Before Secretly Canadian thoughtfully resurrected the discography of Worchester, Massachusetts’ psych-savant Bobb Trimble in 2007, that tandem of records, Iron Curtain Innocence and Harvest of Dreams (originally released in 1980 and 1982, respectively) already had a healthy life among collectors and cratedigging musicians in the know. Unlike the many lost artists usually considered as outsiders who pressed small private batches which disappeared with time, Trimble’s work transcended quirky bedroom experiments and mere acid casualty. His gossamer fantasy pop and dread-filled folk lifted Trimble to a league of his own. And with those reissues, it seemed his story, as mysterious as it unfolded, was a closed case, even if the diehards were clamoring about even more Trimble material being out there in the ether. It seemed once the parents decided Trimble’s time with the Kidds (his adolescent backing band on Harvest of Dreams) had run its course, he himself faded off into that same ether. But there was a finale. The Crippled Dog Band is a final record that neatly frames an unintended trilogy of albums, one which could be consider Trimble’s redemption song—that or a final warning.
Adding to the myth, the Crippled Dog Band was partly comprised of a now, slightly more matured version of the Kidds, an outfit who subsequently abandoned Trimble upon release of this record, prompting him to dump all 500 copies into an office park dumpster. There’s a reason it’s taken so long for audiences to hear The Crippled Dog Band. It took years to convince Trimble that the songs were worth reassembling, remastering, and reissuing. Be forewarned, though, this is a record which completely abandons the pastel wonderment attached to Trimble’s first two records. A quick assessment would calculate that this is Trimble gone punk and new wave. Granted, it’s difficult to call this anything but a Bobb Trimble record, considering his honeyed falsetto is so unmistakable and his disorienting guitar rhythms so distinct, but most of the album sounds like it was completed in one take, equally joyous and agitated. Besides raucous versions of past “hits” like “Galilean Boy” and a doom-bruised “Amour of the Shroud,” the album comes off increasingly fresh and innovative. Much in the same way Simply Saucer’s proto-vibes translated the Velvets and Beatles through prog and metal, on “The Camel Song” and “Poker Game of Life,” Trimble transforms would-be Nuggets into frantic jumbled genius.
There has always been debate as to how sane Trimble was in 1983. (He’s admitted in interviews that he hasn’t written a song since 1993.) And though The Crippled Dog Band constantly rides a manic flow, whether it’s the inclusion of taped video game noise or the schizophrenic anti-war screed of the brilliant “Fight or Fall/Screw It,” the record is conceptual and composed to an endearing fault. There are enough ideas packed into the scant parameters that it’s likely the band just couldn’t keep up with Trimble’s neverending whimsy. There’s also a sense that, though Trimble was a recluse obsessed with the Beatles and Beach Boys, he wanted The Crippled Dog Band to be something that went beyond that influence. An excellent parallel would be Roky Erickson going from Elevator to Evil One. Sure, Trimble could write a pop song, but as beautiful as “You Should See My Girl” plays here, Trimble doesn’t give it nearly as much enthusiasm as he does the grinding, near speed metal fury of “Angel Eyes.” If anything, The Crippled Dog Band was Trimble just heating up.
Kevin J. Elliott