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!
Federal Duck - S/T CD (Radioactive) When I get my time machine working, maybe the eighteenth or nineteenth thing I m gonna do is port back to the studio where the Federal Duck were making their (I assume it s on Radioactive, so notes there s not) sole album, grab hold of the pseudonymous producer s lapels and hiss, Listen, bub, you got an ace mournful New England garage pop songwriter in this George Stavis kid so drop the rest of the repertoire and focus on the band genius and in 35 years fanzine writers will cream all over this disc instead of giving middling reviews that rely on that tired old time travel gimmick. The Stavis tunes really are strong enough to recommend the whole album, which when not working this haunting, wintery academic sound ala the Rising Storm plays around with neo-Vaudeville, heavy acid rock, old time banjos and a smattering of head humor, all played with sophistication and imaginatively arranged. Surprised I ve never heard of these ducks before.(Kim Cooper)
Irving Fields Trio - Bagels and Bongos CD (Reboot Sterephonic) Inaugurating a label dedicated to spotlighting great Jewish contributions to avant-pop is this frisky, Latin-tinged set of Hebraic instros. While piano trills are more prominent than the titular hand drums, it s a fun set of cocktail music sure to pique the interest of your inner Esther. Pick hit: Havannah Negila. (Kim Cooper)
Paula Frazer - Leave the Sad Things Behind CD (Birdman) This here s the newest offering from Tarnation s Paula Frazer. The overall sound conjures up a dreamy k.d.laing cowgirl walking down Carnaby St. with the non-Hot Tuna members of Jefferson Airplane on the way to see a Spaghetti Western or maybe different atomizers of sixties essence spritzed into the air and mingling pleasantly. What a lovely voice this gal has and she weaves her own cloth! (Brooke Alberts)
Fresh Maggots - S/T LP (Amber Soundroom) Originally issued on RCA in 1971, this rural teenage English duo (Mick Burgoyne and Leigh Dolphin) might have found an audience with a less repellant name. It s hard to imagine many girls picking up the album without hearing it first, though it s full of charming original songs and was well reviewed. Their aggressive, finely-arranged orchestral folk with fuzzed-out guitars, trilling tin whistles, glockenspiel and violin occupies an intriguing middle ground between the Incredible String Band s dreamy weirdness and Donovan s pop sensibility, with sustained flashes of pure punk energy, and surely deserves a reappraisal. (also recently reissued on CD) (Kim Cooper)
Mike Furber & the Bowery Boys - Just A Poor Boy CD (Radioactive) London-born and finely-coiffed, Furber was just what Brisbane garage band the Bowery Boys wanted in a singer well, aside from not having a great voice. On their sole LP, the band displays a fine hand with the jangly and punky stuff, which is unfortunately interspersed with some pretty dopey blues covers. Highlights are the deliciously messy, Easybeatsy take on That s When Happiness Began and a snotty Diddy Wah Diddy, both better suited to Furber s range. Later in his brief career, Furber was a Barry Gibb prot g , again to no great notice.(Kim Cooper)
The Gentleman Callers - Don t Say What It Is CD (Wee Rock) Snarly, Farfisa-laced, girl-done-me-wrong garage R&B from St. Louis. Occasional undercurrent of swirl, or chime, but by and large it s that four kids start band in Midwestern garage after hearing the Yardbirds for the first time, 1965 sound what flips the miniskirt crowd and has you bobbing your head feeling all, you know, cool. (Nathan Marsak)
Goblin Market - Haunted CD (Camera Obscura)... When last we heard from this Green Pajamas side project, on 2001 s excellent ghostland, Jeff Kelly and Laura Weller were crafting deliciously spooky songs inspired by the work of pre-Raphaelite poetesses Christina Rossetti and Elizabeth Siddal, Poe and Emily Bront . This album finds them hopping the pond and a century later, with a cycle of moody and emotional tunes inspired by the novels and stories of Joyce Carol Oates. I don t know her stuff except in passing, but even out of context this is a strong album, delicately wrought but not at all fey, with gorgeous twining vocals, hypnotic melodies and pained themes that cut deep. Literate pop fans will be ensorceled.(Kim Cooper)
Carlos Guitarlos - Hell Can Wait CD (Nomad) Guitarlos second solo release (he s an eighties veteran of Top Jimmy & The Rhythm Pigs) proves that after a stint as an indigent street musician, he s back to the music world in full force (and with an album title to prove it). Seemingly at ease in a variety of rootsy genres, his vocals are raw, heartfelt and natural, and his guitar-playing simply astounding. Adding to the mix are complementary vocals on some tracks by Marcy Levy and David Hidalgo (who also plays accordion on the zydeco-like Keep Me Satisfied ). Here I Come is a stand-out R&B swinger, and he begins and ends the CD with potent solo acoustic songs, the bluesy Love Me From The Start and the plaintive lament I ve Been Dead Since You ve Been Gone. Varied and accomplished, Guitarlos songs (like the man himself) will stand up to the test of time. (Julia Devine)
Judy Henske & Jerry Yester - Farewell Aldebaran CD (Radioactive) This is one of those legendary lost records that everyone talks about, where after you finally hear it, you have even less of an idea of what it is than before. Brutally aggressive when it s not being elegantly folksy or bubblegummy, then in turns decadent, satirical, apocalyptic, histrionic and demonic, these young marrieds a folk-blues goddess and an ace journeyman with ties to the Spoonful and TMFQ created a truly unpredictable m lange of pop, antipop, subpop and artifice. With so many disparate facets, the whole of Farewell Aldebaran (1969, Straight Records) can only appeal to the openest of minds, but odds are at least one part of it will blow all of yours.(Kim Cooper)
The Hi-Frequencies - Money Isn t Everything CD (Teen Regime) If the Cavern Club had been in Motown early sixties rockin from Pittsburgh, by men in narrow suits and a gal in a nice off-the-shoulder number, made all the better by the obscenely soulful singing of Jayson Brooks (he s black, so it sounds good on him). And also having thrown some dreamy surf instros into the mix, the HFs elicit that too-rare put your feet up and consider your life well-lived feeling. (Nathan Marsak)
Gary Higgins - Red Hash CD (Drag City)... This pastoral, hypnotic self-released stoner folk disk from 73 gets the deluxe reish treatment with lyrics, photos, mastering from the original tapes and bonus tracks but no liner notes. Still, the facts of the dope-related prison term Higgins served right after his album was released add and subtract little to the whole. He has a lovely, boyish voice, warm and whispery, complementing the low key arrangements swelling with cello, flute and mandolin. He also had a more aggressive and humorous side, as shown in the Beefheart-voxed Down on the Farm. The songs have that rare mix of quietness and great force that demand attention, and while they become a bit monochromatic over the course of the whole album, the best are simply much too good to stay lost.(Kim Cooper)
The Loud Family - What If It Works? CD (125) Six years on from Attractive Nuisance and the brilliant, self-effacing Scott Miller returns with a revamped Loud Family, now something of a Go-Betweens-styled partnership with singer-songwriter Anton Barbeau. By kicking off with a punchy, new wave take on the Stones Rocks Off, it s immediately clear that Miller+Barbeau are a real band, not a wooden one, and the record is strong and playful straight through. Following close is Miller s reflexive Song About Rocks Off, just the sort of twitchy, nostalgic, brainiac pop of which he s master. Barbeau s lush, twining tunes and adenoidal tones are good company for Miller s, and the sole co-written number ( Kind Of) In Love is more than kinda swell. The title song, by Barbeau, feels like a sweet, high-energy update of Bowie s Kooks. Covers of the Zombies Remember You and a proggy take on Cat Stevens I Think I See the Light are charming, but might miff fans hungry for new originals. Still, a most welcome and overdue return.(Kim Cooper)
H.P. Lovecraft - Dreams in the Witch House CD (Rev-ola) The subtitle of this disc is The Complete Philips Recordings. It is comprised of the albums H.P. Lovecraft and H.P. Lovecraft II, plus four songs taken from singles. I have owned the group s second album since the mid-seventies. I picked it up during a frenzy of sixties music collecting, but it never grew on me like all the Chocolate Watch Band, Thirteenth Floor Elevators-type stuff I was so gaga over. For some reason it sounds a whole lot better now, and I quite enjoy the other material as well. Taking their name from the horror/fantasy author, the band blended elements of folk, rock and various other musical strains to come up with a sound that is moody and atmospheric without being macabre. The vocals shine brightly and the production is spot on. (Edwin Letcher)
Jana Hunter - Blank Unstaring Heirs of Doom CD (Gnomonsong) To be honest, I ve never been terribly impressed with the so-called lo-fi movement. This movement probably best exemplified that a good song is a good song, whether it was recorded well or otherwise and in fact helped prove, at least for my money, that lo-fi should have in some instances, been no-fi (if you catch my drift ). Fortunately, we have a new breed (Neo-folk? Anti-folk? You pick your own label--not interested in helping on this one) dedicated to catching the essence of good songwriting (think Woody Guthrie) and letting the words and music speak for themselves. Note: if you are a musician you should have just gotten a chill down your spine, as this is a scary proposition indeed imagine there s no Duran Duran it s easy if you try If you are at all following this you have hopefully realized that what I am trying to say is that Jana Hunter has managed to turn lo-fi into, well high art. I sincerely doubt the genre will ever get any better than this. (Jackson Del Rey)
Kingsbury Manx The Fast Rise and Fall of the South CD (Yep Roc) Pastoral, carefully-crafted piano pop that evokes the Kinks, Beach Boys and Zombies but too personal, unpredictable and eclectic to get tossed in the retro copyist shoebox. Charming.(Kim Cooper)
Lavender Diamond The Cavalry of Light CD-EP (self-released) Lavender Diamond offers up an EP that wears a pretty dress of string & piano arrangements with soothing vocals. Think Scott Walker if he were a girl and had a limited budget. Even though the lyrical content doesn t quite resonate, the delivery is precious and comforting. I hope Lavender Diamond get a chance to make a full-length soon they are dreamy. (Craig Ceravolo)
Lazy Farmer S/T CD (Sunbeam Records) Ah, they had me at the first dulcet tones of the 1970s Britfolk flute. Here we have a recording issued in Germany in 1975 by English folkie guitarist Wizz Jones, his wife Sandy on banjo and vocals, Don Coging on banjo, COB s John Bidwell on flute, flageolet, guitar and vocals, and Jake Walton on dulcimer, hurdy-gurdy, guitar and vocals. These folks were inspired by John Burke s classic instruction book Fiddle Tunes for the Banjo as a jumping-off point for some great arrangements. On Railroad Boy, for example, they ve used the hurdy-gurdy to give it a medieval edge. There s a song by Ralph McTell as well as one by the influential American banjoman in London, Derroll Adams. (Brooke Alberts)
Lost Sounds S/T CD (In The Red) A few months ago, when a friend in Memphis mentioned that the Lost Sounds had disbanded, I was more than a little disappointed. Rarely do I like, let alone love, bands that wear their influences on their guitar straps, but these guys (and gal) were just too damn good at what they did to dismiss offhand. Like their other releases, this self-titled album is a curry filled with the most recognizable punk/new wave flavorings out there: Screamers, Missing Persons, Runaways, Devo and Gary Numan. Pick your spice, it s here seamlessly blended into a fine, fine platter. Each listen is more enjoyable than the previous. (Margaret Griffis)
Troy Lukkarila Unsafe Structure CD (lukalips.com) If Daniel Johnston had a wife and kid, he might sing cranky pop songs like these. The warbly, mannered vocals have that acquired taste outsider quality, and nearly every song runs long, but the pop sensibilities keep things from getting impossibly self-indulgent. Still, the song from the POV of a flasher should have tipped me off that a love song to a baby daughter couldn t stay sweet straight through. I kinda hope the daughter is an imaginary character, because no real kid should have to deal with a dad obsessed with preserving her virginity from the teenage boys of the future, much less singing about it!(Kim Cooper)
Terry Melcher S/T CD (Collectors Choice) On this 1974 debut, the Byrds/Raiders producer spins his own web as a Beverly Hills country boy, soothed by strings, loping cadences and harmonies (including those of mom Doris Day), racked by the existential anxieties that fill Joan Didion s west coast tomes. The darkness might be read as post-Manson stress (Melcher s house on Cielo was the first creepycrawl target), or just post-paradise anomie. Either way, it s a tense and provocative mix, and an interesting oddity to be filed between the Burritos and Jimmy Webb. (Kim Cooper)
The Mentally Ill Gacy s Place: The Undiscovered Corpses CD (Alternative Tentacles) The Dead Boys had their Son of Sam, and the Child Molesters their Hillside Strangler heck, even Santa Barbara s Church of Hanna-Barbera recorded The Ballad of James Oliver Huberty. Which still seemed easier to get than the infamous eight-song 1979 scum-and-insanity effort Gacy s Place, whispered and giggled about on schoolyards ( they re fucking your kids! They re fucking your kids now! ) nationwide. Sure, there s eBay now, but some of us have to do things like buy a car or pay the mortgage instead dropping that coin on one of the 300 original 45s. Fear not, though, the original eight StarBeat Studios tracks are here, plus eleven crawlspace uh, basement tape tracks that deliver more ugly, sloppy punk rock (whatever happened to squirts of horrible saxophone in music?) about padded cells and tumors and Stalag 13. (Nathan Marsak)
Mirkwood S/T LP (Amber Soundroom) From 1973, bad trip post-garage boogie blues with an occasional apocalyptic, Asian feel. The band was a Dover (U.K.) combo featuring Mick Morris and Jack Castle, who d been playing together since 1967 in a covers band, but got bit by the prog bug and started writing their own moody material.(Kim Cooper)
The Misteriosos S/T CD (Triptone) The debut from this tuff little Philly-by-way-of-Boston trio kicks off in impressive ticked-off fuzz garage traditionalist mode, but quickly slips into psychedelic experimentation highlighted by Tula Storm s dreamy singing and some very nasty acid guitar by one Jelly Roll, who also handles the snotty male vocals. Trippy and unpredictable, if all over the map.(Kim Cooper)
Modern Skirts Catalogue of Generous Men CD (Self-released) There are more bands than UGA students in Athens, GA. That is just the way it is down there. Statistically speaking, there is more bad music coming out of that wonderful town than good, but God bless them all, doggone-it. Luckily, Modern Skirts is on the good side of the tally sheet. The musicianship on Catalogue of Generous Men is too accomplished to be indie. Be that as it may, Modern Skirts released this one all on their own, yet had the good fortune of nabbing a crafty producer and mixing engineer. The resulting 11 sugary musical treats offered here are fantastic. Jay Gulley s vocals have a soothing tone in much the same way as a Bruce Hornsby or Ben Folds. Yeah, you heard me right, Bruce Hornsby. When Jay croons Let s move to Pasadena, you start reserving U-hauls. The execution, arrangements and lyrical content are so strong and mature you are left scratching your head wondering how these guys aren t selling CDs in every Starbucks across the country. It s as if Burt Bacharach demanded greatness from Matthew Sweet. The harmonies float above electric piano and harmonica on one song, then strings, piano and sunburned vocal layers on the next. Oh, how it hurts to smile this much. (Craig Ceravolo)
Moon Flightlogs CD (Zone 8) As soon as I saw on the one-sheet that main Moon man Mark Poole had played with the stellar Boys From Nowhere, I was curious to hear his band. Their noisy (yet tuneful) garage-psych doesn t disappoint. These West Virginia home recordings are warm and punkily aggressive, crossing Anglophile influences with a loping country ease. (Kim Cooper)
The Moore Brothers Murdered By The Moore Brothers CD (Plain) More like cuddled by the Moore Brothers and their sweet Holliesque harmonies swinging along with a mild bossa nova beat, hushed, autumnal and steeped in adolescent emotion.(Kim Cooper)
Mott the Hoople Family Anthology double CD (Angel Air) Aptly titled 32-track sampling of rare, vintage Mottisms intermeshed with high quality pre- and post-band tracks from various associates, with the results unpredictable, but quite listenable. From tough live band performances to new wavey solo turns, sinister experiments to important demos, there s a world to explore. Highlights include Mick Ralphs Gary Glitteresque 1970 demo for Can t Get Enough, a mournful Mad Shadows outtake that presages Wildlife s sound, Dale Griffin s lecherous scat take on Lady is a Tramp, and a psychotic Joe Meek-inspired instro by The Paper Bags, a punk-era Morgan Fisher lark. With extensive liner note interviews and fannish passion tempered by connoisseurship, this is a terrific sampling and a strong tribute to an underrated band.(Kim Cooper)
Mouzakis Magic Tube CD (Radioactive) The opening track is Magic Tube, some sort of eight minute prog-funk that we can only suppose concern s the singer s penis. If you like that early seventies spacey chunka-chunka wikka-wikka rock by longhaired guys about picking up longhaired girls, and partyin til the broad daylight, well then, you ve seen plenty of those message movies where there s a band in the background as the poor heroine is convinced to do something she shouldn t but let me tell you, without those visuals, this is stuff for only the serious fans of serious crap. Tempted to list the amazing lyrics here, but am afraid that paying any closer attention to them would kill off thirty or forty IQ points. I dare you to come face to face with Mouzakis Magic Tube. (Nathan Marsak)
Murder Your Darlings Murder Your Darlings CD (Reptilian) Ooof. People in Ohio are fucked up. You d like to picture these fellas in vintage Challengers, or at least rape vans, but they ve probably got rusted-out late-model Montclairs, and they are not happy about it. Not one bit. No jobs, bad drugs, abusive dads who are thereafter mirrored by the litany of abusive girlfriends, yes, Ohio is a special place. Something about it is resolutely Southern, despite being so far North, and you can hear that schizophrenia in MYD s music as much as the tension between punk crunch and metal squeal. Fifteen relentless tracks devoid of humor but replete with harmonizing guitars, it s music best suited for cleaning the house to, or just getting a headache, or both, as I did, gladly. Standout track Too Old To Die Young sums that up pretty nicely. (Nathan Marsak)
Nausea The Punk Terrorist Anthology Vol. II: 1986-1988 CD (Alternative Tentacles) Nausea were NYC s premier Nazi skin band, who purported a seemingly contradictory allegiance to corporate America. Plus, they had a hot girl singer! (Oh wait, none of that is true. Except that Amy was really hot.) If you go for late eighties squatterpunk crustcore with a debt to Crass and Discharge, there s 31 tracks here that smash the fascist overlord, destroying his death culture of racism, sexism, and, you know, fascism. Now, I think such activity should be joyous, and so will take Culturecide over all this yelly-noisy business, though MTV (Feeding of the Fortune 500) is still one of the premier slabs of the genre. This is pure Tompkins Square Riot rock, from before the days of the Profane Extinction album chock full of early Nausea demos, live tracks, and even a video, this is a textbook in teaching your local gutter kids about pro-class war Anarch (though what they really need to learn is how to better treat their dogs). (Nathan Marsak)
The Negatones The Negatones CD (Skylab) Big loud dense nutty electropop-n rock party record from this legendary band of NYC studio scenesters, here Mooging it up and picking banjos and playing bongos and getting all jiggy wit it at that. No, really, is it quirky technospazz art rock or badass rip-it-up swankrock? No one knows who or what they are, though that they re a national treasure is inarguable. (Nathan Marsak)
Nervous Norvus Stone Age Woo: The Zorch Sounds of CD (Norton) Jimmy Drake was a self-trained musician who loved Red Blanchard s kid s radio show and started composing original novelty tunes in tribute to the DJ. Blanchard liked what he heard, and transformed Drake who just thought he was a demo man--into the wild Nervous Norvus performing character. This daffy comp includes Norv s sole hit, the 1956 auto-crash ballet Transfusion, and scads of unheard primitive oddities that flesh out Drake s uniquely unsettling take on the American pop songbook. From the leering I Like Girls to the hysterical Does A Chinese Chicken Have A Pigtail? to the first person tale of a sexy space alien called The Fang, Drake s lo-fi rockabilly paints a picture of a deranged, yet strangely gentle, hillbilly maniac. You just want to hug the nut.(Kim Cooper)
Phil Ochs All The News That s Fit To Sing CD (Collectors Choice) The title of his debut record for Elektra and the cover photo paint Ochs as a topical folksinger and songwriter, a somewhat academic observer of his somewhat trying times. He s already found a couple of unsung heroes to laud (Lou Marsh and Medger Evers), tosses a sweet nod at Woody Guthrie in the memorial tune Bound For Glory, but he also has a tendency to preach. So there s welcome levity when The Ballad of William Worthy kicks in, a funny, sing-song catchy chronicle of a reporter who went to Cuba and had his citizenship stripped for the privilege. A promising debut, but stiff. (Kim Cooper)
Phil Ochs I Ain t Marching Anymore CD (Collectors Choice) On his terrific second album, Ochs no longer comes across as an uptight young singer of issues, but as a loose and inventive composer using the folk/storytelling conventions to express a more personal vision--one that would reach its full flower after he left New York for the reinvention capital of Los Angeles. In the first two tracks, the title song and In The Heat of the Summer, he slips fluidly from the role of universal soldier to topical troubadour, explaining the summer s riots through a sympathetic class analysis married to a lovely cyclical melody. His confidence, intelligence and the sweetness of his voice make him a fine tour guide to the psychic map of young, left wing America in 1965, and its interests in civil rights, the death penalty, division between the states and the rise of militarism. One flat point comes with That Was The President, a predictable and tedious dirge for Kennedy, but even that becomes interesting when placed beside the incredibly powerful song The Crucifixion that he d write a few years later, once he d processed his grief and disappointment and found metaphors to express how important JFK felt to Ochs and his peers. (Kim Cooper)
Oosterdok Twilights of the Weary Soul CD (Brown House) Electro-pop, but dark, if not a little sinister. Atypical Britsynth the legacy of Ladytron and Stereolab, if not Yazoo and early Human League, is evident, but Celt banshee Becky Naylor s spillings on I Am Not a Nice Girl shows the aortal branch of her black heart venturing into Nick Cave territory. (Nathan Marsak)
P:ano Ghost Pirates Without Heads CD (Mint) P:ano created a very ambitious album last year entitled Brigadoon that had all of the Bacharach/Wilson/Van Dyke Parks, etc. elements to make it an impressive, if not stylistically well-worn effort. The follow-up of sorts (they call it a mini-album ) strips it down maybe to show that they are more than elaborate arrangements and instrumentation or maybe just because they wanted to record an album in one afternoon. Armed only with a ukulele, accordion, bass clarinet and various percussion toys, P:ano created a jaunty collection of ditties and dirges that sound like the set list at a sailor s campfire sing-along. The boy/girl harmonies are as crisp and clear as the most perfect weather conditions a ship captain could hope for. Few bands can reference HMS Pinafore and not get beaten up P:ano is able to pull it off. Look out Decemberists, P:ano have your library card and apparently your number. (Craig Ceravolo)
Tommy Peltier featuring Judee Sill Chariot of Astral Light CD (Black Beauty) Tommy Peltier was a jazz trumpet player who in the early seventies suffered an injury and had to put down his instrument. Encouraged by the incomparable Miss Sill, he transformed himself into a singer/songwriter and lead guitarist, all the better to lead jam sessions at his house in Echo Park. On these previously unreleased tracks, Peltier s passionate voice sounds a lot like Tom Rapp s. While Sill doesn t turn up until track 7 (and the next five) with some gorgeous backing vocals, her influence shines through the spiritual themes and ambitious, sprawling arrangements. A cool document of a swinging scene that might not have come out without the Sill association, but that works perfectly well on the Sill-less tracks. The CD includes video footage of two songs from Peltier and Sill with occasional Zappa sideman Dave Parlato on bass and harmonica player David Bearden.(Kim Cooper)
Chuck & Mary Perrin life is a stream CD (Rev-Ola) Think of a trippier Carpenters, with the sibling duets wrapped in lush orchestration. Only in this family unit, it s the big brother who has the exceptional pipes, and on solo turns like Eversince, Chuck taps into a very appealing romantic British folk vibe. Still, Mary has her own moments, as on the wasted and solitary sounding This One s For You. These early seventies Chicago recordings are gentle, sweet and eclectic. Pick hit: the silly neo-Vaudeville rave up Mildred Metz ( get out of my life ).(Kim Cooper)
The Rezillos Can t Stand The CD (DBK Works) Pretty much the greatest new wave outer space Scottish monster goofball pop combo of all time, and this 1978 Sire release is their debut, swan song and masterpiece. Vocalists Faye Fife and Eugene Patterson were magnificent postmodern creations, hyperkinetic comic book kids made flesh, while the band laid down spastic rhythms on delicious confections like Top of the Pops and I Can t Stand My Baby. What used to be called side two lags a smidge, but the hit to miss ratio leans heavily to hit. It s all silly yet strangely menacing with the album s final grunted line making it clear that these spacepups are not to be trifled with. (Kim Cooper)
Alastair Riddell Space Waltz CD (RPM) In 1974, far from the gritty urban Glam strongholds of London and NYC, New Zealand birthed its own Ziggyesque character in the form of A. Riddell, a corpse-white, hollow-eyed jeepster whose clever, robotic pop provided an excellent balm for local kids jonesing for David. While extremely dramatic and silly in spots, packed with zero-gravity battle sounds and arch prose declamation, Space Waltz does that most essential Glam thing: it rocks. The band shattered not long after these tracks were recorded, with a couple members joining Split Enz.(Kim Cooper)
Biff Rose The Thorn in Mrs. Rose s Side/ Children of Light double CD (Water) These two 1968 records, curiously, were albums one and two in my collection: a friend of my dad s found them on top of a trash can in Venice and passed them on. I loved them to excess as a tyke (especially CoL) and was pleased to find on re-making their acquaintance that the hooks haven t dulled. Biff Rose is an unjustly neglected humorous piano popster whose quirky lyrics, frenetic riffs and sweetly broken voice are quite distinctive, but not for everyone. Bowie borrowed Fill Your Heart for Hunky Dory, though in Biff s screwball hands it s hardly the catchiest tune around. The orchestral arrangements suggest a psychedelic Vaudevillian ala Van Dyke Parks, and VdP himself makes a cameo on the second disc. CoL offers a more stripped down sound, and tender, provocative tunes like the Aquarian Age masculinist statement Just Like A Man. The package includes reprints of the back cover socio-political aphorisms that blew my tiny mind, and the suggestion that the New Orleans-bred artist has plenty more work to explore.(Kim Cooper)
Rosemary s Babies Talking to the Dead CD (Ghastly) Nature or nurture, there s no mistaking Eerie Von & Co. s elemental place and purpose: the Green Hornet theme, Attack of the 50ft Cowboy, Becky Bondage the elements of Straight Outta Lodi psuedo-Misfitsiana are there, up to and including the Misfits chord progression and rhythmic pacing, but without the singalong lyricism or the songwriting. Don t get me wrong, Let s Molest is still a shocker, and That s Alright, That s OK is still the benchmark of angry Jersey shlubrock. There s a lot to love here in the Blood Lust EP and other slabs, and the five live tracks from an 83 CBGB s show have bits to recommend over Evilive. Nevertheless, still the domain of completists and other obsessed parties, and as such, we could benefit with some liner notes and/or lyrics just for fun.
Bridget St. John Songs for the gentle man (Cherry Red) Imagine a Nico of the buttercups, all sunshine, smiles and cautious optimism. On her second album, Bridget St. John s voice is eerily similar to Nico s Teutonic burr, with the same warm timber and oddly precise enunciation. She even brings out the harmonium for the tiny final snatch of a song. Affected, adenoidal, plying a formal language so narrow it recalls Dorothy Parker s jibe about Katharine Hepburn running the gamut of emotions from A to B, the effect is nonetheless quite captivating. St. John collaborated with producer-arranger Ron Geesin (Pink Floyd) on this little sweetmeat for John Peel s short-lived Dandelion label, a set of cool, pastel originals garnished with a pinch of John Martyn and a splash of Donovan. The chamber group and vocalists that accompany her lilting folk-rock meanders are utilized in unsettling ways that highlight the record s understated weirdness. On the opening track, A Day Away, the players subdued burble rises gently like the sound of a band just downstream, while the listener floats closer, not knowing who or what he ll see there. Elsewhere, they hum like bees in the garden, just out of reach, sometimes buzzing along with the lady, sometimes in opposition. Through it all, St. John slides along unflappable, a Fernand Khnopff sphinx on the River Cam. A small record, yet one that fills the room and lingers. (Kim Cooper)(this originally appeared in the book Lost in the Grooves: Scram s Capricious Guide to the Music You Missed)
Bridget St. John ask me no questions (Cherry Red) I came first to St. John through her second album Songs for the gentle man, and coined the phrase a Nico of the buttercups to describe her subtle sunny charms. How odd then to finally hear her debut, where she sings of literally eating buttercup sandwiches or perhaps not odd at all. This is another lovely folksy record filled with nature worship and small mysteries. Its production is less baroque, creating a more intimate and lonesome atmosphere for St. John s gentle originals, and a husky, dreamy take on Leonard Cohen s Suzanne. (Kim Cooper)
Siloah S/T LP (Amber Soundroom) Limited edition vinyl reissue of a rare and weird Munich band s sole 1970 release. While the English titles are deliciously absurd ( Krishna s Golden Dope Shop ), these primitive, jammy Krautrockers were hardly a joke band. Road to Laramy is a loping TV western-theme instro with an undercurrent of grimy urban intensity that explodes when the wasted vocals finally kick in, while the eighteen-minute Aluminium Wind is an atonal meander through sonic darkness, briefly illuminated by creepy flute and moans. File under: bad trip at the beer garden. (Kim Cooper)
Spirit The Model Shop CD (Sundazed) Since Jacques Demy s pretty and brainless The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (1964) was an international hit, Columbia bankrolled his 1969 U.S. debut despite an underslung concept and the French darling s near-total unfamiliarity with spoken English. The Model Shop was one of many pop-art buzz-bombs Hollywood majors financed in the late sixties. Once Roger Corman, Richard Lester, Dennis Hopper and others appeared to discover a winning anti-formula, the international big-money all took flyers on the youth/drug/rock & roll movie. Some of these grotesqueries later found audiences (Performance, The Magic Christian, Head), others survive as winningly wonky curios (Candy, Skiddoo), but The Model Shop is as insipid and featherbrained now as it must ve been thirty-seven years ago. A fateful day in aimless life of an L.A. counterculture drone after an induction notice appears in the mail, the studio insisted on Gary (2001) Lockwood, a stick of unsympathetic furniture, for the lead (Demy s choice of then-unknown Harrison Ford would ve brought an interesting naturalism to an even worse film). Despite some superb footage of a now-dead Sunset Strip, what one hears on the soundtrack is infinitely more involving than what s happening on the screen. Demy wanted the ominous throb of a brightly horrible city, and so brought in L.A. pysch maestros Spirit after seeing their live act at the Kaleidoscope. The band (formed in 1967 out of the Griffith Park love-ins) was in the middle of recording their sophomore LP (1968 s The Family That Plays Together) when Demy offered them the score and small roles in the movie. Some of the tracks wound up on Clear, the band s next release, and the perceptible chill of that album hits absolute zero on this soundtrack. Spirit s one national hit, the joyous I Got a Line on You, climbed into the Top Twenty just before the Model Shop sessions, and future prospects were excellent. Spirit s jazzbo/psych sound is indispensably Angeleno in its hard-edged hippie drooginess, evoking the skullbake irreality of the city s pink sunsets and unhinged loners. Here the wit and cynic mysticism expressed in songs like Fresh Garbage and Silky Sam is bypassed in favor of cold atmosphere and improvisation. Usually given to mixing and matching songwriters, band compositions predominate on this disc, with hypertrophied solos and gnomic lyrics bobbing in an icy groove. Jay Ferguson was the band s signature vocalist, addressing the Cahengua Ave. mob on Now or Anywhere in his doomfreak Yippie politician s yawlp and returning to blister again on a spare version of Family s album closer Aren t You Glad. John Locke s keyboards form the spine of these sessions, with Ed Cassidy s drums and Randy California s freakish guitar slapping brawler s muscle onto the melodies. Tracks like Fog and Green Gorilla are revelations as to where soundtrack jazz might ve gone had not Isaac Hayes invented soundtrack funk soon after. Spirit s discography can well stand as the loose-limbed American answer to late-sixties Traffic and Pink Floyd, with this missing piece as essential for jazz and movie-score enthusiasts as the original lineup s first four albums are for everyone else. (Ron Garmon)
Stained Glass Aurora CD (Radioactive) Released in late 1969, Aurora was the finale of a two-album career at Capitol (Crazy Horse Roads came out earlier that year), but this San Jose trio had been a singles act on RCA as far back as 1966. This is supposed to be the better of the pair, but that recommendation is good only for 1) a few joyful minutes of fine Lennonesque disdain on The Kibitzer, 2) some nice phasing and reverb on Inca Treasure and 3) a loose-but-definite air of late-sixties punky improvisation. The band is admirably tight, but their material largely confined to Beatle-scrapings with a pellet or two of Moby Grapeshot. Jim McPherson wasn t the worst singer a big-label sixties psych act had on offer--Mad River s Lawrence Hammond had a voice to crisp an aardvark s nosehairs--but he s wildly uneven and hippie-hammy. To say the cover of Lincoln Chase s swamp-rot standard Jim Dandy was ill-advised would be to detonate a twenty-megaton understatement. Stained Glass cracked up about the time this record hit the shops, but McPherson managed to retain enough of Capitol s interest to record a solo album. In 1971, he and John Cipollina (late of Quicksilver Messenger Service) formed Copperhead, who was signed by Columbia s Clive Davis for over one million dollars. In 1973, their eponymous lone release sank like the Empress of Ireland. (Ron Garmon)
The Strawberry Alarm Clock Good Morning Starshine CD (Collectors Choice) This was the band s last effort at returning to the charts and it failed to yield any hits. The personnel had changed considerably and the new members helped bring about a shift to a hard-edged blues-rock sound. There are some trippy, almost psychedelic moments and the title track is just about as cutesy poppy as the version of this Hair staple that Oliver scored with, but the rest of the album sounds more like Iron Butterfly. For fans of late sixties/ early seventies, this set offers up some tight musicianship, especially that of founding member Mark Weitz on keyboards, and very manly vocals. (Edwin Letcher)
The Strawberry Alarm Clock - Wake Up It s Tomorrow CD (Collectors Choice) This is my favorite Strawberry Alarm Clock album. My favorite song--everyone s fave, Incense and Peppermints --is on their first album, I haven t heard their third album and their fourth album is basic blues-rock instead of psychedelia. All of those qualifiers aside, though, this sophomoric effort is the ticket for me. It s good enough that I will give their third album a listen at my earliest convenience to see how it stacks up. The music here is playful, upbeat, inventive and catchy. I saw the film Psych-Out recently and dug the scenes with these flower power poppers. Thankfully, this set has Pretty Song from Psych-Out on it, so I can revisit with my mind s eye the image of a young Jack Nicholson clumsily trying to look like he knows which end of a guitar is which whenever I want. Surprisingly good musicianship from a group of teenagers and strong songs makes for an enjoyable trip back to the wild and wacky sixties. Love beads are optional. (Edwin Letcher)
Sub-Division - The Primos CD-EP (Hard Soul) Ambient yet pummeling, strange messed-up music from some Mexico City twins named Amir and Amed. Experimental postpunk for the discerning. (Nathan Marsak)
Subway - S/T LP (Amber Soundroom) 1972 release by an international psych-folk duo comprised of English violinist Malcolm and American singer-songwriter Irv Mowrey. Their delicate, finely meshed sound clearly denotes hundreds of hours of jamming, yet largely avoids self-indulgence. On Song For Sinking Shelters, the eerie, bottom-of-the-well arrangement and confident, precise vocals leading into mad primate laughter is really striking. By layering their tracks with unexpected and powerful acoustic effects, the smallness of the band is never an issue, though their Gypsy psychedelia sometimes loses steam. Side two s Enturbulation-Free Form highlights a much heavier and darker instrumental vibe,s with intense percussion. An interesting and very distinctive combo.(Kim Cooper)
Sun Dial - Other Way Out and Zen For Sale CDs (Acme) OWO is drony, phase-heavy dream-psych from 1990, drizzled with carnival keys and obvious drug imagery ( colours exploding in your mind ). They sound like a band Greg Shaw would have signed. A pleasant disk, with a high point the spaced-out Crazy Horse style instro Slow Motion, but I was somewhat put off by the hyperbolic Mojo quote on the cellophane, proclaiming this the greatest unheard psychedelic record ever. Where d that come from? Zen For Sale is the current incarnation of the band, demonstrating how they ve mellowed into a warmer and less mannered animal, capable of witty, aggressive psych-punk flourishes. (Kim Cooper)
Sweetwater - S/T, Just for You, Melon CDs (Collector's Choice) VH-1's Sweetwater: A True Rock Story, made punters familiar with this L.A. collective's abbreviated career. Rhino Handmade's Cycles: The Reprise Collection provided a nice taste of the act's distinctive sound, but one wonders why their first three albums took this long to be reissued. Well, here they are and the best on them is still good for a long time to come. Sweetwater grew out of a series of impromptu performances at L.A. City College in 1967, with hippie-chick Nancy Nevins stepping out of the audience to wail an angelic "Motherless Child" over the band's kandy-koated jamming. The crew picked up a rock drummer, put a classical cellist in the lead guitar-player's seat and gigged in Silverlake coffeehouses before hitting the Strip. Reprise already heavy with Hendrix, the Electric Prunes and the Dead, signed the octet and David Hassinger (the label's acid-rock guru) produced their debut. Sweetwater (1968) brings to mind the jazzy lighter-than-air feel of early Spirit, but with that act's king-hoodlum Angelino drugginess replaced by a ten-feet-off-the-pavement amiability, as Nevins' high-princess vocals take "Motherless Child" and the superbly creepy "My Silver Spider" into dainty crevasses of inner space. The album also compares to Love's epochal Forever Changes, with Arthur Lee's refined L.A. cynicism shouldered aside by a butterfly wing of elegant L.A. cheeriness. By late 1968, a drunk driver wiped out Nevins' car on the Ventura freeway and Sweetwater's appearance was being cut out of Woodstock. The lead singer's recovery was prolonged and painful, but the band had built up a large following through touring with the likes of the Doors and Frank Zappa. On Just for You, Nevins' damaged voice doesn't command as before but the jamband sensibility makes a roaring return. The centerpiece is a hippie-tonk rework of the McCann & Harris version of Gene Daniel's "Compared to What;" the stony pessimism transmuted into come-to-Jesus generational boo-yah. Melon, the notes remind us, was the last entry in Sweetwater's "three-album trilogy" and, given the tensions within the group, sounds better than it should. The formerly just-for-fun jam co-op was down to recording instrumental tracks at different intervals. Nevins' voice recedes still further, with "Don't Forget" serving as a clipped dirge for what the group had been. Most of the rest of the album is hippie howzat on degraded par with Delaney & Bonnie. A gnawed scrag-end of one of the more promising debuts on the late sixties, this album is partially redeemed by the dorky good-humor of "Take It From the Splice, Boys" and the overdone hoodoo finale of "Join the Band." Sweetwater got back together in the late nineties, minus three original members, but plus Ms. Nevins. Late in the day, perhaps, but not entirely futile. (Ron Garmon)
Tarantella - Esqueletos CD (Alternative Tentacles) Esqueletos is theme music for a surrealist carnival where the calliope plays all night long for an audience of inanimate objects. Picture a skeletal cowboy kicking an old tin can down the fairway and you've got the makings of a video. At first you might think Mazzy Star (and I also hear Adam Ant and the Feelies), but Siouxsie Sioux is clearly the chanteuse most absorbed into singer Kal Cahoone's repertoire. The band runs the gamut from sentimental waltzes to rocking alt country. Street cred dept.: features members of Slim Cessna's Auto Club and Blood Axis. (Margaret Griffis)
Thor An-Thor-Logy 1976-1985 DVD (Smog Veil) Watching a blonde moustached, caped and bikini-briefed Thor strut across Merv Griffin s stage in 1976, transitioning from inflating a hot water bottle to bursting to lounge crooning in half a beat, is one of the more surreal experiences contained in this odd, yet charming video sampler. Jon Mikl Thor was a successful Canadian bodybuilder who made the unexpected switch to heavy metal in the mid-seventies. Where the cats in KISS required stack boots and face paint to approximate superheroes, Thor s physique, handsome face and Gorgeous George-like locks present a much more impressive starting point. Slap on studded shoulder pads, lycra trousers and put a war hammer in his hand and dang! that s theater! The DVD contains vintage news features, commercials, TV appearances (Uncle Floyd, Channel 72), primitive early videos, and scads of live footage of the campiest Vancouver act this side of Canned Hamm.(Kim Cooper)
Toothfairy - Formative CD (Hush) Portland s Chad Crouch and friends have cracked open the journal of a high-school junior in anywhere suburbia, USA and put the contents to music. These nine tracks can be described as songs much in the same way as Suzanne Vega s Tom s Diner. The formula is essentially the same: a matter-of-fact description of events talk-sung over a phat garageband drum loop and Casio-keyboard melodies. Sounds awful, doesn t it? Well, for whatever reason, it works brilliantly. Maybe it is the Stuart Murdoch-esque vocals that can only be described as sweet, or the unapologetic one-take delivery of stories that are both familiar and boring. Whether it is a story of driving around housing developments and stealing lumber for skate ramps or trying to get to second base with the girl-next-door, you can t help but appreciate the honesty. (Craig Ceravolo)
Turn Me On Dead Man - God Bless the Electric Freak CD (Alternative Tentacles) Space being a black silent vacuum and all, it serves it right that all space-themed bands are replete with lush and thundering heavydelic riffs. TMODM are the most foot-stomping Rexian/Ziggyesque anthemic freaks to ever write a song about the Hale-Bopp, and that s saying something. In another universe, this is where Redd Kross would have gone after Neurotica. Still plenty of metallic hooks here, but soaked in DMT instead of the nicer stuff. (Nathan Marsak)
V/A One Kiss Can Lead To Another: Girls Group Sounds Lost & Found 4-CD box (Rhino) Melodrama gets a bad rap, but there are few emotional experiences that are as pure, as enervating. American teens in 1963 didn t have opera (light or otherwise), pulp horror magazines or the Grand Guignol, and they couldn t have cared less about their mother s soaps, but they did have the radio. And in two minute increments, the radio fed out miniature urban operas packed with enough misery, longing, pain and conflict to satisfy their every vicarious desire.
Revisionist pop memory sometimes obscures just how ubiquitous Girl Group music was in the early sixties the Beatles were even star struck over Ronnie Spector--but since many of the groups were interchangeable puppets fronting for producers and songwriters, albums were a rarity, and women s voices get short shrift on oldies radio, relatively few of the acts are remembered by non-collectors. But as One Kiss makes immediately and forcefully clear, there was much more to the GG sounds than the Ronettes, Shangs and Supremes.
And what One Kiss is mostly is thrilling, pushing track after marvelous track of unknown, impassioned, instant teen pop into ears that too rarely find such a concentrated bounty. I m personally most pleased to see the Goodees, the exquisitely tasteless Southern-fried Shangri-La s, find a wider audience with their Leader of the Pack cop Condition Red especially when the record sounds so great but there are dozens of acts that deserve spotlight treatment. Like the mysterious Bitter Sweets, turning in a clinically hysterical Shangs routine penned by Brute Force or the very fine (and finally gaining notice) Reparata and the Delrons the Lovelites, authors of the most agonized somebody ple-eeease ever laid on tape Dawn s relentless, paranoid I m Afraid They re All Talking About Me Toni Basil s washed up lament I m 28 and teen guitar goddess Char Vinnedge, whose Luv d Ones were riot grrrls in 1966. Then there s Peanut Duck, an utterly mad, irresistible slice of Philly Soul recorded by a nameless singer, discovered on an unlabeled acetate, and subject of a growing cult.
The set s greatest strength is its lack of orthodoxy, so rather than a tour of the Brill Building and Spectorland (Phil s ouput is conspicuously absent), the Girl Group definition is expanded out in distant ripples, not just to Memphis Goodees but to England for Andrew Oldham discovery P.P. Arnold s lovely early recording of The First Cut is the Deepest, into the rockabilly raunch of Wanda Jackson, from soul to surf to and all around the pop bubble.
This is a gorgeous box, a worthy tribute to the women who are on it. The package s conceit is that it s a black and white striped, velvet-lined hat box with a cord handle. Inside, each CD mimics a different vintage compact, complete with a mirror and photo-realistic pat of powder. Each CD is a powder puff. But that s where the soft and floppy metaphor ends, because these dolls are tough and artful, and they come bearing great gifts to all who have ears to hear. Essential.(Kim Cooper)
V/A Only in Canada, Eh 77-81 Volume One CD (Punk History Canada) Outside of DOA or Teenage Head, early Canadian punk rock was practically and unjustly ignored south of Vancouver. They wouldn't get their just say until the mid-eighties when the DIY revolution had effectively set up networks that would introduce the music elsewhere. But despite a selectively deaf international market, the Canuck scene was remarkably strong and loud across the provinces. Quite a diverse group of bands are represented here. Just like in the US and UK, the styles quickly evolve from proto-punk and punk, through new wave and post-post, and on to oi and hardcore. It's all quality stuff too. (Margaret Griffis)
V/A Sugarlumps: A Psychedelic Selection of Groovy Movers and Sweet Freakbeat CD (Hard Soul/Acid Jazz) An unexpected but homogenous mix of new and vintage sounds from the guys who had those great shirts custom made in the first place, and the guys young enough to be their grandkids who paid too much for them in 2003. Highlights include Andys Lewis and Ellison s sneery minimalist psych collaboration, a trashy Barry Tashian-produced frat raver by the Argonauts, Groovy Ruben s shaggy hepcat tale and a lost and luscious proto-Faces jam. Pan-generational grooviness and a cool party disc. (Kim Cooper)
V/A Thai Beat A-Go-Go Volume 3 CD (Subliminal Sounds) This is the final volume of an archeological reckoning of Thailand s neglected pop archives, which is some of the oddest stuff you can stick into your earholes. Kicking off with a greasy porn-funk celebration of kickboxing, the comp delivers sassy covers of familiar faves from the McCoys and Troggs, an Elvis impersonator, sub-Santana wanking, hyperactive disco, a Black Power testimonial, what sounds like a musical comedy routine, and a memorable tribute to Soul Dracula. It all suggests that the Thai scene was fertile and inventive, and while the results can be appreciated for their novelty value see: Panatda s Ramones-meets-outer- space-pony synth opus Let s Go! many of these tracks swing quite wildly on their own terms. Fun!(Kim Cooper)
V/A Zoot Suit Riot! Instrumental R N B Smash Hits of the 1950s CD(Rev-ola) The late forties/early fifties was the era of the sax soloist. This spectacular collection showcases the range of these instrumental winners, from jazzy and big-band-like to raunchy, raw and dirty honkers. The obvious hits are here, like The Hucklebuck (Paul Williams), The Deacon s Hop (Big Jay McNeely) and Night Train (Jimmy Forest) along with more obscure selections like Johnny Otis Latin-tinged Mambo Boogie and instrumental versions of pop standards like Easter Parade (Freddie Mitchell) and The Tennessee Waltz (Stick McGhee). The 28 cuts are all winners, and the comp includes bonus tracks of vocal versions that were later recorded based on the popularity of the instrumental originals. (Julia Devine)
The Wackers - Wackering Heights CD (Collectors Choice) These hairy Northern California popsters, led by Bob Segarini, are the country cousins of urban wannabe Beatles peers like the Flamin Groovies or Big Star. Their sometimes sleepy sound is packed with chiming guitars, introspective lyrics and a wall of fine harmonies on which producer Gary Usher worked his Byrds-honed magic. Very nice boys, but at heart they re rockers, unafraid to cover Elvis in 1971. (Kim Cooper)
Jimmy Webb - Words and Music, And So On, Letters, Land s End and El Mirage CDs (Collectors Choice) Most folks are only aware of Jimmy s songs that were massive hits by others. Glen Campbell scored with Wichita Lineman and Galveston, but that was just a fraction of the Webb tunes he recorded. Up Up and Away was a huge boost to the career of the Fifth Dimension and it s doubtful anyone would remember Richard Harris had a singing career at all if it weren t for Jimmy Webb s epic MacArthur Park. As the sixties came to an end, Jimmy decided churning out pop hits for others wasn t all he wanted out of life, so he tried his hand at setting the world on fire as a singer/songwriter ala Elton John and James Taylor. Unfortunately, he never quite connected with enough of the record buying public to become a household name on his own. He made a noble effort, however, and Collectors Choice has just released the five albums he put out in the seventies on individual CDs (they were previously available as part of a Rhino Handmade boxset). He could have been a lot more successful if he had concentrated on two and a half minute long love poems set to a saucy beat, but that was out of the question. Throughout this era he was concerned with heady social issues such as drugs, pollution and an immoral war overseas (hmmm, we re in the same leaky boat now) and those were the issues he chose to sing about. He started on Reprise Records and put out three critically praised yet commercially ignored albums, Words and Music, And So On and Letters. He then went to Asylum Records where he recorded Land s End. His last album in the seventies was El Mirage, on Atlantic. The music throughout is well produced, the songs are interesting and innovative and Jimmy is a fine vocalist. Some of Jimmy s songs such as P.F. Sloan, The Highwayman and The Moon is a Harsh Mistress were very popular, but none of them made their way to the top of the charts. If you are a fan of introspective seventies singers, you might want to find out why so many record reviewers of the day rated Jimmy Webb s work among their faves. (Edwin Letcher)
Wide Right - Sleeping on the Couch CD (Poptop) This rockin trio (which also includes Dave Rick on guitar and bass and Brendan O Malley on drums) from Brooklyn is fronted by Leah Archibald, a mother and native of Buffalo whose songs still reflect her life and friends in that town. Huge mouthfuls of words combine in unpretentious stories writ large. Banal everyday experiences are backed by forceful melodies. Her vocals are at their best effect in the throaty angry growl of Flicker Film about an aging avant-garde artist who moves in and raids the fridge. Even with the beer-powered straight-ahead rhythms there are some pop moments, like the catchy guitar riff in Blue Skies Ahead. Junior High School Dream is a fun girl-musician anthem. And every bar in her hometown should be required to have a copy of Buffalo Fight Song on its jukebox. (Julia Devine)
The Wingdale Community Singers - S/T CD (Plain) This indie-lit supergroup (David Grubbs, Hannah Marcus and novelist Rick Moody) makes real urban country, a stark and intense blend of familiar old timey elements and disconcertingly topical imagery, as the lovely, sad vocals ply their tales of New York metro characters, animal totems and anxious dialogue that goes nowhere. (Kim Cooper)
Adrienne Young & Little Sadie - The Art of Virtue CD (Addiebelle) With packaging almost as much an artistic creation as the music itself, this second release from Young and her band (which includes consummate musicians Will Kimbrough, Matthew Combs and Tim O Brien) is full of charms and treasures. A bit slick at times, perhaps, but the Celtic, country, bluegrass sounds are energetic and boisterous. Most of the songs are originals written by Young and her collaborators in an old-timey vein, with a few well-chosen traditionals, an Uncle Dave Macon cover and The Grateful Dead s Brokedown Palace. Some of the best are the moving and joyful Hills & Hollers, the playful Wedding Ring and Jump the Broom, and the dark tale of Rastus Russell. Expect to see her name around for a long time. (Julia Devine)
Please support Scram's esoteric researches by clicking the record covers to begin your Amazon shopping...
Keith John Adams - Pip CD (HHBTM) Happy Happy Birthday to Me Records continues to distribute top-notch fare, as the latest example, from Englishman Keith John Adams shows. These are well executed, smartly produced pop songs that could give XTC or Robin Hitchcock a run for their British Pound. The opening cut, Inconsequential Thought rocks the toy piano hard enough to erase the cuteness of using such an instrument. Just to show that it isn t a gimmick, the tiny piano makes another appearance on Breathe. It s not all nursery fun, however. This record contains enough fuzzed-out bass and affected backing vocals to be given the sixties britpop influenced tag, but KJA is British, so you know it s no act (but so are Oasis, so I am going to have to rethink that theory ). Anyway, yes there is nothing new on Pip, but KJA writes a good tune, and you can t find fault in that. (Craig Ceravolo)
Angels of Light & Akron/Family - Akron/Family & Angels of Light CD (Young God) The last thing I'd ever expect to write about a Michael Gira record is "imagine a great Beatles record" and yet: imagine a great Beatles record! Okay, so the aforementioned Merseydelia might be heavier on the Akron/Family side of the split, but even taking that out, Gira is still left with the same backing band. (The first seven songs are theirs; the last five are A/F with Gira.) The Liverpudlians aren t the only classic rockers to make an appearance. The Stones, Beach Boys, Amon D l II, Japan and Lou Reed stumble through--there's even a Dylan cover--a collage of world, folk and skronk sounds presented in an acid-washed, often hillbilly groove. The lessons of the last forty years of rock have been learned, but don't make the mistake of believing this is easily-accessible radio fodder or a platter bereft of noisier elements. It's a mature offering with engaging soundscapes and lyrics that merit deeper investigation. Perhaps, Akron/Family are to blame or laud for what at first might seem incongruous to fans of the heavier Swans or lighter Angels of Light releases, but this unrelated foursome of noodly multi-instrumentalists provide an exquisite soapbox from which Gira can quietly scream his dreams. Imagine Gira as Dorothy reaching Oz to discover kooky chums wrapped in infinite colors, then realizing that Oz is home. The clean production does wonders, adding an immediacy and intimacy that previous albums never quite got. It ll be interesting to see where the yellow brick road takes them from here. Wonderful! (Margaret Griffis)
Appaloosa - S/T CD (Collectors Choice) Of all the albums celebrated in the Lost in the Grooves anthology, this is the one that drove our central thesis your favorite album is in this book, and you ve never even heard of it! home to me. MVP essayist Brian Doherty picked this exquisite 1969 LP, and wrote so eloquently on its sophisticated charms that I knew I had to hear it. Happily, Edwin Letcher had bought it new, and sure enough, I fell in love. It s neat to replace my poppy CDR with this official reissue (though the mix sounds a little sweeter and I suspect there were some uncredited shenanigans at the mixing board). John Parker Compton might just have been the most effortlessly upper crust songwriter of the sixties. His band sounds like the Left Banke filtered through the Social Register and smeared on a blini. These charming, arch, irresistible melodies, baroque, loping and very clever, will blow the mind of anyone who digs the Kinks and Zombies, and who longs for something that good that they ve never heard. This is it, lost in the grooves and found anew. (Kim Cooper)
Eddy Arnold - Cattle Call CD (Collectors Choice) Arnold s was the easy-listening version of the country sound, the kind that everybody s parents who couldn t commit to the more twangy and raw stuff could embrace. That s why this collection of cowboy standards (a reissue of the 1963 release) is perfectly suited to his velvety crooning style. Invading the territory staked out by such immortals as Tex Ritter and Roy Rodgers, Arnold hit #1 in 1955 with the yodeling Cattle Call. Most of the ballads here are better known from recordings by others, like Cool Water, Tumbling Tumbleweeds and Carry Me Back to the Lone Prairie. The oddball here is (Jim) I Wore a Tie Today, a song Cindy Walker wrote from a story by Arnold (the same collaboration that had produced You Don t Know Me ). Cool and easy renditions to enjoy around the campfire. (Julia Devine)
Baby Mongoose - Enter the Baby Mongoose CD (Dionysus) They are Japanese. They wear fetching military uniforms. They make their own instruments with names like action guitar. They sound like well let s see if Prince wrote the sound track to all the Nintendo video games in the nineties. Baby Mongoose are a band with a love of all things electronic and musical they are five Jeff Lynnes rolled into a karaoke machine on Neptune. If you aren t dancing after the first thirty seconds of Human Emotions, then you need to go stand in the corner. There is no parking on this dance floor. Actually, they remind me of Robert Schneider s newest Marbles project, Expo, which is equally brimming with enough funky 1s and 0s to make you want to wear something shiny and have everyday conversations through a space echo and Vocoder. You can t deny a bass-slammin cover of Fifty Ninth Street Bridge Song (Feelin Groovy) that closes out this fantastic record. Go ahead, try to deny it. I dare you. Did I mention they wear military uniforms? (Craig Ceravolo)
Lori Burton - Breakout CD (Rev-Ola) Yeahhhhh, no boy s worth the trouble that I m in. That s the perfect first line of the Whyte Boots classic death rock anthem, a sexy, shocking, deliriously catchy girl-fight-gone-wrong raver that takes the Shangri-Las template, pushes every musical and emotional meter into the red, and leaves you feeling like you re the one face down on the hall linoleum. Well, forget about those sexy Whyte Boots gals, because they were a fraud hired to play at being a girl group, and their oft-comped Nightmare just one of the fantastic tunes penned and sung by Miss Lori Burton and her British writing partner Pam Sawyer. This release compiles Lori s sole album (Mercury, 1967), the mono single version of Nightmare and a non-LP single, and it s essential. For while the Burton-Sawyer team were highly skilled soul-pop craftswomen providing hits to the Young Rascals, Lulu and others, Lori Burton had the vocal chops to sell songs that would have tried the best singers of the day. Raunchy, breathy, emotional-yet-controlled, eating stupid boyfriends like hors d'oeuvres, hers is one of the great forgotten voices, and the big Spectoresque production serves it beautifully. Nightmare s isn t even the best first line on the disk. If you dig distaff sixties pop, you want to hear this.(Kim Cooper)
Barracudas - S/T CD (NDN) Joy! The cudas were the cream atop the eighties garage revival, and their Drop Out With disc scratches my every rock and roll itch. This new album, their first in a decade plus, shows that they re still masters of pop precision, tough, melodic, distinctive and a little twisted (the first song is a Killer Inside Me riff sung in the voice of South Carolina serial killer Pee Wee Gaskins). The addition of Flamin Groovie Chris Wilson to the lineup ratchets the sweetness and jangle up to rare levels. Please let em tour.(Kim Cooper)
Black Time - Black Out CD (In The Red) Noisepunk from some London kids obsessed with every ugly and obnoxious element of America. Just thank Christ they re not angry, which got old a long time ago. No, the guys and gals of Black Time love analog and not sleeping and probably smoking too much and likely nice cups of Earl Grey, but most of all the making of impossibly loud slop rock ditties like Mass Production of Corpses and Cold Lips Taste Better. (Nathan Marsak)
Chubby Checker - The Best of Chubby Checker: Cameo Parkway 59 63 CD (Abkco) The king of the dance floor had a lot more to offer than just the most definitive version of The Twist. There was a while there when he was behind more crazy body gyration inspiring rhythms than you could shake a stick at. This collection contains 24 of Ernest Evans (his given name) most chubby hits from his rather checkered past. Actually, aside from the pun value, checkered past is a very flawed assessment of his days in show business. Chubby Checker had a fairly even career and produced a whole slew of recordings that had a rather homogenous sound. If you like his hits, such as Let s Twist Again, The Fly and Slow Twistin, you ll probably like the obscure material even more. It s all in the same general vein, the songwriting and performances are superb throughout and the tunes will sound fresh to you. Who else can you dance The Hucklebuck to these days? (Edwin Letcher)
Chesapeake Juke Box Band - S/T CD (Rev-Ola) In 1971, NY songwriters Steve Sawyer and Freddie McFinn sequestered themselves in the Record Plant with Archies keyboard whiz Ron Frangipane and engaged in arcane alchemical rituals focusing on the letter B. The Beach Boys, the Beatles, the sensibilities of Broadway and the British are just the most blatant elements blended into the sole release by the CJBB, a lush and schizoid demonstration of studio wizardry featuring a scattering of Wings sidemen. From the name-dropping opening track, it s obvious that we re in meta-territory, where pop eats it own tail. There aren t many records that leap about so frenetically (or comfortably), a little Doo Wop here, five seconds in Nashville, or is that the Hollies Manchester, and whoops! now we re in a radio drama. It s pop as Disney ride, speedy as reading Burroughs on a train, also glib and ridiculous and elegant and finely-honed. Of course it sank like a juke box, but thanks to this reish, new generations of tail-tasters can unpeel its layers. (Kim Cooper)
Ray Charles - Friendship CD (Columbia/Legacy) This reissue of Charles 1984 duets album with both old-time and then-contemporary country artists is slick and enjoyable, the sound reflective of the country hits of that time period. Highlights include We Didn t See a Thing with George Jones (and Chet Atkins on guitar), Friendship with Ricky Skaggs, Little Hotel Room with Merle Haggard and Crazy Old Soldier with Johnny Cash. The first-class backing band includes such veterans as Pete Drake on steel guitar and Henry Strzelecki on bass. Also featured are non-country bonus tracks recorded just after this album was originally released, with Tony Bennett and Billy Joel. Not classic Charles, but an interesting side-note to his multi-faceted career. (Julia Devine)
Cluster & Eno - S/T CD (Water) Attention all Enophiles: if you do not currently own a copy of the first Cluster & Eno collaboration you must immediately 1) burn your vinyl copy of Another Green World and 2) destroy your set of Oblique Strategies cards. This is an enormously important work in the development of he who is Eno. Much more than his collaborative work with Robert Fripp, the Eno/Cluster axis led the way for Eno s subsequent foray into the realm of ambient music, which led to several crucial recordings, probably culminating in his work with Harold Budd (Plateaux of Mirrors being my personal favorite). For their part, Cluster is still probably the most overlooked electronic band of the Tangerine Dream-era of German rock. Never afraid to infuse melody and melancholia into their music, Cluster uses these aspects of their craft to give a kind of gentleness or perhaps playfulness so sorely lacking in Eno s earlier collaborations with Fripp. Again, if you don t own a copy of this recording, don t let me catch you wearing that pink feather boa again, buster (Jackson Del Rey)
Cobra Verde - Copycat Killers CD (Scat/ Scam City) These raucous Clevelanders flip through their ever-so-eclectic record collections in a witty and unpredictable covers party. Careening from Iggyish crooning to swirling disco/metal before coming to rest in that sloppy Stonesy groove where they seem most at home, CV visits Pink, the Troggs, Fall, Undertones, Leonard Cohen and even Donna Summer.(Kim Cooper)
Comet Gain - City Fallen Leaves CD (Kill Rock Stars) So much of contemporary indie rock has the sound, but there s no heart or thought inside. But Comet Gain always come across like smart, cool, complicated friends you can t wait to meet again. Their marzipan harmonies feed lovely washes of organic chaos building off of fine melodies, and really, you d have to be pretty greedy to ask for more.
Diana Darby - The Magdalene Laundries CD (Delmore Recording Society) Diana Darby s album is inspired by the Irish social institution of the same name, which is in the long tradition of the Medicant movement founded by Francis of Assisi. In the Laundries women are sentenced to a life of slavery under the supervision of nuns; forced to work six days a week in the laundry of the Church, in an attempt to wash away their sins. The album was recorded and mixed on a 4-track device in Darby s home--its malfunctioning was the impetus to end the album. Diana sings in hushed tones, lost among the strings and strums of a muted electric guitar. The opening ballad, "The Magdalene Laundries," sets the stage. It is a voice we all recognize, the plaintive tones of someone whose soul is naked before god. "Pretty Flowers" is a lullaby to the women, with their cracked and bleeding hands, calloused elbows dripping soapy water, to give them succor through their long, bitter meditation on the nature of virtue. A black swan appears in the fourth track, lovely, lonely and terrified that someone will come to her small pool and see just that. "Kierkegaard" is a track where nothing is what it should be, cat in the trees, birds on the porch a dead girl resting in bed with her book, bringing us to the edge of reason and the leap of faith. This is Kierkegaard s Choice, which once you realize exists, are left with none but to continue to pound on the doors to the monastery in the pouring rain, already three days at your task. It was this image which Francis choose for his mediation on the true nature of happiness, which brings us to track ten, there s no leaving now, and Ms. Darby s own words on her composition, it was me slamming the door on me. Telling myself that I couldn t escape/run from the feelings and sadness I live with. There comes a point where you have to just sit down and feel what you re feeling. I wanted to take my audience with me. I wanted them to know that they can t run away either. They re on this ride with me. And there s no leaving now. (Richard Schave)
Mark de Cerbo & the Four Eyes - Sweet on the Vine CD (Zip) Okay, I m going to get this out of the way: they sound like Squeeze. From what I read about Mark de Cerbo, he gets it all the time. But, hey, it s a compliment. Apparently it is not really fair to make that comparison, anymore than it is fair to call Emit Rhodes out on the McCartney likeness. Each is contemporary to the better-known artist, but for whatever reason didn t get the spotlight, only the accusation of imitation. Four Eyes have been on the scene in San Diego since 1979, and on their new CD make the smart choice of staying true to the power pop genre that they helped cultivate. If you didn t know better, you d think this record was released around the same time as Nick Lowe s Labour of Love. Bands like the New Pornographers and the Shins should be sending Mark de Cerbo a check, or at least nodding in his direction when they hear a song like Little Cloud. (Craig Ceravolo)
Creepy Clyde The Country Vampire - Spooky Town CD (creepyclyde.com)... Those of us who cotton to horror schlock and Hallowe'en hack are routinely subjected to the endless parade of dreadful vintage "Frankenstein at the Hop" do-wop or some ubiquitous surf track with its addition of "creaky door sound effect #11." Oh yeah, and a hatful of grindcore. But slip on the title song of CC's Spooky Town and you'll be bobbing your head along with what's a surprising baritone over some pretty sophisticated arrangements. Nothing challenging, but it's the most finger-snapping fun I've had with the genre in a good spell. Sea monsters suggestively grab girls by the hips, there's champagne glasses filled with blood, oh, and blood drops from the ceiling onto the blouses of young ladies, and did I mention Clyde's admonition to take up weaponry against the impending zombie attack? There's no end of the fun when Creepy Clyde ("The Country Vampire," though there's a distinct lack of steel guitars in favor of swingin' saxophones) belts out these and other tales that are intended for the good children of Dearborn. Bless their hearts. They probably think they're cooler listening to Exhumed, sure, but they'll never be haunted by that as they will by Clyde's rather strange Jethro Tull-meets-Stanard Ridgway tale of the "Twisted Man." (Nathan Marsak)
The Creepy Clyde Show Presents - House on Haunted Hill DVD (Burke Video) We may never return to the days when Ghoulardi blew shit up to the roulades of the Rivingtons, and so from where the Crampseses and Pere Ubi of our future will get their terrible souls, I don't know. But God willing, the odd history of TV horror hosts has maintained its importance to American young'ns. Creepy Clyde's gags are self-consciously terrible, the sets worse, and while Clyde's acting-class-reject vampirettes lack Elvira's giant breasts, there're three (sadly underused!) of these Brides of Clyde. No great surprises: Clyde sings along to his own cartoons and has puppet pals, so yeah, the great head scratcher here is, again, he's a frickin' poetry-writing Country Vampire. In Michigan. And if that isn't your bag, then go back to watching Robert Osborne, ya pansy. (Nathan Marsak)
Pete Dello and Friends - Into Your Ears CD (Hanky Panky) Diehard Honeybus fans will not want to miss out on this lovely platter. Pete Dello was joined by Ray Cane, Colin Hare, Pete Kircher, Bobby Henrit, Mick Green, Jim Kelly and others for these wistful, early 70s toe-tapping ditties. Mr. Dello had come too close to stardom for his liking when Do I Figure In Your Life and "I Can`t Let Maggie Go" caught the fancy of British radio fans, so he dropped out of sight for a few years and dropped the Honeybus name. After a while, though, he had amassed a bunch of new songs, so he got back together with his old mates and recorded an album of material in the same general vein. The album is augmented on this release by ten bonus tracks featuring the same basic musicians using a variety of pseudonyms: Lace, Magic Valley, Magenta and Red Herring. (Edwin Letcher)
Dolenz Jones Boyce & Hart - S/T CD (El)... So it s 1976, you used to be a Monkee, and you re bored and broke. A promoter offers to finance a reunion, but Mike says feh and Peter has fallen asleep in a cupboard. Enter the ringers, Kirshner-annointed songwriters Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart, who flank Micky and Davy while touring amusement parks and release this peculiar album that suggests no one involved really understood what it meant to be a Bicentennial Monkee. The studio cats are a stellar crew among them Jerry Yester, Keith Allison, Ron Hicklin and Chip Douglas but the disk is completely disjointed, with some disco, fifties remakes, soft pop and one great, punky Stepping Stone rewrite called You Didn t Feel That Way Last Night (Don t You Remember). In my alternate reality, this record was entirely comprised of Boyce-Hart compositions about hating girls, and DJB&H toured with the Sex Pistols and blew em off the stage. In the real world, this one s for the die-hards. (Kim Cooper)
Shari Elf et al. - The Shari Elf Tribute Album CD (sharielf.com)... When not singing with her seamstress band, Miss Elf makes art from trash (quite successfully), so it s hardly a surprise that when so resourceful a gal had the inkling that she deserved a tribute album, she promptly sent out a call to musicians to make it happen. The results are a two-disc set, cleverly packaged in a folded piece of cardboard pierced with wire, in which artists from all over the US (and England) offer their affectionate reinterpretations of Elf s clever, catchy outsider pop tunes. You know how most tribute CDs have one song each by twelve bands, and they all do a different song? Well, who says that s how it has to be? On this 45-track comp, there are four versions of Jerk-A-Lator, Doug Newman does three songs, and Shari pays multiple tributes to herself (including a duet with R. Stevie Moore, on the self-effacing and charming Kansas City Star ). By the end, you have a sense of the deep affection which the players feel for their subject, and will definitely have Jerk-A-Lator stuck in your head!(Kim Cooper)
Espers - The Weed Tree CD (Locust)... Oh, what a Pentangled web they weave, and that s a good thing, the way I see it. This band of folkadelics from Philadelphia does a lovely job on the traditional fair-maid-knocked-up ballad Rosemary Lane as well as a Vashti Bunyan-style take on Nico s Afraid . The vocals on Black Is The Color are evocative, but for some reason there were chimes throughout, like an insensitive neighbor s house in a stiff breeze. It might have been a nice accent, but between that and the relentless shuffling chink of a jinglestick it felt haunted, not in a good way. Their cover of Michael Hurley s Blue Mountain contains instrumentals that sound like the theme from Doctor Who I would like to have heard more--the CD contains only seven tracks. (Brooke Alberts)
The Everly Brothers - The New Album CD (Collectors Choice) Collectors Choice has released a whole bunch of albums that this hit-making duo released after the majority of their audience had shifted their attentions to more modern acts. It s a great thing that Don and Phil continued to record, because all of the albums I ve heard so far--six I believe--are top notch. This one is a bit of a misnomer, because the music was not new when it was released in 1977; it had just never been made available yet. The recordings span the decade the brothers were at Warner Brothers, 60 to 70, and represent a solid peek at the changes music underwent during that turbulent time as filtered through a truly great folk, rock and pop act. Whether it s Brill Building leftovers, a smattering of Everly originals or examples of songwriting by young upstarts the boys met through the years, all of the material here is first rate. (Edwin Letcher)
The Everly Brothers - Gone Gone Gone CD (Collectors Choice) It s a good thing the Everly Brothers didn t let something as petty as a few years without hits deter them from putting out album after album of high quality material. This is one of the best records they did in the mid-sixties. Gone Gone Gone was a return to rock and roll after four years trying their hands at everything from Christmas and country music to adult contemporary fluff. The songwriting is superb throughout. Don and Phil struck paydirt many times with tunes by the Bryants, so it s only natural that five of the twelve songs here are theirs. But someone should do a collection of Everly-penned tunes someday. Three of the twelve winners on this disc are theirs and they shine just as brightly. (Edwin Letcher)
The Everly Brothers - It s Everly Time CD (Collectors Choice) This is a killer diller album, the first in a whole string Don and Phil recorded for Warner Brothers. They had a somewhat better track record on the independent label Cadence, but hit the ground running for the WB. And while their audience might have quit buying the records in the same gigantic quantities, the boys never slacked up any on their end. The songwriting team of Boudleaux and Felice Bryant were responsible for half the songs on this effort and their work stacks up well against past glories like Wake Up Little Susie and Bye Bye Love. All the material is strong, with Don s So Sad (to Watch Good Love Go Bad) one of my faves on this set. (Edwin Letcher)
The Everly Brothers - Roots CD (Collectors Choice) This was the last studio album Don and Phil did with Warner Brothers. The boys and the label heads pulled out all the stops and put together a wonderful country-rock record. Unfortunately, there just weren t very many folks clambering for such an animal, and this became yet another well-intentioned and executed project that went nowhere. The lads did a couple Merle Haggard songs, and covered Jimmie Rodgers, Glen Campbell, Ray Price and George Jones. Ron Elliott of the Beau Brummels was heading in the same neo-country direction and supplied a couple songs as well as some guitar and production work. There are some orchestral, almost psychedelic touches sprinkled throughout that add an otherworldly quality to the material and give it a nicely cohesive feel, even though the album mixed state-of-the-art 68 rock with clips of the Everly Brothers act circa 1952. (Edwin Letcher)
The Everly Brothers - Sing Great Country Hits CD (Collectors Choice) I can t think of much of a better review than the title, but you deserve a little more. If you are an Everly Brothers fan, you will get a kick out of the treatment the duo lend to a bunch of yee haw classics. If you are a country fan, you might not be as delighted. A lot of what made the originals so popular was the ragged edge and (supposedly) honest emotional feeling the dusty cowpokes brought to the songs. Hearing Don and Phil s angelic crooning on Hank Williams I m So Lonesome I could Cry and Johnny Cash I Walk the Line might seem a bit like hearing Pat Boone sweetening up urban R&B. There is a strong tradition of harmony in lots of country music, though, and if you are curious as to how smooth Oh, Lonesome Me, Born to Lose, and some other chestnuts could sound, check this baby out. As always, the musicians are second to none and the production values are high. (Edwin Letcher)
Bill Fay - S/T CD (Eclectic Disks) Tucked inside the lushly orchestral arrangements (overseen by Pete Dello of Honeybus) is a sensibility that s theatrical, fey, very British and a little seedy. Such high drama pop is an acquired taste, but Fay s confident tone and deep sympathy for his characters (including Cockney war veterans, junkies) demand attention. A compelling, offbeat voice, originally released in 1970. Don t miss the bonus 1967 45, the Dylanesque existential hate screed Screams in the Ears, which is the strongest thing on the disk.(Kim Cooper)
Scram #20 reviews (all by the editrix unless otherwise noted)
Atomic 7 en Hillbilly Caliente CD (Mint) The whammy bar gets a workout on this all-instro set of fun, upbeat originals sporting wacky titles like Funeral Hotpants.
Automat just imagine drive CD (Ravenna, indiepages.com) Recorded over six years in basements and bedrooms, this is Scram contributor Mike Appelsteins very lo-fi, indiepop one-man-band. Sort of a sonic snapshot of young adulthood, it includes songs written in law school classes, half-remembered Miracle Legion covers and a musical wedding present for Mikes wife-to-be. Charming, conversational and understated.
Devendra Banhart Rejoicing in the Hands CD (Young God)
Mythic obscurism, intimate and tender, with a languid, drunken cadence that welcomes the ear and soothes the spirit.
The Beat Farmers Tales of the New West CD (Rhino Handmade)
This reissue shares its title with the rollicking San Diego bands Steve Berlin-produced debut, but adds live and later studio cuts to provide a career overview. An ultra-tight roots combo with great taste in cover tunes, a goofball sense of humor and a secret weapon in the form of drummer-vocalist Country Dick Montana, for a couple years in the mid-eighties the Farmers could probably make ordinary people feel better than any band in the country.
Bobby BeauSoleil Lucifer Rising OST double CD (Arcanum)... Purely on a technical level, the existence of this music is astonishing: disc #1 was recorded on homemade equipment on the grounds of Tracy Prison (1977-79) by erstwile Manson associate BeauSoleil and his all-inmate Freedom Orchestra. Kenneth Anger made several attempts to find an alternate composer for the soundtrack before reconnecting with the now-incarcerated guitarist, reviving a collaboration that had ended in enmity a decade earlier. Taken out of cinematic context, the music is ethereal yet intense, suggesting solar winds and timeless, slow processions. Disc #2 has several recently unearthed tracks from BeauSoleils pre-Manson, SF ensembles the Orkustra and the Magick Powerhouse of Oz, and 28 minutes of outtakes from the prison recordings. The excerpts from the Orkustras songs reveal a slinky, chaotic jazz-rock groove that must have made the stoners nervous. MPofO is represented by the original Lucifer Rising recordings, which are more varied than the second version, with heavy guitars, flute solos and jazzy meandering. This piece may jibe better with the film, but as a music its fairly discordant. With handsome packaging and informative notes, this is a most welcome discovery.
Black Eyes Cough CD (Dischord)
Free jazz and dub rammed through the ole punk rock/noise cheesecloth, but squeezing out fairly well put together. (This kind of thing can so easily go the wrong way.) Such combinations cant help but be reminiscent of Pere Ubu, PiL, Sonic Youth and even Crass or the Crucifucks, but still with a bit of that DC Fugazi flavoring. Lots of saxophones, bass and percussion. Its an album of contradictions. The production makes it sound sparse, yet its crammed to the gills with erratic noise. Emotionally, it seems passionate yet cold. Two vocalists share singing duties and you guessed it, one is staid and ones a screamer. Pretty interesting stuff. (Margaret Griffis)
Brian Jonestown Massacre
And This is Our Music CD (Tee Pee)
If you thought you could forget the disconnect between Anton Newcombes obnoxious personality and the layered, lovely sound of his band, you thought wrong: their latest commences with an answering machine message from a sputtering, pissed-off girl. The trick is in understanding that Anton is as proud of hurting her as he is of these songs. You want one, you get the other. And all your heroes were assholes, too.
Vashti Bunyan Just Another Diamond Day CD (Spinney)
Reish of the orchestral folk debut of Ms. Bunyan, an early Andrew Loog Oldham discovery who passed up the chance to be another Marianne Faithfull to travel the British Isles in a horse-drawn buggy. Briefly returning to London mid-journey, she recorded this mysterious, very pretty disc with Joe Boyd producing and musical accompaniment from Robin Williamson of the Incredible String Band and Fairports Dave Swarbrick and Simon Nicol. While the songs arent especially catchy, Bunyans husky, ethereal voice is sure beautiful. Fans of Nick Drake and Bridget St. John will want to seek this out. This expanded edition includes several unreleased songs.
Matthew Burtner Metasaxophone Colossus CD (Innova) If Burtners saxes were flesh, theyd be bionic: wired for feedback loops and computerized programs aping Tibetan prayer bowls and imaginary strings. St. Thomas Phase samples Sonny Rollins at maximum velocity. Burtner explores the outer edges of live performance potential, and makes some terrifically weird sounds along the way.
Canned Hamms Karazma Reimagined As Performed by Todays Top Artists CD (Pro-Am)... Inside their fertile little brains (and in those of the lucky hundreds whove witnessed their hyperactive Vaudeville), Little Hamm and Big Hamm are mega-stars. And mega-stars get tribute albums, of which this sassy, genre-bustin set is probably just volume one. Hamm fans here include Neil Hamburger, the New Pornographers, Monotrona, Bobby Conn, Carolyn Mark, the Goblins (and their pet monkey), Nardwuar and even Canned Hamm themselves, interminably singing the credits ala Skidoo!
Chagall SoundLight CD (Seven Thunders Music)... The misguided cover art screams new age dope, but Columbian-born Keith Chagall is actually quite a good McCartneyesque singer-songwriter. Cool backwards guitar on Watching the Seasons.
The Cinch shake if you got it CD (Dirtnap)... A chaotic, melodic feminine swirl of rough guitar and tomb-deep, witchy vocals, run through with a beguiling sweetness.
The Claudia Malibu Star CD (Claudiamalibumusic)
Warm and bubbly indiepop with sing-song, Kinksy vocals.
Clouseaux Lagoon! CD (Dionysus)... Space age exotica music as a genre is now doubly outdated, but its always a treat to find a new stereo testing disc. This Houston ensemble conjures up a spiffy soundtrack to an imaginary island-set spy flick, packed with energy, wit, danger and an occasional splash of honcho horns.
Bobby Darin Aces Back to Back! CD/DVD (Hyena)... From the official Darin archives, in advance of Kevin Spaceys bio-pic, comes this offbeat career sampler mixing high-schlock 72 TV variety show live cuts with scarce jazz spots for the American Dairy Association and rootsy Big Sur sessions from Darins Dimension label. The DVD reprises the TV material, and adds bits from a lost, self-produced documentary including footage of the ultra cool Darin taking a drag on a cigarillo before laying down a vocal track. Much as I love his folk material, the brassy Vegas stuff leaves me mildly impressed, but unmoved. More intriguing are the simple Milk recordings, which include a lovely Moon River. Too stylistically varied to hold together as an album, Aces works as a broad introduction to a multi-faceted artiste.
The Dirtbombs Dangerous Magical Noise CD (In the Red)... Mick Collins & co. strap on their treble-powered rocket packs and spew out a soul-punk miasma thats just the latest piece in the puzzle that spells out Without Detroit, Rock And Roll Dont Mean Nuthin.
The Dwarves The Dwarves Must Die CD (Sympathy)
The beauty of all those Question Authority bumperstickers is that they tell you do so so authoritatively. Similarly, I hear a lot of punks lately, those most freethinkinest of folk, grumbling about the Dwarves and their recent delve into the realm of orchestral hip-hop pop, or whatever it is theyre doing. Well, the Dwarves, nor anyone else, could do no finer work. Certainly, there are the many traditional Dwarves tracks on Must Die: Dominator, which youll remember from How to Win Friends
; Blast, whose screamin reminds of River City Rapist; and a few others, but with some nice twistsRelentless could have come off of Blood, Guts
save for the chorus of children, and Bleed On and Fefu are top-notch archetypal Dwarves, but with surf and 60s garage crunch. What stand out, though, are Salt Lake City, best pop song of the year; and Runaway #2, acoustic new wave a la the Violent Femmes, although Gano never wrote about daddys white candy water. The church organ in Christ on a Mic is truly strange, but the most ado has been made about Blag Def like Beethoven Dahlias rhymin and designin on Demented and Massacre, which, in the latter, he drops the hip-hop dis-bomb on those pussy-ass bands what sweat him. (The album also includes a dizzying collection of guests, from Gary Owens introducing the opening track [a faux-live recording reminiscent of the Ventures in Japan album] to National Kato at its closing, with rappers and punkers in between.) Despite all the musical departures, and some thematic dabblings into Queens of the Trust Fund, and the nature of the afterlife, Blag & Co. dont stray far from the lyrical conventions of fuckcore: fucking, violence, drugs, teenage girls, and more fucking. Nevertheless, Blag is still rocks premier wordsmith, a lust-mad Hogarth living, exposing, hell, destroying the underbelly of America. To our eternal gratitude. Blag sums it all up in the opening trackits the childish defiling the mild/ and we know that its making you smile. (Nathan Marsak)
The Electric Degenerate Doses CD (Pro-Vel)
The vocals are the first thing to hit ya, Wayne Countys loopy drawl fused with David Thomas-style shriek apocalyptica. Fast, frenetic and a little silly, this St. Louis quartet turns the usual retro elements into something fresh and their own.
John Felice & the Lowdowns Nothing Pretty CD (Norton)
This 1987 solo album from the Real Kids mainguy is one harrowing listen. Imagine the early Kids innocence and spirited love of all kindsa buoyant three-chord rocknroll filtered through the ravages of a decade-plus heroin addiction and a career self-destroyed. Perfect Love and Dreams are prime Kids-style pop made all the more poignant by Felices audible wastedness, but the strung out title track (theres nothing pretty in my life anymore) and Ill Never Sing That Song Again (which ends with a coda of Felices big hit All Kindsa Girls) are the real highlightsthe honesty on show here cuts to the bone. Real Kids dont get old/their hearts grow empty, their blood runs cold Felice sang at the beginning of the 80s, and its a credit to the guys strength of will that hes still touring a decade and a half later (and probably a testament to his ability to fuck-up that he hasnt made a full-length record since this). A lost classic, in more ways than one. (David Laing)
The Feminine Complex livin love CD (Rev-Ola)... Reissued reish (of Teenbeats 1996 release) of the sole 1968 sophisto-pop recording by a Nashville girl group that recorded for indie label Athena. The album, backed by session players under Lee Hazens supervision, is soulful sunshine pop with strong songs by singer/ guitarist Mindy Dalton, but stay tuned for the bonus tracks, including several harder edged demos with all five girls playing and singing as they did before college and marriage broke up the band.
Henry Flynt & The Insurrections I Dont Wanna CD (Locust)
Avant-noise fiddler Henry Flynt is known to NYC Hi-Awt cultists for his collaborations with LaMonte Young, Yoko Ono and the Velvet Under-ground, but his scattered recordings have lately won slobbery love from aesthetic punx and garage geex across our baking mudball. A classical musician from rural North Carolina turned ultra-modernist turned psychedelic rootsman, Flynt came from people who proudly call each other hillbillies and cheerfully cripple outsiders who let the word find their mouths (dont ask why, its just something we do). My music is a sophisticated, personal extension of the ethnic music of my native region of the United States, wrote Flynt in 1980, shortly before he traded playing music for writing philosophy. This punk godfathers resurrection-in-his-own-lifetime should give little joy to the cash-money shade of Frank Zappa. I Dont Wanna is Flynts sole rock album, an unreleased proto-punk masterpiece recorded in 1966 that is far more advanced than Freak Out! and cruder than the early Fugs. Flynt plays guitar and fronts a brute mix of proletarian rage, wall-to-wall mod raga and Wooly Bully spread over nine songs. Like any of our tribe, Flynt has a near-genetic understanding of imperialism and exploitation. Like none of the avant-gardists around him, he knew and channeled the power of swampwater rock & roll. When listening to these tracks, keep in mind they predate White Light, White Heat and Creedence Clearwater Revival by two years. This vastly important discovery, along with recent reissues of Linda Perhacs Parallelograms, Cosmic Mind at Play by the Paisleys and the Stark Realitys glorious mauling of Hoagy Carmichael, suggest everything we know about sixties rock is probably wrong. (Ron Garmon)
Evan Foster Instrumentals CD (Musick)... The Boss Martians boss briefly returns to his sometimes goofball surf roots before launching into eclectic genre explorations ranging from synth-drenched cinematic sounds to bluesy raunch, lowbrow spy jazz to garage rock, all featuring Fosters crystalline guitar leads and memorable melodies.
The Frantics The Complete Frantics on Dolton CD (Collectors Choice)
You know the Frantics Werewolf, since its on every Northwest/ horror/ Cramps comp youve got. Therefore, you know its one of the top coolest, creepiest instros of all time. So what else were these labelmates of the Ventures up to? Well, unlike the Ventures, the Frantics never really found their sound. Nevertheless, with 26 tracks, twelve previously unreleased, theres plenty youll find to quicken the pulse. The raw, R&B-tinged sax-and-sleaze that defined the NWwhence came the Kingsmen and Sonicsis never more direct and driving than in The Whip, and the loungey stuff, like the exotified Delilah, makes your head swim and eyes see double. In fact, theres flamenco here, and tiki, and Latin jazz, and even a Ventures take off called Ventura Blvd. Like I said, never found their sound, but I think its because of that that this one is worth a listen. (Nathan Marsak)
The Girls S/T CD (Dirtnap)... Utterly spastic punk-pop with mock operatic vocal whoops, faux significant lyrics and scrappy guitars fighting for prominence with relentless synthesizer swirls.
Al Green The Immortal Soul of box set (Hi/ The Right Stuff)... The four discs are split between the themes that dog Greens life and art: love, sex and the Lord, with one disc simply labeled soul to catch the post-1975 overflow. There might not be a slinkier, sweeter sound than the one Green, Willie Mitchell and the Hi rhythm section created together on the floor of Memphis old Royal Theater during Nixons reign. Discs one and two are the strongest and most interesting, commencing with two pleasant 1967 ballads by Al Greene & the Soul Mates, then moving chronologically through the development of Greens signature softly funky sound. Once the pot of grits was thrown and Jesus came between Al and Willie, things were never the same, but ooo, when they were hot
The Gris Gris S/T CD (Birdman)... This is nutsin a good way. Some Seeds, some Doors, a ghostly Velvets pastiche, Latin romanticism and hypnagogic sound-forms swarming together into an absurd yet compelling spaced-out
The Gurus S/T CD (Rainbow Quartz)... Lush retro pop from Barcelona, where young boys dream of growing up to be Jim McGuinn and do.
David Hemmings Happens CD (Rev-Ola)... One of my favorite-ever dollar bin scores, this daft 67 collision between the Dont Make Waves-contracted Byrds and the star of Blow Up splices free-form psych-jazz (the improvised insanity credited to Hemmings-McGuinn-Hillman) with a Gene Clark demo re-cut with Hemmings quite passable tones in place of the ex-Byrd. Opener Back Street Mirror is primo solo Clark, while Talkin L.A. is the cream of the trippier crop, the sound of studio cats being devoured by Byrds. Joe Fosters liner notes handily solve some of the projects abiding mysteries, and leave you wishing theyd had a few more days to refine their aims. But still, a most entertaining oddity.
Doug Hilsinger with Caroleen Beatty Taking Tiger Mountain By Strategy CD (DBK Works)... What a cool project. The Waycross bandmates explored their mutual fondness for Brian Enos 1974 LP by remaking it sans electronic instruments, passed the recordings to Eno himself after a lecture appearance, and totally blew the artists mind. I havent heard the original in years, but even without it fresh in my mind, this is some powerful, weird and deeply felt art rock.
The Hi-Risers Lost Weekend CD (Spinout)... Lively, silly retro act more interested in having fun than sticking to any strict rules of genre. Instro, country, garage, frat, surf n twang.
Holy Curse bluer than red CD (Nova Express)... Some quirk of earthly geography made France the nation most appreciative of the Sydney school of rocknrollI once spent a fruitless few minutes failing to communicate with an excitable francophone gent who couldnt get over the Radio Birdman patch on my jacket. Holy Curse have that cool, dry Oz/Detroit thing down, the brusque Younger-style vocals, swirling, aggressive guitars, lyrics focusing on lifes reductive essentials, and the raw energy to bring it all together. Real cool.
Penelope Houston Pale Green Girl CD (DBK Works)... The teenage Avenger has grown into a mature singer-songwriter more concerned with personal politics than global ones, though shes still clearly a hardcore idealist. Jangly, muted tales of screw ups, let downs and hope.
Penelope Houston Snapshot CD-EP (Flare)... Yet another pretty side of a Penny. Accompanied here by the Maydays (featuring chief Zombologist Alec Palao), she covers interesting, well-arranged selections by the likes of Pentangle, Shocking Blue and Colin Blunstone. Strangely, her voice is more distinctive on these songs than on her own.
Jim & Jean Changes / People World CD (Collectors Choice)... Married folkies Jim Glover and Jean Rays career was shaped by their friendship with onetime roommate Phil Ochs, who wrote notes for 1966s Changes, which sported three of his songs. With twining harmonies that straddle the line between east coast coffee house and Mamas & Papas pop sophistication, Jim & Jeans electrified discs have some gorgeous moments. But despite the songwriting star power in evidence (Ochs, Dylan, Eric Andersen, fine, otherwise unissued David Blue), its Jeans original Topanga Road from People Worldrevealed by Richie Unterbergers liner notes to be inspired by a Buffalo Springfield drug bustthats the heart stopper, haunting and ethereal, but really tough. A lost classic. The rest of People World is interesting if not always successful, with soul and pop strains infecting trad folk forms and mutating fast. The record didnt sell and Jim & Jean split up, leaving their fans in Fairport Convention to feed the culture theyd begun.
Sharon Kraus Songs of Love and Loss CD (Camera Obscura)... Ancient-sounding (though mostly modern, original) cyclical folk balladry thats equal parts lovely and scary.
Roy Loney & the Longshots Drunkard in the Think Tank CD (Career)... Still plenty Groovie, Loney and his NW band mix trad ravers with a new wavey pop sensibility charged with snotty energy that belies the clock. Also in the set, a most-Kinky tribute to Ray Davies, He Talks to Himself.
Michael Lynch Thats Not the Way It Should Be CD-EP (Michael Lynch Appreciation Society, email email@example.com)... All by his ownsome, Mr. Lynch makes rather wonderfully arch and jangly sixties-inflected pop. Lets hope he finds a bunch of twenty year olds to help him bring these nifty morselsto a live setting.
The Magnetic Fields i CD (Nonesuch)... The precious, precocious Mr. Merritt finds fourteen musical ways to paint himself the perfect loser, accent on perfect, and along the way gets in dozens of prickly digs at the expense of anyone who ever believed in their own failed experiments with love. Super-tasty androgyne pinky-lifting pop.
The Mello Cads Gentle Explosion CD (Manzoku Music)... Uneasy listening for mod modernists. Drenched in sap-wet strings, bedecked with horny horns, Mr. David Ponak explores the lonesome fingerlings of bachelorhood, begging and promising things he wont want come morning. The very sexy space poppers Seksu Roba join the Cads on a nighttime tour of Roppongi.
Miracle Chosuke The 7/8 Wonders of the World CD (Dim Mak)
Oh my goodness. When I heard the opening track I thought Id accidentally put on some Yes recordwhich isnt a terrible thing, but it sure is an eye opener. The rest is punky new wave with a touch of the progrock interspersed here and there. Theres spazzy synth a la Screamers, but overall the driving tunes are more Buzzcocks than anything else. This is turning out to be one of my favorites CDs in months. (Margaret Griffis)
Mushroom glazed popems double CD (Black Beauty)
Two sides of the Mushroom (London and Oakland): pastoral space rock fever-dreams flavored with Mellotron giving way to cool, urban instro scenes dotted with brass, conga and electronics. Hypnotic, cinematic and kinda nutty, featuring Absolute Greys Pat Thomas on drums.
Mystery Girls Something in the Water CD (In the Red)... Young, stuck in Wisconsin and blasting out a fierce n chaotic blues-garage spew, these girls sound like theyd just as soon pick your pockets as getcha to you dance.
Nervous Eaters Eat This CD (No Tomorrow)
Boston punk-era legends on schedule with album number three in as many decades. Punk-era is maybe a bum-steerdespite their oft-covered/ bootlegged couple of singles for the Rat label, Loretta and Just Head, their roots go back further and here its like punk never happened. This is hard rock how it should be playedlean and bullshit-free. Mainman Steve Cataldo sings, plays and writes as tough as nails and cracks wise to bootcheckout mean streets killer Call Kevin, with its picture of a local crime boss with a slice of lime in his gin, an old cigar stuck in his grin; and has a knack for high rev chord sequenceshe calls it his gear-box songwriting technique. 5-6-8 is a great tribute to the Boston scene of the 70s and name checks the Real Kids (Allen Paulino, who was an Eater before he was a Kid in 76, plays bass here), and hey, if other reformed bands of the era, from Radio Birdman to Rocket from the Tombs to the Real Kids themselves are/were able to come up with albums this great wed all be happy. (David Laing)
Ness Up Late with People CD (High Pilot)... Brash, bubbly pop that could eat AM radios for breakfast.
The New Planet Trampoline The Curse of
CD (Elephant Stone)... Led by the Volta Sounds Matt Cassidy, NPT ply a path of wonky Anglophile psychedelia, their deep immersion in the canon crossed with a trashier, garage-bred side. Like a dreamy acid idyll dragged earthbound by a snort of speed.
Nichelle Nichols Down To Earth CD (Collectors Choice)... Not a demented cash-in in the Shatner vein, Lt. Uhuras 1968 Epic debut is a tasteful jazz-pop outing highlighting Nichols breathy supper club phrasing on standards like Thats Life and Tenderly. And if theres something a little otherworldly about those strings, well, who could blame em? A more soulful side turns up on the bonus tracks.
Norfolk & Western Dusk in Cold Parlours CD (Hush)... A spaghetti Western ghost story viewed through the wrong end of the telescope.
Greg Parker On the Break CD-EP (Whitewall)... Pin-up pretty Nashville kid who croons and yodels like an old timey countrypolitan by way of Chris Isaak.
Patience and Prudence The Best of CD (Collectors Choice)... The adolescent daughters of songwriter Mark McIntyre had a cutie-pie career on Liberty in the late fifties, chirping old timey tunes that, despite vocal doubling and some elaborate arrangements, had a sweetly amateurish sound that illustrates how varied American radio used to be. This comp pulls together scarce 45s like A Smile and a Ribbon (Enid Coleslaws fave) and Very Nice is Bali Bali, plus a few cuts with boy singer Mike Clifford and the original demos that caught Ross Bagdasarians ear. The sonic equivalent of a two-foot long Pixie Stick.
Sam Phillips a boot and a shoe CD (Nonesuch)... Framed in relentless junkman percussion, Phillips moans her existential, ultimately hopeful, origami tunes. I suspect repeated listenings would be rewarding ones.
The Pilgrims Telling Youth
The Truth CD (LRL)... Would you believe
a sixties, Midlands UK R&B/pop band preaching the gospel in language that couldnt possibly be misread as referring to girls and cars? Im not sure I do, either, but whoever put this package together (or, if you will, the Pilgrims) clearly had a blast melding godly lyrics with convincing vintage arrangements and production. And Wait and See has a great primitive drum line that might justpresage Mo Tucker... or not.
Sandy Posey Born To Be Hurt: The Anthology 1966-1982 CD (Raven)... Poseys reading of Martha Sharps Born a Woman is one of those great did I really hear that? pop moments, a cheerily masochistic affirmation of everything feminism was supposed to eradicate. And while Posey played the sad little skirt on tracks like A Single Girl and the stunning, Dreiser-esque Hey Mister, she could also spit out a P.F. Sloan kiss-off like See Ya Round on the Rebound. Raven philanthropically strips out the considerable dross from her increasingly countrified recorded work, and its worth picking up for the above mentioned tunes, and a great version of Love of the Common People.
The primeTime sublime Community Orchestra A Life In a Day of a Microorganism CD (Corporate Blob)
If youve ever cared at all about subcutaneous life, you need this disc. A big fat art-joke spliff with damp purple buds bricolaged from Bernard Herrmann, David Axelrod, The Bonzo Dogs and Faust rolled in, this 45: 29 of recorded whimsy is the second album from a near-anonymous collective (accurately) described on its website as Monty Pythons illegitimate children flunk out of music school. Or you could call it The High Llamas without songs or High Modernism hits the corn-shucker or Listen While High. The title composition is preceded by four short pieces, with Fashion Flag For a Part-time Patriot displaying much quicksilver wit amid mock sonorities, Gershwin wheezes and Aaron Copelands fruity plains. The main piece is subjected to an unfortunate mugging by our good friend, the Narrative, much in the same way as the old science educational films it satirizes bludgeoned cool nature footage. That American civilization resembles such society as one might find in a dingleberry subjected to intense magnification is not a new idea. Still, the fifty thousand or so ears on this planet attuned to this rare level of genre-smash will need this very badly indeed. (Ron Garmon)
Red Planet We Know How It Goes CD (Gearhead)... Recipe for a Red Planet cocktail: take one part cheeseball 78 synth, one part eternal teenybopper, two parts snappy hooks, shake in a sealed Camaro, chill to the temperature of a summer skinny dip and serve
Reigning Sound Too Much Guitar CD (In the Red)... Maximum treble overdrive, with snappy hooks, slobbery harp, subterranean Misfits choruses and this relentless, snotty urgency thats too rare these days.
The Robbs S/T CD (Collectors Choice)... Kicking off with a mildly martial, boyish take on Eric Andersens romanto-folk classic Violets of Dawn, the faux Robb (actually Donaldson) Bros. debut soon veers into wonderfully snotty bubblegum territory with Cynthia Loves, an exuberant warning about a world class heartbreaker. The Robbs were the house band on Where the Action Is out of L.A., but went home to Chicago to record, and these tracks have that midwestern goodtimey soul-pop vibe, drenched in cool organ and twining fraternal harmonies. Good songwriters, too: the originals hold their own with the few covers, including a Sloan-Barri number and a terrific jangly traditional tune, Jolly Miller.
Rocket from the Tombs Rocket Redux CD (Smog Veil)... Sure, its the rock and roll equivalent of raising grandpa in a seance, but turns out the old mans still got balls. Richard Lloyds incendiary guitar stands in nicely for the truly departed Peter Laughner, David Thomas gene-splices his Ubu vocal stylings into what used to be straight ahead rock songs, Cheetah Chrome cant sing and doesnt care, and I think Im smelling smoke. Since the ultra-influential (proto-Pere Ubu, -Dead Boys) combo could only previously be heard in a live 75 radio session and demos, its just a damn fine thing to see their vision formally realized.
The Sadies Favourite Colours CD (Yep Roc)... Channeling a corduroy-bedecked dream Burritos by way of Gene Clarks Byrds, Torontos Sadies bring heart and class to an again popular, but oft hollow genre. And yeah, that really is Robyn Hitchcock singing on the last track.
77 Sunset Strip OST CD (Collectors Choice)... Fridge-cool cop jazz soundtrack from the show that spawned a million jive spinnin, comb wieldin, wannabe Kookies. There was no lingo on the original Warners disc, and its a shame Collectors Choice doesnt do the bonus track thing, cos the addition of Edd Byrnes Kookie, Kookie (Lend Me Your Comb) 45 would provide some useful cultural mapping. Nevertheless, the discs a tasty slab of moody backgrounds redolent of late night busts and failed capers.
The Shakes Gigantes del Pop! CD (Teenacide)... 14 fresh slabs of brainiac pop-punk delight from the sweetly surly Shakes, whose addition of Dan Gremmy Collins on bubblegum organ (and mental hospital vocals on the Mumps Crocodile Tears) has given them a nice new edge to flick around our ears.
Shark Pants Porno Snakehead CD (Recess)
When I cracked open the case I looked at the cover art and wondered whether this was going to be more like Sigue Sigue Sputnik, Black Flag or their misguided love spawn. Thankfully its closer to Black Flag, not too much though. Theyre more beholden to trad sixties garage punk than hardcore, but played at a breakneck 78 rpm. Zoom. Good good stuff. Loud, fast, still rules and it brings a tear to the eye. (Margaret Griffis)
The Shemps Spazz Out with the Shemps! CD (Reservation)
We live in a world where frat boys are listening to the Hives. Good for them, I guess, and maybe theyll graduate to the Humpers with our help. I had the occasion to entertain a collection of these beefy-armed types recently, where I put on the Shemps and they started slamming around in my tiny apartment, breaking up all my furniture (which I duct-taped up only days before after a particularly nasty Mummies-playing destructionfest). Everyone was happy as drunken, bruised clams at the Shemps, especially when I showed em the cover art, an illustration of Japanese schoolgirls gleefully killing some beefy-armed guy. Its Northwest 60s punk filtered through NYC 80s hardcore. The Shemps get an A+. (Nathan Marsak)
Richard Shindell Vuelta CD (Koch)... This is the first of Shindells six records Ive heard, so I cant say what changes moving to Argentina has brought to the East Coast folkies sound. Hes a compelling, if low key, performer, restrained yet emotive, who brings traditional melodies and themes smartly into the politicized present. Pretty, thoughtful, understated and refined.
Skeemin NoGoods S/T CD (Idol)... Raw midwestern punk/boogie running a fever and ticked off to the point of maximum efficiency. I dig.
The Slats Pick It Up CD (Latest Flame)
Although they need a little work, the new release by the Minneapolis/Iowa City trio has intelligent songwriting with solid musical back-up. My only complaint is that they dont go far enough down the paths they seem interested in. More skronk, more melodies, more more more. Drink to excess or take drugs or get laid or whatever itll take to loosen up those sphinctie muscles. Bows to nineties favorites Guided By Voices, Pavement and Nothing Painted Blue, but otherwise good. (Margaret Griffis)
Sloan Action Pact CD (Koch)... The first half of Action Pact is such catchy, crunchy, pure seventies pop fun that I was singing along to songs I didnt know by the first chorus. The second half is just good-not-great rocknroll. But averages are meaningless when talking about songs this strong, and at least they sequenced em right. Get it.
The Smithereens From Jersey It Came! Anthology double CD (Capitol)... The eighties werent just Aquanet and lycra, not even on major labels. The reens were a real live rock and roll band that, while sounding cool enough to linger in hipster obscurity, somehow managed to hit the charts. Graced with Pat DiNizios neat hand with a hook, stellar taste in producers (Ed Stasium, Don Dixon, Andy Shernoff, Alan Betrock) and deep catalogue collections heavy on the British Invasion, doo wop and Brill Building, these cats made some great contemporary pop. The Especially For You tracks are particularly compelling, transforming noir film titles into gotta-hear-em-twice lovesick janglers. Demos and live cuts make this set appealing to fans and neophytes alike.
Solger Codex 1980 CD (Empty)
The horrible production values cant cover up the qualities of this nearly lost hardcore record. Solger lasted just a few months in 1980, but left an indelible mark on the nascent Seattle hardcore scene. Cleaned up (but not too much) by Jack Endino, the CD includes their complete recorded works (slim) and a live show. The CD is probably better suited for the hardcore or grunge completist than a randomly interested listener, but its entertaining. (Margaret Griffis)
Nikki Sudden Treasure Island CD (Secretly Canadian)
Apparently Nikkis new band dresses in couture pirate drag. This hasnt dissuaded masters like Ian McLagan, Mick Taylor and former partner Dave Kusworth from dropping by the sessions, which for all I know were held on a cobweb-draped galleon in a secret inlet off the Irish coast. Small splashes of gospel choirs drape Nikkis bluesy, circular riffs and romantic lyrics starring doomed loves, incorruptible beauties and wasted wastrels.
sun zoom spark transmissions from satellites volume one CD (SlowBurn)... Its four in the morning, and youre stoned, thirsty and covered in burrs, and just over the next rise theres this suburban house with a garage and a band and cold beers. Just as you see the light in the kitchen window theres this terrible lurch and then
Sharon Tandy You Gotta Believe Its
CD (Big Beat)... A brassy soul-pop chick from London by way of Johannesburg, Sharon hooked up with the Fleur de Lys, who backed her on her best known track, Hold On, a freakbeat track unusual for its mix of mod aggression and husky feminine vocals. This 26 cut comp includes mid-sixties recordings for Pye, Atlantic and Atco, plus a few unreleased songs, with the common factor being Sharons big, emotional voice, which is simply overwhelming on the more ordinary tunes. But Hold On and Daughter of the Sun are quite deliciously out of control slabs of psyched out girlie pop, and there are some nicely Dustified moments on the tunes recorded at Stax.
Deniz Tek and Scott Morgan 3 Assassins CD (Career)... Detroiters speak of Scott (Rationals, Sonics Rendezvous Band) Morgans vocal prowess in awed tones similar to those Australians apply to Radio Birdman guitar whiz Deniz Tek. Send these two out on the French and Italian road with the brutal backing of the A-10 and the results are predictably fiery, from the stunning opening take on the MC5s Future Now through recent Tek originals, SRB classic City Slang and the Stooges tunes that close the set. Lets hear it for assimilation.
The Thanes evolver CD (Rev-Ola)... Generous career survey of the ever-cool Scotch garage revivalists who, while steeped black in vintage sonic styles, never sound like theyre doing it by the numbers. Lenny Helsing was just born too late, but he never let that stop him and his mates making great, moody psych-folk-punk-ravers that really feel timeless. With tracks taken from scarce singles, EPs and albums, plus a few unreleased gems, evolver pulls together material that would be tough and costly to replicate. Includes liner notes by Mike Stax, a Helsing interview and detailed song notes.
Thee Fine Lines S/T CD (Licorice Tree)... A swell little bit of Billy Childish/ Headcoatees-style lowbrow garage action, all throb, fuzz and swagger
only with better teeth, cos theyre from Austin.
Thee Shams Please Yourself CD (Fat Possum)... The trad blues folks down at Fat Possum have signed themselves a band of electrified youngsters, and theyre serving up a tasty, sloppy scene thats somewhere between the psychedelic Stones and the Cynics at their raunchiest, with unexpected sidetrips into atonal piano balladry.
David Thomas and Two Pale Boys 18 Monkeys on a Dead Mans Chest CD (Smog Veil)
The wacky cover art and jokey title (not so jokey once you begin to obsess on it) didnt prepare me for what Id assumed would be another Thomas effort even more atmospheric and electronic than the great 2001 platter Surfs Up! But the sonic novelsThomas descriptionThomas has penned for 18 Monkeys is Cle-punk Americana at its darkest and finest in years, maybe ever. (Apols for the comparisons, but) the first side thumps and lurches like a looser, early Cave (the opener New Orleans Fuzz = what? Swampland? Tupelo?)
and the record then slides into Waitsian territory, with melodeon and musette and Thomas muttered narratives, narrating what I dont know or need to know. Elegiac and, dare I say, buoyant in places. This is music to detox to, sitting in the dark, alone, sweating, or at least thats how I enjoyed it. Twice. Intones Thomas in Habeas Corpus, maybe the darkness wont hide what weve done. Even with all the noise, Thomas and the Boys dont shed light on chaos, but on an interior, as opposed to exterior, trembling. And you cant hide that. Anymore. Shuffle nervously, dont walk, to go fetch this disc. (Nathan Marsak)
timewellspent S/T CD (Parasol)... Not all orchestral pop is hatched in grimy urban climes. This delicate, occasionally spacey set is the brainchild of a pair of South Floridians, though they did send the finished tapes up north for Thom Monahan to apply his patented Pernice Brothers sheen to the mix.
Trembling Blue Stars A Certain Evening Light: Uncollected Recordings 1996-2002 CD (Shinkansen)
Being the worthy b-sides and rarities of a most elegant and worldly pop phenomenon; hushed, clever, lovely stuff, no less human for the bits of electronics and Martian dub.
Twink Supercute! CD (Mulatta)... In his toy piano, uke, cardboard box etc. ensemble, Mike Langlie and pals explore the outer reaches of kiddie sound, layering serious and goofy noise into a dense, cartoony electronic net punctuated with the squeaks of real and stuffed animals. This material is available in a conventional CD, or in a beautifully packaged box of three-inch CDs with a tiny picture book featuring Twink himself, a little bunny. Jazzy, dark, silly, bizarre, and yes, sometimes supercute.
The Ultra 5 Denizens of Dementia CD (Green Cookie)... Cool n moody organ-swathed garage rock with the unexpected addition of some very sweet femme vocals. Ultra trashy, and fuzzed to the gills.
Townes Van Zandt Acoustic Blue CD (Tomato)... A tasteful blend of late European live recordings of Townes standards and a stark last studio remake of Nothin, laid down three weeks before he died. As with pretty much everything he ever did, truthful, beautiful and raw.
V/A Dirtnap Across The Northwest CD (Dirtnap)
Incredibly strong selection of unreleased punkity roque songs from thirty-one of the Northwests finest like the Spits, Rotten Apples, Hunches, Gloryholes, Briefs, etc. The gathering is fairly diverse: Ramonesrock, synthy Nu Wave, glammy tunes, hard and junky rock, so theres something for practically everybody here that has a taste for fresh punk. Highly recommended and one of the best comps of the last few years. (Margaret Griffis)
V/A Heart So Cold! The North Country 60s Scene CD (Bacchus Archives)
Upstate New York and some place called Vermont were darn fine partsatheworld to get warm in the winters between 61 and 65. Everybody was goin to the Rollerland, as is evidenced in the comps finest, craziest track, Everybodys Goin to the Rollerland by Empire recording artists Wild Bill Kennedy and the Twiliters. No, I take that back, the craziest track is the Ravens Oobie Doobie Do, a previously unreleased (!) slop-screamer whose lyrics have been described as Gertrude Stein singing rock n roll. Some of the tracks go Liverpudlian, and Hawaiiana from New York always makes me cock my head, plus theres spysurf and garage snot and lotsa beat, beat, beat. Me, Im going to Plattsburghgoin to the Rollerland. (Nathan Marsak)
V/A Heroes & Horses: Corridos From the Arizona-Sonora Borderlands CD (Smithsonian Folkways)
Very pleasant sounding ballads from the Arizona-Mexico borderlands. The corridos are the border version of the blues. The songs tell the old stories of revolution and generals, but also the lower brow interests of horse racing and the difficulties of mining and even jail. The musical style is recognizable from old Mexican or even Hollywood movies. Its very familiar and sentimental. Good for a hot day at the cantina drinking una cerveza bien fria. (Margaret Griffis)
V/A The Midnite Sounds of the Milky Way CD (Big Beat)
Solid mid-sixties label sampler highlighting Danville, ILs Milky Way Records and the frantic garage and novelty slabs cut at their Midnite Sound studios. Among a slew of terrific folk-rock, spaced out instros and sneery rockers lurks Willie & the Travelaires Fiery Stomp, the fascinatingly amateurish surf-meets-bubblegum vision of a rockin Amish man who showed up at the studio in a horse-drawn buggy!
V/A Por Vida: A Tribute to the Songs of Alejandro Escovedo CD (Or Music)
A truly amazing castLucinda Williams, Steve Earle, Bob Neuwirth, the Faces Ian McLagan, Motts Ian Hunter and nearly thirty morepay tribute to the songs of ailing Austin, TX-based troubadour Escovedo, who Scram readers are most likely to know through his time in early SF punks the Nuns and Slash-signed cowpunks Rank & File. This guy is the rarest of breedsa singer/songwriter-type whose songs are as informed by the Velvets, Stooges, Stones and all manor of 70s rocking as they are by the Townes Van Zandt/Steve Young/Rodney Crowell tradition. This record is a revelationId only paid scant attention to the mans records over the yearsbut truly, the number of jaw-droppingly great songs on evidence here has had me scampering to pick everything hes done. (David Laing)
V/A Shakin In My Boots: A Texas Rock N Roll Compilation CD (Licorice Tree)
Brand new comp from a brand new label out of Texasthis baby goes crazy-beyond the Elevators and the Thaks, kids. Shakin is a heady brew of rhythm n booze, slop rock, organ scuzz, garage assault, plus a great outer space-laced surf instro thats worth the price of admission right there. Of course, with fifteen songs of raunch-rock there are bound to be a couple soundalikes, but when they sound like this, you can quit yer damn complaining. All in all, one xtra-fine house-party rocker if, you know, youre skipping town the next day and blowing off the security deposit. (Nathan Marsak)
Vetiver S/T CD (DiCristina)... Vetiver mainman Andy Cabic writes, plays and tours with Devendra Banhart, and his debut has a similarly loopy, arcane feel, with strings for sweetening. I can imagine all the musicians in this friendly, tight-knit scene gathering in an ancient roadhouse and summoning ghosts with their gentle, spooky songs. Let the folk bats fly.
Tony Joe White The Heroines CD (Sanctuary)... Just got hepped to the early work of swamp-rock legend Tony Joe (thanks, James!), and am pleased to note that his latest is everything youd want the inventor of Roosevelt and Ira Lee to be playing thirty-five years later. Tony Joe comes across like a wisely raunchy soul whose seen and done a lot, and that experience informs his gruff vocals and fluid, incisive guitar lines. Alternate tracks showcase duets with Emmylou Harris, Jessi Colter, Lucinda Williams, Shelby Lynne and Michelle White, but its the solo Robbin My Honeycomb thats the knockout, an understated tale of cuckoldry seasoned with a hint of menace.
Scram #19 reviews (all by the editrix unless otherwise noted)
AI Phoenix The Driver is Dead CD (Autonomy) Somnambulant Norwegian dream pop, all white vistas, nasal female crooning and restrained precision. Sounds like music made by people without metabolisms.
The Apparitions Oxygen Think Tank CD (www.wearetheapparitions.com) A variety of influences bubble up through this, direct and indirect: indie rock, '80s new American folk, Meat Puppets, Flaming Lips, Red Krayola. Sometimes sounding like the Beatles filtered through Guided by Voices. One vocalist sounds like an even-more-blasé, twangy version of David Byrne, the other a nasal, rocking manifestation of Nick Drake. Give it a couple of spins to start getting a feel for the subtly complicated music. It's worth the trouble. Occasionally dark and melancholy or poppy and bright. This release will probably end up on the shelves of many a collegiate, intellectual type if the Apparitions ever break out of Ole Kentucke. Very good. (Margaret Griffis)
Ben Atkins Mabelle CD (Hightone): It's a good story: a small-town Texas kid who still lives at home, works a day job at the veterinary clinic, really, really likes the old stuff (Bob Wills, et al) and reveres the modern greats like Townes and S. Earle. So I ignore the Jesus-thanking in the liner notes and listen. He's got a nice, tight voice and a way with a simple lyric that makes it sound pretty fresh, but there are a couple of cuts here, like "Mabelle" and "The Same," which exist in that mid-tempo country rock slot that seems like both sincere flattery and sniping. There's a good songwriter somewhere in here, but the record betrays him by continually shifting tone, the low points being the several full bore rock songs which are so utterly unconvincing that you start to wonder if Atkins gets out much. But then he comes right back with a pretty little thing like "Ask Me Why", which is very much in the mode of Earle's great "Goodbye", and your first instinct comes back--we're just going to have to be patient with this guy. (Ken Rudman)
Beam S/T CD (Antenna Farm)
Led by French import Hélène Renault, this Bay Area combo's gentle, sixties-inflected pop is sweetly cinematic and slightly skewed.
Bonnie Prince Billy Sings Greatest Palace Music CD (Drag City)
The former Will Oldham, lady thrushes and many of the original players revisit the early Palace catalog, giving those shambling, weird ballads more of a trad country setting, though they're still beautifully odd.
Boss Martians The Set-Up CD (Musick) Each new Boss Martians disc comes on like a Jocelyn Wildenstein facelift: how have they remade themselves this time? For 2003, the Martians (last seen performing a credible Small Faces act) have set the wayback machine to 1979, internalizing Leonard Graves Phillips' manic whine and Elvis C's screw-you energy. Several of these swell tunes could've topped Rodney's chart back in the day.
Brother JT3 Hang In There, Baby CD (Drag City)
Pretty sleepy set from the king of bedroom stoner rock, though Shine Like Me kicks in like a wild party happening halfway down the block. Pick hit: top-heavy manifesto Head Business, as in what I do with my ____/ is my own damn ________.
Dick Campbell Blue Winds Only Know CD (Rev-ola) Dick Campbell is best known in record geek circles for Sings Where It's At, a high-concept faux Dylan disc previously lauded in these pages by Gene Sculatti. Übergeeks know he later worked behind the scenes at Gary Usher's Together Records, and this posthumous collection compiles demos of gossamer-light Campbell/Usher tunes in the sunshine pop idiom. It's all sweet as penny candy, with nary a Zimmy sneer in the joint. Does this utterly gentle music represent the real Dick Campbell? Unlikely, but it's a charming exercise sure to appeal to Millennium heads (though how didn't a bunch of Byrds associates notice that Maybe was basically I'll Set You Free This Time?).
The Canterbury Music Festival Rain & Shine CD (Rev-ola)
How'd a 1967 Queens soft-pop band get a name evoking the UK prog-folk scene? Well, it seemed like a good idea to their producers, the Tokens, who wisely loathed We Ugly Dogs. Their sole album, pressed in microscopic quantities, is revived now as part of Rev-ola's assault on the B.T. Puppy label vaults. Recording a mix of originals, tunes by the Tokens and Brute Force, and a somewhat aquatic instro take on Son of a Preacher Man, CMF's low-key, harmony-rich Associationesque pop is sugary and tasteful, if not especially memorable. Includes an alternate version of Mr. Snail, also recorded by the Tokens and comped on Night Time Music.
Neko Case Canadian Amp LP (Lance Rock)
Vinyl issue of Neko's self-released, home recorded solo set proves she's one of the finest interpreters we've got. Her own songs blend seamlessly with prime selections from Lisa Marr, Neil Young and Hank Sr., to mournful, shimmery, intimate effect.
The Checkers Make A Move CD (Teenacide)
Robotic new wave revivalists with a dash of guitar snot, led by Ms. Julie Vox, a walking, squealing vision in checker and leopard print. Instant 1982, just add you.
The Creatures of the Golden Dawn Blood from a Stone +3 45 (Butterfly)
New tracks from a respected nineties garage revival act whose smart, moody sounds make me wanna peruse their back catalog.
The Del-monas Do the Uncle Willy CD (Get Hip)
Re-ish of the mid-'80s grungy girl group gem featuring the three lasses who backed up Billy Childish's Milkshakes. It basically anticipates the Headcoatees' shtick: moody, primitive rock and roll with enthusiastic, somewhat wandering multitracked female vocals. Dumb and fun, this edition includes several previously unreleased demos. I used to play their Stooges cover on my radio show.
The Destroyed Outta Control CD (www.bertswitzer.com)
After Boston punk/noise drummer Bert Switzer self-released his career survey Bert Switzer 1977-2002, former seventies bandmates J.D. Jackson and Henry Kaiser got in touch and separately joined Bert in the studio. The stripped down Switzer/Jackson Destroyed offer six servings of instant punk, newly written and barely rehearsed expressions of old school angst delivered with a nasty leer. The Kaiser Switzer sessions are free jazz freakouts, Kaiser's limber, rubbery guitar twining around Switzer's dense, meaty rhythms. The package is filled out with a vintage '77-'79 Destroyed practice tape, a raw document of their ugly Stoogey swagger.
The Evaporators Ripple Rock CD (Alternative Tentacles / Nardwuar)
Chief Evap is the incomparable Nardwuar, mad interviewer and bane of humorless pop stars. His band plays catchy, nutty high concept punk that's not scared to slot in heavy metal, polka, girl group or new wave gimmicks when they serve the songs-the prettiest of which is called Shittin' Party. Utterly silly.
Felt Stains on a Decade (a singles compilation) CD (Cherry Red)
Felt-songs lope and shimmer around Lawrence's unmistakable, ritualistic phrasing, neat and tidy as the stitches on a sampler. Over the eight years documented here they take a style already startlingly refined and hone it ever finer, until by the end they've birthed Pulp. I quite like Felt, while finding their material essentially interchangeable. These singles are slightly more varied than the LPs, which might not be the point.
The Flash Express Introducing the dynamite sound of... CD (Hit It Now)
A simmering self-referential punk-soul stew from the kids who were too frenetic to properly back Andre Williams. There was just too much personality on that stage. The shtick works much better as a trio, thanks in large part to the jaw cracking rhythm section of Tommy Branch and Lance Porter. Add Brian Waters' constipated howl, mugging and power chords and you've got an act that would be as welcome in Detroit circa '68 as it is right now, as they rewrite Doin' the Banana Split, wanna know who stole the soul, grunt a lot and cover Grandmaster Flash.
Judson Fountain Completely in the Dark! Tales of Mystery & Suspense CD (Innova)
Wow. These utterly retarded (yet compelling) homemade spooky radio drammers were apparently actually aired by regional east coast stations in the late sixties and early seventies. While the experience of stumbling onto such lunacy on the airwaves can't be approximated by finding it compiled on CD, this screwball vision is a delight in any context. Every tale on the comp is a reductive morality play scripted around young Fountain's specialty voices-an incredibly irritating old woman/witch, a mush-mouthed and seemingly senile gang boss, a tough-as-nails gun moll obsessed with her own name, and old guys with varying (horrible) Irish and Scotch accents. The simplistic, repetitive plotting, recurring snatches of dialogue, casual xenophobia and broad exposition have a weirdly rhythmic quality that will infect your brain and leave you thinking like Fountain. No one blows the whistle on Pop Serriano!
The Fuse! Fisherman's Wife CD (In The Red)
Punkity rock heavily indebted to late '70s, especially Pere Ubu and Buzzcocks with nods to Neil Hagerty's squawky guitar work. Would be totally perfect for the current renaissance except it's too good and skronky for MTV audiences. Songs are memorable and catchy, though. Really good stuff. (Margaret Griffis)
The Gentlekin S/T CD (International Tape Association)
Bay Area duo channeling a delicately psychedelic pop/country hybrid, with nice harmonies and jangle, though the songwriting doesn't always hit the mark.
The Goldstars Gotta Get Out! CD (Pravda)
Fun, Farfisa-soaked retro-moderne garage punk featuring players (from New Duncan Imperials, Krinkles, Poi Dog Pondering) who've clearly slept with the Nuggets box under their collective pillows so long that their skulls are misshapen, with a surf-tinged cover of the Gestures' Run Run Run and some mid-period Clash-isms to keep things unpredictable.
The Guilloteens For My Own: Complete Singles Collection LP (Misty Lane)
Elvis' favorite rock band, signed to the connected Hanna-Barbera label (though admittedly Yogi didn't have much pull down at KFI), Memphis' Guilloteens' failure to connect with the charts is inexplicable. Maybe it was a spelling/pronunciation issue? Sounding like a sloppier Knickerbockers with a dash of Kinks aggression, these lost 'teens tracks (and one by the posthumous Buddy Delaney & the Candy Soupe) are eminently fruggable and (in the case of Dear Mrs. Applebee) almost poignant.
Wayne Hancock Swing Time CD (Bloodshot): A live album is not usually a great place to discover an artist you've ignored for too long. The songs never sound as good as they did on the original record, the jokes are not funny, the crowd just sounds like a bunch of lame drunks. But this is a great goddam live album, and I feel like a dope for not having any of this guy's records in my collection. First of all, there just isn't anybody playing music like this anymore, certainly not with this kind of conviction. I never thought I would actually compare somebody to Hank Williams, but that's sure what his voice sounds like. Not an impersonation, just that whiny nasal lonesome sound with a razor's edge. The band sounds like something between that classic country swing sound and Bill Haley and the Comets. Which should by all rights suck worse than Andy Williams fronting Sha Na Na, but it doesn't. Because Hancock takes that voice and imbues it with the kind of I-don't-give-a-fuck edge that pushes each and every one of these "old fashioned" songs right up into your face. And as they rip through Hancock originals and classics like "Route 66" and "Summertime" something comes over me--it's jealousy: Those lame-ass drunks in the audience have known about this guy longer than me. (Ken Rudman)
Wynonie Harris Good Rockin' Tonight: The Very Best Of... CD (Collectables)
These twenty-five sides from Harris' King Records years (1947-57, running well past his charting sell-by date, though the quality remains strong throughout) are a crash course in rock's origins-a sleazy, horn-drenched r&b using barnyard metaphor and a sly wit to sell an alternate America of misbehaving gals, liquor parties, churning butter and orgasm machines. Harris sounds a bit like Louis Prima, but with a midwestern raunch that seems somehow dirtier than the N'Awlins variety. Delish.
Penny Ikinger Electra CD (Career)
Stunning debut from Australian singer-guitarist who's played with Kim Salmon, Wet Taxis and Louis Tillett, but only recently started writing her own songs. With eerie whispery vocals, hypnotic hooks and delicate guitar parts that give way to monstrous feedback, Ikinger's songs are haunting, seductive and marvelously feminine.
Jade Fly On Strangewings CD (Lightning Tree)
The strongest tunes on this lost 1970 folk-rock disc play like a more naïve version of Denny-era Fairport, Marian Segal's warm voice conjuring up a dreamy, innocent England of ghosts, childhood friends, and the poor mayfly, who lives only a day. Jade was essentially a trio, Segal with David Waite and Rod Edwards, and you can hear the bare trad structures of their sweet songs beneath glistening augmentation courtesy various members of Pentangle, Fleur de Lys, Ivy League and Colosseum who dropped in on the sessions. The rockers don't quite make it, but Jade's softer side is lovely.
Denise James it's not enough to love CD (Rainbow Quartz)
Convincingly retro jangle-pop girl stylings from this French-born Detroit lass who's got the sixties romantic ice queen thing down, and plenty of help from the usual local suspects. Understated and mood-drenched.
July Fourth Toilet Something For Everyone CD (Pro-Am)
Vancouver branch of the musical genre spearheaded by Thinking Fellers and Caroliner. You know, straddling the line between "serious" musicianship and songwriting and pretending they don't care about anything except being weird and quirky in a trippy sort of way. It's a hard fence to keep your balance on, but JFT do an excellent job. The result is a fairly interesting mix of songs that tend to sound like a 1970's children's album, but clearly for hipsters. There really is something for everyone, too! A couple of tunes sound a bit "folksy" in a Lou Reed sort of way and another pair remind me of John Entwistle's brand of kookiness. Charmingly fun. Of note is participation by one or more members of Canned Hamm. (Margaret Griffis)
Jupiter Affect The Restoration of Culture After Genghis Khan CD (Dionysus)
These guys have a well earned following and managed to get the attention of "real world" music media. The songwriting is great and the playing is tight, which you would expect from veteran Michael Quercio, but it just falls short of being really great. It's as if they devoted too much attention to getting everything just right instead of capturing the very soul of the music. Admittedly, these songs sound like they would be better served in a live show environment--maybe a live album would do them justice?--but the release is still worthy of a listen, especially if you dig pop psychedelic/rock, like an old Beatles or Kinks "theme" album. Heavy touring should make these guys superstars. (Margaret Griffis)
The Kelpies Television CD (Head Miles)
The Kelpies were an Australian postpunk band with a rabid, ill-behaved following that frequently got them banned from venues, and too many personal chemical problems to put much effort into getting their stuff released. This retrospective kicks off with thirteen edgy, clever songs recorded live on cassette in their practice space in 1981. You can sense an exciting group through the mud, and what lyrics you can make out are unusually introspective. Stay tuned, because tracks 14-21 are many of the same songs recorded in a proper studio, a little too tidily. Somewhere between the sheen and the crud lay the Kelpies, an intriguing voice from the depths.
Kid Icarus Maps of the Saints CD (Summersteps)
Originally issued in 1999 on cassette and CD-R, Kid Icarus' debut is a nervous DIY pop mood piece, walls of fizzy guitar framing cracked harmonies, muttering ghost voices and a somewhat terrifying version of the Bee Gees' Holiday.
Albert King Live '69 CD (Tomato)
Even in 1969, the blues was no longer a living growing genre, having been passed on by blacks in favor of R&B, soul and funk and co-opted by honky college kids looking for a safe way to mask their own tighty whiteness. Since then it's only gotten worse, as every frat boy and balding ponytail and beer-gutted NPR type continues to embrace the modern minstrel show known as electric blues. Even dago movie directors have TV specials about the blues, presuming themselves somehow connected to the music that slaves invented to reduce the tedium of their workday and keep threaded to their West African roots. If it is possible to hear this previously unreleased recording out of that sad, sorry, societal context, it would stand as an excellent set. The backing band is not as stellar as on King's studio LPs of the period, but the spotlight is on his vocals and hugely influential lead guitar, which are both uniformly great. But it's hard not to imagine fat white guys screaming WOOOO! next to me as I listen to this. (Keith Bearden)
Les Baton Rouge my body - the pistol CD (Elevator Music)
This Portuguese combo, now based in Berlin, plays old school femme postpunk, as influenced by Nina Hagen's frenzy as Siouxsie's austerity.
Little Bare Big Bear Little Man b/w Dr. Morgan's Panacea (Butterfly)
Hard-edged poppy freakbeat from Jon Mojo Mills & company, with a delightfully daffy spoken passage worked into the flip. I didn't know Toe Rag could turn out stuff that sounds this crisp. Comes in a nifty collaged sleeve.
The Little Killers S/T CD (Crypt)
The idea of white folks cooking up another garage punk blues hybrid is enough to make my lunch head north, but amazingly, The Little Killers pull it off. What's the difference between them and Jon Spencer I hang out with poor old black guys poseurdom and White Stripes academia? Head Killer Andy Maltz has developed into a fine mutant Chucky Berry geetar slinger over his 15-plus years slugging it out in NYC combos like the Sea Monkeys and the Spitoons, and he has soaked up enough different forms of classic trash, twang and howl where the influences actually merge into something fresh (God forbid). First time banders Kari and Sara keep things chugging along in lean classic punk style. The Little Killers deliver the goods with spit, spirit and skill. Put 'em on the Warped Tour and teach the kiddies what it really feels like to rock. (Keith Bearden)
Lost Sounds Rat's Brains & Microchips CD (Empty)
Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful. There was never enough punk rock to go around in the old days, I think. That's why its popular appeal had to be limited: we couldn't afford to share it with normals. Although there's been an outbreak on MTV lately, there's also been a lot of great punk/new wave that hasn't quite made its way up the ranks to the televised wasteland. Something special just for us losers. Lost Sounds is one of the better bands. They remind me of Siouxsie and the Banshees and Avengers and Los Angeles' Screamers (for a band literally no one has ever heard, their influence sure has gotten around). Rat's Brains is one of the more interesting releases in the last couple of years. Yes, the goofy synths that scream nu wave are there and so is the dark gothic atmosphere, but so are some industrial embellishments and a touch of quasi prog rock à la Rush. It's a supercool balance of specific trends that were boiling in the late '70s, come together once again in a nice sophisticated (thanks to twenty years of hindsight) package. (Margaret Griffis)
Joe Mannix White Flag CD (Bongobeat)
Although he's got the name of a TV detective, this cat sings like a Go-Between. Sweet, thoughtful singer-songwriter stuff, with some unexpected production frills.
Manta Ray Esratexa CD (FILMguerrero)
Aggressive Spanish trance-cum-rock outfit with a warm, organic energy like the inside of a beehive. Impressive and unpredictable stuff, with lots of tasty rough edges.
Dom Mariani and the Majestic Kelp Underwater Casino CD (Head)
Don't expect power pop like DM3's Rippled Soul. Mariani shows off his instrumental chops here. But this is soundtrack stuff, not Dick Dale surf. Knowing it's hard to keep such tunes separate, each song has distinctive touches: sitar, Hammond organ, 12-string, percussion. Sergio Leone conjures the Spaghetti Western Territories. Indian Ocean is where Perth surfers shoot the curl. Cherry Red and Let It Hang, are scorchers. Starline has ocean effects and Acetone organ. Roulette, is a punchy, tough rocker, and the standout is Tijuanna Dreamin'. (P.J. Lozito)
Mink DeVille Le Chat Bleu CD (Raven)
On paper, Mink DeVille main man Willy DeVille has it all--a great voice, a moody junkie continental vibe, and a passion for early '60s pop melodrama ala Ben E. King and the Drifters. When he hits it, it's stellar (I'll be damned if Spanish Stroll isn't the best song Lou Reed never wrote), but all too often on this reissue of his 1980 LP, it gets contaminated by a common ailment of '70s NYC rock--Springsteenitis. The help of legendary songwriter Doc Pomus certainly helps on tracks like This Must Be The Night and Just To Walk That Little Girl Home, but the working class New Yawk tough guy thing comes off as authentic as the soundtrack to Grease comes to real '50s rock. His take on the Jive Bombers' Bad Boy soars like a falcon, but the real meat here is the looser live bonus tracks, where the songs come to fore and the party really begins. (Keith Bearden)
Minor Threat At DC Space, Buff Hall, 9:30 Club DVD / First Demo Tape CD (Dischord)
Ha ha ha! This is great. They look like babies!!!! At the time, I thought they were "old men" but, dammit, I guess they were practically kids themselves. The quality is about as good as can be expected and we're lucky there are any video documents available from the era. A definite must-have for any Minor Threat fan, but of interest to the general musicologist for the accurate portrayal of a typical "hardcore show." This is the real thing that unfolded in countless rec halls across the country during the early '80s. There's also a screwy interview with Ian MacKaye. Because of the stupidity of the interviewer they felt it necessary to separate the answers out from the questions. Funny, I guess. Also released is an "official" version of their first demo tape. Bootleg versions have been available, but it's nice to have a copy that hasn't been duped 30 times previous to yours. (Margaret Griffis)
Modey Lemon Thunder + Lightning CD (Birdman)
This rough 'n' raw Pittsburgh trio sounds like a tight little mod combo that got dosed on animal tranqs and woke up sore and confused, three states away. Then they started screaming.
Thelonious Monk Monk in Paris: Live at the Olympia CD (Hyena/Thelonious Records)
While this previously unreleased 1965 live set from jazz's premier
nutcase/genius/clown adds little to expand his legacy, it's great listening throughout (though the unraveling dissonance of the 10-plus minute Well You Needn't is for far goner minds than mine). Makes you wonder what other wonders lie in the family vaults. The bonus DVD (a perk usually reserved for bogus NuMetal moneymakers) is the real treat. It's a pert near perfect go at three classics filmed (in glorious black & white) in Oslo with the same band a year later. Watch Monk peck and slap his piano like a disobedient pet, and then hide from the camera during Larry Gale's bass solo. Delightful, essential stuff. (Keith Bearden)
The Monsters Youth Against Nature CD (Voodoo Rhythm)
Originally issued on vinyl in '97, this Toe Rag-recorded trash-punk horror is delightfully retarded.
Mr. Airplane Man C'Mon DJ CD (Sympathy)
Tara and Margaret moan their sweet and sultry blues like Radio Ethiopia-era Patti, aggression and dreamy sweetness fused into a tasty little dumpling.
Angie Pepper Res Ipsa Loquitor CD (Career)
After too long away, Aussie songstress Pepper returns with her first true solo album (though I treasure a tape of the unreleased 1981 Angie Pepper Band sessions), recorded with husband Deniz Tek, Donovan's Brain and various US and Australian players. Pepper's voice remains a marvel of husky, moody eroticism, and the eclectic material (psych, girl group pop, Exotica, Lipstick Killers and Link Wray covers, even some rap!) shows more facets of her art than we've previously seen. Doesn't Seem Right sounds like a lost Passengers track, the perfect blend of surfy-cum-Searchers guitar and sad girl pop longing. RIL is cool, but scattered--I'll be curious to see if the next Angie disc will have more of a unified sound.
Radio CPR Begin Live Transmission compilation CD (Dischord) Mostly typical compilation featuring Dischord family/friendly bands with the twist of it being a benefit for a DC-area pirate radio station. The tracks run into each like you would expect to hear on a live radio show, but considering this is supposed to represent "community" radio, it falls short of the diversity found scanning big city commercial radio stations (maybe having lived in Los Angeles and Miami just makes me lucky?). With the earnest ranting about "white supremacist and corporate-centrist mass media" on the insert I'd have expected more than a clichéd mariachi version of "Cielito Lindo." The audience for this is rather slanted towards Dischord-friendly consumers and several of the tracks are quite good irrespective of that. I can forgive them since they are trying to make a little scratch for community radio. (Margaret Griffis)
Kimberley Rew Great Central Revisited CD (Bongobeat)
The dead walk on this eclectic solo disc from the erstwhile Soft Boy / Wave, which juxtaposes an achingly sad memory song for Screaming Lord Sutch with a hepped up blues for Eddie Cochran among other examples of sweet, playful, thoughtful pop.
The Riverboat Gamblers Something To Crow About CD (Gearhead)
RAWKUS in the grand tradition of driving garage punk. Upbeat, melodic, passionate about R'n'R-- something sorely lacking in the '90s which were crunched from both ends by lukewarm irony and ice-cold emo. "Last To Know" and "Ice Water" are two of the finest songs released in the last few years. Double A-Sides. "Lottie Mae" would've been a great ballad for the Replacements to have released. I only wish I could listen to all the songs at the same time. (Margaret Griffis)
Roll Cage A Whole Summer of Pussy LP (Head Miles)
Kelpies / Brother Brick / Panadolls drummer Ashley Thomson takes a break from the skins to lead this loose 'n' trashy party band through a set of tasty Stonesy morsels calculated to horrify the squares. The titles alone will tell if this is for you, and if you're not down with an obviously heartfelt expression like God Bless Hookers, well
shame, that. You gotta be pretty smart to make such fine dumb stuff. Limited to 500 copies.
The Screaming Tribesmen All Hail the Tribesmen Anthology 1982-1993 CD (Raven)
Like post-Birdman peers the Lime Spiders, the Screaming Tribesmen specialized in penning high concept, b-movie garage-pop anthems. But the Tribesmen had a way of making their absurd themes pulse with a convincing romanticism, giving songs like Date With a Vampire and Igloo (Well I live in an Igloo at the polar zone/ And at night I dream of a red telephone
) unexpected emotional power. Nasal leader Mick Medew played host to various Fun Things, Birdmen, Lipstick Killers and Died Pretties over his band's life, with the highest points coming when Chris Masuak added his wild guitar to the mix. I checked out around '87's wimpier, hook-deficient Bones + Flowers, but the first 9 tracks here (of 22, arranged mostly chronologically) are prime, and while they couldn't keep it up, the late Ayla and Got You On My Mind singles are swank returns to form. A useful tribute to
a momentarily great band.
Judee Sill Judee Sill and Heart Food CDs (Rhino Handmade)
Forgotten among the slew of singer-songwriters that gushed from L.A.'s early seventies canyons like so much February mud, Judee Sill was the first artist signed to pre-mogul David Geffen's Asylum label, the most original, most difficult, and likely the best. Raised in her dad's tavern and later in a stepdad's icy alcoholic version of privilege, the valley girl grew up bright and bitter, turning early to psychological games, armed robbery, heroin and a highly personal form of mystic Christianity informed by Rosicrucianism and failed romance. Just when it seemed like she was going to O.D. or get shot, the Turtles hired her as a staff songwriter, recording the lovely lullaby Lady-O before disbanding. Over two weirdly beautiful albums that hold together like an oft-shuffled tarot deck, Sill orchestrates portraits of cryptic characters who seem to dwell between two worlds: a primal, archetypal realm of moral absolutes, and one more human, suffused with the agonies suffered when others behave badly. The musical dichotomy mirrors the lyrics. Sill sings with a casual, loping Western cadence and she drawls, the slightly dopey/hokey tone in contrast with her elegant symbolist lyrics and the occasional sustained ecstatic incantation, like The Donor with its round of kyrie eleison and visions of ancient inspirations that come unbidden during sleep. With haunting melodies and powerful language, these songs are strong medicine, leagues from the laid back image of label-mates like the Eagles (though a bad scene with J.D. Souther inspired her to write Jesus Was A Cross Maker). Both records are extraordinary, though Heart Food gets the edge for The Donor and The Pearl, songs which distill Still's unusual obsessions down to their essence. Rhino's expanded reissue includes an alternate Donor take that's the finest thing Sill ever did. Aside from some uncohesive demos, Judee Sill recorded nothing further. She injured her back and returned to heroin, overdosing in 1979.
Sleepytime Gorilla Museum Live CD (Sickroom)
Darkly scenic documents of the SGM's public appearances, where singer Carla Kihlstedt's nursery rhyme prettiness rubs right up against found loops and agonized industrial scrapes and squeaks, all more delicate and evocative than most such experiments. Nightmarish, yet nice.
The Spectors Beat is Murder: Cockfights & Cakefights 1992-1996 CD (Get Hip)
Every town worth a damn should have its own pet garage band for the locals to get misty over: the Spectors were Minneapolis'. From the Monks cover to love/hate-that-girl workouts, this seven-piece approached every song as if the cops were about to pull the plug on the amps. Towards the end they of course went psychedelic, and effectively, with Rhubarb Ruby and the sticky-sounding Treacle Toffee World.
The Stems Mushroom Soup CD (Citadel)
The Stems, Australia's greatest eighties garage rock band, surveyed. Fuzzed-out guitars, skin tight drumming, cheap organ and pumping bass provide the framework for wonderful songwriting. See why She's a Monster was big in Boston, along with the groovy Under Your Mushroom. Compare the demo of Mr. Misery (Bo Diddley beat!) with the version on At First Sight Violets Are Blue. Power of Love is amazing, with a sound the band moved on from, while Lon Chaney Junior's Daughter is an instruMENTAL. This supersedes 1991's Buds comp. (P.J. Lozito)
Meic Stevens Outlander CD (Rhino Handmade)
If there's a stupider introduction by a major label for a potentially major singer/songwriter to the earhole public than the Welsh Bob Dylan, I'm sure it'll be attempted over at Interscope any minute now. Native of Solma, Pembrokeshire, Meic Stevens was certainly Welsh, played guitar and harmonica and did honk satirically Bob-nosed a few times on his 1970 Warner Bros. (UK) debut, but he dazzled a disintroduction on the very first track. Rowena comes on like another Donovan-ride through inner space, but Stevens has the hectoring magniloquence of a drunken Cardiff MP egging on a miners' strike. Soon the thing lifts into babble, mantra, transcendence, not to return to earth. It's the greatest British folk-psych song you never heard; the like of which Dylan was no more capable than the overture to HMS Pinafore. The feel of this album is much closer to a collection of sketches by Skip Spence or Roky Erickson, but with top-end production and the ineffable advantage of Meic's voice. He sounds like a great actor or con man high with language and stoned on hearing his skull hum. The sailor and madonna and Ghost Town sail over the next three decades into late-nineties alt-rock, superior at that. Dau rhosyn coch looks forward to the next thirty-plus years Stevens has spent as the most influential Welsh-language pop artist. This release apparently did well enough for Warners to offer another try, but Stevens turned them down to sing for his own people. This edition includes the original album plus nine bonus tracks. It will improve your existence in ways you can't even imagine. (Ron Garmon)
The Stupor Stars Bernadette b/w Born to Run (Honeyhole)
Hopped up lowbrow punkarama from L.A. And yes, it's the song you think it is on the flip, only reimagined as a much uglier vision.
The Sun Love & Death CD-EP (Warner Bros.)
For a moment I thought it was going to be a straight Cramps rip-off. Then hot-rod music. Then I stopped myself for a moment and turned off the major label suspicion reflex briefly. Here comes a Clash reference and, hey, weren't the Clash on a major label? (Margaret Griffis)
The Tol-Puddle Martyrs Puddle with the
7' EP (Misty Lane)
Here are both cool singles released by an Australian beat band in 1967 and '68, on Spiral and Festival respectively. The '67 tunes are driving fuzzed out rockers with a slight surf influence, but a year later they're reinvented themselves as an Antipodean Something Else Kinks-and quite convincingly! Oh, and the name? According to Mike Stax' liner notes, it was derived from nineteenth century Dorset trade unionists sentenced to transportation.
Toys That Kill Control The Sun CD (Recess)
Beholden to postpunk with a decent helping of the more interesting aspects of the Clash, Toys That Kill punch out wonderfully melodic pop tunes with enough crunch to mercilessly shake the ass of their most robotic enemies. Despite the "hair" band name, the San Pedro band reminds me of nineties Midwest acts like Thomas Jefferson Slave Apts. (Margaret Griffis)
Trachtenberg Family Slideshow Players Vintage Slide Collections from Seattle, Vol. 1 CD (Bar/None)
I still haven't gotten over the irritation of seeing the Trachtenbergs' live during their much-hyped Los Angeles residency. The Silver Lake Lounge was so packed, you'd see little spinning fire marshalls when you closed your eyes. And although the band's hyperactive factotum brought a bribe of drink tickets to my moaning, notebook-scribbling sweetie, there was no way we were getting near the bar. Showtime came and went, but Mrs. T hadn't bothered to set up her slide projector, and now the room was too crowded to find sightlines. The heat and tedium were such that hipster scum (me included) were reduced to sitting on the dirty floor like a bunch of hippies-well, it was better than getting a mouth full of ponytail every time the chick in front of me turned her head. Things didn't improve once the technical problems were resolved and daddy Jason and little Rachel took the stage in their ugly matching outfits. The Trachtenbergs' shtick: take some dead person's slide collection, cobble together a loose visual narrative, and write a cloying indie rock ditty ostensibly celebrating the person's adventures-but insert mean gags whenever possible, and give off a palpable reek of self-satisfaction. Jason Trachtenberg, drunk on his own publicity, rambles interminably about imagined rivalries and the family's purchase of a new minivan. As annoying as the songs are, the patter is a hundred times worse. I start zoning out, wondering what Rachel will think when she's older and realizes that her innate kiddy cuteness was used to facilitate a musical career for her talentless old man. Will there at least be a trust account to finance plastic surgery and a new identity? Or will the slandered specters of Seattle drag the whole family down into a fiery netherworld where the fumes from their polyester stage wear finally silence this unfortunate gimmick? Some weeks later, I was sent their album.
The Trouble Dolls Sticky CD (Half A Cow)
Terrific fuzztone bubblegum obviously recorded in a haunted castle by brilliant, dangerous babies.
V/A Hey! It's a Teenacide Pajama Party! CD (Teenacide)
Jim Freek said, Let there be tomfoolery, and lo, a whole slew of goofy, glammed-out girl groups roamed across the land, and made merriment for the man in the stripy shirt, and he heard them and was glad. Featuring the Neptunas, Pinkz, Checkers, Cheap Chick and Nipper & the Seaturtles singing about a perverted turtle. F-U-N.
V/A Inside Information LP (Bubblewrap)
Ted Liebler sent me this some time back, but it got lost in review limbo till now. A one-sided, six-band ltd. ed. indie pop sampler with the instant psych caché of tracking from the inside out, it features the Morning Stars' crunchy drone, a bizarre Sweet-meets-Devo kinda sound courtesy the Fiction Four, a 1-2-5-style organ raver from the Autumn Leaves, plus songs from Basement Apartment, the Kites and the Pine Marten Group, and it plays like a fun night out in miniature.
V/A In the Garden: The White Whale Story CD (Rev-ola)
The label the Turtles built specialized in licensing great singles that mostly didn't go anywhere, but since costs were low, there was nothing to stop them from tossing more at the wall. Varese put out a comp called Happy Together five years back, but with minimal overlap, either release offers plenty of pleasure for the pop spelunker. Rev-ola's picks include Dean Laughing Gravy Torrence's reimagining of the Beach Boys' abandoned Vegetables, Gary Zekley's gorgeous production of The Shadow of Your Love by Bittersweet (which sounds like the Clique because it is), Dobie Gray's haunting Do You Really Have A Heart and Freddie Allen's kinda clunky original version of We've Only Just Begun.
V/A It Came from Uranus CD (Pro-Vel)
First release from a St. Louis label keen on spreading the word about the bands working the midwest corridor offers 21 otherwise unreleased tracks from acts as diverse as the (Hollywood) Cavern-ready Tomorrow's Cavemen, the surfy Knuckel Dragger and a whole slew of raunchmeisters plying that uniquely midwestern brand of sloppy, edgy garage-punk. A fun introduction to an unfamiliar and vibrant scene.
V/A Night Time Music: The B.T. Puppy Story CD (Rev-ola)
Intriguing label sampler for the Tokens' rarely-charting baroque soft pop imprint (1966-68). B.T. Puppy seems to have been the east coast version of White Whale, churning out delirious mini operas by a succession of unknown acts. Highlights include Pennsylvania's Sundae Train, represented here by four swell sides, Amanda Ambrose's Brute Force-composed Amanda's Man, plus a bonus, from the WB vaults, Margo, Margo, Medress & Siegel's daffy Pepperesque Mr. Snail. Elevator music with a soul.
V/A South American Teenage Garage Punk volume one 45 (Butterfly)
Four contemporary bands who follow in the scuzzy paths of Los Saicos and Shain's, including Los Peyotes' frenetic Vampiro and a version of Ain't No Friend of Mine where Elio The Mummy (of Thee Horribles) gives up on the phonetic English and just babbles in tongues.
V/A Tunesmith: The Songs of Jimmy Webb double CD (Raven)
Instant Jim Webb completist in a box: 46 covers of varying degrees of obscurity and fame, a psychedelic passage through Webb's weird world of Brooklyn Bridges and Magic Gardens, significant plane flights, philosophical failures, reincarnations and rages. Sound quality is variable and it would be helpful to have labels and dates for all the releases, but since it would be the work of years to accumulate all these oddities, Tunesmith is a real treat for the novice or intermediate Webbist.
Alan Watts This is IT CD (Locust)
F is for Freak Out. Had this primer of the intersection of Zen philosophy and California weirdo excess been released in 1968, it would be considered a groovily deranged addition to the tripster subculture, but when you consider the true date of issue (1962), this mad thing seems like a voice from another planet-assuming, that is, you buy the myth that the world was square until the Beatles arrived. Watts suggestively intones his metaphoric deconstructions of self with frequent babbling interjections from a turned on group including radio collagist Henry Jacobs and percussionist William Loughborough. IT shows the jazz path of psychedelia, absent electric guitars and tight pants, a nerd's psych that's mostly gentler, but whose rages are truly startling. Could the repeating blobbyblobbyblobby mantra have inspired British novelty artist Mr. Blobby?
Wide Right S/T CD (Poptop)
I knew Wide Right leader Leah Archibald years ago when she lived in L.A., and her husband Dave was instrumental in getting David Smay and I our book deal with Routledge for the upcoming Lost in the Grooves
none of which has any bearing on my thinking that Leah's band totally rocks! Raunchy, poppy, smart and crunchy, with a delicious fusion of aggression and sweetness, Wide Right turns on a distinctively extra-urban sensibility fueled by memories of Buffalo-bred boredom, longing and entropy. Pick hit: Another Way, a classic countryish love song for a girl's best gay buddy.
The Willowz S/T CD (Dionysus)
Love it! Sneery, fearless Voidoids-referencing punk rock in the old school weirdo tradition, energized, distinctive and scads o' fun.
Young and Sexy Light Through One Speaker CD (Mint)
File under: sweet and brainy / Vancouver Division, a frothy bowl of innocent boy-girl vocals, acoustic strums, electric piano frills and word-portraits of sensitive hipsters in mild extremis.
Warren Zevon The Wind CD (Artemis) You want me to review a man's last words? It's a good, sloppy Zevon record, with a few stunners, a few throwaways and the simultaneously tasteless/perfect choice of Knockin' on Heaven's Door as a cover. If you love the guy you've gotta hear it, and it'll be hard to listen to, and sometime in the middle of She's Too Good For Me you'll get sad about the song and forget how much sadder is the situation, but then you'll remember. Warren Zevon did good work until the end, he fought hard and stayed alive to see his grandkids born, and he still put that fucking smoking skull logo on this disc. Godspeed.
Scram #18 reviews
(all by the editrix unless otherwise noted)
David Ackles David Ackles, Subway
to the Country, American
Gothic CDs (Collectors' Choice)... It's always been hard
to talk about Ackles in the context of modern pop music, but looking
back at the five years spanned by these reissues of his first
three releases on Elektra (from 1968-72), it's no easier to put
him in historical perspective. Whether your reference point is
the singer-songwriter crowd of the period, the Jesse Winchester-type
folkies, or the Laurel Canyon shitkickers, these records just
don't make sense. It gets worse when you try and shove him into
some kind of concept artist ghetto with Van Dyke Parks or Lee
Hazelwood. Except for American Gothic, where there is a
musical and lyrical unity that comes the closest to a concept,
these are records filled with story songs, but they don't necessarily
hang together. The standout tunes on David Ackles are "The
Road to Cairo," a traveling song with biblical overtones
and "Sonny Come Home" which with its off-kilter American
carny feel points the way toward American Gothic. The liner
notes on the reissue try comparing such work to Kurt Weill, but
once Ackles hit his stride on Subway to the Country the
only thing I hear is mid-fifties Rodgers and Hammerstein. The
sinister, melodramatic feel of Picnic is all over "Candy
Man," one of the better child molester ballads in anyone's
recorded cannon. Occasionally, as on American Gothic's
"Love's Enough" and "One Night Stand," Ackles
slips into a kind of mellow Neil Diamond lyricism which is pleasant
enough, but not his strength. Instead, plow your way into the
heart of Gothic and bathe in the pungent, hurdy-gurdy bombast
of the title tune or "The Ballad of the Ship of State"
or "Midnight Carousel." It's there you can witness the
flowering of an iconoclastic vision from a time where a major
label could at least temporarily find a place for something so
amazingly out of place and time. (Ken Rudman)
Mark Bacino The Million Dollar Milkshake CD (Parasol)... Shimmery hand-clappy
tunes sure to please fans of Marshall Crenshaw and regional soda
Frank Bango The Unstudied Sea CD (Sincere)... Mr. Bango and his partner
Richy Vesecky specialize in sweet and witty pop ala Elvis Costello's
take on Bacharach-David, and it's nicely realized here, if a bit
Tywanna Jo Baskette Fancy Blue CD (Sweet Tea)... This is one of those discs that'll
either charm the socks off you or make you run screaming out of
the room. Baskette's a genuine Southern oddball with a cracked,
babyish voice and a sensibility to match. Her low-key, improvisational
songs reveal a deeply personal mythoverse packed with strange
animals, out-of-season flowers, the magic power of names and language,
and always the shadow of death hanging overhead. "1985/1998,"
an a cappella memorial for her parents, both dead of lung cancer,
entwined with a rendering of the Winston jingle, is about as wrenching
and lovely a listen as you'll find. Baskette's debut is precious,
certainly, but it's awfully good.
birddog songs from willipa bay CD (Karma)...
Rangy, understated kosmic kountry, very pleasant.
Bobby Birdman Born Free Forever CD (Hush)... Restrained, strained pop cycle
ala Plush's More You Becomes You-though not as catchy-distinguished
by pretty if monotonous singing and a sense that this Birdman's
taking us nowhere in no particular hurry.
Black Keys thickfreakness
CD (Fat Possum)...The natural blues howl that Dan Auerbach channels
on this raunchy, unpredictable set may be surprising coming out
of his young, white throat, but it's no less effecting for that.
Feverish punk-blues with flavorful jolts of psych and funk.
Tony Borlotti & I suoi Flauers il mondo È
strano LP (Teen Sound)... What does it say about the garage
scene that it's this refreshing to hear an overseas act
sing in its native tongue? Tony and his pals play silly, upbeat
folk rock with all the fuzz guitar, Farfisa abuse and snazzy harmonies
you could possibly want, and would be a hoot to dance to.
The Briefs Off the Charts CD (Dirtnap)... Fun pop akin to Buzzcocks,
Dickies, Oi bands and others featured on the gazillion punk comps
released circa 1980. Strong songwriting skills and good sense
of humor in lyrics, presentation and stage name. Perhaps a bit
derivative for some, but if you can show me one band that you
think isn't these days, I'll show you the suckers they ripped-off.
There's no reason the Briefs' video isn't already on the MTV punk
rock cycle except that they haven't sold out to a big label...
yet. When you do, guys, don't let "them" change a thing.
Captain Beefheart and His Magic Bands Railroadism:
Live in the USA 72-81 CD (Viper)... Following Viper's
comp of UK audience recordings comes a homeland bookend, featuring
batty, impassioned takes on faves like "The Blimp" and
"Big Eyed Beans from Venus." The sound quality's not
bad considering the source(s), and live, the tunes hold together
better than you'd think. For fans only, but they'll be stoked.
The title refers to a newly discovered blues vamp that evolves
out of a long version of "China Pig."
Chaino New Sounds in Rock 'N' Roll - Jungle Rock CD (Bacchus Archives)...
Now that Chaino's several years deceased, his pals at BA are spilling
the bones that spell out the mysterious African percussionist's
true ID as Leon Johnson, late of Philly. These tracks were meant
to cash in on the success of his manic Bagdasarian-damaged "Pygmy
Song," but that 1958 side didn't do much and they were packed
away to molder. Ignore the title-this is sleazy jazzbo dementia
punctuated by lewd grunts 'n' giggles, faux African invocations,
and the sound of session guys giving in to all the excesses usually
forbidden them. Half these tracks were previously available on
scarce Tampa and Orb 45s.
Gene Clark No Other CD (Collector's Choice)... The wayward Byrd
never spent more on a record than on this coke-era L.A. artifact,
a weird mix of Clark's trademark yearning melodies and ambitious
arrangements packed with gospel choruses, funk overlays and other
excesses typical of folks living with 24 tracks and no curfew.
There are some pretty songs, and I love the cover art, but as
an album it's a tough sell.
Cobra Verde easy listening CD (Muscletone)... How're we ever gonna bury
Rock's suppurating corpse as long as these marvelous dopes insist
on crawling inside and making it all sound great again? A personal-as-political
glam fag testament that works on about eight simultaneous levels,
every one a blast. See 'em live.
The Cuts 2 Over Ten CD (Birdman)... On their second disc, the Cuts
ply a smart, edgy sound reminiscent of Television, but warmer
and poppier. "Paradise" is a sweet piece of early '70s
fluff right out of Pete Ham's pocket. If you can handle Andy Jordan's
strangled vocal stylings, there's a lot of interesting stuff here.
Jeff Dahl I Was a Teenage Glam-Fag Volume 2 CD
(UU)... It's clear from past releases that Jeff Dahl never got
over the damage inflected by prolonged exposure to unpasteurized
'70s cheese, and on this ltd. fan club issue he pays direct, trashy
tribute to his fave glitter-daubed names (Lou, David, Marc) and
never weres (Smokey, Berlin Brats). The results: good dirty fun.
Evan Dando Baby I'm Bored CD (Bar/ None)... If you're bored, baby, change
careers because your heart doesn't sound in it anymore. Baby
I'm Bored falls short of the creative spark that made the
Lemonheads beloved by their fan base. It's weirdly uninteresting,
like watching an ambulance speed by. He seems to want to be a
contemplative or maybe "adult contemporary" singer-songwriter.
While that worked for some old punks (Nick Cave) it totally failed
for others (Paul Westerberg). Dando needs to get rid of all the
yes-men in his life who agreed this was a great idea. (Margaret
The Deadly Snakes Ode to Joy CD (In The Red)... Hauty, sneering gospel / garage
that stutters and veers like a high-powered engine run too long
on the cheap stuff. Real loose and real wild.
The Decembrists Castaways and Cutouts CD (Kill Rock Stars)... Since KRS has mysteriously
seen fit to reissue the Decembrists' year-old debut, I guess I'll
recycle the review I wrote when it was released on Hush: "If
the long silence of Neutral Milk Hotel chafes at you, try rubbing
these marvelous Portlanders on the sore spot. I am charmed by
their rollicking modernist sea chanteys peopled by ghostly infants,
self-reflexive legionnaires, bedwetters and assorted oddballs.
A Dame Darcy drawing on the cover is all that's missing."
The Decemberists 5 Songs CD-EP (Hush)... A fairly straightforward set from
the jangly and mournful Portland magical pop realists, though
"My Mother was a Chinese Trapeze Artist" charts them
squarely back into zany waters. Extra track "Apology Song"
is an appealing acknowledgment of a failure between friends and
the inborn nobility of inanimate objects. A very odd and interesting
band, though the vocals are a taste some won't ever acquire.
Jonathan Donaldson & The Color Forms Beyond Blue
Bells CD (Traveling Talons)... The debut by occasional Scram
contributor Donaldson's combo is an emotion-soaked trip on an
anglophilic '80s rocket, with propulsive, clever tunes anchored
by JD's soaring, Orange Juicy vocals.
The Easybeats The Very Best of the Easybeats: Friday On My Mind CD (Varèse
Sarabande)... Sure, "Friday On My Mind" has been overplayed
on Goldies stations worldwide, but comparing "Friday"
to the rest of their tunes is like judging the Rolling Stones
on the basis of "She's A Rainbow" alone. This comp reveals
a natural progression of styles paralleling the '60s in general
but without the insane commercial success of a Stones or Beatles.
"Sorry," "The Music Goes Round My Head" and
"Bring A Little Lovin'" are just three of the should've-beens
that oughtta crowd out the Motown infesting AM today. Too heavy
for '60s throwback radio, I guess. Easybeats Vanda and Young were
musical nursemaids to Young's little pipsqueak brothers who went
on to form AC/DC. If that ain't street cred... (Margaret Griffis)
Electric Turn To Me S/T CD-EP (No Quarter)...
Elegantly lush and eerie goth-pop, featuring their own mono-monickered
German chanteuse, Silke.
El Guapo Fake
French CD (Dischord)... Electro post punk dragged through
an indie rock/ Fugazi filter, not bad if you dig the California
weird crowd like the Residents, Centimeters, Screamers and electro
pop ala early Depeche Mode. They're affected by DC/ Dischord,
but not in a heavy-handed way. Fairly interesting, though I found
the repetitiveness of some of the songs irritating on second and
third play-which doesn't mean you won't absolutely love it. (Margaret
Ron Elliott The
Candlestickmaker CD (Collector's Choice)... Sole solo
outing from the Beau Brummels' chief songwriter and guitarist,
here backed by Chris Ethridge, Dennis Dragon and assorted session
cats. Elliott's no Sal Valentino, and his gruff vocals can't enliven
these dirgelike country-folk tunes, which lack the inspired magical
realism of the Triangle/ Bradley's era. There's some nice
picking and typically classy Waronker stable arrangements, but
just too little in the way of hooks and energy. As a solo artist,
Ron Elliott is one hell of a sideman.
S/T CD (Dirtnap)... It's rarely acknowledged, but the
most startling accomplishment of the first new wave was that it
momentarily made yodeling cool-Lene Lovich, anyone?-and neo-wave
siren Roxy Epoxy and her compadres give the gimmick another shot
with their stylish, catchy and surprisingly sincere sound.
The Fleshtones Do
You Swing? CD (Yep Roc)... The last 'tones disc I heard
was disconcertingly "mature," with lyrics suggesting
these longtime party rockers had settled into straight jobs and
comfy relationships. The garage revival has roused them from their
languor to turn in a trashy, jangly set more in keeping with fans'
expectations. While they rarely come up with a great hook, this
is solid, nicely produced foolishness that will give them a welcome
excuse to hit te road again.
Freddy & the Four Gone Conclusions Wigged Out
Sounds CD (Get Hip)... Post-collegiate frat rockers Fortune
& Maltese are no more, but Freddy Fortune's back with a new
outfit that knock out more of that utterly convincing retro rock
that makes the kids dance funny. Shame-on-you-girl lyrics, check.
Sneery vocal action, check. Matching suits-canary yellow, no less-check.
All kindsa organ, check. Someone dust off the temporal skip panel
and book these boys on Happening '68, stat.
Bobbie Gentry An
American Quilt 1967-1974 CD (Raven)... This is a revelation.
If, like me, all you knew of Bobbie G. was "Ode to Billie
Joe," you're likely to be gob-smacked by the lady's sure
and striking amalgam of country, soul and subtle psychedelia.
Gentry was raised in Mississippi, studied philosophy at UCLA and
worked as a Vegas showgirl, and these apparently contradictory
experiences prove surprisingly cohesive in her art. The regional
portraiture is imbued with a rich psychological understanding
and a streak of dark and giddy humor, her voice is warm and knowing,
and the arrangements terrific. From the erotic maternalism of
"Jessye' Lisabeth" to the arch "Casket Vignette"
to "Fancy," the irresistible tale of a streetwalker's
rise to semi respectability, this Australian comp (composed almost
exclusively of Gentry's originals) should go a long way towards
restoring the reputation of a mysteriously neglected singer-songwriter.
Highly recommended, nay, essential.
Hearts and Flowers The
Complete double CD (Collector's Choice)... In the late
'60s, Hearts and Flowers' spare country-folk made them an oddity
on the L.A. scene, and, while perfectly pleasant, their two Nik
Venet produced Capitol discs failed to sell them to a larger audience.
There's nothing extraordinary here, but if your tastes run to
close harmonies and down home versions of Donovan and Goffin-King
tunes, it's well worth a spin. Disk two is mainly unreleased,
unfinished material, including an interesting, disjointed take
on Phil Ochs' "Flower Lady." Late member Bernie Leadon
was a founding Eagle.
The High Dials A
New Devotion CD (Rainbow Quartz)... Rainbow Quartz specializes
in quality contemporary psych, and disc #2 from this Montreal
act is one of their best picks yet, an Eastern-inflected concept
album that keeps the concept (man struggles to escape from nightmarish
city) refreshingly low-key. The energy level suggests the Jam,
but a dreamy Sunday morning Jam you can spread on your crumpets.
Dotti Holmberg Sometimes
Happy Times CD (Sundazed)... Ms. Holmberg was an early
Curt Boettcher collaborator (one of the black haired gypsies backing
up the Greenwich Village GoldeBriars) with a breathy little girl
voice that could give Boettcher's sunshine pop confections the
extra dash of powdered sugar required to send them over the top.
On its own, that voice is too sweet to take in large doses, but
for a track or two it's charming. This disc compiled unreleased
solo Dotti tracks recorded at Columbia during the Millennium era,
plus some home demos.
The Incredible String Band U
double CD (Collector's Choice)... Studio recreation of the ISB's
1970 theatrical presentation which played briefly at London's
Roundhouse and the Fillmore East. On stage, the band was augmented
by Stone Monkey, a troupe that evolved out of happenings artist
/ bubble sculptor David Medalla's Exploding Galaxy. U is
a musical mishmash, with the band's usual eclectic hobbit meandering
grafted to old timey fiddle-fueled wackiness, robotic laments
and mysterious invocations. Very weird and unpredictable, but
it obviously loses a lot from the absence of the visual element.
Insect Surfers Mojave Reef CD (Marlin)... After
nearly 25 years honoring the instrumental surf traditions while
striking off on their own abstract melodic trails, the Surfers'
third disc is just the warm, high energy blast you'd expect. Close
your eyes and see spies, fast cars, huge swells and swirling colors
shifting almost too fast to register.
Insta Checklist for Love CD (Sunday)... Fine
girlie pop as gooily infectious as warm, fresh nougat.
Morning Beautiful CD (Eenie Meenie)... Fresh, eclectic
sixties-inflected sounds with a dash of frenetic new wave goofery.
Demure and sweet.
The Kills Keep
On Your Mean Side CD (Rough Trade)... Hipswing minimalist
punk-blues that veers between snotty, sexy and annoying, pretty
much in that order. The latter's largely due to pointless spoken
asides delivered in that bored Kim Gordon fashion, throwing a
wet towel over otherwise cool twining boy/girl vocals and low-fi
The Lazily Spun S/T
CD (Camera Obscura)... Reunion of the mid-'90s Manchester DIY
psych act whose demos gained support from the Ptolemaic Terrascope
crowd. Slow, moody layers of very English melancholia, with occasional
found sounds, Indian instruments and theremin. I like that these
guys are professional psychedelicians-the bassist does
post-graduate MDMA research, and their name derives from early
acid and mescaline experiments on spiders. But I don't like the
ugly stoned doodles on the cover, ugh.
Let's Active Cypress/
Afoot (Collector's Choice) This disc plugs a big hole
in the '80s Southern jangle pop revival. Let's Active was formed
in Chapel Hill in 1981 by Mitch Easter, a Dixie wonder boy who,
with future dB Chris Stamey, had a long stint during the '70 in
Sneakers (another influential, long dead power pop act whose catalog
badly wants a reissue), before going on to produce R.E.M.'s first
single "Radio Free Europe," their Chronic Town
EP and the epochal Murmur. The demos that became the brilliant
1983 Afoot EP evoke the frothy, pessimistic, dancing-on-the-deck
atmosphere of the Southern early '80s. Easter's sweet-boy vocals
on "Every Word Means No" and "Leader of Men"
glided ecstatically on power pop's dazzling membrane stretched
tight over general disaster. 1984's Cypress should've been
the band's breakout-twelve exuberant nightmares comparable to
Dramarama's Cinema Verite and sweetly gloomy as Georgia
mist. The band took to unsuccessful commerce for the next two
albums (also available on Collector's Choice) before dying in
obscurity in 1988. This is my odds-on favorite for reissue of
the year. (Ron Garmon)
and Tom Verlaine S/T
CD (Collector's Choice)... After Television broke up, Elektra
cannily kept both guitarists on with solo deals, and while the
results were hardly as anxiously thrilling as Marquee Moon,
Lloyd and Verlaine's 1979 debuts are each worth hearing. Verlaine's
is closest to Television, with nervous, obtuse, jittering tunes
that betray a deep vein of silliness. The songs on the original
side two ("Flash Lightning" through "Breakin' in
My Heart") are the most serious and striking, and had their
mood been maintained over the course of the disc it might have
made more of a splash. Coming to it as a Television fan soon after
its release, I found Alchemy a startling surprise. Richard
Lloyd, the pretty boy who stood in the shadows behind Verlaine,
turned out to be an excellent pop songwriter with a lazily cool
performance style, kind of like a softer-edged Johnny Thunders.
The disc is catchy, jangly and heartfelt, with some terrifically
inventive guitar playing.
The Lovin' Spoonful Hums
of CD (Buddha/ BMG)... When I was a gnash-toothed teenage
record clerk, one of my co-workers made it a habit to try and
convince me of the genius of his pet band, but while I loved "Summer
in the City," I couldn't get past the faux-naïf cover
of Everything Playing and the Kotter theme. Now
I'm probably older than that seemingly doddering fellow, and damned
if he wasn't right! Album #3 (originally issued by Kama Sutra
in '66) is as warm and charming and genuine and rocking a set
as any group issued in that sparkling year. A stone delight, with
Sir With Love: The Best of 1967-1968 CD (Taragon)... Lulu
packed a lot of recording into her first couple years on Epic,
where under Mickie Most's tutelage she knocked out some fine tracks.
But was she the snarling little rocker chick discovered grooving
with the Luvvers in Glasgow, or an idiosyncratic soul belter with
an air of continental sophistication? You'll find both Lulus here,
and it's a treat to see the woman emerging from the little girl
persona of the title track. And while the orchestral stuff's fun
in an Anthony-Newley-in-drag kinda way, it's as a rocker that
Lulu most impresses. Highlights include her fabulously miffed
reworking of "Day Tripper," a haunted, desolate "Morning
Dew," and the defiantly un-pretty "Love Loves to Love
The Maharajas h-minor LP (Teen Sound) Jens Lindberg
(the Swedish Russell Quan) leads these gloomstruck purveyors of
minor key folk rock revivalism, replete with Beatley oooos and
a positively Blue Things style raver "Anything Right"
(as in "I can't do"). Not the real thing, but a most
Mando Diao bring
'em in CD (Mute) Kinda interesting young Swedish combo
mixing sixties pop and r&b influences with more commercial
contemporary hard rock and punk sounds, all over the place and
unsure of their strengths. Main weakness: one of the two singing
guitarists has a decent grasp of English, but the other uh she
is not so goodly spoken.
Many Birthdays 35 Minutes CD (Red Cake) Textured,
whispery, subterranean loops and outsider singalongs. Sounds like
the music discarded dolls might make in the dumpster.
City CD (Gearhead) Deliciously energetic union of buzzsaw
guitars, bored girl vocals and a punk + Detroit sensibility that
reminds me a little of the '80s Sydney scene. Solid kicks.
of the Rumours CD (Gloomy Tunes) Milo is a little bit
country, 5% goth, a bit avant-pop, and all unpredictable. From
the "peel it and see" banana cover parody to the nifty
version of Shari Elf's "Happy World" to the low-key
incest ballad, you never know what'll be subverted next. Many
of these could be tagged as novelty songs-Dr. Demento plays Milo
music-but the gag is never telescoped.
Monster Island Dream Tiger CD (End is Near) While
we don't usually review older stuff, this 2001 disc is so gloriously
haunted, rhythmic and childlike that an exception must be made.
Using oud, harmonium, sitar, toy piano and something called Chinese
organ, in addition to the usual rock instrumentation, the band
unfurls each song like a found fairy tale gene spliced with the
most exotic of flowers. The results are most lovely and imaginative.
Monster Island & John Sinclair Peyotemind
CD (End is Near) Time is the least of our concerns here, but let's
review. Some while before he transformed an Ann Arbor garage band
into a ten-legged, tongue-wagging symbol of socio-political confrontation
(MC5), John Sinclair kept a handwritten journal of his peyote
observations, a document that was later deposited in a local archive.
Monster Island's Cary Loren uncovered the text and its related
series of poems, and conceived this free form musical backdrop
over which Sinclair intones his nearly forty-year-old texts. The
result: thought-provoking jazzy psychedelia, seasoned with spookhouse
Moog and a sense of delicate spaciousness.
The New Christs We
Got This! CD (Laughing Outlaw import, Smog Veil domestic)
Rob Younger says this is the last New Christs record. We've heard
that before, but the paranoid mess described in a recent Bucketful
of Brains interview certainly seems to guarantee that this
version of the band won't be back. They leave as proof of their
existence a rough, angry disk in the New Christs distinctive,
swaggering style. There aren't many singers who can make cynicism
sound like fun, but when Younger turns his tonsils to denunciation
the results are positively inspiring. Let's hear it for hatred!
The New Creation Troubled CD (Companion) One
of my favorite stops on the web is www.showandtellmusic.com, with
its galleries of offbeat cover art. Webmaster Will Louviere was
so blown away by the sole, self-released 1970 album by these Vancouver
Jesus People, he started a label to reissue it. Troubled
starts off with a disturbing four-minute sound collage in which
old and young male and female voices intone snippets reflecting
contemporary political, cultural and religious thought over war
sounds and outer space echo effects. Wild! But it's their shambling
garagey originals that have made this a much-traded CDR. The New
Creation weren't particularly skilled musicians-I'm being generous-but
their love of the Lord let them put self-consciousness aside to
share their belief in a new form of revolutionary Christianity.
The main vocalist is the guitarist's mom, and the effect of her
mature, British-tinged vocals over the primitive drumming and
guitar is truly strange. Pick hit: "No Excuse," with
its jaw-dropping lyrics blaming the older generation for providing
heroin, whiskey and war to innocent kids. If you always wished
the Shaggs were more spiritually minded-and I figure if such a
person exists, they read Scram-this is for you.
Nineteen Forty-Five I
Saw A Bright Light CD (Daemon) Katharine McElroy, one
third of this Birmingham pop juggernaut, formerly led the excellent
Three Finger Cowboy. Their warm, smart songs have a folky coziness
even at their most fierce and prickly. Cool and weird.
Jerry J. Nixon Gentleman of Rock 'n' Roll: The Q-Recordings,
New Mexico '58-'64 CD (Voodoo Rhythm) Man, what a story! Failed
teenage bank robber Gerald Hall splits Yorkshire with the merchant
marine, turning up in the US with a ridiculous accent, claiming
he's a Minnesotan who lost his passport. Some wit in the Customs
Office went for it, and "Nixon" migrated down southwest,
where he joined the Communist Party (for the dames and conversation)
and recorded these deliriously amateurish, yet truly inspired
rockabilly sides with a local band called the Volcanoes. JJ wasn't
a great singer, but with that pedigree you just know he could
sell a tune. This cool comp has all the 45s from the Q
label, previously unreleased live cuts and demos and some hilarious
radio spots with JJ's remarkable "New Mexican" accent
The Operators Citizens Band CD (Unstoppable)
Boston's Operators are flagship members of the Handstand Command,
a small, loose-knit group of friends and musical associates. They
play in each other's bands and set up residencies in local clubs.
I think more bands should do this-get together, take on a catchy
name and form their own gangs. Certainly Citizens Band,
the Operators' debut, is infused with that spirit of rambunctious
friendship. You'll feel an instant sense of rapport with these
three gals and one guy, as if they were people you see at shows
and bars all the time. The chugging guitars, ragged 'n' bittersweet
melodies and raspy harmonies are reminiscent of early Scrawl,
while the song structures and call-and-response vocals (more like
"yell-and-response" on the title track and "Rock
City") betray a Sleater-Kinney influence. Occasionally a
Flying Nun/New Zealand feel shines through-particularly in "Running
Late," with woozy tempo and acoustic guitars straight out
of the Look Blue Go Purple songbook. A couple of songs don't quite
coalesce, but as a whole Citizens Band is impressive and
addictive. (Mike Appelstein)
Orchestra Superstring S/T
CD (Dionysus) Convincingly '56-sounding set of exotica originals
(plus a cover of Sun Ra's "A Call for All Demons"),
languidly spun by a (sm)all star L.A. band featuring X's D.J.
Bonebrake and Carey Fosse from Possum Dixon.
Bruce Palmer The
Cycle is Complete CD (Collector's Choice) Buffalo Springfield
bassist Palmer took a few hours from his busy schedule quitting
bands and getting deported for possession to record this improvisational
psych-jazz ramble with Rick James, Big Black and members of the
west coast Kaleidoscope. Barely released by Verve in '71 and subject
to a scathing Lester Bangs review in Rolling Stone, thirty-plus
years on it reads as a playful, Eastern-tinged jam that's surprisingly
listenable considering the sheer volume of individual instruments
(including wayyyy too much flute) battling for attention. A very
Blues and Prayer CD (Dim Mak) Soledad Brothers side project
with a meaty, energetic blues-punk sound, and a sensibility closer
to Detroit party rock than porch-sittin' bellyachin'.
Linda Perhacs Parallelograms CD (The Wild Places)
I've been obsessed with this gorgeous 1970 record since finding
it at a yard sale a couple years back. This expanded edition,
taken from the artist's original masters, makes the Kapp LP sound
like the Kansas scenes in The Wizard of Oz look.
Delicate little effects trill around the edges, building to crescendos
of rattling sonic force, and always there's Linda's gently layered
voice, praising the rain and the rocks and the river, erotic,
exquisitely simple, utterly original. The title track especially
is a psychedelic classic, a multi-tracked crazy quilt celebrating
shapes and their qualities before segueing into some of the most
ghostly, weird sounds ever put on tape. Parallelograms
really sounds like my baby memories of Venice and driving up the
coast in the bread van my hippie folks outfitted as a temporary
home. Wind chimes, soft winds, swirling colors and magic made
manifest. Bonus tracks include alternate takes and demos, Linda's
narrated tape of potential manipulated sound effects for producer
Leonard Rosenman, and two versions of a surprisingly poppy, unreleased
song, "If You Were My Man," that could almost be a Carpenters
outtake. Watch for our interview with Linda in the next Scram.
The Petals Butterfly Mountain CD (Camera Obscura)
First release in nine years from Milwaukee neo-psych outfit whose
pastoral themes and oddball phrasing suggest a punky homegrown
Incredible String Band.
The Pillbugs The
3-Dimensional In Pop-Cycle Dream CD (Proverus) The first
cut sounds so much like the Lemon Pipers it's scary-could Ohio
still be hiding a secret stash of great bubblegum acts? The other
songs don't sound so Pipery, more like tasteful, impressively
realized UK-obsessed pop-psych with a hint of prog. The singing,
so often the weak spot on such projects, is strong throughout.
Plus the CD comes with a custom ViewMaster reel!
The Poets Surrealistic Rain LP (Teen Sound) This
contemporary Italian trio (no relation to the legendary Scots)
have sixties pop ambitions that veer from early Searchers beat
to "Midas"-era Hollies, and if their reach exceeds their
grasp, you gotta respect 'em for trying-plus they write all their
own songs. The blend of accented English vocals, oddly lush instrumentation
and sudden tempo changes gives the whole affair a weird air akin
to riding a carousel on heavy meds. None of the other revivalists
sounds a bit like 'em.
Alasdair Roberts Farewell
Sorrow CD (Drag City) Ancient-sounding courtly balladry
from the Appendix Out leader. Some tunes are partly adapted from
traditional British songs, and chords and capo positions are provided,
but the lyrical abstractions and ghostly orchestration place it
nearer to postmodern pop than trad folk.
Shutdown 66 Welcome
to Dumpsville CD (Get Hip) Swellsville's more like it,
assuming you're looking for snotnosed contempo organ splat that'd
fit just fine on a Back from the Grave comp. If Nicky Shutdown
had been around in his beloved '66, five hundred bands called
the Outsiders woulda covered his howling, reject anthems. From
Australia, where garage fans demand that little bit more from
it flow CD (Rainbow Quartz) Spacious, whispery Britpop/psych
from Spain, laced with traditional Indian instruments and Byrdsy
harmonies. An attempt to reclaim Madonna's Love-steal "Beautiful
Stranger" is unfortunately accented by shrill synth lines,
but overall this is a warm and pretty selection.
Simply Saucer Cyborgs
Revisited CD (Sonic Unyon) One leg clad in post-Warhol
Velvet, the other teetering somewhere between psyched-out space
rock and Stoogey primitivism, these Cannucks made sounds too delightfully
wobbly to fly when initially launched ('73-79), though a posthumous
LP blew a lot of influential minds in the late '80s. This comp
brings that disc together with the legendary early 45s plus previously
unreleased demos and live cuts, and it's an absolute gas, retroactively
sounding positively sophisticated, in a brain damaged kinda way.
The Small Faces
Nut Gone Flake CD (Fuel 2000) The Small Faces' final disc
is a schizophrenic affair, kicking off with six scrumptious rockers,
layered like some tottering sonic trifle, the whole thing suffused
with pot smoke instead of sherry. Part two smells more like hash
oil, with its meandering thematic fantasy narrated by babbling
Brit comic Stan Unwin, leading into disjointed jolts of psychedelia
that lack the band's usual tautness and melodicism. Too bad they
felt they had to compete with the Beatles and Who in the concept
stakes, especially since they were so deeply out of their element.
This reish includes some strong live tracks recorded at a November
1968 show in Newcastle, accompanied by screaming teenies.
Soledad Brothers Steal
Your Soul and Dare Your Spirit to Move CD (Estrus) Another
set of mostly tough and swaggering white boy blues from the Toledo
three-piece, the kind of record that makes good background music
but doesn't require serious attention. Still, "This Guitar
Says I'm Sorry" is a surprisingly pretty folk-tinged instro,
and a couple other cuts have that sleepy late Velvets vibe.
Soltero Defrocked and Kicking the Habit CD (Handsome)
Loping lo-fi minimalist country-folk / indie-rock, fully loaded
with banjo and apologies.
Sun Zoom Spark Electricity CD (SlowBurn) Eclectic,
intriguing blend of loping '70s stoner rock, hypno-exoticism and
tape collage, compiled by an insular trio of Tucson four-trackers,
later associated with Black Sun Ensemble. Originally released
in 1999 in an edition of thirty copies, this repressing is sure
to please fans of homegrown psychedelia and unselfconscious thud.
Deniz Tek & the Golden Breed Glass
Eye World CD (Career) Career is a new label founded by
Deniz Tek and Donovan's Brain leader Ron Sanchez as an outlet
for their recent recordings that don't fit elsewhere, and this
is certainly a raw little morsel, partly live and live in the
studio. The Golden Breed features Deniz' American touring band,
the Godoy twins, and their U.K. punk influences get spliced onto
Deniz' languid guitar mystics with unexpected results. Closer
"Baja Confidential" is a classic spaced-out DT instro.
The Telepathic Butterflies Introducing
CD (Rainbow Quartz) Familiar but enjoyable Beatle/ Floydesque
jangle pop, the band name and record jacket cribbed from Vonnegut's
Breakfast of Champions. Includes a cover of Donovan's "Epistle
to Dippy," hardly the first (or even fifth) Donovan track
I'd expect to hear revived.
The Third Rail Id
Music CD (Rev-Ola) Id Music is the result of teen
songwriter Joey Levine's initial collaboration with older husband
and wife writing team Kris and Artie Resnick. Joey was a hungry,
talented kid, Artie had had some success in the Brill Building,
penning "Under the Boardwalk" and "Good Lovin',"
while Kris brought a classically trained sensibility to the proceedings.
Their sole Epic LP is an unpredictable melange of delicate chamber
pop, politically charged lyrics and goofball satire. Joey sings
almost entirely in a punky falsetto, avoiding the nasal tones
that would make him a bubblegum sensation. The Resnick-Levine
partnership would later yield smash Buddah singles like "Yummy
Yummy Yummy," but this Third Rail music has its own daffy
charms. The comp includes all the 45 mixes and informative liner
Tokyo Sex Destruction Le
Red Soul Comunnitte (10 Points Program) CD (Dim Mak) These
Spaniards got so high from sniffing the MC5's revolutionary shtick
that they took the collective surname Sinclair-though they eschew
hippie garb for a Hives-cum-Make-Up button down uniform. Sonically
speaking, they're a less tuneful Mooney Suzuki, spouting incomprehensible
dogma about landlords and girls over a wall of chunky guitars.
Rock 'n' roll déjà vu.
Toothpaste 2000 Catch-22
CD (Parasol) Crunchy, riff-laden goodies from Seattle three-piece
led by Donna Esposito, who mews like a sweet little kitten and
plays some awfully tuff guitar.
Townes Van Zandt In The Beginning CD (Compadre)
Lots of cool new Townes releases lately, including these rediscovered
1966 solo recordings that predate Townes' debut album by two years.
He already sounds like a mature artist, alternately positioning
himself as raunchy bluesman and folk romancer. The songs aren't
masterpieces, but solid compositions that obviously belong in
the body of work. A major find, despite some problems with tape
Townes Van Zandt
Mother the Mountain CD (Tomato) TVZ's 1969 second record,
where lush arrangements cushion his plainspoken country-folk originals.
At this stage Townes was already capable of penning an iconic
piece of poetry like "Tecumseh Valley," a stark inversion
of the humorous American motif of the doomed miner's daughter
Clementine rendered here as Caroline, who deliberately becomes
a whore from grief. The rest of the material is strong lyrically
and quite beautifully sung, but suffers from simple, samey tunes
causing the songs to blend into a piece. Quite listenable and
a must for fans, but better things were to come.
Townes Van Zandt Delta
Momma Blues CD (Tomato) While the cover photo's a classic
in hippie kitsch (a smirking Townes leans on some steps with The
Last Unicorn poking out of his suede pocket, as a pair of
grimy, androgynous love children grope behind him), this is deep,
dark stuff, not cute at all. Townes drank, and he had demons that
yanked him around by his hair whenever he got too close to happiness.
DMB is a portrait of the great American fuck up, yearning
for grace, failing every time, and documenting his flaws with
wry, elegant precision. Townes' fourth disc contains some of his
most philosophical songs, including misfit waltz "Tower Song,"
and "Nothin'," an existential boot to the skull. And
then there's "Rake," a Beaudelaire-by-way-of-Hogarth
fantasy of a reprobate whose spiritual and physical decay culminate
in vampirism. Sure it's just the blues, but as literate, startling
and refined a blues as we're likely to get. And we think you should
hear it, so when Tomato offered us one of their TVZ reissues for
new subscribers, this is the one we picked. See the last page
for details, and reserve yours quick.
Townes Van Zandt Flyin'
Shoes CD (Tomato) Townes took a long break from recording
in the mid-seventies, and when he went back into the studio with
Chips Moman, he had a fine set of songs on hand. Some folks shy
away from the more heavily produced TVZ discs, and certain early
Poppy albums did go overboard with strings, but Moman's crew-including
Randy Scruggs, Spooner Oldham and Moman's wife Toni Wine-forge
a sympathetic framing for these tender, taut ballads with their
lonesome, Southwestern feel. Side two of the LP has been resequenced
to start this remaster, which I've got no problem with, as that's
the way I usually play the record. Apparently I ain't the only
Townes Van Zandt The
Nashville Sessions CD (Tomato) This is all wrong: sleepy,
sweetened 1993 rerecordings of some of Townes' best songs that
just make me long for the stark originals. Townes sounds like
he's medicated, the chorus is annoying and the arrangements suck
every bit of soul from the material. I really hope no one ever
makes this their first TVZ purchase.
American Song-Poem Anthology CD (Bar/None) Carnage Press
has put out several song-poem anthologies over the years, but
this latest set, compiled by American Song-Poem Music Archives
curator Phil Milstein, is a good single-disk introduction to the
genre. The focus is on the weirder juxtapositions of "lyric"
and performance, with brain bogglers from masters Rodd Keith,
Gene Marshall and Norm Burns and his spooky singers, working with
words provided by inspired, endlessly hopeful (mostly senior)
citizens who truly believed tunes like "Jimmy Carter Says
'Yes'" just needed a little push to make it to the hit parade.
Includes John Trubee's "Blind Man's Penis," which is
a ringer, but still nice to have on disk.
V/A California Ain't Fun No More CD (Just Add
Water) It ain't easy to put together a comp that holds together
as a piece, but a strong line up of back-catalog-delving left
coast garage rats makes this a treat straight through, from the
Loose Lips' Cynics-style sleaze through the Pinkz' little girlz
lost vamp on the Scientists' "Last Night," the Bobbyteens'
lurching Gears cover to the Fevers' sticky sticky bubblegum tribute
"Ohio Express." But how come Russell Quan's only in
three of these bands? Someone's laying down on the job!
in the Basement: Joe Bussard's Treasure Trove of Vintage 78s 1926-1937
CD (Old Hat) A preteen Joe Bussard started knocking on neighbors'
doors asking if they had any old records they didn't want in the
mid-'40s, expanding his operation to the rural states surrounding
his Maryland home once he learned to drive. Along the way he saved
many a rarity from the dump or careless butterfingers. The result
is a basement stacked floor to ceiling with salvaged shellac relics
documenting the many fascinating, lost strands of American pop
and roots music. The basement's a national treasure, and DJ/ raconteur
Joe's no slouch himself. This lovingly compiled collection highlights
24 of Joe's favorite tracks-jazz, blues, gospel, old timey country
and uncategorizable blends-and there's not a dull 'un in the bunch.
Highlights include A.A. Gray & Seven-Foot Dilly's infectious
"The Old Ark's A'Moving," the Dixon Brothers' gruesome,
matter-of-fact "The School House Fire" and the Corley
Family's deliciously amateurish, kiddy-drenched "Give the
World a Smile." Included in the thick booklet are individual
track notes, handsome sleeve reproductions and transcriptions
of Joe gloating over his most fruitful record raccoon rambles.
If you can't pay a visit to Joe's basement yourself, this is a
pretty good substitute.
V/A Inside Deep Note: Music of 1970s Adult Cinema
CD (O.S.T. Grammo-fonpladen) Seventy-odd minutes of hack funk-jazz
purportedly from various obscuro '70s skinflicks (Soul Sisters,
Brighton Beach Bunnies), this collection is more like one
of Big Chief's old fake-blaxploitation albums than a legit archival
find. The music is strictly pastiche, but the accompanying booklet
has many pictures of truly stunning nudes, as well as a delightfully
dubious reminisce from a female porn director on her start in
the biz. The package is a welcome trip back to the era of polyester
and the bucket-seat blowjob. '70s nostalgia is as durable as ever,
probably because people were having a demonstrably better time
of it than in the repressed, glumly politicized present. (Ron
in the Key of Z, Vol. 2: The Curious Universe of Outsider Music
CD (Gammon) Irwin Chusid presents yet more examples of music made
by divinely or otherwise inspired nuts, culled from the tape trader
underground, self-released singles, song-poem LPs, etc. Highlights
include contributions from scatman Shooby Taylor, nerdy anger-rocker
Alvin Dahn, trumpet overdub fantasist Luie Luie and some unknown,
twangy dame delighted to be stripping to her black pantyhose.
Jaw-dropping good fun interspersed with quite startling levels
Can Never Go Fast Enough CD (Plain) High concept tribute
to Monte Hellman's Two Lane Highway, a project probably
best known 'round these parts for featuring Dennis Wilson's sleepy
cinematic debut. Using new and vintage material from folks like
Leadbelly, Cat Power, Wilco and Giant Sand, the compilers create
a rangy, lonesome mood that may well evoke TLB in your
Viva L'American Death Ray Music A New Commotion A
Delicate Tension (And the Exquisite Corpse of Mr. Jimmy) CD
(Misprint) These Memphis cats thrive on change, whether it means
Frenchifying their name, stripping down to a three piece, or alternating
releases on local label Misprint and Sympathy. Here they plug
into a chunky Velvety groove-writing one song called "The
New Age" and adding "Sister Ray" lyrics to another
to make it easy on us scribblers-then introduce all manner of
post-punk twitchery and spaciousness. Sometimes krab-with-a-k
can be pretty tasty, too.
are for Petting CD-EP (RCA) Punky glam from San Francisco,
with a Lust for Life rhythm track, Jaggery sneer and loping
erotic energy. They're pretty enough to back it up, too. A little
monochromatic, but interesting. Partly produced by Don Was?
Alan Watts Om:
The Sound of Hinduism CD (Collector's Choice) High-minded
1967 disc intended to introduce a Western audience to the themes
and sounds of the Hindu faith, partly narrated by the British
religious scholar, broadcaster and author. The hypnotically simple
tabla and tampura parts are played by one Vincent Delgado, and
when Watts proclaims that "all of us are rays from one center,
tits on one sow, sounds one on flute, forever and ever,"
it seems quite feasible. Damn big sow, though.
Steve Wynn & the Miracle 3 Static
Transmission CD (Down There) The feel's lazy, longing
and expansive on this follow up to Here Come the Miracles,
again recorded in Tucson with Chris Cacavas guesting on keys.
Wynn & co. are quite adept at playing out haunting grooves,
here seasoned with a nice jolt of silliness, "California
Style." The longer he lives in NYC, the more it seems L.A.
turns up in his songs. Neat to see the old Down There logo on
the back, vestige of Wynn's paisley underground-era label that
issued early Dream Syndicate and Green on Red EPs.
Geza X and the Mommymen You
Goddam Kids! CD (Bacchus Archives) Geza X, strange person,
is better known as a record producer and all around hipster, but
he wasn't immune to the performance bug. You Goddam Kids!
is probably only interesting to music history junkies and those
who didn't pick up the record when they were pub-crawling LA circa
1980. It's an interesting snippet of a style that's almost forgotten,
a new wavey mix of Residents and Broadwayish tunes with keyboards,
marimbas and "Gezatone" guitar. Lots of famous people
involved here like Josie Cotton plus various Germs, Screamers
and X-es. (Margaret Griffis)
Warren Zevon The
First Sessions CD (Varèse Sarabande) The apparently
unkillable Zevon has lingered long enough to see a slew of reissues
of his older material, including this comp of solo and Lyme &
Cybelle demos. L&C were a folk-pop duo composed of Zevon and
Violet Santangelo, and their '66 White Whale single "Follow
Me" (written by the pair) is a neat propulsive jangler that
charted locally. The demos are a weird, mixed bag, with Dylan,
Beatles and Jimmy Reed covers adding little to the source material,
but their own songs having an eerie, romantic ambiance. Zevon's
solo juvenilia, recorded with Bones Howe, includes his original
"Outside Chance" with its arrangement almost identical
to the Turtles cover. Nothing great, but fans will be curious
to see him messing with styles on the way to finding a voice of
his own, hinted at with the creepy "A Bullet for Ramona."
Bonus tracks include the Zevon-less Lyme & Cybelle single
that Curt Boettcher produced, a giddy piece of old timey California
The Zombies Zombies
featuring She's Not There / Tell Her No CD (Varèse Sarabande)
There's scads of Zombies material out there, so why pick up this latest reish?
For context, that's why. This mono mix of the band's American debut (plus
six early domestic singles) serves as a snapshot of the precise schoolboy
R&B that turned them into stars off their native shores. Only with Chris
White's yearning 1965 b-side "I Love You" is there a hint of the
baroque A-level pop that would come with the posthumous Odessey & Oracle.
Call it Zombies Mach I, a fun, somewhat unsung body of work.
Scram #17 reviews (all by the editrix unless otherwise noted)
The Action Rolled Gold CD (Reaction) This unreleased 1968
set from a fine London mod-soul band possessed of emerging orchestral
and psychedelic pretensions is quite a find, with passionate Reg
King vocals, terrific songs, and deliciously chaotic arrangements
offset by moments of Holliesesque delicacy.
and spiders in the woods CD (We're Twins) Charming,
lo-fi, spooky countryish supergroup from the Ann Arbor DIY label's
stable, not so trad that an occasional batty techno injection
can't fit in. Kelly Caldwell's pretty, sleepy voice takes center
stage throughout, and it's a gem.
Atomic 7 Gowns by Edith Head CD (Mint) Upbeat instro twang trio featuring the chunky guitar stylings of Brian Connelly (Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet) and chuckle-worthy song titles.
The Beau Brummels Triangle CD (Collector's Choice)
Long-overdue reissue of the band's extraordinary second Warner's
waxing, a rich and haunting piece of Americana that uses their
strengths so wisely that it's tough to believe the same band/
label combo was lately responsible for the pathetic misstep of
Beau Brummels '66. Ron Elliot's distinctive guitar work
and increasingly abstract lyrics make a cozy nest for Sal Valentino's
gorgeous drawling vocals, and the remaster really brings out the
arrangements' complexity. As good as the early Beau Brummels were
as mournful British Invasion types, such confident sophistication
must have come as a shock to 1967 listeners. Highly recommended.
The Beau Brummels Bradley's Barn CD (Collector's Choice)
Recorded in 1968 with Nashville cats in Owen Bradley's titular
studio, Bradley's, while sleepier and less dramatic than
Triangle, is nevertheless a rootsy charmer that sneaks
in the stunning "Love Can Fall A Long Way Down" near
the end. If you're curious about the band's post-teenybop era,
pick up Triangle first, then this (and the excellent band-titled
reunion disk from '75, if you can find it).
Hudson Bell Captain of the Old Girls CD (Upperworks) Delicate,
intelligent songs of small town life and longings for change.
Bell's warm drawl nestles cozily among the inventive folk-punk
Box-O-Car In the Future CD-EP (Modern) Catchy
power pop from Chicago with silly synths, crunchy drums and "heys"
straight out of the Gary Glitter bail fund.
The Bran Flakes Bounces! CD (Happi Tyme) Mostly witty,
occasionally headache inducing sampling project using thrift store
records to create rhythmic soundscapes that burble with weird
allure, Muppets and references to buttermilk.
R.L. Burnside Mississippi Hill Country Blues CD (Fat
Possum) Great re-release of a 1984 Swingmaster LP, recorded mostly
in the early '80s but with three late-'60s beauties. I could give
you some snooty spiel about the history of northern MS hill country
blues, but you can talk to some poseur for that nonsense, or read
the liner notes. What I will tell you is that this is quite serviceable
for needs traditionally met by the blues-numbing the senses when
you're down. You think the blues were invented so you'll look
cool at parties? No way, son. It's for sitting on the porch with
a bottle of some crappy homemade liquor and feeling sorry for
yourself because you're a big loser. Works better than Prozac!
Chargers Street Gang Holy The Bop Apocalypse
CD (Get Hip) Apropos name for a hopped up garage punk band.
This could be the whiplash choice of the year. The Chargers Street
Gang hails from Cleveland-and not that the Dead Boys imprint is
undetectable, but you'd sooner think Detroit Rock City than 0-hi-O.
Still, that industrial Midwest pollution-desperate rollicking
is unmistakable. (Didn't they get rid of those hellhole factory
towns and replace them with silicon valleys yet?) Except for the
ill-conceived Sticky Fingers-like ballad, the whole record
is wild-eyed, crash and burn rock, the kind that's best enjoyed
in some filthy brickwalled bar that thinks Labatt's is what you
mean by microbrew. Tim Kerr captured that beautifully. (Margaret
Claudia Malibu Silver Tangerine Hangover CD (Teardrop)
Gentle croony indiepop with twinned strands of romanticism and
silliness, making a fine little rope just right for pulling reaaaal
slow in front of kitty.
Josie Cotton Convertible Music/ From the Hip CD (Collectables)
Among the most vicious trends in New wave were the pervasive influences
of the '50s and surf music. These styles were okay when aped properly,
but could be nightmarish. Josie Cotton was severely guilty
of this aping, along with excessive use of high-pitched, nasal
vocals. If you separate out the songs she wrote, you sense she
just wanted to be a regular adult contemporary singer, but got
sucked into New wave by some evil svengali. Fame has a price,
I guess. She got to be in movies playing the Queen of New wave,
and had two of the great hits of the era ("Johnny, Are You
Queer?" and "He Could Be The One"), both on Convertible
Music. Follow up From The Hip tries to sound less cute
and fails horribly, schizophrenically moving from Missing Persons
synth schlock into that horrible mid-'80s midi pop and even to
C&W. The record is so bad that it practically negates anything
positive off the first. (Margaret Griffis)
Cry Baby Cry Jesus Loves Stacey CD (Skoda/ Dischord)
Riot grrl/ DC punk with Jimmy Page, Jr. (nowhere as good as dad)
on guitar. They make a brave attempt at making each song distinctive,
but do so by stealing gimmicks from other bands. The best songs
are influenced by the N. Carolina crowd of early '80s popsters
(dBs, Let's Active, etc.). Not a bad release, but I'd like to
see what they come up without mimicking the old folks. (Margaret
The Cynics Living is the Best Revenge CD (Get Hip)
Many revivalist acts fall flat because you can hear how hard they're
working to sound authentic, but Pittsburgh's Cynics have always
been the real thing, garage punks deluxe, and their seams don't
show. On this latest Tim Kerr-produced set, classic Elevators,
Prunes and Satans covers nestle comfortably beside soulful originals
that distill the essential elements of the genre (anger, longing,
arrogance, hope) into a beautifully brutish fuzztone-drenched
wash dotted with Michael Kastelic's patented screams.
The Doleful Lions Out Like A Lamb CD (Parasol) These
kitties are purveyors of glittering, delicate Wilsonesque pop
flourishes, sometimes peppered with witty synth goofs that ever
so patiently work their wiles upon receptive ears. Sixties referential,
yet hardly slavish.
Don and the Goodtimes The Original Northwest Sound of CD
(Sundazed) Sounds like the Sonics' pesky kid brothers sneaking
garage practice time while the big guys were out on dates, but
contemporary accounts say the Goodtimes were wilder live. This
retrospective compiles 25 deliciously dumb organ-drenched rockers,
including a "Louie Louie" that makes the Kingsmen sound
like national merit scholars. Puget-riffic!
Dressy Bessy Little Music CD (Kindercore) Singles, comp
tracks and demos from the Denver popsters helmed by Apples in
Stereo guitarist John Hill and the sweet voiced Tammy Ealom. Summery
froth with a spine of steel.
The Driving Stupid Horror Asparagus Stories CD (Sundazed)
These NJ freaks recorded one nutso 45 in 1966, and a whole album's
worth of absurdity that's only now seeing release. With silly
monster vocals, chord-impaired tunes and deliberately ridiculous
lyrics about lobsters, fat pig mothers and beaten-in brains, the
Driving Stupid sound like the garage band Alfred E. Neuman might
have formed, if only he existed. You have to be pretty smart to
sound this dumb-at least I hope so!.
The Avenues EP CD-EP (Palm Pictures) Languid,
whispery stuff in the Elliot Smith mold, with flashes of carnival
The Easybeats Friday on My Mind/ Falling off the
Edge of the World CD (Collectables) Compilation of the Aussie
garage ravers' two U.S. albums for UA. Little Stevie Wright's
laddish leer is one of the great punk voices, snotty, longing
and raw. The 1967 Shel Talmy produced Friday is chock full
of great Vanda-Young tunes and harmony-drenched teen trash swagger,
while the more erratic Falling (1968) adds soul, lite-psych
and orchestral bombast to the mix. The disk includes a bonus '67
A-side, "Heaven and Hell," but lacks useful liner notes
The Flaming Sideburns Save
Rock 'n' Roll CD (Jetset) This is the same record as last
year's Hallelujah Rock 'n' Roll on Denmark's Bad Afro label.
Swaggering, reductive fuzz. I like that they can scream and howl
like ticked off monkeys, or slow it down to tap into a Stoogey
retard blues or surfy moan like "Lonesome Rain." Not
sure where these Finns come by the Latin influence that sneaks
into a few tracks, but it's a refreshing change from the usual
Fosca Diary of an Antibody CD (Shinkansen) Precious
and arch London pop, clearly meant to rouse mopes from their sorrows
with the relentlessness of the drum track, then soothe with the
cello and Dickon Edwards' charming nasal coo.
Fosca secret crush on third trombone CD-EP (Shinkansen)
The title track (also on the full-length) is gleeful teenybop
disco geekery, understated and irresistible at 2:24. Also included
are thirty short "Diary of an Antibody" entries, largely
erotic, spoken over a gently strummed backing.
Gigolo Aunts pacific ocean blues CD (Q Division) Sleek
and soothing harmony pop that's mostly upbeat and radio-ready,
though the title track has a mournfulness justifying its derivation
from an especially fucked up Dennis Wilson solo project.
Allen Ginsberg New York Blues: Rags, Ballads & Harmonium
Songs recorded by Harry Smith CD (Locust Music) Reissue
of a 1981 Folkways release documenting the time these old friends
met in Smith's room in the Chelsea and ran tape. Ginsberg introduces
his droning chant-poems with historical annotations that date
them within his Dylan-inspired attempts at learning to write songs.
The poet's riffs on boys, bedbugs, city life, the CIA's dope trade,
big tobacco, etc. are typically personal and verbose. He's not
much of a singer and the tunes are minimal, so unless you can't
get enough of Allen Ginsberg...
The Go-Betweens Bright Yellow, Bright Orange CD (Jetset)
It's just over two years an since Forster and McLennan resumed
their musical marriage with The Friends of Rachel Worth,
and the old Go-Be rituals apply: ten songs (presumably alternately
Grant's and Robert's), a casual midwife's perfection in the form
and delivery, hooks so finely wrought they're barely noticed until
you realize they've twined around your DNA, character studies
too subtle for contemporary literature, laughs at their own expense.
Oh yes, they're good, very very good, and we're damn lucky to
have them back. Hope for a tour in the spring. (Jetset has also
reissued much of the band's '80s output as remastered double albums
packed with outtakes and video footage, making these very happy
days for fans indeed.)
The Green Pajamas Narcotic Kisses CD (Camera Obscura)
Expanded edition of a 300-copies-pressed rarities LP that was
available for a millisecond in 2000, Narcotic Kisses compiles
outtakes, singles, fanzine comp tracks and remakes from the always-compelling
Portland psych popsters, and is a strong enough set that it can
be recommended to neophytes as well as fans.
Neil Hamburger "Laugh out Lord" CD (Drag City)
Don't worry, sinners, it's only late in the disk that $1 funnyman
Neil trots out the spiritual humor in a vain attempt to capture
a likely non-existent market. Up until then, Neil's in typically
frisky form riffing as only he can on family, celebrity and uncooperative
audience members. Recorded live in front of several surly crowds,
LoL also features an infectious disco remix of the Zipper
Lips schtick featuring Today's Sounds, a public service announcement
for Puerto Rican independence, and interesting insight into management
and the label's plans for Neil's career.
The Tim Heidecker Masterpiece presents Theatre of Magic
CD (Starcase) Oh man, oh man, oh man. You are not going to
believe this if you hear it. Lo and behold, wherefore the rock
opera romps this eve? There but for the grace of our Good Lord
goes the most pretentious Goths in the land. Nay, not Goths. Renaissance
men, Elizabethans! Hide the dauphin, he mustn't listen. Someone
who studied the Who a little bit too much and perhaps ate a significant
number of mushrooms while listening to Wistle Rhymes has to be
behind this. At times sounding like the Waterboys, Led Zeppelin,
the Simpsons' version of the Camelot soundtrack, Rocky
Horror and Spinal Tap, this is one ballsy release. It's the
kind of thing you dream about making at home but never ever intend
to allow people to hear (when you're thirteen, that is). It is
just unbelievable that anybody could create this today without
irony and drugs being two major factors. Not that there isn't
merit in this, but it's very difficult to listen through the first
time, even the second time (see, I'm really working for you, dear
readers). But then when one song ends, you are determined to see
what insanity they manage to deliver on the next track. When you
stop laughing there really is something there. I'm not sure what,
but there it is. (Margaret Griffis)
Skip Heller Quartet Homegoing CD (Innova) Heller
is admittedly a man who spent years playing organ jazz in bars
and wine joints, and this is really just above average music to
accompany your salmon tartar and steak in portobello sauce. Not
soulful enough to boogie to, not expressive enough to work as
jazz. Dave Alvin guests on a couple vocal numbers. Some of this
may make the playlist of Smooth Jazz stations, and baby, that
ain't a good sign. Modern retro lounge is a pretty limp dick musical
genre, and Skip is sadly no exception. (Keith Bearden)
Richard X. Heyman Basic Glee CD
(Turn-Up) RXH wrote some of the best songs you never heard, and
is a master of the sort of gentle jangle that Jim McGuinn brought
to the Byrds. His latest disk (home-recorded at feline friendly
"Tabby Road") bursts with sufficient energy, hooks and
unassuming charms to satisfy anyone's pop jones.
The Iditarod The River Nektar CD (Bluesanct) Extensively
expanded (9 extra tracks) reissue of 1998 Hub City release by
the hermetic folk duo of Jeffrey and Carin. The mysterious vocal
mutterings, spooky loops and hypnotically understated instrumentation
yield haunting results.
Henry Jacobs's Vortex Electronic Kabuki Mambo: highlights
from the legendary vortex sound & light experiments at San
Francisco's Morrison Planetarium CD (Locust Music) Originally
released in 1959 on Folkways, this intriguing disk samples the
early electronic soundscapes that accompanied elaborate mixed
media presentations hosted by Jacobs and filmmaker Jordan Belson
circa 1957. Drones, mysterious banging, eerie mechanical howls,
playful jolts and a glorious sense of imaginary space all make
one long for a chance to see and hear the Vortex in its far out
glory, just like those lucky folks at the S.F. Planetarium and
Brussels World Fair did. (Click here
for our Vortex offer to new subscribers, arranged for after
this review was written.)
The Kills black rooster e.p. CD-EP (Dim Mak)
Punk-bluesy two-piece from London that dulls the ragged edges
with twining boy/girl vocals that inevitably recalls Exene and
Rahsaan Roland Kirk The Man Who Cried Fire CD (Hyena) Unlike
their pop and country equals, jazz greats never make terrible
records, just more or less essential ones. Kirk, the blind man
who played three horns at once and at times honked so hard that
blood reportedly poured out, had one of the greatest ranges in
jazz, and while this live '80s-era reissue is no Bright Moments,
it does have some sweet high points. The ten minute "Slow
Blues" is gorgeous, you hear him imitate (and dis) Miles
Davis before making "Bye Bye Blackbird" soar, and he
even has the guts to go trad by creating his own funeral march
in "New Orleans Fantasy." Poorly edited odds and ends,
but there's much to love for the fan of the late great Rahsaan.
The Leeches Suck CD (British Medical Records)
Crass-ic Youth with the Cramps and Poly Styrene dropping by. It's
nice sound, but the songs aren't very memorable. (Margaret Griffis)
The Librarians The Pathetic Aesthetic CD (Pandacide)
The Librarians crank out a very catchy, melodic, emo-core colored
powerpop. Imagine if Elvis Costello were backed by the Fastbacks
with a little help from the fellas in Fugazi, the intent being
to just have a good fun time at a house party (and maybe get a
little action afterwards.) It's really hard not to just bang your
head to the beat, but at the same time there's an intellectual
feel that thankfully doesn't leave you resorting to dictionaries
for translation. Prepare to sing along... especially to the anthemic
"Peace and Quiet" which is a "hit single"
if ever I heard one. (Margaret Griffis)
The Lime Spiders Nine Miles High 1983-1990 CD (Raven)
Led by the improbably-named Mick Blood, and anchored by Richard
Jakimyszyn's acid-hued fretwork, Sydney's Lime Spiders unleashed
a series of strong, if gimmicky, Nuggetsy 45s in the mid-'80s.
Raven's chronological comp brings those rare early singles together
with live tracks, b-sides, and selections from the mellower albums
that I skipped first time around. This later material will probably
appeal to fans of Hoodoo Gurus-style pop, but the "Slave
Girl" era stuff remains my preference.
The Longhorn Devils Spitfire Bar Bee CD / Metalunas
Swingin Planet CD/ Man or Astroman? Beyond
the Black Hole CD (Wildebeest) Not again. It's amazing how
fans of surfabilly can just keep going to the buffet table and
getting plate after plate of this stuff. Or it is a new generation
of fans that spring up when the waters get warm and the guitars
start twangin'? The Longhorn Devils seem to have amassed a bit
of attention outside their Dutch homeland. They're all right at
what they do but you've heard it all before from some Ventures
or Duane Eddy clone. This time it's a little bit New wave (not
the first time that combination trolled the collegiate airwaves
either). Actually, the farther they roam from the cliché,
the less successful they are. You already know if you'll like
this or not. Canada's Metalunas have a better disc. A little more
trad and better executed. They rely on sci-fi trappings to stand
out from the crowd. The spacey darkness is a bit more comforting,
but you know Man or Astroman? have already cornered the market
on that genre (umm, if the Ventures didn't already...) Which brings
us to mentioning the latest re-release from Man or Astroman? Beyond
the Black Hole is a re-mastered, re-fashioned, re-release
of What Remains Inside a Black Hole from Au-go-go Records
circa 1966, er I mean '96. Best of the lot, but you knew that
already, too. (Margaret Griffis)
Loose Fur S/T CD (Drag City) This indie rock supergroup
(Jim O'Rourke with Jeff Tweedy and Glenn Kotche of Wilco) plays
elegant, low-key, somewhat paranoiac art rock.
The M's S/T CD-EP (self released) Pop swagger
outta Chicago, jangly and tuneful and incredibly Bolanesque.
Malfuzah the adilorac CD (self released) In this
North Carolina duo, homegrown exotica is tempered with occasional
flashes of prog, surf and churchly organ music. The results are
playful, tasteful and well realized. It's neat to see young folks
with such an obvious affection for Baxter, Denny and Lyman.
Jesse Malin The Fine Art of Self-Destruction CD (Artemis)
On first spin this Ryan Adams-produced debut from the former D
Generation singer sounded self-conscious and overblown, but hearing
the songs in an acoustic set, with Malin's funny, self-deprecating
stories and without the over-production, their charms came through
hard. Sweetly cracked, heartfelt Americana that deserves your
attention, ideally in a live setting.
Aimee Mann Lost in Space CD (SuperEgo) Mann's second
self-released disk is a subtle collection of psychological portraits,
where losers and depressives air their failures with the what's-it-to-ya?
courage of the unredeemable. Don't expect soaring pop or offbeat
songs about world's fairs and elderly boyfriends: Mann has found
a new niche and seems content to pace it, digging out new ways
of revealing the small social crises that add up to a life of
hurt. Quiet, pretty and sad, with lyrical asides that can really
poke a nerve.
Dan Melchior's Broke Revue Bitterness, Spite, Rage & Scorn
CD (In The Red) You expect a certain quality from In The Red
and the Broke Revue does not disappoint. There's the distorted
guitars and vocals (why do you think it's called In The Red?).
The somewhat phony attempt to sound unprofessional and sloppy.
The subtle and obvious references to punk, garage and even the
blues. Each track could actually be included in a hypothetical
Killed by Nuggets compilation dedicated to psych garage.
The info sheet cites Billy Childish, the Rolling Stones and Stooges
as a few of the influences. Thanks! I'm going to ignore the ones
I disagreed with. (Margaret Griffis)
Mississippi Fred McDowell and Johnny Woods Mama Says I'm Crazy
CD (Fat Possum) This is some great shit. The sounds of creaky
old men forgetting that their joints are no longer greased and
their tickers barely powered anymore. Well, naturally powered,
anyway. The story behind this is just as juicy. Some city slicker
goes to find Fred McDowell in '67. He's working at a gas station
and agrees to record this gem if his buddy can play on it. The
both of them go on the hunt for Johnny Woods, who they find and
lose and find again in a whiskey and barbecue infused odyssey
across Mississippi. Finally, they get it together long enough
to deliver pure Delta magic. Doesn't at all sound like they haven't
played together in eight years, but then again maybe they wuz
foolin' that fancy pant'd boy with the 'cording 'quipment. Fine
vintage Delta Blues of both the sob- and dance-to varieties. (Margaret
The Mountain Goats Tallahassee CD (4AD) I first heard
the folksy Mountain Goats on the lovely then-cassette-only Shrimper
label. Very lo-fi, but great. A decade later comes Tallahassee,
released on one of the most aesthetically grand labels around.
Naw, there aren't a million sythn-olins or mumbly sirens wailing
their haunting songs. It's the same Mountain Goats, but clean
like mountain spring water. The emotional effect is similar thanks
to pretty songs that on second glance prove cold as ice. The overarching
theme remains toxic love. "No Children" could've been
a Hunky Dory cover, except Bowie was never this bitchy:
"I hope when you think of me years down the line, you can't
find one good thing to say." Ouch ouch ouch. It's like a
southern novel where the heartbreak happens because the star-crossed
lovers stay together, but set to music and with that wonderful
way John Darnielle has of wrapping his tongue around the black
humor. This time Darnielle has enlisted fellow Shrimpers Franklin
Bruno and Peter Hughes plus Flaming Lip Michael Ivins to back
him. (Margaret Griffis)
The Music Explosion Little Bit O' Soul: The Best of CD
(Sundazed) Entertaining garage-soul foolishness from the nascent
Kasenetz-Katz production stable, when the real band's identity
was allowed to shine through much brighter than in the bubblegum
era. Ohio's Music Explosion had a cool, aggressive sound and K&K's
house songwriters kept them supplied with catchy, derivative tunes
that grew progressively psychedelic as the band neared its 1968
The New Colony Six "Breakthrough" CD (Sundazed)
1966 debut from Chicago wimp-rockers, without the usual Sundazed
bonus tracks. I know they have their cult, but weak tunes make
it tough to see the appeal.
Doug Newman The
Cat Album CD (Sandthistle) Cat lovers and fans of gentle,
sixties-inflected pop alike will be tickled by Doug Newman's affectionate
tribute to the kitties in his life. I'm both, and really dig this
sweet and charming disk. The tunes are catchy and the themes clearly
drawn from life, with songs about cats lost and (happily) found,
not really wanting to give away that litter of kittens, honoring
a cat's need for independence, ear mite infestations and the weird
things cats like to eat. Includes a lyric sheet backed with photos
and paintings of the featured felines.
The Orgone Box things that happened then CD (Minus
Zero) The Orgone Box's self-titled 2001 album (recorded c. 1995)
was a revelation, proving that it was possible for a contemporary
songwriter to make psychedelia as memorable, inventive and personal
as his sixties heroes. This archival odds 'n' sods collection
of Rick Corcoran home recordings predates that record, but already
shows a deft and distinctive touch. While not as terrifyingly
great as the debut, it's still highly recommended for all fans
of smart, catchy, jangly pop. But what's it gonna take to get
a "new" record out of this guy? All this juvenilia's
terrific, but c'mon already!
The Preachers Moanin' CD (Bacchus Archives) Here
are the only eight songs recorded by The Preachers, a sixties
L.A. band with lamentable taste in collarless suits. The tracks
range from heavy r&b covers to goofy soul to gentle folk-rock
and even jazz, and show them to have been skilled at each. Maybe
if they'd stuck with one sound they would have made more of an
impression at the time, but they did leave behind a nice EP's
worth of music.
The Super Commando CD (Gearhead) The Swedish Motorhead?
As infants, these guys probably set fire to the ABBA tourbus,
yet I almost didn't pick this up. With a name like Puffball, why
the fuck would I? Seeing the Gearhead label, I knew it couldn't
sound as weak as I'd imagined, and in fact I was pleasantly surprised
by their sonic assault. The moniker might leave me wanting, but
they've given me my new favorite motto: Puffball stays true to
the Anti-Ska Movement. Turn Madness into sanity. (Margaret Griffis)
The Queers Pleasant Screams CD (Lookout) Imagine the
Ramones covering an entire Beach Boys album... wait, don't wet
your pants just yet. This is a great album of fun, sing-a-long,
bubblegum punk, but you knew that. It could be the soundtrack
for a teen love flick where the hero mopes about then finally
catches the girl / boy. It's memorable and catchy with potential
for hit singles, if it weren't for the cussing. But there's a
bittersweet jewel among gems. The third track may be the best
Ramones song I've never heard, just the kind of sappy-sweet love
tune that I... I mean PJ Soles would fantasize Joey was singing
just to her. It turns out the song was a half-finished Joey composition
completed by the Queers! Bless their little punk rock hearts.
Now you can go wet your pants. (Margaret Griffis)
Redd Kross Neurotica CD (Five Foot Two) Remastered reish
of their long out of print 1987 trash pop opus, thickly larded
with retro references and the McDonald brothers' natural snottiness
to form a punky paste that tastes great. Bonus cuts include a
sunshiny cover of Sonny & Cher's "It's the Little Things"
featuring Vicki Peterson.
The Rotten Apples Real-Tuff (Durable Plastic) CD (eMpTy)
Finally the heiresses to the Runaways have been located. The Rotten
Apples can rock as hard as the boys without dropping estrogen
cliches all over the rock club, thus remaining even more true
to their sex (a concept that eluded the riot grrls). These lasses
sound like they actually sit around listening to old records instead
of just hopping on the current bandwagon. Snatches of bubblegum,
glam, new wave, and '60s girl groups permeate their punky rock
'n' roll. The various influences blend perfectly into a cohesive
sound and still sound fresh as a daisy. Hell, you should hear
the way they "own" their cover of Missing Persons' "Noticeable
One." Great vocals and tight playing-I really dig that guitar.
Lyrics are remarkably penetrating in their simplicity. Boys, if
you wanna know what women are thinking, listen carefully. Great
overall! (Margaret Griffis)
Run for Cover Lovers The Difficult Nature of Interpersonal
Relationships CD (Rockin' Pussy/ Good Forks) Favorite band
of Scram co-founder Steve Watson, this Oakland foursome
has a klutzy earnestness that gives their dark-tinged, organ-swathed
tunes a rare emotional richness.
Nate Ruth Whatever I Meant CD (Soundless) An
unexpectedly musical amalgam of textured feedback layers, rat-a-tat
drums and faux limey vocals, with an anthemic grandeur obviously
inspired by many long nights under the headphones.
J Sheehy No Longer My Concern CD (Beggars Banquet)
Weirdly programmed blend of pretty-if-samey troubadour ballads
and less appealing upbeat stuff that sounds like recent Tom Waits
gene-spliced with Birthday Party outtakes. There's a nice EP somewhere
here, but you'll have to dig it out yourself.
Sinatra Lightning's Girl: Greatest Hits 1965-1971 CD
(Raven) Generous 26 track survey of tough/sweet Nancy's musical
activities, including her daffy theme from The Last of the
Secret Agents and the haunting "This Town" from
The Cool Ones, plus what would pass for a complete "best
of Nancy & Lee" from a cheaper label. Frank's little
girl wasn't a natural singer, but she did have plenty of sass
and great songs/production from Hazlewood, and together they came
up with some terrific, peculiar records. The package includes
vintage pix, a career survey, and the lady's own recollections
of her early career.
One Beat CD (Kill Rock Stars) The S-K Pop Osterizer
is packed to the spill line and set to puree. New wave conventions
rise to the surface only to be sucked back into the trio's relentless
rhythm, a raw and impassioned wave.
Smart Brown Handbag Fast Friends CD (Stonegarden)
This smart and catchy pop trio has a summery '80s British feel,
though they're actually from L.A. David Steinhart's romantic,
yearning songs work beautifully with the richly textured production
that makes the band sound bigger than just three.
The Solarflares Look What I Made Out of My Head CD
(Big Beat) After a couple of fine disks on Twist, Graham Day's
'flares have moved to one of the U.K.'s premier reissue labels.
While their sound has roots in mod and freakbeat, the band is
too powerful and Day's songs too personal and thoughtful to be
tagged as mere revivalism. Instro "Girl in a Briefcase"
shows them in a playful spy soundtrack vein, but mostly they ply
the distinctive sound of teenage idealists grown up miffed. And
while that can sound a bit formulaic, it's a pretty neat little
The Spits Self-Titled 12" CD (Slovenly)
Until recently, I was pretty sure "god" had a personal
vendetta-type relationship with me. Then another Spits record
came in to my life. I might even be persuaded to say this one
is even better than The Spits (also self-titled but on
Nickel and Dime Records). This platter too is Ramones-a-riffic,
but with a hearty dollop of (dare I say it) the Tubeway Army.
Just like a good assassination, everyone remembers when they first
heard the Spits. Your mind pauses to suck in the information.
Your heart feels like it might pop when the adrenaline reaches
it. Then the life affirming feeling of bliss. What a wonderful
thing they are. I'm fantasizing a punk rock Monkees where the
band drives around buying up terrible, forgotten punk/wave compilations
or one-off 7 inchers, find the worst track, study it and turn
it into gold. The third song, "PCT," I'm sure I remember
it. It was on that comp with the singles on it. You know. Yeah,
wait a second, let me go find it. There has to be something wrong,
sick and/or despicable about these people. Hey, isn't that Bill
Bartell I hear? (Margaret Griffis)
Nikki Sudden & Rowland S. Howard Kiss You Kidnapped Charabanc/
Live in Augsburg double CD (Secretly Canadian) Sudden's
collaboration with ex-Birthday Party guitarist Howard produced
some exceptionally dark and heady stuff, a nearly seamless blend
of delicate romanticism and the shambling lurches of a soul possessed.
Closer to the Birthday Party than the Jacobites, but still among
Sudden's best work. The second disk is a previously unreleased
German live show from '87, happily much superior to the drunken
mess I witnessed the pair making in Ladbroke Grove some months
Nikki Sudden & Dave Kusworth / Jacobites Ragged School
CD (Secretly Canadian) Heavily expanded (11 bonus tracks)
edition of the 1986 Twin/Tone comp that first brought Dave &
Nikki's shabby heroics to an American audience. The extra material
diffuses the original disk's cohesion, but I'm sure not complaining
about getting all those scarce UK EP tracks in one place. A velvetty,
jangly, heartbroke delight.
Sunstorm High Resolution CD-EP (self-released)
Dreamy stoner pop with a backbone, fluid, sexy and full of unexpected
sonic twists. Very nice.
Bert Switzer 1977-2002 CD (self-released) Opens
with a free jazz skronk fest from '02 that will peel the paint
off your shoes, but the real heart of this survey of projects
on which Switzer drummed is the insane stuff recorded by Boston's
the Destroyed between 1977-79. Snot-nosed Stoogey grunt and whine
veering into punk territory. The disk is available at a very fair
price from CDBaby.com, or directly from the artist.
Thee Midnighters Greatest CD (Thump) First CD
comp of the legendary East L.A. party band follows a mostly chronological
path from 1966's "Whittier Boulevard" and "Land
of 1000 Dances" through the politicized fusion of "Chicano
Power" (1969), with a whole lot of smooth Latin soul along
the way. Thee Midnighters could rip it up with the best garage
rats, but their secret weapon was Little Willie G's heart-tugging
voice, the sound that made a whole generation of Boyle Heights
prom dates dance too close.
Tijuana Hercules When the Moon Comes Up Wild
CD-EP (Black Pisces) Raw and propulsive punk-blues trio with drawling
vocals suggesting early Beefheart. They're probably real good
Torrence Anthology: Legendary Masked Surfer Unmasked
CD (Varèse Sarabande) The highlight of this comp of
post-Jan vocal performances from eternal sideman (despite having
the sweetest voice in the J&D pair) Dean is the 1981 cassette-only
release "Ocean Park Angel," a perfect summery idyll
in the "Little Surfer Girl" vein. Also included are
the seldom heard Laughing Gravy version of "Vegetables,"
the "Yellow Balloon" single that so incensed songwriter
Gary Zekley prior to release that he rushed his own eponymous
band into existence, and fifteen more SoCal confections spanning
four decades, and pairing DT with such fellow travelers as Mike
Love, Flo & Eddie, Brian Wilson and the Honeys.
Mick Turner Moth CD (Drag City)
Another set of spare and languid guitar meanderings from the Dirty
Three leader, going nowhere quite prettily.
V/A Fuzz, Flaykes, & Shakes Vol. 6: Come on in
to my world/ Vol. 7 You make me lose my mind CD (Bacchus Archives)
More newly discovered garage 45 rarities from the collector scum
underground-no offence, Tony!-enhanced with informative notes
and cool pix. Volume 6 is overwhelmingly jangly, sad and sweet,
with some rougher psychedelic spice. Highlights include West Minist'r's
spookily urgent "Bright Lights, Windy City" and Chapter
VI's Music Machine-y "Fear." Vol. 7 is raunchier and
wackier, with the (Brooklyn) Outsiders' batty alibi "The
Guy with the Long Liverpool Hair," the Gass Co.'s snot-nosed
"First I Look at the Purse," and a swell Dylan parody
by the Intercoms. Both are strong comps worth picking up.
Right to Chews: Bubblegum Classics Revisited CD (Not
Lame) It wasn't long after the first Bubblegum Ball-when ten SoCal
bands turned out at World on Wheels roller rink to celebrate the
release of Bubblegum Music is the Naked Truth with their
interpretations of vintage gum covers-that I heard this comp was
in the works. Coincidence? Whatever the inspiration, it's a fun
set of current popsters honoring that absurdly catchy AM goo and
pap. Highlights include the sparkle*jets u.k.'s J-5 tribute, Linus
of Hollywood's faithful take on the Banana Splits' "I Enjoy
Being a Boy," Doug Powell's almost Queen-ly "I Woke
Up in Love This Morning," and Jim Laspeza and Michael Quercio's
deliciously infantile "May I Take A Giant Step" (über-twee
Quercio was born to sing this stuff!).
The Volta Sound Fast Light with Radio Signal CD-EP
(Elephant Stone) Cool and languid Velvetsy sing-song drone-psych
that stretches out into supple strands that drape the speakers
when you close your eyes.
The Waistcoats All the Rage CD (Wildebeest) Holland's
Waistcoats are among the finest contemporary purveyors of faux
British invasion sounds, and this latest set of originals is full
of strong rockers, mournful Kinksy sob stories, unexpected bursts
of instro psychedelia, and of course a surplus of heartfelt yeahs.
Danny Weizmann S/T CD (Straw Hat) Old timey song
and dance man Danny (yep, he taps) has come a long way from his
former identity as teen punk scribe Shredder. His solo debut is
a confident and unpredictable melange of his dream version of
New York City sounds, from crooning to disco to cool jazz romance.
The results are fanciful and quite daffy.
The Zodiac Cosmic Sounds: Celestial Counterpoint with Words
and Music CD (Water) I sure don't remember hearing so
many undertones and details on my crackly Elektra vinyl copy of
Mort Garson (Cancer) and Jacques Wilson's (Leo) delightful 1967
electronic concept album, narrated by the seemingly sincere Cyrus
Faryar (Pisces). With soaring rock arrangements, tastefully utilized
Moog, a slew of oddball sonic effects and cheerfully overblown
prosody ("endless naked moonlight swims in the green sensational
sea/ throbbing with the wave-beat"), Cosmic Sounds
is a time-capsule trip, perfectly realized. This is a crisp, handsome
reissue of the scarce original, with Richie Unterberger's notes
revealing the project's backstory, including a surprising Rod
McKuen connection. Recommended.
Scram #16 reviews
(all by the editrix unless otherwise noted)
The Alphabet when the sun calls your name or, Ghost World
CD (Nashinal Sound Recordings) This set of mostly solo poppy psych
produced by John Nash in his Detroit bedroom is one of the records
that fell through the cracks when Poptones folded. The appealing
tunes are dressed up with trippy homegrown effects. Playful, earnest,
and pleasantly uncool.
Phil Angotti and the ideas Flower Bomb CD (JAM)
High-energy jangly pop, with clever songs and lovely shimmery
harmonies. Includes nifty tributes to mopester pin ups Nick Drake
and Colin Blunstone.
The Bards Resurrect "The Moses Lake Recordings"
CD (Gear Fab) Long-overdue release of the Bards' 1968 sessions,
showing the Northwest group anxious to explore sophisticated concepts
and the newest studio tricks; producers Curt Boetcher and Keith
Olsen were happy to oblige. Highlights include a chanting Beefheartesque
adaptation of Dr. Seuss' Bartholomew and the Oobleck, and
the ambitious seven-part biblical "The Creation." Scattered
around are some bubbly pop songs that seem light years behind
the weirder material, suggesting mind expansion midway through
the writing process. An odd, and most interesting, discovery.
Beachwood Sparks Once We Were Trees CD (Sub Pop) Take the most
shimmering, atmospheric sounds of the Beatles and Galaxie 500,
add a little Burritos and Stones, then imagine Tiny Tim fronting
the Jacobites covering "A Whiter Shade of Pale"-well,
maybe not that insanely good, but they sure try. If they manage
to stay humble in the wake of that MTV video, we might have something
here. (Margaret Griffis)
Black Sun Ensemble S/T CD (Camera Obscura)
Slightly altered 2001 reissue of the DIY psych masters' supremely
scarce self-released debut, moody guitar mystics unfolding like
dreams snatched on waking. Hypnotic, cyclical stuff that, while
recorded in the Arizona desert, feels just as strongly of the
Sahara, or the Gobi, or the bottom of the sea. Byron Coley's notes
help explain the strange paths that the music took to end up here.
Black Sun Ensemble Hymn of the Master CD
(Camera Obscura) Encouraged by positive response to the Camera
Obscura reissue campaign, troubled BSE leader Jesus Acedo has
put together a new version of the band. If you're looking for
esoteric instro guitar ruminations, be warned that this disk kicks
off with a skronky thing with Jesus singing about what
a funky monkey he is. Quit snorting: if you go to the hospital
and get out again, you can make whatever sort of music you like.
There are instrumentals, but they too mostly come from a more
carnal zone. The last three tracks are more typically meditative.
It's all a bit much for me, but with plenty of wild guitar in
play, fans will want to hear what he's up to.
The Black Widows Arocknaphobia CD (Vital Gesture) All
right, these guys claim that their brand of surf type instrumentals
isn't surf at all, but spider rock. Whatever you say boys.
I mean spiderboys. Pretty good for music made by insects. You'd
think bugs were just into noise and experimental buzzes, but occasionally
you do get some members of the animal kingdom that can rock like
people. Dark, reverberant garage rock, only occasionally sounding
sissified like it was created by college students. While each
piece does stand on it's own, they would be rounded out nicely
by some far out vocals, dig? (Margaret Griffis)
David Blue S/T CD (Collector's Choice) It's easy to
call David Blue on his Dylan fixation, never more blatant than
on this 1966 Elektra album recorded with several of Bob's sidemen.
But the pastiche is stylish and brimming with enthusiasm, a fake
that's in some ways more likeable than the real, ice-cool thing.
Curt Boetcher There's An Innocent Face CD (Sundazed)
After the Millennium split up, Boettcher (he dropped the "t"
on this album on a numerologist's advice) didn't know what to
do with himself. Inspired by what Emitt Rhodes had accomplished
alone with overdubs, he paired up with multi-instrumentalist Web
Burrell and spent two years honing this odd album for Elektra.
It's a fascinating, intermittently successful mish-mash of pomp,
pop and old timey country, with several stunning love songs sitting
uneasily alongside weird rock star parody "Bobby California"
and the tune about a guitar-playing frog.
Boss Martians Making the Rounds
CD (Musick) Another tuff and tuneful outing from the Martians,
who've forged a tasteful garage soul sound distinguished by strong
songs and Evan Foster's assured, emotive singing. "Dreaming
in Stereo" shows them working a surprising power pop vein.
Single Crown Postcard CD (Recordhead & Mr. Whiggs)
Emerging from long hibernation in an Indiana basement, Brando
is Derek Richey and a rotating cast of fellow travelers. They
make subtle, meandering, thoughtful and layered dream tunes, with
occasional, effective high-energy flashes.
The Briefs "Poor and Weird" + 2 CD EP (Interscope)
Monochromatic fake '79 punk that might not sound out of place
on a late KBD comp and what wonderful art direction!
Brother JT3 Spirituals CD (Drag
City) One of two new disks from the prolific and ever intriguing
Original Sins leader, offering up a fresh twist on holy rolling
that's warm, appealing and maybe kinda carnal. Definitely this
summer's make out record of choice for Jesus freaks and the people
who love them.
Brother JT Maybe We Should Take Some More? CD (Birdman)
You read that title right: this is John Terlesky's dope record,
partly a meandering soup of muttered suggestions, conversational
loops, buzzing unidentifiable instruments and frog croaks. It's
also got sweet folkish melodies made sweeter for living in such
a freaky neighborhood.
Bertrand Burgalat Meets A.S Dragon
CD (Tricatel) Bertrand Burgalat, the French Phil-Spector-meets-Kraftwerk
producer-cult-singer, decided to go on a live frenzy. Bertrand's
backing band A.S Dragon knows how to shake hidden parts of your
brain. It's interesting to see such a mild mannered man, adept
at churning out sophisticated pop albums, going amok. Bertrand
and A.S Dragon revisit their own repertoires as well as those
of April March, Smokey Robinson and Amanda Lear, to mesmerizing
effects. A nostalgia-free but still vintagey trip that Olivia
Newton-John and her alien friends circa Toomorrow would have raved
about. It's the perfect mix of raw rock electronic dissonance
and pristine mint harmony. File under Death-Bubblegum disco. (Jean-Emmanuel
Caitlin Cary While You Weren't Looking
CD (Yep Roc) This Chris Stamey-produced solo debut from gal
who played fiddle and harmony behind Ryan Adams in Whiskeytown,
is closer to early '70s UK folk rock than to her old band's off-kilter
C&W. A nice sound, though emotionally falling somewhat flat.
The Centimeters "Help is on the Way" b/w "African
Paper " 45 (Space Baby) Unusually pretty and subdued outing
from the bizarro world (via Los Angeles) cabaret stars, with the
a-side drifting dreamily off into Ed Wood soundtrack territory.
Chad and Jeremy Before and After CD (Sundazed) The duo's
1965 Columbia debut, recorded in a week with Lor Crane and a coterie
of elderly session cats. Considering the rush, the record turned
out well, and shows the pair honing their signature style amidst
a little experimenting. Gentle whispery C&J ballads share
space with rockers, and lovely trad folk like "Fare Thee
Well." Bonus cuts include alternate takes, the one-off Chad
& Jill 45 and Italian-language songs performed at the San
Chad Stuart and Jeremy Clyde Of Cabbages and Kings CD
(Sundazed) Recipe for a masterpiece: take two cuddly British invaders
(hitherto known as Chad and Jeremy), add one psychedelic superproducer
(Gary Usher), the full resources of Columbia Records, and a pinch
of Curt Boettcher harmonies. Let rise in a dark place with a pinch
of the British class struggle, world hunger, sexual freedom, the
American death industry, and two heaping dollops of mescaline.
The result: a fascinating, funny, sad and beautiful record that
has long been #1 on my list of things I hoped would see reissue.
Sundazed includes their usual bounty of unreleased tracks and
45s, and terrific Jud Cost notes. Essential.
Etienne Charry Aube radieuse serpents en flammes CD (Tricatel)
Imagine the strange result of a mad scientist's experiment using
early Beck cells and quirky néo-yéyé Frenchness.
Dream no more, here it is. It's a shame that Michel Gondry (director
of Bjork's "Human Behavior" video) is the only member
of Etienne's band Oui-Oui to have achieved worldwide hipster credibility.
Kindercore, home of the Elephant 6 posse, recognized a kindred
spirit, even if he was an ocean and countless idioms away, and
they decided to co-release this album. Etienne Charry uses collages
and "naiveté" in an unpretentious arty-free way,
like western pop recreated by the Banana Splits high on Gallic
spacecake. (Jean-Emmanuel Dubois)
The Cherokees The GO!! Sessions LP (Corduroy)
A sampling of the Melbourne beat band's mid-'60s recordings for
the GO!! label. Distinguished by strong vocals, good taste in
covers (Hollies, Beau Brummels) and lotsa energy, this comp is
a swell addition to any Aussie rock collection. Also available
as a Canetoad CD.
Jonathan Coe, Louis Philippe & Danny Manners 9th
& 13th CD (Tricatel) Highly original blend of suave jazzbo
riffing and sardonically romantic storytelling, some stories spoken,
others sung. I didn't realize on first listen that the words come
out of Coe's existing books and aren't meant to hang together
as a narrative. An interesting and quite successful experiment.
The Cosmic Psychos Fifteen Years, A Million Beers
double CD (Corduroy) Catching up with the Melbourne trio some
years after digging "Lost Cause," I find that they've
always known how to Keep It Simple, Stupid, and maintain a good
inspiration/ perspiration ratio in their deliciously crass three-chord
expulsions. Taste the testosterone. Now rinse, spit
Crimson Sweet "So Electric" b/w "No Hot
On Cold" 45 (Slow Gold Zebra) Raw postpunk from an NYC trio,
suggestive of early '80s Manchester moodiness. Noisy and compelling.
The Cryan' Shames Sugar and Spice
CD (Sundazed) The Chicago band's 1966 Columbia debut shows them
drawing on a blend of US and British beat influences, with the
Byrdsy outings most successful. Arrangements and harmonies on
the rushed recordings can be ragged, but the Shames slide through
on passion. Bonus tracks feature several originals by transitional
member Lenny Kerley, whose sophisticated writing would make the
next album such a psych-pop blast. Liner notes explain how handless
tambourine player Jim Pilster's barbed hook won them press attention-and
The Cryan' Shames A Scratch in the Sky CD (Sundazed)
With album #2 the Shames distinguished themselves as one of the
finest American baroque pop acts. Unforgettable melodies, ambitious
arrangements, and a unusual blend of moodiness and punk energy
make side one of Scratch essential listening, though the
quality of the material trails off somewhat on the flip. With
the addition of 45 mixes and a McKuen inspired b-side, this Sundazed
package is a fine replacement for treasured vinyl.
The Cryan' Shames Synthesis
CD (Sundazed) And here's where it all fell apart, into a stylistic
stew that never stops bubbling long enough to allow a proper taste.
Opener "Greenburg, Glickstein, Charles, David Smith &
Jones" is a punky groover, but with the next track they're
mourning a Hoagy Carmichael heroine, and later don Buffalo Springfield
masks. While there are some good songs and performances, the variety
is just too extreme to make a cohesive whole.
Curlupanddie Unfortunately We're Not Robots CD
(Revelation) Thrashmetal the way momma likes it. Brutal. Grinding.
Menacing. These guys from Vegas have been damaged not only by
the sun and heat, but by SST, AmRep and a host of hardcore bands
too. First point of order is the song titles. These have got to
be the best I've seen in years. "Ted Nugent goes AOL"
and "Doctor Doom, A Man of Science, Doesn't Believe in Jesus,
Why The Fuck Do You" make my cold heart warm like molten
steel. The first four titles you have to see for yourself. I can't
do them proper justice here. If that isn't enough of a sale for
you, the music's good. There's stuff here that will curl the tail
of any deathmetalhead, but there are also arty moments that are
disjointed enough for the average Sonic Youth fan. The vocals
are gurgling sounds of a possum caught in an engine. The only
complaints I have are the possum vocals should be louder in the
mix, and I want more songs on the CD so my ears can start bleeding
properly. (Margaret Griffis)
Dan & Kev and the Deadset Friendlies "Don't
Change" / "Elvis" CD EP (Corduroy) Upbeat and sincere
punky folk from a couple of lads who sound like they'd be at home
in front of a pint or with noses in books. "Elvis" is
a story-song about a guy whose friends encourage to act the star,
and how he finds out one day he's been a figure of fun.
Death by Chocolate Zap the World CD (Jetset) The second
arch disk from teeny chambermaid Angie Tillett & co. treats
sixties pop culture like fudge ingredients, boiling wah-wah pedals,
Bentley cars, Bridget Riley's op art paintings, and The Avengers
down into a thick syrup further flavored with vibes, dreamy bossa
nova beats, and chewy chewy organ trills. Swell version of "While
I'm Still Young" from the Smashing Time soundtrack.
The Decembrists Castaways and Cutouts CD (Hush)
If the long silence of Neutral Milk Hotel chafes at you, try rubbing
these marvelous Portlanders on the sore spot. I am charmed by
their rollicking modernist sea chanteys peopled by ghostly infants,
self-reflexive legionnaires, bedwetters and assorted oddballs.
A Dame Darcy drawing on the cover is all that's missing.
Jean-Emmanuel Deluxe and Alexander Faem Tribute to Alain Delon and Jean-Pierre Melville CD (Euro-Visions) This
disk is an aural kiss for legendary director Jean-Pierre Melville
and equally legendary actor Alain Delon. Deluxe and Faem star
as the ringmasters while Saint Etienne, Merricks, X-Ray Pop, Mansour,
Monochrome Kid, and Frederik Schikowski play the remixers. Co-conspirators
include a handful of disparate, subterranean talent. Luis Rego
prepares us for the experience to follow with a monologue of tweaked
inflection. April March's voice is sweet like a chorus of tiny
bells, contrasting with and complementing Deluxe's endearingly
off-kilter vocals. Deluxe's inability to sing is his charm. He
is a poet evoking rather than a crooner crooning, and "Paris
Lisbonne" is a gem, pop poetry running after Delon through
gangster-ridden streets and psychedelic sequences in the Metro.
For kinetic stimulation, Bertrand Burgalat's vibes and keyboards
are splattered throughout. Jacno strums guitar for one of the
disc's highlights, "Loneliness is a Warm Gun," by far
the sultriest piece as sung by Helena Noguerra. She is sonic striptease,
and the grooves are deftly manipulated in two shploink remixes.
Ariel Wizman chimes in occasionally, in bilingual '70s flares.
References, both lyrical and instrumental, to various Melville
and Delon scenarios take the music beyond simple pop hooks to
a fantasy level, and there is a short salute to Christophe as
well. Unfamiliar with Melville and Delon? It won't hinder you
from swinging to the sounds, but if you haven't seen Le Samourai....
The Gene Drayton Unit "Ordinary Twist " +2
45 (Butterfly) From the land where obscure American R&B singles
sell for more than our car payments comes this modern take on
Hammond dance floor soul, a swinging original instro with bluesy
brass. The flip has a nice flute-led take on "Steppin' Stone."
The Dukes of Hamburg Some Folks By CD (Gearhead) So
there's this neighborhood in the Mission where everyone speaks
German and the barbers just laugh when you ask for ein trim.
Down at the biergarten, these lads are shaking the rafters
with their hopped-up beat music that makes even grandma do the
monkey. And their new disk kicks off with the best punked out
version of "Greensleeves" ever.
Steve Earle Sidetracks CD (Artemis/
E-Squared) You're not going to lose a dime by betting that a Steve
Earle odds and sods collection will be worth picking up, worrying
around in your metaphorical jaws, and thinking about after it
stops spinning. Full of well-chosen covers, outtakes and novelties,
Sidetracks slots Punk Steve alongside Reggae, Activist,
Bluegrass and Write-a-song-so-lovely-you'll-stop-breathing Steve.
And while on first exposure these disparate characters don't seem
to belong in the same room, they get familiar quick. This is a
good palliative while we wait on the next proper LP.
Shari Elf I'm Forcing Goodness Upon You CD (Good and
Sturdy Music) Naïve yet knowing, so catchy it oughtta be
regulated, Shari Elf and her omnichord make outsider music that
makes you want to open your door and ask them in for some cookies
and conversation. Thank you, Alicia Bay Laurel, for bringing Shari
along to play the Scram #15 release party, where she charmed everyone
with her odes to crocheted alligators, guys who may or may not
be jerk-a-lators, and (especially) "Seamstress," with
live sewing machine, pinbox and snip-snip scissors accompaniment.
The Excessories pure pop for punk people CD (Sympathy)
Pretty faithful to the Fastbacks type of über-poppy punkity
rock. And since they live in LA, this probably means that while
the Fastbacks have been condemned to near obscurity, the Excessories
will end up on a lot of soundtracks thanks to some A&R guy
who's never heard punk rock in any of its original incarnations,
but thinks the singer is cute and sweet on him. The music is very
poppy, happy and danceable if you like to pogo. Pure bubblegum,
well executed and exceedingly irritating if you happen to hate
grown up women who sing like precocious little girls. I can't
imagine anyone with a wisp of testosterone singing along with
this. Honest fellas, it won't get you laid, except by control
hags who sense your weakness. Amusingly, the singer is also the
lead songwriter and sends everyone else's songs to the last tracks
ghetto, even though they are just as good. See what I mean by
"control"? (Margaret Griffis)
Foundation X American Folk Horror CD (Estrus)
Grungy dark hard rock with a good sprinkling of the old southern
rock. Recalls maybe the Unsane with Jon Spencer jamming with 'em.
Sounds good, but not enough is done with it. (Margaret Griffis)
S/T CD (Sundazed) Excellent, dreamy 1969 Capitol psych
LP by a band you'd never guess was from Greenwich Village-though
the Tim Hardin and Bonner-Gordon covers are a tip-off. Leader
Peter Sando only got two songs on the album, but they can hold
their little heads up beside "Hang On To A Dream" and
"Nature Boy." With haunting echoed vocals, a studied
languor and sophisticated arrangements that suggest a looser Zombies,
the record didn't deserve the oblivion it found on first release.
Gasoline Take It To The People CD (Estrus) Wherein
the Japanese trio channel a brutally soulful Detroit primitivism,
weaving thuds and shrieks into a tapestry that reeks of strong
weed and street fighting (or at least affection for the concepts).
Includes four even more reductive songs from the "We Are
Giant "Wishing Bone " + 2 CD EP (Twist) Cocky,
old school bombast & jangle, with bass solos, falsetto hooks
and other signs of an unironic nature, culminating in a song called
"This is Rock" ("the only thing I need/ the only
thing I want"). Shameless, in the best possible way.
Girlband Hey Howdy!! It's CD (Mufferpuff) Pop
can make you weird. Like, if you're two big grown up guys, and
you are pop, you might decide to produce a whole record from the
POV of bitchy little girls who just wanna have slumber parties,
wear training bras and sell the last of these goddamn Girl Scout
cookies so they can go home. The results are bizarre-they don't
sing like little girls, for one thing-but strangely enjoyable.
Gore Gore Girls Up All Night CD (Get Hip) Back
to basics bad girl trio, a little bit Joan Jett, a little bit
Crystals. Nothing earthshaking, but the sha-la-la take on "Keep
Your Hands Off My Baby" is a treat.
Neil Halstead Sleeping on Roads CD (4AD) On his
solo debut, the Mojave 3 leader plies roads previously trod by
Nick Drake, but packs his contemporary cynicism and a friend with
a trumpet. Pretty, if utterly wispy.
The Hamicks "Blow It Out Your Ass" +2 45 (Dropkick)
From the shout-and-bang just-learned-how-to-hold-an-instrument
school of punk rock. Incomprehensible, idiotic, interminable which
are all compliments, of course.
The Hard Feelings "Anytime I Want!" b/w "High
Flying Baby" 45 (Dropkick) Loose and snotty trash rock braggadocio.
The flips' a pre-pop Flamin' Groovies cover played with the right
blend of thud, crunch and wiggle.
Richard Hell Time double CD (Matador) Disk one
is the old Roir cassette collection RIP (Heartbreakers,
three incarnations of the Voidoids, Hell in New Orleans) with
a few worthy bonus cuts, disk two the live and dangerous-sounding
Quine Voidoids in NY and London circa 1977-78. Hell's tricky,
one minute brilliant, the next exasperating. When he was focused
there wasn't another American punk who could come close to his
iconic precision, of which the rough, bug-eyed beauty was merely
the most obvious sign. He was a "real" poet, and seemingly
simple pop songs about girls and dope often conceal existential
cul de sacs and sneaky linguistic bowshots. The Voidoids crafted
a wonderful spiky castle of noise for this wicked little princeling
to prowl, though the bleating vocals and stuttering rhythms make
it an acquired taste. Don't miss: the startlingly soulful "Cruel
Way to Go Down," or the casual evil of "Hurt Me,"
which ought to be assigned for discussion in high schools instead
of that tedious Hannah Arendt book.
The Hellacopters High Visibility CD (Gearhead)
The line between Detroit-style hard rock and irony-free heavy
metal seems to be slipping, and the 'copters have landed on the
side where they keep the hairspray. Don't light a match.
Iggy & the Stooges Wild Love: The Detroit Rehearsals
& More CD (Bomp) If I didn't know better, I'd say Greg
Shaw had a giant chicken heart cross-bred with Stooge cells growing
in a nutrient-rich bath deep in the bowels of Bomp Manor, from
which he occasionally took scrapings for public issue. But Greg's
no mad scientist, just a magnet for rarities, and Iggy freaks
should rejoice at this annotated set of unreleased originals,
covers and best-of excerpts from endless jams. Apparently dating
from the Raw Power through Kill City eras, these
are the loose and dirty shards that inform the finished works,
and weird sidetrips, like Iggy, James Williamson and a drum machine
taking on Dylan's "Ballad of Hollis Brown."
The Impossible Shapes Laughter Fills Our Hollow Dome
CD (Recordhead & Mr. Whiggs) Wonderfully twee post-pop experimentation
fleshed out with melodica and brass, shambling like an especially
friendly monster that's about to soak you with its tongue.
Insta Horn Rim Fury CD EP (Sunday) Insta is mainly
Adam and Catherine Cooper, formerly the Pastry Heroes. Their homegrown
whispery Cardigans-esque pop sound is lush and adept, though no
one song particularly stands out on this EP.
Garland Jeffreys Wild in the Streets (Best of 1977-1983)
CD (Raven) It's long since time I gave this critic's darling
a spin, because he's really good. Jeffreys' quintessentially
New York songs blend reggae, pop, jazz and Latin ingredients into
a persona that's streetwise yet romantic, and never clichéd.
And the vocals are just gorgeous. This chronological comp features
most of the Ghost Writer album, then touches on everything
through Guts for Love, and has really piqued my interest.
Just Farr a Laugh: The Greatest Prank Phone Calls Ever
CD (Failed Pilot) The subtitle on this post-caller ID era
artifact is excessively boastful, but who wants to listen to humble
pranksters? The best prank calls are those where the recipient
is fully engaged in the conversation and urges the caller to ever
greater heights of strangeness. Track 19, which gives this collection
its title, is a delightfully wide-ranging conversation about yogurt
machines, small business and inspirational literature that didn't
hurt anyone's feelings. Other highlights are the exceptional customer
service offered by a supermarket manager when "Isaac Hayes"
calls to complain about being harassed in the parking lot, and
several calls starring Bleachy, a roly poly pleasure seeker who
only wants a chance to serve his country. Good clean fun, with
self-reflexive liner notes.
The Kaisers Shake Me! CD (Get Hip) You can count
on Scotland's Kaisers for time machine-perfect British Invasion
pop, made more impressive by the fact that the lads write all
their songs themselves. The Searchers didn't do that! If your
tastes run to twangy guitars, lovelorn harmonies and clean cut
kicks, the Kaisers are your cuppa tea.
The Lackloves star city baby CD (Rainbow Quartz)
Shimmery early sixties-style pop from Milwaukee, with handclaps,
hooks and harmony to spare.
Ted Leo/ Pharmacists The Tyranny of Distance
CD (Lookout) Martial jangle pop with a splash of Thin Lizzy spunk,
eclectic, sweetly sung (lotsa falsetto), and surprisingly on Lookout.
The Loud Family From Ritual to Romance CD (125)
If Scott Miller had a share of Pepsi stock for every time some
ink-stained wretch called him a genius, he'd still probably be
bitter and more prone to threats of retirement than any three
dinosaur bands combined. Just because you write the smartest pop
lyrics of your generation, and have a master angler's facility
with hooks, and a few thousand people love what you do, that doesn't
mean anything. Scott learned that in the nineties, and
left the gentle fields of Game Theory for pricklier experiments
as the Loud Family. These tapes, recorded on the band's 1996 and
1998 tours, reveal the rough, antagonistic power of the late Louds,
their willingness to take Scott's songs in their teeth and shake
'em silly, all of which made the fundamental prettiness of the
music seem more touching and fragile. With Eno, Pixies and My
Bloody Valentine covers, and a closing salvo that left me breathless
and punching the replay button.
Helen Love Radio Hits 3 CD (Damaged Goods) Like
a tasty pink wad of electro girlie bubblegum punk, wrapped up
in self referential pomo Mobius Strip ribbons stolen off the Shangri-Las,
laid on your doorstep with a note that says "Eat me."
The Love Generation Love and Sunshine: The Best of
CD (Sundazed) On the covers of their three Imperial albums, the
Love Generation looked about as hip as math tutors on a field
trip, but no Calculus geek ever sung as sweetly as the Bähler
brothers. These were the voices that would be tapped to be the
on-record Partridge Family a few years hence, and the treacly
magic was already flowing. Their lush take on prime period themes
like first love, grooviness, summertime sun and finding oneself
is a must for sunshine pop freaks. Pick hit: the glorious "Consciousness
Expansion," where the singer apparently takes a trip into
inner space just from the thrill of renting his first apartment!
This disk compiles most of the deliriously breezy songs from the
Luna Romantica CD (Jetset) Aptly titled collection
of high-gloss guitar and Dean Wareham's precise and yearning expressions.
To be avoided if the "noodles"/ "oodles and oodles"
rhyme scheme is offensive to you.
The Lust-O-Rama Pure Lust CD (Corduroy) Posthumous
release from lightly accented Nordic Pebbles popsters active
through the early '90s, fittingly on an Australian label, since
these cats would have fit just fine on a bill with the Psychotic
Turnbuckles or Lime Spiders. Good screams from Arne Thelin, since
gone on to the Kwyet Kings.
Mach Pelican "Kim Salmon Sessions " 45 (Corduroy)
Charming, English language deficient pop fun. A-side "Airport"
sounds like a sleepy Ramones in their wanna be your boyfriend
mode. The flip's a shaky take on producer Kim's Scientists classic
Martin & Neil Tear Down the Walls CD (Collector's
Choice) Working with fellow Village folkie Vince Martin for this
acoustic 1964 Elektra LP, Fred Neil's darkness is lightened by
Martin's high, gentle tones. The title track is an optimistic
protest number, and Martin does a talking blues about childhood,
while handsome versions of "Morning Dew," "I Know
You Rider" and the original "Wild Child in a World of
Trouble" teem with Neil's signature moodiness. This is an
interesting, transitional snapshot of the late folk-blues revival
just before social consciousness, duos and cover songs yielded
to individual voices.
Jana McCall Slumber CD (Up) The former Seattlite
(she was in Dickless) has retreated to Montana, where she recorded
this spooky, individualistic set. When paired with the Ruby Doe's
intense accompaniment, the clear, fluttering vocals and melancholic
Mello Cads Soft as a Rock CD (Franklin Castle)
In the grand tradition espoused by early Playboy editorials
and the Marquis de Sade, prime Cad David Ponak stakes out his
masculine terrain in a song cycle taking his alter ego "David"
across the emotional landscapes formed by lust and regret. Young
cads sometimes think they need to express themselves through power
chords and shrieking, but cads of a certain age recognize that
channeling Jack Jones, Dick Hyman and Scott Walker is not only
more expressive, but it also grabs the ladies. Paul Williams joins
our troubled troubadour on the bonus version of "The Drifter."
Richard Meltzer, Robert Pollard, Smegma, Antler & Vom
The Completed Soundtrack for the Tropic of Nipples
CD (Off) Okay, pay attention. Not only do you get the Vom "Live
at Surf City" EP (deliriously retarded '78 punk from the
wisest guys in Hollywood), but also recent declaiming by a bemused
Meltzer accompanied by the soaring noise and looped lunacy of
Smegma and GBV's Robert Pollard playing a similar role with Antler.
It's the soundtrack to something or other. I think there's some
extra Vom material which I haven't heard before, but the notes
are cryptic. That's all I can figure out, and I need to take a
damp cloth to the stereo now.
The Mooney Suzuki Electric Sweat CD (Gammon)
We already know what the Mooneys are good at: hard-rocking, stripped-down
Detroitiana delivered with a knee-drop intensity unmatched since
little Michael Jackson tried to shake himself out of his skin.
Well, that and stinky stagewear. And that's great, and we love
them for it. But on their second full-length album the band is
messing with the formula: to wit "The Broken Heart,"
maybe the most stunning piece of original blues to come outta
the garage rock revival ever. Jesus, boys, you already
had our heads, loins and nostrils. Had to steal our hearts, too?
Mr. T Experience ...And the Women Who Love Them
CD (Lookout) Re-issue of the classic EP, but with enough sugary
extras for even the most borderline diabetic to OD on. Re-mastered
along with 19 other tracks that appeared on various collections,
singles, demos and other dark and dank places, this CD-only release
is pretty happening. Is it Poppy Punk or Punky Pop? I'll take
the latter, since most of the time this would sound more at home
at the house party of some "clever" LA hipster than
at Gilman St. (Margaret Griffis)
The Mystaken "Don't Fuck Wiv Me " b/w "Hey
Little Girl " 45 (Corduroy) "Don't Fuck" features
raw, angry vocals over a solid wall of thud, with bassist Maria's
sweet responses offsetting the ire in Sally's lead. A neat sexual
inversion of trad garage conventions, and surprisingly catchy.
The flip's a more diffuse expression of annoyance that makes me
think they're not such hard girls after all.
Fred Neil Bleecker & MacDougal CD (Collector's
Choice) On his second record for Elektra (see Martin & Neil
above), accompanied by John Sebastian and Felix Pappalardi, Neil
soars with all original material and astonishing, open-throated
singing. Blue and hopeful, country and citified, he ties up all
his contradictions so they don't get in his way and stakes his
claim as one of the best singers of the folk revival.
The Paybacks Knock Loud CD (Get Hip) Swaggering,
heartfelt actual Detroit rock & roll, spearheaded by Wendy
Case's raspy, androgynous vocals. Just right for drinking and
driving, not necessarily in that order.
The Pedestrians An Evening At "Pearl's"
Hurricane CD (Bacchus Archives) Recorded live in 1979, this
is supposedly Tucson's very first punk show. Besides the band
and audience, there can't be too many people who will enjoy this,
but at the same time it's strangely intoxicating, and an accurate
portrayal of your typical punk/ wave bar band of the period. Only
five original songs littered among lots of "cool" covers:
Rolling Stones, Ramones, both Elvises. This has seen the light
of day because members including Chris Cacavas went on to play
in Green On Red, Naked Prey or Giant Sand. It was originally released
locally in Tucson last year, but those nutcases at Bacchus saw
fit to bring it to the wider world. (Margaret Griffis)
The Periscopes "Beaver Shot" b/w Happy to
Be" 45 (Bacchus Archives) "Beaver Shot" revels
in its more-than-implied lewdness, a dirty, messy frat rock instro
peppered with off color exclamations. You need it for your jukebox.
The flip is a "Louie Louie" rip off that sounds like
it's being sung in unison by four guys still in the bar at closing
time. Totally retarded, in a good way.
André Popp Popp Musique CD (Tricatel)
The common factor is producer Popp, the ringmaster behind these
twenty giddy, sometimes erotique sixties pop confections. On "L'Homme
Invisible," the invisible man can be heard ravishing some
unsuspecting cutie, possibly Francine Lainé, whose cooing
vocals on "Lolitissimo" are deliciously overdone. Also
features Astrid Gilberto and Claudine Longet, and even Herman's
Hermits get the Popp treatment with the music hall-esque "Years
May Come, Years May Go."
Patrick Porter reverb saved my life CD (Camera
Obscura) These salvaged teenage solo recordings from '96-'97 are
gentle, thoughtful lite-psych explorations wrapped around poetic
lyrics that reward reading. The songs don't really go anywhere,
but the small area they occupy is enticing. "Prodigy"
is a label that alienates everyone involved, so let's just acknowledge
that this is deep, sweet stuff that shows great promise. He's
writing books and playing in Phineas Gage now.
Pretty Girls Make Graves Good Health CD (Lookout)
Driving upbeat punk rock that was popular with the young "new
school" punks a decade ago, but with vocals occasionally
distilled from the X-Ray Spex/Vice Squad/Crass era of feminine
wiles. Think Sonic Youth jamming with Fugazi at the Spoke house.
They play their music like their life depended on it or at least
in order to avoid day jobs (which is way more important than life
itself). The first tune "Speakers Push the Air" is a
classic "hit single" that in a just world should be
getting airplay across the country. It's absolutely perfect. This
is their first full length, but features veterans of the Murder
City Devils, Kill Sadie, the Beehive Vaults, and the Death Wish
Kids. (Margaret Griffis)
Chuck Prophet Homemade Blood LP (Corduroy) Vinyl
reish of the former Green on Red guy's '97 release is full of
loose and confidant rootsy rock and roll in the "been there
and lived to regret it" vein.
Public Nuisance Gotta Survive double CD (Frantic)
To be a public nuisance, you gotta question everything-and then
be self righteous about it, too, right? Well, every one of these
28 refreshing songs recorded from 1966 to 1969 by four black-turtlenecked
Sacramento boys who went from being called the Jaguars to Moss
& the Rocks to Public Nuisance, and finally to Glad, is filled
with questions. Question yourself. Question me. Question what
our bodily functions are doing. Question the Now and the Tomorrow.
Question Charlie. But wait, don't question "love;" question
if you can love your brother and if we can love one another! Nothing
overly preaching here, people. Just groovy heavy exclamations!
Don't question if some of these songs sound a bit like songs you
already know by the Pretty Things or the Seeds. Question if a
re-written imitation of Blue Cheer is the sincerest form of flattery.
What if it sounds even better? Hell, yes! (Kelly Kuvo)
Joey Ramone Don't Worry About Me CD (Sanctuary)
On Joey's first and last solo project, he still delivers. Although
some tunes are reminiscent of the mature ponderings of mid-'80s
Ramones, every tune is delivered in Joey's trademark bubbly yet
no-B.S. style. Choice tracks include the wacked kid show stylings
of "Mr. Punchy," the Kinks-like "Spirit In My House,"
and "Like A Drug I Never Did Before," with Joey affecting
a bit of a Sky Saxon drawl. Plus there are killer covers of the
Stooges' "1969" and Louis Armstrong's "What A Wonderful
World," a personal fave with its "Pretty Vacant"
riff that gives way to Joey singing sweetly of things that make
him enjoy being a boy in love with life. And "I Got Knocked
Down (But I'll Get Up)" is bouncier than a roomful of red
rubber balls. With all the loving attentions of '90s Ramones producer
Daniel Rey, and friends Andy Shernoff, Captain Sensible, Marky
Ramone, and punkette Helen Love, Don't Worry About Me is
an ideal tribute to one of the great bubblerock heroes of all
time. (Jillian Ford)
Tracey Read Everything is Real CD (Chapter) Gentle,
stripped-down songs that pulse with a quiet cynicism belied by
Read's sugary coo. For early mornings and aftermaths.
Reigning Sound Time Bomb High School CD (In the
Red) Slow, sweet, languid and desperate, with pumping retro keys,
subtly witty lyrics and moments of near-hysterical realism. Sincerely
swell rock and roll.
The Resonars Lunar Kit CD (Get Hip) All by his
lonesome, Matt Rendon manages to make some pretty convincing late
'60s psych, though the one-man band thing means he takes his time
between albums. The new one spins off from Bright and Dark's
melancholia with a tougher, garage-punk edge. The constants remain
Matt's sweetly nasal voice, memorable hooks, and an admirable
brevity. Why waste five minutes when you can get your point across
The Risk songs from the big tomato CD (Twist)
Twist mainman Mark Le Gallez' own band is a strutting modish confection
very much in the label's vein, Carnaby Street soul boys with hearts
sewn to sleeves.
RockFour Another Beginning CD (Rainbow Quartz)
Israeli pop-psych combo (singing in English) working a rich vein
of lush, cascading guitar lines and soaring harmonies. Good songs,
The Sadies "Cork & Monkey" + 2 45 CD (Mint)
Jazzy western twang and late night regrets and ruminations, applying
country conventions to a taste for punk and noise to produce something
fresh. Kid Congo guests on one track.
Safe Home You Can't Undo What's Already Undid
CD (Sunday) Dutch duo, with Esther Sprikkelman's round tones mostly
applied to English words. Their gentle sound incorporates organic
and electronic elements with quiet, effective results.
Erik Sanko Past Imperfect, Present Tense CD (Jetset)
The solo debut from longtime Lounge Lizards bassist has a wonderfully
spooky, meandering cartoonishness. Sanko's weak, whispery voice
carries the haunted house pop that teems with twang and mysterious
Peter Schirmann Fluchtweg St. Pauli OST CD (Crippled
Dick Hot Wax) Swinging, nasty crime jazz soundtrack to a 1971
German hooker flick. Sounds range from big, brassy grooves to
batty exotica, big band disco fuzz to a languid harpsichord bossa
nova. Bonus tracks include remixes and Shirmann's theme from Bleib
sauber Liebling, with its ridiculous whining faux-Chinese
Raymond Scott Orchestrette Pushbutton Parfait
CD (Evolver) Loose yet respectful interpretations of the cartoon
soundtrack master's batty work by a seven-piece combo that plays
down the silliness to find and follow strains of classicism, Orientalism,
dada and spy jazz in the repertoire.
The Shakes S/T CD (Teenacide) Jim Freek kicks
off his new label with the long-anticipated debut by the ace Los
Angeles popsters who can't seem to hold onto a drummer. Pete Gilabert's
songs are crunchy and cranky, Janet Housden the perfect foil on
bass and nyaa nyaa harmonies. And don't miss the secret bonus
track, their brilliant arrangement of Britney's "Oops, I
Did It Again" (shh, don't tell Zomba).
Shutdown 66 "Stateside Shutdown" 45 (Corduroy)
The harp never stops wailing on these two slabs of garagey goodness,
enhanced by fine grunts and yelps on the demo version of "Sure
Does Make Me Blue."
The Sires "Beneath Me" b/w "Packing My
Bags" 45 (Corduroy) Contemporary London band working the
time-honored tradition of girl-hating three-chord freakbeat. The
high-pitched vocals on the flip sound like Fred Cole's mom!
Slackjaw Darkest Hour CD (No Karma) This impassioned
Portland three-piece reminds me a lot of early U2, edgy, emotional,
and jangling idealism all over the place.
Songs: Ohia Didn't It Rain CD (Secretly Canadian)
The harmonies on this latest release by the collaboratory body
that is Songs: Ohia do something to alleviate the desperately
lonely sound of Jason Molina's voice, but not so much that it
loses its power. Simple, emotive melodies twine around that brave
instrument, and while the emotional palette is fairly narrow,
the effects are impressive.
sparkle*jets u.k. Bamboo Lounge CD (Crab Apple)
The hardest working act in SoCal pop turns in a breezy set of
harmony-drenched should-be summer radio hits, with the unexpected
jolt of Susan West's outer space bad girl vocals to keep your
ears on their tippytoes. CD-ROM goodies on this classy slab include
an entire burn-your-own live bootleg.
Speedball Baby The Blackout CD (In the Red) Weirdo
slow blues shot through with smutty free-association, chicken-killing
shrieks, layers of chunky texture and a warm, organic flow that
keeps things taut and interesting.
The Spoils Hurtsville CD (Corduroy) Seems the
alt-country bug has been biting Australians, too. These laconic,
lap steel-drenched ruminations on love, loss and being a louse
have a kinda Stonesy swagger that I dig.
Stereophonic Space Sound Unlimited Jet Sound Inc.
CD (Dionysus) Releasing this set of witty spy-jazz-gone-surfin'
originals seems a gutsy act in the post-post-lounge era. The perfect
backdrop for that unironic tiki party.
The Stratford 4 The Revolt Against Tired Noises
CD (Jetset) There's plenty of invention and variety on this brainy
pop disk (from SF, not Blighty), which veers from soft and fuzzy
romanticism to edgy Richmanesque yearning, often with a secondary
set of sounds distinct from the main melody, suggesting an emotional
language running on a parallel track.
Nikki Sudden & Dave Kusworth Jacobites CD
and Robespierre's Velvet Basement double CD (Secretly Canadian)
The Jacobites could have been the most contrived band to come
out of England since (fill in the blank), but somehow their velvet
jacket pretensions combined to make something magical. It certainly
didn't hurt that Nikki and Dave each had a marvelous way with
melody, imbuing their simple tales of debased nobles and impossible
girls with an epochal, timeless quality. These first two Jacobites
records-Secretly Canadian will be reissuing all of Nikki's '80s
output-recall a time when poets were drunken reprobates who had
to roll in the gutter to come up with something beautiful, something
that was all the more striking for the foul milieu in which it
emerged. No, not the sixties, at least not the nineteen
sixties. Good-bad, but not evil, the Jacobites troll the dark
streets of the psyche in search of gems like "Hearts are
Like Flowers"-where the boys recognize that "you'll
do things in your life that'll change someone more than you'll
ever change yourself"-caught on tape for the ages. If you
missed these scarf-draped troubadours first time around, don't
miss them now. Old fans will find plenty of bonus tracks, and
Nikki's somewhat revealing liner notes.
The Thanes One night as I wandered on the Moors The
best of double LP (Corduroy) The Thanes have been plying their
trade since 1986 in the semi-obscurity befitting an Edinburgh
act that never moved to London. When I finally got to see them
at the second Las Vegas Grind they knocked me out, so it's neat
to have so much of their history in one place. Here are 27 fine
selections demonstrating that ebullient or moody, fuzzy or precise,
Lenny Helsing's band can always be counted on to take the basic
garage conventions and turn them into something personal and exciting.
Kevin Tihista's Red Terror Judo CD (Parasol)
Despite several attempts (hey, I'm usually a sucker for this kinda
stuff), I couldn't get anywhere with K.T.'s debut, Don't Breathe
a Word. But this time out I had more fun with the baroque,
orchestral arrangements, whispery vocals and loopy tunes. I still
don't quite get it, but am keeping it around for future reference.
Tren Brothers & Sister "Swing Pts. 1 &
2" 45 (Chapter) Ghostly instrumental act conjuring up a thick,
dark mood with scuttering drums, sighing violin and precise guitar
(by Mick Turner), repeatedly building to subdued explosions and
Townes Van Zandt A Gentle Evening With CD (Dualtone)
Townes, then 25, played Carnegie Hall in 1969, and the tape got
lost in the vaults. Unearthed, it proves a brief yet striking
look at the bard's earliest live approach, already mingling heartbreakingly
gorgeous songs ("Rake," "Tecumseh Valley")
with rambling jokes and (possibly ad libbed) talking blues numbers.
The only original that'll be new to fans is "Talking KKK
Blues," but with fine performances and slightly altered picking
from the recordings, the old stuff is well worth hearing.
V/A Born out of Time: The Australian Indie Sound
1979-88 CD (Raven) One of two interesting Radio Birdman-axis
Aussie comps to land in my PO Box in the same week (see Do
The Pop below), the Raven set mostly offers influential 45s
from the Citadel, Waterfront and Au-Go-Go labels, with some inevitable
overlap. Either collection is a good introduction to a vibrant
scene, and you need this one to get Angie Pepper's luminous "Frozen
V/A Can't Stop It!: Australian Post-Punk 1978-82
CD (Chapter) Australia's big enough for sounds bred elsewhere
than Detroit, hence this interesting comp full of arty synth lines,
cryptic symbolism, bleating vocalists and other signs of the neo-futurist
times. Put together by folks who were there, Can't Stop It!
blends scarce singles and unreleased and live recordings, including
"Help" by the Apartments (refuge of banished Go-Between
Peter Milton Walsh), and selections from Slugfuckers, Primitive
Calculators, Ron Rude and People With Chairs Up Their Noses.
V/A Deep Note: Music of 1970's Adult Cinema CD
(O.S.T. Grammofonpladen) Entertaining sampler of raunchy jazz,
analog synth noodling, sound effect-drenched pop and spoken word
interludes distinguished by their relentlessly enthused amateurism.
Films sourced include Orgasmatron 75, Diary of a Horny Housewife,
and The X-orcist.
V/A Do the Pop! The Australian Garage-Rock Sound
1976-87 double CD (Shock) If you weren't haunting the import
bins for Rob Younger-produced Citadel 45s in the '80s, count on
this fifty-track comp to yield repeated revelations. Unlike some
regional compendiums that try to represent bands with one song,
curator Dave Laing gives a great act like Younger's New Christs
three chances to knock you sideways. Disk one is slightly more
garagey, spinning off from the twin impacts of Radio Birdman and
the Saints through rare gems by the Psycho Surgeons, Fun Things,
Lipstick Killers and Scientists. Disk two introduces the Died
Pretty's homegrown psychedelia, Lime Spiders' '60s punk primitivism,
and the sublimely catchy Eastern Dark. With plenty of lesser-known
acts like the Decline of the Reptiles, Someloves and Headstones,
rare photos and fliers, informative liner notes and great ears
informing the selection, this one's a solid joy. Recommended.
V/A Live from the Masque CD (Bacchus Archives)
Well, not exactly: this is a sampler from the two-night February
'78 Masque benefit show at the MacArthur Park Elks' Lodge recorded
on 4-track by Geza X. Lo-fi and historic, featuring the Weirdos,
Bags, Germs, Skulls, Eyes, Dickies, F-Word, Alleycats, Zeroes,
Randoms and Black Randy doing 1-3 songs each. Appearing at the
shows but not represented here were the Dils, Controllers, Deadbeats,
Shock, Arthur "J", X and Flesheaters. Pick hit: the
Eyes' pogo-perfect "Go Go Bee."
V/A Teen Feeding Frenzy! A Tribute to the Music Teens
Love CD (Go-Kustom) Bubblegum / teen idol covers comp with
styles encompassing punk, pop, country, industrial and just plain
weird. What comes out is each band's affection for the source
material and the fun they're having in the reworking.
V/A A Tribute to Nashville CD (Mint) Corn Sister
Carolyn Marks and her pal Dave Lang are obsessed with the movie
Nashville, and having forced most of their musician friends
to watch it, compelled them to mount it as a stage show, and later
to record this tribute. This disk features pretty much every celebrated
Vancouverite in a down home vein, with music, dialogue and liner
notes directing the listener to rent the DVD. That slowpoke Bangers
& Mash bassist keeps promising to loan me his copy-maybe he'll
hurry up if I offer this in trade?
V/A What's the Use?!: 12 Tales of Teen Torment LP
(Corduroy) Tribute to the recently deceased Dean Mittelhauser,
publisher of The Living End fanzine and promoter of lost
Aussie sounds. The comp is drawn from his collection of rare acetates,
and is strong throughout. Highlights: the Unknowns' unusual blend
of surf drums and jangly guitars, a wonderfully inept and shambling
attempt by the Rockin' Rogues, the soulful Pleazers, and strange
and rather lovely call-and-response mood piece by the Liv'n' End.
The LP winds up with a truly unbelievable track: the apparently
pre-adolescent Leprechauns singing "I think we should make
Volumizer gaga for gigi CD (Mint) That rare successful
blend of tough and sweet, post-punk guitar seasoned with tuneful
girl harmonies, neither overwhelming the other.
The Waistcoats Stark Raving Mod! CD (Wildebeest)
This Dutch neo-garage trio crosses between instro and vocal stylings,
throwing some surfy guitar into the raw and crunchy mix. Covers
include Jimmy Page's early "She Just Satisfies" and
an (inevitably) somewhat redundant "Can't Explain."
Fine for fruggers.
The Waistcoats Live @ KUT 90.5 FM 45 EP (Wildebeest)
Stopping off in Austin for a morning radio gig in 2001, the band
sounds subdued on these four melodic, organ-drenched numbers,
including an Outsiders' cover. Wonder what they sounded like the
The Williams Brothers Andy & David CD (Varèse)
This previously unreleased 1974 LP was made by the bowl-cutted
twins under Michael Lloyd's and Don Costa's wings. In a precursor
of his successful model for Shaun Cassidy, Lloyd trots out established
Top 40 classics just creaky enough to be new to kids and nostalgic
to their folks. The brothers' sweet harmonies blend with Costa's
arrangements into a wonderfully sunny, youthful sound, pure teenybop
time capsule. Pick hit: "Every Other Sunday," a startlingly
topical song about kids torn apart by divorce.
Gary Wilson You Think You Really Know Me CD (Motel)
It's good to live in a world where people take the trouble to
do such a handsome reissue of a New Wave outsider art object like
Gary Wilson's album. Maybe they will even make money-after all,
Beck name checked him. Gary Wilson is a lovable freak you wanna
keep at arm's length. From there you can gape at him grunting
about timeless concerns like girls, kissing and dirty parties
over a percolating backwash of synthesizers and funky bass. Imagine
a retarded Steely Dan crossed with John Trubee if he ever let
himself believe one of those snooty college girls might let him
touch her tit. "6.4 = Make Out" especially is brain
damaged perfection. When lured out of musical retirement-the scuttlebutt
is he's been working in a "24 hour bookstore"-for an
early Knitting Factory Hollywood set in June, Wilson blew every
mind in the room by coming out coated in flour and making violent
love to a pair of nude mannequins, while a duct-tape wrapped manservant
regularly emerged to whiten him further. His voice sounded even
better than on the record, and you could almost taste the charisma
oozing off of him. The backing band was tremendous, but they couldn't
detract from the evening's clear star, still channeling insane
passion for girls who might even be grandmas by now. One of the
best half hours of rock and roll I've ever witnessed, and lets
hope it's not his last.
Link Wray & the Wraymen Slinky! The Epic Sessions
'58-'61 double CD (Sundazed) Here's every little thing the
raunchy string-bender and his trio waxed for Epic in the "Raw-Hide"
era, including 17 unreleased tracks. Those slow and nasty instros
are what put Link on the map, but don't miss the scattering of
nutso vocal turns. Batty good stuff.
The Yardbirds Reunion Jam CD (Mooreland Street) Taken from some
early nineties shows the Dreja/McCarty Yardbirds played in London, this set
shows the group sticking close to the raw sound fans dig, yet clearly stretching
out and enjoying themselves. This sounds a lot more like the Yardbirds than
you'd ever expect, given the absence of all those famous guitarists and Keith
Neil Hamburger live in Los Angeles September 15-16, 2000
by Kim Cooper
The news of comic Neil Hamburger's recent national tour caused a wave of excitement to sweep the states. It's been a long time since he left the Motel 6 circuit to play larger clubs in big cities, and his fans have missed him. Strangely, in Los Angeles Neil was not appearing at the Comedy Store, Laugh Factory or Igby's, but at the rock club Spaceland and at Over Hear, some kind of avant garde gallery space in Echo Park.
Neil's fans didn't let the offbeat locations keep them from seeing their fave funnyman, and the room was filled to capacity for the first performance at Spaceland. In fact, there wasn't a parking place to be found within eight blocks, and your editrix had to avail herself of the valet if she was to make it inside before the show began. Apparently some people were there to see a rock group called Trans Am, but the front couple of rows were all Neil-o-maniacs-including movie star and comedian Jack Black, taking mental notes to improve his own act.
The excitement in the air was palpable, as people craned their necks looking for the man who had brought them so many laughs (and tears) with his recorded works. Because Neil has never sat for a proper photo session, no one was quite sure what he looked like. Had he grown haggard since his recent divorce? Would we find him at the bar?
Finally, the stage door opened and Neil himself was standing, drink in hand, surveying his crowd. He was smaller than I expected, with greasy hair in what might have been a comb-over, big thick glasses like my English uncle Dennis wears, and a mismatched dark suit with dusty loafers. Any doubts as to his identity were dispelled as soon as he opened his mouth, and that whining delivery wafted like sour magnolias over the mic.
Coughing sporadically (Neil explained "I have cancer"), he began a series of new and familiar jokes and stories that soon had the audience reacting quite violently. A blonde woman off to the right interjected regularly with comments and catcalls (more about her later), and two young men right in front of Neil yelled something that sounded like "my choice!" repeatedly. Some people were laughing, others wincing, as Neil ran through a relaxed set that touched on such subjects as Teletubby penis grafts, the Red Hot Chili Peppers' love of heroin, Mormons and anal sex, and of course Princess Diana.
At one point Neil refused to finish a joke as a punishment for one heckler--"I'm not going to tell you the punchline, loudmouth!"--and he didn't. When the audience pelted him with dimes, he pocketed them happily. The "my choice!" guys were getting more and more rowdy, and one of them finally moved to climb onto the low stage and accost Neil. With an athlete's grace, Neil emptied his drink in the kid's face and called for a refill, and his antagonist immediately backed down.
The night ended on a high note with the celebrated Zipper Shtick, leaving at least one audience member red-faced yet proud at being singled out for Neil's unique brand of comic humiliation. Then Trans Am came out, and they didn't have any jokes, so I didn't see any reason to hang around. Besides, I needed my rest if I was going to be fresh for the second night of Neil Magic!
The Spaceland show was fun, but Neil was in looser form the following night at Over Hear, and of the two this show was my favorite. Apparently his appearance was preceded by a mariachi band (who I missed) and some young rappers who jumped around in the manner of gibbons. The place was an art gallery, all righty--you could tell by the white walls, concrete floor, and all the pretty kids from Art Center milling around in their polyester finery. Professor Mayo Thompson was also spotted (with some difficulty, since he was all in white and blended into the room), as was comedy fan Don Bolles. The show ran late, and by the time Neil stepped onto the stage from the small door leading back to the beer garden, there were at least a hundred people who had that "make me laugh, goddamit" look on their faces.
Maybe Neil underestimated his own popularity, because quite a bit of his set was repeated from the night before. Unfortunately, the blonde blabbermouth from Spaceland had come to the second show--with his act memorized! As soon as the repeat jokes started coming, she began yelling out the punchlines during Neil's pauses. He tried to ignore her for as long as he could, then finally snarled "Why don't you come up and introduce yourself, you little bitch?" Rumor was that she was a friend of Neil's wife. It is conceivable that the Culver City resident might have sent a friend to interfere with her ex-husband's local performances. Neil was onto her, though, and started changing his punchlines to make her look dumb. While this did make the jokes less amusing, it successfully shut up his heckler.
When the audience yelled "How's your wife?" Neil admitted he had agreed not to talk about her in exchange for all his Raw Hamburger royalties and a guarantee that she wouldn't sue him for slander. But since Jesus hasn't sued him yet, he could say anything he liked about that guy. I wouldn't want to repeat any of the foul things Neil said about some folks' Lord and Savior, so let's just say that true believers might want to think twice before attending one of his performances.
An effort to make a joke at Elian Gonzalez' expense fell flat when Neil, who's spent most of the last year in Australia, mispronounced the kid's name. He quickly reclaimed the room by intoning his celebrated "That's my life!" catchphrase a few times, and riffing on Princess Diana. Who doesn't love a good Diana joke?
Neil wrapped things up with a long, relatively hilarious story about Anthony Kiedis' repeated visits to a local bar in search of heroin. The punchline when it finally came had the audience clutching their sides, which were aching with convulsive laughter. Neil Hamburger slipped out the door before anyone realized he was gone, and we all returned to our workaday lives, each one a little changed from having spent some special time in the company of America's Funnyman, Neeeeeeeeeeeiiiiiillllll Haaaaaammmmmmmburger!
About Scram #13: The cover cutie's Janet Klein, and she leads a naughty old timey ensemble called The Parlor Boys. Plus Hub Kapp & the Wheels, Mooney Suzuki, guys who sing like girls, The Frantics, Mark Farner, Red Planet, Gene Sculatti on the Top 10 "next Dylans," the final days of the Kahiki tiki restaurant, Shocking Blue, Neil Hamburger live. Wanna own the magazine in which this and so many other nifty stories appear? Pick up Scram #13