Agony Shorthand

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

If you’ve heard any of the REAL LOSERS’ 45s or last year’s LP, you know what you’re in for on this one – circuit-blowing garage punk very much in the TEENGENERATE vein, and just as loud while not as good by half. In my humble opinion, or “IMHO” as they say on “the web”, they’ve only penned one shoot-out-the-lights song, and thankfully it’s included here: “My Rocket Radio”. It’s their poppiest thing, too, and maybe that’s the secret – instead of going for broke by cranking up the muck & the volume, add a monster set of hooks that cut through the clutter like this one does, and ride it for all it’s worth. “Birdbrain S.O.T.” is also fairly hot, with a pounding chukka-chukka guitar riff and tons of feral bashing courtesy of girl drummer “Hot Dog” (you go, Hot Dog!!!). The whole thing settles pretty well, and is certainly far better than most of their peers doing the same exact thing. And it’s from England – and for my money, it’s no better or worse than the far-more hyped UK garage punk act BLACK TIME (who are so derivative of their heroes they make the Real Losers come off like sonic trailblazers). I think the Real Losers are well worth keeping on the radar, but as far as actively following their literal progression, I think it’s safe to say you may have some waiting to do.

Monday, August 29, 2005

I think Lexicon Devil’s Dave Lang accidentally coined a term when he tagged last year’s MICHAEL YONKERS reissue as “Record Collector Rock”. Without quite realizing it myself, there’s a whole genre of reissues slavishly praised to the skies by people whose primary occupation and station in life is to collect records. I am often one with these people, and have for much of my life walked many a mile in their moccasins. Of the examples Lang offered up, I’m a huge fan of DEBRIS and THE DEVIANTS. But you know it’s record collector rock when no one with less than 2000 pieces of vinyl in their houses/garages owns or will own the thing. GEORGE BRIGMAN is destined to become a hallmark of record collector rock. “Jungle Rot” is his debut offering, reocrded when he was just an 18-year-old Baltimore ne'er-do-well, a "private press" LP from '75 that never really got out there to the people. Until today.

If you crossed that aforementioned MICHAEL YONKERS stuff with some of the spookier/spacier VERTICAL SLIT bad-mood music, you’d get the gist of what Brigman was about. Dense and layered guitar workouts, with echo-chamber vocals and Krautrock pacing at times. He also tosses in some weird harmonica for a dirty, acid-drenched blues element that adds about as much as it subtracts. It all smacks of a guy who very likely felt way out of place with the Eagles/Carly Simon vibe in 1975, and went about as far to the left as he knew how. He didn’t make anything even close to a classic, but there’s no doubt it’s a “Ultra-rare OOP M/VG++” private press LP that deserved to be digitized and given a fair hearing by record collectors and non. Anopheles Records, which is starting to make a habit of this sort of thing, deserves a nice tap on the back for helping the connoisseurs of record collector rock to throw another musical trophy on the psychic mantle.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Not to be vain or anything, but how many people did I piss off by touting this band to the heavens last year around this time? I know of a couple of people who told me they subsequently checked them out upon my recommendation, which is great, and of those, two told me they were into it, and two told me that it was some of the “worst shit I’ve ever heard”. OK! Thing is, I get where the latter are coming from, and can peacefully reconcile it with my heartfelt contention that the FIERY FURNACES are one of the best bands on the planet right now. It really can be argued that they make a sort of “show tunes” of a kin with those heard in Broadway musicals, but if that’s true, they’re actually the sort of show tunes that were playing far, far off Broadway, in the lofts and dens where kids too intelligent for the theater were making their own absurd multi-act plays, songs and sketches. The band, to me, are wildly creative and often exhilarating, and they tap into so many of my favorite things at once: the Velvet Underground, pure & raw pop music, early Who, first-45/first-LP Patti Smith, and 60s drug psychedelia. The Friedbergers are the Lieber/Stollers of their day -- on fuckin' acid, maan! They also add in stuff that maybe I don’t like so much but that, in their hands, make that irrelevant: synth beeps right out of obnoxious modern dance music, bigtime electric keyboards, and – let’s just call a duck a duck – PROG music. In their hands, it’s all right, ma. As I’ve said before, their two full-length CDs “Gallowsbird’s Bark” and “Blueberry Boat” are both essential, and are Top 10 candidates for best records this half of the decade.

So on the eve of their upcoming new album in October (and a show in San Francisco at the end of September that I just bought a ticket for), I thought I’d weigh in with a shot across the bow of everything I just typed by reviewing this relatively recent 10-song collection of their singles called “EP”. It contains some warning signs, much like the last live show of theirs I saw, that they have the potential to be far too clever for their own good. “EP” sounds at times more like outtakes not good enough to make their albums than it does a singles collection; taken as a whole, you’d probably reckon that The Fiery Furnaces are a good band but guilty of some serious overreach. I half-panned their most-recent CD-EP “Single Again” earlier in the year, but compared to monstrosities like “Duffer St. George” and the horrid “Sullivan’s Social Slub”, it’s one of the best things on here (“Evergreen” and “Here Comes the Summer” are actually lush & pleasing pop songs that grow better every time I hear them). Others are just plain pleasant quirky pop songs ("Cousin Chris" and "Sweet Spots"), better than 90% of their peers but so what. I just wonder, though. I don’t have a problem with the whole “song cycle” thing they’re so fond of – breaking a 7-minute song into 4-5 mini-songs that have little to do with a whole – but at times I get the sense they’re pissing themselves pretty by being so overwhelmingly and snobbily “inventive” and “groundbreaking”. Sometimes it’s just too, too much. Nah, they’re just an exceptionally talented brother/sister act who are going to make the mistake of bleeding too many of their mistakes onto vinyl & ones/zeroes if they don’t get their act together in a hurry. “EP” unfortunately gives aid and comfort to those who thought I was high on glue when I called the Fiery Furnaces “my new favorite band”, while still being good enough to stay in the collection of those who’ve already bought into the genius the band is capable of. Let’s hope I’m not glumly revealing an “October surprise” vis-à-vis the Fiery Furnaces’ new album on this site in a couple months.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Yazoo Records weren’t content to rest on their considerable laurels after putting out two volumes of this incredible series of 1920s-30s Kentucky fiddle breakdowns, ballads and general strummin’ and pluckin’ – after this edition, they sat tight for a few years and put out a 7-disc set called "Kentucky Mountain Music" that, alas, won’t be reviewed here until I can get my paws on it for under $30. In the meantime, you cannot go wrong with purchasing “Music Of Kentucky, Volume 1” and this one. For some, this is holy grail American music, on par with the delta blues giants SKIP JAMES, CHARLEY PATTON and ROBERT JOHNSON. No compelling reason to argue here. Outside of the recently resurrected DOCK BOGGS and maybe UNCLE DAVE MACON, however, Kentucky Mountain Music doesn’t have its popularly-revered iconic giants the way pre-WWII blues does. That has to change. Not like I can do much to help, but let’s start with some of the stunners on this one. HAYES SHEPARD’s “Hard For To Love” and “The Peddler and His Wife” feature a nasal delivery straight out of “Kentucky cracker stereotypes 101”, as well as some mean banjo plucking. It has the immediacy and depth of Boggs’ stuff, and that ain’t easy. BASIL MAY’s “The Lady of Carlisle” takes what is probably a retelling of an olde country fable and turns it into a mournful, deep lament not dissimilar in feel from ROBERT WILKINS’ “Rolling Stone”. There are multiple wordless fiddle numbers, some just over a minute like LUTHER STRONG’s “The Hog Eyed Man” (isn’t “hog eye” a euphemism for a male dangler?) and “The Hog Went Through The Fence Yoke and All” (bummer). I haven’t read the liner notes for this, but I wonder if THE CARVER BOYS’ “I’m Anchored in Love Divine” is their take on the Carter Family’s classic, or vice-versa? And JOHN HAMMOND’s “Purty Polly” is a great read on a song that it appears just about everyone was singing around the depression era. That Polly must have been a foxy Kentucky dish. Some of Yazoo’s comps have a cobbled-together feel, like they tacked 3-4 songs of filler between each killer. Not so here – Volume 2, like the first one, is almost all prime cuts from a fertile soil & era that I’m hoping continues to grow in stature in these post-“O Brother” times.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

After a half dozen listens that ranged from puzzled to quizzical to ramped-up to bowled over, I am ready to announce my strong support for & backing of JOSEPHINE FOSTER & THE SUPPOSED. Ms. Foster, you may remember, was the folk chanteuse responsible for the single best song on the Arthur magazine modern folk comp "The Golden Apples of The Sun" last year. “Little Life”, however, only hinted at what a baroque banshee Ms. Foster is – and at how successful she’d quickly become at fusing twisted avant-folk with hard, squealing psychedelic rock. “All The Leaves Are Gone” is really her first record, released late last year; there’s been a solo CD put out in 2005 that I know has garnered additional praise, but that I haven’t yet heard. Before we go any further, we’d probably better have a little chat about Josephine Foster’s voice. Like JOANNA NEWSOM’s, Foster’s lungs take a little bit of patience, but at least she sounds like a w-o-m-a-n, albeit a woman transported from 16th century England tearooms by way of Mary Poppins films. She trills and howls and falsettos like a hippie mystic who’s playing English folksinger – and you know what? It works. She has a singular set of pipes, well suited for both rock & roll and quiet balladry. You may just need to curl up with it a little before passing “go”.

Once there, though, the rewards are plenty. Her band The Supposed are excellent folk/psych musicians bent on telekinetically channeling Brian Jones on tracks like the incredible “Well Heeled Men” and “Jailbird”. Some of their “pieces” are longish journeys under & around the howling vortex of Foster’s vocal explorations, yet most keep pace with a relatively basic 3-4 minute rock song length and structure. Anything that might sound grating at first listen is smoothened when you realize just how remarkably inventive & unique this combo is. Playing off a woman like Foster and her weird-ass songs would be a challenge for anyone, but these guys just make it sound like they’re just there to kick out the jams. Don’t make the mistake of lumping this in with the Newsom and Banhart records, records which, while pleasant for many (like me), also drive away well-meaning and informed individuals in droves. Josephine Foster is a big cut above that jazz, and she has quickly become one of the standard-bearers for what modern rock music ought to sound like in 2004-05.

Saturday, August 20, 2005
SCREAMIN' MEE-MEES REDUX......If you're up for a great interview/overview of BRUCE COLE and the SCREAMIN' MEE-MEES, check out this excellent piece which was printed this week in St. Louis' alt-paper The Riverfront Times. It's well worth printing, savoring, & passing around the dinner table.

Friday, August 19, 2005
1980s-90s FANZINES REVISITED ENTIRELY FROM MEMORY, VOL. 1......The days of taking an armload of cheaply-xeroxed fanzines to the can with you are just about over, folks. There was a very recent time when even a corporate behemoth like Tower Records had overflowing stacks of homegrown music ‘zines, but now the few that they & others carry sit pretty forlornly looking for buyers, as the majority of music freaks, myself included, have turned to the far more easy and far less expensive endeavor of “blogging”, or to creating HTML-based sites like Blastitude and Terminal Boredom. I used to buy heaping helpings of fanzines from about 1983-on, and lately I’ve even thought about digging some of them out of cold storage for revisitation. Most are under lock & key deep in the garage, and I am too lazy to climb over piles of detritus to get to them. Instead, I thought I’d conjur up a few obscure fanzines I used to buy or trade for completely from memory, paragraph by paragraph, and maybe revisit 4 or 5 at a time. You might remember some of these. Here’s batch #1.

MATTER – I seem to recall MATTER employing some pretty heavy hitters in the mid-80s, with Byron Coley penning a piece here and there, and Steve Albini writing a regular column in which he ranted about his favorite & least-favorite records (I remember him going bananas in a positive way over SOUL ASYLUM – really). This one was actually really good, though a bit “indie”, before we called magazines with this sort of musical breadth “indie” (usually it was college rock or punk & all the microscenia variations in between). It had a glossy cover & was usually packed fat with interviews, columns & a whole mess of reviews. My pal Jackie gave me a nice stack of these and a bunch of CONFLICTs to read over Xmas break, 1985, and I came out of the experience a lot smarter & ready for 1986 because of it. It kind of just “died” around that time, and I’ve rarely heard anyone mention it since.

NOTHING DOINGBrandan Kearney, the magazine’s publisher, was sort of a folk hero of mine in the early 90s for his exceptionally off-beat approach & views on modern life and music. He had this knowing glumness and ennui (despite being incredibly active) that could have come off as cynical & practiced, but instead had me either laughing or instantly questioning my own deeply-held biases by force of his personality. Anyway, Kearney put this mostly non-music fanzine out in either 1 or 2 issues (I can only picture one in my head), and it’s a riot. It’s weirdly possessive of a sort of anti-humor that’s more humorous than humor itself. There were these great cartoons of Family Circus- or New Yorker-style scenes of mirth and merriment, only with new captions like “I feel tumors growing inside of me”, or “I have found to my eternal regret that Jesus Christ is a fraud”, that sort of thing, just better. The sort of thing you might expect out of the weird early 90s San Francisco oddball underground, in which Kearney (World of Pooh, Caroliner, Nuf Sed records) was a major player.

THE POPE – Does anyone remember this one? Tim Adams was the guy who ultimately ran Ajax Mailorder; in the late 80s he put out this fanzine that was very much of its time, in the Conflict or Disaster mold, just not as good. Tim was a young fella, maybe barely in college at the time, and he tried hard to mock the hot bands of the day while reviewing just about everything possible within the confines of a stapled 4x6” zine. Homestead, SST, Touch & Go etc. -- this was what fanzine nation got riled up about around 1987-88, “The Pope” included, but I seem to remember that he also got excited about pop stuff, 45s mostly, that most folks wouldn’t touch. (He subsequently put out the Mountain Goats......). I’m sure he’d disown this now, just as I’d like to disown the early issues of my own fanzine. Ultimately it was a readable ‘zine but not one that engendered enough credibility to make me go out and buy something.

TEEN LOOCH – The guy who put this out in the early 90s, Brian Turner, has disowned his contribution to the fanzine canon, but I’m not sure why. Teen Looch was part of a crop of excellent limited-run fanzines during the final ‘zine boom period, and was well-written, funny without being overly sarcastic, and spanned a great range of rock musics – from garage punk to pop to out-n-out extreme noise. Turner came off like a guy who was just flat-out gonzo-excited about all the new bands he was discovering & who wanted to share them with you. He’s now the head honcho at WFMU music department and is a great American to boot. Last time I saw one of these on eBay it changed hands for $872.59. But Turner won’t sell you one, no way.

FLESH AND BONES – Outside of Forced Exposure, Motorbooty and Conflict, this is probably the one I enjoyed the most during the time period in request. They covered “grunge” before it was grunge, and also took the best potshots at ’81-’82 hardcore punk and at metal wasteoids I’ve ever seen. A lot of the live reviews were just made up fantasies of getting in fistfights at gigs with people like Thurston Moore or Glen Danzig; stagediving to mellow acts like Salem 66; and heckling multiple bands “with a Big Stick wig on” (remember BIG STICK?). The graphics were all hilarious cut & pasted items from other magazines, many of them from the hippie 1960s, as well as a few homegrown comics that were usually quite OK. They also had a few staff photographers who took excellent band shots, usually of the modern acts with the longest, filthiest hair and the lamest clothes (RAGING SLAB seemed to be a favorite). This was not a mag I read as a consumer’s guide, it was one I read because it was always laugh-out-loud funny. Their REDD KROSS interview from 1985 or so still might be my all-time favorite interview, ever.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Very pleasant dose of lite fuzz and “Girls In The Garage”-influenced rawness. The SULTANAS appear to be an all-girl band with their controls set on a way-back machine for roughly 1966. If I didn’t know better and you slipped this onto a CD-R of your favorite 60s girl obscurities, I’d have no reason to ask questions – it’s that “accurate” a connection to the fidelity-challenged, go-go, rev-up, dirty garage sound. It’d also be one of the best things on there. “You’re The One” in particular is real neat, with harmonies that provide a sweet counter to the slop & crud that propels the music. Their label, "Boom Boom Of Renton" appears to similarly have opted to stop time around the mid-60s as well. Anyone know if their other releases are as good as this one?

BBQ & BLACKSNAKE : "TOO MUCH IN LOVE / CHUCK-A-MUCK" 45.....These are the same two fellas as KING KHAN AND BBQ, whose excellent new platter we reviewed last month. This is a limited-run 45 on an Italian label unfortunately called Solid Sex Lovie Doll, and it's about as messy and crude as you might imagine for a tossed-off pair of under-the-floorboard recordings which might be live. Their doo-wop-tinged, Fats Domino-meets-Oblivians concoction sounds absolutely fantastic with just a slim modicum of production – without any production at all (like here), it sounds like a 45 tailor made for a completist or a yeoman “hobbyist”, one who happens to collect records. Like me. Like you. I’ll file this one with my MONSIEUR JEFFREY EVANS AND LA FONG and TUB JOHNSON/BILLY CHILDISH gutbucket R&B 45s, some fine bookends that get a courtesy listen every 5 years or so.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Hate to follow up a Black Flag post from last week with one on the CIRCLE JERKS this week, but hey, it's where my head's at in August 2005. The genius of Black Flag notwithstanding, I think I'll finally exit the closet and cop to having listened to "Group Sex" over the years at least as many times as "Damaged" -- in fact, given its brevity, likely more. It was my first LA punk rock LP -- my cool LA punk-damaged cousin turned me onto it -- and though I certainly appreciate how stupid a lot of it is, I've played and will play the holy crap out of year after year. I even had my first and only "pit injury" to a song from this record, when the Circle Jerks teamed up with awful punk act LA's WASTED YOUTH to play the On Broadway in San Francisco. Despite my being of slight teenage build, the fast part to my all-time favorite punkarama "Back Against The Wall" got my pit legs a-pumping and I hurtled like an HB lunatic into the circle, only to be whumped down so hard on my left hand that it left this killer purple bruise for weeks. But I was slammin' for a whole second. Luckily a friendly mohican gave me his own helping hand & rescued me from Cincinnati/Who-style carnage chop-chop, because that's just the way happy-grinnin' alcoholic punks from San Francisco were back in the day, I reckon.

"Group Sex" is the template record for what a wham/slam/bam punk rock record from 1980 ought to sound like. It's fast, it's hard, it's short, it's very loud, and every single goddamn song is a knockout. The guitar -- I want to say the guitars -- is a raw, mean roar like no other, and drummer "Lucky" Lehrer was always one of the very best at playing like a virtuoso while opening up & laying it down as fast as possible. Like Pat Burnett's engineering (some might call it production) work on THE GERMS' "(GI)", THE FLESH EATERS' "A Minute to Pray, A Second To Die" and THE GUN CLUB's "Fire of Love", the grooves on this just leap out & throttle the listener like a two-minute 12" disco maxi-single mastered for 45rpm. Except Burnett didn't touch this one, Cary Markoff did, so mazel tov to him. The record is a total barnburner. Oh sure, there's some dimwit stuff here and there -- my all time classics are either the cringe-inducing "Beverly Hills" lyrics or the single couplet "Red tape! / Murdering you, murdering me!" (only the most paranoid liberatarian nutball could get that worked up by government bureaucracy). But I dig Keith Morris and I always have. This same aforementioned cousin interviewed Morris on his radio show in 1985, and I still laugh at all the wacky, half-true, very funny stuff the guy was spewing at the time. A total comic, hands down. About 12-13 years ago he almost knocked me over backstage at a Mudhoney show with this horrific dual column of dreadlocks that extended up & out the back of his head, but I'm still a fan. I just don't listen to anything he's recorded save his Black Flag stuff and this giant of an LP. I put "Group Sex" on again last week and it sounded as pristine an adrenaline shooter as it ever had, just full-out tuff, raucous teenage punk that's been copied and co-opted but never bettered.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Thursday, August 11, 2005

This was put into my hands by someone who very likely knew what distaste I have for most electric guitar blues, but who knew that I'd be healed by its power & glory in no time. And the man was right! "We're Gonna Boogie" is about two steps to the left of being legitimate, so best of luck trying to find it on the web, though these guys made some noise about having it in stock (my sources tell me Crypt may be involved as well). My beef with most of the Chicago- and Texas-based blues of the 1950s-70s, HOUND DOG TAYLOR & a few of his acolytes excepted, is just how redundant it all got so quickly. If one guy played with greater flourishes than his pal one juke joint over, you could expect to subtract all points due to his ham-handed "party" guitar chops, fake "lawdy I'm so tired" BS or awful cromagnon lyrics. Shakin' your boogie, dustin' your broom, mojo workin', etc. -- who among us can stomach cliche after cliche with a straight face, and swallow whole the mediocrity of the party circuit that engulfed the blues genre during Eisenhower's time? R. Crumb is with me on this one, folks. For what it's worth.

In any event, there were obviously exceptions, and this CD has me on the prowl for more. It kicks off in grandiloquent, ass-kicking style with the two meatiest tracks on here, screamers by LEFTY DIZZ ("We're Gonna Boogie") and JOHN LITTLE JOHN (yes, "Shake Your Money Maker", but believe you me when I tell you it's as wild and raw as anything you'll hear this year). Just acres of guitar and distorted squall on both. You can hear at least part of the LEFTY DIZZ track here. The collection settles into B+ to B- territory after those two, but whomever selected the tracks did so with an eye to the uglier and deep-underground side of modern blues, the sort favored by fans of the Fat Possum label in recent years. High marks go to ditties by MODEL T. SLIM and WILLIE WILLIAMS ("Wine Head Woman"). In fact the Fat Possum crew ought to take this CD and give it a properly-distributed reissue treatment, all the while helping clueless doubters like me to quell prejudices that stem from seeing too many bands of the BLUESHAMMER ilk in college & in beachside bars.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Easily the best BLACK FLAG live thing I’ve ever heard. That includes Dez singing “American Waste” in a raincoat in that Target Video, which had me up & slamming my ass off so hard I spilled the Cheetos and knocked a couple of my Hummel figurines off the mantle. A little research on the web indicates that it may very well BE that same show, but other research indiciates that it’s someone named “Henry” on vocals, whoever that is, and folks, that ain’t Henry – that’s Dez Motherfuckin’ Cadena, the baddest-ass vocalist in Black Flag’s history, if not in history writ large!! Oh man, this EP is a five-song jackhammer that showcases the most gutteral and raw of voices ripping through whoppers like "Rise Above", "Life of Pain", "Spray Paint", "Room 13" and "Six Pack". I'd place it at about 1980. An audience may actually not be present, just like that Target Video, which was filmed on a soundstage, but there are times where it sounds like the mic's been snatched from Dez's hands by some preening goon -- so who knows. What I do know is how obnoxiously great Greg Ginn's lead-in to each song is -- sure, me and everyone else who's ever written about the band talks about it, but that 1-2 seconds of ear-breaking feedback he'd let out before each song is just so ominous and intense, you know that when the band kicks in -- perfectly, on time, every time -- it's gonna be great. Give me a chance to be transported in time to me a dozen shows and I'd pick this one (or any other featuring the 1980 lineup) among the litter for sure.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

I’d never heard of THE SCIENTISTS until pretty late in their career, just a little before their final salvo, that “Human Jukebox” EP, came out. My friend Bruce was a total Scientists fiend, and once I caught wind of his record collection and all his obscure Australian 45s, EPs and LPs, I got on the case. The band was quite deservedly tagged with the scarlet “derivative” since their fuzz and growl was so close to the bold sound THE CRAMPS had made famous in the previous 6-7 years, but twenty years onward, it’s pretty obvious to me that nearly as many young bands cite The Scientists as a major influence, rather than going all the way back to The Cramps. (And yes, calling an out-and-out cover band like The Cramps anything but “derivative” themselves is probably wrong – being called “derivative” made Lux & Ivy stand up & bow). “Heading For A Trauma” was the first of several Scientists “greatest hits” collections, this one an Au-Go-Go peddled AU-only set that’s only made it to LP so far. A couple years later a US label called Big Time put out this radically remixed version of the record called “Weird Love” that set off lots of fuming and pouting at the time. Many felt that it was a watered-down version of what the Scientists were really about, and tamed their squealing feedback-driven roar to a tinny buzz. Later Sub Pop put out another, more properly-mixed collection called “Absolute Scientists” that I haven’t heard in years, but the kids seemed to like it at the time.

Listening to “Heading For A Trauma” today, I’m sorta torn. I do recognize how majestically raw this band could be at their best, but it’s becoming apparent to me that The Scientists milked their “demonic” sound a little too hard at times. Is it possible that the Scientists are just a little bit.....overrated?? Or that they rocked harder on paper than on vinyl? Kim Salmon’s devilish war whoops and mumbly vocal frothing sounds really silly at times, like some guy who’s shooting a video in which he’s dressed up as Satan (or worse, “Elvis from hell”). While it’s not the band’s fault, their recordings often were so muffled and uniform-sounding that what should have leapt off the grooves (at 45rpm, no less!) instead stayed put and just buzzed around a bit. Sure, there are times when The Scientists ranked with the greats – I’ll take anything off of “Blood Red River” or my all-time favorite track “When Fate Deals Its Mortal Blow” – but they sound more & more cornball to me every year that goes by. This collection threw together a few of those hot ones with relative turds like “Fire Escape” and “Psycho Cook Supreme”. It’s not where I’d start with these guys, despite it being a “hits” collection – just a little mediocre and clammy-sounding to be one to lust after. I’m not sayin’ I don’t dig The Scientists, folks – I’m just sayin’.

Monday, August 08, 2005

The way it worked back in KING TUBBY’s heyday (1975-77) was that all the top producers of the era would finish up their sessions recording Jamaica’s top reggae vocal and band talent, then hightail it over to Tubby’s studio so he could spend the next couple of days reworking the mixes into nearly-unrecognizable dubs. One of Tubby’s top production patrons was BUNNY LEE, in fact Lee is said to have been the guy that brought more songs to the King to work over than any other. This double-CD set captures a huge rush of work that piled up during those two crucial years, omitting I’m sure another couple hundred of items that Tubby and Lee collaborated on during those months alone. Virtually all were b-sides of 45s; I’ve found no evidence indicating these have been on LPs save for comps made after the fact. It’s a solid, solid set. Lee used THE AGGROVATORS as his main band, and they’re pretty much the holy grail when it comes to Jamaican backing bands of the 70s. While you can hear a good deal of trickery on just about any track, King Tubby’s legendary crashes and thunderclap flourishes seem to have come later in his career, since all of these come off as slightly more restrained & filtered drum & bass instrumentals than deep, mystical heavy-ass dub. That’s not to say there aren’t some scorchers embedded throughout the disc – I’m not the type to do deep research on where the original “riddim” came from (honestly, these are so reworked I could care less), but “Race Dub” and “Dub Assassinator” in particular are really “groovin’ high” if you know what I mean. You’ll find this one a strong overview of King Tubby’s techniques & an easy-to-digest set over a sitting or two.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

THE TIME FLYS have immediately checked in with one of the most satisfying releases of PUNK ROCK MUSIC this past couple of years. “Fly” follows on the heels of two very solid 45s from the past year & one-ups them with 11 tracks of super amped, energetic riff rock ramalama. The Time Flys don’t simply cover territory mined from the Velvets to the Voidoids, they instead jog sideways and burrow underground to motorized groups from DMZ & the REAL KIDS to THE HUNS and AK-47, with a couple toe dips into various branches of what the kids call “KBD”. You know what I’m talking about. They truly come off like something from another time, and even have a theme song (“Theme”) that highlights the harassment they encounter for their long hair. I witnessed some of this harassment at a recent show of theirs; these guys strut and preen and pretty much do everything possible to annoy folks with a louder/faster/shorter aesthetic, while simultaneously winning those same hearts with their 1978 vintage punk rock chops. Unlike the kid who threw his watch out the window, the Time Flys don’t keep it stupid-simple like so many balls-out punk retards – these riffs may be tough, but they’re also fairly complex and shift often. At times their sound approximates a low-fidelity FLESH EATERS ca. "No Questions Asked", and that might be about the nicest thing I've said about anyone this year. “Teenage Tears” is their ridiculous 50s doo-wop heartbreaker, done in the same sort of over-the-top raw “oldies” style popularized by SUPERCHARGER. It’s great. The rest are bang-bang-bang and over & out, and while reminding me of so many other bands, particularly pre-1979, these fellas might be the only ones playing original recipe punk at this tip-top level in mid/late 2005. Doubting thomases who scoff at moderne punk bands might be surprised to find they dig this one a whole hell of a sight more than most garage-based rock on the market. Listen to clips and see what you think!

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Thanks to an exaggerated tour recap from this trio in Tony Rettman’s recent 200 LB. UNDERGROUND micro-zine and friends in the right places, I was predisposed to checking out the cut of the MAGICK MARKERS’ jib. They struck me in the 'zine piece as “intellectually” something out of a mid-80s Forced Exposure, maybe a Suzy Rust feature on DRUNKS WITH GUNS or a phony Steve Albini tour diary. Musically that’s not too far off either. The Magick Markers perform a no-wavey drone of a somewhat formed nature, with female muttering moving in, out, under & above the racket. It murkily goes on this way track after track, including within the one that hits pain points very early in its endless 20 minutes. All live in the studio, or perhaps on a stage – no one’s clapping, that’s for sure. At no point is it particularly interesting, fresh, bold, creative or invigorating – nor is it especially distasteful one way or the other. It just is. What's the big deal? There are no sheets of white-hot godnoise, no unleashing of a brutal army of unholy guitar terrors, no perplexing, mind-bending, brain erasing musical skullduggery. There's a girl mumbling over some drone in a practice space. Far out. I have a hard time keeping away from the crusty curmudgeon role I’ve assigned myself vis-a-vis modern noise bands, but these kinds of records that go plop when I want & expect so much more just don’t pass the sniff test, no matter how cool or well-informed the players are. I expect that one day a lot of these young noise fiends will be binging & purging their youthful naivete via Jukebox Juries in whatever the 2018 version of the "blog" might be. Or are the Magick Markers a wild-ass rock and roll juggernaut built for the new generation? Piss off old man, the kids are taking over! Tell me.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Long before "the year that punk broke", there was always a ton of pleasure to be derived from watching how the mainstream media skimmed the surface of the punk rock phenomenon, botched it up & spat it back for the hoi polloi. I was a rabid media hound from early on, still am, and I remember reading TIME MAGAZINE's initial depiction of punk rock in 1977, read in the safety of my parents' living room in Sacramento, CA. Thanks to MD alerting me to it; you too can read it right here. I was so taken by what I'd read at the time that I told everyone at school about the crazy spitting punks, particularly "The Dead Boys", whose name really knocked me for a loop. Some years later while in college, I actually burrowed deep into the microfilm room @ the college library just so I could devour this weak article again, such was its impact. (I also couldn't believe they had a picture of THE WEIRDOS, a band that virtually no one outside of California was talking up in the mid-80s). How about the roll call of nihilistic punk band names -- THUNDERTRAIN?!? (if you've heard that recent Gulcher CD by them, you'll have an even bigger laff). All in all, I guess this punk depiction isn't too uproarious -- it got worse, believe me.

Like the Kennedy assassination and 9/11, just about everyone remembers where they were the days the "punk rock" episodes of awful American prime time TV shows QUINCY and CHiPs aired. I saw the Quincy episode, "Next Stop Nowhere", the day it aired in 1982. It featured a FEAR-inspired band called "Mayhem" who were just godawful, but who rocked the fuck out when stacked next to CHiPs' horrible retard fake punk band "Pain" ("...I dig PAIN...."). Mayhem's hot signature tune went something along the lines of "I wanna see you CHOKE -- CHOKE!!!!". What caused the death of the kid at the start of the show? Why, punk rock of course. As this site recalls, "...Dancing to the sound of the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra, Quincy asks Dr. Emily Hanover why anyone would 'want to listen to music that makes you hate, when you can listen to music that makes you love'". Click the links and learn more -- you'll be glad you did.

Ridiculous as that one was, the CHiPs punk episode was off the charts incredible. This was one of the worst shows in American TV history to begin with, coinciding of course with a late 70s era in which preactically all my sister and I did Monday through Friday was watch 3 hours of prime time network TV. Thankfully by 1982 I was well onto other pursuits, therefore I missed the live airdate of this, and instead watched it stoned on a couch in college a few years later. You can read about it too all over the web, but the end, in which Erik Estrada gets the previously violent slam-dancing punks to mellow out & disco-dance to his version of Kool & The Gang's "Celebration", is, as they say, "priceless".

Finally, there were the talk shows of the early/mid 80s that featured distraught parents trying to understand their punker teenagers. I have seen a few of these Merv Griffin-esque shows that were pretty funny, but the one that I remember best was a Los Angeles-area show called "Hot Seat" , hosted by WALLY GEORGE. George was some Hollywood liberal's trumped-up idea of what a televised conservative should be -- an intolerant, ranting racist who hated homos and just about everyone else. It wasn't great comedy, but it featured a parade of buffoons who could barely read their lines & who did their best to make the scripted shennanigans sound like true pathos. One day George had a group called "Parents of Punkers" on, along with many of Orange County's finest mohawked punks and leather-clad skins. The weeping parents talked up the idea of military-style boot camp for their kids, the punks hissed, slammed to music at the breaks and started fake fights, while Wally George grunted and yelled about degeneracy and "the awful music, you can't even hear the words" etc. At the time all this stuff actually felt unfair to fans of punk -- so demeaning, "if only they asked some real punks" and all that (get out your old Flipsides and MRRs -- there were multiple letters along these lines about these shows). Now that the punks have won (!), punk broke, and great real punk bands like The Offspring & Green Day went to #1, well, we all had the last laugh, didn't we. Someone should revive this Austin, TX showing of all this stuff under one banner, pack it on a DVD and sell an assload of it. I've no doubt that the market is there. My Paypal account is ready.