Agony Shorthand

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Out of a desire for consistency and a concern that this site could easily devolve into something "blog-like", I've kept every post the past 3+ years about music & nothing but. This one stretches the concept a bit, but stay with me, it's got a general music theme. Now, cathartically recounting one's ridiculous adolescence has certainly been a cottage industry for years, & my tales are likely not much different than anyone else's. Yet I still can't believe how metal-obsessed my junior high school (John Muir Junior High, San Jose, California) was circa 1979-82, and what ripe material I keep pulling from my memory banks even today. It was a time where the kids who smoked cigarettes on the fence outside the school were the "stoners", also known as "burnouts", and their musical direction set the tone for nearly everyone else's. Except mine, and that of a few girls and the odd 13-year-old John Muir attendee who wasn't totally obsessed about rock. A few anecdotes:
  • There was this dude right out of metal hesher central casting named Bobby Garcia, a total badass who started all sorts of fights & would give you a surprise grilling on your musical taste to see if it was up to snuff. He and his pals would go hang out & smoke Camels in an open field with a couple of dirt piles near the Almaden Plaza mall that everyone called "Stoner's Cove". I'm pretty sure very few of these supposed stoners had actually discovered pot yet. In a school with very few blacks, Bobby still made it a point to tell the handful that were around, that, in his words, "AC/DC, Rock and Roll, Disco Sucks and so does Soul". I always loved that, and repeat it whenever I get the chance. Note that AC/DC preceded even rock and roll itself in the couplet. AC/DC were huge at my school - they were the be-all & end-all for most kids, and if you didn't like 'em, you'd better damn well pretend that you did.

  • One time Garcia and this other prick whose name I forget chased this nerdy guy named Bob Zettlemoyer (I'm serious!) down after Zettlemoyer incorrectly claimed to be an AC/DC fan. With fists held above his face as he was pinned down -- I watched this myself -- they said, "Name two people in AC/DC! Name two, motherfucker!!". It was heartbreaking to watch as a trembling Bob answered "Bon Scott" (technically correct but everyone knew Scott drank himself to death a couple years earlier) and -- uh oh -- "Led Zeppelin". Ouch. They "whaled on his ass" right then & there.

  • The chief radio station of my peers - listen to it or you fucking suck -- was KOME. The station cranked a steady diet of Scorpions, AC/DC, Led Zep and The Who, and had the most inane radio personalities imaginable, totally perfect for the sexually pent-up 13-year-old male demographic. The station is deservedly famous for the tag line, "Don't touch that dial, it's got KOME on it", but I'll admit I never heard them say it. Late nights belonged to this clown named "Dennis Erectus", who would go off about his lust for Nancy Reagan in a stupid, unhinged voice that predated Bobcat Goldthwait, and then crank the beastly faux metal til everyone had gone to bed. Erectus' routines would then predictably be played out at recess by every would-be stoner looking to impress the chicks and the fellas.

  • Ms. Tossel, my 8th-grade English teacher, assigned everyone in class to conduct a poll of some kind - mine was "What's your favorite kind of music?". The choices I listed were "Hard Rock", "Easy Rock" (think Air Supply, Ambrosia and the Little River Band), "Soul", "Disco" and "New Wave". Of course the latter was a sop to myself, and no, I wasn't calling it punk yet (besides -- I really liked new wave). Final winner, out of roughly 40 kids polled? Hard Rock, of course, though I "interviewed" a disproportionate number of girls (I still love 'em to this day) and almost got "Easy Rock" to squeak over the top. New Wave came in dead last. I remember having to stand up in front of class to read off the results and discuss my methodology (full regression analysis, discrete variables, etc.), and afterward, this total Cheech Marin-voiced Latino tough guy named Enrique ("Kiki") Salcido asked me what style I had voted for. When I sheepishly intoned that I had in fact voted for "New Wave", he looked stunned and incredulous, and asked me (remember his Cheech Marin voice), "No way Hinman -- you're a ponker???!?".

Naturally I could go on with self-referential tales such as these, but we all have them in some form or another. I actually missed nearly a decade's worth of schooling in "classic rock" because of my visceral hatred of my schoolmates and my reactionary decision to not listen to anything they liked. Therefore I thought (at the time) the Stones sucked, AC/DC sucked, Sabbath sucked, Led Zep sucked etc. The Pretenders? Adam and the Ants? Well, Adam and the Ants kinda ruled in 7th grade, didn't they?

Monday, February 27, 2006

As mentioned in an earlier review of the recent Brazilian early 80s post-punk comp "The Sexual Life of the Savages", if you'd have told me there were some happening Brazilian bands from that era whose records I'd want to give multiple non-cultural relativism-driven spins to, I'd have said no way. I'd still say that, save for one - AS MERCENARIAS. This Soul Jazz retrospective takes in virtually all of this all-female no wave/funk impact unit's 1982-85 recordings in one fell swoop, and by & large, it's a great thing. There are moments of pure out-and-out scorch on this thing, like "Panico" and "Policia", the latter of which is a blistering 70-second piledriver that could have been performed by ERASE ERRATA twenty years later. Other, slower numbers recall minimalist UK touchstones like the POP GROUP, THE SLITS and PUBLIC IMAGE LTD., and all full of aggro, spat vocals and a general tone bordering on tension and paranoia. The chops are first-rate -- everything is mixed real, real well & when the bands's done with one fear-provoking shouter or another, it cuts off like that - boom, over. Later in the CD there are moments of deep, Banshees-like watery guitar warbling and longer song lengths (like over 3 minutes!) and these are just OK. I'm just glad to have another rock record from South America in the mix for the first time in years -- that AGUATURBIA record was looking pretty forlorn waiting for a tropically hot, southern hemisphere neighbor to join in the storage shed.

Friday, February 24, 2006

I promised some "man rock" on this site - and the 1983 debut, one-sided 45 from NIG HEIST is some knuckle-dragging, cro-magnon man rock to the nth. Actually it's kind of funny to see all the online tributes and write-ups to Nig Heist online (check here and here for starters), given how mediocre their "sexist asshole" comedy & their "stoned punk" chops were -- but because of the close BLACK FLAG connection, they'll always assume a subjective fighting weight far above their actual worth as a band. I used to see the "Walking Down The Street" 45 all the time as a young lad, and I guess it sorta creeped me out because the label had a Raymond Pettibon drawing of some scary freak yelling, "Who is that? Elvis? It sounds like some nigger". Eventually I relented and bought the thing after hearing about the band's Black Flag roadie connection, and the fact that Dez Cadena and D. Boon were sometime members.....and I even played it occasionally. Oh, it's a hoot all right - "...come with me, and fuck me, I want to cum..." etc. etc. Funny!!! One line that is actually quite funny is "Went to the gig and scammed some muff", which is transcribed incorrectly here, and a line which I remember being called out in "Take It!" fanzine as the song's "most obvious lie". These partying, marijuana-baked Deadhead surfers were a total offensive lark and this 45 proves it, but it still has a certain appeal I guess. I dig it more than, say, THE MENTORS or GG ALLIN, possibly because it was a lark and easy to appreciate as a somewhat passable "low art" concept to fill the time before Black Flag hit the stage. I saw the ANARCHY SIX's one and only live gig and I'll bet that was more fun by a mile.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

My first impression of this guy's heroic, unhinged 1967 take on "Jailhouse Rock" when I heard it on a bootleg called "Ear Piercing Punk" was that I needed to grow up a bit, get some hair on my chest & come back in a few years when I could really handle it. Recently, a friend made me a compact disc recording of this 2002 collection of DEAN CARTER's 1959-69 works, most of them unreleased, and I heard that original 45 again with new ears. What a "gas" it is -- a truly wacked piece of freeform insanity, with an assload of instrumentation squalling in every corner as Carter revs up his best (worst) Elvis impression. To help you relate, here's a snippet I stole from "The Seth Man"'s review of it on Julian Cope's site:

".....“Jailhouse Rock” had been recorded ten years prior by Elvis Presley. And one long decade later its grease was mishandled on this ‘67 version of that particular big house breakout as Carter and gang went gonzoid gaga and cut loose like nobody’s business all over it. Erupting with a furious drum roll introduction into a pounding “Hawaii Five-O” big surf beat penetrated with Morse Code tootling away like interplanetary interference over high tension wire rhythm fuzz guitar, one can only immediately wonder how this mess is ever going to become “Jailhouse Rock”, if at all. Then Dean The C starts barking and rasping out the familiar primary line about the warden throwing a party in the county jail, and then it all becomes clear. Dean is not gonna pomade-by-numbers, he’s gonna pay tribute to The King in the most reverential way possible, and that’s by not being reverential in the least and just run the song over like rock’n’roll roadkill in his Midwestern Weird-O jalopy at full speed. It’s an assault and a terror and a hoot and a holler -- especially when the background keyboards slip into the unlikely realm of Dave “Baby” Cortez ivory-hunting on “California Sun” with The Rivieras.

After two verses of this, Carter steps out with a 12-string dobro solo. Actually, calling this sound of a metal tube pumped up and down electrified strings at top speed a solo is like calling the sound of overactive workers at the sheet metal factory doing double overtime by press forming and cutting four sheets at once a ‘solo.’ It’s sick and the only other thing this metallic shearing zigzagging is reminiscent of is the explosive slide guitar that rung down The Syndicats’ “Crawdaddy Simone” coda’s curtain so fiercely.

Finally, Carter’s hoarse and hasty vocal swagger brings it all back home and reaches critical mass when barking out that most immortal line from the collective pen of Leiber/Stoller “The whole rhythm section was the Purple Gang!!!” in his rush hour collision of a pronunciation makes seem more a single word, “Horiddumsexywuzzapuppergan!!!” And he’s in such a damn hurry, he tacks on the next line “...letsarock!” at the end, and proceeds to just go “Oh!” “Uh!” “Come on!” to usher the aberrance out to fade....."

There are other head-smacking where-did-this-come-from moments on this disc as well - take Track #2 "Mary Sue", which is just note-perfect hopped-up rockabilly, from an Illinois studio freak who was neither Southern nor truly of the rockabilly era. I guess this fella greased up his hair, threw on a leisure suit, then sauntered out with the late 60s hippies and love children a la Lux & Ivy a decade later. Not like you'd really know it - the only hint that some of these wild rockabilly numbers are not circa 1957 or so is cleaner production & some added jarring effects. Carter didn't stick to rockabilly, either - he tried his hand at country, barrel-piano barroom shouters, and dirty South rock and roll with varying degrees of success. Most of the successful ones are captured in the CD's first half; I think I started to tune out both times through this around track #18, "Dobro Pickin' Man", which at least garners points for the track sequencers at Ace Records. One number worth recounting is an outstanding fuin-the-summertime anthem that just had to be Carter's bid for the Top 40, "Sizzlin' Hot" - yet it's still too raw & muddy to have made a chartbusting dent to my ears. After all, "Psychotic Reaction" & "Dirty Water" were flukes, right? Seems a shame that left-field rock and roll this great should only be making an appearance this decade, and of the 28 tracks here, 22 of 'em made their first peek on this very CD (!). I wonder what ever became of Carter, and why he's not in the internet-only "rockabilly hall of fame"?

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

For some reason, DELTA 5's three classic 45s couldn't get a hearing even on some micro-pressing of an LP until Kill Rock Stars strutted up to the plate & hit it out of the yard. This is likely to be my favorite reissue of 2006, hands down. My fondness for the Delta 5 dates back to my teenage discovery of college radio at the same time they were around, & my local station wore the grooves off their 45s, particularly "You", "Colour" and "Mind Your Own Business". The band was probably the first female-fronted "post-punk" act I took to heart back in the day besides SIOUXSIE AND THE BANSHEES (whose early 80s ouevre recently came up for reappraisal in this house and passed with flying "colours"). Until recently, they were a blip on the radar for most folks - always lumped in with contemporaries the AU PAIRS, despite having a far more consistent early body of work, and years after lesser UK lights have been compiled and discussed ad nauseum, the Delta 5 finally have their works assembled as they've needed to for years.

Better still, the label opted to scorn compleatness & axed the band's mediocre LP "See The Whirl" (their deservedly unheralded swan song) in favor of excellent, unreleased tracks from three 1980-81 BBC radio sessions (two Peel, one w/ Richard Skinner) and a same-period live show from Berkeley, CA. These are generally ecstatic, skittering, bass-heavy compliments to the repressed DIY agit-funk of the 45s -- with "Make Up" and "Train Song" being nearly as good as any of the six legit songs. (One thing about Peel Sessions in general, most sound so great that they often could or should have been cut up & pressed as 45s in their own right). I still freak over the crispness & sting of the whiplash guitar in "You", one of my all-time faves -- and over the pent-up tension release from the angry lassie mouthing the words. And "Mind Your Own Business", the one everyone knows if they know anything by this group, is such a friggin' whomper - a leading exponent of that uniquely weird period in UK rock music where one person's disco was often another person's snotty punk rock. Only bummer was the liner notes - a recycled Greil Marcus thing from 1980 (!) and a terrible self-referential essay by Jon Langford about his personal role with the band (boo!). What, the '5 were too busy to give it some context & remberances on their one & only shot? That said, the folks behind the assemblage here did this band justice and then some, and I'll gladly cash in any credibility chips I have to get you to pay some attention to this one.

Monday, February 20, 2006

I'll admit that when I started accumulating 60s garage records I kept my picks very much in line with the Crypt Records ethos, as exemplified by Crypt's own mid-80s landmark garage punk series "Back From The Grave" - no hippies, no drugs, no keyboards, no wusses, etc, etc. Thus I've had a little catching up to do on the "psychedelic" end of things. Had I started with this fantastic comp "PSYCHEDLIC DISASTER WHIRL" all those years ago (it came out in '86), I might've ended up in the same place, as this one also screams "Rare & Wyld - Lotsa Loud Fuz!- No Flower Power" from the sleeve (hear hear!), but you couldn't imagine any of these mind expanders getting anywhere near a Crypt comp in a million years. Whatever. Just because these guys, mostly Californians, were gobbling dope & pills by the half-acre & ranting about it on limited-edition, private-press 45s ain't any reason to shut them down - like who are we to judge, right?

"Psychedelic Disaster Whirl" is that most rare of compilation breeds - the one with no duff cuts, not one. Sort of reminds me of another classic bootleg compilation from the same era, "I Was A Teenage Caveman", which is truly even more smokin' than any single "Back From The Grave" edition. I swear, everything on here piles on fuzz, echoes, weird delay & bent guitar work in spades, all of it hard-charging and very little of it even mid-tempo. One of the all-time scorchers was first found here, the CARETAKERS OF DECEPTION's "Cuttin' Grass", but I'll admit it's the only one on here I'd actually heard before. My shame is now on display! "It's hard enough for me to see, when you've taken my eyes from me". You said it, hippie! But even better than that - holy god - is this mind-melter called "Yellow Listen" by SCORPIO TUBE. W-O-W. An acid-damaged, feedback-encrusted clanger, with a very creepy feel & guitars cranked into the great beyond. Instantly joins the TWILIGHTERS' "Nothing Can Bring Me Down" and the STEREO SHOESTRING's "On The Road South" as three of the hottest 1960s psychedelic punkers of all time. It's a shame to call them honorable mention, but on this top-drawer comp honorable mention goes to the BOY BLUES' Batman-esque grinder "Comin' Down To You", the two stunning tracks from PERPETUAL MOTION WORKSHOP, and the only truly textbook "psych" song on here, "Optical Sound" by HUMAN EXPRESSION. It's all good. Lately I've seen posts on this entire record popping up on the Information Superhighway, so with a little sleuthing -- even from within this very post - you should quickly find yourself good to go with this incredible comp. Please go to it!

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Continuing our “wimp-out” week festivities, if you want to hear what I consider to be the single best of example of happening 60s French girl pop, and get all 8 of her rare EP songs in one fell swoop, then go to this fine mp3 blog site BLOW-UP DOLL and scoop up the entire CLOTHILDE discography. You’ll be floating on a cloud of sugar, spice, baguettes and brie. Pay super close attention to the song “Fallait pas ecraser La queue du chat“, because it’s perfect. I mean it.

Here’s what we had to say about CLOTHILDE in a 3/18/2003 post:

“……CLOTHILDE, as heralded by one JV in these pages, made some of the most gourmet candy-coated 1960s French pop music you’ll ever hear. “Saperlipopette” collects both of her 1967 4-song EPs into one very short CD, and is produced with just enough bells & whistles (and horns & triangles & keys & other cool effects) to qualify as a gallic OS MUTANTES at their most pop-friendly moments. The “popettemaster” in Clothilde’s closet was one Germinal Tenas, who ought on this work alone to be standing well astride the 60s pop producer pantheon, along with Joe Meek & Phil Spector. From the Ye-Ye Girls website:

(Clothilde was) a protege of renowned producer Germinal Tenas (an alias for Christian Fechner). Germinal worked with punk Antoine et les Problemes, Christine Delroche and he later formed his own band, Chorus Reverendus. He enjoyed mixing traditional pop sounds with weird instruments like the French Horn. The result was a strange and splendid baroque pop, not dissimilar to Shadow Morton's productions for The Shangri-Las, and every one of the eight songs Clothilde and Germinal did together are musts!

I heartily concur. The kick-off track “Fallait Pas Ecraser La Queue Du Chat” may very well be the “Please Don’t Talk To The Lifeguard” of the 1960s French pop genre – pure sunlight and production genius, with enough mile-wide hooks to hide a whole decade’s worth of weapons of mass destruction in. It’s so goddamn great you also get it in Italian at the end of this CD…..”

Next week: some MAN rock! Grand Funk Railroad, Black Oak Arkansas, Nig Heist, Necros and Xion!

Friday, February 17, 2006

I have to thank the new 200 LB. UNDERGROUND online hardcore 'zine for turning me onto this second album from Philadelphia's ESPERS, one of the few acts from the raging modern folk microscene who easily exceed the hype. One listen to a song as "pretty" as the kick-off "Rosemary Lane" and you too will be batting your eyes at the record & clutching it tight to your heaving bosom. The lead female vocalist has just a lovely whisp of a voice, one that can be utterly heartbreaking when paired with outstanding multi-layered, multi-instrument backing from this rather large band, as well as with the other fella who emotes quite strongly as well. The band, who cover NICO, DURUTTI COLUMN (!) and fuckin' BLUE OYSTER CULT on this one, are not afraid to crank it up and let the violin & guitar feedback and scream all of over the place as needed -- and on their makeover of the 'Cult's "Flaming Telepaths", it's pretty goddamn intense & scary for a few minutes there near the end of the 10-minute number. I know how bands work -- this has gotta be the one ESPERS save for the very end of the set, the one where the kids, lulled into a near rapturous & trance-like state by the preceeding folk melancholia, explode into a violent circle dance, trash the club & fight the cops. Awesome!! And excellent CD, too -- all yuks aside, there isn't a duff track on here & I expect to keep this in heavy, heavy rotation for the rest of the year at a minimum.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

A few weeks back I was trumpeting this Swedish pop group's wares as one of the more exciting sounds of 2005 I'd come across, with the full expectation - culled from hearing at least 5-6 downloaded 45 & EP tracks of theirs, including some bombs -- that their forthcoming CD might be mediocre. Mediocre it is, though that can be partially chalked up to how magnificent the song "Make Out Fall Out Make Up" is by comparison -- seriously one of the most jarringly great loud pop songs in a decade, & one that probably negates some of the pablum served up here. (If you're keeping track, it's track #6 on this 10-song, blink-and-you-missed "album"). Now let's establish that if you regularly come to this site to read about FAUST, SPK and the SHIT DOGS and hate anything remotely mersh, you're gonna hate this, because mersh pop (of a very brassy, busy, weirdly-produced indie sort) it most definitely is. What I dig about LOVE IS ALL for the most part, though, is how everything is slathered in screaming sheets of echo and delay, so even the annyoing female vocals rocket off walls & bang around your head like a spring-loaded tin cup. You can tell that if you cast a whole bunch of prejudices and a bit of your refined taste to the side, you'd be dancing your friggin' ass off at a Love Is All live gig. I wish this one had more doozies like "Make Out" or their earlier "Motorboat" to get me hopping, but I only count "Busy Doing Nothing" and "Spinning & Scratching" plopped among the wet noodle ballads & throwaway shouters as numbers that will stand the test of time (e.g. I'll want to listen to them next year). Suffice to say that while this is simply a band I'll only scour the download sites for from here on, I'll also humbly still pay real cash money to attend one of their US shows later this year. I'm still a sucker for a hook, baby.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

I don't suppose I could really have asked for a better film about the crazy life & twisted road of TOWNES VAN ZANDT than this excellent documentary provided. It's so good that I'm going to come out and give it the full 5-star recommendation, even if you've never heard his music -- which, while the number of folks in that camp is slowly dwindling, is still pretty considerable. I'm not even sure why I clicked with his music so instantly upon hearing it roughly 12-13 years ago. I'd never before fallen in with any sort of folksinger, and since Townes wasn't really country per se -- just an adopted Texan with some country leanings -- the fact that I proceeded to buy up nearly his entire discography after hearing "The Late Great Townes Van Zandt" (still my favorite) said something. His music, while often sad, was rarely devastating, and was completely free of cliche. The guy could just flat-out write a great song - sometimes it was sorta funny, sometimes it was mopey, and sometimes it just called for some personal late-night pondering & navel-gazing sessions. Even if you don't dig it, I'd be very surprised if you felt bored or unmoved by this 90-minute portrayal of an exceptionally complex & hidden individual.

I suppose I half expected filmmaker Margaret Brown might martyr poor Townes into a caricature, given that his life was marked by alcoholism, depression, and adolescent electroshock therapy. While all were a backdrop to the cinematic story of Townes the man, Brown did us all a service by neither dwelling on nor ignoring his shortcomings & "issues". She lets others tell his story - no narrator -- and while hearing from Guy Clarke, Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson, Kinky Friedman and others is great, the best interviews by a landslide are with his kids & three ex-wives, as they were the ones who've most had to come to terms with who he was in the wake of his 1997 death from heart failure. If you can judge a man by the company he keeps and by his own progeny, I'd have to say you'd judge the issues-laden Van Zandt quite well, as something about his wives & children's rememberances made me unspeakably fond of them personally. I also loved how Brown made sure that all the footage running in loops throughout the film was time- and location-specific, so sprinkled in between the many clipped interviews & footage of Townes live or on camera are quick, grainy loops of 1970s cars driving on 1970s Southwest highways, or sunken-eyed Texans living in trailers and drinking in alleys. It works. Like I said, my first thought exiting the theater was how I was going to tell anyone I knew with half a brain how much they needed to see this documentary, whether they'd heard his fine music or not. Then I remembered that I had this blog, so now I'm telling you too.

Monday, February 13, 2006

There’s a small raft of CD-Rs from our favorite moderne chanteuse JOSEPHINE FOSTER available via Eclipse mailorder, not the least of which is this fine 2004 full-set live recording in Washington DC of Ms. Foster & her band of psychedelic folk freaks THE SUPPOSED. I picked this up after swooning over their whirlwind “All The Leaves Are Gone” CD & figured, having missed them rocking my town that very same year, at least I could re-live the magic. All told, it’s a hot live set, similar in feel & in function to the studio set – maybe a little less blistering in terms of overdriven, spazzy, shamanistic guitar soloing than on the record, but that stuff always sounds better when it’s live (and you’re loaded). She does a nearly staright-up, in-order waltz through the record, and her voice does in fact go through every imaginable permutation to get to the deep emotional truth at each song's core. At the end, the crowd is rewarded with an excellent "bonus" tune called "End of the Breadline" that's almost a pop song, so much so that I'd better research whether or not it's a cover tune, lest I be caught with my critical pants around my ankles. If you're a Josphine Foster partisan, and I'm willing to bet you'll become one if you aren't already, then this is another fine one to add to your burgeoning collection (and! she's touring the US with BORN HELLER now and with THE SUPPOSED later).

Sunday, February 12, 2006
AGONY SHORTHAND IS 15 YEARS OLD ALL OVER AGAIN!.......That’s because we recently teamed up with our web partners “MySpace” to present a joint Agony Shorthand/MySpace web site, which you can now find here. I understand that this is the way to meet “hotties” and discover rad new “bandz” in 2006, so we’re all over that. Honestly, I’m not really sure what will happen now that we let this genie out, but if anyone wants to be Agony Shorthand’s friend, you undoubtedly already know what to do.

Friday, February 10, 2006
TIME FLYS / SODA POP KIDS / VATICANS, live Thursday 2/9, Thee Parkside, San Francisco.....


Don’t break up! The evening’s festivities ended in a most auspicious and thudding manner, as the band’s drummer stormed off the stage to pout at the back of the club, while the rest of the TIME FLYS, fresh from pounding out a hot set of dynamic, long-haired blasto-punk, tuned up in preparation for their next number. They stood around with jaws open waiting for her to return, but her return wasn’t to be, & the band gave up and gingerly put down their instruments and called it a night. Wouldn’t you know it, I found out that the guitarist & drummer are a couple – and Sonic Youth notwithstanding, that usually means a band has a pretty short shelf-life. So hey, if they do implode, which I hope they don’t, at least I got to see them live and in person a small handful of times. They also put out one of the best, no-nonsense punk rock records of the 21st Century so far, and if you haven’t heard it, it’s fantastic. But before their eventful night, they were preceded by THE VATICANS, who contain among their members a guy named Shane White, whom I’d assumed had shuffled off the San Francisco scene over a decade ago. This guy put out the original snotty garage/trash fanzine “Pure Filth” around 1990-91, and cultivated a rakish, Stiv Bators-ish persona in local early 90s bands THE FINGERS, SPOILED BRATS, RIP-OFFS etc. I figured he was a banker or something now. Anyway, I’ll admit that after watching a couple of bouncy numbers that resembled nothing so much as a 2006 “Thee Headcoatees”, I retreated to good conversation and cold beer on the back patio. No knock on them, I just needed to plot my next move. THE SODA POP KIDS, up next, were a trip – poodle haircuts, eyeliner, bullet belts, tight rockstar clothes – the total 1987 Chatterbox look, full stop. You see guys like that flounce up onto the stage, and you just wanna laugh & stick around for irony’s sake, but the Soda Pop Kids were all right! Fast glam punk, loud riffs, lots of epileptic jumping around – something I’d never buy on LP, CD nor 8-track in a million years, yet it was a hoot live. TIME FLYS played a bunch of newer, non-record material to close out the evening, and it’s pretty obvious they’ve at least got an EP’s worth of KBD corkers that’ll easily compliment the LP. Now if we can just get those squawking squabblers to make up, maybe we can keep them in business for at least another year and actually HEAR that EP. Please - let love bloom!

Friday, February 03, 2006

It was three years ago Sunday that I got wind of the blogging phenomenon & decided on a whim to post my own music-based rants and half-formed opinions. In commemoration, I’d like to take a couple weeks to stop the madness & lay low. In the meantime, here’s a selection of things that were written about over the past 36 months:


Thursday, February 02, 2006
200 LB. UNDERGROUND ONLINE......There's a lot of guilt that gets poured into giving up on print & starting a blog. Considering that one gets started every .002 seconds -- and then there's that word, "blog". Ouch. With shoulders slumped and heart heavy, Tony Rettman joins the dorkosphere today with the debut of 200 LB UNDERGROUND "blog". I haven't even read it yet but I know it's gonna be good - real good. Check it out here.


I remember how, uh, squeamish I felt -- no, silly is a better word -- walking out of a record store circa 1996, with a big black coffin-shaped box set in my hand containing four MISFITS CDs. Oh, it also had a dumb-ass skull pin and a color book with pictures of Eerie, Googy, Dopey etc. It cost me something like 60 bucks, but I'll admit that when I got home, I tore the motherfucking packaging off this bad boy & put the 1978 "Static Age sessions" on as high as the hi-fi would take me. See, I'd never heard 'em in their entirety before, despite my having accumulated a modest collection of Misfits live & demo bootlegs over the years. Hearing this aborted first album in its entirety was an event for sure, as I'll maintain to my grave that it's not only the finest Misfits material ever, but one of the original wave of American punk's finest records, hands-down. Lost in the stupidity of the band themselves is the fact that early on, when it came to writing a brutal, well-produced punk rock classic, they had virtually no peers outside of the Dangerhouse clan.

Despite THE MISFITS being the poster child for my ongoing "Lyrics Shouldn't Matter" campaign, I'll admit to getting bogged down at times in the martians/monsters/murder talk, even on this one. But I suppose I've heard it so many times that it goes right over my head now, until I find myself singing along in a low whisper & watching people slowly back away from me & my headphones. Before that box set (and this record, subsequently reissued with 3 more corkers) came out, my favorite Misfits stuff has always been the crunching "Bullet" 45 and the "Beware" stuff -- which not coincidentally were all from these '78 sessions. Come on, you can't deny the power and the unbelievable hooks in tracks like "TV Casualty" or "Angelfuck", which are recorded so masterfully and yet retain such raw beauty they've inspired both wise sages & doofus dolts the world over to get up n' slam for nearly 30 years now. Not to mention "Bullet" itself, which is a friggin' masterpiece. It was revelatory in 1996 to hear the finest stuff ever laid down from a band I'd been into for years, years after I'd ingested everything else they'd released. So I hope you lay your prejudices to the side, get some anasthesia flowing through your frontal lobes, and join me in a wondrous celebration of this top-tier record.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Not a week goes by without the Agony Shorthand mailbag containing an entreaty from someone pleading that I list the 25 best ROLLING STONES songs from their lustrous career, in order. Oh sure, sometimes it's 22 and sometimes it's 27, but the cards and electronic mail keeps coming in, so I'm settling on a hand-selected top twenty-five for your consideration. I'm not a list dork, okay?

25. SWAY