Agony Shorthand

Thursday, August 31, 2006
DOCUMENTARY TRAILERS FOR 80'S UNDERGROUND MUSIC JERKS.....both coming to theaters in the next couple of months:

"Not A Photograph: The Mission of Burma Story"


"American Hardcore"


One of the many Rapidshare sites devoted to sharing vinyl-only obscurities posted this one up early in the summer, and it’s my pick for dub discovery of the year. THE REVOLUTIONARIES, in case ya didn’t know, were the premier backing back at the Channel One studio during the 1970s, the heyday of reggae and dub. Some fellas from this band even you punk rockers may be familiar with are Sly Dunbar (drums), Robbie Shakespeare (bass & rhythm guitar), Tommy McCook (tenor sax), Ansel Collins (keyboards) and a passel of other righteous herb smokers. The 1978 LP “Reaction in Dub” is what my pal Mark might subtly call “tear your face off dub”, in that it is really, really low and deep. Time slows to a total crawl in its presence, as echoes shoot off every surface and elliptical horn travels jarringly through the ear canal. Vocals, when they are present, cut off mid sentence and everything drops out for minutes at a time, with only the bass present. Who were the mixmasters present at the creation, you ask? Why, none other than Channel One head honchos the Hoo Kim brothers and no one but. No Tubby, no Scratch Perry, no Scientist – none of the guys everyone gets all hopped up about, and yet this single 8-song effort is as fine a head-shifter as any of theirs. One REVOLUTIONARIES record/CD I’ve never checked out but heard fine things about is “Earthquake Dub”, also from ’78. Anyone know the good word on that one?

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

It's a sure pleasure to hear such a fine piece of work from DON HOWLAND, a perennial favorite around here. Until I started researching it, I thought this was his brand-new record, but it looks like it came out in 2002 and our office staff failed to alert me. Well - if ya missed it......this easily the best record of Don's since 1998's "When My Blue Moon Turns Red Again" from the BASSHOLES, 45s or otherwise, and it refreshingly answers a couple of questions I was having about the man during my many meditation sessions. First, I was thinking that Howland's voice had maybe irreperably moved up a couple of octaves into this Chipmunk-ish sort of whine, and that was kind of the way he was going to sing from now on. Not true. I just think he does that to piss me off. Secondly, and similarly, a few of those Bassholes records were entering the realm of don't-give-a-shit experimentalisms, tape cut-ups & other random pissings in the wind, and while "The Land Beyond The Mountains" ain't exactly "Rocket To Russia", it's creatively bent into so many great parts it makes a terrificly wacked whole.

Howland plays the frustrated, horndog middle-age guy better than anyone, and says in his songs what you're (and I'm) often thinking. "Desdemona", a song about the married-man burden of shame & lust that is ever-present in the presence of good-looking women (the ones who aren't your wife), has one of my new favorite couplets ever: "She's got pigtails like Pippi Longstocking / Nose ring, to show she's rocking" . The CD's got the feel of a bored, pissed-off LEE HAZLEWOOD, one who's not looking to be particularly funny & clever, and who would probably shy away and hide if enough folks (say, a few dozen) got rabidly interested in his music. Strange tunings, lonesome guitar, eerie voices and all that - but to say there's zero connection to the drunken, amped-up, leg-humping blues of Don's 80s/early 90s band THE GIBSON BROS would be untrue. It's there; it'll always be there. I was quite honestly surprised at how many times I've been wanting to play this record - back-to-back-to-back when I can - and I hope the man can & will continue in this distant & detuned vein as the 21st century unfolds.

Monday, August 28, 2006

I did my “undergrad work” at a beachfront college in Santa Barbara, CA, and one of the perks of being located where we were was that it was the perfect place for a touring band with a day off between San Francisco and Los Angeles to park themselves for a night. As it so happened, I had the 8-10pm DJ shift on KCSB-FM on Wednesday nights, and we had an aggressive music director (Eric Stone, now residing in where-are-they-now files) who was a total success at grabbing these bands from the road & plopping them down for a live in-studio set on my show. One such show was released on vinyl & CD as “Radio Cowgirl” by the LAZY COWGIRLS – though this session actually interrupted someone else’s show, not mine. Stone came to me one day in May 1988 & told me that WHITE ZOMBIE were going to come to the station to play on my show, and at the time, that was kind of a coup. White Zombie were cresting the wave of lots of noise/grunge-era hype emanating from their new low-print-run record “Soul Crusher” and their previous mini-LP “Psycho-Head Blowout”, which was already out of print & a collector’s item a year after it came out. Their sound at the time was a brutal, dissonant clatterfest that was somewhere between out-and-out rocking and completely unlistenable nonsense.

Once they arrived at the station, it was obvious that a publicist had put them up to this, because the NY ‘tude they were throwing off was off the charts. The tigress of a bass player “Sean” was pretty friendly, the drummer & longhaired guitarist were completely unmemorable, and “Rob Zombie” – wow. After one song, he sighed and muttered into the mic, “Hoooomph. Why are we here?”, and wouldn’t look anyone in the eye the whole time. And on a nice May evening in Santa Barbara, he was wearing a trench coat and compleat grunge garb. Full-on junkie behavior, but I'm sure that wasn't it. I saw him holding a flyer from the band’s show in Seattle a couple days earlier & saw that the brand-new Mark Arm/Steve Turner band MUDHONEY had opened for them; I asked him how they were & he spat back with condescension “Hooomph. Good – if you like Green River”. You ever met a musician like this before? A full-blown rock star in their own mind? Ironically this guy did in fact became a rock star only a few years later, and I never in a million years would have imagined it at the time given White Zombie’s unrelenting, caterwauling, noise-laden sound. I guess they timed their ascent in tandem with that of “nu-metal”. and went through some serious sell-out sound changes & milked it to the top, but I’ve honestly barely heard that stuff outside of the ubiquitous “More Human Than Human”.

On my radio show in '88, however, and please believe me when I say this – they were fantastic. I have a tape somewhere, and I remember that they were absolutely massive toward the end, when they played a wild original that was louder than loud – like the first-LP DIE KREUZEN (here I go again) playing BLUE CHEER backwards, sideways and in Esperanto. Then they followed it up with a cover of KISS’s “Rocket Ride” – and although Kiss might just be the lamest band of all time, it was fantastic. So pumped up from this experience, I took the bass player’s advice and went to their show in Los Angeles that weekend. It was at a floating, no-fixed-address club called “Alcohol Salad”, and this time it was located downtown, in the heart of skid row. Those of you that know LA know that in the 1980s, downtown was not just a terrifying place, it was simply not an area where nightlife ever happened. Anyway, we made it from the car to the club & back alive, and good thing too as White Zombie were (again) on fire. At the time I called it “one of the best shows I’ve ever seen”, which sounds ridiculous now, but I’m telling you, there was so much raw energy & crazed balls-out guitar fireworks going on, I instantly anointed the previously ignored guitarist Tom Guay my new rock hero. Rob Zombie did a couple of complete back flips in the course of the evening’s entertainment, the crowd went wild, and it was really some kind of happening. For one night, we were all New Yorkers. I don’t know what got me thinking about this band today, but I figured maybe you too might have your own White Zombie tales to tell, good or ill.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Best wall-of-sound hook monster 45 I've heard since the first one from the FM KNIVES - power pop/punk is usually near the nadir of my listening priorities, but I've heard a few stone knockouts from Oakland's CLOROX GIRLS before, so I gave this one a whirl. I'm real glad I did. "Novacaine" has huge, cavernous hooks, harmonies, and a gi-normous burst of raw, explosive guitar. Terrific vocals, as well - if they're not humming this one down at Sam's Hof Brau 24/7 then I'm totally stumped. They're probably also pogoing to the blink-&-you-missed German-language blazer "Nicht Meine Stadt", and the closing "Trashy Daydream" is ultra-fine EYES/ZEROS-ish hard melodic punk as well. Nice work. I hear that it's just bang-bang-bang with these guys live as well, so maybe I ought to find an excuse to drive 20 minutes and check them out. This 45 is probably the ammo I need. You can get yours here!

Wednesday, August 23, 2006
FORCED EXPOSURE #7/8, SUMMER 1985.......

Continuing on with our waltz through the history of FORCED EXPOSURE magazine (see previous installments here and here), we come to a very important "double" issue from 1985, in which virtually all hardcore punk pretentions were shed, and the magazine dove in deep into the US noise underground. Byron Coley, before only a sometime contributor, was bumped up to "Jazz Editor", and in effect became part of the 2-man team with Jimmy Johnson that made Forced Exposure the 1980s force it was. It starts with an abysmal Lydia Lunch rant on the title page, such an over-the-top Kill!/Maim!/Destroy! fake-o nihilistic treatise I wouldn't have been surprised if she penned it in the margins of her Pee-Chee or Trapper Keeper.

Unfortunately the FE guys fell for this woman hard, but her talents were marginal at best, and she was treated like a deadly serious playwrite/author/spokesmodel for the sub-underground scene in the pages of FE. Her (and Michael Gira's) stories and plays in this issue are just beyond-belief awful. 21 years later, I can count the # of people I know who care about Lydia Lunch and her non-Teenage Jesus output on, hmm, let's see - no hands! That was this magazine's flaw during this period - supposing that "rock and roll people" were uniquely qualified to pen sort stories and write one-act plays, rather than simply be interviewed about the one thing they might have done well, which was rock. Particularly the more "confrontational" stuff from Gira and Lunch - did a mainstream or even a daring alternative indie press give any of this stuff the time of day outside of FE? No, because it was puerile and scatological and weak. This issue goes down hard on the SONIC YOUTH/SWANS/LYDIA axis, and that's cool, musically speaking. There really was no one else writing well about that vibrant & interesting slice of American noise in '85 (Conflict excepted, as always), and FE did it in a way that made one very excited to check it out & go record hunting immediately if not sooner.

This issue has a great interview and "fight" between Coley and NICK CAVE; big SONIC YOUTH interview; two CHRIS D.-penned stories (yay!); Steve Albini on some kiddie porn mag called "Pure" (a semi-legendary piece that he was taunted about for years afterward), as well as a thing he wrote on his own band, BIG BLACK; 2 Tesco Vee stories (whatever); SCIENTISTS interview; SAMHAIN interview (probably the only tangible connection to "hardcore" by this point) and an old resurrected interview with the VELVET UNDERGROUND. Byron Coley's hand is all over this issue, and his writing is peppered with the all the Meltzer-ish shortcuts he became famous for, like t' ("I have t' say") & r' & o' ("better n' a bucket o' blood") & d' (I forget). In a review of a Richard Meltzer book, Coley actually calls him "God", which is more than modest since I think Coley's subsequent music writing cleans Meltzer's clock.

Issue #7/8 is really where these guys started to pursue half-fake vendettas against other record collectors (see homo-baiting "Collector Scum Profile" on someone named Dylan Cole) and particuarly annoying scene members & hangers-on. When I was 19 I thought this shit was hilarious and exhilarating to read; it still sort of is now, but only in the sense that these magazines have become a part of my DNA, I've read them so many times. There's no doubt this issue is a classic, but it's still a ways away from "growing up" if you know what I mean. More in coming weeks.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006
THE FALL : "SLATES" 10"EP.....

While "This Nation's Saving Grace" was the FALL LP that got me going on the band upon its release in 1985, the "Slates" EP from four years earlier was the one that hooked me in for life. I heard "Prole Art Threat" on college radio and it's one of the rare times I've been so excited I had to call the DJ to ask who it was even before the song finished ("Agitated" by the ELECTRIC EELS a couple years later was another). Though in this case there never was any doubt who it was; it was "What record is this one on, and where can I find it?". There was a period from about 1987 to 1992 where every trip to the record store started in the "F" section to try & track down the complete Fall discography; my holy grail, my mission in life, was to own "Room To Live" , and I never found it on LP before it came out on CD in the mid-90s. "Slates", though, I snagged pretty early. When I go on my periodic FALL benders every couple of years (I'm in one now), this 6-song EP always seems to come up aces as one of my two favorite things they've done, right after what I still believe is their masterpiece, 1982's "Hex Enduction Hour".

Right smack in their master period that's bookended by "Grotesque" a year earlier and "Perverted By Language" two years later is this 1981 EP, which starts off with a shambling, stunning track called "Middle Mass". I think of this quixotic but hard-driving track as being equal parts MAGIC BAND and somebody's demented version of Krautrock, but thinking about it a little less reflexively, it's as if a whole new idiom for rock and roll was being created on the spot. When people talk about "Messthetics"-style UK homeschooled basement rock, this is what they're talking about, and The Fall are so obviously the lords of that sound that everything else (Scritti Politti, Young Marble Giants, Desperate Bicycles - great as they all were) seems small beside them. Maybe your signature moment on this record is instead "An Older Lover Etc." or "Slates, Slags etc." or "Leave The Capitol" - a case could certainly be made, as they're all classics, but nothing to my ears can touch the berzerk "Prole Art Threat", a barreling grindhouse of squealing guitars, spazzy, militaristic percussion, mind-expanding repetition, and the patented non-sequiter-laden Northern British "rap" of everyone's working class hero, Mark E. Smith. When my current Fall bender ends, I'm sure this one will stay where it's always been - on the "easy to reach" shelf in case I need to be reminded why they were the greatest band of the 1980s.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Having been newly hipped to the bizarro French garage/art absurd rock scene defined by hot acts like CHEVEU, FRUSTRATION, VOLT and CRASH NORMAL, I’ve been willing to take a flyer for the young pups just coming out of this circle like CRACK UND ULTRA ECZEMA, whose jarring art-agit caterwaul “Testicle” on the “Tete De Bebe” comp is one of the best things we’ve heard in 2006 to date. The new CD is regrettably only about half that good, but that still ain’t bad. It’s tough to get a definite bead on where they’re coming from on this one, but for the most part it’s twisted, offbeat post-punk with a weirdo female singer & some great shearing, echo-laden guitar. On tracks like “May They Want You” it sounds like something that would be at home on a 21st-Century In The Red release, akin to sorta left-of-center acts like the Clone Defects or The Intelligence. Over an entire disc there’s some rough parts, some boring parts and some parts that explode like cats on a hot plate. Their “Mambo Mozarella”, a raucous take on a song only known to me previously from the “Big Night” soundtrack, is a total gas, and there’s even a creepy, noise-laden hidden track a few minutes later to end the CD. I just wish it was all like that, but what are the chances, right?

Friday, August 11, 2006

A couple of years ago I made a list, as I so often do, of the hallmarks of early 80s American hardcore punk rock. #1 with a bullet was the debut LP from Milwaukee’s DIE KREUZEN. I said something along the lines of:

Simply put, this is just the fiercest, most punishing record I’ve ever heard. If that sort of bluntness piques your interest, then the debut LP from Milwaukee’s finest is made for you. It makes God weep, Motorhead tremble and Danzig look like a mincing little pansy. In other words, it’s ballistic blast after blast of savage screams and guitars pushed into the bleed zone, and it transcends superficial ear-shredding with massive riffs and chops that move by at lightning speed. When it came out people were dumbfounded. Tim Y at otherwise poor tastemakers Maximum Rock and Roll wrote a review that was the words "This is fucking great! This is fucking great!” repeated over and over. It’s just that kind of record, barely connected to the art-metal they pursued just one album later.

I stand by that description and then some, with the exception of "barely connected to the art-metal they pursued just one album later", as that's almost certainly exaggerating to make a point. "Die Kreuzen", the album, is unlike any other HC record ever. It scrapes the edges of light-blur metal and jagged, weirdo post-punk night sounds to come up with a wholly singular & incredible record. You know, it actually came about a little late in the hardcore lifecycle - 1984 to be exact -- and I've never felt it's received its due for being as shredding as it is.

Consider the vocals. Dan Kubinski’s raw, throaty near-falsetto was multitracked and amplified such that he sounds like a screaming, lunatic creature of some kind, totally in keeping with the LP’s bizarro futuristic cover art. You might call it "heavy metal singing", but that's wildly off the mark to my ears. Guitars straddle the border between sci-fi art sounds and straight-up ripping hardcore, and that’s something they carried through to the next album ("October File") as well, albeit with a totally different production style. I reckon that for many a hardcore punk partisan, that strangeness might have been a bit too much to take. Most importantly, if you can handle how jarring this entire record is, you will find that is absolutely impossible to play it at anything but maximum volume. Thus it’s perfect for a window-rattling solo car ride or for an evening when everyone else is out of the house & you need to let out some of your pent-up shit. I call it a masterpiece, and one of my Top 20 favorite records ever.

PS - I suppose it would help to mention that you can find this album on Touch & Go's CD of "October File". It is illogically sequenced after their 2nd album, and starts in around Track #15.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

It’s hard for me to get too worked up about live albums in any way, shape or form, and I guess that makes me an outlier vs. most folks. But I can get pretty excited about this one. MISS ALEX WHITE is one of my moderne faves, and a couple years ago (1/22/04 at the Double Door in her hometown of Chicago) she teamed up with a guy named Chris Playboy (on drums to her guitar, I presume, since I hear no bass guitar) to kick out the lowdown, fuzzed-out pop-garage jams. Unfortunately, he wasn’t around much longer to hear the fruits of their union, as he was regrettably killed by a hit-and-run driver later that year. His bashing is straight-up and in perfect time to Alex White’s warm, ringing guitar, and on tracks like “Makeout/Breakout” they’re just aces. Cues are taken from late 70s/early 80s UK post-punk at times, but I swear if you told me this was from a 1979 Masque reunion of some kind (with a hearty dose of fuzzbox) I wouldn’t bat an eyelash, because everything Alex touches has this glittery Los Angeles punk moondust sprinkled on it, which probably has a lot to do with why I dig it so much. There’s also a SCIENTISTS fan or two in this duo. There’s nothing I can say to unrecommend this to you other than it’s live and not studio, and since it’s so well-recorded and so goddamn good we can call that a wash as well. Get it!

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

I think a year from now we’re all going to be very tired of any discussions centering around “modern psychedelia”, but until then, WOODEN SHJIPS are the band to beat in that arena. For the second time in six weeks they’ve unloaded a single of raw and frantic psych rumble, this time 50% instrumental & packing a lethal dose of earbleed to boot. The vocal-free “Dance, California” is supposed to be the “radio edit” version, and since it abruptly cuts off at the end, I’ll concede them the point. Like their first record’s “Shrinking Moon For You”, it’s something that could go on for aeons and you’d be so locked in to the deadly vibes you’d have to shaken awake to notice. “Clouds Over Earthquake” reminds me of the old SACRED MIRACLE CAVE 45 from the late 80s, with even more trippiness and a wacked hollowed-out vacuum sound kicking out a harmful buzz underneath the feedback and slow whine. More “Zabriskie Point” than the A-side’s “Satan’s Sadists”, if you know what I mean. The singer, I should say speaker, sounds like a hippie oracle that you’d likely follow into drugged battle, or at least straight into Synanon or the Process Church. And I hate hippies! Just who are these Wooden Shjips, and when are they going to reveal their faces, their live show, and their plan for us?

Monday, August 07, 2006

A couple of weeks back we foretold of a series I've been wanting to write for quite some time, a tribute/analysis/retrospective/deconstruction of sorts on what's probably my all-time favorite music magazine, FORCED EXPOSURE. Sure, if you "came of age" in the 1980s and have the sort of general music taste that would lead you to stop on this here web site, calling this mag your "favorite" is nearly self-evident. It was everybody's favorite at the time. My plan is to take each issue in order, rather than write a single lengthy tome about this magazine - because the Forced Exposure of 1983, which is where we'll start this series, was worlds apart from the musical universe of #18 ten years after. Even breaking these apart issue by issue, I'll probably only skim the surface as to how singularly definitional and yet representative this magazine was to its era in American sub-underground rock, the musical era more commonly known as that represented by the book "Our Band Could Be Your Life" Like I said a couple of weeks ago, I hope to put a finger on why this magazine was so special at the time, while leaving it open to any critical slings & arrows I can muster up as I flip through its pages for the umpteenth time. Let's begin, shall we?

The reason we're starting on #6 from 1983 is simple: I don't own the other ones. I've seen them, leafed through them, but one thing to remember is where this magazine came from two years earlier. Forced Exposure started off in the bedroom of a teenage hardcore punk fanatic named Jimmy Johnson, who as I understand is lived in the Boston suburbs and was particularly gassed about SS DECONTROL. Well, growing up in Boston circa 1981-82, you were pretty much smack in the center of one of the three centers of American Hardcore, with Detroit/Northern Ohio and Washington DC being the others. Johnson flew solo, more or less, those first few issues - at least that's my recollection when I read them years ago (I believe he had some interview help from "Katie the Cleaning Lady"). When I look at what was covered in the "back issues for sale" section of #6, it's pretty much what you'd expect: Gang Green, F.U.'s, Necros, Misfits, DYS, Effigies, etc. Even still, his taste in hardcore was impeccable, at a time when only Touch & Go fanzine had the same level of quality control.

#6 is where the levee broke. For the first time, bands not on the breakneck hardcore touring circuit or not even remotely connected to hardcore were being spotlighted, praised, and interviewed in a somewhat juvenile (understandably so) but incredibly informed way. Bands such as the DREAM SYNDICATE, the BIRTHDAY PARTY and even VENOM (!). I may be 100% wrong on this, so correct me if so, but I'm pretty sure this is the first time Byron Coley bared his pen in Forced Exposure's pages, after being a resident scribe at the New York Rocker and the excellent Take It! fanzine. He interviews Los Angeles' weird fake-Christian punk band RF7 and scribes a few reviews, in the apostrophe-laden and made-up word style (spuzz, spoo, zug) that was hilarious, exciting & yes, a bit annoying at times. Most of Johnson's stuff sticks to the 'core or the nearly-'core, but he also dips a toe into some raving reviews of goth heavyweights of the time like the MARCH VIOLETS and SOUTHERN DEATH CULT (much like Touch & Go used to go ape over the Virgin Prunes). Another Boston teen, Gerard Cosloy, was a fanzine up-n-comer at the time, and he submits the Dream Syndicate interview, and it's a good one, very "in the moment" when that moment was just after their incredible debut LP "The Days of Wine and Roses".

Like any fanzine from this time, it's a blast to look back & see the brand-new punk & post-punk records that people would gladly trade a kidney for in 2006 going for $3-$6 in advertisements. An additional treat is how out-of-step Forced Exposure was with the Maximum Rock-n-Roll hardcore punk orthodoxy of the time, which was uber-"politically correct" before any of us had ever heard the term. Exhibit A is an interview in #6 with the NIG HEIST, easily the most un-PC band of the day (GG Allin and the F.U.'s notwithstanding), and Exhibit B is a screed against the "Rock Against Reagan" collective championed by lefty punk bands MDC and the Dead Kennedys, which makes the case that the whole thing was a charade designed to buy a particular hippie named Dana Beale some more dope. Coming from the west coast, the first time I saw a punk rag that dared to question the Orwellian judgment of MRR was pretty refreshing (Flipside, the other popular west coast punk mag, was completely and totally apolitical).

That's probably as good a place as any to stop on #6. Next time we will look into double-issue #7/#8, which is where virtually all hardcore pretentions were shed (which was wise, because American Hardcore was d-e-a-d as a doornail by 1984) & the magazine began building toward its peak. Oh- and #6 doesn't appear to be available anywhere online, but every other issue from then on is still for sale at Forced Exposure central.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Oh you just go ahead and laugh, you. But I’ll still make the case that this era (1980-81) of SIOUXSIE AND THE BANSHEES are severely underrated among the post-punk cognoscenti, particularly this record and “Juju”, both of which recently came out in deluxe, remastered CD editions brimming with extra tracks. In the early 80s, when I was a tot, the Banshees were one of my favorite bands, but I totally forsook them once I reached college & never looked back until just these past couple of years. There were certainly good reasons for that – first of all, when I finally saw them live in 1985, they were godawful. This was around the time they were trying to “break” America, and their big alterna-hit was called “Cities In Dust”, a disco song that has none of “Kaleidoscope”’s dense, watery guitar, weird time sequences nor generally bleak sound. Siouxsie herself gave one of the worst I-wish-I-was-anywhere-but-here stage performances I’ve ever seen, and by that time I’d lost any enthusiasm I’d had for the band anyway. Too bad, too, because in my youth their B-sides and album tracks were all over my favorite college radio station, and one standout track in particular, “Trophy”, hooked me onto them big time. My high school friend Brian and I started religiously buying bootlegs around that time, usually CRAMPS and Siouxsie stuff. (Actually we had a pretty good deal from my perspective – he’d actually pay for the pricey bootlegs themselves, and then make me tapes of them). Why was it that two dudes were into Siouxsie together?? Lame. Where were all the white-skinned, black-stockinged goth hotties looking to party with us? Not at our school, unfortunately. Brian later moved to New Orleans, and just recently reported that he lost pretty much all his vinyl – including all those accumulated bootlegs – in Hurricane Katrina flooding. The horror! I mean losing your life is one thing, but losing all your records???

Back to “Kaleidoscope”. If you’re skeptical, and I’ll bet you are, find a way to download the track “Trophy”. If you’re surprised at how well this stacks up against your 1980-82 UK post-punk favorites, well, join the club – my recent listens through this remastered CD are doing the same for me. This record’s by no means perfect and suffers at times from slides into weak-kneed, dirgy “new wave” territory (“Lunar Camel”, “Desert Kisses”), but it’s more right than wrong by a mile. Not just “Trophy”, but how about the dark, melodic UK Top 40 hit “Happy House”? It certainly speaks to a different age when a glassy-eyed strange pop song like this (with odd-time drum signatures) makes the charts, and it’s a terrific song to boot. “Christine”, the album’s other hit, is definitely the most mersh thing on here, but I’ve found it hard to dismiss this great song for 25 years – I’m not about to start now. The other big winner is the minimalist electro of “Red Light”, even with the cliché camera shutter sounds. The thing that I like best about the record is guitarist John McGeoch’s distinctive sound, a murky but very hard and aggressive guitar sound that is totally his own – the only time I’ve ever heard it copied successfully is on GIRLS AT OUR BEST’s “Warm Girls”, which is almost a carbon copy of a “Kaleidoscope”-era Banshees song. The CD’s extras are OK – several demos from two different sessions (some appear to just be Siouxsie, a guitar, and a synthesized drum track), as well as their 45 “Israel”, a song that sounds sorta dumb to my ears in 2006. But the remastering job is first-rate, and the CD’s songs just leap right out, sounding like something recorded with today’s technology rather than a generation ago’s. I’m laying my cards on the table and recommending this one to you, with bells on. My only question is will you stop visiting this site as a result?

Thursday, August 03, 2006

In the late 50s and early 60s, many a teen picked up a guitar in emulation of minor hitmakers DUANE EDDY and LINK WRAY & formed bands dedicated to furthering the vocal-free, rough garage band sound. This brief instrumental ascendancy is not to be confused with surf music, though there’s no doubt that they were 2 sides of the same coin, and that many of the bands vacillated between both forms (the reverb-drenched & the non-reverb drenched). I went through a brief period myself in the early 90s gobbling up as many 50s/60s instrumental compilation LPs as I could afford, since I’d fallen hard for Link Wray’s stuff and had also picked up a couple of the Crypt Records “STRUMMIN’ MENTAL” comps that set me on the obsessive instrumental-freak path. You know what, though? My favorite of the bunch is not a Crypt release – it’s “CONCUSSION!!! – 18 GOUGIN’ INSTRUMENTALS 1958-65” on the relatively release-challenged Mr. Manicotti label.

This gold-standard instrumental LP contains so many bust-up, frantic sub-2 minute chargers you can’t help but keep your wingtips from scattering, and when it gets right down to it, it’ll set you to digging out much more of this stuff. (If you do, go next to the two “Strummin’ Mental” CD comps). The LP contains a 45 so raw & so achingly beautiful I’m confident enough to proclaim it one of the 100 greatest rock and roll 45s ever. Of course I’m talking about THE NAUTILOIDS’ “Nautiloid Reef / Nautiloid Surf”, and punctuating their 1965 flash-in-the-pan brilliance, it’s the only thing the band ever put out. Both tracks are minor-key, mid-tempo stompers, and they conjure up a contemplative, staring-at-the-surf mood without resorting to any surf music clichés. The genius doesn’t stop there. Other corkers include the ROCKIN’ REBELS’ “Tom Tom” and the DOWNBEATS’ “Wild Side”, both of which should become lingua fraca for all true fans of high-energy rock and roll music from this point on. But, you ask, how can I make this a part of my life when the LP is undoubtedly out of print and will cost me a fortune? That’s where the Internet comes in. I recently snagged this from Chocoreve and roasted up a CD of it (which is why this LP’s fresh in my mind again), but it appears that someone complained about it and the good anonymous folks at Chocoreve had to pull the files. But this guy’s got one for twelve bucks – and that’s a bargain in any language.

PS - just found out that this fella posted it and it's available now.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Remember a Pacific NW band in the early 90s called FLATHEAD? Me too! (If not, try and find “Wonder Woman” on one of those old Regal Select “Puget Power” comps – a desperate, raw-ass garage punk cry for help). There’s also a connection (same guy, Dan Wood) to RIGHT ON, one of the many incredible Rob Vasquez-led bands in Seattle over the years – which means instant credibility in our eyes. Not to mention an ex-FM KNIFE (?) and an individual from short-lived door-blowing punk act SHORT EYES. Turns out that these fellas coagulated around the SF Bay Area some time ago and recently started a band called THE PETS. I saw them once last year and the spirit didn’t move me, but this 45 is real fine. The A-side has some fast-blaze motor punk action going and some strong vocals – like a 21st Century RADIO BIRDMAN who’d finally shed all the bar-band nonsense and over-the-top vocal histrionics & just let it rip. I don’t know, there’s a certain guitar sound this guy gets out of his “axe” that’s a little bit beat-up garage shit rock, and a little bit “pro” Rip Off-style punk. The B-side drops the quality down a bit, but who cares – the 45’s gotta be a teaser for the album! The album! Right guys?

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

I saw these guys play yet again a few weeks back and I left convinced (yet again) that they’re the missing link between glamazon NY DOLLS grease-rock and the hallowed class of 1977. This new 45 doesn’t do that notion any disservice. “Reality (Is A Rock Band)” has been their live set opener for a year now, and though I’d rather not pay attention to the lyrics, I think it’s the single hottest thing they’ve written outside of the CD’s opener “Smokin’ Dope”. Just straight-up torn jean, longhaired punk that clips along at a moderate/fast tempo & has got a couple of hooks to die for. Fucking great. “Shark Song” on the flip is an OK middler, and then there’s their cover of a 50s chestnut by THE JEWELS called “Opportunity”, which gives them a chance to show off some v.fine Thunders/Sylvain chops and tender doo-wop heartbreak. I do wish they’re explore this side of their “feelings” a little more. So you undoubtedly know where I stand with the TIME FLYS, and lets hope the win streak continues through this Fall’s new LP/CD.