June 2010

Woods Keeps Releasing Quaint Rock Discs and Finally Someone Cares. But Not Me.

Ya know, Woods can come up with some incredibly well wrought songs replete with interesting – if not always sensible – progressions. Well, progressions might be the wrong word. When there’s a guitar solo, whatever key the band moves to may or may not be a proper move. But it works for the most part.

Regardless of that, there’s something disconcerting about Woods. And the problem, if it can be considered as such, is that a huge percentage of its songs are in the same key. I’ve always been of the opinion that a singer’s vocal range seriously factors into how the band plays. And Woods has become proof of that. Of course, the songs, no matter how similar, are good. Maybe it’s the rock worlds version of Bukowski, who really only worked with a few topics (booze, women, writing and writers), but wrote literally thousands of poems.

Shir Hodu: Jewish Song from Bombay of the '30s

Thinking of places sporting huge Jewish populations, one most likely doesn’t immediately settle upon India as a destination for the people in diaspora. It is though. And over the last three to four hundred years, there’s been a steady influx of Jews after encountering discrimination in other places or finding that the country they once called home was in the throngs of revolution headed by politicos not necessarily engaged with modern concepts of equality.

Jim Shepard Continues on with the Crazies in V-3

Jim Shepard had a busy recording career despite being pretty well ignored during its trajectory. During the seventies, the songwriter fronted a skewed punk band, not completely detached from the CLE sounds emanating from points north, called Vertical Slit. Purposefully obtuse, the band’s low run recordings did as much for its popularity as the difficult music itself.

As that band broke up and Shepard worked a straight day job, it seems that he didn’t cease writing at all. A succession of work come out during the eighties – again all in small runs. But by this time, Shepard had been embraced by the out music scene in Columbus.

From Haino to People: More Japrock (Part Two)

Marble Sheep

One of the few groups herein still gigging around Japan and the world – Marble Sheep finished up a tour with Chicago’s Plastic Crimewave Sound late last year. Closest to Les Rallizes Dénudés, but simply not the same, the Sheep maintain all of J-rock’s obsession with the long winded jam. With some many releases, though, it’d be difficult to sum up the band’s career – that actually goes for most of the group’s here. Either way, the less song oriented tracks, the one’s given over to cribbed ‘60s blues rock, twisted in only a way these travelers were able to do, is what Marble Sheep is known for. And rightly so. Ahh…another decent segue.


Taj Mahal Travellers

Dead Moon: A Proto-Grunge Manifesto

Dead Moon was and remains of the better regarded underground groups in American history to have any sort of passing flirtation with punk. Of course, the fact that Fred Cole has been working in one band or another since the mid sixties has more than a bit to do with Dead Moon’s musical faculties. But the guitarist and songwriter’s ability to reign in influence spanning the whole of his career is more than a good reason to figure Dead Moon’s music as the forbearer of what would eventually be termed grunge by the media masses.

Further Numero Group Explorations: Local Customs (Lone Star Lowlands)

After last years Down River Revival, it’s not too big a surprise that the folks behind Chicago’s Numero Group have again reached back into a studio’s archives to unloose another installment in the Local Customs series. The second disc, Lone Star Lowlands, works to compile the top crop of recordings coming out of Mickey Rouse’s studio down there in Beaumont, Texas. And anyone with even a passing knowledge of music from Texas during the sixties and seventies should be pretty jazzed up this compilation.

Hum: Fifteen years back, It was all stars...

Re-examining the nineties began a few years back. Nirvana’s had work re-issued. Pearl Jam draws a decent crowd and even Hole’s on tour as we speak. The A/V Club’s Nathan Rabin’s seemingly based on a career filled with the backwards gaze, alternately lauding low profile success or condemning a childhood through connections made with media.

Regardless of that, Champaign-Urbana’s HUM haven’t been graced with too much of this attention. Surprising or not, it’s due to the fact that the band’s one huge hit, “Stars,” was just a twinkle on the charts for a time and subsequently disappeared. If there’ve been anthologies wrung from the decade, HUM’s hit might be included. But it might just as likely be left off to make room for an extra Soundgarden track.

From Haino to People: More Japrock (Part One)

From the earliest appropriations of Western psych up through what amounts to the current day and making a stop at the boarder of the Fluxus movement, Japanese rock group’s have traversed difficult territory where any mode of psychedelia meets free improvisation. Like any number of Western group’s, these J-Rock adherents occasionally miss the mark completely and fall into a self indulgent, and self congratulatory mess that only few people can fool themselves into listening to.

Asiko Rock Group: A Second Rate Afro Funk

Asiko is a mountain range in Greece. Pinpointing the reason for a Lagos, Nigeria based funk and rock ensemble using the name to perform under is probably lost to time. And even if were properly explained, the reasoning behind it all would most likely be relatively convoluted. Whatever the case, though, Asiko Rock Group issued a self titled album during the late seventies, which has been reissued by the venerable and ever dusty Academy LPs. Of course, the imprint’s website doesn’t sport too much information about the release, nor do the interwebs offer up anything in the way of edification. That, though, might have to do with the relative lack of quality spread out over the album’s seven tracks.

TWOFR: The Thin Man x The Izzys

The Thin Man

Greasy Heart

(Contraphonic Music)


I imagine the singer, Kennedy Greenrod, to be the toast of the underground town in Chicago.  Wherever indie-party-goers go, Mr. Greenrod is there with an amusing quip.  He has stories from having lived in England, in California and no doubt now has stories from living in Chicago and touring with his band The Thin Man.  Notorious, I’m sure they are, Greenrod mixes in his tales ideas from the far off land of his birth and tired rock cliché bar and travel conventions.  Intrepid a character and as nice as he well may be, I don’t know, but I do know his music is better left to the imagination of a publicity company.  While, Greenrod and his band of veteran Chicago musicians are without question adept at their style and probably do listen to a considerable amount of R&B. That relation should not be made in a press release or elsewhere.  Each track stomps along at a small club, updated Stones/indie style.  A few times the group showcases their ability to play in more than one tempo, but not often enough.  Our friend Greenrod too plays the accordion, but not confidently enough apparently to showcase it on the record more than a few times.  The charm and goodness of this record flows down to you as a result of the band being loose.  They’re comfortable doing what they do and Greenrod’s accent is charming enough to affect listeners.  Interesting accents and my incapability to not think of Tom Waits as I listen to this does not make it worth my time, nor yours.

TWOFR: Grizzly Bear x Bonnie 'Prince' Billy

Grizzly Bear

Yellow House

(Warp Records, 2006)

Originally, Grizzly Bear was the baby of solely Ed Droste, but he has been joined by several other players to make up the current configuration of the band. For some reason or another, this album by the group has landed them on Warp Records, who’re renowned for electronic musics of varying styles. And while Grizzly Bear does employ layered recording techniques, perhaps this release signals the labels intent to branch out musically. Either way, Yellow House is a sedate affair that at times recalls the Beach Boys at their most inspired. The phrase “psych pop” or “lysergic pop” will most certainly be evoked in most reviews and why should this one be any different. Again, in keeping with the current trend of folky revivalism, there’s some banjo on a few tracks as well as other traditional style acoustic instruments. “Knife” strays from that equation to evoke the Velvets in their guitar sound and emphasizes the down beat. The vocals by Droste on this track are pretty pop accessible and go along well with the ohhhs and ahhhs in the background. The recording of the album, I suppose, is part of the reason for all the commotion regarding this band and on “Plans” as well as “Colorado” the drums sound hardly like any other set that’s been recorded. Similarly, on “Central and Remote” the many voices that make up the song have been put together in an adept manner that might explain why this release is on Warp. While there are a number of groups now attempting to play old timey instruments while utilizing newer electronic techniques, like Andrew Bird, most of them fall short. I won’t say that this is a cornerstone in a new musical movement, but it’s pretty damned well put together and just short of breathtaking.

Keiji Haino's Noisome Psych Excursions in Fushitsusha

It’s difficult to distill the work that Keiji Haino has contributed to over time. Being a part of countless ensembles in Japan, working under his own name and recording a one off session with the Los Angeles Free Music Society’s Doo Dooettes has made the guitarist an universally known figure. But still, a difficult one to pin down.

To call the guitarist prolific would probable be a slight. There’s no word for the amount of recording, touring and performing he’s done. And as a result of that, Haino has been embraced by myriad groups of music aficionados – everyone from psych travelers to experimental music academics appreciate work associated with this figure.

Slipknot's Paul Gray OD'ed

The Polk County, Iowa, Medical Examiner's Office released the autopsy results yesterday, on Monday, that states, Paul Gray, the popular bassist for the metal band Slipknot, died of an "accidental" overdose of the drugs morphine and fentanyl, a synthetic morphine substitute, a narcotic painkiller, and that he suffered from "significant heart disease." Mr. Gray was 38, when he was found dead last May 25 in a hotel room in Des Moines, Iowa., the band's hometown. See the video.

There was quite a bit of a buzz about Paul Gray's autopsy report. The Slipknot bassist is being remembered in the Internet. on Twitter and in the chat rooms. He has a lasting effect on heavy metal music and on his many fans. This morning, as I considered this post, I listened to Slipknot's Grammy winning song, “Before I Forget,” and I remembered the many reasons why I like this music!

Young Marble Giants: Cardiff After Punk Washed off into the Mouth of Seven

In reading about the now mythic Young Marble Giants, a Brit band put together at the tail end of the seventies as punk stopped being anything near useful, it’s amusing to see time and again the ensemble referred to as either poppy or progenitors of post-punk.

That first concept – the band being poppy – is most likely derived from the fact that YMG’s singer, Alison Statton, possessed a high pitched, pleasant voiced which would have been well suited for sixties’ styled bubblegum work outs. Oddly contrasted with the sparseness of the band’s music, Statton, whose voice is placed high in the mix, floats above what could be understood as minimal music.

Epitaph: Not the Label, the Proggy German Group

It’s bizarre the figure that the rock lineage developed along the same lines in any number of countries concurrent to the United States. Grand Funk were Canadians, Sabbath were British and with the slew of German language groups kicking around, it was sure that a few would figure business being a bit easier if English were embraced. Actually a number of groups figured that out. Those crafty Germans.

Epitaph, its name more spooky than its music, was a group fronted by English speaking vocalist, British singer Cliff Jackson. Even if that arrangement hadn’t been reached, though, after hearing its eponymous first album, there’s a pretty good chance that Epitaph would have tallied more than a handful of adherents. Probably.