July 2010

Hole's Courtney Love isn't a Vacuous Harpy

I caught VH1’s Behind the Music the other day. It was centered on Hole, but should have been titled Courtney Trying to Make It. Either way, after figuring out who the women talk was, as Love’s outward appearance has been completely transformed after literally decades worth of plastic surgery, I was surprised how substantive and eloquent she was.

Clearly sober and enthused to be discussing the salad days, Love recounts her march towards a film career, how it all fell apart and then the subsequent desire to make it in music. Of course, in between these ventures were various stints stripping in Alaska of all places as well as the middle of nowhere Oregon.

TWOFR: Coffinberry x Thomas Function

Coffinberry

From Now On Now

(Morphius Records, 2005)

I really want to like this band.  And I can, almost.  If nothing else, they’re a four-piece rock band from Cleveland on a respectable indie-label, so they receive at least my admiration.  This cd/ep replete with Jake Kelly artwork, clocks in at eighteen minutes and sports seven songs.  So, there aren’t any epics on here, but there is some solid music.  I try to ignore the fact that the bass was consistently too low in the mix, giving the two guitars free reign on this album.  Occasionally that turned out well for the band, and sometimes it didn’t; like on the closer “Seven Months Gone By” with the unimpressive, yet still painfully memorable guitar solo.  Closest to awful this band comes to is “Oh Elise”.  With such a succinct title/chorus, it sounds like a winner when you imagine it in your head but when you hear it, the tune is flat.  Coffinberry likes the drone, and they use it on a few tracks to dubious ends.  For a moment “Eva” is interesting because of the drone being coupled with what sounds like an alarm clock going off.  Unfortunately, the track ends not going anywhere, even with the creative drumming.  Sensibly, the band began this affair with the most enervating track.  “Nightlife” lurches forward, being spurred on by drumming matched only in novelty by the guitar warbling.  Even if I ended up not enjoying this type of indie faire, I would wanna see a crowd dance to this.  If I wasn’t amused by the music, the throng of floppy haired, limp armed indie kids/twenty-somethings would make me content.

TWOFR: Mushroom x Shaky Hands

Mushroom

Joint Happening/Yesterday, I Saw You Kissing Tiny Flowers…

On every release, Mushroom has a different purpose stated throughout their musical excursions. At some points they do want to sound is if Krautrock was a validly popular musical offshoot. And at others, the sound of their city, San Fran, in past days becomes the focus. These two releases, Joint Happening and Yesterday, I Saw You Kissing Tiny Flowers…, shows the structural elements of the bands compositions being based around themselves and then someone else’s talents. On Joint Happening, the band is joined by Eddie Gale. With this addition the band doggedly attaches itself to early ‘70s fusion. Mushroom’s explorations often seem looser, if that’s possible, then much of what was being birthed in the ‘70s. Frequently the sound is not as tough and funky, “Our Love” for example. But on “I was Torn Down at the Dance Place, Shaved Head at the Organ”, the entire groove is based around the break beat. Now, all of these things occur organically, but on Yesterday, the band occasionally submits their sound to the leadership of Levy. Her performance won’t necessarily interest fans of the instrumentals even when Afro-beat, Kraut jams and somewhat sloppy grooves are all present.

TWOFR: All Parallels x Heartless Bastards

All Parallels

Formulate a Tragedy

(On the Rise Records, 2004)

Let me first say that when you list your “Legal Representation” at all in the liner notes of a release like this, perhaps you’re getting a bit ahead of yourself. Regardless, I don’t think “post-hardcore” is a genre. To me it seems more like a time frame than a style. But this trio from the Northeast region of our fair land has learned to play in a fashion that utilizes time changes frequently and oddly enough doesn’t rely on the same old bar chords. Unfortunately for them, that didn’t help them out with song writing. On two separate occasions (“World We Be Living In”, “You Won’t Feel A Thing”) All Parallels use “Word” as a song lyric. Not in a sentence but as a declaration. And astonishingly enough they throw in the phrase, “Eight ball says all signs point to no.” I need not comment any further. These folks seem to love Jesus too. And while that’s not inherently bad, writing bad lyrics about your faith is (“Baby I gotta be saved/It’s just a hop, skip and a jump away.”). High ground is reached on “Such Fragile Things” when the band comes off sounding like Weezer listening to a little more late eighties hard rock. But that’s not an endorsement of the track. Musical savagery aside, the sheer audacity of this band to employ a law firm and put out sub-schlock is simply offensive. And on behalf of the Editors (Clamor), I would like to request that All Parallels refund the shipping costs of the magazine because all I gained from listening to this slab was learning where to put the “ll” in the band name.

Quicksilver Messenger Service: A Trip to the Record Store

Some afternoon, not all that long ago, I strolled into My Mind’s Eye. That’s Lakewood, Ohio for you foreigners. Anyway, after looking at the nicely kept records and watching my girlfriend go through new vinyl (which almost defeats the purpose of buying slabs of wax), I began going through some of the crates on the floor that have been neglected for, oh I don’t know, a fortnight. Yeah that sounds good. A fortnight.

Amongst the Herb Alpert and Streisand, I found a San Francisco relic from about thirty years ago. The Quicksilver Messenger Service never garnered as much attention as The Airplane, The Dead or Mumblin’ Jim, but perhaps they deserve it.

TWOFR: Tarantula A.D.x Om

Tarantula A.D.

Book of Sand

(Kemado Records, 2005)

The first full-length recording from Tarantula A.D. is constructed in a manner that most reading this will find pretentious at the very least. Those people are probably right. Even if one was to simply judge this release by the art work displayed on the front insert, the same conclusion would be reached. In the construction of this album, Tarantula A.D. has recounted the rise and fall of an empire through song titles relating to mostly instrumental work. There are guests that contribute vocals, but there aren’t words coming from Inouk front man or from Devendra Banhart, who for some reason is generally regarded highly, but just moans to accompany the music. The sounds on the first track, song titles and cover art fooled me into thinking there would be a good amount of metal on this release, but I was wrong. Only does the band sporadically lurch into metal gear, choosing mostly to create airy, piano focused ambient sounds. The vast majority of this could and mostly likely should be contributed to film scores. Either way, the band is focused and well rehearsed. Stalwart standout, “Palo Borracho” includes classical sounding guitar along with a melodica and percussion to create a rather Latin tinged track. Unfortunately, the album ends with Banhart.

Harry Pussy: As Loud as it is Vulgar

The merger of drone and noise communities is always an interesting one. Difficult as each genre is to navigate – and to combine in any sort of understandable manner, Harry Pussy ingratiated itself to all involved, while its sound focused more on the shambolic side of things. That’s not to say there wasn’t a groove – in the most obtuse way possible – but this band is something that can’t readily be shared with folks who fancy themselves in the know about (improvised) musics.

Evergreen Blueshoes: Country cum Organ Jazz Freak-Out

Country rock, as birthed from the mid sixties, is an odd genre. At times, dependent upon whose plying the style, country rock might mean something vaguely psychedelic. Other times, it all just sounds like supped up country songs with a pronounced electric element. But as the decade pushed on, there were greater and greater variations on the form that came to include concepts as wide ranging as organ jazz and the most messed up SF conception of psych.

Skip Battin, who’d eventually play a role in the Byrds and the Flying Burrito Brothers, cut his teeth in a few bands which gigged around the Los Angeles area. Some of his ensembles earned a bit of notoriety, but even those group’s that were able to find its way into the studio didn’t possess the same bite or the same sort of thoughtfulness his latter groups did.

Freaks Amour: NArt (Not Art), NNoise (Not Noise)

On occasion an ensemble’s name should grant access to its sound. In the case of Freaks Amour, that’s true and then not so true. Surely, being a freak might endear one to any number of sub-terra rock genres. And while this isn’t a rock and or roll band, that’s the closest proper genre these folks might be associated with.

Freaks Amour and its 1989 album Regressive Music for Mind and Body has been figured as the confluence of the Velvet Underground, Pere Ubu and Throbbing Gristle. There’s unquestionably an industrial vibe here – both Ubus and Gristle have been cited as founding the genre – but that’s not the overwhelming and dominant thread here. Nor is it the Velvet Underground’s R&B come freak out.

Eternal Tapestry: As Deeply Psychedelic as it's Name Suggests

The continual popularity of krautrock influenced rock bands hasn’t been abated by time. In fact, as the early years of the 2000’s saw a spate of reissues, since cooling off a bit and getting into the tangential as with the recent Neu! releases of huge jams and eighties’ fair, there’s been an increase in the number of acts referencing the Teutonic music and earning a modicum of acclaim for it. Perhaps it’s been the down turn in newly (re)discovered Germanic gems. But whatever the case is, Portland’s Eternal Tapestry ratchets up the psych quotient while not completely dismissing the funky motoric drumming and turns in The Invisible Landscape.

77 BOA DRUM (Video)

Merzbow is probably more annoying than Boredoms, but not by too much. This vid has cropped up all over the place, and luckily sports a semblance of musical sense, but again, not too much. This is for you if you like the idea of a lot of drummers playing at once.

TWOFR: Fuck Buttons x Animal Collective

Fuck Buttons

Street Horrrsing

(ATP, 2008)

Forming late in 2004 on some mystical island called England, this duo possesses the sensibilities of any band. It’s able to create a stirring melody, one that’s even hum-able. To counter that normalcy, Andrew Hung and Benjamin John Power also work to exhibit a penchant for noise and electronic manipulations.

Suited to its interests, Street Horrsing is six tracks deep, with each offering pushing past any general pop-song time limit. And while there is no reason for the lead off track, “Sweet Love for Planet Earth”, to be 9 minute long, Fuck Buttons do include every sound, sometimes even touching something that might remind the listener a bit of an ominous horror movie theme song. That, however, is not the pointed objective of this group.

“Ribs Out”, which one would imagine to be a biblical reference, is all percussion, yelps and a brief electronic bit of fuzz which leads seamlessly into the next track. The simplicity of that track really is the essence of the duo. While creating music that is basic enough for any (advanced) listener to grasp, Fuck Buttons, move seamlessly to a more menacing statement – often recalling nasty film scores.

The most engaging track, “Bright Tomorrow”, seems to be the duos effort to cop other sounds as opposed to having lap-top freakouts. At once recalling ‘80s pop, with a standard keyboard melody, the song eventually evokes Spacemen 3 before the bursts of distortion bring the song back to its owners.

Street Horrrsing is obviously not for the faint of heart, but Hung and Power probably like it that way. There’s not, unfortunately, a lot to be done with this genre (new or re-created), but it’ll be interesting to hear further explorations on what is the Fuck Button’s thesis on noise.

TWOFR:Alec K. Redfearn x Cale Parks

Alec K. Redfearn & The Eyesores

Everyman for Himself & God Against All

(Corleone, 2003)

Let us all pretend that men birth babies and that another man has the ability to impregnate him. And if a man has multiple partners, each man’s DNA some how meshes to create the next generation. Now, put Zappa, Weird Al and Tom Waits in a room with a buncha liquor and a bed. Nine months later, Alec K. Redfearn pops out playing tracks from this slab on his accordion. I don’t know if that’s an endorsement or a condemnation, but the redoubtable talent and uniqueness of this release is indisputable. You know that once a man sings a love song and repels the aire of mediocrity in the lyrics, there is in-fact talent. These folks do it on “Ohio” and it’s even amusing while they’re amidst the groove. Most of the time, the music makes me feel as if I should be walking down a tree-lined pathway with a mule and a silly hat on – I’m not. There are a number of songs (“Black Tar and White Slavery”, “Nail/Total Eclipse of the Head/K-Hole”) constructed with minimal lyrics to shift focus to the bizarre, off-kilter melodies and funky rhythms of The Eyesores: damned enjoyable. The lone musical quandary reveals itself on the final two tracks that are ostensibly one. “The Green Hat” is a seven-minute drone, while “Coccyx” is a drone of only one minute and eleven seconds. As innocuous as the pair are, they’re alternately charming and a waste of time. Yet, the closing is only a finite blemish on an otherwise genuinely inventive release.

TWOFR: Dan Melchior x Michael Columbia

Dan Melchior

Fire Breathing Clones on Cellular Phones

(Plastic Records, 2006)

After relative success with labels like In The Red, Melchior chooses to release Fire Breathing Clones… on the smaller and less well known Plastic Records. There are moments on this latest release from the Shepperton, England native that suggest that he may well be on the verge of indie stardom. At other times, like on “Dirty Ice Cream”, Melchior incorporates a great deal of production noise, which ultimately removes his trademark of sounding like he’s in a garbage can. A garbage can, though, with terrifically interesting lyrics and blues rip offs.

The saxophone that is present on a good deal of the album at once bolsters the arrangements as well as making them a bit more interesting as on the dirgey “(Just Plain) Goodbye”. Occasionally, when Melchoir utilizes just an acoustic guitar and his vocals, his songs are reminiscent of solo Syd Barrett. At other times he finger picks his acoustic to startling affect, the closer, “Lady RM” for example. This is certainly not the most raucous recording that Melchoir has been involved with, but that still shouldn’t discourage the devotees.

I Heart Lung: Interoceans

It’s difficult to comment upon what’s actually being heard as opposed to the ideas propping up these sounds. A lot happens in the expanse of these tracks that extend only the briefest glimpse into traditional song craft – there’s no good way to simplify that. Each of the four movements that make up Interoceans boast multiple stages, but not in a verse, chorus, verse simplicity. No one can whistle these works, but you can’t whistle a lot of Mingus compositions either, so that’s not a fair criticism.

Tom Zé: Parque Industrial in Brazil

Regardless of what one thinks about David Byrne’s work subsequent to the first two (three?) Talking Heads’ releases, he’s been instrumental in bringing to light a number of players and albums that deserve a second or third or even fourth look.

Years fell away between the last time Shuggie Otis issued and album and the date of Inspiration Information’s initial release and Luka Bop putting the disc out. And while that effort might still be the most popular from the imprint’s catalog, Byrne endeavored to resuscitate Tom Zé’s career after a trip to Brazil exposed the label honcho to a mid seventies album of work from the one time tropicalista.

Ersen: A Turkish Rock

Much in the same way that it’s endlessly gratifying to hear various Brit rock acts reassess American blues and spit back something new, the vast Eastern rock scene offers the same enticing confections. While the music, at times utilizing scales different from Chuck Berry and his ilk, might sound detached from an American conception of the form, it’s the meeting of the familiar and the unfamiliar the makes the music so exhilarating to hear.

Turkey, like so many other countries East of Europe proper and West of the Orient, had itself a rock scene that blossomed during the latter portion of the sixties while continuing on for much of the following decade.

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