Saturday, August 27, 2005

Soulside: Less Deep Inside Keeps

Dischord/Sammich LP, 1987

Early recorded Soulside (released in 87 but recorded a year earlier) suggests a band that was a bit boxed into the Dischord/Positive Punk paint-by-numbers thing. It's no wonder that the band (minus their singer) eventually packed up their axes and moved to NYC to form the indie band Girls Against Boys (along with friend and co-producer of this record Eli Janney) and the fried and damaged New Wet Kojak. But a live Soulside set "back in the day" was always riveting to watch if not always musically interesting. They eventually got it together in their studio work. I'll toast anyone that says Hot Bodi Gram is essential for the well-rounded record collection.

This album seems unfinished, under-rehearsed and with the exceptions of a few songs, the band doesn't even seem into it. And as Joe Carducci says, every good band starts with the drummer and Alex Fleisig's barely competent drumming here (he gets better) is ham-handed and clumsy. And I'll save my gripes about Don Z's recording skills during this period as I've already vented elsewhere.

But even that can't mar "I Find The Other Side" because it's just a damn good song. Showcasing the band's signature building, moving chord structures and singer Bobby Sullivan's dexterous live custom of finding the right place to ride out the groove. This was a staple in their sets and a high point of at least one of the shows I saw. "Dreams" also soars above the rest of the cuts with an uncommon acoustic rhythm guitar track serving as the foundation. It allows Scott McCloud, who normally has to carry the songs on this record, to relax a bit and turn in a some bonny guitar hooks and riffs. Again Bobby's singing is superb.

Also of note here is a failed attempt to cover Wire's "Ex-Lion Tamer" -- props for the well-meaning attempt and classy selection, though. And I like "Fresh Air" which noisily closes the record on an upbeat note and a promise of more good, albeit more downbeat stuff to come. In the end, though, Less Deep Inside Keeps might have taken its own title's advice and just released this as a two-song single.

The band line-up is in this picture (click to see - credit Marce Sterner). There's no mention of bassist Johnny Temple playing on this record. The cover photo (above) is by the great Cynthia Connolly - Chris Bald contributes a drawing of the band on the flipside of the album cover.

  • "I Find The Other Side" - Soulside (160 kbps)
  • "Dreams" - Soulside (160 kbps)
  • Fine print: Songs up for limited time and are recorded straight from vinyl (with clicks and clacks intact). Readers who enjoy are encouraged to buy the records. I don't endorse file sharing except for research. This is a not-for-profit, for love of music website. I don't take advertising, tip jars or do pay-for-links. I don't solicit promos either (although if you want to send me something that's cool). Bands retain full copyright, of course, and upon request from band or label will immediately take down songs, etc. with no recriminations or gripes.

  • Something I Learned Today provides an alternative take on this recording in a November 2004 review of their three albums: "Sounds positively sunny in comparison to their later releases. Still holds up pretty good." So don't take my word for it because...
  • This record is still apparently in print and can be bought off the Dischord Records Soulside Webpage - try here if that doesn't work.
  • Southern Records maintains a site on Soulside that has links to the band member's follow-on projects
  • Besides Chris Bald's drawing the back of the record and some liner notes, there's this quote "Becoming Less To Be Nothing" which might explain the odd title of the record as being rooted in Zen? Just a guess.
  • Scott McCloud talked about Soulside and the problem with being a Dischord/DC band during the Fugazi era in Only Angels Have Wings:

    When Soulside was really first starting out…we started actually before Fugazi… there are definitely similarities between Soulside & Girls vs Boys musically, rhythmically. It’s very different lyrically, I am a very different singer than Bobby Sullivan was (Scott was only on guitar in Soulside) – not as melodic for example. At a certain point…doing a band in DC, at a certain point it’s a bit…we sort of…we were a little bit….at a certain point….I don’t want to say it the wrong way because I totally respect Fugazi, they’ve been an inspiration to me but in a certain point doing a band in DC is irritating because everywhere you go, people keep comparing you to Fugazi. Everything’s like Fugazi or not. After Soulside came out and when we moved out to New-York, in our mind we wanted to change our sound a little bit and get away from the Fugazi thing.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Various Punks: One Big Crowd

Big City Records, 1985

A NYC-metro "scene unity" compilation of which there were many in this time period. 20 bands, 25 cuts. One LP.

Doesn't mean it's all generic retardothrash, tho', boyos or by-the-numbers doofusmosh - in other words, don't let a dumb cover and lame premise throw you off the scent of potentially good tracks.

Side 1 is the New Punk City side with cuts from Unjust (Pukelyn, NYC), Armed Citizens (Asstoria, NYC) and a killer slice of nihilistic sludge and damaged thrash ("No Hope") from Shok(also Asstoria). A big ol' shrug for the rest of the cuts though which epitomize the worst of stinkhead NYC at that time (Sheer Terror, Psychos, Krieg Kopf, etc.)

Side 2 could be called The Revenge of the Burbs with a buncha of the best cuts coming from the underappreciated Buy Our Records stable on the New Jerskey side of the border. Yeah, there's some AOD (Vadgehall, NJ) cuts (including their thrash version of the Lost in Space theme) and I'm sure that was a major reason for people to buy it. The standout,tho for moi, is a messy maracas-shakin' stoner rock song ("Time") from Bodies in Panic of bUnion, NJ...

76% Uncertain also represents quite well, my dear, for Bridgepunk, Snottetticut with pre-DCemocore-inspired "Another". Also of note - Vatican Commandos, Violent Children and Pleased Youth also rate a digital nod here. Stetz, Bedlam, better luck next crime - I'm glad also that Sacred Denial finally explain just what exactly "Sacred Denial" is - I think it has something to do with Eddie Van Halen's guitar box. And it's way lame... I mean SUPPORT THE SCENE, DUDEZ!!!

NYC-Metro One Big Crowd '85 Mp3 Mix (Punk Fucking Rock):

LINKS (not a lot - this record is out of print and mostly forgotten):

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Coffee and Cigarettes: Hunter Sleeps Above Us... Mp3 Mix

"I like words. Attention must be paid to words and then you think after what it really means" - Hunter Thompson

All songs fregal/recommended/visit the band's website/buy their latest records

photo detail above from an annie lebovitz photo originally printed in 20 Year of Rolling Stone

from a photo set of Hunter's blastoff by Frank Wit

Abiku Red: "Repulsion"

Abiku Red/Ark of Bone split LP From The Ashes of Strange Fruit.

Unknown label, unknown year.

If you've ever wondered what 2nd/3rd era spooky kids goth-industrial from Kalamazoo, Michigan sounds like, your long, potentially hopeless wait is actually over so breathe that goth sigh of relief (high pitched falsetto) and buckle yourself into those fur-lined restraints.

Of the two bands, Abiku Red is the more traditional (if such a word can be applied) project consisting of a drum machine, reverb and other electronics and vocals. Very minimal synth or guitar if any graces the tracks. Songs are not pretty and mostly seem to be about sex with razors, spiders, bondage and things that pierce and bite. Yum! "Repulsion" is the only keeper - distinguished by a delicate female voice (unidentified) - I lack any close touchstones - perhaps the March Violets without the guitars, hooks and commercial aspirations and slowed down by half. Anyway, lissen for yerself, vampires, below.

Ark of Bone is built around someone called "lisa, gypsy, albrecht", exotic dancer/disco singer and appears to be about her experiences as a peep show performer with songs entitled "glass fantasy" and "duchess and the twisted tongue". The "songs" as as messy as the glass booth she used to work in, mostly unintelligible reverby drum machinery with references to bodily fluids and intestines and the like. Kinda like Abiku Red only even more gloomy (in fact, the pictures of the performers look remarkably similar). An interview with "lisa,gypsy,albrecht" is in the liner notes. She describes one of her customers, Mr. Tongue:

Ah - she's got a heart of gold and she cleans up well - how come I can't meet girls like her?

Provenance of vinyl: Probably received as a promo and promptly forgotten, it's obviously a hand-made cover and label with two bands who probably not coincidentally share the same PO Box and whose pictures look the same. I have no idea what the year of this is but I'm guessing late '80s.

Track download:

"Repulsion" - Abiku Red

No links found. If anyone knows more about these two bands, drop a line in the comments box.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Billy Cobham: A Funky Thide of Sings

Atlantic Records LP, 1975

I don't really like this record. Never have. And to be truthful I think I purchased it before 1977 and this blog says its about stuff acquired between 77 and 93 (although if you have noticed it appears its really about stuff made between 85 and 89). But bear with me since it's kinda autobiographical and aren't blogs in the end all about me, me, me?

So... in my misspent youth, I was looking for a drum hero and rock und rollers just didn't impress me too awfully much (until I discovered punk) so I turned to jazz. Cobham, former Miles and McGlaughlin backup drummer, was recommended to me by some hippy drum teacher and I think I bought two of his albums before realizing I had been had by some clueless "fusion" dork. Most of the songs on this record sound like either:

a) A soundtrack for a bad porno movie (and yes, I know there's some good porno soundtracks out there);
b) A theme song for a bad 70's American Cop show (complete with two blue jeaned, dimpled cops doing high fives, jumping into cars and winking at the camera); or
c) The closing credits to a Sega video game (and yes, I know, that Sega video games didn't exist in 197whatever when this came out).
That all said, Cobham may be best known for being among the first to experiment with electronic drums (although not very well IMHO) and innovate with timpani and other non-typical jazz percussion instruments. He also had a very good dynamic range - his soft touch was sweet but he can bang it out when he needs to and not sound too spazzy. If you could define his style, I'd call him a roller - a cat who uses drum rolls in his fills and to produce dramatics. To be fair, the follow-up album to this (Life and Times) was much better.

Luckily, I discovered Gene Krupa (thanks Grandpop), Buddy Rich and Joe Morello. Both Krupa and Rich were punks of sorts. Krupa was the court jester clown laughing at everything while he effortlessly sweats buckets just to prove the existence of God by just beating on some skins. The immensely talented Rich was an angry politically incorrect jerk who used to do karate demonstrations on The Wide World of Sports with a scowl on his face. His bands reportedly hated his guts but he never gave much of a flying fuck - he named one of his albums Stick It just to make sure his critics and enemies got the, er, point. Morello, on the other hand, was the mild-mannered nice guy from the Dave Brubeck Quartet who transcended them all with his light touch and flawless unrepeatable fills and frills. He also knew how to tune the hell out of an acoustic drum set.

But back to Cobham:

"Moody Modes (excerpt)" - This is an excerpt from keyboardist Bulgarian Milcho Leviev's closing piece "Moody Modes," a freeformish composition that stands out from the rest of the fusion dreck on this record. That's Alex Blake on the scorching bass and John Scofield on guitar. This is some of Cobham's best drumming on the record (he does his timpany - highhat duet thing in the beginning of the excerpt) and one of the few cuts in which the sidemen actually seem interested in what they are doing.

  • Billy's still doing the jazz- fusion thang (yawn) and has a blog (don't we all?) but check out Milcho Leviev's latest playing with Michel Lambert on 482. Of note is his playing on this: "Memoiries".
  • If you think I'm fulla shite and just love the hell outta cheesy 70's jazz-rock fusion, well then this album may be for you. It was re-released recently (go figure) and you can Froogle it or pick it up off of iTunes. Cobham took the cute cover photo.
  • And why you ask do I hate fusion? Well, fusion begat SMOOTH JAZZ, the worst music in the world.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Sonic Youth: Sister

SST LP, 1987

Unlike its more heavy predecessor EVOL (blogged here), Sister is less concept but oddly more filling. Azerrrad or someone called it "upbeat" and while I wouldn't characterize every song as upbeat, it is certainly more upbeat than, say, Death Valley 69 and Confusion is Sex. There's a warm sound that permeates the album - supposedly due to the vacuum tube-based recording equipment but I might also submit that it is due to the band settling into a familial groove with their final drummer (after like two strikeouts and an infamous "tryout" gig). Other people have said that this was their first pop album but I look at it more as an experimental album - they are experimenting with modding their sound/approach to the pop construct and there are plenty of hooks and pretty passages but the songs are constructed unlike any pop songs from that period.

Going through it song by song, side by side:

Side 1

"Schizophrenia" - If I was making a mix tape, I'd put this (and the more recent "Paper Cup Exit") in Songs For Flying Dreams. I'd also stick it on a mixtape for Greatest Opening Tracks Ever. The song is supposedly inspired by Philip K. Dick's lifelong obsession with his twin sister, who died in childbirth. Dick blamed himself for her death and much of his writings particularly in his later more possibly schizophrenic years have oblique references to her. Sonic Youth transpose his story into a New England high school freaker-tweaker milieu - it opens with Thurston describing how he went over to an old friend's house and is approached by his "insane" sister who was "laughing like crazy at the trouble I'm in." The episode draws the narrator into his own schizophrenia and the rest of the song is sung by Kim (their first duet) with a less driving and in a more dream-like state. The overlaid guitar here is massively hypnotic and Shelley rebuilds the beat awesomely. Not one misplaced note here.

"Catholic Block" - Another song that could have just as easily appeared on their last album and it would be hard to tell the difference. One of the Thurston songs that people have mistakenly called religious. I see it more of a tribute to bands like Television, Ramones and early NYC punk. Great opening which sounds like the static that is caused when you plug in a guitar and a mind-blowing ending.

"Beauty Lies In The Eye" - Some have said that this, like "Pacific Coast Highway" was a Kim proto-riot grrl song and it is being sung from the perspective of the male predator or something. I think they get it all wrong. This is a song about the media - one of the influences cited in the "yea verily" liner notes is K. W. Jeter's The Glass Hammer, a cyberpunk story about the insidious influence of television. The repeated "beauty lies" is a double entendre (of course) and the eye is the TV Eye. "Do you want to see the explosions in my eye" and "There's something in the air / that makes you go insane" are also signifiers. Pixels are mini explosions and TV is still being transmitted via the air. ummm... get it?

"Stereo Sanctity" - Another great Steve Shelley beat and another P.K. Dick influenced song set on a post-neutron bomb Lower East Side. "I can't get laid because everyone is dead" has to be the best line from the whole album. The "stereo" imagery also reflects the whole evil twin / brother-sister theme that permeates the first side. And I might add that it seems all the songs on the first side are, to some degree, about madness and insanity. If this was on a mix tape, it would be on Songs To Totally Fucking Wig Out To.

"Pipeline/Killtime" - Ah well, if not for this song, I think this would be on my Best Sides Of All Time. The first part of the song if great, well okay - it may be a little too like some of the other songs on the this side but I think its the first time I've heard Lee really sing and he's quite good. It's the middle spoken word break that I find a bit tedious: "bright glass on a chain being wound around us/the twiddling of idle hands/dripping with guilt/a secret form of punishment/axes through skulls/shadow of futility/endless revolt/the shifting of light and shadows" I dunno (yawn) - it just doesn't wear well and I'm not sure it was that great the first time. But the second part - an instrumental sonata is a great break for fans of their older stuff. No mixtape for this, alas.

Side 2
"Tuff Gnarl" is sort of a generic SY tune. Maybe that was intentional as the lyrics are taken from a series of reviews of hardcore punk records. It fits in the fun theme and in fact the entire second side has its tongue so far implanted in its cheek that it breaks through and bleeds all over the vinyl - just listen to the instrumental break in this song to get that sense. Bleeding is funny!

"Pacific Coast Highway" - Hinman who generally likes this album scoffs at the lyrics here. I don't mind them - they're kinda silly because I see this as sort of the musical equivalent of a crime drama genre novel. James Ellroy and Kem Nunn are thanked in the liner notes, so draw your own conclusions. I think its about a serial killer taking his girlfriend/victim for a ride where he's going to kill her. But its sung in such an over the top manner (for SY) and the lyrics are so stoopid that I think its almost a parody of their previous California road murder songs ("Death Valley 69" and "Xpress Way to Your Skull"). For some reason I didn't like the instrumental break when I first heard it - thought it was boring or something - how could I have been so dumb - it's a shimmering masterstroke.

"Hotwire My Heart" - A great song that never was recorded properly by the original writers (Crime). It's also more evidence that Side 2 is the fun side as Thurston and the band (who sing backup) sound like they are having a blast. I read that they had a very frustrated engineer who had never encountered a band like them. This is the song that I hope when he heard it he came around.

"Cotton Crown" - A lot of people have crashed on the rocks trying to interpret this song. Is the Cotton Crown some sort of heroin slang? Is it a reference to the crown of thorns that Jesus wore. Who cares? I prefer to just enjoy it as Sonic Youth's first and only out and out tribute to The Velvet Underground's Lou/Moe/Nico duets and perhaps even a friendly backhanded response to Beat Happening (Thurston was plugged into the "K" Underground, I suspect). That's why it fits on the fun side. My second favorite song on the record. Yo La Tengo have built whole records around this song.

"White Cross" - Another song that is wildly mis-interpreted. Just because Thurston and Kim were married in a Catholic wedding at Moore's insistence doesn't mean every other Thurston song is about The One True Church. ...this kinda is about religion just not the organized style. I think its about straight-edge hardcore. The cross is the "X" that people used to draw on their knuckles and the conflicts that the wearer has trying to be straight. I remember the Baltimore straight-edgers seemed to spend half their time looking for heretics. The lyrics are the internal dialogue of the adherent: "learning not to lie/we cross it out and stay away." The music is also the most overtly hardcore (yay, Steve Shelley's closest to Crucifucks style drumming here).

So, get this album if you don't already have it. It is essential for everyone's collection. Geffen re-released it with expanded liner notes in 1994. It's available in better budget bins and e-Bay.

"Hotwire My Heart" - Sonic Youth from Sister - a great Friday song for ya...

((Fineprint: blahblahblahcopyright1987SSTRecordsSonicYouthblahblahblahwilltakedown


Further Reading:
Sonic Youth are book lovers. EVOL, as I noted previously, had cool references to Fitzgerald, Joyce and Harry Crews. This album, in keeping with the more fun aspect, references very cool genre fiction. Here's a set of links to websites that provide more background on Sister's "Reading List"

Kem Nunn (Tapping The Source) - Lumm wrote this mystery novel about a man searching for his sister in Huntington Beach but instead falls in with a freak surfing community and lots of strange characters. It's a little like the movie The Trip meets Elmore Leonard. It's out of print but of course it's easily found on the web and of course your trusty library should be able to help. Reportedly Thunder's Mouth Press is going to republish it in early 2006. Here's a review of the book from Hard-boiled Mysteries. Nunn's most recent book is Tijuana Straits - here's a review from

James Ellroy (Sgt. Lloyd Hopkins) - Ellroy is one of the best. Even though he doesn't fit the age demographic he is the first mystery writer with a way over-the-top punk attitude. Think what it would be like if Meltzer wrote hardboiled thrillers. His cops are utterly corrupt and his criminals are the lowest of the low. He seems to have the most sympathy with the victims even though he usually tells his story from the cop or criminal perspective. His writing comes from the heart as his mother was a murder victim and he was obsessed with the Black Dahlia murder. I'm sure the band had Ellroy in mind when they wrote "Pacific Coast Highway." Sgt. Lloyd Hopkins was one of his more insane characters and all the Hopkins books were compiled in L.A. Noir which you can still find on shelves or at your local library. This is an active fan site (excuse the cheesy html) with up-to-date news on Ellroy.

Raymond Carver - Carver is the odd duck out in this bunch - a brilliant and immensely accessible American poet who combines the honesty of Bukowski with the imagery and beauty of Frost. He's pretty non-genre (maybe working-class poetry?). The Yoot don't recommend a specific book so I'll push Ultramarine which is my fave. I'm not sure what exactly Carver inspired here but there is a directness and ordinariness in some of the lyrics ("Schizophrenia", "Cotton Crown") that might have been Carver's influence.

K. W. Jeter (The Glass Hammer) - I've never read much Jeter - just Dr. Adder - one of the first cyberpunk novels - he was a friend of PK Dick's and according to Wikipedia an inspiration for a character in Valis, a big inspiration for some of the songs on this record. The Glass Hammer was supposedly about a future in which Television and religion merge. Jeter also wrote several sequels to the novel that inspired Blade Runner.

Finally, the liner notes thank Philip K. Dick (The Owl In Daylight). This is a reference to his third never written book which would have completed the trilogy begun by the brilliant Valis and followed-up by The Divine Invasion. I haven't read Valis in years but it was a very creepy/chilling read because you are never sure just how much of the psychosis of the protaganist (Horselover Fat can be easily translated as Philip Dick) was real to the author. Supposedly Dick did believe in VALIS - which stood for Vast Active Living Intelligence System or somesuch - and smarter people than me have called it autobiographical. For me, it was a great introduction to the suppressed Gnostic Christian Religion which has since fascinated me. There are two great PK Dick sites - the official author site and the Philip K. Dick Fans site. Recently, someone made a PK Dick android and he took part in a Sci-fi Panel session (to hilarious results). Ain't It Cool News has the report and pictures.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Half Japanese: "Hog Wild" - a lost cut?

Gordon Gordon of the WDC Period fanzine (and later Teen Fag) passed this tape to me "back in the day." This shambling, rambling cut from the band that would be King, that band so good our universe doesn't deserve them, the band that proved that you can play rock and roll and not really know what you are doing and still sound fresh and original and not be assholes about it... okokok -- I'll shut up now. It was originally to appear on the WDC Period compilation tape but that compilation never happened and for some odd reason G2 gave the tape to me. Maybe for this moment, I dunno; ha ha ... I pulled it out of my cassette pile after Gordon visited Washington last week - I hadn't seen him in like 15 years although we occasionally corresponded.

This may have appeared on another fanzine compilation - my hazy memory is unclear --- also this song is not to be confused with a similarly entitled cut on Jad Fair's solo Greater Expectations (1995) that while I haven't heard in its entirety, is nothing at all like this cut. So... if it's appeared on any other records or anywhere, drop me a line as I'm interested in both the provenance and whether the band still has it. It's surprising that it didn't show up on some of the later collections as it's a really great recording (and I'd love to hear it with higher fidelity if that's possible).

I believe this was recorded in the late '80s probably around the time of Charmed Life and Music to Strip By and I'm betting the line-up was the Charmed Life one (Jad Fair - Guitar, Harmonica, Vocals; John Dreyfuss - Organ, Saxophone; David Fair - Guitar, Harmonica, Vocals; Don Fleming - Guitar, Vocals; Jay Spiegel - Drums; Mark Jickling- Bass, Guitar) but I dunno fershure.

Some observations: Obviously most of the lyrics are improvised. Early in the song, Jad quotes "Tom Dooley" by the Kingston Trio which has gotta be one of the weirder associations the band ever made. At one point Jad sounds like he's mimicking Michael Jackson and that kinda makes sense - he's the low-fi Michael Jackson (80's version). He also addresses Don (Fleming) several times during the song. At one point it seems to veer into Southern Rock territory, too. The poem at the end reminds of Bob Goldtwait for some reason.

"Hog Wild" - Half Japanese (113 kbps VBR; 4.9 Mb)

Half Japanese Discography (Fansite)
Trouser Press Entry
Jad Fair's Website - where I found the photo above

Imaginary cassette art for this song

Monday, August 08, 2005

Smersh: The Beat From 20,000 Fathoms

Smersh The Beat from 20,000 Fathoms
RRR Records, 1986

One of the less flattering aspects of the practitioners of the ElectroClash-Laptop music movement is the willful, narcissistic ignorance of their predecessors - to wit, the bedroom-basement cassette movement of the '80s. This stands in constrast to their sister movement, the freak neo-folkers who seem to unearth some forgotten songwriter each week.

were one of those long-forgotten proto-laptop bands (we called laptops "4-tracks" and "drum machines" back then) who made music in their bedrooms, toiled in obscurity, didn't have many friends and never got anything but underground radio play... but had a ton of fun doing it and released a ton of music, which I ain't heard... but I do have this masterpiece. Bands like these, alas, never got much of a following - they never played out, publicized their lifestyles or lived in cool places -- Smersh hailed from Piscataway, New Jersey of all places.

Lacking any further credentials (and truly outsiders in the original Chusid sense) but having a penchant for noise, synthesizers, drum machines and guitar feedback, Chris Shepard (since deceased) and Mike Mangino got together once every week (Monday) to lay down tracks and put together their cassettes. Their band's songs grace several dozen compilations (it would seem) and eventually RRRecords noticed them and released this, their first vinyl in 1986.

Unfortunately, this led most people to assume they were an industrial band because of the relationship with RRR and magazines probably gave it to Peter in the Corner with the Black Turtleneck to Review and he no doubt hated it. Instead, think a less clever Big Black (era: "Lungs") but with more synthesizers, less collegey wank and maybe even a necrophiliac urges for the corpse of Ian Curtis. Like Big Black, most of their songs are character studies - in this case girlfriends ("Judy Mach 7"), bad cops ("Johnny Claw") and senior citizens in scooters. A few instrumentals such as "Hoedown" and "Hunter Killer" break up the vocal songs but never let up on the overall headzap even if its best experienced in small doses. Listening to the whole album in one sitting may be hazardous to your overall mental health. Even though the album hangs together well, it was actually more of a compilation of the best of their previously released cassettes.

Band members:
  • Chris Shepard
  • Mike Mangino
  • Pseu Braun A3
  • Thom B3

Songs (I try not to use the word "gem" too much around here but these cuts are the standouts):
  • "Greasing Wheezer" - their classic quotes Chuck Berry and it still shows up on underground radio playlists
  • "Judy Mach 7" - if Smersh were Proto-ElectroClash, Judy is proto-Suicide Girl
  • "Johnny Claw" - the most Big Black/Wire-ish song - Peaches should cover this - it's as good as or even better than Wheezer...
  • "Poppa Scooter" - old people in Miami Beach on their scooters are scary
  • "Poppa Scooter (Bobby Dub)"

  • Smersh's discography is huge
  • Chris Shepard is dead and Smersh is over but Mike Mangino is continuing to keep the music (and other artists) in CD-R on his Mirandette Popular label
  • VuzRecords has a download of a Smersh song that didn't appear on this record here.
  • Discos Veveos re-released "Greasing Wheezer" on a split single and has a more permanent download of the song here (96 kbps)
  • This post (and the last two downloads especially) dedicated to Sir Dana of Thee Mystical Beast who has announced his imminent retirement . Let's raise some money for his own scooter and hope he reconsiders.
Saved Round:
Smersh is best known to pop culture fanatics as the evil SMERSH from early James Bond movies. But they were actually a real agency in Soviet Russia whose name stood for "Kill All Spies." Their main opponent was the Nazi Abwehr during World War II but after the war they were responsible for determining whether repatriated Prisoners of War were "traitors" (kinda sucks to go from a POW camp to the Gulag). They were also responsible for finding Hitler's corpse.

Read Wikipedia and get so smart on the subject that you'll casually impress people at parties. There is a movement to track down the old Smersh agents and bring them to justice. The topic would make for a much better HBO series than this upcoming Rome.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Hardcore Friday: The Detonators

Just Another Reason LP, 1986

The Detonators were an ok lefty regular joe hardcore band that originated in L.A. and then pulled up their stakes and settled in Eugene Oregon where the scene was more forgiving and less rife with freeloaders and trendoids. This was their last album before the move and while it suffers from a rough sound and a sloppy drummer, some of the cuts still are like nitro glycerin being transported in a fast dune buggy.

The band stayed together for awhile after that and then went into hiatus while growly voiced Bruce Hartnell and Juan Camacho (effortless lead guitarist) went into the club and restaurant business, respectively. Hartnell also started a "9 piece mariachi/spaghetti western/norteno band." They got back together recently (minus Camacho) and have two 7" releases that pretty much sound like 1986 all over again (at least the MP3s I listened to).

Don't tell MXV but this is blue vinyl. Wooh.

Download A Song:

"Child Psychology" is my fave cut on this record and it goes out to Tom Cruise and all my Scientologist Homies.

Detonators Homepage has some good stories about their fun with the Circle One Gang (Rev. 2) and how Flipside hated them. There's a link to a recent grumpy "tell it like it is" MRR interview with Bruce Hartnell:

I work as an audio engineer in a performing arts center. I’ve worked with many top-tier acts; I’ve done about six Bob Dylan concerts for example. I also used to own a rock club, and I play in a Mexican band that does really well financially and gigs with bands like Los Lobos and the Neville Brothers. The thing I learned from all that is that everything about show business IS business-from the basement shows to arena gigs. The acts that succeed take steps to take care of business, whether it’s a small hardcore band trying to get a record out or a huge act that plays arenas, they all take care of business. The ones who don’t succeed get the business done to them. Promoters don’t give a fuck how good you are, just how much money they can make off of you. If you’re not the headliner, they’ll tell you in no short terms how lucky you are and how big of a favor they’re doing for you-you’re just a headache to them. If you can make them any money at all, they’re just as quick to suck your cock. So I guess the job of every band is to get as much head given to you as you can without giving any back. There are a lot of bands that suck way too much cock out there, and have no problem doing so, so to them selling out isn’t even an issue, just a fact of life in this business. They just don’t care, and you’d be lying to yourself if you didn’t think it happens at the hardcore scene level too.

Because I have this experience of working backstage at major concerts, I’ve become even more cynical of the business. I have no idols or heroes, and I don’t have a lot of respect for most of the acts I work with. A lot of acts are so bitter that they completely lock themselves away, or ban stagehands from the stage. What rock bands do is act like “rock stars”, even ones at the lowest level of the business, like some hardcore bands I can name. I’m just not that fucking impressed anymore.

I spend a lot of time polishing the turd of the show these “sellouts” bring, and you know what? No matter how hard you polish it, its still a turd. And the bigger the turd, the more willing the public will buy into it. As a booking agent in my own club, I had to deal with guys from William Morris Agency or CMA trying to shove the next big thing down my throat and have them tell me the whole time how lucky I was. I blew up once at a guy from William Morris Agency for trying to get me to book Jimmy Eat World for a two hundred dollar guarantee. They had played there several times before and couldn’t draw flies if they were covered with shit. I told him that no one wanted to see them-next thing you know they sell a kajillion cds!! The band didn’t get any better; they just got their business done.

Their Discography page has additional hardcore MP3s from all their records including their recent 7" releases.

Bonus Link:

Los Mex Pistols Del Norte - Hartnell's other band

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Looks like it's you and me again tonight, Coco Rosie

...kook music - what suckdog might have evolved to if Costes didn't keep on running around naked through their psyches ... go to tgrecs to stream it too... preorder it at nokarma

"Noah's Ark"

photo by Ed Wenn

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Summer Beer on a Dog Day (MP3 Mix)

The heat came back with a vengeance today in that little swampy old town of Washington DC where I once again have chosen to live. But there's some good things about being around here. Jim and Jennie and The Pinetops played a free show over at the Kennedy Center tonight (stream it here) and although they are a bit traditional for my tastes - their idea of going outside the boundaries is an electric banjo (which I might add was cool in itself) bit they made me think of some other songs that have been going through my head recently so I'd thought I throw them down (see bottom of post). Oh and I loved their version of "Red Rocking Chair" - brought a tear to my eye. Or was that the humidity?

I walked back (crawled back) and had a Sierra Nevada Summerfest. The first one tastes like heaven and goes great with a roasted chicken - the kind you lazily buy from the supermarket these days already made so you don't have to heat up your own kitchen -- the second Summerfest tasted like soda water. Oh well. There's always tomorrow.

Buy Jim and Jennie's new CD if you like that new bluegrass - there's a little bit of the Dead feel to their songs or at least the Dead records were Jerry went bluegrass if that gives you a sense of how old-timey THEY are. But, hey, they played back-up for Neko Case if that helps their coolness factor and they're playing Newport next week (I'm sorry, the Dunkin Donuts tm Newport Festival).

Alas, given my druthers, I'd rather be at Palimpest, a one day freak folk festival in an old Cambridge UK Church the following weekend. One of the acts, Mi and L'au, are Michael "The Master" Gira's latest find. I'm looking forward to hearing more from them but in the meantime go to the festival website to download another song of theirs. Josephine Foster is everything Cocorosie promised me they would be. I love walking around Rock Creek Park (in cooler days) with her CD playing.

Anyone wanna hook me up with a ticket to England for Palimpest? Nah... didn't think so. Maybe I'll be spontaneous and try to score a plane ticket at the last minute. You can get deals right? Huh? Eh, I'll probably stay home and clean records.

And doesn't that new Deerhoof record slay? Well, now that I've bought all the Majikick music I can find, it is the next best thing round. Here's an older cut but hey, free and legal... and there's lots more at that page I linked.

"Mt. St. Helens" - Jim and Jennie & The Pinetops
"They Marry" - Mi and L'au (MP3 hosted at Palimpest Festival Page)
"Stone's Throw From Heaven" - Josephine Foster (also via Palimpest)
"Sunny Side" - Deerhoof

Bonus download: Go to Amazon and download "Red Rocking Chair" by Doc and Merle Watson

(picture at top by me)

Monday, August 01, 2005

Ben Chasny: Live on WFMU 7-26-05

As long as I'm making some radio rips, here's the cuts the supernaturally gifted Ben Chasny played on the same show that Gary Higgins appeared on. The first four are Six Organs of Admittance and the last two come from his upcoming release August Born. Drag City has a free Mp3 up, "A Thousand Butterflies".

Ben Chasny, Live on WFMU 7-26-05, The Brian Turner Show. Download the entire show here.

"Words For Two"
"Black Needle Rhymes"

"Birds Sun and Clay"
"Song Of The Dead"

Gary Higgins: Live on WFMU - 7-26-05

If you liked that recent Six Organs of Admittance album, you probably were floored by "Thicker Than a Smokey" which was written by Gary Higgins, who released an obscure album in 1973 called Red Hash on the eve of his three year prison term for pot. That album has now been re-released on Drag City records - I just received my order today and it's going straight into the car for tomorrow morning's ride.

Last week, he and his band of yore appeared and were interviewed on Brian Turner's WFMU show (WFMU's Tony Coulter is credited for keeping the album alive) and played two songs and did an interview with Turner.

The full setlist and links to Real Player and MP3 archives is here. There's also some live music with Ben Chasny of Six Organs, who had a major role in getting this album reissued, later in the same show and he participates in the interview.

Here's a rip of "Thicker Than A Smokey" from that show which came out real nicely - I especially dig the instrumental/vocal bridge between the chorus and the verses.

"Thicker Than a Smokey" - Gary Higgins and band(Dave Beaujon: Bass, Graham Higgins: Guitar, Maureen Wells: Cello, Gary Higgins, Vocal/Guitar.) , live on WFMU, 7-26-05

Image courtesy of

Mike McGonigal still has the original version (approved by Zach of Drag City) up on his Buked And Scorned site