April 2009

David Thomas: Punk Industrialist (Part 03)

Further exploring the applications of the synthesizer and its ability to lead an ensemble get worked out on Pere Ubu's "Blow Daddy-O." The synthesizer is charged with keeping time as a result of the absence of a drum beat - an electronic clipping noise counts eighth notes. A number of German keyboardists from this time period work in similar modes, but for the most part don't move between pop song craft and avant-noise. Ubu, though, laces this track with Tom Herman's unique guitar sounds - similar to those found in "Caligari's Mirror." But "Blow Daddy-O" doesn't languidly offer up vocal samples. Listeners are to be drawn in with the clipping of the synthesizer. The affect is to create a disturbing musical setting with a drastically different feeling than the previous instrumental track from the album. Oddly enough though, given Thomas' penchant for clarinet, this song, with a title inextricably linked to jazz, is conspicuously void of those squalls of horn.

T(yrannosaurus) Rex: Evolutionary Tails

There are too many stories of dudes dying young for one reason or another and leaving open to speculation what could have become of their talents if not for such a truncated life. Marc Bolan is just another one of those guys. That's not meant to be dispiriting in anyway, but Bolan, like countless other dudes from the later part of the '60s disappeared off the face of the earth. His death, though, wasn't tied to drugs. He was the passenger in a car as he was being ferried home one evening, but he didn't make it. Ironically, Bolan never got a driver's license due to his fear of accidents. They were apparently warranted.

The Bob Seger System: Detroit Doesn't Always Stink

I honestly don't have any defined perception of Bob Seger. I know his band during the '80s was called the Silver Bullet Band - and I can't really respect that too much. I'd also probably be able to draw a picture of one of his band's compilations from that period. Who would want it though?

But considering that Seger hails from the Detroit area - Dearborn to be exact - it's pretty safe to figure that his work from the '60s has at least a passing similarity to other groups from the time.  The Bob Seger System isn't the Stooges or the MC5 - he probably wasn't capable of such musicality - but what his band was able to do easily matches some of the Nuggets groups that people care about. That might not be the most glowing evaluation, but the Bob Seger System was more than a capable '60s rock act that touched on psych - just a bit - and foreshadowed Seger's future as a cheese ball '80s rock dude.

Sonic Youth: Hey, Hey, No Way?

For all the talk about Sonic Youth's incorporation of black metal's lyrical bent, I can honestly say that it doesn't matter. I don't ever listen to the band's music for its lyrical content - ever. That's an unfortunate stand to take, but it's an honest one. For as much as there's a piece of every Sonic Youth disc that I enjoy immensely, there are enough sections off of each one of their discs that I really have no problem skipping through. That doesn't mean that the lyrics are void of artistic integrity, but it seems roughly equivalent to enjoying the vocals from a Phish song. Of course, those hippies might be considered as musically important to the development of culture, but I'm gonna say that the inventiveness in any Sonic Youth outing pretty easily surpasses the musical prowess of the Vermont bred hippies. I bet they both like the Talking Heads and the Velvet Underground, though, so it's all a crap shoot.

David Thomas: Punk Industrialist (Part 02)

Anyone that grew up in the mid-west, outside of Chicago at least, has imagined what life could be like if only they lived somewhere else. David Thomas obviously imagined such things, as he currently resides in France, which recalls the mass exodus of black jazzbos to Europe in the ‘40s. But the music that Pere Ubu creates is uniquely mid-western. And even more specifically, it’s an aural representation of the inner-city of Cleveland.

While Cleveland often enough gets a bad rap, there are now innumerable opportunities for unique avenues of expressions. Not so thirty years ago. When Pere Ubu began, they presaged post-punk, which seems ridiculous considering that in 1975 the tag punk didn’t really resonate yet. Even beyond that, the relative isolation of original music in Cleveland seems to have given rise to something that couldn’t necessarily have been attained in NYC.

The Fast: Bowery Boys

The confluence of glam, metal and punk worked in a swirling mess around the early seventies and eventually spat out the various punk groups in and around New York. Of course, there were other places that found such influences necessary in order to concoct some piece of musical innovation. But in NY, where folks were probably able to get away with walking around looking like freaks, a few bands began addressing gender through a variety of avenues. Lyrically, sexuality had been addressed over time a great deal – Marc Bolan and David Bowie, though, helped make it more acceptable for dudes to dress up though. And with the founding of the Dolls during the early ‘70s, it would seem that there was about to be some sort of huge cross dressing explosion.

Mighty Hamms: Still Flyin'

Most rock music now has some artsy edge to it that instantly makes it clear that whoever is fronting the group has some an ego large enough to douse other individuals opinion of them. That’s apparently just how musicians are – well not all of ‘em. But if you can fill a bar with a hundred people or so that paid to watch you play guitar or whatever, that’s probably understandable.

A few cliques of bands have been able to avoid this particular modern musical trapping. But not too many. Out of Athens, Ga during the ‘90s the Elephant Six folks really were able to remain rather human during their rise to indie acclaim. That’s probably not the last instance of such personas, but considering the new agish Dark Meat has been making the rounds with Indian head gear and war whoops of jazz abandon, it only makes sense that some other folks would have, by now, figured out how to walk in similarly warn tracks.

A Recollection: Cleveland, Oh, June 27th, 2004

What follows is all that I can recall from my ill conceived journey to and from a musical event in the warm summer evening in and around the suburbs of Cleveberg.

I finished work (with a sixteen year old who may soon be visiting a stripper pole near you) and mounted, yes mounted my bike for the treacherous ride through many a suburb to the most worthless and decrepit bar on the east side of Cleveland - maybe even the MidWest. Since I had to work, I understood that my trip, via bicycle, would steal time from the enjoyment of the “musicians” I was to see. So be it. I knew I didn’t care about Chaotic Alliance (kids from Clevo) or the latest spiky haired punk bands to come through: Monster Squad and Cropknox. I figured the Krays would be taking the stage last, since not only had they been around the longest, they were one of the few punk bands still playing at the time that weren’t in need of instrument theft (others included US Bombs, The Stitches, The Briefs and The Clorox Girls). 

David Thomas: Punk Industrialist (Part 01)

The music and lyrics of David Thomas and Pere Ubu are rife with literate allusions and references to not just pop culture from their own time, but from the vast back catalog of film, and poetry. That isn’t necessarily a unique perspective on their work – or even unique to bands. And while the Pere Ubu catalog includes countless essential recordings, the accepted view of this band being beyond the avant-garde is hyperbole.

Funky Good Time: 22 Corners

The Smoking Section has taken to posting sporadic funky gems on their site, which is heavily focused upon hip hop, its culture and the surrounding scene politics. There’s a bit of fashion and some vinyl toys thrown in for good measure. But it all fits into the broader interests that one might have if you happened to be a rap fan(atic).

It’s bizarre that at this juncture of the internets development, folks can make a living – or at least draw some income – by posting all too brief comments on new albums, toys or clothing. But folks don’t enjoy reading the way in which they once did. Sad.  But in the past, the funk tracks posted have touched on some cheesy ‘70s pseudo soul and even a Cannonball Adderly track which was pretty much some jazz spiced up with a funky back beat. A few days ago though, TSS gave us “Trespasser” from a group called Bad Medicine.

German Psych: Kraut! Demons! Kraut!

So, German Psych: Kraut! Demons! Kraut! is the lead off of the three kraut comps that were released during the latter part of the ‘80s. And while there are some of the usual folks on here, a number of acts probably won’t resonate too much with passing fans. That being said, though, this first volume might be the strongest of the trio.

I haven’t listened to Hungry Krauts, Daddy! in a while, but I recall being pretty unimpressed by its lack of consistency. And even though it’s just a comp, if these three discs were compressed and offered as a single album comp, it may have turned out a bit better. Having come to this series in an out of order manner may not have helped my perception. But from even a cursory listen, this first volume of the disc offers more of an even selection.

The Knife - genius, or electro-prog nightmare?

I got an email from the band, the Knife, the other morning. If you don’t know them, they’re a Swedish electro pop group, with a penchant for the artier side, and whose albums have been getting progressively darker. Recently, one half of the outfit, Karin Dreijer Andersson, left the group to branch out and form a solo project as Fever Ray. The resulting album is tremendous, a slow burning, high intensity success. It sounds a lot like the Knife. If you haven’t already, I’d urge you to give it a listen.

Anyway, this isn’t what I wanted to talk about. What the email said was this:

Tomorrow, in a year - A Darwin opera

Earth to the Remix Vol. 2 by The Dandy Warhols

How can you say no to spending a mere $3.50 in exchange for a download of fresh remixes from The Dandy Warhols 2008 album, Earth to The Dandy Warhols. You don't say no, you say, "yessssss please." Released today on 4/20/09... we can assume that these tunes are a delectable and well-timed gift to be enjoyed in the most empyrean of atmospheres on this fine holiday. The luxuriant texture of the original album is remixed by the ever creative minds of these musicians and talented friends. The result is quirky and eclectic, perfect for shaking you out of your preferred music rut. Listening to the original songs on Earth to The Dandy Warhols gives you the sense of place and appreciation required to truly dig these new remixes. While I haven't listened to the first remix, Earth to the Remix Vol. 1, I'll be sure to find it today on their website, www.dandywarhols.com and have a listen!


Clutch: Shawn Lee's Soul in a Hole

Ubiquity Records isn’t known for being satisfied with having artists repeat past glories. Everything that the label puts out is instantly collectible and more often than not divergent from the general consensus of what popular music should be doing. That’s not the only reason that Shawn Lee has been releasing music through the label for the last five years or so. But that’s part of it.

Blank Dogs x ITR

The recent mystic and confusing love affair with all things lo-fi should be confusing to those that have for a long time been into shitty punk, pop and garage bands. The tag that some of these groups have found themselves working with doesn’t necessarily please ‘em. But the press needs some way to figure everything. And the fact that Jay Reatard has been lumped into all of this is even more disconcerting. But Blank Dogs – nee Mike Sniper – is one of these folks. And regardless of how much work he’s released over the last few years, I’m gonna say that his greatest contribution to underground rock music is releasing a disc by the Beets.

Wet Cookies and Other Sexual Embellishments

After spending years on the back end of the promo industry, the folks at Rooftop Promotions have seen fit to start releasing their own music. And as was the case with the groups that it worked with previously, the newly minted Cat ‘n Roof seems to traffic in specifically European related music.

One of the labels first discs comes in the form of Wet Cookies’ Soul Protection. With the group counting a Noisepusher alum, the disc should be expected to traffic in electronic based, dub influenced dance music. That’s not an apt summation – but close. The level of cheese found on Noisepusher albums – one which included a version of “Kung Fu Fighting” – shifts over to this disc as well.

Wicked Witch: Chaos (1978-86)

If one were to simply judge this compilation by Wicked Witch – led by a Mr. Richard Simms – from the photo of its singer, it would be more than appropriate to guess that his was some lost proto metal affair. It’s not – although the red eyes of Simms belie that fact. Instead the disc is mostly funk based. That doesn’t mean that it wouldn’t have been a good guess to instead of either funk or metal suppose that this was a goth inspired punk outing. Again, though, covers can be deceptive.

Linkage: Max Ochs

Easily overshadowed by his cousin, Max Ochs still possessed more musical talent than most who were given an opportunity to record music during the 1960s. Having only a slight back-log of tracks two that are counted on a Takoma compilation that alongside Fahey and others helped define American Primitive Guitar, Ochs has been only an occasionally active player since the folk revival. But with the emergence of Tompkins Square Records as an outlet for new and old acoustic works, Ochs has been given another chance to impact music.