It started with a traffic jam. Young literary ladies of leisure like your editrix are rarely trapped by these workaday traumas, but in this case an afternoon visit with the grandfolks in Ventura County left me pointed back to L.A. during the worst of the afternoon commute. Trying to amuse myself through the stop 'n' go tedium, I opened my mind up to various fancies, and among them found this one:
Scram is almost ten years old. I should really throw a party.
From that humble impulse came the Scramarama, two nights of ridiculously ambitious rock and roll, light projections, found educational films, psychic cats, hauntings, and assorted magic. Before it was done I'd enlisted dozens of lovely folks to share my delusions, secured the use of a 90-year-old theatre and its delightful 22-year-old manageress, obtained a temporary liquor license, lured several heroes out of retirement, and even got the L.A. Times to play along. Wish you coulda been there.
The acts presented were chosen for their association with the magazine, their nearness to my heart, or both. Just as the magazine is a slice of culture filtered through the kaleidoscope of my passions and biases, Scramarama too was a manifestation of things that I think matter. Booking ten moderately obscure performers into a huge theatre in downtown Los Angeles was a risk, but once I saw the final line up, I realized that it was insignificant how many tickets were sold. It was going to be a great show, whether 50 or 500 people came.
We kicked off the festivities on Friday night with a set from Bangers & Mash, those Gallbladderpuddlian mocktops led by the irrepressible Mash Letchingsworth III. The band's American debut was at the release party for Scram #11, and their tour diary enlivened issue #14. This early set time had nothing at all to do with Mash's supposed resemblance to his American cousin Edwin Letcher, who ably managed the stage over the course of the festival. No, the band simply needed to go on first because they were jetlagged. Bangers & Mash made an especially big hit with the under-twelves, my brothers among them.
Then came Red Planet (interviewed in Scram #13), who drove down from San Francisco to delight the assembly with an absurdly energetic set of tunes catchier than the industrial rat traps tucked discretely throughout the venue. Scads of fun was had onstage and off.
Convincing Scott Miller (contributor, Scram #9) to appear was one of those hopeless tasks that I just kept picking away at. I'd ask and he'd remind me that he'd retired from music. I'd put it out of my mind for a while and then wake up thinking "How can we possibly do this show without Scott?!" Then I'd ask again, he'd say no, etc. Finally must have worn him down or caught him in a generous mood, because he surprised me by saying okay. We couldn't afford the expense of a Loud Family reunion, but no one was complaining that the alternative was Scott playing solo with electric guitar. And he was exquisite, sending those brilliant shards of song out into the wings like some stagebound angel to a room gone utterly silent. Scott's set was a highlight of the weekend, with many people coming up to tell me how moved they'd been by it.
Next up were the Loons, those mysterious psychedelic shamen from points south. They were interviewed for Scram #6, when their line-up was very different and their sound more Q65 than Love. For them we lowered the house lights and fired up the Secret Weapon. A band this atmospheric deserved a something unusual. Perched up in the first balcony before a frighteningly complex bank of digital, analog and gelatinous technology were Mari Kono, Lisa Sutton and Andy Zax, collaborating on live projections for the latter part of both evenings. Mari had prepared a series of geometric patterned slides that faded in and out like an op art daydream. Andy brought a box of weird 16mm educational films that he'd been running between bands, and now overlaid silently where appropriate. Lisa was up to her elbows in glycerin and food coloring, creating hallucinogenic washes of pulsating goo. With this backdrop, the Loons looked and sounded amazing, as they set the stage for the most anticipated performance of the festival.
The Music Machine have never been covered in Scram, because Loons frontman Mike Stax had already done such excellent work on them in Ugly Things. Sean Bonniwell's brilliant lyrics and innovative arrangements have captivated me since I stumbled onto "Talk Talk" and (especially) "Masculine Intuition" as a teenybopper. A solo appearance in San Diego last summer indicated that Sean might be ready to return to performing, and indeed he immediately expressed enthusiasm when asked to play Scramarama. He assembled a passionate group of talented San Diegans, who learned Sean's songs in his absence, gearing up for an intensive set of October rehearsals. It was quietly suggested that it might also be possible to lure Music Machine drummer Ron Edgar out to join Sean, and delightfully, this happened. If you weren't there I can't possibly convey in mere words the power and beauty of hearing those songs played at full-bore by Sean, Ron and their new Music Machine 2000. It was simply astonishing, and there was nothing at all that could have followed them, so we called it a night.
Harvey Sid Fisher (interviewed in Scram #12) turned up with his full band and charming background singers to transform his celebrated Astrology Songs into a folk-rock extravaganza. I've never heard him sound as in command as he did tonight. It made for a perfect introduction to the evening's proceedings.
As Harvey left the stage, Leo Vaisman was setting up his booth in the lobby, where his well-trained psychic cats Nostradamus and Cassandra offered fortune telling and atmosphere for a small donation. Are the cats really psychic? You tell me. Here are the partial contents of the scroll Nostradamus selected for me: "You'll have a delightful time with good friends at mutually liked amusements." Eerie, eh?
Brute Force (celebrated in Scram #3 and again in this issue) was the most unlikely Scramarama performer, more so than even the Music Machine. Who would believe it would be possible to lure this mysterious sixties auteur out to California, or that when we did he would deliver a performance powerful enough to captivate every soul in attendance? I tracked down Stephen Friedland early in the planning stages of the fest, meeting with him and daughter Lilah in a NYC jazz bar. My pal Keith Bearden came along for moral support, because I was frankly intimidated and somewhat starstruck by Brute! He quickly put us at ease with his charming conversation, and demonstrated his people skills when a drunken East Indian joined our party and shared a lifetime of pain and resentment. Brute patiently drew this troubled person out, calmed his outbursts, and sent him on his way. A couple days later I met again with Brute and journalist Dawn Eden, and tentatively asked if he'd be interested in playing Scramarama. To my delight, he immediately agreed. While financial concerns and the events of September 11 inserted some snags in the works, this was one artist that I didn't want to let get away. Special thanks go out to Andy Zax, for all his encouragement when it seemed least likely to fly. I knew it was all worth it from the moment Brute sat down at the electric piano and started playing those weird and wonderful songs. His performance, encompassing music, prop comedy and audience participation, was incredibly moving and hilarious. We didn’t want him to leave, and now we all want him to come back.
Nikki Corvette (interviewed in Scram #14) had recently made a triumphant return to performing at the Bubblegum Ball, a wild evening of roller skating and rock and roll that doubled as the release party for David Smay's and my Feral House book Bubblegum Music is the Naked Truth. Once again backed up by the fabulous Pinkz, Highland Park's favorite girl band, Nikki showed that she remains the undisputed queen of teenage pop. Britney and Christina wish they had an eighth of her sass.
Deniz Tek--contributor to Scram #12 and #14, and subject of the first interview I ever conducted--should need no introduction to readers of this magazine. The one-time Radio Birdman leader remains a vital performer who continues to tour and record while maintaining his career as an emergency physician. Tonight he appeared with the West Coast Deniz Tek Group, featuring twins Art and Steve Godoy. They immediately settled into a glorious groove, enhanced by the inspired imagery projected from the balconies. This set was another highlight in a weekend of astonishingly good music. Deniz was also one of two artists harassed by the theatre ghosts, when he tried to take a nap in the spooky understage area (Brute Force claims to have seen a spectral child near the gents).
The Cynics have never appeared in Scram, in part because their long hiatus has kept them off the road during most of the magazine's existence. (They did play on my college radio show in 1990, though.) The times I've seen them have been almost unbearably exciting, and I was thrilled to secure the band for the festival's closing slot. It was really late by the time they went on, but from their performance you'd think the night was just beginning. Singer Michael Kastelic, who'd been dancing up a storm all weekend, somehow managed to summon even more energy as he led the band through a blistering set of savage nuggets. Although I was nearly comatose by this point, they sent a jolt of pure adrenaline into my veins that had me dancing like a goon up in the balcony. The Cynics sent Scramarama out with a beautiful bang, and then suddenly it was time to go home. Sniff.
Heartfelt thanks go out to all the swell folks who helped, especially MC Michael Lucas and the rest of the San Francisco contingent, who paid their own way south only to work like little doggies all weekend long. It really meant a lot to have my founding co-editor Steve Watson in attendance. My dad, stepmother and grandparents tirelessly looked after the box office and merch table, and charmed everyone. P. Edwin Letcher kept things moving on stage. Dawn Garcia from the Palace was always available to fix problems and fire up the scarily antiquated lights. Doug Miller not only tended bar, he negotiated the whole set-up with the surprisingly nice folks from Ace Beverage. Paul du Gré's sympathetic sound mix made the best of the peculiarities of a Vaudeville-era theatre.
It was great to have old Scramsters, family and friends together for this celebration. I know there's no way this could ever have happened without all the amazingly generous people who contributed their time, energies and expertise in helping me realize a dream. In my exhausted state around 4 o'clock on Sunday morning I found myself saying, "I am the luckiest girl in the world!"--thank you to everyone who helped me form such a notion.
I'm going to try get stuck in traffic more often. And yeah, I'm pretty sure this won’t be the last Scramarama. See you next time?
For more Scramarama photos, see this link.
Daniel Clowes interviewed by Steve Mandich
June 15, 2001: Daniel Clowes is at the Seattle International Film Festival doing press before the premiere of Ghost World, the celluloid adaptation of his well-received serial comic. Clowes, wearing a windbreaker over his button-down shirt, is booked for a busy afternoon of interviews. I was given my 20 minutes with him at 3:30. He is easy-going and surprisingly chatty. We speak in room 426 of the Sheraton Hotel.
SCRAM: Is Goofie Gus something you made up?
CLOWES: No, Goofie Gus is completely mine. It was a toy I had as a kid, actually, and we tried to get it in the movie originally. They have all these problems with clearances and rights and things like that, and they said, "We can't trace this back to the original toy company, so we can't let you use it in the film." I was like, "But you don't understand! It's very important that we get this in the film!" So at the last minute they said, "Well, if you change it like 33 percent then you can use it." So we put this ridiculous blonde wig on it. (laughs) It's one of the most absurd things I've ever seen. In the film you can't quite see it so it just looks like a weird doll of some kind. But I took the prop home, since it was my Goofie Gus in the first place, and I had it on display with the wig on it. People wonder, "What? Why did you put the wig on it?" That was the most ridiculous thing.
SCRAM: Enid's record that was in the comic was the same record used in the movie?
CLOWES: That's the same record. I wrote the script and I put in a scene where it said "Enid plays this haunting children's record," and I never identified what it was. [Co-writer/director] Terry [Zwigoff] is very specific about his musical tastes and I always thought, "He only likes jazz from 1931 or before. If I played him this song he'd think this was the worst song and he'd never go for it." And he kept saying, "We need to have a song, we're making the movie, we need a song for this scene." And I just thought, "I gotta wait for the right moment to play this thing for him." We actually shot the scene where she isn't even listening to a record, so there's no music. So I said, "Come on, will you listen to this? Maybe you'll think it's okay? I think it'll work--" And he's like, "Why didn't you play this for me before? It's great! It's perfect!" "Oh jeez, I should have played this for him three years ago."
SCRAM: Is that the same record you had in mind when you drew the comic?
SCRAM: What is it? Who sings that?
CLOWES: There were these two girls named Patience & Prudence, who were the daughters of some producer at Liberty Records, and their big #1 hit was "Tonight You Belong to Me." They did two or three other singles, and "A Smile and a Ribbon" was the b-side to one. Only Prudence sings it, not her sister Patience. I bought it when I was a teenager for some reason. I was always embarrassed to tell people that I thought it was a really strong emotional song for me. I couldn't quite figure out why.
SCRAM: It was touching scene in the movie.
CLOWES: It's very hard to make stuff like that work.
SCRAM: The opening scene with that Indian dance video: was that something shot for the movie or was that something you found someplace?
CLOWES: It was one of those tapes that guys like me get from people, where you get like a 20th generation tape: "Hey, you gotta see this, man." A friend of mine who was house-sitting for this guy--Peter Holsapple, who used to be in this band the dBs in the '80s--he has the great collection of video detritus like that, just stuff that he's taped. And so my friend made a bunch of tapes of stuff while he was staying there and said, "Hey, you gotta see this Indian video." It was a really grainy, horrible version of it, but it was the most amazing thing I've seen in my life! "What is this?" I showed it to Terry one day and he said, "Oh, we gotta get that in the film, it's perfect for Enid." We tried to figure out what it was, and we just had no luck. And so we wrote it into the film, just praying we could find it somehow. By pure luck, John Malkovich was one of our producers, and he had really championed some Indian film in like 1996, so the Indians in the film business were very grateful to him, so they said [in Indian accent] "We will find!" We sent them a tape of it and they said, "Oh yes, it's from Gumnaam, 1965, directed by so-and-so." It was a very famous film. Gumnaam means "nameless." As all Indian films are, it's a musical. It's actually kind of a mystery, it's based on Agatha Christie's Ten Little Indians. It's sort of a murder mystery on an island. And that scene really has almost nothing whatsoever to do with the rest of the movie. It's the original music, and it's actually the opening theme to the film. We met the sons of the guys who produced it, they actually came to the set the day we were shooting and watching that. They were so proud. [Indian accent again]"We remember being on the set when this was filmed! Our father would be proud to be in an American film!" So we got a perfect print. It was just the greatest thing.
SCRAM: It looks so sharp and vivid.
CLOWES: It's too perfect.
SCRAM: You and Terry co-wrote the screenplay.
SCRAM: How much input did you have on the rest of the film? Were you on the set, or did you have some say in the casting?
CLOWES: I had more input than any screenwriter ever is allowed. It was really amazing. I got to be there for all of the pre-production, which involves the casting and hiring set designers and things like that. So I got to do all the casting and help design the costumes and help plan out the sets. Then I got to be there for all the shooting. Terry pretty much conferred with me before every single take, and I really got to have a big say. Terry felt that those girls especially were my characters, and didn't want to do anything that I didn't approve of. You never get that from any other director. Most directors are like, "Ban the writer from the set--you can come to the premiere." Most writers will be seeing their films for the first time tomorrow night [at their respective film festival premieres]. It was amazingly lucky. Although, then again, when you're a writer you just get paid for the script, so everything I did was on the house for the last year-and-a-half.
SCRAM: But it's got your name on it.
CLOWES: It's got my name on it, and I figure a movie really does live for a long time, so you should do what you can while you have the chance. That was the amazing thing to me to be on the set and realize, "I could change something right here that will be in the film and will exist for however long this film exists, however long DVDs are around. I could move this piece of paper in the background--" It's such an odd feeling. It's cool.
SCRAM: There were a lot of scenes drawn from other Eightball stories, like "Art School Confidential," and Feldman, the guy on the scooter who knew all the trivia. Are there any scenes like those that that didn't make the final cut?
CLOWES: There was stuff from the comic that was sort of more verbatim stuff, that was really funny in the comic and then we filmed it and it just didn't work as well in the film somehow. We learned during the making of it that the film had to be its own thing, and we couldn't just copy the comic. We really had to re-think every single thing to make it work on film. Like, in the diner scene, when they're with the Weird Al guy, the waiter--we had all the dialogue from the comic, where there's page after page of them making fun of the songs and stuff. I thought it was hilarious when we were filming it, but then we watched it, it was kind of tedious, so we just dropped it. It's weird what stuff worked and what didn't.
SCRAM: There were scenes that I anticipated that didn't happen. I kept waiting for the scene in the grocery store where the girls see the Lunchables in the Satanists' shopping cart.
CLOWES: We actually had that in the script for a while, but we didn't have room for it or time for it. I'm glad we cut it out because it later turned out you couldn't ever get clearance on stuff like that. It would never have been funny with anything other than Lunchables. We would have never gotten it. You would've needed Kraft to watch the whole film and sign off of on it. They'd think "Oh, you're making fun of us." Which, of course, we would've been.
SCRAM: I thought the best line in the movie was when the art teacher says, "I thought maybe this was supposed to be your father."
CLOWES: (laughs) That performance should get an Oscar. That kid, just the way he looks down. Clearly he's got issues with his father. (laughs)
SCRAM: In Eightball you drew a nightmare scenario about "Velvet Glove" being turned into a movie. Did you have any experiences like that?
CLOWES: I had stuff that was just like that, except not while the film was actually being made. We'd have these meetings and I could just see that these people were really sleazy and disreputable but I was so intrigued by the whole process that I'd keep going to meetings and stringing them along, and then I'd always at some point stop answering my phone and blow 'em off. I could so imagine how it would be to make a film and have no control and you don't trust the people at all. But with this film, it was always me and Terry and this producer, Lianne Halfton. It was really just the three of us the whole time and we never had to face any of that kind of stuff. It just wasn't an issue. If you get along with your producer and your director, there's really nobody left to betray you. And it's not a big enough film where the studio would take it away and re-edit it. They know the only value the film has is ours. There's no point in them trying to change it.
SCRAM: You're happy with how it turned out?
CLOWES: Yeah, it was miraculous how close it is to what I wanted to get on the screen. It's that and much more. It was really a great experience. It was really long and drawn-out and tedious at times. Three years in writing the script just goes forever. We started in 1997 and the premiere is here in 2001. There were lots of ups and downs and heartbreaks along the way, where we almost got it made and then we backed out at the last minute because we weren't too sure. Now that it's all done I can forget about all those miserable days sitting by the phone that never rings, and now I'm very thrilled with it and really proud.
SCRAM: Any other comics that you have in mind for a movie?
CLOWES: Terry and I, we like that whole art school thing. We could do a whole art school film, that could be fun. I was telling somebody that, to me, my four years in art school were what Vietnam was to Oliver Stone. (laughs) There's so much material that I could go on forever, just an endless fount of stuff.
SCRAM: I've never been to art school, but I showed "Art School Confidential" to an art school friend of mine--
CLOWES: That thing's been xeroxed so many times and put up on walls on art schools. You can't even tell it's drawn by a human being. It's 10th generation. (laughs)
SCRAM: When you drew Ghost World, did you have any particular city in mind, like Chicago? It is obviously LA in the movie--
CLOWES: We didn't want it to be that much LA. We wanted to shoot there because we thought LA was the furthest along in America, sort of this degradation of culture, but we wanted it to read as Anytown, USA to some degree. I started drawing it when I lived in Chicago and then I worked on it for awhile living in Los Angeles and then I moved to Berkeley, so it's a weird kind of conflation of the three. Chicago brick buildings with palm trees in the background and sort of a Berkeley feel to it, so it's a weird combo of all the places I was living. Which is interesting because people always say that they think it's wherever they live. They think, "Oh, were you in Washington? Were you in the suburbs of Minnesota?"
SCRAM: I always pictured Chicago in the summer, as Enid and Rebecca wore summery clothes.
CLOWES: That was my good excuse that it could be anywhere, so they don't have to wear down parkas.
SCRAM: It would have to be a big enough city to have its own 'zine shop.
CLOWES: Right. People always say, "It's set in suburbia," and I go, "No, they don't have Zine-O-Phobia in suburbia." (laughs) If you look hard you can see a Scram or two in the background.
SCRAM: I looked hard but I didn't see one. I could only pick out the Monkey Rock 'n Roll issue of Roctober.
CLOWES: There definitely is one. You have to freeze-frame it. It's pretty tough to see some stuff, but there's definitely a Scram in there.
SCRAM: I'll check again when it comes out on video-- Seymour's character is totally new in the movie. Was he drawn from the Bob Skeetes character in the comic? Or someone else?
CLOWES: He was something Terry brought. Terry had these two characters, Seymour and Joe, the two roommates, basically based on him and a friend of his. Seymour is more sort of Terry. He said, "You know, is there any way we could just get these two guys in there? Like in a small vignette or something?" I kept thinking there's something really resonant about crazy 78 collectors thrown in with these girls. There was something so funny about that, and the possibilities were so good. When I finally figured out, "Oh, he could be the guy in the '50s diner, and they could sort of just follow him," that really was exciting. It seemed like such a great opportunity. Then as the character got more developed ,Terry was writing scenes and then I would rewrite the scenes, and I got so I was sort of to rewriting the whole thing, and so Seymour became sort of a weird conflation of me and Terry. It's really more Terry than me, but definitely we both have that same sort of hide-in-our-room collector mentality. (laughs)
SCRAM: Seymour's ragtime fixation brought to mind Chris Ware.
CLOWES: Yeah, [Ware] responded very highly to it. But all of that stuff is Terry's. We brought up all his posters and all his junk and moved it to a set in Hollywood. Steve Buscemi plays that character so much like he's just playing himself, but he's not at all that kind of a guy, really. It's really an amazing performance, but he's much more sort of up-to-date. He liked all that music but he really didn't know anything about it at all. He was always asking about it: "How do you pronounce 'Lionel Belasco'? How do you say that?" It was always shocking, because we figured, "Oh, he's Seymour, he knows all that stuff. How could he not know?"
SCRAM: He came closest to the caricatures around the fringes of Eightball, like the guy on the scooter. Panning across the apartment building in the opening scene, there's that guy with the Jim Belushi haircut--
CLOWES: In the script he was "Man with hair on his back," or something like that. [It actually reads: "A large, hirsute MAN, wearing only Lycra jogging shorts, watches the Home Shopping Network while eating mashed potatoes with his fingers--"] The extras guys--they read the script very carefully and they want to bring in exactly what you have in there--and so the extras casting guy came in and had nine Polaroids of guys photographed from the back, with hair all over. My God, who would to humiliate themselves like that? (laughs) So that guy had the haircut too, and we thought, "Boy, that's an added bonus." He was amazing. That was one of the funniest days, when we shot all those guys.
SCRAM: Though I didn't see any characters with really big, pronounced teeth--
CLOWES: Except for Steve himself, with those giant fangs. We had a few we cast in the background, but you don't really get to see it. I would've liked to have seen more walrus-toothed people walking by. (laughs)
SCRAM: A character who got a big response was Doug, the redneck guy who hangs out at the convenience store.
CLOWES: Yeah, that guy was the real thing. We had seen a tape of all this stuff he'd done where he played characters like that, these kind of dirtball characters. You could tell he absolutely understood that. He wasn't playing down to it. We could tell he was totally from that world and understood every nuance of it so well, and we basically wrote that scene like, "Dave Sheridan ad-libs next five lines." We just turned the camera on him and let him do all that stuff. He showed up on the set that day--we hadn't seen him since we cast him five months earlier--he shows up with that haircut, which he had given himself. And he actually had those tan lines, he had gone out that weekend and had gotten sunburned with a tanktop on. Everything he did was so flawless. We didn't have to do any work on that guy at all.
SCRAM: I like the outtake scene following the credits where Seymour beats him up.
CLOWES: He and Steve came up with that on their own. They came up to me and said, "Keep Terry busy for a few minutes. Tell him we need to do another take of this scene." So I took Terry aside and just talked with him and said, "You know, I didn't like that last take so we should do one more." So Terry had no idea that was coming. If you watch that really carefully you can hear Terry shrieking with laughter in the background. (laughs)
SCRAM: Joey McCobb, the painfully bad standup comedian, was really true to the comic.
CLOWES: The reason that's true is because the guy who played Joey McCobb is my best friend, who invented Joey McCobb. One day we were in a train station and he just said, "Wouldn't it be funny if there was some corny comedian who made up all those jokes off the top of his head: 'Take my wife, please.'" We were casting the film and we tried to get a real comedian to play it. We tried all these actors but they just weren't that funny, and I said, "Why don't we just get Charles [Schneider] to do it himself?" He came in and Terry was like, "Why didn't we get him in the first place? He's perfect!" So it's a very rare instance of somebody playing a character that they made up themselves.
SCRAM: It looked like you did a lot of your own original artwork in the movie, like in Enid's sketchbook. Did you do the Laugh Grotto backdrop?
CLOWES: Yeah, I designed that font. They have painters in Hollywood who can do anything, so I had drawn this little thing and said, "Make it like this." Next thing you know it's this 3-D, perfect, amazing thing. I did all the logos for the Cook's Chicken as it changes into a more modern company, and the painters printed that stuff on stationery and everything.
SCRAM: I don't know if you're aware of this, but it got some crowd response at the screening I went to: the picture on the brochure for the Academy of Art and Design shows the campus of the University of Washington, where I go to school.
CLOWES: Oh, is that right? That's great! (laughs) I had no idea! The prop guy just made that up! That's hilarious!
SCRAM: A couple people in the audience were whispering about it to each other.
CLOWES: I can't wait to see that tomorrow night. That's funny.
SCRAM: So what's next for Eightball?
CLOWES: There's a new Eightball that I have three pages left on that I've been trying to finish for the last two weeks. I had to do all these interviews everyday and I can never get anything done. But it's a 40-page, all-color issue. Twenty-nine stories in 40 pages.
CLOWES: It's a wacky issue. It's about this made-up suburbia sort of town.
SCRAM: Is this the beginning of a new serial?
CLOWES: No, it's all self-contained, all by itself.
SCRAM: Any additions you wish to make to those you "hate deeply"?
CLOWES: You know, I need to start a new list. I can't even remember some of the last ones.
SCRAM: Are you happier in Berkeley or Chicago?
CLOWES: I actually live in Oakland. Oakland is like the West Coast Chicago. It's got all the decay and misery of Chicago, but nice weather.
SCRAM: Kim hates baseball--
SCRAM: --and I interviewed Peter Bagge for Scram a few years ago and I got him to talk about baseball. Reading Eightball, I take it you're baseball fan?
CLOWES: I used to be, as a kid, and then when I went away to college I got away from it and stopped following it and I could never get back into it. So when I think of baseball, I could probably still tell you every member of the 1971 Cubs. I was so focused on that. But my knowledge stops at about 1980 or so.
SCRAM: With me it's the same, except it's about 1977. I can name all the Yankees and Dodgers from that year. It's funny how much more I can recall from that long ago, like it's yesterday.
CLOWES: I still think, "Is Rick Monday still playing centerfield?"
SCRAM: Did you by any chance go to Disco Demolition Night at Comiskey Park?
CLOWES: I remember it very well. I did not go, but I remember watching the news that night. I remember being sort of appalled, like, "They're ruining our American pastime! How can they do this?" I went to school with Bill Veeck's daughter. I used to be pretty good friends with his son. He was kind of a character, he collected old Edison Rolls.
SCRAM: [Realizing my twenty minutes are up] Okay, thanks!
CLOWES: Say no to drugs!
BEYOND A SHADOW OF USHER
by Dick Campbell
In 1971, the year Gary Usher gave this interview, his musical tastes were continuing to evolve from his hot rod/surfing roots of the early 60's. He had an idea for a concept album entitled "Beyond A Shadow Of Doubt" which would reflect his developing philosophical views on metaphysics, and he asked me to write the music to his lyrics. We had written some other tunes, such as "Good Ole Rock & Roll Song" recorded by the Cowsills, and had become great friends in the process. Gary had taken me under his wing since I'd come out from the Midwest where my "Dick Campbell Sings Where It's At" LP had been released on Mercury Records in 1966. He signed me as a writer to his L.A. label, Together Records, and later I moved with him to RCA, and then to Rip Music (BMI), a publishing company owned by Danny Thomas.
For the next couple of years we recorded several demos for the "Shadow" project in various L.A. studios, and Gary wrote a book to be included with the proposed album. But, for several reasons, the album never went beyond the demo stage and snuggled into hibernation for thirty years until it was revived by Gary's son in 2001. Gary Usher, Jr. dusted off the old reel-to-reel demos and released them, along with the book, as a "work in progress" on Dreamsville Records. Although the songs were in demo form, the excellent Usher production touch gave them a very finished polish considering that they consisted mostly of my acoustic guitar parts, lead vocals by Gary, and background vocals provided by Gary, Curt Boettcher, and myself. As Gary's latest release, some dozen years since his death, "Beyond A Shadow Of Doubt" presents an excellent indication of the direction in which he was heading, as well as proof of his enduring popularity among Usher aficionados.
As for why this project took so long to see the light of day, my opinion is that Gary was beginning to weary of all the perceived crapola he had endured through his first decade in the record industry. He was definitely tired of the commercial-vs.-artistic aspect of the business, and was exploring Eastern philosophy in his personal life. Then there was the horrific blow he suffered in early 1974 when his wife Bonnie died suddenly in her sleep from an apparent epileptic seizure. Bonnie's death was hard on us all, as my family and Gary's were quite close on a social level. After that, the wind just went out of Gary's sails for a year or two and he eventually ended up going to an island off the coast of Washington. Gary later remarried (to Sue Cypher, daughter of actor Jon Cypher of "Major Dad" TV-fame) and also dabbled again in music production, but he never returned to the level of interest in music that he had enjoyed in the beginning when his songs like "409" helped kick off the hot rod record craze.
Although Gary's name was not as well known to the general public as that of the man who's career he helped launch (Brian Wilson), his vast recorded repertoire continues to be collected by his fans. In addition, CD reissues of Gary's early productions and new CDs of previously unreleased material, such as the "Shadow" project, are becoming more available. The advent of the internet, and it's auction sites like eBay, are also a good way to find rare Usher nuggets. Recently I saw an acetate demo of a song we'd written, "California Way," sell for $241 to an unknown collector. This would have amused Gary since it's probably more money than we ever got paid for that particular song. Another interesting aspect of the internet is the proliferation of message groups on various subjects. There's one on Yahoo hosted by Ron Weekes which is dedicated to discussions of Gary Usher, and in the area of books an excellent five-volume biography on Gary has been written by author Stephen J. McParland.
When Gary died of lung cancer in 1990, his reputation in the record industry had long been secured. Even more importantly, his personal influence on his many friends is still felt to this day. He had a great sense of humor, but knew when to get to work; he was successful without being overbearing; and he was competitive without being unkind. Time and space does not permit me to relate the dozens of anecdotes which would illustrate these attributes, but I can leave you with at least one. When I first arrived in California, Gary and I would play a board game called Stratego in which each side would have forty army pieces. These pieces, of various ranks, were lined up against each other in such a manner as to conceal their ranks from the opponent with the object being to capture each other's flag. Since both Gary and I considered ourselves military buffs, the competition to achieve "the thrill of victory" was raised to a level usually reserved for important things like the Super Bowl.
While Bonnie worked on making us lunches, the battles would rage for hours. Every time we played Gary would whip me, and after half a dozen losses I was beginning to experience "the agony of defeat." But, like Gary, I'm competitive too--just not as kind. I bought my own Stratego game and studied it for hours. Finally I arrived upon a "corner strategy" of encasing my flag in a layer of bombs backed up by majors, so that when Gary's miners broke through the bombs they'd be killed before reaching my flag. The next time Gary and I played I beat him. Then I beat him again. Now here comes good part. On the third game he had become so unglued that he actually attempted to distract my attention so he could switch his flag, an unmovable piece, to a less vulnerable location. I caught him, we had a good laugh, and never had to play Stratego again--the novice apprentice "just off the boat from the Midwest" (as Gary used to kid me), had beaten the master, thus gaining a certain degree of parity.
In closing, let me just say that Gary usually acted calm and cool under fire, whether it was a game or a big budget recording session for a major label. One day in 1971, we were set to go into a studio for a song demo session, so I stayed overnight at his house for an early morning start. At 6:01 A.M., I was awakened by the sound of rumbling, the vision of window blinds flipping up and down, and the feeling of my bed violently shaking. Even "just off the boat" and without prior experience with earthquakes, I was immediately able to deduce the nature of this event. It went on for what I claim is 60 seconds before ceasing. I, and the Usher children, then beat it into Gary's room and up on his large bed where we joined him and Bonnie for assurance. The Sylmar earthquake had been 6.6 magnitude, killed 65 people, and caused 500 million dollars damage, but that morning the "Master" was in the studio without fail--and the "sorcerer's apprentice" was right there with him. One can live through an act of God, but not beyond the shadow of Usher.
This interview originally appeared in Scram #15
Brute Force Speaks! An Interview with Stephen Friedland by Michael Lucas
When presented with the contact information for Mr. Stephen Friedland by Scram editrix and amateur gumshoe Kim Cooper, I was somewhat daunted. Would the story behind the Brute Force legend (as captured on the Columbia LP Confections of Love, an album which has fascinated me for upwards of a quarter of a century) be worthy of the superhuman notions I'd developed around this enigmatic creation?
When I finally worked up the gumption to face the challenge, I was relieved to find that not only were the missing portions of the Brute Force saga anything but prosaic, but that Mr. Friedland was himself an extraordinary individual and extremely gracious to boot.
Brute's appearance at the Scramarama was, for me, a special highlight in an already stellar lineup. I don't feel that my life would have been complete without witnessing his awe-inspiring performance, which exceeded all expectations.
I could blather on indefinitely, but let's get to the main event instead. Ladies and gentlemen... Mr. Stephen Friedland... Brute Force!
SCRAM: What was your involvement in the music world prior to Confections of Love?
BRUTE: When I was 24 I had a girlfriend, Bunny. Her father was Rock and Roll Hall of Fame drummer Billy Gussak, who played with Bill Haley. Billy had a piano in his house and took a liking to my songs. We collaborated on "My Teenage Castle (Is Tumblin' Down)." Billy introduced me to record producers Hugo and Luigi at RCA. They recorded "My Teenage Castle" with Little Peggy March. They had also worked on "The Lion Sleeps Tonight (Wimoweh)" with the Tokens, and they turned me onto them. I went to the Tokens' office and played a few songs; they hired me as a songwriter and soon I joined their group, and became a Token.
SCRAM: This was after "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" and the hot rod album?
BRUTE: Yes, 1965. I was about twenty-five years old at the time.
SCRAM: You also wrote the classic "Nobody Knows What's Goin' On (In My Mind But Me)," which was recorded by the Chiffons. My editrix promised to flay me alive if I didn't get the scoop on that song.
BRUTE: What is a thought? Where does a thought come from? How does a person feel about their thoughts? About secrets? These are some of the questions which might prompt an understanding of "Nobody Knows What's Goin' On (In My Mind But Me)." Texturally, it's a love song: a person loves another person, to everyone's disapproval, and because of societal pressure (who knows: parental, peer group, cultural), everybody says, "Give it up." But what do they know? This leads the person to realize that, "Nobody knows what's goin' on in my mind but me," a flat out declaration of independence, of individuality and of privacy of one's thoughts. Freedom of thought. The song is very concerned with this larger issue of privacy of one's thoughts, and to that extent is courageous in this day of Big Brother. There is a point, however, which the song doesn't explore: the point when not expressing one's thoughts can be an unhealthy thing to do and all the energy, whatever it is, just keeps building up and can become too much to bear for the "thinker of thought." Secrecy is a subtextual element in the song. Keeping secrets, obviously, is a must when nobody else knows what's going on in one's mind. As a songwriter at that time I was exploring the workings of the human mind and, through a lovestory lyric, expressing my own feelings about love--interracial love perhaps--and the invasion of one's mind by friends, family or government. The melody, I remember, during its creation, as being especially entrancing in the chorus, almost hypnotic in its repetition, enhanced by the lyrics, floating over the chord pattern, which are concerned with the mind. The mind singing about the mind. The song was produced by the Tokens while I was a member of the group. It was a chart record, which was very exciting, and I still receive royalties. Years later, I recorded "Nobody Knows" as the b side for the Apple single "King of Fuh." I produced this with the Tokens: the cellophane wrapper from a box of Kool cigarettes, which I was chain smoking at that time, was used to produce a sound effect while I played piano. My rendition was very much more agitated and frenetic than the Chiffons' rendition. I haven't seen any of the Chiffons since that time, except on TV ads for compilation CDs, but I feel very lucky to have known them and to have had our paths cross and come out with a hit. And if you want to know any more, all I can say is..."Nobody knows what's goin' on in my mind but me." But you can always ask!
SCRAM: Was your split from the Tokens an amicable one?
BRUTE: Yes. We were still friends. They produced the second Brute Force album--
SCRAM: A second Brute Force album exists?!?
BRUTE: Yes, Extemporaneous.
SCRAM: Whoa, whoa. I've heard extremely vague rumors about a second LP, but since I could never find any real evidence of it, I thought that it was just someone's confusion of Brute Force with the Brute Force Steel Band.
BRUTE: No, produced by the Tokens in 1969 on BT Puppy Records, which was run by the Tokens and their manager at the time. It's a piano/voice and spoken word recording made at Olmstead Recording Studios in N.Y. City with approximately forty people in attendance. It's called Extemporaneous because many of the songs I sing when I perform are extemporaneous. The format of the album I planned in advance: I then added a lot as we went along. It was an electric evening during which everyone had lots of fun.
SCRAM: It's an extremely difficult record to find.
BRUTE: Yes, it was distributed in a limited manner. I've actually included it in the new version of my Tour de Brute Force CD. [Which is recommended in the strongest manner possible as an essential addition to any music lover's library, and also serves as an excellent introduction to Brute, if needed. -ML]
SCRAM: Were the songs similar to those on Confections of Love?
BRUTE: It was in what I'd term the Brute Force genre, "Heavy Funny" songs." Peace songs. Comedy songs. Spiritual songs.
SCRAM: Now, back to Confections.
BRUTE: That was made shortly after leaving the Tokens. It took about three months to record, as I recall.
SCRAM: The Brute Force persona seems to combine qualities of beat poet, suave romantic crooner, and holy fool trapped in a world not of his making. Did the character of Brute Force arise out of the songs which you happened to compose for the album, or were the songs written with Brute Force in mind?
BRUTE: The characters that you mention have appeared, Zeliglike, from time to time. If a songwriter becomes anything during the writing of songs, it is another degree of being a songwriter. This is the way I put it:
A FEATHER FELL, A TALE TO TELL.
A TALE TO TELL, A FEATHER FELL.
Here we have two ways to understand the phenomenon which is presented to us, to decipher half the truth...(We, the living, alas, can understand but half of what this reality is.)... Seeing the feather fall we can describe it in any of the ways available. Both descriptions are secondary to the phenomenon anyway, the seeing of the real feather, and the mental seeing of the feather, as one would write a story. One may be called fact. One may be called fiction. Take your pick. This is the fulcrum upon which the media matrix see-saws, back and forth, creating a delerium of confusion, of artsy, slick, award-winning confusion: blistering the eyes with impossible editing not meant to be understood by the eyes; puncturing the eardrums with commercials spoken too quickly for the ears to understand; ripping off the public's face with in-your-face moviescreen egomanical sex/sport/violence/playgames.
Now... the naming of the person, the ego who describes a truth or a fiction, compounds the illusion of communication and description. Should I have only been called Stephen Friedland, perhaps the whole trip would have been different. But the pseudonym was perceived as false by anyone and everyone, although people go along with the projection of the ego, for they themselves have an ego trip and are basically kind to accept Brute Force. However, my work and the appreciation of my person would have been initially appreciated in a more serious manner... young, Jewish songwriter. "Brute Force" incorrectly avoided that.
SCRAM: Many of the songs on Confections have a certain subversive quality, especially in the way you make social commentary through playing with clichÃ© and convention.
BRUTE: Well, look at the liner notes. It's heavy stuff, although comedically spiced. "Mistress Peace sleeps with soldiers" might be considered a bit subversive, although my political view of the world is decidedly spaced out: observing space and understanding that conflicts on Earth are always in relation to the phenomenon of the Space Mission, the colonization of the Solar System and the creation of earth as a supply station for the Space Mission.
SCRAM: I'd like to get your impression of the individual songs, if I might. "In Jim's Garage."
BRUTE: Secrecy of younglove from their parents. "He may be greasy and dirty, but that's just the mark of his honesty" says it for Jim and I hope most of the blue-collar class.
SCRAM: "The Sad, Sad World of Mothers and Fathers."
BRUTE: Still applies to the gap between parents and their children, and the lack of communication between spouses who'd rather watch TV than find out what's happening with their daughter in a car outside with... him! I guess if the daughter was loved at home she wouldn't be in such a... position.
SCRAM: "Tierra del Fuego."
BRUTE: Love song, Latino, transcultural, fun with words.
SCRAM: "No Olympian Height."
BRUTE: Straight-ahead lovesong, extolling the lover, "Do what you will, I am yours." This was a poem written about a girlfriend, Abby. The line in the song about Grecian urns is a reference to "Ode On A Grecian Urn" by John Keats, in which we read:
"Beauty is Truth, Truth Beauty.
That is all ye know on Earth,
And all ye need to know."
SCRAM: Dixielandish lovesong. Everyone, well almost everyone, likes to get cuddly with their love-mate. Singing of the lyrics, "Baby, dey don't make 'em like dat any more" was inspired by the great Jimmy Durante.
SCRAM: "To Sit on a Sandwich."
BRUTE: Absurdity of the world: we might as well go sit on a sandwich in our "advanced civilization." This song contains perhaps the most onerous pun of the last half of the 20th century: "Prepares for the wurst."
SCRAM: Brute's Circus Metaphor."
BRUTE: Love lost, the characters metaphorically played by circus characters.
SCRAM: "Brute's Party."
BRUTE: A sarcastic description of the boredom of parties.
SCRAM: "As Long as my Song Lives."
BRUTE: Our Art survives us. Long after I am gone
Will Friedlandishemusik live on and on.
So would it be with a love, with a friend
that knowledge of them need never end
should they be remembered in song
as words and melody play e'erlong,
and as long as your craft gives
then too my song in your work lives.
Long after the creator passes, the song lives on, and who does the song immortalize? The lover. See, it's as long as my song lives, which is forever, for a song is inanimate and not as frail as our flesh. A song doesn't die. It is embodied in a device, etched in marble, written on a page, a CD UFO zooming into the unknown to be enjoyed by a new generation.
SCRAM: "Tapeworm of Love."
BRUTE: I wrote "Tapeworm of Love" while I was still in high school. It was an authentic fifties song with piano triplets. When I played it for John Simon at Columbia he liked the lyrics very much, but felt that the fifties feel was not in sync with the year we were recording, 1967. Nostalgia for the fifties had not yet occurred, so I wrote another melody. I endeavored to bring the intensity of the whole metaphor of the internal gnawing and adventurous biting of the tapeworm inside the gut through the use of the sitar and an ancient Indian raga played on marimba. The song is a paradigm of Brute Force absurdism. Yet, a love song...
SCRAM: "Making Faces At Each Other."
BRUTE: Here's a new face I've just learned, it's called "making you happy baby" and is pretty self-explanatory. Making someone happy is wonderful. It's giving. To give. This song is pointing to the ability of people to respond to their genuine inner feelings rather than responding to the outer image, the face. "Love is the most beautiful thing on the face of the Earth. I wanna make the face of Love..."
SCRAM: Was it difficult getting such an unusual album released?
BRUTE: It wasn't difficult getting Confections released. Columbia released a lot, and what stuck to the wall they went with. My stuff was just too ahead of its time.
SCRAM: There were no problems from upstairs?
BRUTE: Sitting at a conference table with the executives was, as I remember it, uncomfortable, because they played some songs and I was sitting there, in this conference room at a big oval table, and I was probably high on amphetamines. I would know how to speak with them today. Exactly what to say.
SCRAM: But there wasn't any resistance to your lyrics, as being too "cerebral" or "intellectual?"
BRUTE: There was resistance and the album was ahead of its time. Now the story is changing. A trans-generational reality, occuring. There is a nine-piece band in Birmingham, England, Misty's Big Adventure, personnel averaging 23 years old, playing "Tapeworm Of Love" and "Hello" from Extemporaneous (email email@example.com). At Scramarama, I met BF fans of all ages. Advertisements for BF are attracting fans from all over the world to write to Brute's Force, the Brute Force fan club, at firstname.lastname@example.org, in order to obtain BF music. The buzz is exciting and facing the situation, becoming less anonymous, has combated the resistance. Kind of a guerilla in the war of consciousness.
SCRAM: Any comments about the poetry on the back cover?
BRUTE: Yes, the couplet, "Mother Nature washes our genes, in her worn out washing machine." When I looked at the back cover, I wondered why the next two lines were omitted. It's really a quatrain which continues, "They're hung up on the line to dry, by that old grouch, Father Time." It would have made sense in the context of the album: you know, Mother, Father... lovesongs.
SCRAM: Are there any other Brute Force recordings besides Confections of Love and Extemporaneous?
BRUTE: At Columbia, I recorded a song I wrote in Russian and English titled "Hello Moscow," a big band/ rock fusion. The session was catered, like a party, and attended by many invited guests, Leonard Cohen among them. The thread of the message was, "Hello Moscow, how are you doin'?" This was in 1967, the Cold War was in effect. In July 1968, with my lifelong friend Ben Schlossberg, I participated in an expedition to swim the Bering Strait from Alaska to Siberia. We made it half way to the Diomede Islands. It was documented in Life magazine, 9/20/68. The song itself, as was the expedition, is a natural extension of my weltanschauung. We live on a sundrop.
"There is one borderline, really, and that's the edge of Earth: that roundness, that fullness, that mountained and vallied, water filled edge of Earth upon which we all live."
(Copyright 1969 Stephen Friedland)
I make Pledge of Allegiance to the Planet plaques. I burn into redwood the words:
I pledge allegiance to my planet.
And to the universe,
all around and within me.
One Spirit indivisible.
With Eternity for all.
(Copyright 1980 Stephen Friedland)
The synthesis of business relations and trade treaties is the modern day approximation of planetary nationality, what the military-industrial complex/media-matrix calls "globalism."
SCRAM: And you recorded a single for Apple Records. How did that come about?
BRUTE: I had a girlfriend, Joanna. We were both at Monmouth College (now University) in West Long Branch, NJ. Around 1965, I moved to NYC. Joanna also moved to NYC, and by that time had met and hooked up with Tom Dawes. He was a member of the Cyrkle, who toured with the Beatles in the mid sixties, and were managed by Nat Weiss, a friend of Brian Epstein. I wrote a poem which turned into the lyrics, then composed a melody around 1967. Through Joanna I met her then-husband, Tom. Tom and I got to be friends and he said some good words about me to John Simon, who had been recording the Cyrkle for Columbia. I went to Columbia, played some songs live for John and that led to the, I, Brute Force, Confections of Love album. When I recorded "King of Fuh," late '68, I got the idea to bring a tape to him and see if he could get it to Nat and, who knows, maybe the Beatles. Well, that's just what happened. A 1/4" mix of the multitrack session of "King of Fuh," recorded at Olmstead Recording Studios, was given to Tom. He brought it to Nat, who, I have learned, played it for George Harrison. George thought it was great, and he added strings from the London Philharmonic and kicked up the drums a bit. They released Apple 8 in May 1969, but Capitol/EMI censored it.
BRUTE: Basically, language taboo. It was a very nice song about the land of Fuh, which was ruled by a benevolent King. Since he was the King of Fuh, he was also known as the Fuh King.
SCRAM: Ah, I see.
BRUTE: The latest twist is that Ken Mansfield, in The Beatles, the Bible and Bodega Bay, makes it clear that John Lennon also had a hand in championing the record and pushing for its release in the U.S.A. Incidentally, "King of Fuh" has been added to the censored song database of the First Amendment Project at Vanderbilt University in Nashville. Writer and software developer Antonio Caroselli, in Italy, is currently writing my biography, and a detailed account of the Apple experience will be included.
SCRAM: With what sort of projects are you currently involved?
BRUTE: To take my music around the world. To write songs and record them. To manufacture state of the art formats of my music and performances. To advertise and sell these products, and to stay centered amidst all the conditions: WORK, FAMILY, FRIENDS, MONEY, SURVIVAL, SEX, FEAR, WAR.
SCRAM: What is your act like these days?
BRUTE: I perform an off the wall, non-traditional musical variety act. Songs, jokes, props, characterizations and improvisational songwriting, and philosophic exhortations. Additionally, I perform my straight music, lovesongs, spiritual songs, along with pure melody, playing keyboard, and guitar."
SCRAM: Where can we catch your act?
BRUTE: I play comedy clubs and music venues nationally. Visit http://www.brutesforce.com/
It is possible to see me,
Look, at night into the sky,
see there the farther shore.
When you wake
to start the day
again a vision forward draws
you on to see me.
A need to go on.
A drive to pursue.
All that and so much more
within the orbs of your eyes
shall who I am filter through.
Think not this is fame driven.
Nor quest for moment's adulation.
For you shall see me everywhere
And not the censors of Capitol.
Nor the censors of EMI
the "proclamation of Truth is Fearless."
This article originally appeared in Scram #15
A Night of Musical Board Games by your host, Vern Stoltz
There are many sad things one notices about the world as it moves further along the path of technical progress. Sure, CDs may sound clearer and be less vulnerable to scratches, but one loses the pleasure of holding a beautifully designed record cover in one's hands. Likewise, the evolution of computer gaming has allowed for incredibly realistic scenes to appear on a video screen, but at the expense of the visually appealing board game box. Many people have forgotten or never experienced the joy that comes with opening a box to discover a world of plastic pieces, dice, spinners, cards, multicolored play money, and best of all, the board that opens to display an exciting design.
Recently I gathered six friends to re-create that era where music and board games met in pop culture heaven. The goal: to play four long-deleted music-themed board games to see if they were still enjoyable today. This was not a scientific experiment, as the increased level of alcohol infusion through the evening may have resulted in biased results.
1. Abigail: a collector of old advice books, and the personality behind the Miss Abigail advice column for the London Times. Miss Abigail's Time Warp Advice website can be found at http://www.missabigail.com/
2. Ani: a painter, artist, and dedicated thrifter, newly relocated to Buffalo, NY
3. Jeff: the writer behind the often funny Wit Memo website http://www.geocities.com/~witmemo/
4. Jen: a school teacher in the Washington, D.C. area
5. Ray: a magician in his spare time, residing in Washington, D.C.
6. Suzanne: wife of Jeff (they met at a screening of the documentary I Created Lancelot Link)
7. Vern: collects old vinyl LPs and board games, and sometimes even plays with them
1957--Name That Tune
This game was a form of musical bingo. Each player received a card with columns headed with the letters M-U-S-I-C, and a small pile of red wooden markers. These looked suspiciously like those red tablets they used to hand out in grade school--the ones you chewed, after which everyone laughed at the kid who had the reddest teeth (and the worst brushing habits)
The Name That Tune game came with a record album, containing the voice of George DeWitt, host of the television show. Mr. DeWitt would announce a certain letter/number combination (eg. S/42), and then an organist played a five-second segment of an unnamed musical selection. If the title of the song was on your MUSIC card, you placed one of the red markers on the appropriate square. Should you achieve five in a row, you've won and must yell out "Stop the Music!"
This 1957 edition of the game included no rock and roll songs. Instead the game centered around selections like "National Emblem March," "American Patrol," "The Merry Widow Waltz," and the "Triumphal March (from Aida)." Soon after placing the needle on the record, I became concerned that the disk would play out to the finish without anyone being able to identify five songs in a row.
Fortunately, two things prevented this. The first was the large number of standards that are still well known today--"Row, Row, Row Your Boat," "Battle Hymn of the Republic," "Yes We have No Bananas," and "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" (aka the alphabet song). The other element speeding play was the irresistible urge of my guests to yell out song titles once they recognized them. You might never have heard "Sweet Rose O Grady" before in your life, but having the player next to you yell out its name permitted you to mark it on your own MUSIC card.
The game was much more enjoyable than I had envisioned. And the record, though comprised of cheesy organ music, was actually quite fast paced.
Name That Tune Player Comments:
Jeff: B+ A great game--if you were born in 1930. A lot of fun--great to "break the ice" at a party.
Suzanne: We're gonna party like its 1949!!
Abigail: I won!! I won!!! And I didn't even cheat too much!!
Jen: 'A' grade. I was inspired to shout out the names of the tunes and sing along with the rapid tempos. We are concerned about the red dye on our hands from the tokens
1967--The Monkees Game
This was a more traditional game, the type where one spins an arrow, then moves that number of spaces forward. The winner is the first person who advances through a path of musical notes to reach the Monkees car. Although the cover of the box is quite impressive, with its images of the Monkees in their souped-up wagon, the game-board is a bit disappointing. The four Monkee markers looked too much alike, and they were out of proportion with the tiny musical notes on the gameboard.
Recognizing that just spinning and moving ahead would be boring, the game designers introduced a little plastic guitar with a rubber band for strings. When a player landed on a whole note, he had to pick up the guitar and start strumming and singing the "Hey Hey, We're the Monkees" theme song. Each time the verse was completed, that team could advance eight additional music notes, until either it was their turn again or some other team landed on a whole note, snatched the toy guitar, and started singing.
As an observer, it was quite amusing to see the players singing, and I enjoyed the fast action as the guitar was rapidly passed from one set of hands to another. For the participating players though, the experience was less satisfying.
The Monkees Comments
Ani: Monkees suck. Gameboard lacks aesthetic qualities. The notes are too close together.. This is like school. I was no good in music class
Abigail: C-, too humiliating and confusing. Thank God it sped up at the end and was over faster.
Jen: D. Evil!!! It was stressful and panicky when singing.
Jeff :C+. Just move by spinning with some awkward, embarrassing, and pointless FORCED SINGING! Big disagreement, over whether having to sing, or getting to sing, is good or bad. I think this game was rushed to market without sufficient R & D, to take advantage of the Monkee craze.
Suzanne: B, exciting, but utterly trivial.
Ray: I was told there wouldn't be any singing.
1971--The Partridge Family Game
This was another "racetrack" game, where one shook the dice and moved ahead, with the winner being the first to reach the Partridge Family bus. For added excitement, one could land on a Partridge square and draw a card. These cards were quite amazing, with each having a bit of Partridge trivia that appeared to have no relevance to the instructions it gave. Some examples:
Laurie has a great curiosity about everything--Move back 2 spaces
Chris has a great appetite for pancakes--Move ahead 3 spaces
Laurie belongs to the "Now" generation--Lose one turn
Danny has gone off zipping on his bike--Move ahead 4 spaces
'Danny enjoys eerie horror movies--Lose one turn
There were four markers in this game, representing Keith, Laurie, Danny, and "Mom." Chris and Tracy were not represented, nor was Rueben, the group's manager. There was a brief pre-start skirmish, as most players wanted to be Danny.
The game itself went relatively quickly, as one only had to travel a path of 61 squares while using two dice. Mom started this game with a huge lead, but Keith, with an exact role of 11, ended up reaching the bus ahead of everyone else. Overall, this game was the one geared to the youngest target audience, with several players noting the similarity to Candyland. It was very simple, yet oddly enjoyable, perhaps because of the cheerful, early '70s graphic design.
The Partridge Family Comments
Ani: Better than the Monkees
Jen: I like making fun of the characters--each has led such a colorful post-Partridge life
Abigail: B+. Cards were entertaining, even though they made no sense. Helps to listen to "I Think I Love You" and dream of Keith. So cheap that they only used one photo for box, board, and pieces
1973--K-Tel Super Star Game
Yes, K-Tel actually produced a board game in addition to all those budget compilation records that were heavily advertised on television. This game was unique among the four played, as it was the only one to address the role of business in the music world. The goal of Name That Tune was to identify five songs in a row. The Monkees and Partridge Family games required you to race along the path and become the first to reach your vehicle. The goal of the K-Tel Super Star Game was to amass a fortune by game's end.
This was the only game to come with play money, unfortunately of an inferior quality, without any fake famous people on the bills. The game was very similar to the popular Game of Life. Players progress along the track, and follow the directions of whatever square they landed on. One has the option of buying insurance (for protection from stolen musical equipment), and instead of collecting money via regular paydays, one earns increasing dollar amounts by passing special concert squares.
By purchasing a record company, player have the option of releasing singles and LPs into the marketplace. When this happened, one went to the stereo and placed the needle onto a special multi-tracked 45 RPM record. The record would then announce either "It's a Hit," "It's a Flop," or "Break Even." If the result was a hit record, the player would collect a special miniature plastic record token--perhaps the coolest thing about this game--which was redeemable for more play money when you reached the end of the track.
But even with the introduction of cool golden records, this K-Tel game bored everyone stiff. The game track, although very brightly colored, was 153 squares long, and took forever to traverse--especially since the game came with only a single dice. The instructions on each square were boring, simply instructing the player to collect or pay money. Even playing the hit-predicting 45, which should have been entertaining, ended up feeling quite anti-climatic.
Sample instructions on the board game and the various "Fortune" cards:
Pay motel bill $100
Bootleg album, lose $10,000 in sales
Swindled by phony guru, pay $10,000
Sell life story to teen magazine, get $1,000
That's a no-no, pay $30,000
Near the end of the game is a square that says "You're chosen musician of the year--Congratulations," and oddly enough, there's no mention of monetary reward at all. Perhaps that was what was wrong with this game. With the constant focus on money, it felt like you should have a calculator nearby to keep track of your financial status. You'd think a game based on rock 'n roll would have been interesting, but the lack of famous rock celebrities, or even fictitious characters, meant that the emphasis was on money, money, and money.
In an ill-fated attempt to increase the excitement level, I went down to the basement and brought up an old color organ project made in junior high electronics class. But even those swirling colors from the '70s were unable to excite the players. This game was so boring that everyone decided to quit before even making it through the outermost ring of the track.
K-Tel Super Star Comments
Ani: Records are cool; K-Tel game drools
Jeff: This game promises to go on as long as Monopoly, or Risk. Much too ambitious for its own good, or ours. Cries out for two dice, instead of the one it comes with, to PICK UP THE PACE.
Suzanne: B+, a bit long, but engaging, like Life for deadheads.
Jen: Too many rules for a simple concept. Too long and tedious. Much like Monopoly. Yawn. The accompanying record sucks and is pointless. Just wanted it to end
Oddly enough, everyone agreed that the oldest game, Name That Tune, was the most enjoyable. A bit of research showed that this was a very popular game in the late '50s, and a second edition was created with a new record.
The Partridge Family and Monkees games were fun, but this seemed partly due to the joy of having people sitting around a brightly colored board-game, conversing and interacting. Half the attraction of these games is the pop culture fascination with musical celebrities. The K-Tel game, lacking the celebrity aspect, was much less interesting.
Overall though, everyone agreed that board games are still entertaining, especially when played with a bunch of fun people. Most importantly, almost all boardgames can be played late at night, under candle light, during the next power outage. Your computer might be dead, but as long as at least two members of the Partridge Family are able to travel around the board, there will be hope in the world.
SCRAM #15 Record Reviews
all reviews by Kim Cooper except as noted
The Addrisi Brothers Never My Love: The Lost Album Sessions
CD (Varèse Sarabande) The Addrisis' "Never My Love"
was such a smash for the Association that they got to go into
the studio to try a record of their own in 1970. The results:
this charming, deliriously romantic California pop set, featuring
Harry Nilsson on backing vocals. Arch, mannered orchestral fluff,
brimming with rings in velvet boxes and vows of eternal devotion
yeah, this one's definitely for the girls.
Ann Beretta New Union... Old Glory CD (Lookout!) Good,
snappy punk rock of the Partisans/STF variety. Strong hooks, tight
playing. The kinda band that you expect to pump out a full on
assault at every gig, even if there's only one audience member.
And that guy will be skanking by himself at 70mph. I'm a sucker
for stuff like this. (Margaret Griffis)
The Aqua Velvets Radio Waves double CD (Milan) Crisp
radio sessions from the long-lived Bay Area instro surf band,
who throw together a stew of retro and more contemporary elements
to create their signature swirling sound. A bonus EP recorded
live in Mill Valley includes a whammy-damaged "Smells Like
The Arthurs walking in the sunlight CD (Dirigeable)
From Austin comes this appealing '67-style pop quartet whose debut
is packed with catchy tunes and dreamboat harmonies. Doesn't sound
like they're trying too hard, and they're definitely having fun.
Autoliner Be CD (Parasol) Lush, energetic pop trio with
dense harmonies applied to pleasant little songs that remind me
of the Jam when they're not Cheap Trickish. Kinda lite metal in
spots-is that the new power pop?
Beachwood Sparks once we were trees CD (Sub Pop) Hypnotic
washes of chiming country rock, shambling, ambitious and warm.
There's a lot here, and it's sounding more distinctly their own.
I wish they played it straighter with the vocals, though-on the
pretty songs it seems like they're smirking.
The Beacon Street Union The Clown Died in Marvin Gardens
180gm LP (Akarma) Pre-Partridge Family, superstar producer Wes
Farrell oversaw these giddily ambitious Boston Sound-ers' 1968
LP, rich with Oompah-Loompah orchestral washes, outta control
guitars and snotty Prince Valiant vocals. The straight "Blue
Suede Shoes" cover five years before the '50s revival is
just plain weird, but a 17-minute "Baby Please Don't Go"
was definitely a good idea. Only on the added non-LP single does
Wes team with Tony Romeo to actually write the group's material-and
it's pure Partridge, natch!
The Blow Up "Dead Stars" +2 45 (eMpTy) Former
Inhalants and Gimmicks hook up for a tuneful punkarama blast with
extra tasty screams and rhythms snagged from grade school bullies.
"Black Lipstick" highlights about 12 seconds of a sensitive
Blue Öyster Cult S/T CD (Columbia/Legacy) Fine
Long Island arcana from the nascent Cult, who having shed their
failed East Coast Dead skin remade themselves as brainiac cycle
goons. Batty lyrical contributions from Pearlman and Meltzer bring
sci fi and pro rasslin' into the mix, but nobody would care if
the band wasn't a heavy metal machine capable of flights of grace
abutting moments of terrorizing thud. Perversity never sounded
Blue Öyster Cult Tyranny and Mutation CD (Columbia/Legacy)
Album #2 (1973). Side one (The Black) is heavy metal boogie aggro,
sinister and plodding, the sonic equivalent of bugs picked out
of a biker's teeth. This stuff filled their live act for decades
to come-and the bonus tracks here are live, with Buck Dharma taking
a break from "7 Screaming Diz-Busters" to tell Seattle
how he sold his soul for a record deal. The flip (The Red) offers
artier melodic strains, including an early Patti lyric and the
lovely "Wings Wetted Down." Not their strongest set,
but you can really hear the Cult identity taking form.
Blue Öyster Cult Secret Treaties CD (Columbia/Legacy)
Released on the cusp of their first headlining tour, Treaties
is a demented delight, highlighting four prototypical BÖC
themes: hysterical middle America rapo fantasy ("Dominance
and Submission"), Nazi flyboy theme song ("ME 262"),
freak portraiture ("Harvester of Eyes," "Cagey
Cretins") and gorgeous pseudo-scientific romance ("Astronomy").
The band locked into a speedy groove overlaid with guitars crunchy
enough to scratch your enamel. This might be my favorite Cult
disc, and I'd recommend it for anyone wanting to start out with
the reissues. It's stoopid, weird, every song is great and it
rocks like hell. Plus it's got the most intriguing batch of bonus
tracks, including a shockingly misogynist ditty called "Mommy"
that somehow wasn't released till now.
Blue Öyster Cult Agents of Fortune CD (Columbia/Legacy)
Their breakthrough record, sounding warm and bright. Yeah, "Reaper"
is an astonishing single (musically and conceptually), but the
album doesn't quite work. There's some terrific stuff here-"This
Ain't the Summer of Love" and "E.T.I." especially-but
also some tracks that are just hookless, and unworthy of the band.
Where the songs measure up to the improved production you'll find
some of the Cult's best moments, but don't expect a straight-through
listening pleasure. The bonus tracks are particularly interesting,
with Buck Dharma's home demo of "Reaper," a song that
later ended up on a Jim Carroll album, and a couple things derived
from Patti Smith poems (though she doesn't get her co-write credit
The Boss Martians Move! CD (Dionysus) Some tracks here
highlight a cool new sound for the Martians, a soulful, hard-edged
sixties r&b groove with cheesy organ fills. Almost seems like
a name change should be in order for a transformation like this,
though hints of the old surfy Martians remain, and there's plenty
of car talk and echo. File under: transitional, and let's keep
an eye on 'em.
The Brian Jonestown Massacre Braveryrepetitionandnoise
CD (Bomp) Low key, hypnotic offering from Anton's troublemaking
clan, sounding this time out like a folksier Cult, with passing
shards of T. Rex. Nice uncreditted and mistitled cover of the
Cryan Shames' "Sailing Ship."
The Centimeters The Lifetime Achievement Awards CD (Space
Baby) The Centimeters have been spreading confusion locally long
enough. Now the rest of the world can boggle to their utterly
unique blend of new wave, German expressionism, homegrown weirdness,
and of course Nora Keyes' demented kewpie doll act. Love 'em or
run screaming from the room, you won't be able to ignore the Centimeters.
The Chesterfield Kings "Yes I Understand "
b/w "Sometime At Night" 45 (Sundazed) The a-side is
a jangly, catchy original reminiscent of the Kings' early waxings,
though at 3:51 it runs long. The flip's the Beau Brummels song,
with Brums vocalist Sal Valentino guesting. While sounding more
fragile, his remains a lovely instrument, and the backing is most
Chitlin' Fooks S/T CD (Hidden Agenda/Palomine) Sweet,
subdued California country rock duets from Bettie Serveert's Carol
Van Dyk and Pascal Deweze of Sukilove, accompanied by a passel
of Dutch folks doing a convincing Fallen Angels act. The few originals
nestle comfortably among the Burritos and Jimmie Rodgers covers.
Cold Blood Vintage Blood? Live! 1973 CD (Dig) First
official live release from the groundbreaking party funk band
of the early '70s. Lydia Pense lead an eight-piece, horns-happy
act through six albums that helped reshape the musical climate.
As this set illustrates, Cold Blood knew their chops and were
spirited musicians on stage. Pense is note-perfect throughout,
but gives her group plenty of room to stretch out and shine on
these five long songs. There are plenty of extended jam sessions
to go around. Funky, soulful rhythms from the same era and general
locale as Tower of Power. The bands also shared a similar sound.
(P. Edwin Letcher)
Conflict/ Mortarhate Only Stupid Bastards Help Go-Kart
Records CD (Go-Kart) Understandably, I only got a sampler instead
of all 14 CDs in the newly re-issued Conflict/Mortarhate catalogue
(rats!) so instead of reviewing it, I'll just blather on about
the bands. As I recall, Conflict was second only to Crass in Anarcho-communist
punk circles. Faster and harder, they were easier to grasp by
hardcore, Oi, even metal fans than the artier Crass. Along with
the ten albums originally released by Mortarhate come three CDs
by various artists (Crass, chumbawamba, UK Subs) and the self-titled
Icons of Filth. (Margaret Griffis)
The Cripplers One More For The Bad Guys CD (Dionysus)
Rocking good country-junkie punk from Columbia, MO. Though not
as heroin addled as most of their brethren, these fellas have
shot up enough Heartbreakers to preserve Johnny Thunders for a
few more years. Yet Missouri does not live by smack alone-the
Cripplers spend just as much time cranked up on DMZ and occasionally
dosing on SoCal superheroes Tex & the Horseheads and the Flesheaters.
The music sounds like it somehow breaks the speed limit heading
to gigs in a disintegrating 40-year-old Ford. Serious whiplash
warning. (Margaret Griffis)
The Cyrkle Red Rubber Ball CD (Sundazed) Brute Force
fiends will want to pick up this reish of the Brian Epstein protégés'
debut for his two songwriting contributions-"Why Can't You
Give Me What I Want," with its daffy harpsichord figure and
phasing, and the punkily minimal "There's A Fire in the Fireplace."
But there's plenty more here to interest fans of sophisticated,
well-arranged mid-sixties folk/pop, including almost another album's
worth of bonus tracks.
The Cyrkle Neon CD (Sundazed) The band continues to
trot out perversities whenever you think you've got 'em pegged
as romantics. Compare the glistening Bacharach-David "It
Doesn't Matter Anymore" with the possible gag version of
"I'm Happy Just To Dance With You" or the utterly lunatic
take on Carol Bayer & Toni Wine's "Problem Child."
Whatever did the teenies make of these nuts? No Brute Force this
time out, but how's about a couple of flop singles covering the
early Bee Gees? Neon was the last hurrah for the short-lived Cyrkle,
its leaders making the switch to the more lucrative world of jingle
writing, foreshadowed by their ad for Camaro, also included here.
David S/T 180gm LP (Comet) Not to be confused with The
David, this Canadian combo started in 1963 as The Marcatos, a
rock-meets-TJ Brass bar band. Their one album was recorded in
late '68, and is lovesick vocal pop with unusual arrangements,
as when the horns call-and-response with electric guitar. They
cover "Hey Jude" (nahhh) and "House of the Rising
Sun" (cool). Kinda clunky, but certainly original. It did
well on Canadian radio, where programmers were required to play
a percentage of locally made music.
The David Another Day, Another Lifetime CD (Jamie/Guyden)
New stereo remix of the 1967 VMC album sessions by this interesting
SoCal orchestral psych band. Strong original songs by Warren Hansen
are set soaring by Gene Page's ambitious string and horn arrangements,
while punky fuzz guitar leads and thudding drums nestle alongside
angelic harmonies. It sounds like it shouldn't work at all, yet
it does in surprising ways. With a couple of bonus tracks, including
a wicked instrumental take on the Yardbirds' "Mister, You're
a Better Man Than I."
The Deadly Ones It's Monster Surfing Time CD (Collectables)
Joe South seems to be the (horribly throbbing) brains behind this
Southern fried surfsploitation platter, originally waxed for Vee-Jay.
Monster sound effects and dialogue lend a Halloweeny air to what's
otherwise a solid set of moody instros, heavy on the twang.
The Deadly Snakes I'm Not Your Soldier Anymore CD (In
The Red) Hot and twangy rock-n-roll by guys who love gritty psych
blues and other beer chugging music incomprehensible to art school
majors and goth types. They even have harmonica, organ and sax
on this beauty. Hotter than a Texas rattlesnake sunning hisself.
Deep Reduction "2" CD (Get Hip) Expect a fuss
over this new collaboration by ex-Birdmen Deniz Tek and Rob Younger
and the Stump Wizards. It's full of the kind of raw, aggressive
moodiness that Younger specialized in with the New Christs, but
with a bluesier, more American feel. The excitement of hearing
that voice and that guitar sound together again is undeniable,
but it's very much a group effort, with much of the songwriting
by Wizards guitarist Jack Chiara. Potent stuff.
The Dictators D.F.F.D. CD (Dictators Multimedia) Twentysome
years after Bloodbrothers, the Dics return with a long player
on their own label that celebrates their city and all the trashy
stuff they dig. Live faves like "Who Will Save Rock and Roll?"
"Avenue A" and "I Am Right" sound tuff and
cool finally captured on tape. I'm kind of put off though by a
strain of bitterness and negativity running through the record,
with "Pussy and Money" being the prime offender. I like
these guys better when they're not whining.
The Dils Dils Dils Dils CD (Bacchus Archives) Were the Dils really
commies? Were they even punks? At this late date, hardly anyone
cares. They sure had a few great tunes, though. For completists
only, this latest comp has their first surprisingly tuneful demos,
the oft-heard Dangerhouse and Rogelletti 45s, and a ten sloppy,
muffled live recordings from 1978-79, including the Velvets' "What
Goes On" and "Wreck of the Old 97." You shoulda
The Diplomats of Solid Sound Instrumental Action Soul
CD and "Bullfrog Boogalo" b/w "Willie's Theme"
45 (Prescription) From the ashes of Iowa City's Bent Sceptors
comes this funkily breezy Hammond groove combo. The ambitiously
cinematic arrangements of their tight little tunes makes me wanna
hear this with a dance floor nearby. Old school cool.
The Dipsomaniacs Stethoscopic Notion CD (Camera Obscura)
From Norway (via an Australian label) come some deliciously dreamy
psychedelia in a Younger Than Yesterday meets Green Pajamas vein.
"Bring Flowers to the Courthouse" is more Beatles via
Elephant 6. Hermetic, and highly crafted. Øyvind Holm has
a peculiarly shrill voice that lends itself well to twining with
the gorgeous instrumentation. Very fine stuff. I'll be looking
out for their earlier European-only releases.
The Dirtbombs Ultraglide in Black CD (In the Red) The
prolific Mick Collins and pals rip through a set of old school
soul and funk covers, with a one snotty garagy original to remind
us that, for Mick, the concept of "roots" is broad indeed.
Excitement, trash and passion.
DMZ live at the rat CD (Bomp) Live disk with eight songs
from 1976, eleven from the 1993 reunion (of everyone but the rhythm
section). The early stuff is brutal and delirious, a great mix.
Monoman's voice has lost a lot of its power over the years, but
from the fan response it sounds like the '93 show was well received.
Crazed, lewd and primitive punk-garage from the guys who conceptualized
it. Don't miss the ranting Monoman liner notes bagging on the
CBGB's scene and Sire Records' lousy coke.
The Dogs "Class of 1970 " b/w "Rebel
Rock" 45 (Dionysus) The a-side's a relentless new Dogs epic,
celebrating old school lowlife pleasures to a jaw-clenching riff.
Flip to hear the muddy sounds of the band playing in 1971, as
captured on cassette.
The Dream Syndicate The Days of Wine and Roses CD (Rhino)
Haven't listened to this stuff in years, but time was they were
"my" hometown band, so beloved I once missed the last
bus rather than their set and walked home from west LA to Hollywood.
It was worth it. When Kendra was in the band they had a mysterious
alchemy that got into your bones and itched exquisitely. Never
was the same after she split. Coming back to these songs via Bill
Inglot's crisp remaster, I marvel I ever argued "hey, they're
not that Velvety"-they were, and wonderfully primitive, and
full of the kind of passion and pleasure and snotty confidence
that's still completely captivating. With the complete pre-album
Down There EP, a couple of interesting lo-fi rehearsal takes,
and the ultrarare Davis single by Steve Wynn's Brit-damaged 15
Minutes, including the original "That's What You Always Say."
A recent live performance of the entire album (!) by Steve's new
band at the Hollywood Knitting Factory was transcendent without
being more than ironically nostalgic. No one was really gonna
meet Steve for Oki dogs after the show, but the crowd of fortyish
Paisley Undergrounders and a smattering of savvy kids sure ate
up the brittle, warm and affectionate sounds. Pure magic, with
all the changes of two decades resting like a thin palimpsest
over the beating heart of the original LP. Completely different
from hearing it played first time around, but just as great.
Duotang The Bright Side CD (Mint) Unusual stripped-down
mod sound from this Canadian duo with no guitars but some deceptive
bass parts. Clever and prickly.
Steve Earle, Townes Van Zandt, Guy Clark Together at
the Bluebird Cafe CD (American Originals) You'll wish you'd been
in the room for this 1995 benefit concert for a Nashville charity
dental clinic, one of the last times these three old friends got
together to spin tales and share songs. All were in fine voice
and spirits, with jokes flying fast between the great tunes. There's
a priceless Townes tale about gambling away his gold tooth. You
get the sense of mutual respect and a bit of friendly rivalry
between them as each trots out songs that are harder to top. "I'll
see you one 'Valentines Day' and raise you a 'Pancho and Lefty.'"
The Electric Eels The Eyeball of Hell CD (Scat) 100%
pure Cleveland bile and dada, circa 1975, with a bunch of unreleased
stuff, including a wonderfully hateful "Dead Man's Curve,"
the original "Agitated" 45 and voluminous notes from
the participants. It's tough to take a whole CD of these guys,
but you've gotta stand in open-mouthed awe at the sounds they
were making and how early they were making them.
Enemies / Pitch Black split CD (Lookout) Although noble
in intent, split records don't translate well into the CD age.
In the old days of vinyl, you'd place the side you wanted to hear
on the turntable and listen to the band you were interested in
at the moment. Then, some other time (maybe even 16 minutes later),
you'd listen to the other side gleefully, as if you'd purchased
two LPs for the price of one. But with CDs, you have to deal with
both bands being on the same side. One band always gets the bum
deal of having all their songs at the end (unless you have the
even worse scenario of mixing up the songs). Always get your split
albums on vinyl if you have the choice. That said, split records
do get a decent sampling of music out to the public. Both bands
here hail from the East Bay punk scene. The Enemies are a metal
tinged hardcore band with Dave Edwardson from Neurosis. Imagine
the Descendents covering Black Sabbath-perky and poppy followed
by dark and slow. Newcomers Pitch Black play the genre a little
closer to SoCal. They apparently are jack-o'-lanterns, but don't
let their race sway you. Both bands play it hard and tight. (Margaret
The Evaporators "Honk the Horn" 7" EP
(Nardwuar/ Mint) The Evaporators are rock and roll interviewing
madman Nardwuar's band, and this EP has something for everyone:
several ebulliently silly and hopped up songs, a funny snippet
of Nardwuar asking Tommy Lee if he bought or rented that notorious
speedboat, and a printed history of the band's van that magically
takes exactly as long to read as the record does to play.
Jad Fair & Daniel Johnston It's Spooky CD (Jagjaguwar)
Originally released in '89 on Fair's 50 Skadillion Watts label,
this is the sound of two naïfs goading each other to increasing
heights of wackiness. Daniel gives vent to his prized obsessions
(ghosts, Beatles, Roky Erickson), and Jad's participation gives
the whole scene the air of a folie a deux. Endearingly skewed
melodicism, though the drumming is pretty annoying. Isn't "Tongues
Wag in this Town" a Dion McGregor dream? With bonus tracks
and video footage.
Mick Farren & the Deviants On Your Knees, Earthlings!!!
1967-2001 CD (Total Energy) Anti-chronological career survey of
Ladbroke Grove protopunk Farren and his varied compatriots released
to coincide with Farren's Random House memoir of the counterculture.
Stray singles, album tracks and newly recorded oddities straddle
the worlds of punk, psych and madman blues, and whatever the year,
you can just tell these guys were smelly.
Fireballs of Freedom Welcome to the Octagon CD (Estrus)Opens
with hopped up grunge, more addicted to coffee and punk than metal
and junk. Then again, maybe not. The slower tunes sound like the
band's run out of gas somewhere out in the hinterlands of Wash
St. and copped some Oxycontin to pass the time with while waiting
for Triple A. (Margaret Griffis)
Flute Force eyewitness CD (innova) Classical music audiences
notoriously fear and loathe contemporary classical music, which
leads many concert programmers scrambling to find ways to reassure
their audiences that new music can, in fact, be warm and friendly.
Composer David Alpher could not have found a more soothing narrator
for his eight movement work "Land of the Farther Suns"
than Garrison Keillor, and it must play very well in Peoria, indeed.
Kitsch-connoisseurs who read this here mag might be a little disappointed,
however: it's smarmy, but no more so than the sum of its parts.
The rest of the music on the CD is fairly uninteresting to this
jaded listener, the exceptions being the piece by flautist extraordinaire
Robert Dick, who knows that a flute does not have to be nice,
and a piece for flute quartet and string quartet by Eric Stokes
which I found pleasant despite being inoffensive. The ensemble,
Flute Force, handles it all quite well. But please, somebody stop
them before they pun again. (Phil Curtis)
Flying Fatal Guilloteens The Now Hustle For New Diaboliks
CD (Estrus) Tweaky guitars and scratchy vocals give the impression
of good ole punk rock sloppiness, but listen closely and you'll
hear it's well rehearsed and perfectly executed punk rock sloppiness,
of the kind AmRep used to release. Interspersed between the driving
rhythms are some nice subtleties that hearken all the way back
to arty post punk. Good for people who simply wanna boogie and
those too intellectual to get off the couch. (Margaret Griffis)
Edith Frost Wonder Wonder CD (Drag City) Starts out
all innocent and folky, building in intensity until the sweetness
is cloaked in a medieval creepiness and starts sounding like the
voices in a madwoman's head. Ambling tunes reveal complex structures
and compelling lyrics, with rather gorgeous results.
Fugazi The Argument CD / Furniture CD-EP (Dischord)
All right, I'll admit it. I haven't listened to a new Fugazi CD
in years. Not really because I haven't wanted to. I just gave
up my record clerk job, moved to LA and discovered quarter LPs.
(Sorry, prices have skyrocketed since then.) As cheap as Fugazi
CDs are, they couldn't compete. Besides which, there was one LP
a while back that I just couldn't get into for whatever reason.
Maybe it was the way that Nation of Ulysses jerk stared us down
when he and Ian MacKaye sat down at our table at some show in
DC. I don't know if he was acting as bodyguard or just a toadying
friend, but it really turned me off. I know you don't always pick
your friends, but it seemed a bit lame of Ian to hang out with
intimidating poseurs, especially when I know those guys are nice
and have a sense of humor. And we were sitting there first. But
now I'm kinda sorry. If the last couple of CDs were as good as
this one or the EP, I've been missing out. While retaining that
trademark Fugazi sound, the character of the music has expanded,
containing nuances from near and far in the musical spectrum.
Some of it's almost, dare I say it? Psychedelic and Beatlesque!
I dig the faster tunes over the introspective ones, but that's
me. The slower tunes are just as good. I'd really, really like
to hear this while driving down the Interstate right before a
heavy rain, when the blackening clouds get thick and ready to
pounce. (Margaret Griffis)
Holly Golightly Singles Round-Up CD (Damaged Goods)
Both sides of every single single Holly released between 1995
and '99, from labels on several continents, which is almost certainly
more than you've got in your jukebox. The styles range from Headcoatees
raunch to the later busted up country folk sides, but it's always
pure Holly. Her highly personal chants of womanly woe make me
think of ancient Greek heroines rending their hair and being roused
Margo Guryan 25 demos CD (Franklin Castle) '60s pop
songstress Guryan wrote the luscious "Sunday Morning"
(a hit for Spanky & Our Gang) and plenty of sweet tunes interpreted
here by her smoky whisper with electric piano accompaniment. There's
a period solo album called Take A Picture that I'll pick up sometime.
These simple recordings span thirty years, and give a good overview
of her delicate, romantic sensibility shot through with shards
of cynicism. The musical equivalent of hanging out in a rainy
window seat with a pussycat.
John Gilmore Laid Bare CD (Amok) Gilmore, author of
the Black Dahlia exploration Severed, has been quietly concocting
this sonic tour of L.A.'s underbelly with the help of maestro
Skip Heller and an impressive cast of associates, among them DJ
Bonebrake, Robert Drasnin, Big Jay McNeely, Ray Campi and magician
Teller on theremin. Dark tales unfold in a rough voice against
a jazzy noir backdrop, as we visit with some of the criminals
and art weirdoes Gilmore hung with in his decades on the scene.
Good accompaniment for a road trip, provided you don't scare easy.
The Grains "Heart Full of Rain" b/w "Wait
A While" 45 (Teen Sound) Trad snot-nosed garage with a hint
of the 13th Floor Elevators' electric jug on the flip. Bonus points
for having a lead singer named Heino.
The Guess Who Shakin' All Over CD (Sundazed) Remastered
from newly discovered master tapes are two dozen early tracks
by the long-lived Canadian group. Their style veers all over the
map, from Shadows-style twang to Kinksy rave ups, Beatlesque love
tunes to an orchestral "Flying on the Ground is Wrong."
They may not have been particularly original, but they were inventive
players who made the best of mediocre local studios. This non-chronological
comp is a neat introduction to the many faces of the Guess Who.
Half Empties Full Bore CD (Out of Step)Punkity rock
heavily influenced by SoCal bands and English Oi, even a little
Naked Raygun and Misfits for fun. Occasionally anthemic, mostly
driving. Only some of the lyrics are printed, but I'm not sure
for what effect. Good form, but lyricist could improve if he had
a wider source of inspiration. (Margaret Griffis)
The Hard Feelings "Soul Party" 45 (Gearhead)
Sloppy, slobbery trash-soul ravers originally waxed by Nathaniel
Mayer and Solomon Burke, mixed by Raunch Hand Mariconda with suitably
Harpers Bizarre Feelin' Groovy CD (Sundazed) Remastered
debut from the frothy harmony popsters who might be the quintessential
Warner Brothers art bubblegum band. Overseen by Lenny Waronker,
the band highsteps their way through a gentle repertoire by Randy
Newman, Van Dyke Parks, Rodgers and Hammerstein, and Paul Simon.
Bonus cuts: the Tikis WB single, from back when they were writing
their own (less ambitious, garagey) songs.
Harpers Bizarre The Secret Life Of CD (Sundazed) By
album three, these cats were so deep into their dreamland that
you half expect Little Nemo to guest star. The romantic, fanciful
numbers, including several standards, are strung together around
old-timey radio play interludes, resulting in a gesamptkunstwerk
of sonic sunshine. This sounds like I remember Venice feeling
The Hives Barely Legal CD (Gearhead) Powerful kitchen
sink punk 'n' roll as packed with political thinking as it is
Ramones guitar. If you want one of those "good" headaches,
pick this up pronto.
Ill Wind Flashes 180gm LP (Akarma) 1968 Tom Wilson-produced
debut for country-tinged Boston freak band. The Connie Devanney-sung
tunes especially have an appealing spookiness. I guess after L.A.'s
Standells made such a fuss about that "Dirty Water,"
it was just a matter of time until a Bosstown band responded with
something like "L.A.P.D." Reissue has three extra tracks.
The Immortal Lee County Killers The Essential Fucked
Up Blues CD (Estrus) Down and dirty, these guys sound like they'd
like to party with the Pussy Galore-but not so much heroin and
a lot more Alabama brand rotgut, 'cause they're nice boys. There's
only two of 'em, but any more fellas would drink up all the booze.
And the sound is full enough anyway without those whiskey swiping
lazy assholes anyway. Who needs 'em? Burp. (Margaret Griffis)
IOWASKA Vine of Souls CD (Alternative Tentacles) Pretty
interesting release from what appear to be the crusty punks at
a Rainbow Gathering (tm) picnic. Quite a varied set of influences
(Crass, Clash, Siouxsie, Black Sabbath among them) scrambled up
into a dark psychedelic, metallic punk. Very Wiccan, yet angry
as hell at all the usual victims of intolerant scorn: men, the
system, Christianity, pollution, greed, circumcision. The high
levels of estrogen will undoubtedly turn off some, but it's definitely
worth a spin. Street cred alert: Sam used to sing with the Amebix.
Jack & the Beanstalk Cowboys in Sweden CD (Parasol)
Crunchy guitars, catchy teenage melodies and some appealingly
dumb lyrics on this Aussie/Swedish project. "She Drives a
Volvo" sounds like a great lost Hoodoo Gurus track. Bonus
live cuts include a Dictators cover.
The Keepers "Stop Pretending" +2 45 (Butterfly)
This Irish combo has a chunky, summery sound that lends itself
well to their cover of Bobby Fuller's "Lonely Dragster"
and two high-octane originals.
Jeff Kelly Indiscretion CD (Parasol) Solo project from
the prolific Green Pajamas leader, heavy on the Catholic symbolism
and his trademark longing melodies. I'm never fully convinced
by his processed-sounding rock stuff, which is scattered throughout
this release, among some quite pretty quieter pieces.
King Brothers S/T CD (In The Red) Heavy guitar rock
in the grand tradition of VU, Led Zep, JSBX, but with the shitty
production values of punk rock. You really have to listen to figure
out that the stereo only sounds monophonic. I think the lyrics
are in Japanese, but eerily sound like mumbledy English. The review
so far only seems like I'm panning it, but the CD is pretty good,
as is most of the In The Red catalog. (Margaret Griffis)
Knoxville Girls in a paper suit CD (In the Red) Kid
Congo Powers and pals could be the house band at some down-home
haunted house, playing boozy, bluesy trash with a big old exposed
and bloody heart (see esp. their goofball, "Monster Mash"
take on the Shangri-Las' "Sophisticated Boom Boom").
The Leaving Trains Emotional Legs CD (Steel Cage) The
Trains' first recording since the mid-'90s shows Falling James
& co. slipping easily from their unique brand of post-punk
ire to a sweeter pop simplicity, with some old school punk and
metal covers shared out along the way. Smart and sexy.
Les Incapables "1 2 3 4 Succes" 7" EP
(Teen Sound) Francophone quartet from Montréal play surfy
and chaotic, like the party band in a mid '60s loony bin. Dig
those organ frills on "Twist-A-Rita!"
Les Sexareenos Can You Do The Nose Mustache? 7"
EP (Telstar) Three Jim Diamond-recorded gems (+ one ringer) from
these frenzied proponents of frat/Farfisa lunacy. Fast, fun and
Les Slow Slushy Boys Make Mine Slushy CD (Wildebeest)
Compiling a bunch of these French revivalists hard-to-find Larsen
and Butterfly releases. Some rockers, some gentle crooners, all
with Teen' Axel's wacky organ right up front.
Les Slow Slushy Boys "Zip-A-Dee Doo Dah "
+3 45 (Butterfly) Kicks off with a French-language slowpoke carnival
organ take on the cartoon pop classic, followed by three originals
enjoyably echoing the Merseyside stylings of Freddie and the Dreamers.
Recorded dans Toe Rag, Londres.
Jens Lindberg Meets the Strollers 7" EP (Teen Sound)
Sounds like this meeting of the garage minds might've culminated
in suicide, at least to judge by the sad sack gloom pervading
these moody rockers.
The Locust Flight of The Wounded Locust CD (GSL)This
is some fucked up shit. Devolved grindcore is what it is. At first
glance, you get typical distorted speed-of-light hardcore, but
then they have the gall to throw in keyboards and make it all
sound "weird" like that. The nerve of them. How dare
they?!? And to think they hail from out-of-the-way San Diego.
Tampa Bay is more like it, but since the invention of airplanes,
diseases have quickly spread around the globe. Eleven songs in
just over ten minutes. I gotta have more. You hear me? One of
the more interesting releases of the year. (Margaret Griffis)
Lost Sounds Black-Wave CD (eMpTy) An evil new wave is
emanating outta the south, sweeping up Jay Reatard and a passel
of spandex-clad cronies. Psychotic synth pop with a fuzzed-out
razor-sharp edge that'll leave you dizzy and grinning. Nutty stuff!
Only complaint: this kinda record should be precisely 28 minutes
long, not 56.
Mad for the Racket The Racketeers CD (Muscletone) Punk
elders Brian James and Wayne Kramer teamed up with various Blondies,
G'n'Rs and Police for this sometimes shredding, sometimes bizarre
debut. While some of the trad guitar ravers sound kinda rote,
the best are just what you'd want from these guys, and the odd
stuff is smart and enthused enough to keep your interest.
Roger McGuinn Treasures from the Folk Den CD (Appleseed)
Originally available as MP3s on McGuinn's website, these 18 "field
recordings" reveal the former Byrd hitting the road with
his home recording studio to collaborate on folk and blues standards
with artists like Pete Seeger, Joan Baez, Eliza Carthy and Odetta.
Judy Collins helps McGuinn revisit "John Riley," in
a version denser and more mystical than the Byrds' own. While
some of the arrangements lack spark, overall this is an earthy,
sincere meeting of old and new friends putting aside ego to celebrate
the songs. The booklet includes McGuinn's reflections on his visits
with the musicians, and Jean Ritchie's interesting letter about
the derivation of "Fair Nottamun Town."
Dan Melchior's Broke Review Heavy Dirt CD (In The Red)
Swampy lo-fi punk-blues from this sometime Billy Childish collaborator
and his Anglo/American combo, tastily steeped in Stooge riffage,
garage rock sneer.
M.I.A. Lost Boys CD (Alternative Tentacles) Great classic
hardcore that should be part of everyone's collection. Punishing
and fast, they were one of the mainstays in the punk acronym scene.
Pretty good comp that includes tracks from the Last Rites for
Genocide & M.I.A. album and Murder in a Foreign Place EP.
It also includes some tasty unreleased, live and rare stuff. Good
for both the curious and the completists. In the words of one
of my skater pals: crucial. (Margaret Griffis)
The Millennium Magic Time: The Millennium/Ballroom Recordings
3-CD box (Sundazed) Break out the insulin before delving into
this impressive collection of pretty much all the (non-Sagittarius)
material put on tape by Gary Usher, Curt Boettcher and Keith Olsen
during their late-sixties sunshine pop collaborations. Includes
demos, scarce singles, unreleased rehearsals and instrumental
backing tracks. Starting out somewhat hesitantly as The Ballroom,
by the time of the Millennium's Begin album they'd honed their
preciousness to a candy-coated razor's edge, drenched in studio
artistry, made tougher by the session playing of former Music
Machine members Ron Edgar and Doug Rhodes.
Montage S/T CD (Sundazed) Post-Left Banke Svengali project
from Michael Brown and a young band quite willing to submit to
his Baroque requirements. The shimmery 1969 LP includes reworkings
of the LB's "Desiree" and "Men Are Building Sand,"
the deliciously old-timey "An Audience with Miss Pricilla
Gray," and much harpsichord-soaked pop sweetness. While less
effortlessly gorgeous than the Banke-the vocals sound like mere
humans, not slumming angels-it's a pleasant disk sure to please
that band's many fans. Includes informative notes by Richie Unterberger
and four unreleased tracks.
John Morton Outlier: New Music for Music Boxes CD (innova)
One way to set yourself off in a crowded marketplace is to have
a gimmick. And despite the tiny audience, contemporary concert
music is a crowded marketplace. Composer John Morton has found
himself a promising gimmick: making music with music boxes (usually
multiple boxes at a time, sometimes amplified and processed).
And he does create some good pieces, simultaneously nostalgic
and acerbic, occasionally pretty or mysterious. It is a little
much for one sitting, though, sometimes feeling like you heard
essentially the same thing a couple of tracks back. The one music
box-less piece doesn't really help matters much, and only makes
the title of the disc less than entirely accurate. (Phil Curtis)
The Mullens Tough To Tell CD (Get Hip) Standard late
'70s power pop. Rough and tumble music that almost never colors
outside the lines. The better songs borrow heavily from the early
'60s. (Margaret Griffis)
The Nads "Saigon Hooker" +2 45 (Gearhead)
Danny Nad's strangled vocals lend an air of desperation to this
crunchy set of Dead Boys-styled throb, on plummy purple wax.
The Nectarine No. 9 received transgressed &transmitted
CD (Beggars Banquet) Brainy, hypnotic Scottish anti-pop with Fire
Engines and Pop Group connections. Thick spread with Joseph Beuys
references, found snippets and gnawing melody lines that pull
the whole thing taut yet let it throb. Pretty interesting.
Neu 2 CD (Astralwerks) I tried Krautrock in my brief
"I dig everything" phase, but picked up a lousy later
Can album that soured me on the genre. Too bad I didn't start
with one of these hypnotic, rhythmic, wonderfully organic Neu
records. It's the sound of Neolithic robots preening themselves
on an alpine lakeshore, while comets stripe the sky. Completely
European, and always surprising, you'll hear bits of garagey proto-punk,
academic electronica, chants, elevator music, and a library of
found sounds flowing together into a nutty, gooey slab that will
make you think hard about how music works. Revelatory.
New Town Animals Is your Radio Active? CD (Mint)Spastic
early UK type punk about important things like girls, sex and
punk rock. The kind of music that makes everything you play for
the next couple of hours seem morbid, dull and boring. Opens
with a very amusing "radio track" that includes Vapors,
Buzzcocks and Generation X clips. I only wish that were the real
state of radio. By the way, they apparently wear uniforms on the
cover. Very good. Vancouver wins again. (Margaret Griffis)
NRA New Recovery CD (Gearhead) Popular Dutch punk vaguely
reminiscent of Les Thugs on a SoCal / emocore bender. Takes a
couple of listens before songs start to distinguish themselves,
but otherwise a very strong release. (Margaret Griffis)
Orpheus The Very Best of CD (Varèse Sarabande)
From the mini-series of "Boston Sound" compilations,
this one highlights the 1968-71 output of the soulful pop vocal
act that did the other, other version of "Walk Away Renée."
Highly professional, with a slick Association-esque veneer and
complicated string and brass arrangements. Classy without being
particularly exciting, the sleepy vocals keep the early material
from ever taking real flight; a late Bell 45 with second vocalist
Steve Martin shows them stretching out into an intriguing heavy
Parker and Lily Hello Halo CD (Orange) Sleepily western
soundtracky pop shot through with mild bits of electronica, whispers
and chimes. Pretty.
The Pattern Immediately CD (Lookout) Bay Area punk's
new hope, all yeah-yeah, woo-woo, snot-nosed swagger. Six-song
sampler is sufficient to get your blood pumping and suggest that
the whole thing would sound even better with sweat, beer, kids
in the mix.
Armando Piazza (featuring Shawn Phillips) Suan / Naus
double CD (Akarma) Two albums of heavy, yet subtle, folky Italian
psych with oddly inflected vocals and some deliciously crunchy
guitar. Originally released on the Beautiful Black Butterfly label
in the early '70s.
The Pinkos S/T CD (eMpTy) The '78 Clash color scheme
of the sleeve alerts you that you're in for a politicized punk
outing from this prickly duo. Themes include feminism, hypocrisy
and personal responsibility, and while there are moments of shrillness,
Vanessa Vaselka's sultry vocals and the group's obvious sincerity
make it worth a listen.
The Pinkz "Something About You" b/w "Be
Mine" 45 (Gearhead) On hot-chacha pink vinyl comes this debut
from Nikki Corvette's sometime backing band, turning out their
own sweet and sassy pop punk originals, seasoned with jungle drums
and buzzsaw guitar.
Poison Control Center The Go-Go Music Show CD (Bi-Fi)
Delirious high-concept package with the least convincing British
accents this side of Bangers & Mash introducing PCC's thrashily
inventive bubblegum-pop. The eleven-piece band makes sure you
get all the basic indie pop food groups, enhanced by electronic
trickery, cooing girls, string and horn section, and, of course,
Pram Somniloquy CD (Merge) These remixes from the Museum
of Imaginary Animals album yield jazzy constructivist dream pop
with appropriately sleepy femme vocals. Think Nico doing the incidental
music for some arty kid's TV show. Nice.
The Push Kings Feel No Fade CD (Le Grand Magistery)
Evolving over the course of two LPs from a stiff but agreeable
Rubinoos-esque indie pop outfit to soulful mixmasters of modern
pop stylings, this Boston-now-in-LA band is just too good to be
ignored any longer. Imagine if the Backstreet Boys dropped Diane
Warren from the payroll, and got some real, instead of suburban
mall, soul. Imagine a modern power pop band not stuck in 1966
(or '72, or '79). Imagine great pop melodies spiced up with splashes
of doo-wop, trip-hop, funk and metal. "The Minute,"
with its sweet harmonies and thundering guitars, sounds like the
Osmonds rockin' the Warped Tour (if that sounds good to you, you'll
love this band). "Summer Trippin'" should've been the
hot weather anthem of 2001 (well maybe next year). Pick this up
and help AM radio pop bloom again in the 21st Century. (Keith
Question Mark & the Mysterians 96 Tears: The Very
Best of CD (Varèse Sarabande) Don't be misled by the title:
this is not a legit reissue of the long-lost Cameo/Parkway albums.
But it is a perfectly entertaining mix of recent rerecordings,
plus a song from their live set at the first Cavestomp fest, and
two newly unearthed 1966 demos. Since the Mysterians are still
a delight, I ain't complaining.
Radio Birdman The Essential Radio Birdman (1974-1978)
CD (Sub Pop) Radio Birdman is my favorite band. That their recordings
have been unavailable in the US for twenty years is one of those
ridiculous obscenities that first grates, and ultimately seems
"normal." The release of this intelligent and loving
compilation reopens the wound, and I'm suddenly just as pissed
as I was when, as a kid writing my first fanzine article, I railed
against the unjust world that slammed the door on Tek, Younger
& co. This ain't the place to catalog their accomplishments
and tragedies-Vivien Johnson's fantastic book does that at length,
and David Fricke's liner notes in brief. All you need to know
is that they took a highly refined set of influences (Detroit
'68, Jan & Dean, BÖC's metallic lyricism) and adapted
them into a sound uniquely theirs, a sound which transformed Australian
rocknroll and by rights should have changed the world. (I'm not
exaggerating.) The power and beauty of this music is undeniable,
as is its wit and playful intelligence. Sub Pop's comp mixes up
tracks from the early EP, both versions of the Sire debut, and
their moody second album, plus a couple of live tracks, including
the awesome "Dark Surprise." It's a fine introduction
to the group. If you've never heard them and you love rocknroll,
you owe it to yourself to pick this up. And heck, we're giving
away free copies to new subscribers, so what's your excuse?
Ramonetures Johnny Walk Don't Run Pauline CD (Blood
Red) Mile high concept: X hits played Ventures-style, and with
Billy Zoom and DJ Bonebrake enlisted for maximum whaaaa?? effect.
Blame Phantom Surfer guitarist Mel Bergman, who previously filtered
the Ramones through the same flaming V-shaped prism with equally
nifty results. Less formulaic than you think: check out the exotica
version of "The Unheard Music" with DJ going ape on
the vibes, and Billy's flute solo on "Adult Books."
Red Planet Let's Degenerate CD (Gearhead) Eclectic sophomore
effort from the lively Bay Area popsters throws some T. Rex, thrash
and even britpop into the eau d'78 atmosphere but at the heart
they still wanna be Van Halen, with a smidgen of new wave street
cred. Featuring live faves like "Continental Divide"
and "You Knock Me Out," and more calls to teenies to
drop their pants than on the Raspberries' Greatest Hits.
The Resineators Don't ___ With the Fantasy CD (Siltbreeze)
I wouldn't have thought it possible for these two stoners to sound
more obnoxious, and yet they've utterly surpassed themselves on
this latest platter. Pick "hit": "Underage Girl
Rocket 455 Go To Hell CD (Get Hip) Detroit style rock
that isn't very inspired. Probably much better to see 'em live
than listen to 'em in this posthumous release, but I won't be
afforded that opportunity. Actually, half the alternative music
released since 1970 can trace it's roots, attitude or poverty
to the Stooges and MC5, but most of it at least tried to hide
their debt (at least till everyone moved to Seattle) instead of
flaunting it. I suppose it's better to have an actual Detroit
band mimic their history, but it's still a bit tiring. (Margaret
The Royal Guardsmen Snoopy Vs. the Red Baron/ Snoopy
and his Friends CD (Collectables) Twofer comp of the Florida teen
band's first two Schulz-damaged Laurie LPs. Vs. salts a single
Snoopy adventure among a standard set of frat rock covers, delivered
with enthusiasm if not much distinction. The Friends on disk two
are a bunch of unconvincing WWI foreign correspondents, narrating
the action betwixt multiple barnstorming dog vs. baron scenarios.
A couple of neat little love songs somehow sneak in too. It's
all completely ridiculous, yet somehow endearing.
The Royal Guardsmen The Return of the Red Baron/ Snoopy
for President CD (Collectables) By album #3, the Guardsmen were
clearly taking their pop pills and experiencing some consciousness
expansion, though they're still game to tackle "I'm a Man"
and "Gimme Some Lovin'" in raunchy style. The steel
drum instrumental take on "So You Want To Be A Rock 'N Roll
Star" is a gem. "Snoopy for President" wraps up
the Red Baron franchise by having the final wining vote for the
doggy leader being cast by his one-time nemesis (apparently granted
U.S. citizenship in one of those sleazy post-war rocket research
deals). This is the disk to pick up if you need to hear the Guardsmen's
bubblegum, Bobby Goldsboro, Box Tops and Every Mother's Son covers.
The Satelliters Sexplosive! CD (Dionysus) 100 years
ago Darmstadt, Germany was a center for cutting edge decorative
arts; today it's home to the Satelliters, whose work is less original,
but by no means unsatisfying. Their rearrangement of all the iconic
elements of 1966 garage rock is tasteful and swinging, resulting
in a sound you'd be happy to stumble upon in a basement dive in
this or any decade.
The Saturn V featuring Orbit "LCB" 7"
EP (Teen Sound) Surfy San Francisco combo weigh in with four tunes
for teenaged twisters. Fake Merseybeat collectors will want to
tune in for their version of mocktop classic "Mersey Mercy"
(aka "You've Got Me Bugged').
Adam Schmitt Demolition CD (Parasol) Apparently this
fellow was one of those early '90s pop's new hope types with a
couple of records on Reprise. Having spent the last decade producing
a host of Parasol acts and recording secret demos, here's ten
crunchy, catchy new songs sure to please the heart on sleeve brigade.
Nice melodies, ringing guitars, and plenty of energy. Less predictable
than many power pop records: there's even some hard rock crossover
The Screws Shake Your Monkey CD (In the Red) Mick Collins
and his latest combo trot out a raft of unexpected covers moving
from garage (p)funk to blues to avant-shriek trippiness, with
Terri Wahl's crazy whine amping the tension whenever it appears.
Post-everything sonics for the end times.
The Sewergrooves "The Race is Over " b/w "Slave
to the Sound of the Mellow Blues " 45 (Gearhead) Adding some
unexpected twists to the Norskpunk formula, "Race" is
exciting and over just fast enough to leave you entirely satisfied.
The flip's got some moody Sonic's Rendezvous things happening
and a great sloppy break. Fun!
The Shams Take Off CD (Orange) These young Cincinnatans
could almost pass for a Back from the Grave band, with their savage,
swaggering (mostly original) nuggets and Jagger vox. The garage
geeks are gonna cream all over this. A couple of Greenhornes guest.
Sick On The Bus Set Fire To Someone In Authority CD
(Go Kart) British Thrashcore with excessively paranoid lyrics.
Naw, it's not about how the First and Second World are fucking
it up for the Third World, it's all about how everyone else is
an asshole not to be trusted. In fact, they printed explanations
of their lyrics in case you didn't pick up on the obvious messages.
Even department stores can't be trusted. They've put up cameras
so you can't steal anymore. And women. God forbid, you should
involve yourself with a woman unless it's for anonymous and brief
sex. Now that we've determined how mindless everybody else is,
the music is pretty good, cranked-up Motorhead, as indebted to
metal as it is to punk rock. The British were always better at
enjoying both genres combined than us colonials, which is maybe
why the band felt they had to remaster and remix this American
release from the debut album years after the fact. Nevertheless,
it's still hopping. (Margaret Griffis)
Simon & Garfunkel Bookends CD (Columbia/Legacy)
Released in spring 1968, this ambitious self-produced set is a
fascinating blend of sonic weirdness, indulgence (2:07 of old
people talking?), art pop and the ace folk-rock of "Mrs.
Robinson" and "Hazy Shade of Winter." As an album
it's as chaotic and unfocussed as the year that spawned it, and
about as intriguing. "Fakin' It" could almost be a lost
Chad & Jeremy track.
Simon & Garfunkel Bridge Over Troubled Water CD
(Columbia/Legacy) When I was three, I thought the title track
was the greatest song ever, even better than "Octopus' Garden."
None of the worldly sentiments meant a thing to me, but it could
put me to sleep when nothing else could. Sounds kinda sappy now.
Fortunately the album includes a few of their contrived rockers,
but despite its popularity, there's just not much here that'll
make your grown up jaw gape.
Simon & Garfunkel Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme
CD (Columbia/Legacy) Mid-period S&G romantica with some prime
pretties and politics, but you're gonna really flip for the faux
Dylan goofiness of "A Simple Desultory Philippic (Or How
I Was Robert McNamara'd Into Submission)," which abstracts
the entirety of spring 1966 culture into a lean 2:19. Place it
beside the version of "Silent Night" that's accompanied
by an increasingly terrifying newsread and understand that whatever
the sixties were, "groovy" was the least of it.
Simon & Garfunkel Wednesday Morning, 3AM CD (Columbia/Legacy)
Their first, and their folkiest. Dylan cover, Christian imagery
(what's up w/that?), a mawkish song for a fallen Freedom Rider,
Simon's original bit of bird-lore "Sparrow" showing
what a wicked hand he already had with a melody, and those two
voices working their Everlys-cum-Greenwich-Village magic. Juvenilia
ain't a bad thing.
Skooshny Water CD (Minus Zero) Skooshny is an L.A. band
that's been (very) quietly plying their trade since 1971. If more
folks knew about them, they could probably draw a tidy crowd,
but of course they don't play live. Now a collectable record shop
in London has seen fit to release several disks of their subdued,
Byrds-inflected wanderings. This is the latest, and shows Mark
Breyer & Co. continuing their gentle explorations in sonic
layering and occasional flashes of jingly menace.
Slim Cessna's Auto Club Always Say Please and Thank
You CD (Alternative Tentacles) Unironic C&W complete with
slide guitars, yodeling and Jesus. At least, I think it's unironic.
You never know with hipsters. But even if they think they're being
ironic, deep down inside they're playing it closer to the heart.
Mysteriously, or maybe not, as Nashville turned country music
into just pop sung with a hick accent, hipsters (Dwight Yoakum
and Palace for instance) managed to hang on to the flourishes
that separate country from Top 40 schlock. And you knew the Rolling
Stones were still cool as long as they partied south of the Mason-Dixon
line. So it should come as no surprise that Alternative Tentacles
has put out one of the best country music releases in years. Beholden
to the Dead Kennedys and Nick Cave as much as they are to any
old hillybilly, these guys know how to shake the cowshit off your
britches. And don't forget that even in the olden days of Hank
Williams and Bill Monroe they knew how to drop a funny lyric here
and there. In a just world, they'd be the house band on Hee-Haw.
The Spits S/T CD (Nickel & Dime) Wow! I'm having
some kind of flashback. These guys sound exactly like some nowheresville
hardcore band from way back in the early '80s, the kind you'd
find stuck towards the end of a Flipside compilation. So many
questions. Did they record this on a boombox? Is that an organ?
Is this a re-release? And their look! You have to see the cover.
What's up with those moustaches? Are they cops? Are they nazis?
Are they dweebs? Are they capable of creating bombs and drugs
in a lab? Do they really skate? I'm completely hypnotized by this.
They seem to be inspired by both DEVO and GG Allin. Very weird
in its uncoolness. I like it! (Margaret Griffis)
Stoneground The Last Dance, Recorded Live January 6,
1973 CD (DIG) After the Beau Brummels split up for the first time,
Sal Valentino took his velvet pipes home to San Francisco to front
this 11-person boogie band manufactured by DJ Tom Donahue for
the Medicine Ball Caravan film. Not quite the Monkees, Stroneground's
soulful groove made them a prime live attraction during their
brief existence. This clean-sounding disk documents their final
appearance before a sold-out Sacramento house, and suggests that
there was still plenty of life in them. There's a bit too much
choogling in spots, but when Sal lets loose on a Hardin/Dylan
medley, mmmm it's sweet.
The Strokes Is This It CD (RCA) Cripes, what's the fuss?
Lively, nervous post-punk with New Values-era Iggy vox. It sounds
like real rock and roll, and kids are buying it. This is not a
bad thing, so quit yer bellyachin'.
Syphlloids Finger Check CD (Etiquette) Good band with
purposefully silly/bad lead singer. Infantile sensibilities-porno
starlets, girls too pretty to pay them mind and girls who won't
screw them-like a third rate SoCal punk band from the mid-'80s.
Two Man Advantage Don't Label Us CD (Go-Kart) Fun hardcore
from a band that, well, has a fascination for hockey that hasn't
been seen since the Hanson Brothers. They even have team jackets!
Precious. But don't be distracted, this is some rocking stuff.
The Tyme Society "Leaves Are Turnin' Brown "
b/w "Wonderin' Why" 45 (Psych-Out) Fronted by Misty
Lane magazine honcho Mass, these five Italian psych fiends offer
sensitive original organ-fueled folk punkers that make up in gloom
what they lack in the letter "G."
Ultimate Spinach The Very Best of CD (Varèse
Sarabande) Selections from the Boston psych band's three MGM albums
and an atypically punky late 45 cover of "Just Like Romeo
and Juliet." The albums were classically tinged weirdness
with theremin, sitar and not enough of Barbara Hudson's spaced-out
acid goddess vocals. Leader Ian Bruce-Douglas was pushed out of
the band within a year, yielding a second incarnation featuring
Jeff "Skunk" Baxter and other members of Chameleon Church,
but no songs. Self-indulgent, but entertainingly trippy in spots.
V/A The Best of the Boston Sound CD (Varèse Sarabande)
Long before Seattle was invaded by carpetbagger A&R execs
in crisp new flannels, Boston swarmed with their headbanded antecedents.
The kids weren't buying in 1968, either. Compiling tracks by 18
of the Boston-area bands that were either part of MGM's Boston
Sound promotion or signed in its aftermath, this collection offers
an archeological overview of a scene that wasn't. There's not
much connection beyond the regional between Orpheus' soft soul-pop
and the cantankerous thud of Phluph, Beacon Street Union's loony
Wes Farrell-produced bubbleart and Earth Opera's expansive Americana.
Not fitting thematically, but nice to have, are Bead Game's hard-to-find
"Sweet Medusa" from the soundtrack to The People Next
Door, and the Rockin' Ramrods' classic 1966 single "Bright
Lit Blue Skies."
V/A Better Than The Beatles: A Tribute To The Shaggs
CD (Animal World) Some bands lend themselves easily to tribute
albums-and surprisingly enough, the Shaggs are among them. The
thirteen acts involved, including the Thinking Fellers, Danielson
Familie and Optiganally Yours, transform their obvious affection
for Dorothy Wiggins' loopy originality into a different kind of
folk art, more knowing but still steeped in charm. Bauer's "We
Have A Savior" is a mini-symphony, Deerhoof's "My Pal
Foot Foot" is deliriously robotic, while Danielson's "Who
Are Parents" goes completely over the top with the baby talk.
V/A Chinese Checkers: A Tribute to Memphis Soul Instrumentals
CD (Wildebeest) Instro outfits from at least a couple of continents
join together to praise the MGs & associates in this affectionate
tribute. More surf than soul, with contributors including the
Tikitones, Waistcoats and Sir Finks.
V/A Give the People What We Want: Songs of the Kinks
CD (SubPop) And who doesn't love the Kinks? A who's who of Northwest
bands tackles faves mostly from the Davies' first decade, some
playing it straight, others deconstructing things neatly. Highlights
include Mark Lanegan's drowsy "Nothin' In the World Can Stop
Me Worryin' Bout That Girl," the Fallouts' trad take on "This
Man He Weeps Tonight," and Heather Duby's cooing "The
Way Love Used to Be." Plus: the Fastbacks, Mudhoney, Young
Fresh Fellows, Minus 5.
V/A Gulliver's Travels featuring Mike D'Abo CD (Instant)
This messy Immediate LP from February 1969 is a patchwork of stolen
sound (including excerpts from Zodiac Cosmic Sounds!), swirling
synths, drunken mockery of the Small Faces, and somewhere in the
mix a few flecks of narrative from Swift. Stoned and silly, it's
not particularly musical, but there's definitely historic value
in the prototypical sampling. The project originated in a stage
play the previous year, and the poppiest thing here is its failed
single, quickly withdrawn when Manfred Mann sent his solicitors
around. (D'Abo was still with the Manfreds at the time.)
V/A Halleluja: Gospel & Prayers 1926-1946 CD (Trikont)
If you're not squeamish about Christian themes, the powerful voices
and rock'n'roll energy on this fifth volume of Trikont's ever-interesting
Flashbacks series will give you the chills. Featuring Bessie Smith,
Sister Rosetta Tharpe and a bunch of true believers.
V/A Have Narghile: Turkish Rock Music 1966 to 1975 CD
(Bacchus Archives) Weird and rather wonderful compilation of Turkish
bands and solo performers who mixed traditional rhythms and melodies
with Western pop influences. There's some wild psych here-check
out the vicious guitar on Erkin Koray & Ter's sole 1972 single-among
many moments of crossover oddness. Apparently mastered from less-than-pristine
vinyl, but where else are you gonna find this stuff?
V/A Les Chansons des Perverts CD (Crippled Dick) Offbeat
mix of historic and contemporary recordings occupying the sleazy
side of the street. Panting Mystic Moods rub up against Tony Bruno
motorcycle operas, Earl Wilson's Let My People Come musical makes
friends with Seksu Roba. Libidinous, yet goofy, just like you.
V/A Nuggets II: Original Artyfacts from the British
Empire and Beyond, 1964-1969 4-CD boxset (Rhino) In a break from
the Americana bent of the first Nuggets box, this time the focus
is on UK freakbeat, the Continent and beyond far beyond. I don't
care what anyone says, "Tokyo's" Mops are obviously
from Mars. The four disks are crammed with prime obscurities and
a few stray hits from a United Nations of moptops. From Black
Beauty-scented rave-ups to acid-drenched dreams, there's probably
a dozen things here you've never heard and will flip over. Other
stuff you already have, but in much lower fidelity on dodgy comps.
And if the sequencing isn't always of optimum mix-tape quality,
you can always burn your own version. Comes with a gorgeous, full-color
100 page book filled with rare band pix, record sleeves, Mike
Stax' track notes and useful introductions from Greg Shaw, and
fellow compilers Alec Palao and Gary Stewart.
V/A Poet: a tribute to Townes Van Zandt CD (FreeFalls)
Townes was a songwriter's songwriter, and the respectful group
who fête him here seem disinclined to deviate much from
his arrangements. So what you get are those marvelous songs, the
sad ones rather than the silly, sung by some of the finest singer-songwriters
around. Lucinda Williams' beautifully hopeless take on "Nothin'"
is the standout. Son John T. Van Zandt closes the proceedings
sounding eerily like his dad. In between Steve Earle and the Dukes
rip up "Two Girls," the reformed Flatlanders offer a
lovely "Blue Wind Blew," Nanci Griffith's "Tower
Song" is icily moving, and Willie Nelson turns to "Marie,"
Townes' best late song, the one that used to make people cry and
give money to beggars on their way out of the show. A classy,
respectful release with uniformly fine performances. My friend
Lisa let me help her with her Grammy votes, so we cast one for
V/A Popshopping 2: More Music from German Commercials
1962-1977 CD (Crippled Dick) Wonderfully bats reclaimed advertmusik
teeming with joyous choruses, fake funk, fuzz guitars, lonesome
strings and the occasional mysterious exclamation of delight.
I dunno what these cats were selling, but gimme one of each.
V/A Where the Girls Are Volume 4 CD (Ace) Ace digs still
deeper into the vaults for this latest installment of their girl
group rarities comp. Drawing on the Atlantic/Atco singles catalog
(including French and UK releases), WTGA4 draws a swinging portrait
of the teenage heart circa 1962-66 with the enthusiastic aid of
assorted Cookies, Gingerbreads, Bobbettes and Bluebelles.
Varuckers How Do You Sleep? CD (Go-Kart) The Varuckers
have been around for close to forever but are still almost unknown
in the US, where the trickle of imports are quickly snatched up
by their crusty fans. I believe this is their first product released
in Amerikkka, which is a shame because it's a pretty good CD.
It's Metallish punk with great lyrics accurately parodying the
usual Anarcho-communist topics like begging not to be forced into
doing anything for the corporations and forcing the corporations
to do everything for them. (Margaret Griffis)
Loudon Wainwright III Last Man on Earth CD (Red House)
He's been around for decades, a singer-songwriter with one novelty
hit ("Dead Skunk") and a minor reputation as a darkly
wacky "new Dylan" who hasn't had an American major label
deal for years. He has been married, divorced, had kids who he
doesn't see much anymore, both parents dead, facing life after
50 with doubtful accomplishments to look back on and thickening
darkness ahead. With a bravery that's sometimes startling, he's
spun pure gold out of this coal-lump of a situation on his new
album, a beautifully constructed and throat-tighteningly sad meditation
on what it's like to be that 53-year-old man. He doesn't let up
one bit-every little detail of being alone and lonely and haunted
by ghosts is laid on the table. Even the obligatory "life
goes on" chins-up he indulges in on occasion are transparently
phony and ineffectual, a writer not fooling himself, much less
his audience. The melodies are strong, the musical backing refined
and right, the words smart, apt, detailed, and completely dispiriting.
It's a folk-rock opera of late middle-aged bourgeois disaffection,
about missing your mom, feuds with your dad, the uncertainty of
friendship and the depressing and empty residue of past romances.
This is first unstintingly truthful assessment of life past 50
by a pop songwriter yet. Given demographic realities, maybe it'll
presage a trend. Fuck Jethro Tull, this is the sad truth about
being too old to rock n' roll, too young to die. (Brian Doherty)
The Wanna-Bes ST CD (Panic Button) Very, very heavy
Ramones / Bad Religion rotation on the Wanna-Bes' turntables-to
a distracting degree, actually. Play the guitar tracks alone and
I don't think Johnny Ramone could tell they weren't his. I guess
if you grew up with that Seattle sound, you'd do anything to sound
different. I don't blame 'em. I'm tired of grunge too, but the
Wanna-Bes are a little too much. So this begs the question: if
the Ramones aren't around anymore, are you better off buying their
old records or supporting the current scene? It's tough because
you might miss out on some of the best records of all time in
either case. But the Ramones are about as timely today as the
Stooges were in 1991. And it ain't a scene if you're shut inside
your time capsule, which is where we find the Wanna-Bes. They
wanna be back in 1976, but it's 25 years later and the Ramones
are in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, not in the new bins. Their
CD isn't as good as just about all of the Ramones' catalog, but
to dismiss them outright seems equally shameful. There's talent
here, you can hear it clearly in the power pop singles, but it's
misdirected. (Margaret Griffis)
The Warlocks Rise and Fall CD (Bomp) Loud, often rough
and VU-inspired, on record this stuff actually has the head-butt
intensity their proponents claim for them. Completely reductive,
but in a good way, with moments of real ice queen prettiness.
Peter Warren & Matt Samolis Bowed Metal Music CD
(innova) This is one of those one of those times that I wish that
I had heard Metal Machine Music, so that I might here make a sly
comparison. However, I'm pretty sure that if you dig MMM, you'll
dig this as well. The title pretty much tells you what you need
to know: it's music produced by vibrating metal plates and cymbals
with bows. It's a beautiful sound if you're into that sort of
thing, and the performance here has a sort of trajectory to it.
Quite the religious experience, actually, if approached with the
proper frame of mind. (Phil Curtis)
The Weird Lovemakers Live: Bigger Than A Cookie, Better
Than A Cake CD (eMpTy) Tight and crunchy, totally great band from
another planet named Albuquerque, NM. You can tell that not much
goes on in 'querque 'cause these guys obviously have plenty of
time to spend crafting their tunes. The results are kickass. Supposedly,
this is a live show, but it barely sounds as if they have the
"live filter" turned on, let alone are playing in front
of people. Unless no one was there. Like all good punk, lyrics
are barely understandable, but you kinda sense they might be good.
Music is pinched-nerve, head-shakin' good as well. Hell, if they
sound this good playing in front of nobody, they should come to
LA where they can play in front of lot of nobodies and me. (Margaret
Wendy & Bonnie Genesis CD (Sundazed) This is one
of those things so perfectly matched to a certain geekoid demographic
that it's tough to believe it's real. Two nubile San Francisco
sisters, circa 1968, unleashed an album of shimmery Brazilian-inflected
soft pop originals for the jazzy Skye label. The label went under,
and the record was barely heard. Revived with bonus tracks, Genesis
is a charming, surprisingly mature confection, studded with tasteful
session work and the girls' own prodigious playing. While not
as amazing as some reviewers would have you believe, it's a very
pleasant and surprising record, sure to appeal to sixties pop
The West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band Vol. 2 CD (Sundazed)
This is the first of their records I heard, via a 25-cent German
copy scored when the Rhino parking lot sale still yielded such
treats, and it's still my fave. A blackly glowing concept album
about the Vietnam War and sex with underaged Sunset Strip habitués,
it also features "Smell of Incense," the loveliest thing
they ever put to wax.
The West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band Vol. 3: A Child's
Guide to Good & Evil CD (Sundazed) The stripped-down WCPAEB
trio of Shaun Harris, Ron Morgan and weirdo Bob Markley deliver
their final Reprise album, a freaked out blend of psychedelic
prettiness, antiwar cries, and interband conflict manifested as
cynical riffs on the hippie ethic. Obnoxious as Markley undoubtedly
was, he could come up with some pretty wild lyrics: "A vampire
bat will suck blood from our hands/ A dog with rabies will bite
us/ Rats will run up your legs/ But nothing will matter."
Fascinating and creepy.
The Witches Universal Mall CD (Fall of Rome) Interesting
Detroit combo who keep you guessing with their garage-pop-psychedelic
stew, held loosely in check by producer Jim Diamond. Undisciplined,
The Woggles Live! At the Star Bar CD (Blood Red) Hometown
gig from September 2000 shows the perpetual party band in high,
sweat-soaked dudgeon as they crank through two dozen good excuses
to order another beer.
Steve Wynn Here Come the Miracles double CD (Innerstate)
Heading out to the desert with Chris Cacavas was an inspired move
for Wynn. Not since first-wave Dream Syndicate has he sounded
so in love with his band, the emotional environment he apparently
needs to tap into magic places. Miracles is two disks of tough,
moody rockers seeped in West Coast mythology and a strong shot
of heartbreak. Track 3 ("Sustain") is about as close
to perfection as a pop song needs to be these days, but the record's
strong throughout. Recommended, and even better live.
Yesterday's Kids Everything Used To Be Better CD (Panic
Button) The songs are well written pop. The music's well played
if a bit derivative. Lots of potential "hit" singles
here. My main complaint here is the vocal stylings. I don't know
why, but altogether too many punk singers nowadays have that same
deadpan delivery. You know it when you hear it. Like an uncynical
10-year-old kid, who is trying to pretend he's not singing. Where
the hell did that originate? Gilman Street? Which is a shame,
'cause otherwise I'd like this a lot. (Margaret Griffis)
Zakary Thaks Form the Habit CD (Sundazed) One of the
finest regional garage bands of the sixties, Corpus Christi's
Thaks could write their own rave ups or make a Kinks cover their
own. Best known for tough stuff like "Bad Girl" and
"Face to Face," they also played nice and dished out
the harmonies when inclined. This crisp-sounding disk compiles
their J-Beck, Thak and Cee-Bee singles with several previously
unreleased cuts. Check out the patricidal "Can You Hear Your
Daddy's Footsteps"-yow, nuts!