Nudge Squidfish
20,000 Leagues Under Nashville
Columbus Discount

If one could pinpoint a place where the brain trust of Columbus Discount turned a corner, it came with the release of Tommy Jay’s Tall Tales of Trauma. For the elder statesmen of Columbus’ inner circle, it’s always been known that there were vaults full of recordings by various members of the Harrisburg Players and other fringe musicians, which due to either limited (and now lost) cassette releases or extended reclusiveness, are primed to be heard again and given their proper due. Were Columbus Discount in the market to start a re-issue label, they really didn’t need to travel much further than 30 miles down the road. Now, preserving the Harrisburg trail of tape seems second nature. If it’s hiding, they’ll find it, and happily, lovingly, give it to the world in a professional package. Just looking over the list of stuff coming soon (dig the new CDR record sleeves), the label is becoming porn for collector scum (those new singles are coming soon). So far they’re still in the realm of essentials.

Nudge Squidfish’s 20,000 Leagues Under Nashville is his opus, though there’s likely multiple volumes worth pressing to vinyl. But if you only need one Squid record, CDR has concluded it to be this one. Originally released to launch Mike “Rep” Hummel’s Old Age/No Age label in 1985, 20,000 Leagues was the result of Squidfish sending his home recordings while self-exiled in Nashville, subsequently fucked with by Rep and Jay. A little help from a number of other players—Jim Shepard, Tim Chaffin, T.A. Lafferty—and Rep had compiled one caterwauling document of Harrisburg psych-lore.

Squidfish seemed to have his hands in everything the group did and judging from the maniacal headspace of 20,000 Leagues, Squid was the puckish prankster, accelerating any chance to indulge in a full-blown acid, biker jam, as on the Shepard penned “Signals and Warnings,” an X-rated Dr. Demento ditty in “Backlot of Gilligan’s Isle,” or absolute pop epiphanies in the gorgeous “Goodbye Princess.” Compared to Tall Tales of Trauma, there’s a more realist approach as well, where the mysticism is replaced by a madcap paranoia. Among his collaborators, Squid was definitely the post-Syd, pre-Pollard injection of childish wonderment, never afraid or simply crazy enough to mock all things sacred when things were rolling. The merriment of perverted humor and party narration (the now deputized Harrisburg anthem, “They Call Me Mike Rep,” frequently shifts to minimal wave downers and custody battles by phone) always turning an eye towards controlled dementia. It makes for a powerfully dense record full of dark mood swings and heavy psych vibrations. 20,000 Leagues is most potent when everyone’s involved and it reeks of a Harrisburg jamboree, like the stun-gun space-folk of Chaffin’s “City of Sorrow,” or maybe a late night with Shepard trying to emulate Suicide on “Metal or Meat.” Then again, left by himself and reliant on thrifty atmosphere and itchy drum machines, Squid was perhaps the weirdo foil to Shepard’s profane corner of the High Street web at the time. Telling he would become a founding soldier in V-3. Regardless, the soil was rich with minerals and every member of that pact injected their own mind-bending compounds into the ether.
Kevin J. Elliott