February 2009

The More You Know: Internet Criticism

As a sort of companion piece to a previous post detailing a few absolutely indispensible mp3 blogs, what follows is a brief round up of sites that detail music and art news. Not specifically rock based, each blog has a unique perception of the subjects covered. And even if you won’t find news on the latest Vivian Girls tour (thank god), you’re gonna find something a bit more than enjoyable to read.

Alarm Press

A (Stolen) Video History of Black Flag

The development of punk in America wouldn’t have taken place if not for the Ramones and the rest of the loosely affiliated CBGB’s crew. But the bands that came after the Ramones, inspired by their nonsensical simplicity and shocking intensity, were the ones that created the independent music network that exists in the country to this day. If not for that second crop of punk bands, the DIY ethic couldn’t have been spread through the nation. And as a result, whatever underground band you might like, probably would’ve had a tougher time getting exposure if they existed at all.

Appropriations: Messiah

***As a disclaimer, I’m not of the Christian faith, so any portion of this that is inaccurate is purely accidental and shouldn’t be considered an affront to ya’ll.

Handel’s Messiah is probably one of the most famous and easily recognizable classical compositions ever performed – trust me, you know the “Hallelujah” chorus. Handel’s work, written in 1741 and first performed the following spring in Dublin, recounts the life of Jesus. It’s parsed into three sections, the first detailing the Christmas story, section two recounts the Passion and the third part is reserved for John the Revelator.

Leaping: Seth Walker

It’s odd that some genres that have seen their hey-day come and go still maintain a rather vibrant, yet ignored scene. The height of RnB could be figured to be anywhere between the ‘50s and the early ‘70s. Bands claiming an RnB lineage by the later half of that time frame were occasionally known to just be disco bands aping a tag to get them over – not that anyone can blame them, but…

Current RnB sits closer to pop ballads with some beautiful woman (or man, I suppose) being pushed out in front of some hired guns to perform a song that a writer in a tiny office somewhere put on paper. Even with such travesties occurring daily, there are proponents of the genre to try and push back against some of the nonsense.

Kawabata x Seiichi x Odom

I’ve been writing a lot about what’s been dubbed Japrock. Take a look HERE for a brief overview or over HERE to read a bit about a band called People. Of course lumping together any group of musicians based solely upon the place from which they come is a grievous mistake. That term, Japrock, really encompasses any number of aural aesthetics that have in some way been tied to Japanese rock bands. The proto metal abandon of the Flower Travellin’ Band is surely different from the aforementioned People. But for the sake of ease as we’ll have to deal with it.

The Obeah Man: Exuma

I’m gonna go ahead and offer a challenge. Name a singer from the Bahamas. I know that personally, I can name two, but only two. One of those folks is Exuma. In his obscurity rests a part of his seemingly mystical personage. In reality, though, he was just a man. But a man that had the ability to summon some other worldly spirits during his performances.

The More You Know: MP3 Blogs

If you’ve spent more than five minutes on the internet anytime within the last decade, it’s more than likely that at some point, you’ve downloaded music. It’s not my place, nor my prerogative to figure if that act of obtaining music via the internet is morally objectionable or not. But I can, perhaps, point in the direction of some sites that don’t have any qualms with sharing music.

Bolacha Gratis

Electric Banana: As Suggestive As Their Name....

Being predicated upon the notion that the Pretty Things represented as many things about the Brit rock explosion as anyone, the band embodies as much as any other group the beginnings of what would become British punk a decade later. As mentioned in nearly every write up of the band, Dick Taylor, the band’s guitarist, briefly played with an early line up of the Rolling Stones. But even if that nugget of information wasn’t actually true, the Pretty Things were a revved up blues band in a way that the Stones couldn’t ever achieve. The Pretty Things just didn’t have their song craft down pat.

Big Boy Pete and His Psychedelia

London, during the ‘60s, must have been a rather weird place. Early in the decade Mods ran around hopped up on pills, racing scooters and the like. And as the decade progressed, more and more influence from not just the States, but the East and the immigrant population began to state its import.

Big Boy Pete – nee Pete Miller – began recording as the Beatles were still singing about holding girl’s hands and the Stones couldn’t put a record out without the assistance of at least a few blues covers. And even if Pete had decided to include a few choice nods back at his musical heroes, the sounds that he managed to coax out of his studio would have surely kept his work at odds with the trends of the time.

Glenn Jones x John Fahey

For whatever reason, John Fahey has become a part of current musical trends after a few decades in the recesses of whatever Americana became in the ‘80s. Of course his guitar style is and should always be lauded, but there are a great many newer acts that have sought to incorporate the ghost of Fahey into their own work – I’m lookin’ at you Ben Chasney. If only they’d started a bit earlier, it may have been reasonable to attempt some sort of project with Fahey. But of course, his death in 2001 has precluded that.

People (The Band) Meets Western Psych

There’s no shortage in the record bins of history of bands that merge Eastern and Western influences. John McLaughlin is one of the most famous guitarists in the world and this confluence is really how he made his mark – I guess playing with Miles Davis didn’t hurt too much though.

This combination of rock troupes and Eastern spirituality, though, is what the band People based its music on. Never heard of ‘em? Not too surprising. I hadn’t either until yesterday on their 1971 offering Ceremony (Buddha Meet Rock).

Kinda Late: Pete Seeger

Every school aged youth in the United States at some point during high school is required to read The Crucible by Arthur Miller. And while Miller’s life was probably interesting enough to write about in a traditional manner – he was married to Marilyn Monroe after all – the historical correlations that the play write drew between the ‘50s, McCarthyism and the Salem Witch Trials was apt to say the least.

Mixing: Iron and Wine

Hearing Sam Beam for the first time can be revelatory, especially if you were privy to those first two albums around their initial release dates. In 2002 The Creek Drank the Cradle preceded much of the folk insurgence that’s cropped up over the last five years or so. But Beam’s brand of folk isn’t mired in dated psychedelic clichés or littered with nonsensical lyrics. If anything, he’s poetic in a manner that has escaped many in the pursuit of authenticity. While his songs are frequently tied to love and loneliness, the emotive quality in his often double tracked vocals surpasses pretty much every band that pays for studio time. Don’t forget this first disc was recorded in totality by Beam.

Beyond the Planet of the Softs: Elton Dean

Music of every hue was transformed by the 1960s. No genre was left unaffected by the political and social upheaval of that decade. Not just in the states, but across Europe and the rest of the world, musicians sought a new sort of freedom – or at least combinations of styles – by which to express themselves. The old forms – classical music, jazz, folk and blues – were revitalized by visionaries who frequently alienated audiences by managing vast leaps in style and substance throughout those ten years or so. And it was during these years that saxophonist Elton Dean became a fixture in the British jazz scene.

Bomp!: It's Alive!

It would be difficult to summarize the importance of Greg Shaw in a book, little lone a rather short article. But here it goes.

Shaw, being a fan of ‘60s pop and garage began publishing various zines in and around San Francisco when he was growing up. Eventually, that led him down the coast to Los Angeles where he continued publishing, this time in the form of Bomp! Magazine. In that pages of Bomp! appeared countless names that would soon be at the vanguard of music - Lester Bangs, Greil Marcus and Richard Meltzer. Shaw’s ability to assess talent in writers was a gift that he would find transferring rather easily to music and musicians.

Pterodactyl: Not the Dead Ones

In ones life there need to remain constants. Not to say that playing music and crossing the nation a few times provides anything close to a sure bet, but every time one ventures out to a club to a see a band for the second, fourth or eighth time, there is something intangible and reassuring when those familiar musicians take the stage. And even in Cleveland (which is most likely nicer that whatever the reader may imagine), bands return again and again. Sometimes to the same crowd, sometimes to bigger venues, but that feeling always creeps back, like the dirty water in Erie to the shore.

Thee Oh Sees Hit Thee Roade

John Dwyer has created a pretty dense catalog of music over the last decade and he really shows no sign of altering his approach or letting up at all. Most notably, one of the constant members of the Coachwhips, Dwyer worked that group to countless frenzied performances and a few recordings as well. Having that catalog of dirty electric blues and Velvet Underground stomp, Double Death was assembled to include various live performances as well as some pretty decent covers. Unfortunately, Narnack Records released the cd/dvd combo to celebrate a career cut short.

The Nuge x Craziness

With Valentine’s Day ever approaching, I’m sure that everyone has had Ted Nugent at the forefront of their mind for days now. And why not, he’s such a cuddly guy. Whether you love him for his knee jerk political views or his defiant need to own a shit ton of weaponry, there are few figures springing from the annals for American rock music that so surely need to be included in your Valentine’s Day plans this coming Saturday.

And because the Nuge already knew that, he’s put together the track list for that compilation you were planning to give to your loved one. Along side gems from Howlin’ Wolf, the Stones, Otis Redding and Percy Sledge are songs from Cheap Trick and a few too many tunes from the Nuge himself. Does that mean that the Nuge sees himself in the same light as these other folks? I hope not, for their sake, but it’s possible.

Religious Knives x The Haunting x Heavy Tapes

I found THIS TAPE at Cassette Tape Superstar. And while I am familiar with the Religious Knives, I have no idea who the Haunting is – nor can I locate any info about them on the interwebs. Oddly enough, though, the post where I found Live at the Cove doesn’t say which track is by which band. And even after locating the Heavy Tapes website, there wasn’t too much info to be gleaned. Of course, after a listen, it might not make too much of a difference.