Agony Shorthand

Friday, October 31, 2003

When I’m out trawling the globe for vicarious glimpses into past indigenous music scenes, I tend to find myself most excited by either 1960s-70s Africa, or by just about anything from that central/eastern part of Europe marked by Gypsies, Greeks and Slavs. I am still very much a voyeur and am discovering this stuff piecemeal, mostly by way of my man on the ground in Belgium and his amazing CD-R-making capabilities. He was kind enough to introduce me to the term “Rembetika” and the music therein – essentially, Rembetica originated years ago in the country’s hashish dens, and is associated with a certain kind of down-n-out, drug-taking creature of the night. It is truly “the music of the Greek underground”, but it has been so well-received in its home country that it’s now seen by many as the official music of Greece. It is often (but not exclusively) marked by much wailing, crying and gnashing of teeth, which can try the patience at times but does certainly have its rewards.

“Rembetika – Songs of the Greek Underground” is full of original 78s from the pre- and intra-WWII years, including 5 big ones from Rembetica master MARKOS VAMVAKARIS, whose “Markos Vamvakaris - Bouzouki Pioneer 1932-1940” collection is a blast – seriously, it has subtle shades of CAPTAIN BEEFHEART (before his birth!) and floor-pounding American delta blues, filtered through poverty and drugs and played on the mystical-sounding bouzouki. Beyond Vamvakaris, though, are all the other heavyweights of the time, contributing Mediterranean marvels with translated titles like “The Pain of the Junkie” and “Young Dope Smokers”. At times the discs have the acoustic feel of background music heard at Zorba The Greek’s suburban gyros taverna, complete with women shouting “Opa!" in the background, but there are also times of transcendent, bizarre otherworldliness. Listeners will likely flip over IOANNIS HALKIAS' instrumental “Minore tu Teke”, which ought to be the theme music for a film focused on gangsters and flim-flam men on the take in 1930s Athens. It’s beautiful and menacing at the same time. Likewise, ANESTIS DELIAS' “To Haremi sto Hamam” is just drop-dead amazing, almost like an ethnic take on PERE UBU that just happened to pre-date them by some 40-odd years. (Nothing like a wide-eyed rock critic to compare music he doesn’t understand to music he does). Some of these guys sound like they gargled with gravel, and when spun on an uncleanable, crackling, hissing old-tyme 78rpm platter, the effect is not unlike looking at one of those sped-up 1920s newsreels where everyone looks completely out of reach and beyond time. This 2-disc set is another winner from our German friends at Trikont, and it probably the single place to go if you’re looking for a new subculture to plunder.

Thursday, October 30, 2003
WHITE STRIPES : "ELEPHANT"....Unlike my grabby consumer behavior when the last one came out (I snapped it up its first week), I decided to take a skeptical wait-and-see attitude with this most recent WHITE STRIPES CD. Initial feedback from earlybirds was not promising, and then watching the thing chart so highly -- and then STAY in the US Top 10 for weeks! -- seemed to confirm that this was likely not a record I would dig much. Hey, unfair as it is, this is just an ingrained mindset. Million-selling rock records worth celebrating have been so few and far between since the 1960s, that I reckoned the Stripes had surely cleaned up that muddy & raw sound, written a few anthemic hook-filled hits and gone fully & totally pro. So if you've heard this record, you know that's not true. I'm hard-pressed to say that it's any more "commercial" than their first Sympathy for the Record Industry CD, the one that had every garage punk hipster pissing his pants. I'm still floored that they are selling like hotcakes -- it goes against every informed preconception I possess about what kids will buy on a mass scale. There are NO hits here. Sure, it's a little clean in parts, and there's some goofy vocal shennanigans that teenagers might bust a gut over, but "Elephant" is a diverse, raw, clever, engaging rock and roll record from a truly talented pair.

Like "White Blood Cells", the record sort of runs out of steam about two-thirds of the way in, but there are some true whoppers right up front, including "Black Math", a sped-up, bonzai screamer that's as pounding and wild as "The Big Three Killed My Baby" from the first record. There's such a lack of artiface from these two -- I mean, drummer Meg can't sing a lick, but that doesn't mean she doesn't get to anyway ("In The Cold, Cold Night"). Jack White is such a heart-on-the-sleeve softy and so goddamn proud of it that he's really hard to mock -- and anyway, "I Want To Be The Boy..." might even be the best song on here. Anything on this record would sound way out of place on FM rock radio as I know it, and yet. And yet! I pronounce these two heretofore innocent until proven guilty!

I SHOULD HAVE KNOWN BETTER.....Than to buy THE MISTREATERS' "Playa Hated To The Fullest" CD on the evidence of one raucous song I'd downloaded. Should I have stopped at the CD's lame title? Yes, but I did not. Should I have stopped at the cover shot of the indirectly-lit Milwaukee band, standing in front of a brick wall? Yes, but I did not. Alas, this is generic, boozy, beef-core, with a few promising nods in the direction of the LAZY COWGIRLS and the 1990s RIP OFF bands, but lacking 1/10th of the punch of either. Maybe it's the overwrought, "Come owwwn, bayyy-buh!" vocals, or the soundalike 90-second tracks, all very "punishing" and "meaty" and such, but little more. Trust me, this is a sound you're well, well acquainted with.

Tuesday, October 28, 2003
OVERRATED, VOLUME 4 : THE RAINCOATS…..After castigating THE POP GROUP, THE DICTATORS and THE MONKS in these pages previously, I thought I might get an equal opportunity female flogging in there somewhere, and speak truth to power regarding UK post-punk pantywaists THE RAINCOATS. Now, this might be a no-brainer to many of you, but remember around 1993 and NIRVANAmania, when every band that ever appeared in Kurt Cobain’s record collection came ripe for instant canonization? Kurdt actually nailed it more often than not – YOUNG MARBLE GIANTS and the VASELINES were among the boats lifted by the rising tide of grunge, but in the mix as well were those three perplexingly boring LPs by The Raincoats. David Geffen and his megacorp even went and reissued them with much fanfare in hopes of Nirvana coattails. All 3 of them landed on US shores with a popular thud, despite many critical hosannas.

What’s my beef with The Raincoats? Nothing, really, just that I can’t find a single song of theirs that can rub elbows with their lesser-heralded girl-led compatriots the DELTA 5 or AU PAIRS. (Or even lesser lights from the UK post-punk/pop/rhythm scene like the DOLLY MIXTURE, GIRLS AT OUR BEST!, SLITS, MO-DETTES or MARINE GIRLS). Their first record had that one halfway decent cover of “Lola”, and an OK punkish number called “Fairytale in the Supermarket”. The follow-up records are really, really uneven, packed with filler and devoid of any real excitement or even coherence. Of special non-mention is the LP entitled “Odyshape”, which I couldn’t even get all the way through last time I tried. What is missing is any real oomph and drive, or any connection to the multitude of crazy punk-influenced styles bursting all over 1979-82 England. Even if they’d “funkified” their thin gruel a little, it’d be better than the often formless, near-“pop” music evinced on their LPs. And yet the Everett Trues and Robert Christgaus of the world pretend like they were major links in the chain, while giving short shrift to multitudes of true players from the era. I think it’s time someone took a stand on the issue. The Raincoats = OVERRATED!

Monday, October 27, 2003
V/A : “FLOWERS IN THE WILDWOOD – WOMEN IN EARLY COUNTRY MUSIC 1923-1939”….You have to hand it to German archive label Trikont – they are doing the best job of pretty much anyone in the 21st Century at pulling together disparate, mostly unheard and rare pre-WWII 78rpm sides from around the globe, & packaging them in fun, illuminating, well-researched compilations. "Flowers In The Wildwood" shines a light on female-sung (and in a handful of cases, female-played) country music from the Deep South of the US, from what is usually considered the genre’s earliest days. Most of these West Virginians and Tenneseeans traveled to studios in Chicago to record these numbers, usually at the urging of barnstorming talent scouts.

It might be said to stretch the definition a bit to call all 25 tracks here “country”; to my ears at least a quarter of the numbers are run-of-the-mill mainstream, tin pan alley novelty songs, which pretty much could have been written in Seattle or Great Neck for their complete lack of southern je ne sais quoi. But most of the rest is outstanding. Top marks go to the until-now known but never heard COON CREEK GIRLS, an honest-to-goodness all-girl band 35 years before the Carrie Nations. Their “Flowers Blooming in the Wildwood” and “Little Birdie” are achingly raw and beautiful, and of a par with their similarly-inspired contemporaries the CARTER FAMILY. Speaking of country’s first family, they make two appearances here, clocking in with the great and mournful “Just Another Broken Heart” and “Walking In The King’s Highway”. Man, did Sara Carter's voice make a depressing transition through the 1930s! The buoyant and sing-songy lead vocalist of the late 20s “Keep On The Sunny Side”-era Carter Family gives way here to world-weary, life’s-been-hard vocals that were her forte throughout the group’s waning years (these recordings are from 1936 and 1938). Another winner here is the frantic leadoff track “Wish I Was a Single Girl Again” from LULU BELLE & SCOTTY -- you honky tonk punkers may remember a cover of this song by BLOOD ON THE SADDLE on the “Hell Comes To Your House, Part Two” comp. You also get two tracks from experimental yodelers the DEZURIK SISTERS, a pack of acapella gospel numbers, some wacky comedy for the church folk target market, and finally, the so-bad-it’s-good, semi-unlistenable “On The Banks of the Old Tennessee” from the sadistic MR. & MRS. J.W. BAKER. I’m going to give an unqualified thumbs-up on this collection – and so far, pretty much everything I’ve heard from the Trikont label thus far.

ROCK AND ROLL TOILET….Untold repeated spins this past weekend of my #1 favorite SOFT BOYS tune, the overlooked and underplayed “Rock and Roll Toilet”, from the "Invisible Hits" LP. If anyone not named the Glimmer Twins has written a Rolling Stones song as fine as this one, I haven’t heard it. This is first-class gutter rock, played with a cocky, bold swagger unbecoming of a band better known for psychedelic, thoroughly English eccentricities. It’s a killer. Listen closely and you can even hear the groupies mounting the tour bus in the background.

Saturday, October 25, 2003

It’s hard to sit back and be objective when confronted with crazed punk rock music played by late 70s Cleveland icons THE PAGANS – their early 45s are some of the most blazing, raw and alive rock songs of all time, particularly “Street Where Nobody Lives”, “What’s This Shit Called Love” and “Dead End America”. They’ve long been filed as a “top ten band of all time, if and when someone asks me for my list”. When I fell for them in the mid 80s (when the “Buried Alive” compilation came out) I fell hard, and that included the purchase of anything and everything that had their name on it (even mediocre late 80s reunion records). Swept up in all this punk rock buying frenzy was 1982’s “The Pink Album”, the band’s only official and true LP when they were together, albeit in a slightly rejiggered lineup removed from their late 70s masterworks. Treehouse Records put this LP out in 1987, and a few years ago Crypt, now keepers of the PAGANS vault, threw “The Pink Album” on a CD with 14 other odds n’ sods. It is this version I wish to report on.

It’s probably worth getting out there that “The Pink Album” is word-definingly mediocre. This was a record cobbled together by a bored Mike Hudson & his hired hands (some of whom were original Pagans, others not), taken from a live radio broadcast, basement recordings and a couple of studio numbers. In a couple of instances, it is shit-hot wild and cranked up (“Give Til It Hurts”, “Cleveland Confidential” – also known as “Real World”); in others, it is limp and uninspired filler not worthy of the Pagans’ moniker. But truth be told, these guys weren’t completely about the KBD-style ungawa punk rock 45 thing their whole career. They were avid rock and roll fans, with testimonials (boring as they are) being covers of Alice Cooper's “Eighteen”, The Surfaris, Velvet Underground and even the ubiquitous “Fever”. Not a bad thing in and on itself, but it smacks of a Tuesday night Cleveland bar band, not the midwest’s smokingest punk band of all time. This is a record that truly exemplifies the “for completists only” tag – even the extra tracks are much hotter on Crypt’s other CD “Shit Street” and the amazing (and out of print) “Everybody Hates You” CD collection.

FLOOR ROCK…..I had to skip the kingdom of noise superspectacular a couple weekends ago in San Francisco – a no-holds-barred showdown between LIGHTNING BOLT, TOTAL SHUTDOWN and USISAMONSTER at a tiny VFW-style hall in Potrero Hill. But what I heard was disturbing. Evidently 3 of the 4 bands on the bill (I forget the other) engaged in what is fast becoming known as “floor rock” – setting up on the floor of the club itself, right there with the hoi polloi below the stage. Never mind the fact that it makes stage diving more dangerous and now a bit absurd – how are 75% of the paying patrons (ladies, for instance!) supposed to see the rock action if the bands are right there hunkered down in front of a couple tall dudes? My correspondent in the field says that in LIGHTNING BOLT's case, it actually heightened the panic and chaos to great effect (not surprising), but when I’ve seen this tactic taken before (say, when the COACHWHIPS do it) it just comes off as gimmicky and forced. But I wasn’t there this time, when it counted. Are there any other bands now succumbing to this “uniquely 2003” trend?

Wednesday, October 22, 2003
"OHMYGOD YOU GUYS, SORRY I'M SO LATE".....It is said that very little in this world is lamer than the fanzine writer who gushingly apologizes in his intro, issue after issue, "I'm sorry this is soooo late". This is a "Your Flesh" special -- check any of his issues from the last 37 years. If one person out of 100 even knew your published-every-year 'zine was "late", or cared, I'd be most surprised. So it's probably even lamer when a goddamn BLOGGER throws up a similar apology. That said, I've been a little sparse with the content as of late. The quality -- dare I say the learning! -- you've come to expect has been missing in recent weeks, and I hope to rectify this matter soon. You know, things to do, thoughts to collect, fuckin' bills to pay. I'm saving a rant or two up for a time when I can honestly devote more than 10 minutes to put fingers to keys. In the meantime, this blogger has some important things to say to tide you over.

VARIOUS ARTISTS : "CUMSTAINS OVER MY RECORD COLLECTION".....Charming, hunh? I mean, like anyone would do that, right? This collection is one of those KILLED BY DEATH follow-on late 70s/early 80s rare punk compilations, limited itself to an obscene 600 copies and championing some of the rawest (and dumbest) of the second-drawer, uncomped punk. I came upon my copy on a CD-R, actually, due to a happenstance search that landed me at the virtual headquarters of Portland, OR's Anxiety Distribution. The link appears to be off now, but this guy'll make you a high-quality CD-R of any punk bootleg he happens to own for a very low cash outlay. Anyway, this comp has got a couple of knockouts. My favorite is the excitingly titled "Movements" by PITFALL, which is sort of this mess of fuzz guitar, oi-style chanting, and Germanic-sounding female vocals. A fine squall. Then there's the shitcore of San Francisco's BAD POSTURE and their "Time For Smack". Frankly, this is really an awful song, but it still is jarringly refreshing to remember what a degenerate, drug-n-booze-fueled punk scene San Francisco had in the early 80s with the likes of these guys, FLIPPER, FUCK UPS, CODE OF HONOR and the whole lice-ridden, leather-jacketed crew. SADO NATION ("I'm Trouble") prove once again that they were a killer, slashing, meat-and-potatoes punk rock band before they went hardcore (with female vocalist Trish? Tish?), and then there's New Zealand's TERRORWAYS and their rockabilly-esque, RADIATORS FROM SPACE-redolent "Short Haired Rock and Roll". All in all, a good buy for four bucks and postage.

STRAIGHT DOPE ON FLESH EATERS REISSUES.....A lot of excitement around the globe on these FLESH EATERS reissues I'd hinted about before -- word had it that Atavistic were putting them out sometime in the near future, so I went straight to the source. Confirmed. Kurt says, "yes JH, reissues & chris' new album, Miss Muerte, start flowing in feb/march '04 -- including Hard Road To Follow, No Questions Asked, Time Stands Still & Ashes of Time...". All right, putting aside the fact that Atavistic probably could have left "Ashes of Time" alone and the fact that "Miss Muerte" sounds like a title borne of a Chris D. random lyric generator, this is straight-up fantastic news. "Hard Road To Follow" is a monster (1983) record, totally impossible to find and never before on CD -- hell, it was hard to find THEN! No rock and roll collection can be weighed against mine until it also includes "No Questions Asked" and CHRIS D. AND THE DIVINE HORSEMEN's "Time Stands Still" as well. I am starting a public campaign for the canonization and beatification of the FLESH EATERS by 2005, and hopefully these moves get the ball seriously rolling. We only have 15 months left!

Wednesday, October 08, 2003
HAIR POLICE : “MORTUARY SERVANTS / RARE ANIMALS” 45…..First off, HAIR POLICE is an outstanding name for a band. Now that that’s out of the way, there’s this ridiculous “noise shit as genius” 45, which is essentially a bunch of electronic oscillator farting, out of synch drumming and formless, haphazard sound. It’s really, really difficult for me to get my head around the fact that people discuss, trade, collect and treasure this stuff. Around the time Bananafish and Opprobrium magazines began peaking with the chattering classes (roughly the mid 1990s), it finally hit home to me: the actual records produced by the boutique noise collector underground, pretty much to a disc, just flat-out blow. At least until someone plays me one that doesn’t! I imagine the scene continues to be propped up by disaffected punk rockers and former indie nerds in search of the most collectable and homemade records imaginable. I can even understand the draw somewhat, but the thought of an intelligent human being, possessed with free will, actually playing a Hair Police or a Merzbow 45 repeatedly – spinning it for friends, putting it on compilation CD-Rs for potential girlfriends, that sort of thing – just boggles the proverbial mind.

The chasm between true, inventive noise-shapers like LIGHTNING BOLT and farting charlatans like the Hair Police is vast, but you’d never know it by the unqualified raves given to anyone who glues wood chips to their pressing-of-50 boutique noise 45 and craps onto a mic for 3 minutes. Bananafish magazine probably did more to further this mindset than anyone, by virtue of Seymour Glass' excellent writing skills & sense of humor, luring many of the disaffected into smug noise collecting with the siren song of obscurity and insider cred. I think I really lost my faith in the noise fanzine nation when I saw bands like LIQUOR BALL garner waves of euphoria and hype from this crew, when the band's m.o. was to never practice and to get supremely baked and/or loaded before recording a batch of drunken, poorly-mixed improv (and no slight on those guys personally – they knew and maintained all along that it was all a total farce). Yet because it was so mysterious, so weird (no song titles! Limited pressings! Bizarre drawings on the sleeves!), you’d have thought from some reviews that people actually listened to it more than once. No one would really do that, right? Is it way too late to sound the alarm? Almost definitely. I should have spoken up sooner!! Sorry that the Hair Police, they of the cool band name, had to be my guinea pigs for this unformed but deeply-felt rant.

Tuesday, October 07, 2003
JOHNNY PAYCHECK : “THE REAL MR. HEARTACHE – THE LITTLE DARLIN’ YEARS”…..Slowly but surely & one by one, I have been getting myself comfortable with the American country music heavyweights of yesteryear. I started the journey in as “lite” and innocuous a manner as it comes about 12-13 years ago, discovering the holy trinity of LORETTA, TAMMY and DOLLY all in the same year. Go on, laugh if you want at the syrupy lyrics, the soaring, operatic strings and sappy honky-tonkin’. I heart them all, particularly the mid/late-60s stuff. For brilliant, ageless, classically representative tracks, I highly recommend Loretta Lynn's “Hello Darlin’”; Tammy Wynette’s “Singing My Song” and Dolly Parton’s “I Don’t Want To Throw Rice”. These women’s vocals combined with the songwriting craft of Harlan Howard, Shel Silverstein et al is as joyous a sound as anything from the soul & pop genres from the same era. OK, so then I moved into a major, wallet-draining CARTER FAMILY obsession, and then on to the male pantheon: HANK WILLIAMS, MERLE HAGGARD, GEORGE JONES, LOUVIN BROTHERS, and then even more backward to the 1920s and 30s hillbilly & bluegrass eras. Now I’m trying to fill in the blanks, because I know there’s a lot more ore to mine out there.

With regard to Mr. Paycheck, I think we all remember his working class Monday Night Football beer-swillin’ 1970s megahit “Take This Job and Shove It”, but did you know that he had a pretty storied, slightly less novelty-esque mid-60s career? He did! This collection covers the highlights of his earliest recorded years of 1964-68, when he barnstormed across the far west (Southern California and Las Vegas), taking cues and pointers from George Jones while writing some terrific down-and-out country music. His voice was exceptionally rough-hewn and weathered, even at a young age, and the liner notes make it clear that Paycheck was a bit of a rapscallion and hell-raiser during the period in question. He lived it, in other words. I’m not sure if you can conjure up a more pathetic (and funny) drunk & alone tale than the fantastic “Motel Time Again” – other standouts include “He’s In a Hurry (To Get Home To My Wife)” and the brooding, morose “Pardon Me, I’ve Got Someone To Kill”. No, Paycheck doesn’t quite have the pipes that Jones or Haggard did, and he certainly made some ill-advised cartoonish recordings like “Don’t Monkey With Another Monkey’s Monkey” that likely won’t travel to the Hall of Fame with him. But I’m happy to add this to the collection – at least 20 of the 24 tracks are first-rate “pure country gold”.

Friday, October 03, 2003
THE DOOR AND THE WINDOW : “DETAILED TWANG” CD…..As shape-shiftingly bizarre and crude as it came in Britain circa 1979-81, THE DOOR AND THE WINDOW were leading edge experimentalists from the THROBBING GRISTLE and CABARET VOLTAIRE school, with slightly more punk heft in their later days a la the Desperate Bicycles, Fall, etc. I knew of their association with Fuck Off Records and that Mark Perry (Alternative TV, Sniffin’ Glue fanzine) had been a onetime member, & took a flyer on this CD when it showed up on the shelves a couple weeks ago. Although not advertised as such, this is really a “complete works” CD of all of the band’s early material, including their much-touted, CRASS-inspired “Pay no more than 55p!” EPs from 1979. Those earlier records – the “Don’t Kill Colin” and “Production Line” 7”EPs – strike me as being too harsh and uber-experimental to garner any repeated listening. The band proudly played up their inability to play their instruments and their full-on naivete toward recording – which is fine – but honestly, it’s just a mess of squalling electronics, mumbled improvisational vocals, and the odd guitar line lurking down a dark and distant hallway. Before the term was used to describe clanging dance music, it’s what many people of the day might refer to as “Industrial”. If that sounds appealing, then dive right in. The 1980 “Detailed Twang” LP, on the other hand, is picture-perfect UK DIY, with twisted, loping synth riffage, deep-accented shouting, and several tracks that would be right at home on any Rough Trade encapsulation of the first-wave experimental DIY era. There’s even a drum-&-vocal-only run through the TV PERSONALITIES' “Part Time Punks” (for some reason). This is the record that Perry signed up to drum on, after The Door and the Window had exhausted their “let’s use a different drummer every gig!” approach – the band gradually discovered rhythm, structure, and – gasp – songs. It does not in any way kick out the jams, but it’s got a certain of-its-era specialness. I can’t in all good conscience encourage the reading audience to drop double figures on this CD unless you’re really big on mood over method.

FM KNIVES : “ESTROGEN” 7”EP…..Nothing brings a cold, dark shudder across many right-thinking folks’ limbs than the unspeakable horror of “power pop”. 1970s vintage “power pop” has had an inexplicable revival the past few years, and inspired the early 80s, Jeff Dahl-led ANGRY SAMOANS to pen these famous words of verse in their hit, “Are You a Square?”:

“Are you a wimp / A power pop simp / At the sound of loud guitars, does your cock go limp?”


“Are you a square? / What’s the length of your hair? / Are you a nerd? / Just a power pop turd”

Pardon their French, gentle readers, but it’s always worth a reminder of how deeply the power pop virus infected the underground in the years before those words were written. The power pop that inspired these words (The Knack, Shoes, 20/20 etc.) is one thing; the robust, magnificent, hook-driven punk rock of the BUZZCOCKS is quite another. Before you avoid Sacramento, CA’s FM KNIVES, as I have for the past year or so based on reviews, you’ll definitely need to understand which side of the fence they play. They are firmly on the Buzzcocks side of the house, and what a roaring sound they make on their 2002 debut 7”EP – I dare say it’s almost as good as their forebears! This is a great friggin’ single, packed with four two-minute marvels with cranked-up guitar, snot-caked vocals and no fake British accents! “Just Like William Tell” blows by in about 60 seconds, with drumming that just pounds, and propels this thing onto the short list of the best 21st Century 45s thus far. Of course, Agony Shorthand reader/commenter CityHobb was on the FM Knives tip about 5 minutes into their first practice, and implored me to check them out at least 18 months ago. As with so many other things, I should have listened to CityHobb....! All right, so this is all old news for you power punk simps, but this is a bandwagon I’m ready to climb on. There’s an FM KNIVES CD out this year as well -- the kids say that it's outstanding.

A DOUBLE DVD DOSE OF CAN…..Word has it that a 2xDVD of CAN material is being released on October 13th – this includes the full biographical documentary that was included in their long-gone box set; a film of outtakes and “behind-the-scenes footage”; “an album of Can solo projects”, and an entire 1972 live show from Cologne (or Koln, if you’re reading this from Germany). Wow. Let’s hope they kept their shoes on for that one, and that there’s a nice 45-minute “Mother Sky” tucked in there somewhere.

Thursday, October 02, 2003

Of course I’m talking about HASIL ADKINS, the one-man early 60s rockabilly wrecking crew from the Deep South. I just gave another couple of spins to his awesome 30-track collection “Chicken Walk”, and it only reconfirmed the pure wacked-out genius of the man. Sure, novelty-esque numbers like “She Said” and “I Need Your Head” have garnered him the bulk of his longtime underground cred, but it’s easy to forget just how amazingly raw and drop-dead great his souped-up rockabilly numbers are. Tracks from this collection that just destroy include “I Want Some Lovin’”, “No More Hot Dogs”, “Truly Ruly” "Chicken Walk" and “Walk and Talk With Me”, among many others. I feel like he hasn’t really received his due as a king of the genre – likely because this stuff is just so much more amped and screaming compared to the Sun Records crew. As “Deuce of Clubs” puts it in the intro to an online interview,

“"An American original"--the appellation is an overused one, but Hasil "The Haze" Adkins could have occurred nowhere other than the dark woods of West Virginia. It's impossible to imagine Adkins' screaming vocals, frantic guitar style, and freewheeling approach to rhythm emanating from any other corner of the world. The wonder of the Adkins sound--preserved for future generations in the form of rough recordings made at his Madison, West Virginia home during the 50s and 60s--becomes even more amazing when you learn that Adkins plays all the instruments on his recordings--and at the same time, all at the same time. Perhaps only The Legendary Stardust Cowboy-- another one-man band -- approaches Hasil's manic style, but Adkins is so altogether unique as to comprise a backwoods genre unto himself: sooey generis, you might say. When The Cramps covered Adkins' best known song, "She Said," Lux Interior reportedly had to stuff styrofoam cups into his mouth to get anywhere near Adkins' vocal sound. (Adkins says sometimes people pay him not to play "She Said.")"

If you’ve never seen the brief 30-minute “shockumentary” on Adkins, “Wild World of Hasil Adkins”, you owe it to yourself to find a screening at your local microcinema. You’ll see that he actually does play everything (well) by himself – guitar, drums, vocals – and better still, there’s a wild dance floor catfight between Haze’s jealous girlfriend and another woman while Adkins plays. It’s a true trailer trash moment, straight out of redneck central casting – which is probably where it came from (I remember thinking there’s no way the filmmaker could have been that lucky!).

MODERN LOVERS REISSUE…..One of the landmark 1970s post-Velvet Underground records that really stands out as a bonafide, Top-25-records-of-all-time classic is the MODERN LOVERS' eponymous debut. This fantastic record has long been far more difficult to track down that it should be, both on LP during the 1980s and on CD during the 90s. Now Sanctuary Records are giving is a proper CD reissue this month, so if for some reason you don’t have this one, no more whinging. Better still, it will have 6 extra tracks, including an early demo of “Road Runner” – which I’m going to bet is the great version that turned up on the “Original Modern Lovers” demos LP/CD a decade+ ago. And let’s hope that “I’m Straight” makes it as well!