bass and a crackling rhythm. Snarky lyrics offer a withering assessment of Werner Erhardt’s Primal Scream therapy techniques; “What’s this feeling I’ve got in my head, it’s all filled up with poison, it’s all in the red, what is there left when I’d rather be dead and I don’t know what to do… Here’s the answer, a science that’s blessed, it puts the E-S-T into best, it takes off the pressure, I don’t wanna be pressed, and then you’re just like new/There’ll be no anger or guilt, love cannot blossom, so how can it wilt, step right this way and get your psyche rebuilt with a primal scream or two.”
“Did You Get The Girl” is a taunting lyrical harangue; “Gave the swine all my pearls, but did you get the girls?,” Lance’s sneering disdain is cushioned by a pulsating melody and crisp instrumentation. Prickly guitars sidle up to and search-and-destroy bass, as obsequious keys undercut arch rejoinders like “I fed the hungry and I cured disease and I made sure everyone had T.V.s, that’s how I saved the world, but did you get the girl?”
“Scream & Scream Again” beats Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” to the punch by about three years. Spooky, oooky and kooky, it’s a lyrical mash-up of Edgar Allen Poe, “Frankenstein,” the Manson Family and “Night Of The Living Dead” with just a soupcon of cocaine paranoia. All of it wrapped tightly in an irresistible dayglo New Wave package featuring shreddy guitars, thumpy bass and neon Farfisa colors.
Finally, “Just Look, Don’t Touch” is a pluperfect slice of Power Pop/New Wave. Slingshot guitar riff-age connects with tensile bass, icy keys and a boinging beat. The lyrics are just looking for a little physical satisfaction, even if there are consequences; “I got caught red-handed and got reprimanded, now my hands are red and proud, oh that scarlet letter makes me feel so much better, ‘cause I stand out in a crowd.” Actually, as it turns out, 1977 was a watershed year for Mumps. It’s too bad only the faithful were getting infected. Along with instant classics like “I Like To Be Clean” and “Crocodile Tears” the band produced two more cutting and sublime songs that should have been hits, “Awkward Age” and “Not Again.”
The former is pleasingly Bowie-esque. Between the descending piano notes, stinging guitar riffs and sing-songy chorus, puberty has never seemed so manageable! Awkward adolescence and hormonal urges are explained away with a couple arty turns of phrase; “In tempera and egg and papier mache, the temperament is led astray, so what? You step to the floor-so what?/And stumble once more, and so you keep trying, trying, trying, to be bored and bitter too, and someday you will-but you haven’t learned.” Rob rips a scorching solo on the outro that toggles somewhere between Styx, The Stooges and the Sex Pistols.
The latter shapeshifts from pastoral ode to an angsty lament, owing as much to mid-period Kinks as it does to wily contemporaries like Elvis Costello & The Attractions. Cascading acoustic guitars shade Lance’s warbly croon atop a meandering melody, but it’s suddenly supplanted by urgent guitars, pounding piano, sidewinder bass and a chunky backbeat. Omnivore also adds a treasure trove of unreleased gems, from the primitive cool of “Teach Me,” the Rent Boy dilemma of “Dutch Boy” and the Glam-tastic “Before The Accident,” to the preening theatrics of “S.O.S.,” the impish “Dance Tunes For The Underdogs,” the paparazzi lament of “Photogenia” and the fractious fuzz of “Stupid.” They even unearth a couple of Loud songs: the Mungo Jerry-fied “Cha Cha Cha” and the hard-charging “Back In The Street.”
Mumps music remains deceptively accessible, even as Kristian Hoffman’s ambitious melodies and quick-witted lyrics were matched by dense and complex arrangements. All of it delivered with deft economy by guitarist Rob DuPrey, bassists Aaron Kiely, Kevin Kiely, Joe Katz and drummers Jay Dee Daugherty and Paul Rutner. Lance Loud remained the focal point, and rightly so. Insolent and cocksure, his arrogance was tempered by a goofy likability that quickly endeared him to his audience.
This collection captures a moment in time, a period when Punk and New Wave seemed poised to take over the world. Mumps were at the forefront of that movement, unfortunately, the record industry was too short-sighted to see what was right in front of them. Lance is gone but the legend lives on.