Agony Shorthand

Monday, June 30, 2003
CRIME : “CADILLAC FAGGOT” CD….This brand-new, fully legit live CD from “San Francisco’s first and only rock and roll band”, recorded around 1978 (no one in the band knows for sure), really ups the ante for new highs in collector scumitivity. Not only is it pressed in an ridiculously limited edition of 100 (why?), but it’s available in even more limited quantities, 20 each in “green”, “red”, “orange” etc. Yes, the very same color-tinted blank CDs you can buy at Walgreen’s for a few cents more! Wow! Well, fact is, this is some real knockout original punk rock music from four of its genius purveyors, and if you can still snag a copy from Red Legacy Records, I’d recommend the old college try. It’s one of the best documents of their power to engulf a room, almost as good as the “Terminal Boredom” bootleg from a decade ago. The 13-song set is recorded very loud and is mixed quite well, and the band sound like they’re on the verge of blowing out the room’s circuits. CRIME were maybe the only band to take such an aggressive rockabilly/50s rock-based stance, fully shed the goofiness inherent in the genre, and port it over to the nascent punk era with stellar results. The tracks speak for themselves, and not only does this live set bring you “Murder By Guitar”, “Frustration” and “Crime Wave”, but you get a full SEVEN unheard-before tracks from the band, including titles that I’m sure they just knew were the apotheosis of detached, leather-clad cool: “Rat Rhythm”, “You Ain’t Nothing” and “I Don’t Care”. And about that CD title? Hey, don’t ask me. It’s one of the unheard-previously tracks on here, #7, and I believe the band were engaging in some down-home late 70s intentional political incorrectness – very popular in punk at the time vis-à-vis our gay brothers and sisters. And in San Francisco to boot!

LILI Z. : “MA SOLITUDE ET MOI” 10”EP….After Ms. LILI ZELLER showed herself to be a frenchwoman of style and taste with her URINALS cover + 2 great originals 45 a few years back, she’s come back with eight excellent 1998-2001 four-track, living room recordings in the now-quaint “ten inch vinyl” format. Often electronically manipulated and twisted into shapes that vaguely resemble seam-bursting garage punk, the numbers’ (all originals) charms lie in their unpredictability. Sometimes it’s a little late 70s Euro femme-voxed punk rock (like X-RAY SPEX or ESSENTIAL LOGIC without the horns), sometimes it’s metronome-like robotcore a la METAL URBAIN. Sometimes it’s experimental tooling around, sometimes you swear you’re hearing a Gallic RAMONES/BAGS hybrid (“I Wanna Make Noise”). Sometimes it’s in French, sometimes it’s English and sometimes it’s even a little German for that nice pan-NATO feel. Mostly it’s recorded with the needle buried very, very deeply to the right. I think you’ll like it! Click here or click here for more info.

Saturday, June 28, 2003
A NEW CAN OF WORMS....Tim Ellison's feedback on the Warlocks/drug lyrics post below is worth cut-n-pasting front and center:

"Jay--Not only do I feel that drugs, at this point, are a tired subject matter for rock and roll songs, it seems so fucking stupid that it ruins it for me. I haven't heard this band, but can't conceive of why I should take an interest in them. Droning minimalist psychedelic grunge/punk, or whatever, is fine, but, it HAS TO be expressive of something relevant or something that you can relate to; otherwise, the music has no value for you. I don't think that I feel this way about the drugs issue just because I've become older either. As you say, drugs as subject matter is tired--not just tired for me personally, but a lame cliche.

This all point to a larger problem for rock and roll. Rock and roll necessitates a certain type of subject matter; you can't just put any lyrics to it for it to work. Is there something relevant to be SAID in rock and roll songs anymore? I don't see why there can't be, but most bands that really want to do something musically interesting with rock and roll today rely on stock aesthetics, whether it's "brain-fried Kraut inspired" music, garage punk, the post-punk revival, or what have you. If they rely on stock aesthetics, though, then they also have to rely on the stock subject matter that goes with them. Often, this is too much of a cliche. (Note also that some of the best young experimental groups--Black Dice, Wolf Eyes, and Lightning Bolt--are instrumental groups.)

I really wish that rock and roll would evolve out of the postmodernist thing and that people would start writing interesting lyrics again. As Iggy Pop said in I Want More, whatever happened to a bunch of guys just wanting to make some honest music for their peer group?"

It's a pretty worthwhile debate to have, since I part company a wee bit. My ranking of rock and roll lyrics' importance to the song itself has long been quite low. I remember some very pitched battles with my cousin in my late teen years -- my position was essentially summarized as "lyrics don't matter", and his came down to "they do so". That said, when a lyric is especially atrocious -- be it mawkish, cliched (as Tim said, "relying on stock subject matter"), childish or, like the Warlocks' drug references, indicative of a real poseur-like need to impress and/or shock -- there's nothing more fun than mocking it publicly. And yes, I think a really dumb lyric can in fact ruin a song -- we can all probably name dozens of those.

What I don't get is the canonization of the rock music lyric. Rock musicians don't tend to be the sharpest tools in the shed, and most wisely tack lyrics onto their music as an afterthought. Those who feel they have something they need to say are usually the ones most deserving of a good thrashing when the results are posted on the gatefold sleeve. The notion of rock musicians as poets can probably be blamed on Dylan and his admirers and on the general young culture of the 60s -- where Mom and Dad had their literary heroes (who were all old & boring & shit) and now the kids had ours. One guy and his progeny wrote some very clever and topical words and that was it: rock poetry. (I'll save my rant on "rock art" for another day). Now most of us don't buy into that, and all we look for really is someone who can put two sentences together without embarrassing us. Really, that's all I feel needs to be achieved. Don't embarrass me (or yourself). If someone can somehow raise the bar a little higher than that by virtue of an interesting lyric, great, but the overall sonic payoff is infinitesimal to my ears compared to a new guitar tuning, the addition of another instrument, a crazy riff, etc. Any thoughts?

Thursday, June 26, 2003
WARLOCKS : “THE PHOENIX ALBUM”….It took me a while to get up my bravery to purchase this one – some advance exposure to the band’s lesser early tracks had me skeptical that the raves they were getting were for anything beyond their propensity to sing about their own drug use. (An aside: is it just me, or is hearing an adult sing about heroin and pills and dope not particularly impressive? I’m a longtime proponent of regulated legalization, but the lingering drug culture associated with rock and roll is so, so fucking tired. And – gasp – very HIPPIE to boot!). Then I downloaded track #3 from THE WARLOCKS' 2002 “Phoenix Album”, a magnificent swirl of controlled psychedelic chaos called “Baby Blue”. WOW. I needed some more. Here’s a band that’s a tonic for our please-entertain-me times – an octet (!) who coolly play in a laconic, heavy-lidded VELVET UNDERGROUND style, but with layers and layers of aggro squealing out of what sounds at times like about forty guitars. And the record is solid all the way through. The opening “Shake The Dope Out” is as anthemic as “Baby Blue” and almost as good; taken together as a 45, it’d easily be one of the best 7” records of the past 15 years. There are several forays into zoned-out SONIC BOOM territory, which is appropriate because Mr. Boom actually plays on this record (not sure exactly where, but it probably isn’t hard to figure out). I’m particularly impressed with Bobby Hecksher’s velvet-throated “come down easy” vocals; the guy’s got a way of wrapping his vocals around a pound of feedback and at times brutally heavy riffs as good as anyone else’s who’s tried. I’m not saying by any means that this stuff is anywhere near original; even my wife was alarmed by blatant VU, Black Sabbath and Spacemen 3 rip-offs on her first listen, and we both came to the instant conclusion that the number entitled “The Dope Feels Good” is, well, kinda dumb. But this is one of the most consistently pleasing long-players of our short millennium thus far. Choosy musical stock pickers are rating “The Phoenix Album” a Strong Buy!

THREE CHEERS FOR THE LOST 1990s “OLDIES” SCENE!....Anyone out there remember a San Francisco Bay Area 1950s teen-sound combo called THE BRENTWOODS, who were active just over a half-decade ago? Their profile was so low, despite an impressive pedigree (Darin and Karen, ex-SUPERCHARGER + an ex-TRASHWOMEN & more), that even those of us who were living here pretty much missed them (I had to order their wildly underpressed LP “Fun In South City” directly from the band, who lived about 8 miles from my house). I just digitized their entire 1994-98 ouvre minus one single I could never find, and the whole package is quite a hoot. Comprised of five 45s and an LP, the Brentwoods' work is not for the audiophile nor for the easily annoyed. Their m.o. was flat-out, full-contact dance party rock, with a heavy tilt toward a mongrelized farfisa-drenched garage punk/good-time oldies mix, all recorded more or less live and on cheap equipment to boot. Lots of screams, yelps and hollers, and you certainly have to love the chutzpah of a band that puts its woefully inept female singer (who sounds like she might be about 15) front and center, and then encourages her to yell herself raw.

The band had an inexplicable attachment to their hometown of South San Francisco, a blue-collar suburb with a decaying bowling alley from which the band took their name. A good two thirds of the songs have references that only an upper Peninsula maven could figure out, including many that mention the cryptic “Buri Buri”, which I believe is a So. SF neighborhood & which The Brentwoods have made into a teen dance of their own. Listening to each stomping, screaming 90 second track, it’s clear there’s really not a lot to figure out here – The Brentwoods were an oldies band, they thoroughly enjoyed going to parties, and they planned to take the USA by storm with dances like “The Bug” and “The Doofus Stomp”. Another key draw here are the frequent vague jabs made at thin-skinned ex-Supercharger guitarist Greg Lowry and his then-band the RIP OFFS. The LP’s cover art alone is one long cartoon about how the Brentwoods and their fans could easily beat up the Rip Offs (cleverly cloaked as “The Riff-Raffs” here) in a street fight. If you loved the calculated no-talent genius of SUPERCHARGER, and it would be hard not to, you just might be able to handle this. Now the trick is getting Radio X (Darin’s label) to get back in business, put it together and push it out to the kids. Good luck!

Tuesday, June 24, 2003
MR. CALIFORNIA & THE STATE POLICE : "10 SONG SEVEN INCH RECORD" 7"EP....I went hat in hand and asked for your feedback on the hot young garage punk bands of 2003, and you, the readers, came out in force and told me. God love ya for that. I took a spin around the aforementioned Amoeba Music before the aforementioned Clean show & tried to find some of the 45s from the bands you told me I needed to hear. Struck out with COBRA KILLER, THE HOSPITALS, MISTREATERS and a few others that just couldn't be found, but hit paydirt with LOST SOUNDS and MR. CALIFORNIA & THE STATE POLICE. Haven't cued up the former, but I'm ready to render a verdict on the latter's 1999 EP: I'm not into 'em. Hey, they've (he's? some indication that this might be a one-man band) got a great name, got some short-circuiting electronic spazz sounds, sound obnoxo vocals, and even wrote a song about former Intel CEO Andy Grove ("Andy Grove") -- but for the most part MC&TSP are kinda spazz and silly for the sake of it. Silly! Quite a charge to level, I realize. The recommeder must have based his high regard for the band on another disc, am I right?

THE CLEAN, LIVE SAN FRANCISCO 6/19/03....Last week I plunked down for the best ticket in town, a free set by New Zealand pop legends THE CLEAN at my local record emporium Amoeba Music. If word hasn't yet reached you about Amoeba, it's worth booking an open-return ticket to San Francisco for -- a former bowling alley converted into several miles worth of new & used CDs, records, DVDs and the like. The year-old LA store even one-upped the two SF Bay Area locations by adding an upstairs and packing in an even more ludicrous amount of music. Needless to stay it's a frequent haunt, but the icing is the odd quality free show they'll bring in from time to time. Thus, The Clean, who were playing three nights out here supporting Yo La Tengo. I saw them a couple years ago & it was pretty revelatory -- the old stuff sounded like it had just been written, and they played just about all my faves save "Billy Two". As I propped myself on a stack of Orchestre Baobob CDs for a better view, I marveled at how this time the real eye-opener was how fantastic the new stuff sounded; I mean, I'm jaded enough; wouldn't these fellas be sitting back on their founders-of-kiwi-pop laurels and milking it a bit at age 40-something? Not a chance. The new, post-"Getaway" material chimed and floated with all the whimsy you'd hope for & was underpinned by David Kilgour's shrieking wall-of-surf guitar. Only a 35 minute set or so, but I reckon that comes with the territory for a free in-store. Some great hero-worshipping was spotted in the stacks as well; as the brothers Kilgour loaded up their arms with merchandise pre-show, they were accosted by a small army of Kiwi-heads and pop fiends. Nice to see, as they likely couldn't get arrested in the US 10-15 years ago & are beginning to receive their just rewards now.

JOHNNY HASH : "BEYOND ROME" 7"EP....A few months back I posted a paen to JOHNNY HASH, mid-1990s purveyor of raw and pornographic post-blues garage punk (if you wanna call it that). Based on the heft of those two In The Red 45s, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better example of bleary-eyed gutter thud, with out of control guitar, creepy-uncle vocals and ultra low-fidelity values. I found out in my research for the “piece” that there was this lost third 7”EP recorded in 1998, the four-song “Beyond Rome” EP released in the UK. Lead honcho Dan Brown (ex-'68 Comeback, Screws & Royal Trux) says it’s his “Cream Corn From The Socket of Davis”, and on the evidence I’m not inclined to argue. The title track would give San Francisco’s death metal folk hero NATE DENVER’S NECK a good scare, given the 4+ year head start Johnny Hash had for combining “Telstar”-like outer space surf guitar & Satanic vocals from the abyss. Then there’s the warm-baked Southern Trux-like sounds found on “Dislocator”, a pleasing instrumental called “Here We Are” and finally “The Rock Error”, a brief fade out that’s either over-manipulated feedback or some looped bug sounds recorded at 3am during a Jacksonville mushroom trip. Nay, it’s not the same aggro-blues you’d expect from the Hash, but it’s not unenjoyable either. Expect more left field panic from this bunch before the decade’s over.

Thursday, June 19, 2003
UNKNOWN LEGENDS OF ROCK AND ROLL – MY SEQUEL…..You may have read Richie Unterberger’s revealing “Unknown Legends of Rock and Roll” book a couple of years back, or his follow-up "Urban Spacemen and Wayfaring Strangers". I really enjoyed the former; the latter contained far too much English folk and novelty twaddle for my curmudgeonly, set-in-stone tastes, but the concept – the concept – was excellent. These sorts of books (another is “The Secret History of Rock” by Roni Sarig, and of course the much-discussed, praised and maligned Michael Azzerad book) might only validate the refined palettes of those of us who smugly believe we know and have heard everything, but imagine falling upon these books at age 15 and watching your musical world explode in the months to come (allowance or Der Weinerschnitzel salary permitting). I hope these books are available in high school libraries around the world; they sure would’ve done me a lot of good x number of years ago.

In any event, I’ve got a hypothetical sequel in mind for Unterberger’s books. Sure, he nailed The Creation, Lee Hazelwood, Love, Can, The Dils, Flying Nun records, Hampton Grease Band and the Young Marble Giants (among many other worthies) in the first one, and that’s a fine start. Here’s the rock music the youth of today really need to be learning about in my volume of previously-undocumented musical heroes, “Eveybody’s Entitled To My Opinion – Agony Shorthand Tells You What To Listen To Next”:

1950s: Freddie Cannon, Bunker Hill, Charlie Feathers, Jack Scott
1960s: Hasil Adkins, Davie Allen & The Arrows, The Birds, John Fahey, Os Mutantes, Seeds, Sonics, The French “Ye Ye” sound
1970s: The Bags, Desperate Bicycles, DMZ, Electric Eels, Gordons, Modern Lovers, Pagans, Saints, Simply Saucer, Swell Maps, Urinals/100 Flowers
1980s: Birthday Party, Dream Syndicate, Flesh Eaters, Flipper, Gun Club, Thee Mighty Caesars, Spacemen 3, Union Carbide Productions, Vaselines
1990s: Cheater Slicks, Come, Gories, Night Kings, World of Pooh / Barbara Manning

I’m hoping to secure funding by close of FY2004, and will report my progress in your quarterly prospectus.

V/A : “HOMEWORK #9”….The latest alphabetical unearthing from a hope chest full of 1970s & 80s uber-obscurities from across the USA. All the bands represented on the HOMEWORK series are rooted somewhere in punk, but usually splay out toward low-fidelity noise, proto-indie rock and even keyboard-driven “punkwave” (hey, it’s not my term). You take the best of the previous eight volumes, and you’ve now got a case study for why this particular era (roughly 1977-1983) simply cannot be matched for its explosion of creativity and boundary-pushing rock experimentation. You’ll also get some of the best American sub-underground rock music of all time, often from you’ll-never-see-it-anywhere-again 45s and comps. To name but a few of my favorites from the HOMEWORK series thus far, many of whom I was wholly unfamiliar with before Hyped2Death brought them to life again: TWINKEYZ “Little Joey”; DOW JONES & THE INDUSTRIALS “Ladies With Appliances”; TWO BY FOURS “Little Cities” & “On The Iron Line”; TRUE BELIEVERS “Accept It!”; XMAS EVE “My House”; STROKE BAND “Fiction/Non-Fiction”; TEDDY & THE FRAT GIRLS “I Owe It To The Girls”; X-X “A” and so on and so on. These are of a par with anything dug up in the first wave of punk rock excavation circa 1989-1992 (the Killed By Death years). You certainly have to wade through some dreck to get to these gems, but the series’ quality control bar is set high enough that none of it’s particularly excruciating.

I’d have to put Homework #9 – which represents LP cuts from acts whose names start with A, B, and C – in the lower half of the series hierarchy so far. After a few listens, I can count only one standout track, and not only is it one I already dug (the jagged & Mission of Burma-like “TV” from Texas’ BIG BOYS, from the recently reissued 1981 “Where’s My Towel” LP), but its inclusion is debatable given the band’s relatively high profile. (And it is all relative, of course, when your comp mates are CRAIG BEVAN & THE TOURISTS and the BONEMEN OF BURUMBA). There’s a second tier of “Hey, I kinda like that” tracks, most notably the surging “This Damage” from 1983 San Francisco postpunk combo B TEAM, as well as “Bus” from Ohio’s BPA, who are like the perfect amalgamation of lessons learned from fellow buckeye statesmen PERE UBU and DEVO, while being about a quarter as interesting as either. Then there’s a few that might strike my noggin as interesting at a later date, from DC’s CHALK CIRCLE through to Virginia’s CITIZEN 23 (“Janie Got a Blackeye”), and then, finally, the rest. A number #10 appears to be in the works; we’ll hope for a bounce above the Mendoza line on that one, and will bear in mind that when one controls track selection by the rigidity of the alphabet, there will always be those letters that just can’t bring the noize.

Wednesday, June 18, 2003
SHITTIEST BAND YOU'VE EVER SEEN?....Here's a chance to make some history: vote in the CHUNKLET "What is the shittiest band you've ever seen?" poll on the front page of their web site. Right now the leader is, inexplicably (perhaps because I've never seen them), THE PASTELS. Chunklet is sort of The Onion of indie rock; their (his) m.o. is both wallowing in independent rock music and mocking it incessantly. When it works (and it often does), such as their last issue's "25 Ways To Disrupt The Opening Band" or something like that, it is really, really funny. Oh, and for the record, my vote was for HOLE, who I saw in the pre-nose job. pre-Kurt years around 1990 or so. Utterly godawful!

Tuesday, June 17, 2003
THE STRAIGHT DOPE ON SCRITTI POLITTI…..I was recently exposed to the compleat early works of England’s late 70s/early 80s DIY critics' fave SCRITTI POLITTI. Oh, you mean that horrible mid-80s “new wave/disco” group? Yes, the very same. As it turns out – and I did actually know this already, but am pretending it’s a new discovery – the band started life as arty, highbrow intellectual class warriors with a feisty independent and DIY ethos before drifting into a “moderne rock of the 80s” mode (cash to be made and all that, however miniscule). Taken as a whole, their pre-1983 work is a mixed bag, but man, there are some really fantastic standout moments in their track record that I’ll rank up with the giants of shambling, post-punk independent rock music. And the thing is that these are definitely not grabbers, if you know what I’m saying. Even their best songs – “Is and Ought The Western World”, for instance, or that same EP’s A-side “Skank Bloc Bologna”, had to be spun repeatedly before their brilliance and sardonic charm sank in (I’ve known “Skank” for probably 18 years now due to its inclusion on the classic Rough Trade anthology “Wanna Buy a Bridge?”, but only after repeated recent listening did I remember enough to have the riff stuck in my head).

What’s generated any recent interest at all in Scritti Politti – aside from the fact that elements of the band are still performing under that name – is this relatively recent article on them in Perfect Sound Forever, and more importantly, the inclusion of two early tracks (“Is and Ought…” and “Messthetics”) in Chuck Warner’s Hyped2Death label series dubbed, that’s right, Messthetics. Their earliest records – the aforementioned 1978 debut, the two John Peel sessions EPs and best of all, the loose and experimental “Four A Sides” EP – are quirkily exotic and complex, like fellow travelers The Homosexuals or Beyond The Implode. There's also a real feel that this is a band who understands the vagueries of creating difficult rock music that transgresses the era and will stand the test of time, a la the SWELL MAPS, who were met with only slightly less critical and more popular acclaim than Scritti Politti in their earliest years. I’ll even put in for their 1981 pure pop single “The Sweetest Girl”, which I remember had the NME and Melody Maker critics raving, and which has some very Roxy Music-like shifts in tone and even some cool hypnotic dub elements, but after that it was clean synths, black female backing vocalists, and several UK chart hits. Actually, I take it back – after an awful 1982 white boy soul 45 called “Faithless”, they bounced back briefly with a loping and clever Jamaican-influnced pop record called “Asylums In Jerusalem” (that I only this week remembered that I had owned in high school in 1982!) before heading the way of their new brethren Spandau Ballet and the Human League and what have you. That early stuff is worth exploring if you can seek it out, and if you're still interested, check out this "labour" of love from a dedicated fan, who has transcribed and archived every article he/she could find on the band.

GORIES : “I KNOW YOU FINE, BUT HOW YOU DOIN’?”….In recent reader comments on this web log it has been stated (unfortunately) that the GORIES’ godlike 1990 second LP “I Know You Fine, But How You Doin’” was somehow not up to snuff and was, in so many words, a low period for the band. Without launching into a full-on review of the music, let me state for the record that this notion is in fact false. “I Know You Fine…” cemented an already wild-ass garage punk band’s reputation as one of the best rock and roll bands of their era, period. It’s no exaggeration to state that for just about any 60s or 80s-90s garage punk band to make it beyond one great LP, let alone to make it to even one first full-length LP that holds up, is one mean feat. The genre doesn’t lend itself to much beyond 45s – in fact, I’m hard pressed to even name one great 1960s garage punk LP that wasn’t by the SONICS. So for the Gories to follow up their insane Hasil Adkins-meets-Bo Diddley-meets-early Cramps debut LP “House Rockin’” with yet another platter full of dirtfloor juke joint punk rock stomp (this time played like they actually took the time to tune up) is pretty fucking impressive, and a rollicking wail of a good time to boot. No thinking slop-rock fan would leave “Thunderbird ESQ”, “Going To The River”, “You Make It Move” or “Nitroglycerine” out of their Gories’ top 10 tunes list; why should you?

This genius record is so unlike a sophomore slump that when the real slump did happen (their third LP, the break-up besotted and comparatively limp “Outta Here”) most people didn’t even notice it, and treated the vastly inferior third record like it was yet another winner from the good old Gories, our heroes, standard-bearers for the 1990s garage punk vanguard. This revisionist slant that somehow the band “lost it” because Alex Chilton was involved in the production (passed out under the mixing board is more likely) is flat-out wrong and is not in any way borne out by the music (and this is the guy that produced the first two CRAMPS 45s and the session that became their bootleg “All Tore Up” LP – you wanna take issue with that?). I hate to argue over this record like we’re debating Exile On Main Street vs. Beggars Banquet or whatever, but c’mon folks. Take another close listen, this time with your mojo shoes on. The first two LPs are conveniently available together on one very excellent and very essential CD.

Monday, June 16, 2003
NEWS FROM SOLGER....Just in -- our pal Kyle from early 80s Seattle art-hardcore punk band SOLGER has some important breaking news I'd like to share with the readers. If you have heard the genius Solger EP and can appreciate its no-count glory, and you like your punk rock black and 12" long, then here you go:

"In working to put out the complete works of Solger on CD tilted "Solger Codex 1980" (due out in August 2003), we also put the project down on white vinyl with plain blank black labels (opposite of the original 1981 release -- black vinyl with plain blank white labels. Everything once again is featured in wonderful black and white packaging, the true sign of black and white thinking from a black and white era. This is a limited pressing of 100, which makes for a very expensive per record cost. These are now available at for a limited time (till they are gone). After that a few personal copies may be released from myself through eBay. So buy this rarity while its new and available if you can. PS: The sure to be controversial Solger single featuring "Do Me A Favor" and "Scheme & Fraud" is also due out this week (500 black / 100 red vinyl). I'm supposed to be receiving 50 of the red vinyls and will post them on eBay (one copy per a week) soon. See record cover in photo section".

Wednesday, June 11, 2003
COMETS ON FIRE / SUNBURNED HAND OF THE MAN, 6/10/03....Last night I got a big wallop of the much-praised COMETS ON FIRE live and in person at the tiny Hemlock Tavern in San Francisco, CA. The band personally invited their pals SUNBURNED HAND OF THE MAN to jet out from Boston to join them in a rocking good time, so let's start with them. Looking like a ragtag batch of rock and roll misfits cobbled together like a Bad News Bears for heavy pot smokers and early psychedelic record fiends, the "Hand" were a pretty sturdy ensemble who exceeded expectations. There were so many folks in the band I sort of lost count, but I'm pretty sure there were 9 of them, though I might have missed a couple "dancers" who floated around in the crowd (the guy with the tambourine may have just been a freak from off the street). In any event, they didn't all fit on the stage. This evening, The Hand specialized in a heavy tranced groove that warped and shifted in very calculated fashion -- no improv BS here; these folks appear to be of the SAVAGE REPUBLIC school of dense, eastern-inspired, clanging but controlled noise, and I think they pulled it off. Fans of Krautrock, islamic music and marijuana should be impressed.

I don't really know what to think about COMETS ON FIRE. I gave their latest CD "Field Recordings From The Sun" some major props only a couple months ago, and have since listened to a few more times with some slightly diminishing returns. See, I swore when I started this page I would never lie to you, the readers, even if it made me look less than all-knowing. I may have overstepped a tiny bit with the Comets. There's no doubt that they have an awesome, ultra-heavy sonic attack that roars like some out of control marriage of HAWKWIND and early MONSTER MAGNET (once a great band!), and they take their cues from what is obviously a real reverance for many of the heavyweights that came before them: Chrome, High Rise, Pere Ubu, etc. Live, they sound a lot like they do on the CD -- a good thing for the most part. But for Christ's sake, turn down the oscillator/electronics guy (!) -- whenever the band would come together for an gargantuan ear-shredding riff and some rock hero-style leaping about the stage (there was a lot of that -- if only it was Seattle circa 1988, there'd be some killer Charles Peterson time-release hair-flyin' photos), the squall of the electronics would drown out the real musicians & severely dampen the overall sonic effect. I was also a bit concerned, shall we say, with the lack of variation song to song; kind of like you heard one, you've heard 'em all. It's a real good one to be sure, but I came in wanting these guys to expand the pantheon, move heaven and earth, and in the process reinvent rock noise, and instead right now I see them as a pretty solid local rock music band. Maybe partying would have helped.

YOUR COMMENTS ARE STILL WELCOME....Hey, if you're one of those that posts comments from time to time on this site, & have found the comments box missing or unusable at times, you're not alone. It seems to be working now, 11:30am PST. The Agony Shorthand networking department is trying to isolate the problem and administer a "patch", but if this happens again, please hold on to your thoughts and rants & let them fly once it's working again. The comments are the best part of this site, and I don't want to lose ya.

Tuesday, June 10, 2003
LOVE: "THE BEST OF LOVE"....I've never been much of a member of the cult of LOVE, primarily because in my limited exposure to them "growing up" I heard much more of their simpier, flowery side on college radio than their tougher, "My Little Red Book" side. Now I like 'em both -- a lot -- and I point you with exteme prejudice to an outstanding new collection on Rhino, called simply "The Best Of Love". This is the greatest hits collection the band deserves, comprised only of selections from the first three LPs (UPDATE:I have been corrected on this; there are several songs from the 4th album at the CD's close. Sloppy reportage on my end). In fact, you really get the bulk of "Love", "De Capo" and "Forever Changes" on this 22-song collection, including your faves like the aforementioned "Red Book", which has arguably the greatest opening thump-thump-thumping 20 seconds of any song from the 60s (with "Interstellar Overdrive" giving it some healthy competition). You also can't beat numbers like the acid-meets-punk chug of "Stephanie Knows Who", "Can't Explain" and "Seven and Seven Is", nor the soft and complex psych of "Andmoreagain" and "Orange Skies". I'm really impressed with how this CD holds together from start to finish, and on this evidence I'm ready to join Team Love and call them a fucking landmark rock and roll band.

Just this past week or so, I saw that Arthur Lee had brought a new band and perhaps even a mini-symphony together to perform the great "Forever Changes" in its entirety. I'm a curmudgeonly guy who regularly boycotts reunion shows, nothwithstanding last year's MISSION OF BURMA gig that I absolutely could not pass up, and this one in particular had the potential to be atrocious given the near-35 years since the record's release, Lee's notorious lack of grasp on reality, etc. I haven't heard any scene reports from the gigs themselves. Have you?

WORST HARDCORE LYRICS EVER?.....I busted out an old tape of early 80s US hardcore this week -- a tape! -- and found a couple of real knockouts in the lyrics department. Check out this heavyweight from DIE KREUZEN, "Think For Me" from their "Cows And Beer" 7"EP:

You and I shouldn't fight
'Cause we know what's wrong and what's right
You and I should be friends
Together we can fight until the end!

One can't help but notice that when the band re-did this song on their (amazing) debut LP, the lyrics were slurred so badly that their genius was unrecognizable. Accident? I think not. Speaking of fighting, how about this champ from Washington, DC's SCREAM, entitled "Fight":

Look at me, I look at you
What the fuck you gonna do?
Fight, fight, fight, fight!

The 80s were full of all sorts of insights such as this, from one of my all-time faves, CIRCLE ONE's "Destroy Exxon" to "Beach Blanket Bong-Out" by JFA to anything by MILLIONS OF DEAD COPS. Any nominees out there for worst hardcore lyrics ever? Extra points if they're about Reagan!

Sunday, June 08, 2003
ON THE DIGITIZATION REVOLUTION…..I’ve waxed previously about the floodgate of musical discovery that is now opening due to the “digitization” revolution going on in bedrooms and dens around the world, yet I think I’ll stop to marvel at the benefits again. Forget burning CD-to-CD; I speak of the beauty of LP-to-CD transfers that are bringing untold amounts of unheard music to those eager enough to seek it out, at prices (10 cents a blank!) that can’t be beat. I speak of trading 10 CD-Rs at a time with music fiends in all corners of the globe, and finding that they’ve taken their ultra-rare punk rock 45 or 60s dope records or Hawaiian 78s collections and burned them onto CDs that you’ll never, ever find in stores, and that are full of music that you’ve been dying to hear or never heard about in the first place. It has been opening musical doors for me and no doubt for many of you. The morality and legality of such is an open question, but having a turntable, a preamp, a computer, and the right software is pretty much all you need to start roasting up your vinyl collection.

It certainly will have an effect on the collector’s market that I’ll bet is already beginning to be felt; tell me again why should I hunt down a DESPERATE BICYCLES 45 at top dollar on eBay or at a record swap, when someone’s saved me the trouble by recording their entire output on a single 60-minute CD, and made their own killer artwork for it to boot? If someone can top it with a legit release, great, but to my knowledge there are no takers. The invisible hand may well cast its shadow on prices paid for out-of-print 45s that never made it to CD (“Kill The Hippies”, anyone?) – though you never can tell with the collector mindset. There are many of you that are certainly still extremely uncomfortable with the compact disc and the digitization of punk rock, delta blues, old gypsy 78s, no wave 45s or what have you, and for you having the original vinyl is what it’s all about. While I sympathize, I think for me it’s about having portable access to every great song every recorded (and I’ll get there someday). I was of a similar records-over-CDs mindset until several life events forced my hand: 1.) Purchase of a car that had a CD player, coupled with 2.) an hour-long commute to work in each direction, which necessitated music, as well as 3.) enough of a divergence in musical taste with my wife that the home entertainment system was being used in the evenings mostly for our common denominators (John Fahey, 50s jazz, 60s girl pop, Stones, etc,) and not for those musicians in which I parted company with her (Drunks With Guns, Mainliner, Loretta Lynn). When much of my listening thus became “mobile”, the LP started suffering the indignity of non-use in my household – until the digitization revolution started.

Now the revolution is obviously breaking out all over the place, as evidenced by the sorts of CD-Rs for sale on the web, at record swap meets, and that are being made for me and you by our pals. It’s a development that is pretty profound for those of us who’ve been accumulating music for many years, one that I wholeheartedly support, but one that also might have some downstream effects on music making, effects that could be of some consequence to the musicians of today. I’d be interested in what you have to say about it.

DROP “HE DOESN’T KNOW HE’S A TRENDY”….An old Union Jack triumph of the marriage between razor-sharp punk and cheap analog electronics yet a brand new discovery for me -- my reissue pick of the week! This 1980 song from the wholly unknown UK band DROP is the British equivalent of the world-beating, cartoony futurecore robot punk classic “Ladies With Appliances” by DOW JONES & THE INDUSTRIALS. Well OK, not that amazing, but pretty damn all right, and worth seeking out on the “TEENAGE TREATS Vol. 1” compilation. This CD comp (subheaded “Rare Punk Rock Vol. 1”, just about all of it British circa ’77-81) could be of dubious origin – no check that, there’s no doubt in my mind that it’s not legit, but at the same time, it’s packed with some real corkers. Like what? Like the aforementioned DROP track, like “Accidents” by the STEROID KIDDIES, like “I’m The One” by WHITE SS – who sound like the early punk rock version of MC5-worshipping 1980s UK “grunge” band THEE HYPNOTICS. I wish that the best-titled track on here was better, but the title is so tough that you gotta hear it anyway: “Why Does Politics Turn Men Into Toads?” by TONE DEAF & THE IDIOTS. But you can’t lose music-wise or title-wise with “He Doesn’t Know He’s a Trendy” – Agony Shorthand says check it out.

TEENAGE TREATS….Actually, does anyone have the dirt on these “Teenage Treats” compilations (see post above)? They appear to be put out by “Xerox Records” – HAH! My research indicates that there are quite a few of them, but this is the first I’ve seen. Is there a lot of power pop crap on them? (a la an awful series I made the mistake of purchasing in whole called “The Morning After” – there was one great DELTA 5 track on there out of 75 total – the resulting .013 batting average is so low even Detroit wouldn’t take ya). If there are any satisfied or unsatisfied customers out there, I’d like to hear your story.