Agony Shorthand

Friday, January 30, 2004
MURDER PUNK….One sub-genre of early punk rock was what I like to call Celebrity Death & Humiliation punk. This microcosm of the larger punk strata one was at least as fertile as Hillside Strangler punk or Neutron Bomb punk, two other oft-discussed topics of the day (roughly 1978-1981). Representative examples include THE MAGGOTS' “Let’s Get, Let’s Get Tammy Wynette”; THE ACCIDENT’s “Kill The Bee Gees”; THE ROTTERS’ “Sit On My Face, Stevie Nicks” and IVAN & THE EXECUTIONERS’ “I Wanna Kill James Taylor”. It was while listening to the latter that I realized that, Maggots notwithstanding, pretty much every one of these songs is flat-out l-a-m-e. As are later-period examples such as the MEATMEN’s “One Down, Three To Go” (John Lennon/Beatles) and even NINE POUND HAMMER’s “Bye Bye Glenn Frey” (actually that one’s not too bad). Each opportunity that arose to drown a celebrity in guitar-drenched invective was also an opportunity to write a great song; however most CD&H punk originators saw to it that neither the two should meet. Are there any exceptions that I’m missing that help prove the rule?

Thursday, January 29, 2004
THE CONDAS “The Bird” / SPARK PLUGS “Chicken” 45…..Part of Norton Records’ no-picture-sleeve 50s/60s reissue series, in which one unsung, deranged clod-hopper is paired with one unissued, deranged screamer. In this case, the unissued killer is THE CONDAS’ “The Bird” – a honking, drunken frat bash hooter that sounds very Northwest (Tacoma/Seattle, a la the “Wolf Call” CD and all the other gems that Norton have brought to life again). It’s so raw & sloshed that it makes the Trashmen sound like pipe-smoking sophisticates. The flip, well, remember when THE CRAMPS’ “A Date With Elvis” LP came out in 1985 and you were super let down & disappointed, expect for, as you often said to your friends, “…except for ‘Chicken’…”? Well, here’s the gonzo, full-band original, straight out of the Hasil Adkins school of southern-style cluck rock. Love it, and without exception thusfar, this Norton 45 series has really been first rate.

DMZ DEBUT IS BACK…..Studly reissue label Sepia Tone has just released the debut 1978 Sire Records LP from Boston’s DMZ on CD. This is a terrifically fun, raw and guts-forward record that was way overdue for a larger audience. Top pick: “Don’t Jump Me Mother”!! Get it here.

Wednesday, January 28, 2004

It’s pretty hard to curb my enthusiasm when I’m frothing and spouting about this band, but I’ll try to speak coherently and in complete sentences. COME, to my way of thinking, continue to be criminally unheralded and forgotten to most. I have a habit of repeatedly going back to check my decades-ago favorites to see if they still hold up (for examples of this bold critical inquiry, check here, here, here and here), and every 6-8 months I throw the 1992 recordings from COME on the headphones and am re-blown away each time. This is one of the great guitar bands of any era, right up there with TELEVISION, CRIME and the motherfuckin’ MC5. “Indie guitar rock” bands were a dime a dozen at the time, and that’s perhaps why COME got quickly and unthinkingly lumped in with their Matador and Sub Pop brethren, & why I still see the genius debut CD “Eleven : Eleven” sitting forlornly in the used bins for $4.95. Whatever. There’s no accounting for taste. But let me try to start you at the start, and see if I can provoke a different reaction.

I didn’t want to call COME’s 1992 debut a “CD single” since “EP” sounds so much better, but I gotta admit the only way to enjoy this masterpiece – all three tracks – is with a laser beam. When I first saw this “Sub Pop Singles Club” as a vinyl 45, I got the band confused with another band called COMB and another band called CODEINE (who shared guitarist Chris Brokaw with Come for a short time), and passed on it. Then word got around that it was an absolute monster of whammy-bar manipulated guitar and raw, agonized tension release, so I heeded the call. “Car” was indeed as advertised : a dark, churning, boiling rock and roll wallop that set the pace for everything the band did subsequently (and except for “Eleven : Eleven”, was never equaled). Everything about it lends itself to the night, the later and darker the better – imaging this song being played at a July afternoon picnic is well nigh impossible. There’s a moment toward the end when the whole pounding wall of noise slows down into a sweet, gentle almost-coo from singer/guitarist Thalia Zedek (a woman not given to cooing), and the abruptness of the shift, swear to god, sends a chill every third time or so I hear it. And forgive me the hyperbole, but any real fan of music is gonna get those from time to time – no apologies necessary. Yet the song then explodes and crashes loudly one last time at the final phrase, “….don’t be afraid…..” and goes off into extended guitar jammery. When I saw them play “Car” live in San Francisco and San Jose in 1993 it was nothing short of revelatory, as were “Orbit”, “Submerge”, “Dead Molly”, “Fast Piss Blues” and their other ringers from 1992. Furthermore, “Last Mistake” is a great bluesy, angry, shape-shifting dirge, and the early version of “Submerge” is excellent but was slightly bested later in the year when it kicked off “Eleven : Eleven”. In all, wow – what a debut.

There are “5 used and new” copies of the “Car” EP being sold on right this very second, starting at $1.99. There’s your opening. You probably have that much sitting in the change cup, right?

Tuesday, January 27, 2004
LOVE's "FOREVER CHANGES" TOUR.....Now that J. NEO MARVIN and I have got our mutual admiration society up and running, let me direct you to his review of the ARTHUR LEE & LOVE “Forever Changes” tour that’s passing through numerous American cities as we speak. Scroll down to his post dated Saturday, January 17th, 2004 2:22 PM PST and get the scoop, just over a week old. I thought long and hard about checking this show out, but I’ll admit to being an unworthy “Forever Changes” neophyte. I only got my copy within the past 12-15 months, and yeah, it’s as great as I’d so often heard. Every few years some “classic rock” group just clicks with me, forcing me to scramble to gather up the back catalog & try to justify to wiser rock veterans why their charms eluded me for so many years. In the early 1990s it was NEIL YOUNG, CREEDENCE, SYD BARRETT and early PINK FLOYD; later it was the STONES (who I always loved but only owned “Exile On Main Street” and “Beggars’ Banquet”, not the earliest ones – then I went berserk and bought everything); I’m still waiting on BOB DYLAN & THE DOORS (may never happen). But LOVE hit the sweet spot the past couple of years, and it’s great to hear confirmation that the (expensive) show was worth the time & cash….!

Monday, January 26, 2004
STRANGE NOTES, 1/26/2004…..Our friend BM from down under helped to crack the PINETOPPERS mystery “offline”, as they say. He tells Agony Shorthand that the original Confederate Records mix of “Shout Bamalama” – the howling, crazed version found on “Sin Alley, Vol. 3” that I raved about last week – was cleaned up on subsequent reissues of the 45 to capitalize on Otis-mania. This later version, while great, sanitizes the original mix by toning down the percussion and the general wild panic of the first one….but at least we know where things stand on this important rock and roll question….Hey, there’s been some good chatter on the blog about lame 80s punk/hardcore lately, and I very much appreciated Dave Lang’s mention of not only CHRIST ON PARADE but the quick follow-up with FEARLESS IRANIANS FROM HELL….man, how I used to fuckin’ shred the half pipe to those badasses!....skate to hell, beeyotch!....that said, I’ll bet everyone’s a little red-faced that last year marked the 18th anniversary of BONER Records’ landmark “Them Boners Be Poppin’” LP, and I don’t remember a single commentator celebrating the event…..for shame!….Shifting gears a little, there’s this tremendous 1965 girl-pop song I’m smitten with from the “Where The Girls Are, Volume 2” comp…it’s “Looking For Trouble” by THE CHARMERS, which has this hilarious backing duo who beautifully parrot the jealous lead vocalist’s threats to punch out some harlot who’s threatening to steal her guy. The CD says it’s taken from “the Impact LP ‘Girls About Town’”, but I can’t find a single peep about this record online….is it by The Charmers? Is it a comp?? What the….?.....

Another giant of the girl genre is MARY WELLS’ inelegant kiss-off “Bye Bye Baby”; just a screamer from start to finish, with hooks bursting in every direction and an over the top rasped vocal from Ms. Wells…..We watched the recent Scottish film “Morvern Callar” over the weekend, not bad, dull in parts, but with a good soundtrack including (ill-placed) numbers from CAN, THE VELVET UNDERGROUND and LEE HAZLEWOOD….All right, one last question: has anyone heard the recent reunion CD from THE URINALS?....that’s one that might actually be good, no?....finally, I give a couple of spins to “IL CANTO DI MALAVITA : LA MUSICA DELLA MAFIA”, a 2000 Pias Records collection of Italian “mafia songs” (I’m no expert in Italian, but I’m pretty sure “La Musica Della Mafia” means “the music of the mafia”. Any cunning linguists in the house?)....careful not to play this one while slurping down mama’s Bolognese, lest you be subject to wild hallucinations of a gangland rat-a-tat-tat execution right there at your dining room table. It’s a fun listen if you’re a fan of wailing, torrid Mediterranean piazza sounds that hint at looming danger and death, as so many of us are….Until next time, keep your feet on the ground etc…..!

Friday, January 23, 2004

Among the lost artifacts of the late 1970s Australian underground that are now beginning to surface are recordings from Sydney’s PRIMITIVE CALCULATORS, a polyrhythm- and experimentation-heavy synth-attack outfit who probably tilted closer to their outré countrymen SPK and the SLUGFUCKERS than to similar combos in the UK and US. After being wowed by their berserk “Pumping Ugly Muscle” on the Australian post-punk CD “Can’t Stop It”, I then had the fortune to become privy to a CD-R containing their debut 45 from 1979, “I Can’t Stop It / Do That Dance”, as well as tracks from their 1979 live album (recorded supporting the BOYS NEXT DOOR, aka the nascent BIRTHDAY PARTY). The whole package is decidedly not for the faint of ear; there are not a few moments where the band’s funky, African-influenced slop-rock breaks down into a maelstrom of raw electronic chaos and pure gibbering idiocy. And yet it’s not so messy that you couldn’t stack it next to New York’s leading “no wave” of the day and have it compare quite favorably. A little bravery, patience, and love of well-crafted, ultra-savage electronics will go a long way here. Aficionados of early industrial racket, the aforementioned no wave, or those still bitter over what PiL should have been should check out the Calculators. There’s even a new posthumous live 45 and upcoming legit CD on the way later this year!

FINAL SOLUTIONS : “EAT SHIT” 7”EP….You’d think that with the strong support and get-get-‘em-kid encouragement of superstar Memphis tastemaker Eric Oblivian, this “Jay Reatard” fella would be able to pass the punk rock BS detector sniff test every time he tried. Ergo, I keep waiting for one of his bands’ releases to break through and knock me dead in line with the hype I keep hearing, but I’m always struck cold by the overwrought hysterics and limp, tasteless leftovers the guy’s serving up. REATARDS? An ultimately silly, pointless, barely listenable scream-fest, despite some cranked-up hard-garage guitar. LOST SOUNDS? Man, I wanted to like this band, but despite having spent real cash money to purchase their 45 GRAVE-cum-SCREAMERS “darkwave” CDs, I had to amortize them in my year-end financial review as contributing to my CD collection’s overall depreciation. I haven’t heard the BAD TIMES, and I’ll bet that due to Eric’s majestic presence they’re probably pretty good, though I hear this Jay fella still can’t help it with the bug-eyed screaming.

FINAL SOLUTIONS have got some calculated coolness issues right off the bat on this debut EP (there’s been a subsequent LP/CD as well). First, recording quality, muffled vocals, lyrics and even packaging are straight out of 1979 KBD-style rare punk rock 45 Central Casting. I’m sure it would please them no end to be mistaken for TOXIN III or the SHIT DOGS, and to their credit, they’d probably fit in pretty well on one of the later-issue, barrel-scraping “Killed By Death” editions. Except that it’s 2004, and titles/lyrics like “Eat Shit” and “I’m a Victim (of your cunt)” are, uh, a bit gauche, wouldn’t you say? Worse, they stoop to deliberately inept playing on their cover of the URINALS’ “Hologram”, up to and including missing notes accidentally on purpose. I’ve got no quarrel with trying to recreate the lost-in-time feel of this fantastic song, but pretending you can’t even play the most simple riff on earth gives insult to a band who created this masterpiece with no calculation or ulterior motive in mind. I know this guy Jay is only the drummer in this band, so maybe it’s the other fellas who need a talking-to. Eric, can you please do the dirty work?

Thursday, January 22, 2004
COUNTRY TEASERS / RESINEATORS, Live 1/16/2004….It's a big night and a rare evening when I actually set foot anymore in a rock and roll club for live rock and roll music, and this one last weekend at San Francisco’s Hemlock Tavern was a long time in coming. Man, things have changed in 5 months! Looks like men are starting to grow their hair longer, believe it or not! And you know those sheepskin coats with the fur on the collar? Girls are wearing them now too! Anderson Valley’s Boont Amber beer still tastes good, that sure hasn’t changed one bit. And get this, they stamp you on the left hand now, not the right! Is that crazy or what?

Propriety (and a longtime pal in the band) prevents me from delving too deeply into THE RESINEATORS, but I can assure you of nothing less than full honesty when I report that they flat-out smoked. It was their last show for some time, at least until 2007’s “Steel Wheels” tour (guitarist/co-founder David Nudelman is moving to suburban Hilo, Hawaii). The COUNTRY TEASERS were quite good as well – definitely playing up the much-discussed FALLesque aspects of their sound this evening. Even the slower, weirder songs from their recent CD were sped up and rocked out, so the net effect was far more garage-a-la-Psychic Dancehall skiffle than the loopy accordion and laptop stuff on the (fine) new record. It won’t drive the ladies wild, but it sure sold this place out. Given my advancing age and some pain in my loafers (and the fact that it was 1am – can you believe these kids??), I figured I’d gotten their drift after about 10 numbers and skedaddled, but that speaks ill of me, not the band. There were people still parking and partying and puking all over Polk Street at 1:04am. I miss you brothers and sisters, and hope to get back in the game in coming weeks (are the Cheater Slicks coming?).

Wednesday, January 21, 2004
THE BOTTOM 10, CIRCA 1985-1989....Somehow the band “SUICIDAL TENDENCIES” popped into my head today and it got me reminiscin’ about my 1980s college-era punk rock/garage/rock & roll radio show “White Trash” on KCSB-FM in Santa Barbara, California. Not because I’d ever play such an atrocity, but because several of my listeners repeatedly begged me to. Requests for true quality did come in but were few and far between, yet these mid-80s clunkers were always, always being dialed in. The Top (Bottom) 10, in order:

1. (By a goddamn mile) SUICIDAL TENDENCIES “Institutionalized”
2. DEAD MILKMEN “Bitchen Camero”
3. BLACK FLAG “TV Party”
4. anything by DR. KNOW (consider my then-location and proximity to the “Nardcore” scene)
5. anything by METALLICA, ANTHRAX, C.O.C. or MEGADETH (consider the onetime popularity of what we then called “speed metal”)
6. RKL “Pothead” (consider the marijuana intake of many college students)
7. VANDALS “Anarchy Burger” and “Urban Struggle”
8. anything by THE ADOLESCENTS or D.I. (what is D.I., you ask??? Don’t ask.)
9. AGGRESSION “Money Machine”
10. anything by the DEAD KENNEDYS

Except for “Money Machine”, which is just a numbskull politico-corporate rant and not really a punk novelty, I never assented to any of these requests. Sadly, no one ever requested “Destroy Exxon” by CIRCLE ONE or “Fuck Money” by RF7, but I wish they had….

PSYCHEDELIC MYSTERY....We've got a member of the Agony Shorthand posse who's doing his thesis on psychedelic music (!) and has a real tough quandry to untangle. It's the lyrics to LOVE's "Seven and Seven Is". I don't know if Arthur Lee is in the house, but short of that, can you be the one to help our friend? :

"I'm wondering if anyone knows for sure (or at least has an opinion) on what the correct second line is in the second verse in Love's "Seven and Seven Is." I always heard it as "My bible's in the fireplace and my dog lies hypnotized." Most transcriptions of it on the internet, however, say, "My father's in the fireplace and my dog lies hypnotized." (This is maybe weirder, but maybe relates to the first verse, in which he's singing about when he was a boy and how he'd sit in the bottle and pretend that he was in a can and all of that.) I just can't tell from the record if it's "bible" or "father." Anyone know of any alternate versions or live versions in which it's really clearly one or the other?"

I'm going with "bible". Those freaky hippies really had it in for dad to be sure, but God and Country were top o' the list.

Monday, January 19, 2004

A case could be made – and I’ll make it right here – that this super-rare 1961 45 is one of the Top 5 wildest, loudest and best R&B records of all time. Now mind ya, I’ve never actually seen the record in question, but if you’ve gotten ahold of these two tracks by way of compilations like “WILD AND FRANTIC", “SIN ALLEY VOLUME 3” or Charley Records’ “SHOUT BAMALAMA”, you know that Otis Redding’s first foray into Little Richard-style shouting was as intense and as revelatory as Richard himself – with an even better, way more honking backing band. “Shout Bamalama” was made to sound like it was recorded at a drunken, insane house party, and it rocks so hard that one can imagine heavily splintered floorboards and a lot of 4am cleanup after the last hangover-bound dancers straggled home. There’s all sorts of whooping & shouting at the start, with Redding cutting in sharply to help calm the crazed throng down with a “Hold it, hold it, hold it, hold it now”. The surprise then comes when he unleashes a bracing, rasped shout of his own to kick off the song. Redding is just fantastic on the vocals; you just knew this guy was born to be a star after hearing this performance (even though he toned down his delivery significantly in the coming years). And “Fat Gal” rules as well – greasy uptempo R&B with hardcore horns, plinking piano & rhythm and bump-grindin’ movement to burn. “Shout Bamalama” pops up on all sorts of retrospective Redding compilations, but “Fat Gal” is a real tough nut to track down. I just found “Wild And Frantic” on CD via Norton Records’ mail order catalog and it’s got, no kidding, thirty-five R&B scorchers, most of them pretty hot. That’s 17 more than the original comp LP. If you haven’t heard the PINETOPPERS’ one and only contribution to vinyl, it’s not too late to make it your New Year’s quest to make sure you do. The payoff, as they say, is assured.

(UPDATE: I should have mentioned that there are two different versions of “Shout Bamalama” out there, and I’m not sure which is the original. The one I’m raving about appears on “Sin Alley, Volume 3”, but there’s a more restrained version yet with the same vocal track on the “Shout Bamalama” comp CD. I’m not sure which one is popping up on the Redding anthologies. Anyone know the story behind this?)

Friday, January 16, 2004
STRANGE NOTES, 1/16/2004…..This marks the debut of a new “feature” on Agony Shorthand, the “3 dot” style of journalism so thoroughly discredited by modern times and modern writing styles. I’m happy to bring it back in 2004 for a collection of random music-related thoughts so unimportant and ill-considered that they don’t merit inclusion as posts unto themselves. So here goes!.....Now that I’ve heard some outasite bleats from modern hardcore-bizarro band HENRY FIAT’S OPEN SORE, I can’t help but compare their brand of 40-second mayhem to 1988-89 DWARVES. Don’t know what it’s like live, but if it’s half as crazed as the tracks I’ve heard, we may each need to bear witness. We might have a new punk rock titan in the house…."KING TUBBY ON THE MIX, VOLUME 2” is an out of print LP/CD collection of fantastic dubs & murky original 1970s roots reggae from The Morwells, Junior Byles and others. Not an essential one to track down, but a good one for old school dub completists….Latest FM KNIVES 45 “Keith Levine / Valentine” shows these youngsters to be a one-trick pony: crank up the guitars, add a sing-songy, effeminate high-inflection chorus and watch the audience stream for the exits. I know I hit the snooze button hard….I procured a copy of the off-the-charts rare 1980 all-female UK obscurity LP by the ANDROIDS OF MU, which I took the time to track down via various illicit channels thanks to the recommendation of Shorthand reader RW. Not only was it the first LP from legendary UK micro-indie Fuck Off Records, but even a search of the UK-80s-girl-band-mad web only turns up people looking for copies of “Blood Robots”, in addition to the odd factoid or two…’s OK, maybe a hair above the SLITS in terms of quality, and similar in form in terms of Jamaican influences, spiced up with some synthesizer tomfoolery…it might be a grower, but not just yet….I went back to listen to that “post-punk” stuff we were all bantering about last week, and I have to say that “Panik” by METAL URBAIN is straight-up, wild-eyed razorwire genius, one of the loudest and angriest synth-punk killers you’ll hear anywhere, and easily their best track….That’s it for now, keep your feet on the ground etc.!!!

Thursday, January 15, 2004
VARIOUS ARTISTS : “ONLY IN AMERICA, VOLUME 2” CD….Never saw the first one, but DP was kind (or misanthropic) enough to let me roast up his copy of this second collection of 1960s-70s outsider music, song poems and general delusions of grandeur. I also never took the time to read through the 24-page booklet that came with it, so I’m at a loss to explain just how these “ONLY IN AMERICA” cornballs came into existence. I just know it hurts. Yet I’m willing to give some props to this Arf Arf collection beyond pure novelty/kitsch value; it is important for one to have heard this collection to grasp the degree of delusion that spread across this land during the everyone-can-be-a-recording-star era of the 1960s and me-decade 70s. Bins at thrift stores across the country only tell a part of this sordid tale; this collection reveals a great deal more. And parts of it are indeed quite funny, if you’re into laughing, as I am.

Standouts spread amongst the 29 groaners are the majestic song poem “Emily’s Illness” by NORA GUTHRIE, which I understand got a big write-up in an UGLY THINGS that I’m too lazy to go into the boxes in my garage to research. The song concerns a music-loving young woman and her terminal disease, and her hopes that when she dies, her blood will be let onto a page, whereupon it will magically reassemble into musical notes and instruction. Emily hopes and wishes that a friend will then gather these sheets and play her masterwork “at Carnegie Hall” in her name, something which is obviously easier said than done. But I certainly wouldn’t be the one to tell Emily how implausible this is; would you?

Another knockout is the debacle that is the LUCKY CHARMS’ live-on-local-radio rendition of “Wipeout” – imagine the worst pimple-faced teenage garage band finagling their way onto the radio because one of their dads was the station’s accountant. Now imagine them all playing their instruments lefthanded and blindfolded. It’s that bad. There’s also a great “Little Deuce Coupe” by much-heralded Canadians the LANGLEY SCHOOLS MUSIC PROJECT, and a flat-out intolerable instrumental from the SACRAMENTO CITY COLLEGE STAGE BAND called – wait for it – “LSD ‘67”. And 25 more! This outsider genre is a whole research project unto itself, one that I’m not inclined to get too deeply involved with; generally I prefer to like the music I listen to. But dipping a toe in from time to time can’t hurt, and this is a pretty comprehensive way to do so and get it out of the way for a couple years. (Oh, and if you want a deep look into some truly amazing related record covers, spending a couple of hours on the SHOW AND TELL MUSIC web site is an exceptionally fine use of your valuable time).

VARIOUS ARTISTS : “JUNGLE EXOTICA” CD….Something I took the time to rescue from semi-retirement (i.e. banishment to the overflow CD rack in the garage) was this early 90s collection from “Strip” (i.e. CRYPT) records of 50s and 60s instrumental “exotica”, only a small bit of it with a “jungle” theme. Thinking there might be some good monkey songs to play for my son (and there definitely are, with J.C. DAVIS’ wild-ass “Monkey” leading the pack), I also found the disc to be more straightforward and less wacky than I initially thought. It slots in nicely with your copies of “LAS VEGAS GRIND” and “STRUMMIN’ MENTAL”, with more of the tracks leaning to the latter revved-up reverb-drenched surf- and hot rod instros than the former series of bump-n-grinders. A lot of it is quite kooky, but a cheap used copy ought to look nice sitting in your collection, should you ever come across one.

Wednesday, January 14, 2004

This is the most important and essential representation of1960s psychedelia, if you ask me. Not necessarily a ground-breaking assertion, but I’ll bet there’s more than a few folks out there who could use a walloping masterpiece of ethereal but hard-driving psychedelic garage rock. I only got clued in to this one a decade ago, years after I first became acquainted with “You’re Gonna Miss Me” and the Elevators’ first record (and I still have never heard “Bull Of The Woods” – I’m 13 dollars and 98 cents away from buying it every time I see it at the record store). Where to start? Well, how about the most distinctive if ultimately least important aspect of this giant: Tommy Hall’s amplified jug. Yeah, apparently he blew into this crazy jug that had a microphone taped to it, and it made the signature bizarre ascending and descending popping sound that can be heard on most of this record’s tracks. Rumor has it that the jug was supposedly where Hall’s drugs were stashed as well – drugs being an essential and necessary ingredient in the great psychedelic tradition. I’ve always pictured an on-stage contraption spewing big soapy bubbles in conjunction with this loopy sound, perfect for a late-night LSD mind-blower under the expansive Texas sky.

The leadoff “Slip Inside This House” is one of the all-time great songs in rock’s history, I’m convinced. Driven by a plaintive and desperate Roky Erickson vocal, “Slip” is 7 minutes-plus of pure brilliance. There are no guitar freak-outs, no screaming, no heart-on-paisley-sleeve pathos, just a terrific riff and a lazy reverb-laden echo chamber of a shell that encases all the confusion and conflicting desires of a band inventing their own genre. Other tracks are a bit more bewildering and messy, perhaps accidentally on purpose, while still others (like the killer “Levitation”) are just hard-driving visceral rock tunes. A big winner is the hypnotic and vaguely constructed “Earthquake”, which sounds like the product of a particularly addled studio evening. And yet these are basically straightforward rock and roll songs we’re talking about here – all the experimental weirdness and intense drugginess of “Easter Everywhere” is coiled up and latently hidden just barely out of view, yet it obviously permeates and certainly enhances the record. There’s also sense of sadness spread about the album as well, which I suppose is in keeping with what we know of Erickson’s rather difficult life. Even the Dylan cover “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue” is imbued with a real ghostly sense of loss and grieving. The hallmark of many a classic LP is the ability to stretch across different tempos and means of attack while creating a cohesive feel, and it’s pretty obvious that “Easter Everywhere” succeeds in spades. When it ends, it always seems to end too soon. It’s a true benchmark for all 1960s rock and a defining moment as rock morphed from its pop and blues influences to a much deeper sense of out-there experimentation.

Tuesday, January 13, 2004
BLASTITUDE #16…..The web’s best put-together ‘zine has a new issue “out” (or “up”) – it’s the latest BLASTITUDE, and it looks like it has a lot of noisy dripping meat attached to it this time. I may not share their enthusiasm for free-form freak-out noise, jazz and improv – check that, I definitely do not share their enthusiasm for free-form freak-out noise, jazz and improv – but I respect their approach and their writing chops nonetheless. I think they actually sit down and listen to this stuff, and can successfully discern the nuances that exist between one man’s bleep and another man’s blurp. That alone is worth saluting, as are the top-shelf graphics, print-like layout and overall spirit of full on music exuberance. Check out the hilarity and mistaken Cubs worship by clicking here.

WHITHER WORLD OF POOH?.....For about three years now I've seen references online to an impending reissue of the "compleat" works from late 80s nervous pop/art group WORLD OF POOH. And yet the thing continues to refrain from appearing. I have all their work scattered about their one and only LP "The Land Of Thirst" , a couple of 45s and numerous comp tracks, but it sure would be nice to see it all in the same place, right? If you're a fan of BARBARA MANNING's, and I hope you are, then you'll love this stuff she helped write and perform just before & at the dawn of her solo career. World of Pooh were a huge live favorite of mine in 1989-90 San Francisco, and a reissue CD would be quite a boon to fans of wound-up outsider pop a la 100 FLOWERS, WIRE and MISSION OF BURMA. Rumors have centered around the need for participation and final approval from guitarist and founder Brandan Kearney, who's been captured on record as being somewhat embarrassed by his former group. His modesty is ill-placed, to say the least. Anyone know anything on the status of this reissue?

HE SERVES SOCIETY BY ROCKING…..J. Neo Marvin has another batch of historical live rock photos up from his wild youth, seen here on his website for the first time anywhere. This batch is from 1983-85, and includes peeps of reggae, punk and budding indie heroes like JACKIE MITTOO, THE FALL, MINUTEMEN, REDD KROSS, FRIGHTWIG, SWANS and more. All are taken in or near San Francisco. If you haven’t seen the 1978-1983 stuff (DILS, AVENGERS, CRIME etc.), ya gotta check that out as well.

Friday, January 09, 2004
CHAINS + BLACK EXHAUST....Almost a year ago I was frothing about this incredible (and incredibly obscure-looking/feeling/sounding) 60s-70s funk comp called "CHAINS + BLACK EXHAUST", put out by a mysterious group called "Memphix". WFMU mainmain Brian Turner turned me onto it, and a good many others as well. Now CS passes along the news -- and this link which explains all -- that this "end of the world armageddon funk album" is going to see a massive reissue, perhaps as early as this month. Keep an eye peeled and plunk down the cash at a moment's notice -- this collection is easily worth all the hype.

Thursday, January 08, 2004
THE ULTIMATE POST-PUNK C90, MY TAKE….So this is my haughty and needless response to Jon Savage’s definitive 1976-81 overview tape of “post punk” (loosely defined) in the latest MOJO. I have to say that my tape is so good that I’m going to roast it up for my own listening pleasure. I mean, just look at it! These are what I definitely choose as of January 8th, 2004 as the strongest and most representative tracks of the era and the genre. No doubt I’ll have a revised list tomorrow if I choose to think about it. Savage was close enough to the mark that, upon further review, I have to give him kudos for his choices, at least two of which I’m swiping from him. I also think that, per Tim Ellison, “post punk” is meaningful only in the sense of being a catch-all term – i.e. those bands and artists who built upon 1977 punk with new instrumentation, song structure and a more “artful” approach while retaining the aggression or the experimentation inherent in the medium. I’m comfortable with it, even if others aren’t. So here’s what I came up with:

1. PERE UBU – Street Waves
2. DESPERATE BICYCLES – The Medium Was Tedium
4. THE NORMAL – Warm Leatherette
5. GANG OF FOUR – What We All Want
6. MARS – Helen Forsdale
8. TWINKEYZ – Aliens In Our Midst
9. JOY DIVISION – No Love Lost
10. SWELL MAPS – Vertical Slum
12. THE FALL – Prole Art Threat
13. GORDONS – Future Shock
14. URINALS – Black Hole
15. DOW JONES & THE INDUSTRIALS – Ladies With Appliances
16. DELTA 5 – You
18. METAL URBAIN – Panik
19. ANIMALS & MEN – Don’t Misbehave In the New Age
20. MISSION OF BURMA – Max Ernst
21. SEEMS TWICE – Salient Feature
22. TWO BY FOURS – Little Cities
23. THE BIRTHDAY PARTY – The Friend Catcher
24. FLIPPER – Sex Bomb
26. NEW ORDER – Everything’s Gone Green

Yeah, like Savage, I agree that despite its 1976 release date and the fact that I’m perhaps more partial to PERE UBU’s “Heart of Darkness” or “Non-Alignment Pact”, “Street Waves” is a perfect track to kick this thing off. Sweeping, operatic and hard-driving art punk of the very finest vintage. I really can’t argue. Likewise, Savage was right on w/ THROBBING GRISTLE’s “United”; it just narrows out “Hot On The Heels Of Love” as their best. But he really gave Australia and New Zealand short shrift, a demerit that I’m righting with the inclusion of world-beating tracks from BILL DIREEN, THE BIRTHDAY PARTY, SEEMS TWICE and THE GORDONS. And my nod to the “new wave” comes at the very end, with the all-time greatest electro-disco number “Everything’s Gone Green” from budding pop stars NEW ORDER. I’ll tell ya, I reckoned this sort of list-making navel-gazing was useless until the digital age – now I can (and will) have this comp up & rocking in minutes.

Wednesday, January 07, 2004

Definitely a group determined to divide and conquer, the COUNTRY TEASERS have long put off a love-us-or-hate-us-we-don’t-care vibe that has kept them on the margins of critical inquiry for some time now. Once a cross between 60s garage and “Fiery Jack”-era FALL skiffle rock – with a heap of “controversial” un-PC lyrics designed to get a rise out of the thin-skinned – they’re now venturing off into some sampling and laptop beat work, while still retaining most of the chug and grind of their earlier rock-based work. Maybe not a recipe for audience expansion – and if/when you hear this record, you’ll get a sense of what I mean -- but I’ll tell you what: I think they’re pretty right-on. I like them better now then when they were Crypt’s standout break-the-mold non-bonzai garage band (circa “Satan Is Real Again”).

The opening “Success” is a real FALL “Prole Art Threat”-style pounder, chugging and churning with agitated abandon and a real Pink Press Threat feel. It’s the safest piece on here and coincidentally or not, my favorite. I also dig the sparse, live-to-tape “Deaths”, which has some bizarre lyrics about morbidity and loss. I mean, this B.R. Wallers aka “The Rebel” fella is obviously a smart guy, so why does he continue, a decade-plus after he started this racket, to kowtow to the infantile and the hard up? A typical example here is a lyric like, “It’s very cold outside / But you have a warm vagina / May I overnight / With my penis warm inside ya”. Nyuk nyuk. Further examples abound, and have throughout the band’s career. It seems like it’d be the easiest baggage to lose and yet it seems to give Wallers a perverse thrill, like he just might piss off the Take Back The Night crowd and somehow that would make his deliberately purple prose all worth it. In any event, the Country Teasers continue to impress in the whole, given the fact that the band is piece-parted all over the globe and yet still retain a creative and original fuck-you vision. Their placement on the now-evolving In The Red roster actually makes some sense. I’m scheduled to watch them perform live in the coming weeks, and if the planets align properly, I might actually make it to the show and will deliver a full scene report thusly.

Tuesday, January 06, 2004
A-FRAMES : “CRUTCHES / MEMBRANE / WEISSENSEE” 7”EP….A smoking and very highly recommended way to introduce yourself to Seattle’s teutonic punk kings the A-FRAMES, if you haven’t of course done so already vis-à-vis their two robot-core CDs (“A-Frames” and “A-Frames 2”). This EP might be a little harder to come by, given its release on the French label Royal, but it’s absolutely worth scouring the stacks for. The tracks sound like they may have been recorded live on the radio, given the polite smattering of applause that follows one of the tracks, and an overall you-are-there, no overdub feel to the thing. “Crutches” will be kicking off many a mix CD-R in the months to come – a slashing, crunchtastic riff that just flat-out rules, with stronger, less machine-like vocals that better represent what the singer must actually sound like in real life than his often affected drone-talk. It’s even got something approaching a “harmony” in the form of backing vocals (whatever happened to the girl vocalist they used on the first CD?). And “Weissensee” is a NEU cover, all 7+ minutes of it – lots of feedback, metal-like slow riffage and general clanging. The EP’s packaged in the Dangerhouse style, and in case I haven’t said it before, is fantastic. The A-Frames are starting to really transcend their post-punk obsessed brethren and are creating something that may very well stand on its own in a dozen or two years. Email Royal at and tell ‘em the Shorthand sent ya.

THE REBEL : “BUMS ON A ROCK” 7”EP….This solo turn by the main (founder/vocalist/songwriter “The Rebel”) dude from the Scotland-originated COUNTRY TEASERS gives off the faint whiff of appeal, but ultimately tumbles into the play-it-once-and-sell-it pile. The title track is playful and loping C60-ish rock, with a few weird samples tacked on throughout, and almost succeeds thanks to the lyric “…went to San Francisco and had my first burrito…”. You and me both, chief. There’s no burrito like an SF burrito. Next time you’re around these parts, check out Papalote on 24th & Valencia – it’s now displaced El Toro and even Tacqueria Cancun as my top cylindrical fix in town. Right, so the rest of the 7”EP is electronica sputtering, backward laptop loops, mutant country & western destroyed by too much Casio plinking and an ending “Brite Yn’s Cnut” – 4 big minutes of uninspiring loops and beats. Since it’s your money, and I’m hear to help you decide whether or not to part with it, I’ll say save the $4 for a Papalote Super Pollo on your 2004 San Francisco holiday.

Sunday, January 04, 2004
THE ULTIMATE POST-PUNK C90?….Longtime scribe Jon Savage takes a stab at a definitive overview tape that he’d compile of late 70s/early 80s post-punk as part of the latest MOJO’s (January 2004) “post punk issue”. This issue’s got a good piece on the (overrated) PiL; a thing on No Wave, and an interesting (and revealing) sidebar on the connections between disco (think Donna Summer's “I Feel Love”) and punk-influenced electro experimenters (think THE NORMAL, THROBBING GRISTLE and CABARET VOLTAIRE). Anyway, I think Savage’s “tape” (tape?) is a good one; of course I’ve got some quibbles with his choices, like the aforementioned overrated PiL, overrated SLEEPERS (who I really want to like – why is their stuff so bland to me?), POP GROUP, SUICIDE and a couple others. And ORANGE JUICE?!? The Scottish twee-pop band? But most of these are can’t-miss knockouts, and I applaud him for starting a totally pointless debate that is nonetheless essential that we all engage in, posthaste. Here’s his “tape”:

1. PERE UBU – Street Waves
2. SCREAMERS – Peer Pressure
3. DEVO – Sloppy (Live)
4. CHROME – Chromosome Damage
5. SUICIDE – Ghost Rider
8. ENO & SNATCH – R.A.F.
10. GANG OF FOUR – Love Like Anthrax
11. SUBWAY SECT – Chain Smoking
13. METAL URBAIN – Hysterie Connective
14. SLEEPERS – Flying
15. URINALS – I’m a Bug
16. PREFECTS – Faults
17. MARS – 3E
18. THE POP GROUP – 3’38”
19. A CERTAIN RATIO – All Night Party
20. WIRE – A Question of Degree
22. HUMAN LEAGUE – Dignity of Labour Pt. 3
23. CABARET VOLTAIRE – Partially Submerged
24. JOY DIVISION – These Days
25. FLYING LIZARDS – Hands 2 Take
26. PUBLIC IMAGE LIMITED – Home Is Where The Heart Is
27. ORANGE JUICE – Poor Old Soul Pt.2

So now the clarion call to action will be issued: What Would YOU choose??? I’d love to hear your selections, keeping it in the 1976-1981 timeframe and the overall influenced-but-not-hamstrung by punk capsule. (Yeah, I recognize that tagging Ubu’s brilliant 1976 “Street Waves” as “post punk” is pretty odd, but musically it works for me, so go ahead and take your own liberties). I’ll think about mine and post them this week or next.

Friday, January 02, 2004

This bootleg is easily the most confounding -- and let's just be frank here: least listenable -- VELVET UNDERGROUND rarity of the dozen or so bootlegs I've encountered during my research on the matter. My question is: save for the great pulsating, slow-vibe, low-fidelity version of "Oh, Sweet Nuthin" that keeps this boggling release from being a mere coaster, is there really any true Velvet Underground material on here?? Web crawls turn up very little save for the photo reproduced above and an explanatory note from this site:

"...listed here as Screentest 1965 but actually contains MGM Music Factory 1968 interview, Oh Sweet Nuthin' live from Philadelphia 1970, some great energetic live soundcheck instrumental that sounds like a speeded up Sister Ray mutation from Woodrose Ballroom, Springfield, 17/4/70, snippets from Warhol movies..."

Make that a LOT of snippets from Warhol movies -- that much I was able to gather. We're talking 18-minute snippets at a time, actually recorded with a handheld tape player from the seats at what I'm sure was a wank-covered 42nd Street NYC movie house circa 1966. Then a brief musical interlude might pop in -- someone tuning up, say, or a 2-minute squawk of the band practicing -- and then maybe a snippet of an interview with John Cale. The weird thing is I thought I'd once read that this was one of THE bootlegs to track down for Velvets freaks. I'm sticking with the fantastic "Ultra Rare Trax" series or the revelatory "Sweet Sister Ray" 2xCD for now.