Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Pat Suzuki "s/t"

 (Vik, 1958) I do not know as much as I would like to about Pat Suzuki, and I certainly cannot call her underrated, as I do not know how to gauge her rated-ness, but I can say without hesitation that this is a great album by a great singer and everyone should hear it. Miss Pony Tail's recording career mostly happens in a short window between 1958 and 1960, with her jazz albums leading to her role in Flower Drum Song (with future Miss Livingston Miyoshi Umeki). I have most of her LPs, in part because her smiles (she sports different ones on different albums) always grab me, and listening to this today I can see why she was a Downbeat award winner when she debuted. Singing with a sly attitude very akin to Eartha Kitt's approach, there are moments, particularly a magically lengthy pause during, "Lady Is A Tramp," that are clinics in jazz singing. There's a late 60s pop album I need to find, and according to five minutes on the Internet she has occasionally performed over the years (I found something from 2002), and I watched an episode of her 1976 sitcom Mr. T. and Tina, in which Pat Morita leads TV's first mostly Asian cast (offensive stereotypes, fake Japanese fonts, and L's replaced with R's abound). She is currently 90 and a photo of her backstage visiting the cast of a play from last year shows the same smile from 1958, so I hope she has had a lot to smile about over this half century. What  a talent! Unrelated: Does the gradation in the 1958 Vik logo seem too futuristic/disco to y'all?

Frantix "My Dad's A Fuckin' Alcoholic"


(Alternative Tentacles, 2013) This well-named 1980s Colorado sloppy hardcore band, was (as demonstrated on the live tracks included in this full length retrospective of a band that did not record a full length) successfully frantic. Best known for cover versions of the title track here, the demos, concert tracks and reissued 7" tracks here prove that the original was better, as this is a glorious mess!

Bunny Sigler Bag Set

(Bunzmusicandrecords.com) A few years back when I was lucky enough to tape an episode of Chic-A-Go-Go at the amazing, currently restructuring/fundraising art space Philadelphia Mausoleum of Contemporary Arts (apologies if I've called it the Philadelphia Museum of Cemetery Arts in the past, that's incorrect and less accurate). I told the director my dream guest was Philly soul legend Bunny Sigler, and it turned out I made a very good choice when the vocalist arrived in a dazzling outfit and a challenging hairpiece, bursting with musical joy for the kids of all ages in attendance. His performance was magnificent. But just as important to me was his gift, which I suppose was a kind of EPK, but I see more as a collectible "Bag Set," in an edition of Lord knows how many, as I kind of assume he was handing these out freely and generously. Inside the Bag Set was a CD-R of Mr. Sigler's classic 1974 breakthrough LP (he was a powerhouse songwriter before becoming a solo artist on Philadelphia International), "That's How Long I'll Be Loving You," which featured Gospel-style vocals and arrangements on some killer soul songs, and famously has a slow, gorgeous version of "Love Train." The low res, Wite-Out pocked,  faded Xerox cover and Bunny's  handwriting all over the disc it makes it better than an autographed LP. Also included is his kind of weird 2015 CD, "Bundino," which is not a CD-R, but not exactly a professional release, as despite the slick production and vocal arrangements and professionalism of the recording, it features bizarre, amateur-bordering-on-outsider artist packaging (the back cover has no tracks listed, features a grinning Bunny in buckskins awkwardly photoshopped in front of teepees, and has a UPC code that's almost as big as the picture of Bunny). His singing is good, though there are a lot of tracks where it seems like the backup singers are propping up an older singer's weaker vocals, except the backup singers are frequently also Bunny.  The strongest singing is not on one of the soulful ballads, but on a blues number called, "Buttermilk and Cornbread," and the winner for the Why Didn't Anyone Talk To Him Award goes to "Red or Yellow - Black or White," a plea for unity by getting your loving on with woman from many "nationalities." Also in the baggie was a DVD of an iMovie photo montage lyric video of "Laveda," a romantic soul jam; dozens of business cards (a few different designs) that list Youtube clips to look for, and several Websites (all now defunct, sadly); and a program for a memorial service for Lee Andrews, Questlove's dad, a vocalist who was a contemporary of Bunny. Sadly, Bunny joined Lee in the heavenly choir a year and a half after his amazing performance on our show. But I thank the Philly Soul Gods that I bagged this bag, which I subsequently have reached for more often than I have his classic LPs.

Saturday, October 17, 2020

Ratos de Porao "Seculo Sinestro"


(Alternative Tentacles, 2014) Thank god (and/or the alternative/opposite) that music this fucking bonecrushingly brutal exists. We are going to need it more and more in these coming dark, dark days.

Jonathan Richman "No Me Quejo De Mi Estrella"


(Vapor/Munster, 2014) Jonathan loves singing in Spanish. He does not love cell phones, but it's Ok if you have one. He loves to love. What's not to love here?

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Baja Bug "The Surf Will Ride Again"


(Double Crown, 2020) There's that totally bogus chestnut about sex and pizza, that even when it's bad it's good (which dismisses Dominos and date rape), but that logic seems kind if true-er with instrumental surf rock. To be more specific, there is definitely a bottom ten percent of quality that is unlistenable, and a top ten percent that is genius, but if you are not a true aficionado, it seems like the middle 80% of the bands are in a virtual tie. As long as they stay traditional and don't get too experimental or break rules (which few do), you are dealing with pretty similar stock. But then again, what's not to love? Back in the surf revival era from whence this great die-hard surf music label boarded there was the option of dressing up in halloween costumes, which I support 112%, but musically as a fan (but not superfan, or guitar gearhead, or surf music historian) I only hear a few small differences, so what makes me like a record a lot is a matter of inches. This record I like a lot. These Norwegian hodads crank up the reverb/echo effects to give an almost underwater vibe, and there's Farfisa, and there's just enough distant-cousin-to-Morricone cinematic X-factor here. But if you need me to get more specific, unfortunately, I'm back in bogus sex pizza territory: surf music is good!

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Lydia Lunch and Marc Hurtado "My Lover The Killer"


(Munster, 2016) "Most of the men I've lived with have attempted suicide at least once," Lydia Lunch eerily intones over too-scary-for-Halloween haunted piano tinklings and walls of ghost sounds. That is the theme and bad dream of this concept spoken word album specifically inspired by/about an ex who exacted a murder-suicide shortly before/possibly motivated by a planned reconnection with the former Teenage Jesus herself. Intensely dread-ish, but mostly not regretful or mournful or even sad, this is a journey too dark for most Goth teens, but somehow so nihilistic that it's immune to tragedy. I will never play this record at a child's birthday party. Again.

Peer Pressure "Sounds (A.K.A. Music)"


(Rerun, 2013) Recorded in 1980 and self-released with a design mimicking the generic food aisle in the grocery store (four years before Marvel's non-legendary "Generic Comic Book," which I recall having a decent story, where a kid gets super powers from the radiation from his glow-in-the-dark toys and wax injection mold museum souvenirs), the Peer Pressure record was unknown, but eventually became legendary. This non-functioning band was a home recording Connecticut duo that did not seem the see any difference between new wave and Dr. Demento, so their amazing nutty songs can as easily pass for real punk as they can be dismissed as goofy novelty rock. The canonization as punky goodness was mainly achieved when the song "Sound of the 80's" became a Killed By Death mystery punk treasure. I personally prefer "That's Why They Call 'Em Moms," a delightfully catchy slice of mom cheerleading mixed with light Oedipal issues. "Underachiever," sung in a Poindexter high school kid nerd voice reveals the full Barnes n Barnes/Weird Al destiny this band could have had, but alas, they stopped barely existing before Reagan's hostage freeing inauguration. And remained lost until record researchers Jason Litchfield and Ryan Richardson tracked down their story and found a little more music to release. All of that, seven songs in total, is included in this double single which manages to be a lush reissue while still looking totally generic! Dementoids rejoice!

David Greenberger and Prime Lens "My Thoughts Approximately," 'It Happened to Me," David Greenberger & Shaking Ray Stevens "Tramos tthat go think IN THE NIGHT," David Greenberger and Dozens "Near the Edge of the Penny Jar Spill," David Greenberger, Keith Spring & Dinty Child with Keith Hashimoto "take me where I don't know I am," David Grennberger & The Pahtone Scooters" "Fractions by Stella," Diavd Greenberger and A Strong Dog "so tough"

(Pel PEL, 2011-2019) Over 40 years ago Chicago-born seeker/art-brain man David Greenberger started interviewing residents of a nursing home at which he worked and put mostly short, self-contained, sometimes borderline non-sequitor excerpts of his interviews in a quiet, poetic, strange zine. This work made its way into comics, films, radio, a Ted Talk, and for over 25 years, full length albums of Greenberger reading the best moments of his explorations into the memories, thought processes, inhibitions (and lack thereof), brilliance, disconnectedness, ultra-connectedness, history, and poetry of the elderly. While I have an affinity for some of the best albums in the past that were collaborations where David spoke over the music of rock and roll square pegs (Terry of NRBQ, Paul Cebar of the Milwaukeeans), the last decade or so of recordings that I have heard see talented collaborators mostly finding less rocking ways to compliment the words of the wise. It sometimes gets more exciting when the musicians get weird ("Fractions by Stella" features oddball improvisors, including Tatsu Aoki and Eugene Chadborne) or more music-ish ("so tough" kind of swings at times, and in the rhythmic "Tubes and Juice and Air," an elder American's assessment of how a TV works is borderline sung by Greenberger, locked into the musicians groove). But even when the music delivers an eclectic, jazzy vibe ("Tramps," a nice album to start with for new DG fans, even dips into jump blues) the music is almost always a near-neutral backdrop, the words are the thing. Occasionally those words contain semi-lurid material ("so tough" has strip poker and vampires, there is true crime and Frankenstein on "Fractions"), but usually the profundity of mundanity is part of the point. The most recent, lengthy, soothing one I heard was creating at an artist's residency, because this is recognized by artists as art, and had cover art by an artist (Ed Ruscha). And though Greenberger has been a musician for decades (Men & Volts is one of many bands he was in) he does not draw on his musicianship to deliver this word jazz, he draws upon genuine empathy for and genuine fascination with humans and their brains and lives and triumphs and tragedies. His calm tones tell tales with love, and that is why I listen, no matter whom he collaborates with. And also for funny Frankenstien stuff.

The Embarrassment "Patio" b/w "Sex


(Last Laugh, 1980/2011) The Embarrassment were only around for a few flashes in 80s Kansas, and never hit big, but there are some people who love, love, love what this band did in their heyday (they have had more deep dive compilation/rarities albums then actual albums released, and their "big" label debut/swan song they made in '89 featured some re-recordigns of earlier songs). This reissue of their debut 45 shows why: they had the formula for what would soon be called College Rock and become the powerful radio format "Alternative" in the limper grip of bands like REM, but seemed a little wilder and vaguely darker. "Sex Drive" (about a car trip, not a libido, though libido is involved) is super memorable and ridiculous and mighty, and if I could get them back together 30 years after the BAR/NONE label mis-shot their shot, I'd have them re-record it again!