December 2008

Smashing Taboos part 2 . . .

As the war ravages the Middle East and seems to drain all hope from it's inhabitants, little pockets of hope and resistance are popping up here and there. They do not fight with guns or bombs, they do not fight with violence, instead it is music and expression that serve as their weapons. And perhaps it is hopeless and perhaps it is foolhardy, but still, they persevere and live life without regret or fear, pushing forward to create things that they can most certainly be put to death for. Yesterday, I wrote about an up and coming all-female rock band operating against all odds in the heart of Saudi Arabia. But for all they must overcome, there is one thing they do not have to face: a constant war raging all around them. Deep within Baghdad, as violence and death pervades their very way of life, a heavy-metal band known as Acrassicauda sprung up.

Smashing Taboos

How do you create art when it is very likely that everyone is conspired against you? I have played in bands since I was 12 years old. I have struggled with parents and neighbors, and on the rare occasion police for the chance to rock. It had always seemed like a struggle, like I was part of a revolution in my own small way. But truly, was it the rock they were stifling, or merely the rebelliousness of a typical American teenager. I may never know. However, the Internet is a buzz and word has reached my ears of something truly extraordinary. Something revolutionary in every sense of the world. Taboo breaking and inspiring. Everything that rock and roll should be. In the kingdom of Saudi Arabia there is a metropolitan city known as Jidda. Within that city, the strict laws of public decency and morals have become somewhat lax allowing for incredible things to happen. Things like the makings of a genuine rock scene. But even more incredible is a little band called The Accolade. Saudi Arabia is a country where women rarely appear without their faces covered. Their testimony in court is seen as presumption, not fact.

Differentiating Psychotic Reactions

Having listened to Nuggets one too many times, the track included on the first volume by the Count Five, "Psychotic Reactions," is probably the most heralded cult track from that substance drenched period of music. Part of its mystic qualities have to do with it being canonized as a result of one Lester Bangs' unrequited love for it. A compendium of his writing, released posthumously, used the name of that track as its title.

Ska, Ska, Ska: Green Room Rockers

The history of American ska is rife with foreigners and influence from other countries. It should be of course, but the transitions between disparate movements within this one genre are just as plain convoluted.

Bucket Hingly, a Brit born singer and leader of The Toasters, helped create the ground work for touring ska bands during the ‘80s. And even if his subsequent work has been spotty – if not occasionally inspired – he did help combine ska and more aggressive musics. It’s a lesson not lost on a great deal of bands playing either ska or reggae today in this nation.

A Reatard's Reatard

The busiest man in punk – or lo-fi, or rock, or whatever you want to call it – is Jay Reatard. Hands down.

He hasn’t always been the name sake and lead man in his acts – well he was in the Reatards. But the Lost Sounds and a number of other more electronic inspired groups have helped Reatard stake a claim to being one of the most revered musicians spewing this kinda rock music right now.

He maintains a hectic work schedule and just this past year released enough singles to have them splayed out in the semblance of a full length on the almighty Matador Records.

Cope's Album of the Month: Gunslingers

Setting trends in music is reserved for a very few specific people. And for whatever reason, Julian Cope has become one of them.

After taking part in numerous bands as well as solo recordings, Cope’s Head Heritage serves as a rock music culture catch all – anything pertaining to psych, kraut or fuzz get’s a fair shot at coverage on Cope’s site.

One of the most useful features of Head Heritage is the Album of the Month. It’s pretty much self explanatory, but on a monthly basis, Cope chooses a disc that he finds has struck him in an all so special way. This month, he features a French group called Gunslingers. In his lengthy description of the band, Cope associates some of their work with the German band Faust.

What a Wilco Wants

Some know Jay Bennett from his tenure as guitarist in a Chicago band called Wilco. I’m sure that there’s some sensible reason for leaving that group – probably something to do with playing what he wants, when, but quitting one of the most popular and well respected rock groups in the country always raises some questions.

Dusted's Cooper Checks Some Punk for 2008

Dusted Magazine, like every other publication on the face of the earth, has been going through the motions of posting list after list during the month of December.

Most of these lists – not unique to Dusted – seem at best to be filled with the same five records or the same names of films and publications. Luckily for you, dearest readers, Talya Cooper has put together a list of punk related records that she feels haven’t been given quite the exposure that they deserve.

A Very Psych Christmas

The Wooden Shjips are a band that you should have heard of by now. Their music is the intersection of repetitive motifs, blurry psych, droney organs and punk melodicism. They’ve been releasing music for the better part of five years or so, put out a full length and this past year a compilation disc on Holy Mountain collecting their singles tracks.

And since they’re such good guys, the quartet have a present for you. Originally, the band produced a limited quantity of a tape only single for the holidays. It was only made up of a scant two tracks, but both were aimed at keeping listeners in the holiday spirits. It’s odd though that even with that holiday intention, the Shjips were able to maintain their trademark sound on a couple of seasonal tracks.

The Punk Club

There’s a really interesting feature of religion – it doesn’t jive too well with individuality or independence in a lot of ways. So because of that for a great deal of time punk and religion were separate clubs. There’s no way of pin pointing the exact moment that the two came together, but it no doubt had something to do with Straight Edge and Hardcore – a by product that Ian MacKaye probably didn’t have in mind.

Of late, there has been a great deal of talk – now bubbling up to the mainstream media – of the intersection of Islam and punk. And yes, I know that that sounds like a conceptual odd couple, but don’t let that get to you.

More of Moore's Lists

Being Thurston Moore has to be a rather tiring gig. You front Sonic Youth with your wife, who you have a daughter with, you released a solo disc this year apart from S.Y., you’ve printed a No Wave photo book, write the Bull Tongue column for Arthur, own Ecstatic Peace (it’s a record label) and then make this list of sweet swag from the past year. Even if you don’t care for half of what’s on that list, you have to admit, it’s pretty impressive.

Satanic Majesty's Request: Pentagram

Even though it only took Pentagram a year after its formation to record a single, their first full length took another ten years and change.

The never ending rotation of musicians in and out of the group probably contributed to the groups’ erratic recording schedule. But even with that, Pentagram remains a revered early ‘70s band that’s often credited with taking the Black Sabbath model and moving it forward.

Coupled with the sound of Sabbath, a strong Blue Cheer sound was evident – a kind of blues metal, more overt than Sabbath’s.

A Schlarb Family Christmas

Chris Schlarb and his various projects – including I Heart Lung – aren’t generally thought of for their traditional song craft. But as a Christmas present to listeners and fans, Schlarb and his family have put together a present.

On his website, there’s a zip file of holiday songs that include four tracks. His family sings on a three of them – Christmas standards of course. It’s a heartfelt and personal way by which Schlarb thanks listeners. Tracks one, two and four are nothing short of endearing.

Track three though, with Schlarb all alone on acoustic guitar for his rendition of “Silent Night” sets the guitarist in musical venue listeners aren’t familiar with. This song finds Schlarb working with a very traditional melody.

The Black Lips and Numbers

Having been around for almost a decade, the Lips have had ample opportunity to record and tour their twisted brand of ‘60s pop cum sloppy ‘90s garage rave ups. Beginning their full length recording career with Bomp! Records in 2000, the band has met with their fair share of adversity, but they’ve managed to push through it to become one of the most admired and desired underground rock acts currently touring.

They’ve released three albums in as many years amidst frantic touring – I think that I’ve seen them play three shows – and I’m sure that I’ve missed a couple. But with that comes the inherent criticisms. And I have to say that out of all of their recordings, the 2005 Let it Bloom, on In the Red, is easily the record that best represents their sound.

The Knitting Factory's Gonna Have a New Address

When Tonic closed in April of 2007, New York lost an indispensible outlet for creative music that might not have had other avenues. It was an historical venue, even considering its rather short lifetime as a club.

The Knitting Factory doesn’t play the same role as Tonic did, but this coming New Year’s Eve will find that venue closing its doors as well. In the next week and some change, there are five scheduled shows, including the Three Floors of Ska event which was previously described here.

Dance Craze

Merging lounge, soul rhythm and blues with ska and reggae made for Hepcat’s ability to take to title of rightful ruler during much of the nineties. After the release of Right on Time there was a line-up shift. But that shift only allowed the group to come back in 2000 with Push ‘n Shove. Although critically, that album may not have faired as well as previous releases, fans found that disc a welcomed step forward for the group – there were even a few dub inspired interludes that allowed the band to further delve through Jamaican musical history.

But since that time, little has been heard from Hepcat. There are sporadic gigs in and around L.A., sometimes at the Bluebeat Lounge – which is run by scene veteran and songwriter Chris Murray.

Warped Tour Acts

As we get ever closer to 2009, more and more performances are being solidified in an attempt to make this year’s festivals better than years past.

Warped Tour, now in its fifteenth year, has gone through a great deal of changes since the mid ‘90s. Now sporting more commercially known artists – no more Suicidal Tendencies – the festival hasn’t begun pandering to the lowest common denominator as of yet. Bad Religion is still a yearly staple. As are the Bouncing Souls.

But in the last decade and a half, both of those bands have undergone a great deal of financial success. That’s not a problem, but the Bouncing Souls fifteen years ago was a different animal.

Intellectual Tonguing: Coley and Moore Goto Town

In the pages of Arthur Magazine, every issue is a column that can’t have it’s worth nearly estimated. The column is immense, dense, disjointed and hugely informational.

Thurston Moore (who some of you may know from Sonic Youth – maybe) and his cohort Byron Coley, compile a massive listing of new (-ish) music, books and magazines that they find useful and interesting enough to pass along to readers called in “Bull Tongue.”

The real Bull Tongue – it’s a plant - grows in shallow water and gets to be rather high from the surface. Only the later can be levied against our two scribes here.

The Majesty of Elves: Darker Developments

The Elephant 6 Collective out of Athens, Georgia has a weird and mysterious vibe about them. Some of the associated groups have gone on to garner a great deal of attention – that’s an overt Of Montreal reference. But no matter what the more famous associates of the collective are up to, perhaps no other band represents the basic musical tenants of the second crop of E6 artists more than Elf Power.

They have an occasionally dark and melancholy sound most fully realized on their full length Back to the Web, released on Warner subsidiary Rykodisc in 2006. 2008 though brought a new offering from the group. And at this late date in December, Elf Power has announced a plan devised with fellow Athenian Vic Chestnut.

The New Dan Auerbach

Whether or not you value the music of the Black Keys, they’ve come to hold a very specific cultural importance. And even though the White Stripes are Midwesterners (they hail from the Detroit enclave of rock and roll), it seems as if the Black Keys are considered the bluesier Midwest version of those red and white clad international pop stars. Kind of a bizarre contrast seeing as there isn’t any great distinction between the two – or at least there are countless similarities.