Friday, February 25, 2005

The Egg Lady

Schock-Rock (or is it Schlock Rock?) Friday!

Edith Massey sings:

Edith Masseys' unaware parody of punk rock was so appropriate and was just so Baltimore. They are also so freaking upbeat and oughta at least bring a smile to the most glum of punx.

I lived in Charm City for a few years and every time we tried to get down to visit Massey's thrift shop, it was closed (later I learned she had moved to California). We contented ourselves to pointing out the Waters production crowd (usually very skinny long-haired hippies) if we spotted them at Fells Point or elsewhere. Water's casting director and good friend, Pat Moran occasionally was seen in the back at shows in the Marble Bar tapping her fingers and smoking a cigarette. I think she was just chaperoning her sons who showed up at shows.

I never saw Waters (or Massey or Divine for that matter) - he lived (or probably still lives) in a tower apartment near the Inner Harbor - by that time he was bored with punk though I had been told that in the late '70s he'd show up for shows. I believe Hairspray! came out around that time and it was neat to get all the geographical references in both that and Serial Mom - I lived only a few blocks from the Towson Little Tavern where Edith's character works in one of his movies.

I found this picture disc years later when I lived in Washington and snatched it up immediately. Another one of my prized possessions although I'm not sure it has much monetary value.

Waters wrote extensively about Massey in Shock Value including what happened when Edith met Warhol - it's a hoot and definitely the best of all his great books. Here's a short excerpt on Edith's punk years:

"Between films Edith has managed to get together a singing career for herself. Her first venture was a musical revue backed by a notoriously butch female combo called Jan and the Rockajets. Edith wowed them with such numbers as "Big Girls Don't Cry" and all of Connie Francis's hits. When punk first came out, I suggested to Edith she adopt this look for novelty reasons. Edith is about as far from punk as you can get, but she realized it was a good gimmick and would make good copy for journalists who were always searching for a new angle to write about her. She retrieved her old leather S&M outfit that she wore in Female Trouble from mothballs, glued a spider on her face, collected some original music material and began to tour the country as the Queen of Punk. When she played her hometown of San Francisco, many of her old chums whom she hadn't seen in twenty years showed up to cheer her on with the rest of the sellout audiences. Since Edith is the first to admit she can't sing a note, her show had the appeal of a Mrs. Miller- Florence Foster Jenkins goes punk. I advised her to take the money and run."
John Waters, Shock Value

Edith Massey, 1918-1984

The songs are also hosted on a more permanent basis on the recommended John Water's fan and news site: Dreamland: visit that page directly at Edith Sings!

See also Edith Massey Tribute Page for a copy of her obituary in Variety

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Happy Birthday, Unrest

Self-titled, 7" EP
Teen Beat 7, 1985

"Hey, who's this?"

"Huh? Oh, that's Unrest. Big indie band in the early '90s. I bought that directly from Mark Robinson standing out in the street outside DC Space one night back in the '80s. Or was it Phil?"

"Noooo. I have their Imperial whatever CD. I know who Unrest is. I mean who's THIS" (pointing at the cover)

"Oh. Um, Lotte Lenya."

"I've seen this photograph before."

"Yeah, I'm not surprised. It's a pretty famous photograph. Lotte was Kurt Weill's wife in the '20s in Berlin. Weill wrote parts for her to sing but she was really an actress - "Mack the Knife" was written for her. They divorced but ended up fleeing Berlin together when the Nazis started breathing down their necks for being communists."

"Sound romantic."

"Yeah. I guess if you erase the whole later history of communism but well, um, I suppose back then it was romantic going up against the Nazis. Anyway, they fled to Paris and then later to the US. She, um, remarried him and remained devoted to him after he died. She later oversaw a revival of his music, set up a foundation - and you know the whole 'Mack the Knife' thing."

"Wow. So what's she doing on an Unrest record?"

"I... they were high school kids. I guess they identified with the romanticism of the '20s. It was a decade very much like the '80s. Or maybe Mark Robinson just fetishized her face. All of his album covers were retro and the early ones were iconic as well... Its actually a pretty valuable record - there were only 500 printed, I think."

"So... why's it on your bedroom floor?"

"I dunno. You know I've never been very careful with my records. I was...just... looking at it. I mean, its a bit of a puzzle of a record."

"How so?"

"Well, it's a 7" - most 7"s, hell, most LPs aren't really attempting to be an artistic statement. But this is. Usually 7"s are just about selling a song or drumming up interest for an LP. But this one... it seems more like a mini-concept LP - its pretty extraordinary for a bunch of high school sophomores. I mean, I've been to museums that are featuring the "best" of high school art and its rarely as original as this. For instance, start with Lotte Lenya and Kurt Weill - an artistic couple who did some wonderful things in the '20s, at least in retrospect... and then consider that one of the songs is an instrumental called "Scott and Zelda". They were also a leading artistic and intellectual couple in the '20s. They were idolized, though, like perhaps some idolize Jessica and Nick these days."

"Yeah, so?"

"Well, the record starts out with an cover of "So You Want to Be a Rock and Roll Star" - they're kind of over-reaching but its still a pretty bracing take on the song. But why, that choice of a song? The only thing I can think of is that they are being ironic. Scott & Zelda and Kurt & Lotte were the rock stars of their time. They owned the '20s. Just compare, say, Eddy Van Halen and Valerie Bertinelli, who were like the most admired couple then, at least in MTV rock and roll circles. They pale against Scott and Zelda. I mean Zelda was an artist and not a bad writer herself. They hung out with Hemingway. Val Bertinelli's leading artistic contribution was the TV Movie of the Week. They hung out with David Lee Roth. And Eddy may have been a virtuoso on guitar but he wrote mindless songs like "Jump" and "Hot for Teacher" - hardly The Great Gatsby or Babylon Revisited. With Unrest there's a kind of a longing for that type of relationship or time - yeah, its kinda adolescent but don't we all want some great story, some great connection like that in our lives. In the '80s, that was all perverted into just pure brainless MTV glamour. Hell, we haven't even mentioned Tommy Lee and Heather... or even Madonna and Sean"

"Um. I heard of Gatsby. What's Babylon Revisited?"

"Only one of F. Scott's best short stories. It's set in Paris but about an American alcoholic who tries to be something that he's not to win access to his daughter. Despite his best intentions, he can't escape his past. It was a common theme of Fitzgerald's books - being something that you are not, living as an outsider, not fitting in. I guess from a high schooler who was into King Crimson, the Dead Kennedies and Henry Cow -"

"Wait, Henry who?"

"Oh come on, you said you knew who Unrest was. That's where they got their name -- from a Henry Cow album in the '70s."

"It's just a strange name - Henry Cow."

"Well, it was a name for a group. Fred Frith was in it - very progressive arty stuff - they managed to get a major label contract but always had a "do it yourself" vibe, like much of the indie music of that time. You can hear the guitarist on this record, Robinson, try to get some of Frith's chops down. He's also wants to be Robert Fripp. He's not that good yet but its kinda exciting that they tried. This was...I mean I dunno, it's an instrumental so you can't really say what its about but they named it after F. Scott Fitzgerald and his wife Zelda so they must have been thinking of something..."

"... You think too much..."

"Well, you asked the question."

"So, what's this other song, "The Hill"?"

"Um, I dunno. Its an instrumental but with these buried vocals and just some gut-wrenching drumming by Mark Robinson mixed with two ethereal synthesizers. It sounds like some of the stuff that's come out over the past few years like that new Low but reimagined as a Kraut- rock band. The cymbal crashes are recorded purposely to over-modulate and it makes for a stunning effect. It's really the best cut on the record. The recording is fantastic - it sounds unlike anything you heard from Dischord in that timeframe and perhaps that was intentional to kind of distance their band from that scene, even though they obviously respected it.

What's it about? I'm not sure. Hills are obstacles, although not insurmountable. I don't want to read too much into it but the liner notes reference Nelson Mandela who was still in prison at the time. Maybe the record is making a point that while the sense of romanticism of the '20s is gone, we still have similar troubles plaguing us - Babylonia but without Scott and Zelda. But we did have rock, or at least the rock that was coming out on the indies..."

"Pretty deep for a 7" by a bunch of high-schoolers"

"Well, I could be all washed up. But, yeah. So. Let's put it on."

MP3 Sample RIP from 7" EP:
  • "The Hill" (Mark Robinson) Unrest ((4.7 Mb)

The contents of this 7" EP were later compiled by Matador Records in a CD called Fuck Pussy Galore and All Her Friends. It is out of print although I wouldn't be surprised if it gets re-released in the near future.

20 years ago this past Wednesday, Unrest first got together. Happy 20th Birthday, Unrest!

Tonight, weather permitting, they are playing together for the first time in 11 years.



Wednesday, February 23, 2005

The Space Negros

"Too Much Talk" b/w "Son of Texas Chainsaw Massacre - Part V"
7" 45, Arf-Arf Records, 1990

Erik Lindgren is perhaps best known in rock circles for bringing together Roger Miller and Clint Conley, and while that's good enough for admission to the cool part of heaven, he's no slouch in his own work. His biggest feat (well, outside mid-wiving Mission of Burma) is being a founding and continuing member of Birdsongs of the Mesozoic, a soaring chamber rock quartet who, if you haven't ever experienced, are highly recommended - both live and recorded (Roger Miller played in the first incarnation but then you already knew that). Since late '70s, he's run a respected 24-track studio in Boston and has composed music for film, commercials and TV - as well as working hard at composing "real" contemporary classical music. He plays keyboards with the Sonare Wind Trio, a sort of woodwind+keyboards Kronos Quartet that's just as comfortable in the concert hall as they are in the Lizard Lounge. He also started and continues to run Arf Arf Records, an archival label with about 5 dozen records in their catalog covering old garage punk and "incredibly strange" music. Not to mention sFz, a sort of adult contemporary progressive label and countless other projects and side-projects and collaborations and...

Finally, there's The Space Negros (and yes, that's how it is spelled) documenting Lindgren's '79 to late '80s exploration of exotic music and rock. Previous releases included an LP of "Generic Ethnic Musak" covers of garage punk/psyche classics, a goof Xmas 7" and some other offbeat stuff. Roger Miller and others show up here and there to play but its mostly Lindgren playing around in his studio. The a-side of this, "Too Much Talk" is Esquivel meets The Residents and they try to eat him for dinner. Lindgren mixes synth with orchestral instruments and a new-wave rock vocal that suggests a less sedate Mark Mothersbaugh. Ultimately, as in much one-man progressive rock efforts, the scripted nature of the effort tends to distract from any emotional effect. But its still a dazzling experiment. Side 2 doesn't fare as well with the "Son of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Part V" - a "B" slasher movie score (duh) duet of sorts between a straight-ahead synth composition and a raging chainsaw. Its worth a listen but only every 10 years or so.

"Too Much Talk" (147 kbps VBR, 4 Mb)

Note: Samples MP3s are for discussion purposes only and only available in a short timeframe after the posting. All rights are reserved by the original copyright holders.

References included links below and:
Our Band Could Be Your Life - Michael Azerrad

- Arf-Arf Records (this record is still available here for $3.50 and was included on the first CD compilation of The Space Negros - Dig Archeology )
- Froogle scan of Space Negros
- Birdsongs of the Mesozoic and their Cuneiform page
- Erik Lindgren and the Sonare Wind Trio
- Dredd Foole talks about Lindgren, Moving Parts, Burma, etc.

Monday, February 21, 2005

The Swankys

Very Best of The Swankys, Part II
7" EP, DOGMA Records

Does anyone still like Japanese Hardcore punk? For awhile there, it was very hot and importers couldn't sell enough of it. Invariably, it was so expensive that you ended up making or trading tapes of it with others but that was besides the point. I've got a ton of those tapes but many of them are undocumented because, also invariably, people never wrote down the songs properly on the cassette jackets. Shades of ID3 today.

I think the attraction of Japcore, as it was called, was that it was loud, noisy, uncompromising, idealistic and so unintelligible that the self-appointed lyrics police couldn't keep up with it. The Japanese musicians also had no shame about sticking to the old-style fashions (spiked hair, leather jackets) that had become so cliche that only the posers arrived dressed for punk (we're talking late '80s, early 90s). It was kinda endearing to see kids dressed like we did 5, 8 years prior - like going to a Halloween show.

So said, The Swankys were one of the more popular punk bands in Japan - kind of on the light side compared to the (much better) The Stalin or Execute . On the other hand, they weren't dogmatic (even though their record label was named Dogma). They were originally called GAI and were more a straight hardcore band but decided to change their name and branch out. They reportedly had no compunctions about doing a few songs in other styles such as "classic punk" or late 60's garage-punk. Yet, if this record is proof, they still kept that Japcore feel.

This four-songer came out in '85 though I probably picked it up from the late great Systematic mailorder company in the late '80s. Opening song "How Long Do You Give Me?" does the old-school punk thing. "I Love You" is more in line with their contemporaries but slowed down. "I'm Punk" is a standard Japcore but its compromised by a rather lame guitar break. "We Are the Rifind White Cats" is another style - it reminds me a little of Grisen Stryker, the Finn punkers I wrote about last year - more of a noisy snotty cacophony although again, its hampered by a weak guitar lead.

Bottom line, for all the money, I paid for this, it was disappointing. Some of the songs are promising but they should have never let the guitarist take a solo. About the only decent song is "How Long Do You Give Me?" I'll save "I Love You" for next year's Valentine's day.

"How Long Do You Give Me?" (151 kbps VBR, 3.8 Mb) The Swankys

Where are they now? I dunno. The band broke up.... faded away. I've seen their album Never Can Eat Swank Dinner on a couple classic punk faves list. There was a rumor going through the Jap forum-o-sphere earlier this year that they were getting back together.

Swankys Discography (I borrowed the JPEGs from here)
A Swankys Tribute Site in English with some MP3 samples

Rest In Peace

Shocked. ...

"Expecting To Fly" - Sonya Hunter (Neil Young cover)

- courtesy Innerspace records


"Island of Moreau" b/w "I Won't Hurt You'
C&O Records CO-9001, 1990

A late and almost final release from my ill-fated band (I previously reviewed our post-humous cassette). By this time (late '80s), we had pretty much whittled the group down to two people. Our crackhead bassist (the second one, not the first one) had disappeared and the guy that I hated so much because he was an incessant "jammer" had finally gotten pussy-whipped enough that he stopped showing up. Although the record came out in '90, I'm pretty sure it was recorded several years before.

This record was really all Bernie, though. I'm just along for the drums and the drums are the worst part of it, being so poorly recorded. Its tough near impossible to make drums sound good with a four-track unless you go for the lo-fi minimialist thing. That said, Bernie's guitar overlays are near perfect so I'm kinda sad we didn't have the brains to go to the studio for the drum tracks as well. Bernie did all the engineering, the mastering, the record pressing and distribution. If I did anything besides play drums on these two songs, it was to encourage Bernie and help him further develop them but that's about all.

These songs were recorded out in the farmhouse Bernie rented for several years - his only neighbors were the couple who worked the farm and lived in the doublewide and they never complained, although they certainly shot us some furtive looks of concern after some particularily psychotic set or outburst. It was the type of place where after banging out songs and making an incredible racket for hours on end, you'd look out the window and there was a cow looking batch at you chewing the cud nonchalantly. Late at night, you got the near silence that you only get out in the country and near dusk that wierd fog that would rise from the fields. So, we'd get together for the occasional weekend -- when we weren't playing, we'd spend the time listening to shit like Wake of the Flood-era Dead to The Swans to Talking Heads '77 to Sonic Youth to... well, I think one of Bernie's hippy friends even came in once and slapped Edie and the Bohemians on. The cover was, I think, inspired by those two Happy Flowers 7 inchers. The end result was a sort of psyche-punk-farm-noise done lo-fi; tryin' to be more hi-fi.

"I Won't Hurt You" in my mind a song about the opposite -- a sort of Big Black (another band on our playlist) character study of the guy who talks all soothing in that Kim Gordon seductive velvety voice but by the time the tarantella kicks into full gear (my high school summers playing for an Italian wedding band helped here), he's revealed to be just another garden variety 'fidget' (to use the NYPD Blue term) molester. One of the neat things Bernie did here was to add that wall of guitar near the end and pretty much bury his vocals under the din.

Bernie may disagree with this intrepretation (since he wrote the song) but "Moreau" kinda concatenates the Minutemen question of "What Makes a Man Start Fires?" to just "What Makes a Man?" But rather than write a Minutemen song to accompany it, we did more of a treble-peaking hippy drone thing. For no reason, I started hitting the woodblock in the middle of the cut and then thought better of it. I wanted to record it over but then said it just adds to the wierdness of it - the idea was to make the drums just an extended freakout anyway. This was years before the Brando-Kilmer cult classic film, so dont get any ideas that this was just a pop culture song.

So since I guess I own something of these songs, it's a "legal" download unless Bernie objects. I'll try to keep these up longer but I have a lot of stuff to post this week so may be taking previous songs down sooner in case you haven't caught up on the past few posts.

"Island of Moreau" (106 kbps VBR)
"I Won't Hurt You" (152 kbps VBR)

My previous posting on the Bikermutt post-breakup cassette

Insomniac blogging tonight - some cool updates to my clipshack page on Iggy and Suzy Quatro and Aimee if yer up as well

Saturday, February 19, 2005

PUSSY GALORE: groovy hate fuck

SHOVE Records, 1986

And hope's just another rope to hang myself with
To tie me down till something real comes around
And if I started crying would you start crying?
And if I started crying why are you not crying?
-- "Theme (If I Started Crying) Rites of Spring (lyrics attributed to "Dennis")

I'm wallowing in the mire of misery
Situation's hopeless, I know that's true
There's only one thing left
That I did not do

-- "Kill Yourself" Pussy Galore
One band that was criminally overlooked in Our Band Could Be Your Life had to have been Pussy Galore. I think they get, like, one mention. The band has always confounded politically correct rock writers and scenesters who find it hard to believe that a bunch of upper-middle class brats could put together such an impressive truckload of noise-rock in such a short period of time. Christgau dismisses them: "All these postdadaists want is to provide the forbidden visceral thrill of rock and roll at the moment they snatch it away as an impossible fake--to be the-thing and not-the-thing simultaneously" and for once, ironically, he's right.

Pussy Galore sucked! Pussy Galore ruled!

Although their original motivations in moving to Washington DC are unknown (was it to participate in the exploding music scene? or was it just to mooch off of Julia's well-off family?) by early '86, Pussy Galore seemed all to eager to chomp on the corpse of 1985's Revolution Summer, which as Julia Cafritz later taunted from her safe perch in New York City: "Where are they now? Just as soon as the interviews come out, they've already broken up." (She was wrong as the scene re-emerged the following year). But, hey, its 1986 and if it gets you an interview in Conflict, then go with it? I mean, you're some scene dink, so how do you go to a show in DC if your fanzine just ran an ad by a band that sings "Fuck Ian MacKaye". And there were no explanations, no apologies and no backing down even if they had a lot of "Rambo Punks" get up in their faces. They compounded the provacation in this album with "You Look Like a Jew" a windy shitstorm of breaking glass
and taunts towards the DC's concentration camp chic of shaved heads, thrift store clothes and the "fear of offending Dischord". All the more confusing title and lyrics as Julia Cafritz's family are Jewish.

In his best Mark E. Smith imitation, Spencer rants:
"See the smoke rising from the Dischord House
Smelling the burning burning
Says we cannot accept this ad....
cannot accept this ad.... FUUUUUUCCK".
Pussy Galore are assholes! Pussy Galore are cool!

Then there was the "problem" of musicanship, or should I say in my best Ira Robbins sniff: "atrocious non-musicianship." Scarluffi calls it "sub-amateurish" The common belief was that these bunch of druggie rich kids (forget Neil Hagerty and his white trash girlfriend for a moment) were just a big joke and would go away if they were ignored. They're just picking up their guitars in between jet setting and Georgetown parties to get Mummsies and Daddy mad -- but not mad enough to cut off the trust fund or the maid service. The truth was that the best rock and roll was done by people who could barely play their instruments and came from all stratas of class... Jon Spencer (a straight-edger according to Hagerty) had a distinctive vision and knew exactly what he wanted to do even if the others were confused at times (evidence: his follow-on band Blues Explosion is doing exactly the same thing to the blues). Robbins (and others) further asserts that this was a "one-take no-rehearsal guitar-army tossoff." He couldn't be further from the truth. Barrett Jones, then a struggling recording engineer (later producing Foo Fighters) described the experience:
When the band's beat-up van pulled up to the curb sputtering and spewing thick gray smoke, and three guys and a girl wearing black leather spilled out, Jones was a little unsure of what he had gotten himself into. He'd only recorded a few times before, and as a result, offered extremely cheap rates--in this case, $150 for four complete songs. Those four songs ended up taking four hellish days.

First, Spencer was never happy with the takes. "He'd say, 'That sounds too good--make it sound worse,'" Jones remembers. ... And Pussy Galore loved noise--loud, obnoxious noise. "God, I hated them for that," admits Jones.

To the chagrin of Jones' roommates, the band had a seemingly endless supply of noisemaking tools. They'd power up a rusty chainsaw for one song and hammer a steel oil drum on another. They broke glass and banged on sheet metal for hours. They also liked guitar feedback, and would spend forever perfecting just the right squeal.
Pussy Galore sound like shit! Pussy Galore have the best sound ever!

While no way, now how, as good as some of their later stuff (Sugarshit Sharp EP is on iTunes and recommended as their best collection available), Groovy Hate Fuck contains several classic cuts and I don't mean that in the Journey/Yes/Styx sense. The irony is that while they may have served as inspiration for a generation of garage noise bands (Jesus Lizard springs to mind), almost all of the songs on Groovy could have been done 20 years prior and put out on Nuggets (that is, if the song lyrics and titles were cleaned up a bit). As many have noted, Spencer, who studied semiotics - the theory of symbols and how people glean meaning from words and sound and pictures - at Brown University - wanted to tear rock down to its core elements and rebuild in his own vision. Its a good thing Mark Anderson heard Rites of Spring first or he might have followed through on his supposed path to suicide. This vision was a dark self-hating/ everyone-hating vision and in marked contrast, seemingly, to the aspects of the Revolution Summer bands who wanted to use rock to unite and create a new "positive force." Its everything rock was intended to be - that is if you were around in 1969. Originally inspired by The Cramps themselves, the Revolution Summer bands were now using insular reference points and derided other bands outside their circle as "college rock". In Our Band Could Be Your Life, Fugazi go around town looking for places that sell tofu. Constrast this with an earlier lyric from their high school days: "We don't sit in circles/We don't meditate/we don't eat health food/cuz coke and Twinkies are great" and you can start to see why an opposition, albeit a glorious failure of an opposition, was formed. Spencer, too, went back to The Cramps but instead of making a beeline towards The Clash, he makes a screeching u-turn towards the Rolling Stones' Exile on Main Street and The Stooges' Fun House. Rock was dead - now it was time toto stomp on the grave and kill any punk rock stragglers. In fact, the cover of Groovy Hate Fuck (see picture above) suggests the opening scenes of Night of the Living Dead where the zombies emerge from the fields at dusk to begin their night of terror.

Pussy Galore is dead! Pussy Galore lives!

1986 saw this and five other releases by the band. Disgusted with the inability to get shows booked in DC, the band (minus the drummer) decamped to NYC where "all the critics love you" especially if you dress in black and make a ton of racket. The band continued in this vein, getting better and better at their instruments and the science of feedback. They released a lot more material and added Bob Bert and Cristina Martinez (later to marry Spencer). After their break-up, Neil Hagerty and his girlfriend went on to form Royal Trux - which continued in the Pussy Galore vein. He got a nasty heroin addiction, spent time in jail and is now in the Howling Hex (about to drop an album on Drag City). Jon Spencer, of course, went on to form the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion where he went about the same thankless job of "being the thing" in this case a blues band and "not being the thing" (in this case mocking the blues). They now just call themselves Blues Explosion, suggesting Spencer has reined in his infamous megalomania somewhat (perhaps a side effect of fatherhood or maybe just a grudging respect of his impressive bandmates). They are on Sanctuary Records (where rock stars go to die). Julia Cafritz reportedly lives in Northhampton, MA near her good friend (and Free Kitten bandmate) Kim Gordon. Drummer John Hammill's whereabouts unknown.

Songs from Groovy Hate Fuck:

"Just Wanna Die" (later covered by Beck)
"Kill Yourself/Asshole"

Additional tunage:
"Soft Enfolding Spreads" - The Howling Hex


Good Reads:

Other Sources:

Coffee & Cigarettes MP3 Mix #11

Morning After Mix

Troll - L
Deep Sunny South - Pelt
Blues Run The Game - Wizz Jones
My Flower - Damon & Naomi
Watermelon Man - Herbie Hancock (referring page)

Friday, February 18, 2005

Here's to Swimmin' With Bow-Legged Women

Your Friday "The horror. The horror" song. Turn it up.

"Martin Sheen" - Edie Sedgwick off their/his/her forthcoming release Her Love is Real But She is Not

Lyrics to "Martin Sheen".

The quote about "errand boys sent by grocery clerks" comes from Apocalypse Now

    <>In 1994, the U.N. and the United States looked the other way when 100,000s of people were massacred in Rwanda. In 2003, The West Wing reimagined history and had the "no-fake President" Martin Sheen actually send troops into the Hollywood Rwanda (Khundu).

    [holding a piece of paper in his hand] You
    know, it's easy to watch the news and think
    of Khundunese as either hapless victims or
    crazed butchers, and it turns out that's not
    true. I got this intelligence summary this
    afternoon. "Mothers are standing in front of
    tanks." And we're going to go get their backs.
    An hour ago, I ordered Fitzwallace to have
    UCOMM deploy a brigade of the 82nd
    Airborne, the 101st Air Assualt, and a Marine
    Expeditionary Unit to Khundu to stop the violence.
    The 101st are the Screaming Eagles.
    The Marines are with the 22nd M.E.U., trained
    at Camp Lejuene, some of them very recently.
    I'm sorry, everyone, but this is a work night.

Edie Sedgwick 2005 Tour Dates

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

KATE BUSH: "Running Up That Hill" 12" Single

B/w "Under the Ivy"
Capitol Records, 1985

Ms. Bush's big hit in the U.S. was "Running Up That Hill" and for a short time, you heard it everywhere. This was the dance single she produced to accompany the album Hounds of Love and its actually quite good even if you never bought into rest of her New Age Art Chick schtick. It's the only record, I swear, I own of hers and I think it was more an impulse buy or because someone I knew was constantly raving about her. I remember years later having a beer in my favorite bar in San Diego and the guy who always came in an put the funk and R&B tunes on the Juke stuck this song on. I raised my eyebrow at him and he said, "shit, its got soul and she don't even know it." (see below, Big Boi thinks she's all that, too).

And it is a very lush, unself-conciously over-produced, big beat track so emblematic of the 70's and the 80's. Sure, it's a pretty silly song which everyone but Kate herself seems to draw deep meanings from - short explanation: it's about someone confused about their inability to communicate with their lover... that said, it has so many neat elements to it -- the building strings, the odd synth horn hook, David Gilmour's atypical scorching guitar break and his sub-hook, the choo-choo train - Indian drum beat, even the shuddering climax as she sings "Let's exchange the experience". The 12" has a few "80's" elements I could do without - such as the electronic drum counterbeat and Prince scream near the end. That said, it just sounds like she had a blast recording it. I'm pretty sure it produced one of those final listen/ headphones-in-the-studio moments that I've been lucky to have once or twice in my life (even if it was a much smaller, less capable studio than I'm sure she is accustomed to).

"Under The Ivy" is on the b-side along with an instrumental version of "Running". This song probably could have used a lyrics scrub - I mean when she starts singing about "this little girl inside me/ is retreating to her favorite place", I feel dry heaves coming on. On the other hand, it has her typical meticulous production and you can't argue with the way the organ rises up out of nowhere like a hand coming out of the dark to stroke your face. It was reportedly produced in an afternoon and she didn't include it on the Hounds of Love LP although it later made its way onto the "extended CD import".

Despite the songs flaws and maybe because of its obscurity, it only stirred her rapid fans into an even more frothy broth than usual. Subsequently, it produced one of the most hilariously unintentionally embarrassing fanzine interview moments in history.

The text in italics is actually the interviewer, who I knew but shall remain nameless, who seems to have more to say than his interview subject. I can imagine Kate looking nervously at the bodyguard and inching backwards ever so slightly during her answer:
Interviewer: I read an interview where the interviewer asked you if `` running up that hill'' is about the contemplation of suicide. And I thought that was pretty amusing, because it seemed to me clearly not to about any such thing at all. On the other hand, strangely enough, that's just what "under the ivy'' seems to be about to me. The tone of the song is very, very sad. And it seems to be about longing for the lost innocence of youth - perhaps a follow-up to "in search of peter pan'' a white rose is a strong image in the song. And it could be a symbol for friendship or innocence, but it could also be a symbol for death. You sing ``away from the party", and it seems like you might almost mean ``away from the problems and triviality of modern day life'' You sing "it wouldn't take me long to tell you how to find it", and it seems like you might almost be addressing death itself. You mention a secret, but never mention what it is. Could it be the taboo we have of suicide? What are your feelings about this interpretation, and what were your intentions with the song?

Bush: Well, I think... uh, it... perhaps you are reading much more into it than was originally intended when I wrote it. It's very much a song about someone who is sneaking away from a party to meet someone elusively, secretly, and to possibly make love with them, or just to communicate, but it's secret, and it's something they used to do and that they won't be able to do again. It's about a nostalgic, revisited moment.

Is there any reason why it's so sad?

I think it's sad because it's about someone who is recalling a moment when perhaps they used to do it when they were innocent and when they were children, and it's something that they're having to sneak away to do privately now as adults. (1985, Love-Hounds)

Don't worry. I'm not one of them. This is the only Kate Bush music I currently own.


"Under The Ivy" (1.9 Mb, 2:04)

Special disclaimer: For educational and discussion purposes only. Cuts are taken from vinyl with all its flaws so please don't complain. If you want the real thing, go buy the CD (see below) or the LP. This cut is not available on iTunes. Cuts are available for download for a very short period of time.

  • Gemm has a copy of this original record for sale. Siren Disc has the extended CD import with "Under the Ivy"
  • Ms. Bush has a new album coming out "sometime soon." It will be her first in over 12 years! Her collective fandom is all a-twitter
  • A typically obsessive discography
  • The Fanzine interview quote comes from this page
  • Although I suspect there is an invisible hand of media hype at work, Kate is enjoying a bit of a revival among major label artists:

    • The Futureheads, a band I can't say much about... they recently covered her "Hounds of Love" -- there's a video available at their website -- it at least gives you the cheap thrill of seeing the Futureheads being chased around by a pack of dogs.
    • One of Kate's "fans" is Big Boi of Outkast - in his own words:
"She was so bugged out man! But I felt what she was talking about in the songs. MOTHER STANDS FOR COMFORT, RUNNING UP THAT HILL. My uncle would explain what the songs stood for. Like THE MAN WITH THE CHILD IN HIS EYES and all that s***.

"I thought, 'Wow! She's so f***ing deep! I was infatuated with her, still am. I gotta track her down! I just found out that she was producing all that s*** herself! She's so f***ing dope and so underrated and off the radar."
He wants her to produce his next album.

Monday, February 14, 2005

Descendents: Enjoy!

New Alliance LP, 1986

With a few notable exceptions, punk rock isn't exactly known for love songs. Can someone name one Dischord band song that was about girls? We all know that Steve Jones got plenty of dates but the Sex Pistols were most notably NOT about sex. Even today's remnants of the genre like Green Day and Blink 182 find it hard to keep a straight face when singing about love and heartbreak. And while early rock bands formed as a means for skinny geeky kids to get laid, punk rockers as Descendents singer Milo Aukerman explained: "just wanted to have an outlet to express our frustration at not getting laid." Although not many would want to admit this.

This third album from L.A.'s Descendents is mostly populated with suck-ups to Black Flag ("Sour Grapes"), a half-baked attempt at composing an "Institutionalized" type epic song ("Days Are Blood") and, for this band, the normal puerile hijinks (songs about farting, coffee and punk-clique angst) abound. At least they didn't have nasty songs about "fat girls" ("No Fat Beaver") like their previous efforts.

But inserted in the flatuence, er, flat songs are some some genuine girl songs, even dare we say love songs. They might have been better advised to chuck all the other cuts and put out a 4-song EP of just the "girl songs" -- these are the most memorable and surprisingly (almost) stand the test of time. Perhaps they could have called it Milo Doesn't Get Laid.


"Get The Time" - Boy meets girl (a girl who has a Husker Du collection!)
"Cheer" - Boy gets girl (quinessential punk love song)
"Wendy" - Boy loses girl (Beach Boys cover)

Buy Enjoy! (Froogle)
DESCENDENTSonline - The boys reunited in 2004 for a new album Cool To Be You. Fat Wreck Records has some MP3s. Check out "Nothing With You" for yet another Descendent love song (of sorts).
DrumOgre - Bill Stevenson's website
Studly Milo Get Interviewed by Playboy (source of the Milo quote above)
AMG Review of Enjoy!
Eric from Something I Learned mines the cynical side of punk rock love songs

Disclaimer: All songs are recorded straight from vinyl with all pops and clicks intact. If you want clean cuts, well buy the friggin' CD. These songs is posted for discussion and educational purposes under Fair Use. We think that education can better allow people to make informed decisions, thus elevating their experience with musical consumerism, so please leave some comments. The best way to support artists is to go to their live shows and buy their recordings directly from them. Songs are up for about two weeks - the typical life of a posting - or if we run out of webspace. We do not kizzy an archive of our songs fo' sheezy.

Friday, February 11, 2005

The Friday Get Yr Retro-New Wave Ya-Yas Out

Jay from Agony Shorthand reviews the new A-Frames album "Black Forest" and gives it a big thumbs up. That reminded me of this whimsical song from their 2000 Self-Titled LP (the 1st Self-Titled LP) and so it becomes our Friday turn-it-up-so-loud-the-little-old-lady-from-below-knocks-on-your-
ceiling-with-a-broom song:

"Nobot" - A-Frames

photo shamelessly stolen from here

(disclaimer: alle MP3s sind, also, warum die Hölle jedermann wirklich sich interessieren würde - aber, wenn Sie der copyrighthalter sind, fallenlassen mich eine Linie recht unverständlich und ich schicke Ihnen einen Kasten des Bieres und wenn Sie mich wirklich ihn herunternehmen wünschen, werde ich. Da er ist, entferne ich ihn vermutlich in zwei Wochen.)

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Last Exit: The Noise of Trouble

Subtitled: Live in Tokyo
Enemy Records, 1986

Around 1988 or '89, I was wild about what some of the Italian, Japanese and even British thrash bands were doing. With extremely fast rhythm, non-stop guitar noise, repetitive bass and incomprehensible screamed vocals, they were, to me, turning the quickly congealing music form into something totally new, noise and sound driven rather than song driven. However, the thrash bands never metastasized into something great instead turning into Death Metal or Grindcore outfits and playing to increasingly insular audiences. I began to search around for what the next direction and music where "loud and fast rules." I consulted the wise men and they kept pointing me towards guitarist Sonny Sharrock and ex-Blood Ulmer drummer Ronald Shannon Jackson's Decoding Society, both of whom I had found had in 1986 united into a live music project with Peter Brotzmann and Bill Laswell known as Last Exit. I had liked Laswell in some of his work with his own band Material and also knew him as Motorhead's producer of their classic song "Eat the Rich" (not to mention Public Image's "Rise") when I found Last Exit records in the used bins (often at bargain prices), I quickly snatched them up.

Although Last Exit's origin is murky, I tend to believe that it was an idea by impresario Bill Laswell, then the "It" producer in NYC. He was, after all, the link between all the players having produced Sharrock and played with Brotzmann and Jackson. The genre of Last Exit was "free jazz", which is generally thought to originate in the '60s with Ornette Coleman, Cecil Taylor and, later, Miles Davis. Free Jazz is free and has a tendency to wander about, incorporating many and all influences from other musical genres. Miles went there in the early 70s incorporating rock and especially funk into the genre. Last Exit looked around and saw punk and metal as a style worth subsuming. At the time, Laswell was also on a mission to revitalize Sonny Sharrock's career - who had pioneered the use of the electric guitar in free jazz in the early '70s. Another side-benefit was to introduce German reedman Peter Brotzman, whom Laswell had played with while in Europe to a new American audience. Jackson, with his Decoding Society, was already pretty hot at the time but no doubt jumped at the chance to play with Laswell and Sharrock. Other renditions claim it was Sonny's idea.

At any rate, they got together originally with the thought that they would do something more formal but after the first all-improve gig, they decided that they "clicked" together and would just go ahead with basic free jazz, no rules - anyone could play anything at anytime - this sounds easy but many have failed at it. Last Exit, for the most part, never even broke a sweat. They didn't limit themselves to just the "loud and fast" music of the time - you can hear world music, country and traditional jazz bubble up to the surface at times. However, they were known for playing very loud - which, at the time and even today, is kind of frowned upon at jazz clubs. At one club, it was reported that a patron complained to which Shannon Jackson said that if he didn't like it, to take a hike (at least that's the family newspaper version).

They recorded six albums together - this being the second and now out of print (although cuts from this appeared in a retrospective). Only one of the albums was "studio" and the rest were recorded in front of audiences. This album was recorded in Tokyo in October of 1986 and was also the only record in which guests appeared. Akira Sakata was Japanese free jazzer who blew Alto Sax and Clarinet. When he wasn't playing, he worked as a part-time biologist who specialized in the water flea. Sakata plays in three cuts including Sharrock's "Blind Willie" but it is in "Needless Balls" that he finds his soul mates in both Brotzmann (no stranger to the saxophone duel) and Sharrock, who described himself as a saxophone player with "really weird intonation". Sharrock kicks off the song with an almost delicate Asian-ish riff which is then picked up by Jackson and turned into an almost Irish dirge. As Sharrock recedes into the background to lay down in a bed of noise, Laswell turns the song again on a dime by playing a goofy country-rock vamp. This sets things up for an incredible Brotzmann-Sakata dueling saxophone conversation until things degenerate into a bit of a drum-bass break and then climaxes until a free-for-all ending as it began with Sharrock's free association. A great song for even those who can't stand free jazz.

The other more surprising guest (although how can you top a Japanese Marine biologist), at least considering the type of music Last Exit made, was Herbie Hancock then only three years out from his great commercial success with the MTV video hit "Rock-It" (a song he co-wrote with Bill Laswell). In the last cut of the album, "Help Me Mo, I'm Blind," Hancock takes the group in a whole other direction - more trad. jazz than anything they had done in the previous two records. But soon the Exit boys reassert themselves with Brotzmann providing a feedback-drenched squall, Sharrock providing frenzied counterpoint to Hancock's keyboard runs, Laswell creating an almost Zen-like drone and Jackson doing some of his best playing on the album.

These are my favorite cuts at least. I found the blues medley with Shannon Jackson that opened up the album a bit of a miscalculation and more indulgence than any great piece of music. Some of the other stuff while perhaps exciting to those who prefer experimentation also had me checking the needle as to when it was going to the next cut. No, its the second side and the two guests that really spark this album. It was not, however, as I had hoped the next non-linear step for punk but it was good sonic juice for cortical stem. Play 'em loud and tell the neighbors to "take a hike" if they don't like it.

Songs from The Noise of Trouble by Last Exit:
"Needless Balls"
Help Me Mo, I'm Blind"

Bonus songs:
Sonny Sharrock wrote the theme song to Space Ghost: Coast to Coast and I believe his wife Linda Sharrock provides the vocals. It's probably one of the strangest choices for an original TV Theme songs but then we're talking about Space Ghost. When Sharrock died in 1994, Space Ghost had a very special tribute show (Episode 24) with Thurston Moore as the musical guest. This is in disc 2 of the Season Two DVD collection in case you are a Netflix subscriber.

Courtesy of Adult Swim Songs website:
"Space Ghost Coast to Coast Theme Song" - by Sonny Sharrock. offers a biography of Peter Brotzmann (although they don't mention Last Exit!) and three MP3s for "free and legal" download. Here's his classic track:
"Nipples" - presages Brotzmann's duel with Sakata in "Needless Balls"

In 1994 (the year of Sharrock's death), Bill Laswell released an album with his group Painkiller called Execution Ground - his collaborators were John Zorn and Mick Harris, who was the drummer for the UK Grindcore group Napalm Death. All were more immersed in the metal-punk ethos (unlike oldsters Jackson, Brotzmann and Sharrock). The group came the closest to creating a free jazz-thrash fusion masterpiece:
"Execution Ground" - hosted by ("free and legal")

Links and Other Notes:

Akira Sakata is one interesting dude. Read his profile on his webpage. Sakata guested on Jap hip-hopper DJ Krush's Jaku album last year.

Ronald Shannon Jackson is jamming with his The Decoding Society. For better or worse, it's been a schooling ground for such musicians as Vernon Reid (Living Colour) and Melvin Gibbs (Rollins Band)

Bill Laswell has one of the most detailed fan sites you'll run across. Pity anyone who would try to assemble a discography on the man (including both his musician and producing gigs). But they do a good job of it. You might be surprised to find some of the people he has worked with. Here's a recent interview with Laswell from Slug magazine.

Sonny Sharrock's Trouser Press bio. Unfortunately, it looks like a tribute project to Sharrock did not get off the ground in time for the 10-year anniversary of his death.

Speaking of Trouser Press, their Last Exit page provided some useful information. Also, this Wire interview with Last Exit was useful.

The photo of Sharrock is scanned from the album and is credited to either Tatsuhiko Tanaka, Toshi Yamaguchi or Takeshi Masuda.

Disclaimer: All music is provided for only a short time to facilitate discussion about Last Exit and the artists. It is (p) 1986 by Tokuma Japan Enemy Records and (c) 187-07 Henderson Avenue, Hollis, New York

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Pere Ubu: 390 Degrees of Simulated Stereo

UBU Live (1976-1979), Volume 1
Rough Trade, 1981

In the early '80s, Pere Ubu (or as they called the collective: Ubu Communex) decided to put out three albums of curated live material. They gathered tapes from fans, soundboards, radio and their own personal tapes. Volume 1 covers the early years (including the 1st incarnation with Peter Laughner) and work from the first singles, the Datapanik EP and The Modern Dance (reviewed here several days ago). By the nature of the title (Mercator projections are generally displayed as 390 degrees), the band is also displaying pride of its quickly earned world-wide fame and this includes recordings from England and Belgium, the latter even includes a radio recording ("Street Waves") that was "reportedly broadcast on Belgian radio", quite a feat for an underground American band at the time (1978).

The LP packs as much possible - I estimated around 50 minutes which was pushing the limits on a 12" vinyl. But the record was criticized for including some tracks of very low quality. These include the very early tracks which were recorded on a portable cassette machine and a few others. These tracks while unlistenable to all but the most devoted fan provide some historical context. The surreal "30 Seconds Over Tokyo," arguably one of Pere Ubu's most important songs (although its technically a cover of the Rocket From the Tombs songs) and a milestone in underground rock is unfortunately marred by a bad recording here. You can hear how brilliant the song is and that it must have been even more incredible live but your better bet lies with the 2000 release, The Shape of Things, an recording with the 1st line-up which while not perfect documents the song live much better. I believe they are also using a gong in this recording or maybe my ears are playing tricks on me. Fortunately, "My Dark Ages" (the b-side to the "Street Waves" single) has a similar forboding atmospheric feel to "30 Seconds" and that will have to serve as a substitute for that style of Ubu, at least for this collection. There is also an early recording of "Humor Me" which sounds like it was very different than what eventually got recorded in The Modern Dance. The Laughner stuff is all pretty poor in sound quality but you can hear some of his brilliant guitar work and even his backup singing.

That said, more than half of this album is salvageable and also provides some interesting insights not to mention listenable songs. For instance, the use of synthesizer and overlaid guitar feedback in the beginning of "Non-Alignment Pact" is pretty monumental for its place and time and in fact the prominence of the EML synthesizer throughout where it is used not as a cheap mimic of an instrument but as an instrument unto itself. "Street Waves" here sounds very much like the Velvet Underground's "Foggy Notion", which was certainly circulating around that time as a bootleg (later to appear in the late 80s on VU). The influence of Hawkwind and Can are heard throughout in the instrumental breaks (where Thomas reportedly would go into theatrics) and you can even surmise that Aoxomoxoa-era Grateful Dead was played in The Plaza (the apartment house where many of the Ubu musicians lived in the '70s).

This record is out of print but as noted above, some early live Ubu is available on
The Shape of Things (also available on iTunes). Some of the 390 Degrees cuts are on this album and appear to have been cleaned up as much as possible.


"Non-Alignment Pact" - recorded Dec 5, 1978 in London (4.6 Mb, 166 kbps VBR)
"My Dark Ages" - recorded Feb 18, 1978 at Disasto 2, Cleveland (4.7 Mb, 118 kbps VBR)


- Pere Ubu's FAQ from their first website addresses the issue of poor sound quality in 390 Degrees. It was an artistic decision!:

If you look at the back of 390 DEGREES OF SIMULATED STEREO you'll see the recording device for each song is listed: "portable cassette machine," "one channel of a Braun reel-to-reel," etc. We listened to all the tapes we had: cassettes, 24-track mobile recordings, professional and amateur. The "lo fi" recordings almost always sounded better to us that the "hi fi" recordings. The ambiance and distortion and accidental nature of lo fi more accurately portrayed the material as played live and the band as experienced live.

A band on stage is an entirely different experience for the musician as well as the listener. Recording a band live is not simply a matter of transforming the concert venue into a studio. It doesn't work. At least it doesn't work for us. On stage, for example, I usually can't hear the synthesizer. I know what it's supposed to be doing. I trust that it is. I can't hear it. The bass is too loud and everything I sing is drifting in and out of an incredible soup of overtone and noise. You as a listener are getting a mix of what we think we're playing as interpreted by our sound man who is usually located in the worst acoustical location in the venue compensating for what he thinks the overhang of the balcony might be doing to the lower mids and how the lousy cross-over in the left bank of speakers might be affecting the upper end on the other side of the room. And there you are standing in the part of the venue that pushes the high end and your girlfriend is tired and wants to go home and people are talking and you're thinking about... And it goes on and on.

We decided that live albums should sound like 390 DEGREES because that's what the live experience is. It's my favorite musical experience and it's my favorite sound. And, of all the tapes, we liked those the best.

- Also from their old site, the UBU story includes some of the early history
- The EML synthesizer was used by several of the Ubu synth-ists (?) - most prominently Allen Ravenstine - and had its own unique sound. The company that made it discontinued the line and went into military satellite parts production. Here's a history and a picture of the EML from the Synthesizer Museum
- Last year's Rocket Redux features a re-recording of "30 Seconds" with surviving Rocket from the Tombs members Ubu's David Thomas, Craig Bell and Cheetah Chrome that while not a very gonzo version, brings the song back to the Tombs' more Stoogey roots.

Sing along to the live version of "Dark Ages" (from the UBU Projex webpage):

My dark ages (I don't get around).

In the dark I get so confused
I fall in love like I fall from grace
I wander round,
wonder where I went
I wander round,
wonder where I went through the,
the blank spaces,
and the,
the empty places,
I don't get around & I don't fall in love

I need a car that can get me around
at night in the city where the air can shine
We'll drive around,
and oh!,
we'll fall in love
We'll drive around,
and oh!,
we'll fall in love
things will be alright
things'll be alright
things will be alright
things'll be alright
I don't get around & I don't fall in love much

©1978 EMI Music (ROW),
Bug Music (US/Can)
Lyrics by David Thomas

Saturday, February 05, 2005

I'm leaving in a couple of minutes to go see the Kings of Convenience free soundcheck at Iota. Their site has a Flash streamer of their new easy-listening album with little animations that look like what I imagine an Ikea catalog might look like.

It's music my Mom might like. Her one act of musical rebellion against my Manitovi/Mancini-loving Dad was to collect Kingston Trio albums - with the exception of some of their broadway stuff, its about the only things from their record collection I would listen to. Anyway, when you get to be our ages, its not bad to have something in common with your Mother.

However, KoC does start to sound the same after awhile. Seeing a one hour freebie show just might be the ticket (assuming I can get in).

Not much in way of portable music on the site however ...

On the other hand, it appears they tolerate a fan site that has put up an extensive set of well-recorded live shows in MP3 format.

Here's a nice live version from December 1, 2004 - "Misread" which they are releasing as their first single off their new album, "Riot on an Empty Street"...

Don't fret if you are coming here for the old stuff - this weekend I'm working on my vinyl project - it looks like improv/jazzy weekend - some out of print (OOP)live Pere Ubu, some OOP Last Exit with Herbie Hancock and maybe some Univers Zero.


We went to the KoC pre-concert concert as promised and was happily impressed with their minimalist funk. KoC are two guys from Norway, two guitars and an electric piano. They specifically asked the club to allow an under-21 show although there weren't that many under-21s there. They played "I'd Rather Dance With You" and a new cover of "When You Wish Upon a Star" that they said was inspired by their visit to Disney World (Orlando being the first stop on their tour). They couldn't remember the third verse, though. They even jokingly tried another Disney number that was I think the Italian love song from The Lady and the Tramp.

Afterwards, we got some pizza across the street, went to the Galaxy Hut and caught a set by Lemonface for free - they are a trio of 14-year-olds with a very talented young guitarist, Richard Wynne. They need to work on their songs a bit and listen to something other than Green Day but I wouldn't be surprised to see some great things from them in a few years. They were fun,earnest, have some good materiel to work with and judging by the packed audience, there were more than just their friends and relatives there. By this time, the line for the 9:30 PM Kings of Convenience show was too long and so we did some more barhopping (the swinging 30-something bar, the jock 20 something bar), saw a crappy band for $5 at Whitlows at Wilson. We ended up at the Iota where the KoC had already packed up but the bar was playing some Bob Marley so we had a final beer and packed it in for the night.

And as usual, even though I put the two aspirin and the pitcher of water next to my bed, I woke up staring at it this morning, the water undrinken and aspirin untaken. This is my pre-hangover cure that I always promise I'm going to take if I plan on drinking. Anyway, the KOC music is pretty good for a hangover morning.

Friday, February 04, 2005

Yeah, it's almost a year old but "The Rat" by the Walkmen is a great Friday rock-out song. Not entirely in love with the rest of the album (Bows & Arrows) but this single gets turned up to 11 when I'm in my car.

(Note: The link goes to an outside source and was found via a search engine)

Thursday, February 03, 2005

An Mp3 Compendium for LOW

The Family of Shiva, The Great Destroyer by Sajnu

is coming into town early next week with Pedro the Lion. Although I have a vague idea about them (the kids like to sit and sleep at their shows), I don't think I've consciously ever really heard their early music and I certainly don't own their albums.

But after hearing "Monkey" from their new album, The Great Destroyer, I got interested, bought the new CD and am going to the show on Monday. There was a very dismissive review of this album in Pitchfork ("And maybe this is a death, and The Great Destroyer is Low themselves, orphaning their fans and their history for the sake of the group's creative edification.") Wow, God forbid. Others have blamed their noise-pop producer, Dave Fridmann (Flaming Lips, Mercury Rev) or their new label (Sub Pop) but given that the songs were written before they got to the producer and inked a deal with Poneman, that's probably not true. You can't deny that some of them are pretty poppy songs at heart, the Pitchfork reviewer is probably right that this is all their own doing. But so what? Does a band have to have a body of work that totally conforms to one aesthetic? I like the lush "Broadway", the folky "Death of a Salesman" and "Silver Rider". I even dig "California" (see below) which is described as their most pop song. I suppose just about every band who sticks around long enough gets to the point where they disappoint their fans by doing something different. You grow or die. And sometimes you grow AND die.

If anyone knows of any other "free and legals", please throw the link in the comments and I'll augment it. I'll withhold my final comment until after the show on Monday.

  • Low Website
  • Sub Pop Band Page

  • The Great Destroyer
    Label: Sub Pop
    From Low's hometown newspaper, the Duluth Superior:
    The album title comes from a story Sparhawk wrote about two characters, The Great Destroyer and the Silver Rider. "The Destroyer wrecks everything no matter how hard he tries. In the story, he ends up killing the Silver Rider without knowing it was his twin brother," Sparhawk said of the story that's partially published in the liner notes.

    Although about half the songs reference the struggle between the two characters, Sparhawk said he wasn't trying to write a concept album. The main thread through these songs is urgent tension, as opposed to earlier records that tended to tell stories after the fact."These songs feel more immediate, confused, like what's going on? I thought I understood this, but I don't," Sparhawk said. "It's about not having answers. It's about having a moment when you realize you're the problem."Tracks include the first single, "Monkey," on which the trio sings a harmonious, bile-filled threat to the monkeys on their backs: "Tonight you will be mine/tonight the monkey dies."With its juxtaposition of sunny melody and miserable lyrics, the pop-filled "California" is probably the closest thing to a radio hit that Low's ever done

    Songs (hosted by Sub Pop)
  • California
  • Monkey

  • Other full MP3s hosted by Epitonic

    From Things We Lost in the Fire

    From In The Fishtank with Dirty Three

    (I had to update this and remove the "sample" MP3s that were up at Kranky + I'm having html "compose" mode problems again with Blogger)

    Wednesday, February 02, 2005

    Typicals Girls Return in 2005

    The Return of the Slits

    Nearly three decades after its release, Cut, the 1979 record from pioneering female punk band the Slits, is finally available on CD in the States. The reissue just may usher in a revival, as new material by a re-formed Slits, a series of "lost" recordings and the solo debut from singer Ari Up are all set for spring.


    But this fall brought a return to England, to record new Slits material with former bassist Pollitt, with back-up from a chorus of second-generation punk women: daughters of Pollitt, the Clash's Mick Jones and the Pistols' Paul Cook. The record, due this summer, also includes a version of the never-released Seventies live song "Number One Enemy," with Cook on drums and Adam and the Ants' Mark Gaumont on guitar. The re-formed Slits will support the album with a tour, with Princess Superstar on guitar and London DJ (and former Boy George collaborator) MC Kinky on drums.

    "It's the real-shit Slits!" Up gushes. "There's always been a lot of humor, a lot of lightness, to us. We sound insane. The girls now, you know, they take themselves too seriously."

    Read the whole thing: Rolling Stone

    Vinyl Mine wrote about a Slits bootleg a while ago - here are two cuts from that LP:

    "Typical Girls (live)" - The Slits - from Typical Girls Won't Pay $8.00 for this...
    New Town (live - edit)" - The Slits - from Typical Girls Won't Pay $8.00 for this...

    Mass Tango

    Ohio Records, 1988

    It's a sad story and there are probably a million of them. The songwriter guy from some small town gets told by all his friends that he's really great and should go to L.A. or Nashville or NYC and make it big... and so maybe he saves up or gets a settlement or a rich Uncle leaves him some money and he actually takes a splurge and goes and rents some tiny little apartment on the Lower East Side, puts together a band of other folks looking to make it big. Of course, the ending of the story is for the most part pretty mundane. The band doesn't take off; the money runs out; the accountant runs off with the remaining money and the kid packs up a U-haul with his guitar, amp and unsold records and heads back to small town, USA, another willing victim of the American music machine.

    Take Mass Tango, for instance. They were doing everything right according to the typical way to be successful in the late '80s - getting on the CMJ compilation (along with The Feelies and Bootsy Collins and American Music Club), playing CBGBs, getting on the New Music Seminar Official '87 N.M.S. tape. They were sending out their promos to the fanzines and radio stations (that's how I got it).

    But sometime after the release of this record and before the World Wide Web, they disappeared and there's virtually no trace of them anymore. What happened to Ken Cushman, our earnest songwriter? Where's his cute-as-a-button keyboardist? (see below) Were they an item at one point? What's with the bass player - he sure doesn't seem interested in taking this picture. Did they like, love or hate Ken? Is Ken selling insurance now? Does he run the local music open mike night at the local club?

    It's not that Mass Tango is awful. We've seen plenty of those. The songs are well constructed even if the sound terribly dated (it is 16 years later, after all). But that said, these songs are so predictable - you know when they are going to change chords, its verse-chorus-verse, repeat, wash, rinse. They lack any sort of brillance, even a promise of brillance. You listen to the lyrics and you find yourself completing the next line because the rhymes are just so obvious. Just, well... medicore - which isn't bad but it ain't good and it ain't nothing in a competitive town like NYC. Someone like 'em for a while if their press release is to be believed (playing "to packed houses at CBGBs... Limelight...") or at least booked 'em as their opening band.

    Here's about the only song I could salvage from this record and I'm pretty sure it will be on the list when the day comes to start culling the iPod to make room for new stuff. It's one of those "long distance love songs" to some girl named Jane - and that pretty much explains Ken to me. So, here's to the singer-songwriter, maybe he's back with Jane, selling insurance and raising kids. Maybe he stops for a short time when no one is looking and sighs at his guitar amp gathering dust out in the garage - he long ago took all those unsold records to the dump to make way for his kids toys. Maybe he sighs at how much the world has changed - college radio is no longer a selector, small labels are thriving thanks to the Internet and young people don't have to go to the big cities to get listened to.

    "Dreaming of Jane" - Mass Tango, 1988

    Note: I know nothing about Ken Cushman, I'm making nearly everything up... for all I know he may be an NYC native but I'm pretty sure this story repeated itself many times over the years since that Victrola was invented. There is another band called Mass Tango. They play latin dance music (and are probably more aptly named).

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    Saved Rounds:

    Monster Road

    Bright Eye Pictures

    I may be wrong but the only musician from Mass Tango that I could find still active was the keyboardist, Ms. Sara(h) Bell, whom I believe is playing with Chapel Hill's Shark Quest, an eclectic instrumental group that recently scored the acclaimed 2003 documentary Monster Road (winner of the Slamdance 2004 documentary prize) which is about the claymation artist Bruce Bickford and his father.

    The music from Shark Quest is nice wallpaper music and shows a number of influences - eastern, classical, jamband, guitar-pop..- they released an album on Merge Records with music "inspired" by the film as well. You can check out cuts from the actual score here.

    The movie, though, looks pretty damn incredible. Check out the trailer here - it will totally draw you in. It's playing in Annapolis later this month and I might just make the trip to go see it.