Sunday, September 26, 2004

"Minuteflag" EP
SST Records, 1986

Recorded around the same time Husker Du was laying down tracks for Flip Your Wig, Minuteflag, a party improv collaboration between the minutemen and Black Flag was a one-off project that upon hearing the results both bands agreed not to release it. While Mould and Hart were pushing the boundaries of post-hardcore into pop and emo territory, Minuteflag was exploring the the jam band domain even if it wasn't meant to see the light of day.

However in 1986 with the dissolution of the minutemen, the record was released. My reaction, having bought this without hearing anything about it but just by the sheer novelty of a record by two of my fave bands, was WTF?! - this sounded like Grateful Dead cover band trying to do space - I listened to it once and shoved it into a box... but now it kinda makes sense. Kira and Watt would continue to explore the two-bass thing on Dos - you can hear the genesis of this in the aptly named "Friends." Black Flag would release an all instrumental Weeding Out shortly thereafter and Ginn would later form an all-instrumental jam band (Gone) and declared himself a Deadhead (if hadn't done so by this time). Even the Rollins Band would record a Dead cover - don't know if it made it to an album but I heard the demo being played (by Ian no less) one afternoon while browsing at late and lamented Yesterday and Today record store.

All these songs are worth another spin despite what naysayers like Trouser Press and even the bands say. But "Fetch the Water" holds out best, with the infectious chorus and the sheer number of musicians makes it a wall-of-sound sonic treat. Plus its good to hear d. boon singing with Henry and Kira.

Fetch the Water

Fun fact: The cover of the Minuteflag EP (here's an ebay picture) was drawn by Joe Baiza who would like perfect the punk-jamband synthesis of Minuteflag in Universal Congress of.

Husker Du

Flip Your Wig
SST, 1985

Like port wine,
Flip Your Wig ages quite well. The songs remain as fresh as they were when first recorded in early 1985 yet have a full range of accomodate every taste from the bitter to the sweet.

In terms of their differences, Mould tackles a wide range of topics - politics, personal, etc. with a mostly bleak perspective while Hart focuses on the old staples -- girls and love. This pattern is established and plays itself out in the future records - "Candy Apple Grey" the next album after this is a perfect way of describing the three - Hart as candy, Norton as the apple - core - and Mould as the grey - matter...

It's Mould's songs that are the most intense -- he addresses just about everything going on in his life- their new-found fame (the title track), the old fan base that were pushing back on their new directions ("Makes No Sense At All"), the politics of the time ("Divide and Conquer") and his own personal life. Its in these latter songs like "Find Me" and "Games" that I'm hearing again in a different way and I glossed over in my previous listens. The topics - fear of going mad and self-disgust - are intensely personal and revealing given his subsequent coming out. Listening to "Find Me" especially makes the hair on my neck stand up:
There's a thousand million voices
They're screaming in my eyes
Preachers in the forest
Sirens in the sky
Well I walked around and I cried a lot
Thought that I would die
Find Me
It's interesting to note that these songs were being written at about the same time that Rites of Spring was writing their own seminal emo-core record and that Bob is working on a music project with Brendan Canty. The instrumentals are also even more interesting now - despite its onorous title "The Wit and the Wisdom" is a fine piece and "Don't Know Yet" tries to do something different without sounding too self-conciously proggish.

Hart's songs are quite different fare. Compare these lyrics from "Green Eyes" to the above:
It's a great big world
There's a million other guys
I feel so lucky when I look
In those green eyes
This and "Flexible Flyer" are perhaps among the best songs he recorded with Husker Du. He's an impossibly happy dude but it only makes Mould's songs stab even deeper.

Bob Mould and Grant Hart show they are distinct songwriters but still able to make significant contributions to each others compositions. By that I mean the drumming on "Makes No Sense At All" is the "hook" that turns the song into something that was instantly likable and a "hit" for them -- even though it's Mould's song. Likewise, Mould's banshee counterpoint to the chorus in "Green Eyes" strengthens Hart's songs incredibly. I like Mould's guitar blitz in the middle of "Keep Hanging On" as it underscores Hart's screaming quite well.

As this record is still widely available, I'll just post one track, Mould's "Flip Your Wig" since it features singing from both Mould and Hart.

Flip Your Wig

Notes: This guy does a fantastic job of summarizing the Husker Du portfolio. The rest of his site is recommended.
See this posting for a comprehensive update on Mould's latest work including the work with Brendan Canty.
The guitar riff to "Divide and Conquer" is incredibly easy for even a ham-handed guy like me.
Blogger has been acting like a bad boy today -- I've lost several versions of this post so if the writing isn't that good, I apologize for Blogger because what I lost was a lot better!

OFFTOPIC: As I've purged Real Player from my system, I'm happy to report that a spyware free player capable of handling Real streams here (courtesy Neil Gaiman's journal)

Friday, September 24, 2004

Ain't the Modern World Swell

So... I'm digging my new wireless headphones. They allow me to listen at maximum volume without bothering the neighbors in my snooty Co-op. Tonight, I'm working in the kitchen listening to last week's free iTunes download ("Good ol' Love" by Masta Ace) and I notice a smallish object in the sink. It looks like a very small black plastic cylinder. Hmmmm... I think, is there something in the disposal. So I reach in... and pull back VERY quickly when I feel something spinning under my ring finger.

I had the headphones on and had forgotten to turn off the disposal. Whew... close one that makes you rethink that whole bopping while cooking. Of course, first thought wasn't I was one inch from never spinning a drumstick over a cymbal. It was, "I gotta blog this." Sheesh.

I'm sorry I can't post more during the week. Things are pretty hectic at work... Anyway, while I prepare this week(end)'s posts, go to Heraclitussayz and vote in his lo-fi indie Survivor poll. Some good songs from even the ones that get voted off the island. I like the whole lo-fi thing because no group sounds alike within the genre. And Heraclitus has the best ear for it.

Sunday, September 19, 2004

Money for Art's Sake
Various Artists
Esoteric Records, Mifflintown, PA

I ran a very, very obscure fanzine in the '80s and received some attention from a major-league fanzine and all of a sudden my PO Box got deluged with records of all sorts. This was one of them. These types of records really tore me apart -- do you follow your instincts and rip into them (thereby delivering to your readers the goods) or do you encourage such efforts because they are supporting a local music scene, however mediocre it may be. This isn't to say I had any problem slagging or praising some of the larger indies or majors. It's just that when your faced with a slab of vinyl that someone poured their heart, soul and bank account into, you kinda think twice.

I can't remember how I handled this record -- probably made a few subtle comments and moved on. And listening to it 15+ years on, I'm still on the side of my original assessment. I'd like to say that the Mifflintown scene was happening but most tunes are fair-to-middling bar rock with a few oddball songs and even one atrociously bad Ian Curtis imitation (a band called
Worker Burn-Out) that I might include someday on my "worst ever" compilation.

So I'm not saying these two tunes are the greatest but they stand out. "Out To Paint The House" by Briggs Beall reminds me of Colorblind James Experience and I'm sorta doubting that they ever crossed paths but who knows. "Journey to the Center of Your Mind," a cover of the Amboy Dukes classic by The Shout
really isn't very remarkable but it does have some spirit and indicates a band that listened to more than The Hooters or .38 Special. (and who, you ask are The Hooters, you mean you don't remember "Concubine"???)...

"Out to Paint the House" - Briggs Beall
"Journey to the Center of Your Mind" - The Shout

Rifle Sport Addendum

Zom-Zom (Gerald Boissey of Rifle Sport, Kontrol Panel) writes to correct some of my Rifle Sport posting of several months ago and provides some show news for those in Minn.:

Hey, nice to see some commentary on Rifle Sport.

A few corrections though please, One thing is that it looks like we'll be playing a one-time reunion show the night before Thanksgiving in our favourite Seventh Street Entry club in Minneapolis. Also playing will be my current band Kontrol Panel, Brick Layer Cake, Flour, and Arcwelder.

The picture you are using has the "other" guitarist pictured in it, the year that I wasn't in the band. He doesn't appear on any of the albums. Flour has been playing solo for the past few years and only appears on one Brick Layer Cake track. BLC has no bass player and never has. I have been playing with Todd and BLC for about ten years now, and appear on two of the albums. I played a BLC show with him a couple of months ago and will be doing some more.

As for coloured vinyl skipping, I don't believe that since the actual colour of vinyl is clear. The black was added to make it appear like the old 78s, so colouring shouldn't matter.

But again, thanks for caring about an old fairly obscure band. We had a lot of fun doing it and we are all still good friends and still very active in music and other things.


Here's the much better band picture from the EP that I should have used (Boissey is on the far right in sunglasses):

Orchestral Maneouvres in the Dark
Dazzle Ships
CBS/Virgin, 1983

My electro-Britpop phase in the early '80s was long denied and now here in the safe zero-zeros (and the semi-anonymity of the web) I can come out of the skinny tie closet. Records like this were long hidden in a dusty box and that's a damn shame. Now with "Bands Reunited" on VH-1 making the long-forgotten haircut bands of yore fashionably nostalgic, its about time Aamer pays a visit to Andy, Paul and Ian.

I would post nearly every song from here if I could (the lone exception is the dated and way bloated "International" which I didn't even bother to digitize). Dazzle Ships, while derided by the critics as overreaching, was a fine concept record exploring the borders of speech, communications, technology and human potential. And despite the high art pretentiousness, OMD was able to laugh at themselves, either through the snarky "Genetic Engineering" or the obvious shout-out to some favorite girl - "This is Helena".

OMD straddled the border between new wave spacey lunacy (kind of the new wave Pink Floyd to Gary Numan's David Bowie) and the haircut pop bands that they were obviously packaged to compete with.

Bronski Beat, New Order, Art of Noise were contemporaries but some of their sogns could hold their own with ABC, Talk Talk, fellow Liverpudians Frankie Goes to Hollywood, etc. Other touchpoints for OMD are Echo and the Bunnymen and Julian Cope's music. Several of the songs here are pure pop for now people radio plays - "Telegraph" and "Radio Waves" for instance, and I think they got a bit of play, at least in the UK (and US college radio). There's also a lot of experimentation - "Time Zones" and "Radio Prague" predates by 20 years the current "Yankee Wilco Foxtrot" craze of mixing in those mysterious voices from the short wave radio. "ABC Auto-Industry" is the song that originally attracted me to this record - it's a short and sweet montage of voices repeating "ABC" and "One Two Three" with electronics, percussion and radio snippets that builds into a crescendo and then fades away into tape machine samples. Another thing to note, OMD was one of the first bands I know of that used drum machines not so much as a replacement for drums but as an instrument in themselves (among others, they use the same Roland machine later used to great effect by Big Black) "I'm going, though, with "Romance of the Telescope" and "Of All The Things We Made" because they remind me of some of the more recent shoegazing songs of Postal Service and Death Cab for Cutie. Although I've never seen it documented, I'm wondering how much of a line can be drawn between OMD, Spaceman 3 and the current crop - at the very least a micro-dotted neon one.

The Romance of the Telescope
Of All The Things We Made

Dazzle Ships is still available and is being reissued soon. Check here for vinyl and CD.
Visit the official OMD website (photo courtesy of) at: OMD
Update: Ben Gibbard says he likes pop music but mentions Phil Collins as his Postal Service tribute mark... oops. Link: Stereogum.

Friday, September 17, 2004

how to convert analog sausages to digital bacon

A reader asked how I record from vinyl to disk - if you find this boring, don't bother reading:

I went the expensive route -- I bought a Sony CD Recorder (it has a 5 disk changer deck on the left hand side and a recorder on the right). I also use this to backup and play CDs so its pretty versatile and I have no regrets in buying it. I find it convenient to use a solid state piece of equipment to force me into maintaining an archive of discs rather than the messy disk-based approach (I know this may not make sense but I am much better at taking care of things I can touch than I am with back-ups and disk organization). You need special CD-R Audio disks, though, to do the analog conversion. The less expensive approach is to get a good sound card and an adaptor and put a line-in from your stereo directly into your computer. Alot of people do this and there's no loss in sound or anything. There are a ton of CD recorder programs out there for this - some in freeware, some like Roxio or Nero. Finally, if you go the CD-Recorder route, I recommend you NOT buy the KLH CD-Recorder - this is a piece of shite even if it is cheaper. I went through two of them -- and thank God they proved bad before the 30-day return time expired.

Now, previously I just converted the file into an MP3 and then edited it into something I could play on iTunes - I'd try to edit out the worse of the cracks and pops with a sound editor. Now I take an extra step, first converting the file into a WAV (via Roxio Easy CD) and then running it through a program called DART XP. While it is not a cheap program, it is the best way to eliminate the cracks and pops found on vinyl. I tried just using the tools found in Roxio's Sound Editor and later Goldwave (more on those next) but found them to be substandard and made the recording sound worse. The loss due to the DART sound processing is minimal - at least I can't hear it. I've been playing with the program for the past few weeks and my last posting on Galaxie 500, is the first time I have tried it. Tell me if you hear alot of surface noise. It also eliminate tape hiss and (although its complicated) can deal with hum.

I then take the converted file into a sound editor. There are two that I use -- Roxio has a quick and dirty sound editor that's fine if you don't want to do anything with the file. It loads quick and has an easy interface. Goldwave's sound editor has more bells and whistles and allows you to better post process your tune. If you are someone who didn't like how the original was mixed or equalized, I should say, you can go in and fix it with Goldwave. Either way, Goldwave is fun to play with.

My final step is to import the files into iTunes where I add in meta information via the "get info" feature. I usually try to add in track number, composer, band name (of course), album title and copyright information especially for those that are being demoed as part of this journal.

Well, I hope I haven't sufficiently bored you to death.

Galaxie 500 are not for everyone - their music is horribly simple, they aren't the best musicians and they probably have body odor. But played very, very loud, all such bullshit and myopic earthly concerns are laid aside. So, a DVD retrospective has been released with their handful of lo-vi viddies and club tapes. I've written about it before and you can go here to get it - "Don't Let Our Youth Go To Waste" - this is the b-side of the special ltd 7" that comes with the DVD. I don't normally MP3'ize recent releases but since this is a promo and if we buy enough of their DVDs and CDs maybe they'll come back together.


Update: Oh, gosh - I see SVC has a G-500 posting. Oh well, look at it as bookends.

Monday, September 13, 2004

Phantom Tollbooth

Self-titled EP
Homestead Records, 1986

Not the movie, not the book, not even the Christian music website... Phantom Tollbooth was a post-
Burma band mixed with Chicago style punk crossed with noize-skronk (pre-Shimmy Disk) and maybe even a little bit of Bowery scuzz (thinking early White Zombie when I listen to the opening song, "Jack of All Phobias" ). Vocals and lyrics seem incidental but add some needed trebly color (and it's easier to get gigs if you have vocals).

Last year, their '88 album,
Power Toy received a makover from Guided By Voices Robert Pollard. With the permission of the band, Pollard re-recorded the vocals making a quite different album. You can download two of the tracks here and there's a cool video to the best song of the album there as well. Leader-singer-guitarist Dave Rick went on to Yo La Tengo, King Missile and Bongwater.

"White Out" could have been written by
Mission of Burma and put on their album earlier this year.

"More Paranoia" raises a great racket with an oscilloscope in the mix. Great for putting on the headphones and scaring out the earworms.

Notes: Image ripped from Musicmatch - I can't tell if their tracks are available there or this is just a come-on to download their software.

Trouser Press Entry

Review of the "last" DC Guided by Voices show

Sunday, September 12, 2004

From NY SCUM Rock (ROIR)

The cannon fodder of rock and roll is kids who don't know how to play their instruments looking to get laid. It's good to be reminded of that from time to time. So... I've always liked this too-stupid-even-for-The-Ramones ditty that comes off a compilation of a "scum rock" festival held at CBGB in May, 1989. It's one of the few on that tape I still listen to (usually after a few drinks, as well)...although I love some of the names of the bands - Ed Gein's Car and Traci Lord's Ex-Lovers, for ex.

Bit of history: Deans of Discipline were formed in 1977 and played around the NYC area at the same time the Dolls, Ramones and Television were making hits... they remained offensive as hell as this cut attests to and had no pretensions to greatness or recording contracts. I suppose the offensiveness is mitigated by the fact that the song could be sung by either sex and gender preference-type (even those poor asexuals could sing it to the mirror).

Sleazegrinder reviews them here and provides a succint history and context. The Deans includes Nick Marden, who ran with the Stimulators...

Cute and Drunk

Saturday, September 11, 2004

Lips and Mouse head LA2004 ATP...

All Tomorrow's Parties line-up has been announced...

Saturday, November 6 and Sunday, November 7 are the dates set for the third annual All Tomorrow's Parties at the Queen Mary in Long Beach, CA with festival curators Modest Mouse as Saturday night's headliners, while The Flaming Lips will headline Sunday on a bill featuring The Shins.

Both Modest Mouse and The Shins performed at last year's event and they continue the tradition of consecutive repeat performances. Sonic Youth curated the inaugural Los Angeles event and performed last year, while The Simpsons' creator Matt Groening curated the 2003 event, describing it as "one of the high points of my life." Noted Richard Cromelin in the Los Angeles Times (11/10/03), "All Tomorrow's Parties' reputation as pop's most adventurous musical safari stems from its policy of turning over the programming to a designated 'curator'."

Festival website

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

More Akron Wierdness Now Available...

Here's one for Lost Bands of the New Wave Era: Akron's Chi-Pig's lost 1979 record is now available on CD Baby which supports mp3 streaming of the first two minutes of most of the songs. Tip o' cap to Richard Riegel.

Here's a description:

Midnight at The Bank in Akron, Ohio. Sitting at a corner table: two girls and a boy, dressed in Carmen Miranda's dancing clothes and sipping drinks with paper parasols. You noticed them. You wondered. You had a feeling they were smarter than you and that made you nervous. You had a feeling they were cooler than you in the way they didn't seem to need you, but knew you would have to notice them. You were not surprised when they got up from the table and the girls picked up guitars and started to play. And you were not surprised that the drummer, the boy, had jungle in his beat, nor that you began to dance. Their music was brittle and nimble, sometimes sultry and sometimes chirpy, the kind of razor-thin funk with white soul and a Motown bottom that seems at once studied and nonchalant, all brush-off and come-on. They played a song called "Boy" and they played a song called "Men." They sang about two-faced women and ring around the collar and heartache without regret. They undressed "Going to a Go-Go" and the harmonies gave you chills. And so you began to ask questions. You learned that their name, Chi-Pig, came from a barbecue joint: "chi" for chicken, "pig" for ribs. Urban shorthand, just like the music. You learned that the girls had played in bands with Peter Laughner, had jammed with Devo, and once gave a command performance in Akron with Tin Huey for members of Roxy Music. Then someone tells you a story. He tells you that one dark winter, Chris Blackwell, the president of Island Records, flew from the Bahamas into a legendary Akron snowstorm to unravel the mystery of the music in the sewers of a rusting city. He tells you that Blackwell asked the girls where their band got its name, and the three of them, the record company executive and the two girls, set off into the snowy night to steal the restaurant's sign. And that they returned empty-handed. A record was made in 1979 and it was never released. Then the band disappeared completely. For years it was all like a secret you almost knew. And so now you discover this document. You understand the slyness of its title. "Miami" -- because it was recorded in that city and because it tastes like it: dark rum and sugar and mint and crushed ice. And finally it makes sense.

--David Giffels, co-author, "Are We Not Men? We Are Devo!"
Some Mp3 highlights of the past few days, well last weekend -- I've been busy...(apologies if these songs have been taken down):

It came just in time for the end of summer. There's always one good car riding pop song and this is it. Fluxblog writes about "Is It Cos I'm Cool" here. Soulside's Rachel Yamagata's "1963" is an also-ran but a good also-ran. Hear it here. "Collide" ain't too bad either as a "Morning After" meditation.

Last week was Slapp Happy week at Mystical Beast. I'm digging "The Drum", an inviting folk pop song later covered by Bongwater. Get it here.

Monday, September 06, 2004

Gordon Gano & D. Johnston make Impossible Love

As a follow-up to the last post, a kind and generous reader working with Gammon Records sent the following songs for your perusal. The Daniel Johnston cover album goes on sale 21 Sept and will be available on iTunes on 14 Sep (links to the album are below). These aren't an exclusive so you may find the same cuts on other sites.

"Impossible Love" - Gordon Gano (ex-Violent Femmes)

"Impossible Love" - Daniel Johnston

Notes: Guitar tabs and lyrics here.

Thursday, September 02, 2004

Daniel Johnston.

Hi How Are You?

Homestead Records, HMS 117-1, 1988
Originally recorded 1983

With the imminent release of the hotly anticipated (second) tribute CD to Mr. Johnston and the reissue of several of his releases, I thought it would be worth digging into a few tracks from his first vinyl release, the 1988 Hi, How Are You. The actual music on this album was first recorded in 1983 as one of Johnston's cassettes that he would give away and sell through the mail. They became a cult item among the indie cognoscenti and eventually landed in Gerard Cosloy's tape player leading to this.

Johnston is the type of guy who has songs in his head and can't wait to form a band, play a few gigs to raise funds and rent a recording studio and an engineer. Fortunately, many of his songs (and in particular these three cuts) are worth putting up with the cheap-o cassette and instrumentation. Making allusions to his long-time struggle with mental illness and his unrequited desire for a girlfriend - "Walking the Cow" poignantly explains the ins and outs of being Daniel - it's one of his early songs that can resonate with everyone and actually sounds like something close to a traditional song. I suppose one of the guilty pleasures of listening to Johnston is imagining how it might sound if it was covered by such and such band -- so it'll be neat to hear TV on the Radio cover this in the upcoming CD. "Hey Joe" is a tribute to both his beloved Beatles and Joe Lewis (for whom the tape was dedicated) featuring a piano backing - most of his tracks here were either muffled casio, boxes or appropriated background tracks. "Keep Punching Joe" steals a jazz track to directly tell his back story and its the angriest song on the album.

It's hard to really write about Johnston and why I still enjoy some of his cuts lo these many years -- like his one-time collaborator Jad Fair -- it takes a certain patience to "get" him and sometimes, as in a few of the tracks and extra poorly recorded ambient sounds he throws in here, that patience may be a long-time coming. For the "lo-fi" fans out there, he was one of the first and the line-up below of folks (Waits, Flaming Lips, Beck, Eels) willing to cover him is pretty impressive, you have to admit.

"Walking the Cow"
"Hey Joe"
"Keep Punching Joe"

Notes: Johnston's family runs several websites. Start with the official site - Hi How Are You and you'll eventually find the other sites. The tribute CD was announced for release on Sept 21st. Proceeds will go to Johnston's medical bills so it's a good cause and you get some of the better bands and performers walking about these days. You can buy it directly from Johnston's web site.

Here's the track listing:

1) Teenage Fanclub W/ Jad Fair ~ My Life Is Starting Over Again

2) Clem Snide ~ Grievence

3) Gordon Gano ~ Impossible Love

4) Eels ~ Living Life

5) T.V. On The Radio ~ Walking The Cow

6) The Rabbit ~ Good Morning You

7) Calvin Johnson ~ Sorry Entertainer

8) Bright Eyes - Devil Town

9) Death Cab For Cutie ~ Dream Scream

10) Beck - Things Last A Long Time

11) Sparklehorse w/ Flaming Lips - Go

12) Mercury Rev ~ Blue Cloud

13) Thistle - Love Not Dead

14) Vic Chesnutt ~ Like A Monkey In The Zoo

15) Starlight Mints ~ Dead Lovers Twisted Heart

16) M. Ward ~ Story Of An Artist

17) Guster ~ The Sun Shines Down On Me

18) Tom Waits - King Kong

Additionally, 1990, produced by Kramer in 1991 and with guesting from Lee Renaldo and Steve Shelley was released last week. It's perhaps one of his best later works. Another Kramer produced album, Artistic Vice. CD Universe has them at good prices. (1993) was also reissued. This features his first real band.

You can also buy all of Johnston's music (including Hi, How Are You -- now on a double CD) at Johnston's own site. The tribute album will be sold there as well and would probably be the best way to buy it being that its for a charitable cause.

UPDATE: A reader writes in (edited for typos):

Hey I saw the daniel johnston post. I have a whole mess of good news for you. I have a friend at gammon reccords. I helped him out putting together the album and he gave me a pre release copy a couple months ago. I have told him he should release some tracks to some MP3 blogs. He thinks it's a good idea with no negative draw backs. Over the last two days we have been talking about doing this friday or saturday when he receives word from Apple if they will do a early release on iTunes. Once we get the news I can send you a copy of impossible love and gordan gano's cover.
I realize I am partial, but the album totaly blew me away. Thistle - Love Not Dead sounds like blondie doing Maria. the tom waits track is crazy it has him doing wierd acapella rythem shit that is looped while he plays guitar and sings.