Sunday, May 29, 2005

Battle of the (Nearly Forgotten 80's Punk/Retro) Bands

Back in my hometown, every Memorial Day brought about the Battle of the Bands, a big event in those parts hosted by the local Top 40 radio station who cared little for the local music scene except for this yearly exercise in crude exploitation and self-promotion.

Exploitation? Crudeness? Self-Promotion?... if they can do it, why can't I?

The rules for entry are:
1) Must be a pulled at random 7" from the Vinyl Mine box. One cut will be pulled from the single as deemed worthy by me, the Chief Judge.
2) Must be out of print music (or at least believed to be)
3) You can vote for your fave in the commentary box over the next two weeks if you so desire and I'll announce a winner.


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Rifle Sport - "Unplanned 39" - (1985) a Minneapolis band previously featured in Vinyl Mine returns with the flipside of their "Plan 39" single. Featuring a guitar riff that sounds like it came from the Hong Kong Phooey show, J. Christopher's distinctively raspy vocals and their own "neverending chord" Beatles tribute at the end, this version of the a-side song (a remix?) upends the original into an entirely new kitty cat. It brings out the more Burma-ish aspects of the original but in an "unplanned" maybe(?) satirical way. I took the title from the label on the record but on the record sleeve this song is referred to as "Itself Sideways" - just in case it comes up in future editions of Trivial Pursuit Obscure 80's Punk Bands Edition. Love the guitar sound that "replacement" guitarist Joe White got out of here (bracing myself for some Zom Zom hate...) This single was released on Ruthless Records (without a catalog number).

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Drunks With Guns - "Leprosy" from Alter Human Industrial Fetishisms7" EP - If you're looking for the cure for a headache, don't call Myk Doskocil as his solution will be to drill into your skull until all pain is gone or you're dead. A sort of extreme anti-hardcore band that, ignoring their trailer park manager, went and dived into that filthy septic tank just for fun and then stayed there throughout the 90's. Like a lot of their songs, "Leprosy" starts out all conventional with chorus/verses and shit but then just latches onto the chorus and repeats until you clearly understand that skin disease is no fun to have. I was always afraid of leprosy as a kid (too many of those ungodly Bible movies) and always found myself looking around corners for guys dressed, a la Darkman, in cloaks and hoods holding out their festering contagious skin. The image of the leper is the outcast and that's surely an image DWG want to cultivate, whether its deserved or not. The band got alot of love from the fanzine world and St. Louis seemed to tolerate them enough as well. The record doesn't list anyone in the band except Doskocil but Grunnenrocks says there was a band here (including future Doskocil legal nemesis Seth Seirich). Read about the history of Drunks with Guns at St. Louis Punk.

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Poison Idea - "Laughing Boy" - from the Drinking Is Great 4-song compilation EP by Fatal Erection (1985). This was from the batch of songs that were considered for their first great record, Record Collectors Are Pretentious Assholes, and according to some website it was included on the German version of that EP. One of the greatest punk bands of the time, Poison Idea had a loyal local following and so rarely toured (I never saw them live) but eventually earned the grudging respect of those that had long left the hardcore punk scene behind. They had the spark that so many lacked - I still get the hairs standing up on my neck when I hear this song - it truly defines a point in time for me. The EP (put out on Pig Champion's label) this appeared on showed the vitality of the Portland scene that had sprung up at that time. What I scanned above is from the lyrics/liner notes insert. The back of it includes some Eugene/Portland gig posters of the time - most of which follow a similar sense of humor as the cover. Here's a scan of said cover of this EP for your enjoyment (click on it to enlarge):
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And here's a link to a scan of the second reissue.

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Sister Ray - "Invasion of the Pussy Music" from the flipside of the "Feel Like This" single (1988) - on the band's label (Box K). This Youngstown, Ohio garage rock band stubbornly refused to play along with the hardcore scene and for several years paid the price of both that choice and coming from a small town - finding it hard to book shows and sell records. Around the time that this record came out, though, Forced Exposure, then a fanzine put out by a bunch of flamboyant Bostonites, put out their 7" on their fledgling label conferring instant cool onto the heretofore obscurities. I suppose FE referenced them as a Stooges/MC5 aware band. My impression upon hearing this was that this was basically a hard rock garage band that didn't seem to have much more than Argent and Black Sabbath in their collections. They just happened to name themselves after the iconic 17 minute Velvet Underground song - maybe they saw it referenced in a Crawdaddy review of Procul Harum. In reality, I was wrong - singer-songwriter-guitarist Sam D'Angelo was pretty hip to the scene. Instead they tended more towards the hard rock and tongue-in-cheekism of their Cleveland heroes. This flipside song is an example of a pop-rock song -- with a bit more guitar whack and some more self-pity, it could have been a latter-years Husker Du piece or maybe late 90's Foo Fighters. But it is bookended by a faux-radio announcer and a self-depreceating coda (which explains the title of the song since the original song seems to be called "Is Love The Answer") that apologizes for writing a pop love song. I don't know why they felt the need to prostrate themselves, it's a great song by itself. Here's an interview done in the same time frame from Noise For Heroes if you are looking for more info on the band.

w Posted by Hello

The Funseekers - "If You Don't Love Me" from We Is The Funseekers 7" EP (1986) released on the band's Susstone label. Another band that often played with tongue in cheek, this retro mod group from Minneapolis tries to recapture the fun days of 60's UK invasion (more Zombies than Stones, though), whiteboy R&B (think Loving Spoonful) and, of course, Nuggets-style garage modpunk (I mean just look at the cover picture). Two guitars adorn each channel - one playing the evil pysche-pedal and the other plucking a harp-like riff leading one to think of the proverbial devil and angel who perch on the protaganist's shoulders as he contemplate some nasty act in revenge for his girlfriend's betrayal. He's absolutely seething with envy and anger and we know the outcome is not going to be a good one. Members from The Funseekers are now in The Autumn Leaves and The Conquerors.

Here's all five songs - I'll put my vote in the comments in a few days:

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Mark Farner of Grank Funk Railroad Now a Pocket PC Skin


I don't know about you but I may actually dust my IPAQ (or whatever it's called) off just to stick this on it. I hope Mark Farner of Grand Funk Railroad's kin are getting royalties, though.

Last week, I posted a link to a version of "Cherub" and said its one of the few Butthole songs that sounds good as a boot, perhaps better than the recorded version because it becomes something totally different live thanks to the satanic megaphone of one Gibby Haynes.

Here's a version off a bootleg that I had to beg for on my knees and swear I would never give a copy to anyone else. Of course within a year, I had traded a copy with Dave Redman (a DC show promoter who had all the boss boots) for something which I have long forgot. The person who gave it to me was pretty pissed and I don't think has ever forgiven me - as she had made a promise to the guy who made a promise to the band not to circulate it.

Since the band now has a policy that show tapes are okay as long as you don't sell them, I guess it's okay to pass this one on as it is pretty fucking incredible - compare the previous post's version of "Cherub" with the this version and tell me if the band got better as it aged. Of course, they have not. There's probably a list in all this - top 10 bands that got worse as they aged and top 10 bands that got better as they aged.

"Cherub" - Butthole Surfers - 6-22-85, Stache's - Columbus, Ohio
"100 Million Dead" - Butthole Surfers - 6-22-85, Stache's - Columbus, Ohio

  • Butthole Surfers
  • Stache's is now known as Little Brothers
  • Anyone have a copy of the Melvins' version of "Cherub"? They used to have it on their website but I lost it in a system crash.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Coffee and Haiku, MP3 Mix #17

four dry drums mutter

smarting through Winter's fractures

fooled by the Spring's flow

OJ Gude - Aarktica

Buzzbag Drive - Bee Queen* (from Body Shop)

My Winter Song - Gannon

Real World - Dasman* (From Dream CD Bought through Gemm, no longer in stock)

6654321 - Pagoda

* Songs hosted by Vinyl Mine - all other hosted by band or label

Photo by mykaul

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Brian Eno

Before and After Science LP
JEM Records (Reissue), 1977

One of those records that continues to grow on me some 18 years since I first heard it. My original preferences with this record ran towards the jumpy cool-headed pop on Side 1 where Eno prophesies what he's going to do in the coming years with collaborators David Bowie (Low, Heroes) and The Talking Heads (Fear of Music and Remain in Light) and even takes a detour to try his hand at prog-rock with Percy Jones' sublime fretless bass ("Energy Fools the Magician") - and, um, Phil Collins on drums. It's jumpy and energetic throughout - always a surprise around every corner. "Backwater", the second cut looks back at his pop career - this song could have easily fit onto Taking Tiger Mountain by Strategy (my fave Eno record and one of my top 50 albums). The final cut on the side is sort of an offbeat tribute to The Talking Heads and is almost interchangable with their pre-Eno Talking Heads '77 release that came out around the same time as this album.

But its side two that has aged the best, predicting, as he did in the even more sedate Green World, his decades long foray into ambient music forms with "Through Hollow Lands (for Harold Budd)" (featuring Fred Frith) and laying down the first steps towards electronica with the lyrical album closer "Spider and I" and the intimate "By This River" (surprisingly co-written with Moebius and Roedelius from Kraut-rock band Cluster). This latter song has recently gotten some new life on the soundtrack of Y Tu Mama Tambien and it is almost interchangable with the cream of the crop of "indie pop" genre.

Before and After Science is commonly referred to as his last "song" album until, well, next month when the cool people of the world brace for his first solo pop album since, well, Before and After Science. From all accounts, the new record Another Day on Earth will be similar to this - working with a variety of musicians, experimenting with new sounds and instruments that Eno claims haven't been used in pop songs before (for instance on this album he has Fred Frith playing Cascade guitars and Shirley Williams on "Brush Timbales"). So, I'm looking forward to it - don't know about you - see excerpt from an interview about this new record below.

Eno, circa 1977 (he was in an auto accident in 1975 and re-emerged with short hair and a different attitude but he is still exuding some of that Roxy Music 'tude here)

"By This River" - recorded straight from some rather low-grade vinyl with no post-processing.

As usual, this MP3 is for sampling purposes only and is only available for a short period. The reader is encouraged, if he or she likes it, to buy the albu or song in the variety of formats in which it appears. At the request of the copyright holder, it will be taken down as fast as possible.

  • Explore one of the oldest and most complete fan sites at Enoweb. Hours of fun for those of you interested in Brian Eno (but of course you already knew that). It's also where I found the promo photo from '77 above.
  • Buy stuff directly from Brian at Enoshop which is currently fronting the cover art and song listing for his highly anticipated new song album (at least in my house): Another Day on Earth. Note that this album used his Oblique Strategies card set (a sort of new age "deal a meal" for decision making) and it makes a great gift for your sophsticated in-the-know friends (me, me, me!).
  • KittyText is a great music/Mp3/art/pop culture blog that I've been criminal in not putting in my Blogroll (I plan on doing it tonight). Anyway, they have a recent post on Eno and Robert Fripp (who appears on this album and Eno credits - along with David Bowie for their "advice and encouragement"). The author appears to have gotten an early listen to the new album and writes about it in the post.

How to Buy This Record:
  • These and the other three Eno "song" records from the '70s are still very much in print and available on iTunes/eMusic. Astralwerks (his current label) recently remastered versions of these seminal albums that are very true to the original. If you are new to Eno, I'd suggest starting with Taking Tiger Mountain by Strategy (in fact, you should make it the highest priority in your life). If you are an Aphex Twin fan, I'd suggest also picking up Green Mountain (the title cut recently appeared on the Flaming Lips' Late Night Tales compilation if that's important to you). You can cherry pick songs from this album and Here Come the Warm Jets, his kiss-my-ass-off to Bryan Ferry on the major music downloading services.
Saved Round:
  • I'll close with a recent interview with Eno from Russia (where the record will be released first!) - he talks about the new album and his problems with songwriting in general - a topic he explores on Before and After and one of the reasons it still is such a compelling listen:

Q: You have done an album of "proper" songs recently, which will be released next month ["Another Day on Earth."] What kind of songs are they? It's very interesting because it's something that people probably didn't expect from you.

A: I hope so. Yes, I mean it is something that people didn't expect. It's kind of harder thing for me to do than to make an ambient record. I can make ambient records during my sleep now, if I want to. It's very easy for me that area. So I was interested to make some music in what is a very challenging form, namely the song format, it's a very difficult form to work in.

So I had a couple of thoughts in my mind. One is I want to do new things with voices that people haven't done or haven't been doing much of. And I want to do new things with sound, the kind of things that don't usually appear in songs. So some of the ideas I learned in instrumental music I want to transfer in the songs. Instrumental and ambient music, you know. And that's what I've been doing.

Q: You are planning to have it released in Russia first, rather than in the rest of the world. Why?

A: I thought it'd make a nice change. I want to release in Russia and China first just to make a difference, because everything always goes by the same routine. Of course, it's released in England first with the English newspapers do it, and then the Russians get it after a long time. I thought, let's change it around a little bit. That also gives me a chance to fly over some British journalists to Russia, St. Petersburg, probably where they can actually see the country because most British people have never been to Russia. They have no idea whatsoever about it, how it might be. So it's a sort of slightly educational enterprise.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Minimal Man

Sex With God LP
Dossier Records, 1985

Short Pithy Description: Pretty Awful Post-Industrial, Non-Dance from San Francisco by way of Berlin

So the erudite hipster may find this record in my collection and nod sagely, stroking his (or her) goatee with that infinitesimal nod of a head and say, "ah yes, Minimal Man - the late Patrick Miller in his post-industrial "Berliner" phase" and while I may find it a bit disagreeable to even have a goateed hipster in my den of iniquity and within spitting distance of my cat (if I had one), I would probably have to laugh, laugh laugh because, hey bub, the joke's on you. Yeah, sure early Minimal Man, back when Pat Wilson was still in San Francisco emoting into microphones with the likes of Z'ev and Factrix in the audience egging him on - maaaaybeeee... but this later stuff is evidence of a decline in Mr. Miller's interest and supposed proclivity towards making optimal aural buzz.

Here we suffer a heavily reverbed voice (in every FRIGGIN' SONG but one I might add), - making a nasal murmur and whine, over mostly synths and drum loops and such about such typical ruminations on sex, alienation, sex while being alienated, alienation caused by sex, alienation caused alienation. Did I mention sex and alienation?

The "point" or concept of the Minimal Man was that the songs were song from the perspective of a person with nothing - a mindset that kind of makes sense when considering industrial music and can potentially lead to making some interesting music - I'm not saying alienation and separateness from society aren't bad topics to be making noise about - just saying that it helps to tackle some other topics. In the first few years of the band, Miller got so into the personna that he reportedly BECAME that person and moved to Europe (reportedly) to snap himself out of it. The downside, I guess, was that the music became less interesting as a result. Might have worked for Stephen Foster but, alas, it didn't seem to be working for Mr. Miller.

Supposedly, Mr. Miller was only "minimally" involved in the making of this wreck of a record and it shows - supposedly he'd show up at the studio with completed tapes and sit back and let the engineer do the mastering and mixing. Quoting engineer Marcus Burak (who liked the source material):
We were alone in the studio and I remember like today, how he was sitting at the rear end of the room on our sofa and most times watching me work. Yes, I was really surprised but his first statement was: Do what you like. This was not the usual tone and therefore I remember this quite well. He let me work on the tape and I went through song by song. He only influenced some things, if I did too much echo or one of the instruments was too much or not loud enough, but basically he let me do it. I mean the original material on the 8 track tape was already very good that I had an easy time to work with it. He had his very clear ideas of what is of importance for him. This was the moment when he said something about how he wanted it. The rest was up to me.

As he came, he went. Just showed up in the studio and vanished afterwards. If I remember correctly, the whole mixing process took two or three days.
Remembering that this blog takes the good with the bad, the old with the new - I'm pushing out perhaps the best cut ("A Better World"), a typically sarcastic song about the non-existent paradise awaiting the minimal man. Its mostly representative of the rest of the cuts (exception being the final cut 'Fuck Me" which is just a different type of cliche) by including a sort of improv keyboard track and some semi-interesting sound effects weaving their way over the uninteresting main thrust of the track.

No doubt the Wayside Music Catalog crew must have been amused when I finally ordered this out of their $3.99 loser bin based on what I now know must have been a pseudo-rave description )in actuality, I don't think I've ever had much in common with most of Wayside's catalog - but it was a place to find 1/2 Japanese and Kraut rock. But in this case the joke was on me and I didn't even have a goatee.

Patrick Miller and Blaise Smith

Band Members:
Minimal Man put out a total of seven records (per Trouser Press). Miller also played in the sprawling band SF-based band Tuxedomoon. Blaise Smith (pictured with Miller played guitar, keyboards and drums (although I only hear a drum machine throughout) and Kristin Oppenheim is credited for vocals and films (I guess this means audio samples). Blaise Smith has gone on to compose for films and children's songs and Oppenheim is a multi-media artist who has been featured in gallery shows.

"A Better World" - Minimal Man from Sex With God

Cuts are put up for fair use discussion. We do not link to or post entire albums. If artists or copyright owners object, we will remove it since it's not really worth the fight.

  • Flux Apparition tribute page to Minimal Man (source of interview with Markus Baruk)
  • Ira Robbins reviews Minimal Man in Trouser Press
  • Short UnSound article on Minimal Man from history of industrial music
  • Note: There is another band called Minimal Man that hails out of Germany
Update (8 Sept 05): Terminal Boredom (Sgt. Slaughter) likes earlier MM but writes off this later stuff as "proto-Wax Trax digi dread"...
Minimal Man was one guy, Patrick Miller, and whomever he brought along for the ride (or not). The 'Shroud Of' LP from 1981, along with the earlier "He Who Falls" 7" from 1980 (self-released), are about as bracing as anything from the early New York No Wave scene (Ah, the West Coast will always have that inferiority complex). The 'group' started out interested in doing strictly soundtrack-type stuff but the aggression and seething angst dripping off of many of these tracks drives them from merely the background of your attention to front and center. There is a live 7" on Sub from '83, '"Two Skeletons", that continues in this vein, but from there on out it's proto-Wax Trax digi dread.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Sex and Cigarettes MP3 Mix #17

i'm eating caviar from krasnodar

Music for fumblin' neath the sheets...

Flickr image by Jezek - all rights reserved

Tracks free and legal hosted by bands or record labels except Holopaw track hosted by Found Magazine

Some Friday Night Lunacy

For some reason this song always turns out good on bootleg and soundboard recordings:

  • "Cherub" - Butthole Surfers, 2002-07-20, Emo's

Source: Live Music Archive (free/legal/approved by the band)

Thursday, May 19, 2005

All Hail the New Kings and Queens

Conn-grats to Spoilt Victorian Child, TofuHut and Honey Where You Been So Long? for winning some deserved recognition from the Morning News.

Now, how about a celebratory jam posting from all the Vicky Kids? Here's my starter:

"Partyman" - Purple Caped Crusader Who Shall Not Be Named to Escape WB's Evil Lawyer Search Agent Joker Minions

In an Uncommon Funk...

I'm in a bit of a funk. The Akron/Family performance on Tuesday night just blew me away. I even liked Michael Gira's follow-up set as I think they're a perfect band to offset his bluesy wierdness. I think I'm in a funk because I can't find the mere words to describe the awesomeness of their performance - I'm kind of in the state of mind where I know I witnessed something special but I can't remember it so much to put it into words - I'll defer to the previous posting which had a link to a show review from Atlanta.

Some things about Gira and his Angels of Light: He is, as usual, much better live. In his recordings, I've always seen him as the Keanu Reeves of singing - you always get the feeling that he's too self-concious and self-critiquing himself as he sings rather than just clearing the mind and singing from the soul. Although I have to admit his new album (with A/F in backup) he seems to be overcoming that issue (it still crops up here and there). There is something surreal about seeing Gira after so many years. Putting it into Tolkeinspeak, back then he reminded me of a terrible wraith-like spirit - now he seems like a civilized squat ogre (and I don't mean this disparagingly)

Notes on his performance:
- Overall it was great - like I said, he is better live especially when the audience (as DC audience are) is grateful and supportive
- Refers to DC as a place that he always thought "smells" and makes obligatory slag on our most famous "resident" and the town calling him a "turd in a turd bowl"
- It's still 20 years ago but he slags "straight-edge" and "hardcore" which he says, perhaps with some truth behind his words, that "I hate hardcore because it killed all that was bad about punk."
- At one point he finished tuning his guitar and then realized he had tuned it to a SWANS song so he played a few bar chords from one of their songs and the band picked it up right away. There were no SWANS covers, though and the crowd felt in on the joke.
- During the second to last song, he unconciously starts fondling himself through his pants - now we know what he means by Michael's white hands (not that there's anything wrong with that).
- He announced he was getting married soon. The crowd clapped and he asked why are they clapping as he feels he is about to be "castrated."
- Overall sound - or at least obvious references were a mixture of the best of live, loud Velvet Underground, Devendra, Nick Cave and even at times references to Swans with one or two songs climaxing in a noisy monotonous Laibach march. Best songs were "Destroyer" (a great protest song), "Song for Lena" (he described it as his only pop song although I think "On the Mountain" could be reworked into a country hit) and "My Sister Said" (a murder song)... they did one cover, an obscure song by Dylan - "I Pity the Poor Immigrant" which really seems to fit the current portfolio of the band. I really liked his opening song "To Live Through Someone" which he also did as a soundcheck. It's perhaps his most "Devendra" influenced song and Akron/Family really help in the explosive second part of the song.

Uncommon Folk is a recommended newish MP3 blog reviewed and posted a song from Angels of Light's new record. He likes the female backing vocals (which I believe are the work of Akron/Familites...) Go here to check it out.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Akron/Family tongiht...

No time for a regular posting as I'm going to go see this band in Arlington, VA tonight.

The mighty *SixEyes found this apparently legal MP3 download - "Running, Returning" off their recent self-titled album. Supposedly, there are downloads on their Myspace page (including earlier work not on their new album) but I couldn't get 'em to work tonight (something flakey going on with their media player).

ALL the songs on this record are excellent and its in rotation. This cut is a good example of how they can rock and yet still find a sweet spot.

And did a nice review of their show a few days ago in Atlanta. Apparently, they play seated which will probably work on the small stage at the Iota. Here's an excerpt:
Judging from the clips I’d heard on the YGR site, I expected a subdued performance. Instead there was only a seamless blast of electrified folk, driving post-punk rhythms, beatles-esque four-part vocal harmonies, exuberant pop, noise, and classic rock solos. Those genre definitions do little but but provide a fragmentary outline of what the band actually sounded like, but A/F’s artifice wasn’t postmodern pastiche, but delicately honed musical craftsmanship conducted with apparent effortlessness and abandon. This was by far the most emotional and physical harmony I’d ever seen in a band., and by far the most energy I’ve seen from a fully seated rock ensemble–at times incredibly focused and quiet, then erupting into walls of sound, kicking, yelling, howling and jerking around on their chairs.
I'm especially looking forward to their harmonies and offbeat instrumentations. Read it all here

Also appearing is some guy named Michael Gira. I think he used to be famous back in the '80s.

Oh yeah, some other folks answered my meme - check out their responses - here's Jakob, Courtney and Ian.

And thanks to Rae to hooking me up with coveted Bright Eyes tix.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Coffee and Cigarettes Mp3 Mix #16: Deadwoodicated

"In life... you have to do a lot of things you don't fucking want to do. Many times, that's what the fuck life is - one vile fucking task after another. Don't get aggravated. Then the enemy has you by the short hairs"
- Al Swearengen, Deadwood (as written by George Putnam)

"Theme From Deadwood" - David Schwartz (direct to music download page)
"Black Eyed Dog" - Beequeen (Nick Drake cover - ripped from WFMU)
"Run Through My Hair" - Oneida
"Juba Juba" - Yuseef Lateef (ripped from WFMU)
"Creek Lullaby" - Margaret (public domain - via Deadwood soundtrack)
"Black Hills of Dakota" - Doris Day as Calamity Jane (external link-legality unknown)

Friday, May 13, 2005

Hank on Acid

Here's my best find this week for a Friday-get-ready-for-the-weekend song...

"Mansion on the Hill" - Modern Sounds (Hank Williams cover - ripped from radio)

I understand this is going to be reissued but I don't have any more info...

Have a great shitkicking, acid-eating weekend, y'all...

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Andersens (lo-fi pop from Japan)

andersens Posted by Hello

Between Static and Fire
Majikick CD, 2003

ANDERSENS were one of the bands I wanted to hear more of after listening to Song for Nao (reviewed previously here) and this 2003 record doesn't disappoint. Less folky than the cut on Nao, the band languidly approaches pop, twee, psyche and, yes, folk with a healthy smattering of guests to cover, quite handily, guitar, sitar and banjo - different pieces of percussion are used, not abused, throughout to add additional texture to the songs. Although they are classified as "lo-fi", I think that's only because the three core members are somewhat tentative on their instruments as I can't see that their recording, while intimate, isn't being done with the highest standards. The band is built around a core of three high school friends (by 2003 they are probably in their very late teens or early 20s) and Yoshiko Iguchi who joined the band with this their second disk.

There's pieces and parts of VU, Yo La Tengo and some of the twee folk (Jennifer Gentle springs to mind) but with lots of spacey reverb. Like "Swan", the cut from Nao, they aren't afraid to just stop a song in its tracks and let one instrument carry things for a verse although unlike "Swan" the songs are simpler and mostly not as full of surprises, at least within the pieces. That said, they show some skill at sequencing the songs - building smaller instrumentals are the longer, more substantial pieces - and even with the slow tempos, this helps the listener catch their breath.

Band Members:
  • Kiyokazu Onazaki
  • Sinsuke Ouchi
  • Daisuke Kobayashi
  • Yoshiko Iguchi

  • "Philadelphia" - could be the best companion piece to Julee Cruise's "Falling"... Instrumentation: acoustic guitar, electric guitar, keyboards, toy drum, drums and vocals.
  • "Waiting For You" - the masterpiece of the album: think of it as the equivalent to floating on your back down a swirling river accompanied by a blanket of stars.
Buy via Jet Set Records on Gemm: Andersens - Between Static and Fire

  • Band Website and I think this is their blog (translated via Google Language tools)
  • Band Interview from Sound of Sunday
  • Sound Samples from their latest record, Prepared Landscapes, suggest a turn towards country-western drone

Well, I finally got a taker on my challenge: SEB, a Canadian living in Japan (coincidence!) who obviously spent a good deal of time in my fair city takes on the meme in his "And you may find yourself..." blog He's got a better list of instrumentals than I was able to come up with. Maybe if we're nice to him he can score me the latest ANDERSENS record since JetSet doesn't seem to be carrying it at this moment.

Again, the offer stands - do the meme and I'll drop you a link... fyi, if I forgot to say it before: the originator of the meme is 12thharmonic blog so let him know if you do it as well.

In honor of Feist's visit to our fair city

The image “” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.
Gotsa gets me to Tower Records

So tiny planes invade our sacred airspace and we find our Commander in Chief is out riding his bike (on a workday, I might add). This is not what we meant for "Ride Your Bike to Work" week. Operative word is "work" (well, one of the operative words).

So it begs the question: if the President can cut work to go for a bike ride, can I call in sick to go see Leslie promote her new record (1230 at Tower Records, Penn avenue)?

Tongue firmly in check and in honor of for our fave Canadian expatriate and Broken Social Scene member:
(Editorial Comment: this Dr. Demento classic is from the otherwise dreadful too-much-hippy-not-enough-folk Have Moicy LP w/Holy Modal Rollers. Instead of this LP, check out Hurley's sublime "Hog of the Forsaken" on the Deadwood soundtrack)

Credit: She's Bitter's Rae made the tip on Feist

UPDATE: Unlike some others in this town, I couldn't get away from work - even when the in-store got rescheduled to 3PM - here I sit slaving in front of a hot Powerpoint machine. So, W., I hope ya enjoyed it AND rode your bike over there. Oh well, Leslie, we'll always have Paree': To Jours, My Moor...

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Animal Collective: Prospect Hummer

I was listening to WFMU a few days ago and they played a cut from the upcoming Animal Collective EP, Prospect Hummer. It's a slight but powerful piece called "I Remember How to Dive"... It's from a recording session in London last year with the [insert fabulous adjective here] Vashti Bunyan and if it's possible to get excited about an EP, this one did it for me.

You can stream the song from WFMU (third song in, check out the preceding track from Jennifer O'Connor too!) or directly from UK's Fat Cat records (where the quality seems slightly better).

Also, get it before it's too late from - CRED CENTRAL posted "It's You" from the record a few weeks ago. Check out Cred while you're at it, it's a pretty good music/Mp3 blog hailing from Australia.

Here's my rip of the WFMU stream for your portable bop:

"I Remember How To Dive" - Animal Collective from Prospect Hummer (feat. Vashti Bunyan)
(Very limited time on this so grab it while you can - and pre-order the EP if you like it)

Pre-order Prospect Hummer - best price at CD Universe

Monday, May 09, 2005

White Out preview

White Out have a new record, China is Near, coming out next month (release date: June 20th) with percussionist William Winaut and Sonic Youth-er Jim O'Rourke.

This is from their upcoming album (release date: June 20th) on All Tomorrow's Party fledgling record label. ... ripped from a recent WFMU broadcast.

If you like industrial but were disappointed with yesterday's track from Milwaukee's Boy Dirt Car, this is my penance.

Lin Culbertson, one half of the band along with ex-Blue Human/Rudolph Grey sideman Tom Sturgal, is originally from Wisconsin so there's some symmetry here as well...

"Ghost Mirror Image" - White Out w/Wm Winaut and Jim O'Rourke

Note: I mislabeled the ID3 - it should be "Empty Center" - not "China Is Near"... (and standard disclaimers in effect). UPDATE: I got the song name wrong too - it's been updated now. The rip came from this show

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Boy Dirt Car

RRR Records, 1987
Genre: Industrial (non-techno), Midwestern American style


I think I like the IDEA of Boy Dirt Car more than the actual product of Boy Dirt Car. There's some on here worth saving and some that sounds, uh, best left on vinyl. The IDEA of Boy Dirt Car is a buncha bored Midwestern teens, inspired by a Glenn Branca concert but otherwise isolated from the Euro/NYC noise-art scene (SPK, Nurse with Wound, Blackhouse, Whitehouse, Neubauten), decide to set up a recording studio in their vast backyard (in my mind's eye, it's an abandoned camper-trailer set about 500 yards into the woods). They pull together guitars, pedals, glass, metal shards, radios and a glob of Midwestern cabin fever angst. Said boys get snowed in for about a year (because you know it snows up North from like September to May), record jillions of hours of tapes, burn all their album covers for heat, perform no-novacaine denistry on each other, catch small animals and hook them up to treadmills to power their guitars amps and tape machines. That sort of shit. Normal, all American boy shit. Anyway, that's the IDEA of Boy Dirt Car.

In actuality, their noise is little different from many of the other similar cassette tapers who did this sort of industrial ambiance during the '80s (and I've got a box full of tapes to prove it, boyo) - the principal difference was that one day Dan Kubinski and Dave Szolwinski came knocking no the trailer door. Dan and Dave happened to be in one of the hottest bands (underground bands, I mean) at the time - Die Kreuzen - a sort of pre-metalcore, cross between Napalm Death and Celtic Frost, pre-grunge, post-hardcore band if that makes any sense. Pretty soon BDC are touring with Die Kreuzen and people are checking them out, buying their wreckords. They get included on the seminal Sub Pop 100 compilation. They open for all sortsa bands (including Screamin' Jay Hawkins). Die Kreuzen's first two albums on Touch and Go are among that labels' finest of that decade (or at least that's how I remember it, said albums are still in boxes in the closet and I haven't listened to 'em for years) and people are still imitating them. I know, I turn on that stupid metal show on MTV every once in awhile (yeah, insomnia). I'm just implying that perhaps without this association, BDC might have been Boy Dirt Obscure.

So besides the idea" of BDC, what's to like about Boy Dirt Car? Well, I like the cuts that have a semblance of rhythm to them. Makes 'em interesting because at least you can hope they're going somewheres. F'rinstance, the album's "tagline" song, "What Never Ends, Begins Today" sounds like they were turning over the engine in the trailer cum recording studio and they got that "stic-stic-stic" sound that the actuator (don't trust me on that but its the thing that makes the little clicking noise you get when your battery is dead or the engine won't turn over... whatever) and so someone turned on an amp, kicked a guitar or two on and then another amp and then maybe a shortwave and they just layered feedback and noises to get this whole ominous vibe going. It woiks, by george.

"Western Nile", featuring dismembered voices, processed guitar, smashing glass sounds and the only other track with a sort of beat. Some of the vocals are "trying too hard" but the overall effect is creepy enough, I guess, for the genre. Maybe after they recorded this they watched an all night movie horror-thon and realized that they had transposed The Mummy into the barren snow swept windscapes outside the door... and so they went back and listened to it and said, let's call it "Western Nile" cuz it's like those mummies and shit ... ok?

Some people said they saw Boy Dirt Car as "mysterious" and "scary" - I mean by this, not their music so much as the band themselves! Blackhouse were scary to me - they gave these creepy straight-faced interviews for one and the tracks sounded like the soundtracks to multiple unspeakable atrocities - but Boy Dirt Car, I mean, I'd done this type of stuff in my basement. I never thought RRR Records would put it out (maybe I shoulda mailed it to them). And yet they did and Lexicon Devil (Australia) re-released it in a CD a few years back! Scary? Maybe the idea. I'm not saying saying I would want to let them watch my cat for the week but if I saw them coming down the street, I'd probably just shrug and continue clipping hedges or whatever one might do in Milwaukee.

Like I said, I'm less than enamored with the rest of the record wherein they "explore" more "soundscapes" -- maybe I'd reconsider "Prairie Fire" (which, yes, sounds like a prairie fire). So end spiel...

The insert includes a catalog from RRR records and this note from label owner Ron Lessard: "It was real nice of you to pick this Boy Dirt Car album - I do hope you enjoy it - fuck you if you don't." Oh eat me.

Boy Dirt Car (Winter LP) lineup:
E. Lunde
Darren Brown
Keith Bramer
Dan Kubinski
Peter Balestrieri
Dave Szolwinski
Steve Wahlen

Song for download:
"What Never Ends, Begins Today"

Special Guest Disclaimer from ready rock moe rex:
+ for eval purposes only
+ (meaning: buy the records!)
+ all mp3s up for limited time
+ removed if owner requests
+ no direct linking please
+ mind the bandwidth
+ cells off during the film
+ do not place in microwave
+ enjoy

  • The re-issued album on CD with bonus material (their first RRR record) at Forced Exposure.
  • Sonic Recollections carries the original LP and even some BDC reel-to-reel tape (use their search engine).

More Reading and Listening:
  • Counter-argument: Australian rock writer, blogroll blogger and Lexicon Devil label-chief Dave Lang explains why he thinks Boy Dirt Car is important (Perfect Sound Forever)
  • For the Defense, sort of: Dusted Magazine Reviews the Boy Dirt Car reissue and doesn't like it
  • Eric Lunde and Darren Brown are still out there making music - but not together. I believe this is one of Eric's latest projects - video art.
  • has a review of this record ( scroll down) plus a sample of one of the tracks I don't care for, Winter. Compare opinions and tell me I am right or that I have no ears.
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Coffee & Cigarettes #15

"I always said, girls are dangerous" Mp3 Mix

Image w/o permission from the great Zohar Lazar

"Kill Missy" - DJ Tripp mash-up (Missy Elliot vs. Kill Bill)
"Entertain" - Sleater-Kinney (wherein I change my mind on this band)
"Stop the Future" - Epoxies (a rip from Belly of the Beast WFMU Radio show from their forthcoming LP)
"One in Every Crowd" - Viva Voce (from their 2003 release on Asthmatic Kitty)
"For Real" - Okkervil River (our only non-female but it fits anyway - imagine PJ covering this - they're playing tonight at the Iota with earlimart)

( for more lazar danger girls pantings, er, paintings - go here, also and here - oh yeah, my fave, here)

Title quote is from is from a Hungarian Gypsy song.

UNRELATED: My "deep thoughts" on The White Stripes' "Blue Orchid"

Saturday, May 07, 2005

By Popular Demand

Eric requests...

"Sea Cruise" - Volcano Suns

Now that Mission of Burma is talking about hanging it up again, maybe it's time for Peter to revive the Suns - and get the back catalog re-released?


see previous post

The Decemberists at 930 Club, Washington

Packed to the rafters.... They performed almost all the songs from their new album, highlights were a beautiful rendition of Kate Bush's "Wuthering Heights" (sung by violinist Petra Haden), a Jewish"Chimbley Sweep" and well, just roust yourself over to to NPR and stream the entire show yourself.

The Decemberists' Setlist

The Infanta
The Legionnaire's Lament
Song for Myla Goldberg
We Both Go Down Together
The Bagman's Gambit
The Sporting Life
From My Own True Love (Lost at Sea)
Sixteen Military Wives
Wuthering Heights
The Engine Driver
Los Angeles, I'm Yours
The Chimbley Sweep
California One/Youth and Beauty Brigade

Of Angels and Angles
The Mariner's Revenge Song

Friday, May 06, 2005

My Meme...It's One Of Them.

I don't know if my readers really want to be subjected to this but since I was asked to do this by "Not So Sweet Jane" Hamsher, the producer of Natural Born Killers and Permanent Midnight - one's a cult movie (I just watch it for Robert Downey Jr.) and the other should be a cult movie (Ben Stiller as the drug-addicted Alf TV writer) -- I must comply.

Who knows? I may score a bit part as a demon in an upcoming movie.

However, I'm not going to "tag" anyone. If you decide to contract this "meme" and post about it, let me know and I'll add a link to the bottom of the page - or put your picks into the comments below.

Five Lyrics that "Move My Heart" - I was thinking this was some sort of reference to Satanic Death Metal but I guess it means five lyrics that make me cry like a little fucking baby girl.

"Mercy Seat" (excerpt) - Johnny Cash / Nick Cave
I began to warm and chill
To objects and their fields,
A ragged cup, a twisted mop
The face of Jesus in my soup
Those sinister dinner deals
The meal trolley's wicked wheels
A hooked bone rising from my food
All things either good or ungood.

And the mercy seat is waiting
And I think my head is burning
And in a way I'm yearning
To be done with all this weighing of the truth.
An eye for an eye
And a tooth for a tooth
And anyway I told the truth
And I'm not afraid to die.

I hear stories from the chamber
Christ was born into a manger
And like some ragged stranger
He died upon the cross
Might I say, it seems so fitting in its way
He was a carpenter by trade
Or at least that's what I'm told

"Simple Twist of Fate" - Bob Dylan (excerpt)
He woke up, the room was bare
He didn't see her anywhere.
He told himself he didn't care, pushed the window open wide,
Felt an emptiness inside to which he just could not relate
Brought on by a simple twist of fate.

He hears the ticking of the clocks
And walks along with a parrot that talks,
Hunts her down by the waterfront docks where the sailers all come in.
Maybe she'll pick him out again, how long must he wait
Once more for a simple twist of fate.

People tell me it's a sin
To know and feel too much within.
I still believe she was my twin, but I lost the ring.
She was born in spring, but I was born too late
Blame it on a simple twist of fate.
"Save Me" - Aimee Mann

You look like
a perfect fit
For a girl in need
of a tourniquet

But can you save me
Come on and save me
If you could save me
From the ranks of the freaks
Who suspect they could never love anyone
"The Engine Driver" - The Decemberists

And I am a writer, writer of fictions
I am the heart that you call home
And I've written pages upon pages
Trying to rid you from my bones
I am a writer, I am all that you have home
And I've written pages upon pages
Trying to rid you from my bones
My bones
My bones

(And if you don't love me let me go)
And if you don't love me let me go
(And if you don't love me let me go)
And if you don't love me let me go

"hast thou considered the tetrapod" - Mountain Goats

you are sleeping off your demons
when i come home.
spittle bubbling at your lips,
fine white foam.
i am young and i am good.
it's a hot southern california day.
if i wake you up,
there will be hell to pay.
and alone in my room i am the last of a lost civilization
and i vanish into the dark
and rise above my station.
rise above my station.

but i do wake you up and when i do
you blaze down the hall and you scream.
i'm in my room with the headphones on
deep in the dream chamber
and then i'm awake and i'm guarding my face
hoping you don't break my stereo
because it's the one thing that i couldn't live without
so i think about that,
and then i sort of black out.
held under these smothering waves
by your strong and thick-veined hand
but one of these days
i'm gonna wriggle up on my land.

Top Five Instrumentals
  • "Flight of the Bumblebee" - Al Hirt (thanks to Jane's pal, Quentin Tarantino for one of the best film-music sequences of last year)
  • "Funeral For a Friend" - Elton John
  • "The Shining One" - Black Sun Ensemble
  • "The Hill" - Unrest
  • ...the less instrumentals the better

Top Five Musical Experiences
  • Replacements on Saturday Night Live - Just watch Tommy Stinson in the video to get what I mean
  • Reptile House at The Marble Bar, Baltimore, mid-80s - A svelte Daniel Higgs in all his Lizard King glory
  • Sonic Youth at The Complex, Washington DC, mid to late 80's - Attended the show with members of Psycodrama who got thrown out for harrassing Kim Gordon
  • Tex and The Horseheads at Jules's Loft, Baltimore, mid-80s - Tex got me stoned in the van with the band. Talk about creating fan loyalty.
  • Lisa Suckdog and Costes (and Debbey Puff) at dc space, late 80's? - They smeared kitty litter on my coat jacket

Five Artists You Think More People Should Listen To
  • Yo La Tengo
  • Great Falls Swimmers
  • Akron/Family
  • Six Organs of Admittance
  • Cocorosie

Top Five Albums You Must Hear From Start to Finish

  • Jesus Christ Superstar - Original Cast Recording
  • Yoshimi vs. the Pink Robots - The Flaming Lips
  • EVOL - Sonic Youth
  • London Calling - The Clash
  • Kings of Oblivion - The Pink Fairies

Top Five Musical Heroes

  • Greg Sage
  • Steve Albini
  • Bob Mould
  • Tara Key
  • Mark E. Smith
So - in honor of Jane, I'm adding a new category:

Top Five Rock Lit Books That Should Be Made Into Movies In Order to Counteract the Devious Influence of Almost Famous

  • Let It Be - Colin Meloy (recommended for an Afterschool Special)
  • Edie: American Girl (edited by George Plimpton)
  • Lords of Chaos: The Bloody Rise of The Satanic Metal Underground -Michael Moynihan, Didrik Soderlind
  • We Got the Neutron Bomb - Marc Spitz
  • Tommyland - Tommy Lee
First a nap and then off to The Decemberists' show...

You only get this offer for a limited time...

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Volcano Suns
"Sea Cruise" b/w "Greasy Spine"
Homestead 7" 45 RPM, 1985
"Never trust a man with a skinny tie
Never trust a girl with a greasy spine
when she says she wants to be your valentine"
Here's your Friday cut, a slightly noisy rip of the B-side from the Volcano Suns between albums 1 and 2 single. Post Mission of Burma, Peter Prescott spent a few records not being very serious (while his former bandmates went off and did the opposite). The a-side, "Sea Cruise" is much more Burma like, complex and angular but not afraid to say "whoa", that's a killer riff, partner.

"Greasy Spine", well, I'm not sure what they were smoking but they must have been listening to Killdozer at the time. Michael Cudahy and Liz Cox (2/3's of the great band Christmas), always good for some laughs, are credited with guitar and backup vocals and Lou Giordano produced.

Best played very loud. Trust me.

"Greasy Spine" - Volcano Suns (Out of print)

Southern's Volcano Sun page

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Death of Samantha

Porn in the USA
7" single
St. Valentine Records, 1985

Named after one of Yoko Ono's better songs and naming their second single in sarcastic honor of the Bruce Springsteen LP came Death of Samantha, a post-Ubu Cleveland band organized apparently to perpetuate the craziness of that city's music scene. Leader John Petkovic sings in the key of Jim Morrison but as if the sucky Oliver Stone-imagined Indian chief never imbibed in Jim's flesh and freed him to be uncool and uninhibitly unselfconcious. The band roams around here like a bunch of excaped mental patients who listened to Pere Ubu tribute records in the romper room and then instead tried to play songs written by Tom Verlaine and Velvet Underground. In other words, its fucking great and it rocks to boot.

Even though "Coca Cola and Licorice" pays tribute to key early new wave, it also mocks it just as it mocks Springsteen with its title. The "junkie" isn't on the street looking for "H" but has a sugar fix. I don't know which is worse but the resultant wigout as the sugar junkie goes on the prowl only makes it funnier. The flipside also mocks rock with its cover of a cartoon character's song (probably written in a board room by Hanna and Barbara).

This 7" was a kinda promo for their first record (of four) with Homestead records (a relationship John Petkovic came to regret) and included a cut from that record, "Coca cola and licorice" and a cover of Fred Flintstone's "Listen to the Mockingbird" ...

All that wank said, how could I not reprint Byron Coley's liner notes (click to enlarge and read) which makes my own writing pithy and inconsequential by comparison? Hell, they make Meltzer's writings tiny:

Posted by Hello

OK, so continuing the history lesson - DoS broke up, went dormant and re-emerged in full but without Steve-O the wacko comedian drummer as the contrarian (big surprise!) yet "serious" rock band Cobra Verde. They sort of went from being Cleve-O Rawk to being Clevelande Rocke, a more serious yet still "fuck they can rock" band that is in essence DoS but is Cobra Verde. Geddit? No? Neither do I. That's why I find it so sad that John Petkovic has resisted re-releasing his back catalog. He seems to be embarassed by it. No way. I love that shit and so would many others. Give us that box set we crave dude.

And.... so.... Last month Cobra Verde released an album of reworked covers called Copycat Killers which might be of interest to folks who like that sorta stuff. I've heard two cuts from it and it sounds interesting. They've chosen songs from "outside' what you might normally guess they would cover including Pink's "Get The Party Started" (a song which I guiltily love) and Donna Summer's "I Need Love". They also do the Troggs and New Order. I mean, can anything be cooler? (Oops, I forgot John hates cool).

So it seems appropriate that their first recorded and released cover was of Fred Flintstone trying to be a rockstar. You may or may not remember the episode where Fred, on a lark, records a song in one of those carnival recording booths (kinda like Bobby Darin) and some kids find it and make it into a cult favorite. Fred eventually is turned into a rock star but he turns into an asshole and Wilma sort of bails him out by telling everyone he's a "square"... some say its where the Flintstones "jumped the shark" so it seems appropriate for Petkovic who has always has a nasty word to say about "alternative' rock to take this on as his own. And come to think about it, Petkovic's singing is like Morrison as if inhabited by Bobby Darin's drunken spirit (and yeah, yeah, Bobby Darin was straight edge...).

DoS turns the harmless cartoon song into a mental patient (see a pattern?) obsessed with killing mockingbirds (and as someone who once lived with a mockingbird outside one's window, I whole heartily concur) - anyway, it's nothing like the original but more like a sister song to "Surfing Bird"... And it asks the ultimate question: what if Fred Flintstone starred in To Kill a Mockingbird instead of Gregory Peck?

"Listen to the Mockinbird" - Death of Samantha
(if you really feel the need to hear "Coca Cola and Licorice, drop me a line)

"I Feel Love" - Cobra Verde (via Scat Records) - free and legal
"Get the Party Started" - Cobra Verde (probably illegal) - via Puritan Blister)

  • John Petkovic's dayjob is a nightlife writer for Cleveland Plains Dispatch.
  • A mysteriously un-bylined and well-written history of Death of Samantha from the Cleveland Plains-Dispatch website. Wonder who wrote it...
  • Here's a Flipside interview between lifer Shane Williams and John from 1996... topics include why DoS broke up, what happened to Steve-O and his vague ideas on music and sound. Recommended for fans.
  • Cobra Verde's website
  • Scat Records was started by the guy behind Spike in Vain. They are pretty hot right now with their Yellow #5 release and the CV release. Here's their Cobra Verde page.
  • The Great Scaruffi's take on DoS
  • Trouser Press's DoS page

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Billy Bragg

Brewing It Up With
CD Presents LP, 1984

I was gonna post this on May day given Billy's predilections for breaking out in "La Internationale," but I guess I'm just apathetic. But Billy Bragg isn't and I suppose you and I should be inspired.

So, I don't have many Bragg records (this and the next one) although I did see him play at the old 930 Club and was entertained even (as someone noted in a comment on a previous post), he played for a loooong time.

Quick bio - born in 1957, kicked around, joined the Army for a short time even, found punk rock and then came up with the idea of becoming a "Who'll Stop the Rain" era Dylan except strap a loud Stratocaster on instead of an acoustic. He's the first troubadour neo-folkie I know of that did that. Had a minor hit in the UK when he covered a Beatles' song but for the most part he has a loyal following of people with like-minded politics and he's never sold out or wrote lyrics to suit record sales.

This was his second album as Billy Bragg, the first being more weighted towards lovesick songs and such and the third (Talking with the Taxman About Poetry) really integrated the two together well and is considered his best. This was his first overtly political album and is described as his reaction to Thatcherism and the effect it had on the miners. He's now an avowed socialist but, as he describes, a socialist of the heart not of the head:

Bragg: "If you’re gonna articulate the way you see the world in socialist terms, you are constantly going to be tripped up by people going, “What about totalitarianism?” And fair enough. The Soviet Union had many faults, and one of the fundamentals was that it denied that people had spiritual needs. I went to Soviet museums of theology where they showed you how base religion was, while making a religion out of Lenin and Marx and never seeing the irony of that.

You don’t want to live in a society based purely on materialism. Or, frankly, a society based purely on theology: a fundamentalist, theological society. The United States of America looks like turning into both at once."
Whether you agree with that or not, in much sense, Billy Bragg was/is the logical heir to Woody Guthrie but not as a throwback imitator but as a smart guy who updated Guthrie's mix of idealism and righteousness for the 80's and beyond. Guthrie's daughter, Nora, who got Billy to write music for some of Woody's final lyrics (1998), said about Billy after seeing him in 1992:
“Although he had come out of a punk rock background, he could sing along with the country and western singers, the folkies and just about everyone else who appeared in the show. When he accompanied the rappers Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy on Vigilante Man, we were blown away. He seemed open to anything and everything. His wry sense of humour, reminiscent of Woody’s, also caught our attention immediately”.
So this album shows him in his formative stage. That said, some of the songs here are good here and dare I say catchy. He's at his best on this album when he brings in another musician such as the late Kenny Craddock playing along on a Hammond organ "A Lover Sings." This song always reminds me of Squeeze but without the band and with a Mersey feel but without the beat. One of my favorites from the album and I don't know why more people don't cover it.

The only other song with a second instrument is the laidback "Saturday Boy" which uses a trumpet at the end. It makes these two tracks standout from the rest and I think Bragg got the message as he now plays with a backup band (which includes an ex-Mekons and some ex-3 Mustaphas 3' dudes)

At times here, though, his lyrics are in need of an editor. Some of these lyrics may work with a younger voice projecting some sort of virginal innocence but I can't help either giggling or just draw heavy (annoyed) sighs when I hear some of his lyrics coming from a guy who's almost 30 years old. For instance:
Walking in the park, kissing on the carpet
And your tights around your ankles
Late at night a lover thinks of these things
I dunno.. All I'm saying it's just that he needs someone to go over his "lovesick" songs and kinda take him aside and say, you know this part about how you like how she rubs herself "against the edge of my desk" - uh, that's not working for me... doesn't she have some quirk that's sounds like you aren't singing about your kitty cat? "Love Gets Dangerous," a song that got some play on my local "progressive rock" station is also awkward if you listen to it closely. Best not to since the tense guitar and harmonies carry it. Does love really get dangerous? Maybe, if you're in inexperienced teenager... I dunno. Something a little "off" about his love songs.

On the other hand, he almost always hits the mark, and hard, on his political songs. The opener, a still relevant scorching punk spit at the British papers (and the media in general), "It Says Here" still makes me tremble at the awesomeness of the lyrics and the raw guitar:
Where they offer you a feature
On stockings and suspenders
Next to a call for stiffer penalties for sex offenders
"Island of No Return" is one of the first modern war protest songs that I remember that took a sympathetic view towards the soldier. Maybe his time in the Army helped in this regard. In this case, some poor bloke is sent off to the Falklands and finds out that the enemy is shouldering a weapon at him that "was made in Birmingham." Again, it hits the mark and then some (references to Kipling and England's past may not be universal to all, though).

So, see for yourself. Here's one lovesick song and one protest song.

"A Lover Sings" - I wonder if gets asked to do this at weddings
"Island of No Return"

Fine print: Listen, my beloved. Then perchance they mock when they are happy, when they boast themselves in the pomp of their riches! when they boast themselves in the inflated state of false honours: then they mock us, and seem to say, Behold, it is well with me: I enjoy the good things before me: let those who promise what they cannot show depart from me: what I see, I hold; what I see, I enjoy; may I fare well in this life. Mp3s offered for fair use and only temporary.

  • Billy's website is like him, no slacker. All song lyrics, albums, some downloadable concerts (for pay), articles and interview and a forum where all his fans can get angry together. He's living in Dorset where he runs a "tactical vote-swapping" site and he plays assorted festivals and benefits.
  • This album has been repackaged into Back to Basics with the other solo guitar records... and you can buy from his site
  • The quote from Bragg about socialism comes from his website which republished an interview in the UK Church Times

Monday, May 02, 2005

Bauhaus Delivers @ Coachella

From a review by Ben Wener (OC Register):

Bauhaus, Daniel Ash and the ghost of Ian Curtis– “This is not a rock show,” Peter Murphy noted not long into Bauhaus’ hour, and he’s right: It was Goth-rock performance art from the start, with Murphy, the recluse from Turkey, suspended upside-down by wires, looking like a hibernating vampire bat as he sinisterly crooned and wailed his way through “Bela Lugosi’s Dead.” He rarely let up with such theatrics, toying with a giant Gandalfian cane for “Stigmata Martyr,” occasionally rising to an on-stage tower to get a better view of the crowd, often making absurd flailing movements.

Yes, he can get hammy, more Peter Gabriel at his worst than David Bowie at his best, and his Dracula-like blah-blah-blah low vocals can get wearisome. Thank goodness the camerawork and visual effects on the jumbo screens were so effective (as they were later for Coldplay), enhancing the group’s mystique with grainy black-and-white shots and extreme close-ups of moustachioed Murphy that made him look like an albino Grinch.

But whenever Bauhaus verged on the cartoonish, the band would correct itself, thanks largely to one of the two Kings of Jagged Guitar, Daniel Ash.

Kiddies, it’s like this: Ash and Gang of Four’s Andy Gill are the Englishmen responsible for all your precious Bloc Partys and Faints and Braverys. Yet both group’s music gives rise these days only to small but extremely devoted cults whose dark obsessiveness can become off-putting; you can spot a Bauhaus fan here from 50 paces. Such costuming can obscure the brilliance of Ash – a Goth Jimmy Page, who undercuts his nerve-fraying jaggedness with psychedelic squalls of noise – and the funky, brotherly rhythm section of drummer Kevin Haskins and bassist David J (also a Haskins).

Those L.A.-based players – the ones who once comprised Love and Rockets – have been to Coachella before. No doubt they’ve often imagined what they’d do here, and their selections were telling: the 12-string Mexicali feel of “The Passion of Lovers” seguing into the equally evocative “Silent Hedges,” for instance, or the fading cries of “Dark Entries,” dedicated to Joy Division vocalist Ian Curtis, dead 25 years this month.

Bauhaus’ set, then, was something of a seance, a summoning of Curtis’ spirit, which is prevalent in so much of this fest’s music. I imagine he’s looking down at the moment, perpetually dour yet gravely romantic about it, waiting to see if his old mates in New Order can do his words justice Sunday evening.