Friday, April 30, 2010

The Fall “Your Future Our Clutter”


(Domino Records) GUEST REVIEW by Derek Erdman
I was introduced to The Mighty Fall in 1992. In college I had a radio show that only came through on campus lounge TV sets tuned to channel 6 from 4am to 7am. A guy I had recently met called to request “Athlete Cured” from The Frenz Experiment. I’d never heard or even heard of The Fall at that point, but by the end of that song I was an obsessive. I currently never use the word amazing because I’m convinced that people don’t even know what it means anymore and I silently frown upon people with strong convictions, but I became a believer in something for the first time in my life, and that thing was The Fall. Not having a lot of money and hanging around with kind of the wrong crowd, I soon found myself stealing musical instruments and books out of lockers from the Music & Speech building at Kent State University so I could sell them and buy Fall import CDs for $24 in Columbus, Ohio. I was an asshole. I am not a music critic; I am a person who owns 274 Fall bootlegs. I think The Fall is a whole lot like a sports team, with Mark E. Smith being the team itself and whatever woman he is involved with at the time being the General Manager. There isn’t an era that enthusiasts will agree upon as a heyday, I’ve met people who swear only by 2003-2005, which seems absolutely bats to me. But these last 10 years have been a real sad state of affairs. God, every release since 1990 only offers brief snatches of the once incomparable creativity and imagination that came before. “Your Future Our Clutter” is the newest bunch of songs in the now long line of totally uninspired mild-rock riffage with MES yelping in the same exact style that he has been since 1999’s The Marshall Suite. Of course there are stand out moments, “Bury” is a three part collage of the same song revolving around the rehabilitation of Smith’s broken leg, influenced by what he described as “bloody German painkillers.” “Cowboy George” is a neurotic wobbly surf rock wailer, the beginning of |Y.F.O.C. / Slippy Floor” sounds like it was recorded on a micro-cassette under a pillow. Otherwise, this record is just fucking dull. So, to wrap it up: I love The Fall, I went to college so MES wouldn’t care what I have to say regardless, and The Fall hasn’t made an interesting record for ages. But like the old bumper sticker “A bad day fishing is better than a good day at work” says, “A bad record by The Fall is better than a good record by every other band ever.”

Caustic Defiance/Negative Element

(Akashic) In the early 80s Chicago's Negative Element made the best kind of  harcore: silly, juvenile, no budget music that in a better world would have defined this American teenage punk movement. If every band was as adorable as Negative Element thousands of middle-aged New Yorkers would still have full sets of teeth and there'd be no Henry Rollins spoken word tours. Their amazing EP (featuring faux-political songs about Pac-Man, Elmer Fudd and the Pillsbury Doughboy) is a Chicago classic that more than balanced the intellectual goo ga lyrics Articles of Faith subjected the all-agers to. This album also features even rarer rarities and unreleased gems  by NE, plus a baker's dozen tunes from the post-NE band Caustic Defiance, a Peoria based 80s hardcore band that was more conventional but no less fun to skate to. Both acts get extra points for having song titles that are the band name.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Bad Love Experience "Rainy Days"

(Tannen) There is nothing more American, more Midwestern and stars and stripes, than great, sweet, jangly Power Pop. I don't care that the Beatles who mastered it were from some enemy country, nor does it bother me that this awesome band is from Italy and may be singing these delicious slices of musical apple pie phonetically. This album makes me feel patriotic, happy and ready to smoke some Philip Morris product while cruising in a car with bad gas mileage to pick up my corn-syrup fed sweetheart.

Ortolan "Time on a String," "ORTOLAN" EP

(Sounds Familyre) AbLov! That's short for "Absolutely lovely!" Special sweet sounds sparkle splendidly as these ladies do everything in their power to give New Jersey a good name. You will want to buy this CD chocolates and a valentine. But if you download it, don't put the chocolates in the optical drive slot. Trust me.

Batusis



(Smog Veil Records) One would expect a collaboration between ‘70s punk giants Sylvain Sylvain and Cheetah Chrome to be pretty spectacular, and certainly these songs beat the bejesus out of the last New York Dolls album.  Two spirited instrumentals and two tough old school antisocial diatribes make for a pretty nice mix. The Batman show reference in their name doesn’t seem to be a promise of campiness (any more than par for the Sylvain course) as much as a commitment to as much 60s trash as 70s trash.  I hope this hits, because I’d love to hear a whole album. 

Razorcake #54

(Razorcake) Pretty good issue: comprehensive Dead Milkmen interview, Nardwuar meets Daniel Johnston, and they wrap up the two part oral history of the Lumberjack/Mordam punk distributorship going kabloowie. Woulda been better if they squeezed it into one issue...no heroes or punk ethics in part two, making for dryer, sadder reading. And the editorializing conclusion is a touch self-righteous. That said, to actually see a piece of comprehensive, thoroughly researched investigative reporting in a zine is extremely impressive, and considering the state of journalism these days, they have put most daily papers and websites to shame with this.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Endtables


(Drag City) Late 70s Louisville punk given the righteous relic treatment. With an androgynous singer built like a linebacker, a guitarist who must have been intravenously injecting Stooges riffs, and a drummer sonically spooging all over his kit like a horny teenager, this proves to be actual lost gold, not the cookie cutter stuff that too often becomes historic by ancientness, not merit. This early punk, or possible pre-post punk, band (previously most familiar to non-Bluegrass State know-it-alls from a Bloodstains comp) has some arty New York downtown in singer Steve Rigot's great talk sing delivery. His voice sounds like it should be reading farm report, but the conviction with which he delivers lyrics about penisus and guilt and Halloween is jarring. Make sure to listen to "Trick or Treat" with headphones on to hear Rigot violate each of your ears separately. Half of this is barely heard studio stuff and half is sloppy live recordings, adding up to a seriously convincing slab of history. From this to Bastro is ten years makes it seem like Louisville might have had some kind of rock n roll plate tectonic shift sometime in there.

Michael Yonkers "Lovely Gold"

(Drag City) This is crazy fucking good! This strange, beautiful ball of weird miraculously never falls into the novelty zone, Yonkers' earnestness transforming absurd juxtapositions and strange voices and ideas into something that makes perfect (non)sense. Recorded by (the now lauded by psyche-heads, freak folkers, and obscuro-philiacs) Yonkers in 1977, and unheard since then, this song suite contains sweet songs. It alternates between strange pop, folk, old time rock 'n' roll, gospel, madrigals, goth, yodels, and Detroit punk that would scare the Stooges...all on one record in a half hour! Yonkers' vocals recall Roky Erickson, Jandek, Lux Interior, Moe Tucker, a puppet, Roy Orbison with a cold, Froggy from Andy Devine, and Klaus Nomi when he just woke up, and I know I'm missing about 900 others. Yet it's also delicately, strangely distinct. This is like outsider art done by someone who is actually a brilliant technical and formal expert on everything but just can't help making music that sounds like someone who lived in a cave and has never spoken to anyone but his friend the rock, was involved in all the decision making. Gold indeed!

Mighty Tiger "Western Theater"

(Paper Garden) If, like me, you're expecting this to be a Tygers of Pan Tang tribute band will be sorely disappointed. If (big if) you can get over that jolt, enjoy some perfect, pastoral, pleasant, puckish, plush, predictability-pummeling, paying-no-mind-to-preciosness, posh, prolific pop. Alas, the only 'P" they lack..."Pan Tang."

Third Light "Leaders and Followers" b/w "Garden," "Time to Shine" b/w "You've Got it All to Lose""

(thirdlight.net) I actually saw U2's plane the other day. I was literally at an airport in Los Angeles and my eyes beheld an entire full-sized jumbo plane with U2's name on the side. Bono has not sung a plane-worthy song since Obama was using a fake ID. But his band sounds like each member deserve a plane! The two songs on the first singe are so soaring and awesome each song should get it's own plane with a giant speaker mounted, and fly around the earth continuously blasting it's tune, while the U2 plane has to fly in-air fueling runs to these righteous aircraft, and the Edge has to pay carbon offsets for their emissions. The fact that their follow-up single was even better - with crunchy hooks, snotty vocals and a heavenly ska-beat fake out before it goes into overdrive - means I need to make some kind of grandiose Space Shuttle metaphor, but I don't have it in me. But it is an awesome single.

Lazer Crystal "MCMLXXX"

(Thrill Jockey) It's hard enough to program my robot servants to do my chores, grunt work, and bidding without them fucking all time time like microcephalic cyber-bunnies. But now that they've downloaded the brilliant bleep bloopery of this 23rd Century robotic marital aid music it's all over. I don't even want to know what all that WD-40 is for. Note: I realize 23rd Century and "MCMLXXX" seem to contradict, but in this case 1,980 refers not to a year but to a popular position in the Robot Kama Sutra. Although Asimov only came up with three robot laws, he was a lot more creative in his erotica).

A.D. "Akamai Drone"

 (A.D.) Although at times he sounds a little like a whiny Trent Reznor, I would still love to see the industrial vampire warrior movie this music goes along with.

DeScribe "Harmony"

(Modular Moods) You can't handle a guy with an un-ironic beard using un-ironic autotune to preach un-iron righteousness! But you should try!

Moomaw "Aminalia"

(Gazebo) Maybe I'm just sleepy, but this may be the dreamiest dreamscape dream-tastic dream music ever dreamed! And it's pay what you want, so you can get this for only a million dollars...a bargain!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Trunks "Kniee Journey to the Line"

(areyoutrunked) French cream that's amazingly light. Sweet art grooves that make you feel cooler just for having it touch your earhole.

Derek and the Darling "Hustler with a Rescue Plan"

(www.derekandthedarling.com) Derek should be called d' wreck because he's gonna be destroying dance floors!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Dagger #42

(Dagger) I'm a bit torn about Dagger zine in that I LOVE print zines and this has been around forever and it's dedicated to great interviews and features with interesting bands (this ish has Elf Power, The Clean, plus photos of the Mummies live), and tons of reviews. But the layout ain't exactly gonna win design awards (like we should talk). It just never looks as good as it reads. Then the website looks crazy fantastic, like God's gay brother in law who went to Pratt designed it. I almost never would recommend going to a web site over a print zine (you should never use a laptop on a lap made lap-pish because you are pooping...that's why there's a stack of zines on the toilet tank), but I'm leaning that way this time.

Jay Banerjee "Three Songs

(jaybanerjee.net) This is the perfect album cover, Jay looking weird and creepy ina  kissing booth, because this bubblegum-ish pop is some good lovin' music -- total County Fair kissin' and huggin' good. But his gloriously imperfect voice makes everything a little weird and freaky. Just like a kissing booth worker giving the evil eye.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Duplex Planet #186

 (Duplexplanet) There's no bigger booster than I of this zine about interviewing the elderly that has been around so long it is itself elderly. But I'm a bit torn about the latest issue. David Greenberger devotes the entire mag to conversations with Maxine Gilboy, a woman who I assume has dementia of some sort settling in, where she can't respond to questions with "normal" answers. Greenberger is in no way making fun of her, and he's impressively patient, and kind, and able to steer the conversation vaguely back regardless of where it goes, but still, this doesn't feel entirely right. Clearly what Greenberger appreciates is the beautiful poetry of semi-sensical sentence construction. When asked about giving piano lessons she replies, "They let them decide, they damned it, the dame damned decide, because you get them. You play them and somebody over here is so mad. Let's go and have and get some." That's not an undignified or stupid or goofy response, and it's certainly a beautiful poem of a some sort, but it's sure a shift from the oral histories and beautifully weird semi-senile, but kind of responsive, passages that have made this book so great over the decades. I think there are many compelling reasons to explore the thoughts of someone whose mind is somewhere else and really different than "standard," but the book length treatment kind of shook me up in ways I wasn't ready to be shook.

Razorcake #55, #56, #57, #58

(Razorcake) At this point it's a little embarrassing that we are reviewing 6 issues of another zine in our zine...we are getting slow to publish and old, obviously! But what's most impressive about R-Cake is that they don't crank them out by repeating themselves. Ish 55 gets awesome points because it reprints an ultra obscure Jay Reatard interview from Andria Lisle's zine that he did with himself and that is zine history gold! #56 has  alot of sports (both the Olympic and World Cup variety) and a lot of Billy Bragg...let's see MRR ever make those claims! And 57 has a long Pedro Almodovar retrospective (!?!).  Especially impressive is #58 which manages to have interesting interviews with contemporary ridiculous bands (the masked Hamburger Help Me and the tasty Kreamy Lectric Santa, not to mention BBQ-man himself Mark Sultan) but also has Nardwuar attacking Johnny Rotten in person and a smart career retrospective/interview with Nervous Gender. Maybe we aren't getting our mag done because we're too busy reading theirs.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

British Invasion DVD series

THE BRITISH ARE COMING….AGAIN
Guest Review by Gary Pig Gold

“No more Beatles! No more Stones! We just want the Viletones!” went the cry of true teen angst ‘round my Toronto neighborhood circa the Summer of Hate, 1977. And, memories of my favorite punk-rock combo from a misspent youth notwithstanding, I do find myself feeling very much the same these thirty-three-and-a-third revolutions later as big Beatle box sets and Rolling Stone re-issues continue to dominate our collective, sonic rear-view.

Of course I can still thrill to a remastered (mono!) “She Loves You” as much as the next boomer, and glimpsing out-takes of Hendrix backstage with Keith inside that Get Yer Ya-Ya’s anniversary bundle will always raise a grin or two. But surely, surely there must have been something going on during those scant weeks between 1963 and 1969 when Lennon, McCartney, Jagger and/or Richard compositions weren’t sitting atop the world’s hit parades.

Surely!

Well, finally, someone – namely those utterly fab folk over at Reelin’ In The Years – have seen fit to shed light upon some of the other mop-tops whose sounds and styles filled our six-transistors and Sunday evening Ed Sullivan shows. Yes, the first four editions of what’s promised to be an entire British Invasion series of DVD’s are, you bet, here at last, spotlighting Dusty Springfield, Herman’s Hermits, Gerry and the Pacemakers and the Small Faces.

And what audio/visual treats these discs are! Meticulously researched and packaged, expertly restored and annotated and whenever possible hosted by many of the actual participants themselves, the songs and stories flow in never less than quick, LOUD frenzies so perfectly reminiscent of those once-Swinging Sixties themselves.

So, wherever to start then? How about Gerry Marsden fondly recalling the very birth of the Liverpool Sound in the kind of detailed – sometimes most candidly so – way no Beatles Anthology would ever dare to. Or a self-admittedly “numb” Dusty Springfield deplaning into Australia only to be accused of being “kooky” and a spokesperson for “the hippie philosophy”?

Elsewhere, not at all coincidentally perhaps, we discover the hitherto-unknown connection between comedian/philosopher Lord Buckley’s spiritual “Nazz” and the Small Faces’ ritual Methedrine, plus learn that it was in fact Peter Noone’s seemingly innocent rhythm section who schooled Keith Moon in the fine art of Holiday Inn “redecorating”: why, watch closely and you’ll even spot actual Super 8 footage of pool-side, long underwear-festooned Who/Hermits hi-jinks deep within the Bonus Footage!

Such meaty beaty Bacchanalian moments aside however, this is one British Invasion which truly concentrates, as all such documentaries should but seldom do, on the MUSIC. And there are literally hours of vintage performance clips filling these discs, immaculately reproduced and shown complete and uncut, with nary a single word of needless graphic or narration dubbed over the guitar
solos for once. Plus, not just the usual stream of oft-recycled Shindig and Sullivan snips either: The producers have obviously gone to incredible lengths to scour the globe in search of seldom, if ever seen footage of, for example, Herman’s Hermits on Norwegian television or Gerry’s Pacemakers in Liverpool’s Cavern shooting their very own Ferry Cross The Mersey (…now, when does THAT film finally appear on DVD?!!)

Interestingly though, from the wealth of treasures spread across these discs, I was most pleasantly shocked to witness downright incendiary footage of the Small Faces’ Marquee Club debut, March of 1966. While for all the world looking, dressing, and acting like little more than a Cockney Monkees with cooler hair, trapped from the get-go inside these lads was apparently a solid, fighting-tough beat ‘n’ soul combo whose only Caucasian rivals at the time would have been those Young Rascals themselves. Who knew? (and then stay closely tuned for an extensive Colour Me Pop performance of their masterwork Ogden’s Nut Gone Flake complete with “Happiness” Stanley Unwin’s narration, I kid you not).

“None of us knew how good and how ahead of our time we were,” Small Face Kenney Jones admits herein, and that statement could rightfully serve as the modus operandi behind this entire series. Because, you see, The British Invasion, for the very first time ever, delves so very deeply into the hitherto-unexplored “second tier” of mid-Sixties U.K. talent, and in doing so paints most vividly an indelible picture of the era’s myriad musical and social upheavals. And in a way you just won’t get from any existing thumbnail study or PBS pledge special, needless to say.

Dusty Springfield: Once Upon a Time, Herman’s Hermits: Listen People, Gerry and the Pacemakers: It’s Gonna Be All Right and Small Faces: All Or Nothing are available separately or, even better, housed together with two and a half full hours of additional Bonus Disc interview and performance footage as a five-DVD collector’s set. Either way you take them, each deserve to be seen and heard repeatedly by any Merseybeating fan or serious student of rock ‘n’ roll …or even for someone who just needs to know the correct way to toss a cherry bomb down a Holiday Inn toilet.

It’s all here………




Pere Ubu “Long Live Pere Ubu”

(Hearpen Records) GUEST REVIEW by RUSS FORSTER
 I lost track of the great Pere Ubu sometime in the early ‘90s, when they started to sound depressingly more like a band influenced by R.E.M. than a band influencing them.  But this CD is a great re-introduction for me to what always made PU great:  bizarre humor, unusual instrumentation, great writing, and general beautiful dada organized chaos. Not likely to hit any dance floors soon, but good for putting the headphones on and enveloping yourself with.  “Head Music,” anyone?

Friday, April 23, 2010

Leatherface “The Stormy Petrel”


(No Idea Records) I’m not embarrassed to say that I’m actually a sucker for that old-school emo sound. OK, I’m sort of embarrassed to be that kind of a sucker for such music, which is nicely updated on this release.  These guys have been around since the late ‘80s, so they are theoretically updating themselves…and you can really hurt your neck doing that.  Hats off to them for sticking it out, if you know what I mean.

Old Growth “Under The Sun”


(Bakery Outlet Records) Portland, OR is home to a lot of very cool music these days, and this band qualifies to be put in that home.  It’s a potent blend of garage/psych and straight ahead old school punk rock, with just enough roots tendencies to keep it from sounding generic. 

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Jawbreaker "Unfun"


(Blackball Records) The grungy rock, with pop punk and hardcore tendencies still sounds fresh and energizing twenty years later. This reissue of their 1990 debut gives a nice glimpse of the exciting music the better Gilman Street bands were capable of in the days before Green Day made it Wal-Mart friendly.

LITTLE BILLY’S LETTERS An Incorrigible Inner Child’s Correspondence with the Famous, Infamous, and Just Plain Bewildered

(HarperCollins) Guest Review By Madeline Bocaro 

In the mid-1990s, out of sheer boredom, then 30- year old Bill Geerhart started writing letters asking for advice and opinions in the guise of an 8- year old boy. The letters were addressed to the infamous, the notorious, pop culture icons, politicians, and institutions. All the charm lies in his kid-style pencil writing on ruled paper, complete with spelling errors and his daring, seemingly innocent questions. The replies he received are incredible. 

I came across Billy’s wonderful web site via Radar magazine a few years ago, and enjoyed reading many of these letters, especially those from members of the Manson Family and Mister Rogers, whom little Billy offers one of his kidneys.  I recently noticed that the web site was gone, and in a fit of panic, I wondered what had happened. Thankfully, amazon.com sent me one of those ‘If you liked THAT book, you will also like THIS book’ emails based on my order history. Thank goodness I have very sick literary taste…Little Billy’s Letters was published in book form this month, and was highly recommended to me!  

Every prankster, jokester and comic, (even myself) wonder, ‘Why didn’t I think of this?’ How cute that it’s dedicated to his little sister!  

The author requested that first letter printed in the book be the reply he received from the legendary Art Linkletter, host of TV programs featuring children since the 1950s. The first chapter features letters from little Billy, asking if he should drop out of school. It’s amusing that Mr. Linkletter’s 1999 response mentions the age of information, technology and the world of computers, however it is written on a primitive manual typewriter - not even an IBM Selectric! 

Right away, we are dazzled by a response from Charles Manson. Most fascinating is the pre-printed return address envelope, with a design resembling a swastika (but not quite) and German style lettering from his residence, State Prison at Corcoran. Charlie also made some interesting doodles on the letter and envelope, which is also imprinted with Manson’s ATWA web site address. Manson’s weird response avoids Billly’s question entirely. 

Replies from the Unabomber, Son of Sam, Tex Watson, Susan Atkins and the Menendez brothers (all emphatically encouraging Billy to stay in school, and not to do as they had done), are sandwiched between letters and autographed photos he received from young TV stars such as Tori Spelling and Claire Danes. Richard Ramirez has his own printed stationery, emblazoned ‘The Night Stalker’. He asks little Billy if he knows any Asian girls for correspondence, and requests pictures of girls in bikinis. It’s amazing that prisoners are allowed to have pre-printed return addresses and designs on their envelopes. (The late) Susan Atkins’ cell number MB-127-LX was manually crossed out when she was moved to 116- LX. She is quite prolific in her advice to Billy, and tells him of her continuing prison education, and how busy she is every day. 

I was worried when at first I didn’t see the creepy old black & white photo of the shack that was on Billy’s web site, which Manson had enclosed with his letter…but there it was on the next page. The small run- down shack is in the middle of nowhere, and Manson wrote, “I bet you don’t remember this – you don’t even know where it is HA HA…” It gave me the creepiest feeling ever. Whatever had occurred at that unknown location, we will never know. Apparently, Billy was highly concerned about it as well. He made an inquiry of Manson Family member Susan Atkins about it in 1999, and again in 2007 to Manson himself, but no further info was provided. 

Billy doesn’t stop at humans. The First Cat and First Dog (Socks and Buddy Clinton) are propositioned, as are the NESQUIK bunny, the Lucky Charms Leprechaun and Tony the Tiger. There are also some cool Fun Facts throughout the book, such as, “The Son of Sam attended Woodstock”, AND, “Lucky Charms can be purchased in Ireland, although they are hard to find.” 

Billy always mentions that his letter writing was instigated by his friend Eddie, whom he mentions every time. This seems to lend credibility in the minds of the respondents (who assume that Eddie is older). Many of them say ‘hi’ to Eddie in their replies. Billy sometimes mentions that he is writing for a school project, or that his parents are helping him write the letter, which also gives him cred with his bemused readers. The Young Communist League accepted his application! 

Little Billy’s parents have allowed him to chose his own religion. He surveys Krishnas and Moonies, the Mormons, the Churches of Satan, Scientology and many others, on what’s cool about their religion.  

He asks career advice from McDonalds, Starbucks, KFC and Dr. Kevorkian. Billy mentions to each that he would like to work in their field, but his #1 job choice would be 7-Eleven. The National Hobo Association responds about how Billy can become a good hobo with one of the most glowing and touching praises of their association that I have ever read about anyone. (This led me to check out the fascinating ‘What Is a Hobo’ section at www.hobo.com). 

Billy surveys U.S. Supreme Court justices on their favourite MacDonald’s menu items. He asks NASA to build him a time-travel ship to send his annoying little sister back to the time of the ‘dinosores’. His second response from Manson, received in 2008 has a smiley face sticker on the envelope. It’s the weirdest piece of nonsense ranting ever.  

In the unanswered ‘Dead Letters’ chapter, is Billy’s letter to O.J. Simpson. Billy writes, “My whole family thinks you’re guilty but I do not. I want to help you find the real killer…” and sends O.J. his allowance of $1.68 in cash. There are also unanswered letters to J. D. Salinger, O.D.B. (Old Dirty Bastard), and most ironically, the Make A Wish Foundation, whom he asked for a visit from the Olsen twins, a swimming pool and his own room. 

This is the ultimate gift book for your most demented friends. It’s also a wonderful collection of memorabilia that runs the gamut of pop culture. An exhibit of original letters, autographed photos,  trading cards, and promotional items he received should tour the country as Little Billy’s Museum. 

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Slits "Trapped Animal"


(Narnack Records) This album got some pretty tepid reviews, but I’m gonna swim against the tide here. And I’ll swim doing punky reggae strokes.  For me, this brings to mind their astonishing debut without sounding particularly like that album at all.  The feminist rants sound as fresh and powerful as ever, and the rhythms are thick and revolutionary.  Reggae is just the beginning here, with ska, Latin and African sounds thrown together into a tasty improbable gumbo.  Not particularly groundbreaking, but this is no sell-out, and Ms. Up and the current line up know exactly what’s up. Their Chicago show last year, by the way, was ridiculously good. A mess, but ridiculously good.

The Graves Brothers Deluxe "San Malo"

(Green Cookie RecordsBrilliant bad-attitude rock expertly produced by L.A. legends Geza X and Paul Roessler.  World-weary in a totally pissed-off way that’s also very funny, with some of the tastiest slide guitar to slide my way in years.  BONUS: Features PCR ace DJ STOO ODUM on stringed instruments, vocals, and way-offbeat songwriting.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Hot Wire Comics #3


 (Fantagraphics) GUEST REVIEW by Robert Dayton
Ever wonder what happened to all those 90s alt cartoonists? Where did they go? A load of em are in issue 3 of Hotwire Comics, a graphic novel compilation edited by Glenn Head. Have comics improved since the 90s? Or do many of these cartoonists just not seem quite as good as I remember them in my na├»ve youth? The old ‘revisionism for shock value’-tropes of clowns, hillbillys, and hobos abound in this issue of Hot Wire Comics. There seems to be a lot of aiming for seedy yuks. Lemme dig back through my comic boxes. Ahh. Ya know, some-some, not all- of the artists included here really have a very impressive body of work. What they delver here is slight, even the great and mighty Rick Altergott falls flat with his story of clown lust (tho the art is top drawer as always). The odd tarnished gem peeks through: it’s great to see Mary Fleener’s work again with her autobiographical tale of gun purchasing and Matso ‘s zip-a-tone coloured full-page panels of fanged psychosexuality have a cartoony, nasty sheen that’s a right pleasure to look at.

Night Business issues 1-3, Gangsta Rap Posse by Benjamin Marra


(Traditional Comics) GUEST REVIEW by ROBERT DAYTON
This is 80s. Very 80s. Very 1980s. The covers and interiors have more squiggles and triangles than a Ford Fiesta. Altho it’s a pretty brand spanking new comic book, this is 80s for a coupla reasons.
“Night Business” satisfies where Abel Ferrara’s movie “Fear City” doesn’t. Like that movie, this comic book is about a mysterious psycho murdering strippers in 1980s New York City. “Fear City” –unlike Ferrara’s movies before and after-plays out like a pedestrian compromise. “Night Business” reads like the movies that “Fear City” seemed to want to be: “Maniac”, “New York Ripper”, and “Vice Squad.” Lurid exploitation, pre-Guiliani sleaze, extreme violence mixed with sex, stylized grimy Yanqui Grand Guignol. Street fights and bloody knives. Straight-ahead plots aiming for the gut.
Benjamin Marra has a real sense of knowledge for this specific type of cinema. “Night Business” never lets on, it never winks, total poker face. Tongue covertly in cheek, one can see smoke casually flare out of the nostrils of the unseen caption box narrator. That this is a comic book and not a movie suffices enough to make it more absurd.
There’s another reason why this feels 80s. It could have easily have come out of the black and white comic book glut where everyone was putting out comics trying to cash-in on the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle frenzy, some real oddball comics came out of that and this could easily have been one of them. But it is certainly accomplished. There is a deceptive stiffness that works for it giving the comic a crackle of intensity/removal play. The grid form gives the panels a voyeuristic quality. Yet these panels have a rhythmic staccato flow. They occasionally open up for wide shots, such as the sequence of one of the strippers in the ballet studio. All through each of her sweeping movements she looks like a hood ornament. All of the characters themselves seem to be composed of taut, molded clay with faces that look like grinning skulls.
            Issue three of “Night Business” is the best, a real delivery of the goods with extra anchovies as it gets into the satisfying delirium of revenge. A masked lingerie lady zooms around on her motorbike helping strippers by running over their attacker’s heads and leaving a well wrought trail of blood. Gunfire, explosions, pills, heroin. The detective gets deeper into the case. Pimp Donny applies his fingernail ripping torture technique. In terms of pacing, this issue is more advanced. Different vantage points and perspectives for the choreographed action scenes are applied, occasionally breaking it up with some emotional downtime. And a cliffhanger that gets us juiced for issue four. These comics aren’t distributed by Diamond. Diamond pisses me off. Order direct from the artist.
            “Gangsta Rap Posse” is a comic book about a nasty rap group that lives what they rap about to total excess, gun wielding, crack selling, pimping. It takes place in 1991 and -like the 1983 of “Night Business”- Marra gives it the feel of the time.  I pause to ponder, “What would a comic of his set in the present day be like?” (www.traditionalcomics.com)

Monday, April 19, 2010

Dodgem Logic #1

(Dodgem Logic) GUEST REVIEW BY ROBERT DAYTON
Here’s something that should appeal to Roctober readers, a new mag headed by beardickal comick and magick creator Alan Moore that is underground to the core and charmingly so. Agenda: “Clearly what the world needs is a trippy-looking underground mag with a self-confessed agenda of aggressive randomness.”  Priced not to be a money-maker, it‘s a grab-bag of such items as urban gardening tips, recipes, loads and loads of self-expression and community, comics by the likes of Savage Pencil, a history of underground mags, and a history of Northampton music with an accompanying free CD!

This Moment in Black History "Public Square"

(Smog Veil) Heavy, garage-y, noisy, with a good dose of bad attitude and ‘70s rock-isms thrown into the insanity.  About as far from happy hippie music as I can imagine, in the finest bad-ass Midwestern tradition.  This pure distorted adrenaline rush is momentously historical!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

My Life in Black and White "Hold the Line"


(Castaway Records) Yee-haw! Sure it’s basic cowpunk (with nicely gravelly vocals) and doesn’t rope every steer on the ballads, but on the faster tunes this really brands my steers.  If you have a hankerin’ for fist-pumping during your do-si-dos, this do-si-does the trick!

TRICLOPS! "Helpers On The Other Side"


(Alternative TentaclesHearkens back to those too often forgotten Touch And Go bands from the late ‘80s/early ‘90s, trying to make prog rock safe for the world again.  Being a secret fan of Rush and Yes, I secretly saw nothing wrong with this at all.  This is quirky and original, and filled with crazy energy that never quits. “Tri” it, you’ll like it!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

GITAR / Stuffed CD /

(Seeland Records) Mashup insanity on a variety of themes and topics.  Controlled sonic anarchy, in the best sense of that term that I just made up.  One of the most complete and scathing commentaries on the nonsensical detritus that passes for pop culture in this country. Awesome.

Cassette "Shining Like A New Dime"

 Light but moody cello music that goes from country to folky to quasi-goth-y in ways that hits the spot during those moments when your soul needs the soothing that can only be achieved via mellow cello injection. There’s always room for cello.

Friday, April 16, 2010

You Shall Die By Your Own Evil Creation: More Comics By Fletcher Hanks

(Fantagraphics) GUEST REVIEW by ROBERT DAYTON
Everybody’s talking Fletcher Hanks, the formerly unknown   golden-age creator of oddball comics. The first collection of the late Hanks’ work, “I Shall Destroy All Civilized Planets”, made a great many top comics  lists when it was released in 2007. This particular volume, “You Shall Die By Your Own Evil Creation”, collects apparently everything else that he did. I naturally expected this book to be less satisfying, unless one is indebted to completism. I was wrong. Being proven wrong can be a tremendous feeling. We certainly get more variations on his main theme: hero steps in to deliver some peculiar sense of vengeance to a mad villain after he has already killed a great many people. There is also a repetition of postures, poses, and expressions. Many characters are variations: both Space Smith and Whirlwind Carter could be the same character, Tabu is the wizard of the jungle while Fantomah is the mystery woman of the jungle. Hanks even signed his work with a variety of interchangeable pseudonyms: Hank Christy, Barclay Flagg, Charles Netcher. But I think this repetition makes for fascinating reading and it may be where the numerous comparisons to Henry Darger actually ring true, as it is kin to traced and collaged pieces incorporated into a unique framework. In the comparison game, Gould and Wolverton also pop-up, partly due to their cartoony infusions in the adventure genre.
            I quite prefer this second volume because it contains the adventures of Big Red McLane, King of The Northwoods. This lumberjack appears from nowhere to commit acts of valour in the corrupt world of logging! Fistfights get rewarded with flapjacks and career advancement. Also included is Hanks’ only Medieval-styled adventure, Tiger Hart of Crossbone Castle, which is more of a jarring anti-climax with some nicely rendered horses. My fave Fantomah adventure is here; a kind, white boy turns evil after eating mysterious drug berries, he grows up to use his giant constrictor to topple buildings, as a result Fantomah’s floating and disembodied pretty-lady/scowling skull-head steps in. In the later Stardust adventures, reprinted here, he recruits an army of young boys clad in skintight outfits just like his own. And the black cover fits quite nicely on the bookshelf next to the white cover of the previous volume.

Mermen "In God We Trust"

(KMA) The longer compositions on this record can get a tad jammy (and not in the delicious Smuckers way), but there are always parts that remind me of the late, great Raybeats (which can be tastier than Smuckers).  Psychedelic surf instrumentals with cowboy undertones and a touch of Morricone is good stuff, I just would have been a bit stronger with some with editing. 

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Sons of Hercules "A Different Kind of Ugly"


(Saustex) GUEST REVIEW BY GENTLEMAN JOHN BATTLES
Antone......The Alamo, The River Walk, Baylor U, Aquarena Springs, Pig Stands, Taco Land (R.I.P.), Riverside Mall.....Juimonos! Let's Went!!!  Hard to believe, it's been more than 15 years since I first saw Sons of Hercules. We even did a show together once. The venue provided us with a pizza...just a few months before having their kitchen shut down for the ubiquitous rat turds.
The band hasn't changed. Oh, they've shuffled the deck around a bit over the years, just enough to keep the game interesting, but the hard shell taco remains chock full of hot 'n'greasy 60s AND 70s Punk sounds. They just happen to straddle that line better than most. On "Ugly" the band comes on stronger and more hard-hitting than before. Lead singer Frank Pugliese, veteran of The Mystery Dates (whose "Easy Action" appears here.) and The Vamps (they opened for The Sex Pistols' notorious "Randy's Rodeo" gig) is just as full of bile and the rage that won't age as ever.  Guitarists Dale Hollon (the other remaining founding member) and Dave "Bone " Pederson form a double guitar attack that brings to mind Radio Birdman, while their stripped down melodicism recalls The Saints (whose "I'm Misunderstood," a staple in their set since the early 90s, appears on a S.O.H. release for the first time here). But they're not aping anyone, which could explain why they were largely ignored by the 90s Garage revival. The Sons of Hercules didn't even wait around for the 70s Punk Revival, they just went in there and DID it. And , they're still doing it.

Snowbyrd "Diosdado"

(Saustex) Snowbyrd, theirs is a taco that's neither fish nor fowl. They go from basic 70's Hard Rock sounds to Punk and Psych , and deliver it in so many ever-changing chord progressions that it's almost like Jazz. I said "almost," but  I think you'll understand my convoluted logic when you hear it for yourself. The songs contained herein frequently change direction, turning on their heads, stopping on a dime. This album begins on a tragic note, lead drummer (you read me right) Manuel Diosdado Castillo died from complications related to Cancer. Not having known the man, I think I can still safely say that this album is a celebration of his life and his musical career. He had a vision and like his friends in The Sons of Hercules he really didn't give a damn where, or if, it fit in his beloved San Antonio, in Austin, or wherever it was heard . He did play the drums as a lead instrument, and while the drums were frequently to the fore (like Krupa, like Rich, like Jazz, don't bitch), his bandmates and Brothers, Scotty Allen Lutz and Chris Dor Lutz (late of The Dropouts, faves of Sons of Hercules AND of Joe "King" Carrasco!) had to be called upon to deliver the same kinds of dynamics, and they do. Snowbyrd carries on today, though, or because, their good buddy is gone, and have been seen recently sharing the stage with the likes of Sons of Hercules, T. Tex Edwards and Out On Parole.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Parade of Humanity by Michael Comeau

 (Koyama Press) GUEST REVIEW BY ROBERT DAYTON
Koyama Press is a new publisher of provocative comic art-related material out of Toronto. Check this title: “Parade Of Humanity.” Let’s boil humanity down to its’ bare essentials: the cover logo for this large fold-out newspaper  is rendered as a giant turd. It’s plopped down on top of a red multi-bursting over-lapping zip-a-dee-doo-da toned cover. Collaged nekked ladies prance about and co-mingle with hand-drawn nekked ladies, some clothed like they are on a sci-fi superhero team. Open it up and we get full-page art tableau symmetry of collaged and bloated bikers, nekked ladies, guns, hand-drawn homemade porno that desperately aims to please but keeps woefully cartoony, ads for such fake porno books as “ESP Orgy: Based on the real life fantasies of hypnotists everywhere”, sexy nuns and other religious ephemera, bits of nasty business in the jungle and more stirring the pot of life and its’ troubled representations drenched in sweat. Porn mystified into art (koyamapress.com).

BREAKAWAYS "Walking Out On Love"

(AliveThese are the long-lost tapes of the project Peter Case and Paul Collins pursued for a bit after the amazing Nerves broke up and before the two went their separate ways in Paul Collins Beat and the Plimsouls.  Some of the best power-pop ever made is in these grooves, no lie!  Along with the recent Nerves releases an absolutely essential document of yet another ‘70s L.A. pop band that (with all due respect to Doug Fieger, R.I.P.) blew away the Knack in everything but record sales.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Lose #2 by Michael Deforge

(Koyama Press) Guest Review by Robert Dayton
More props to Koyama Press, feisty Canuck comic upstart publisher. Here’s another one of theirs. Michael Deforge is a talent to watch. He’s even advanced by leaps and bounds between issues one and two of his comic book Lose, he’s coming into his own. With the first ish he had to work out some alt comic tropes such as self-defeating Brunettis and meta- taking on mainstream superhero yuks, he’s still got a couple of kinks to work out, but it’s really coming on. The guy has skill. Everything about this comic book is cartoony gloss right down to the paper it’s printed on. He has an effective ability to give everything a total big foot funny book look and be intricately detailed at the same time; it’s cohesive. Here’s the ripper: as slick as Lose looks, the subject matter enters troubled fever dream turf as two boys stumble across a horse carcass filled with carnivourous spider parasites that eventually infect all the schoolyard bullies. Water and ink occasionally fill the panel grids with pure inky blackness submerging us further into the funny and neck hair bristling subconscious. Deforge also has a way of depicting mysterious festering sores on big headed boys. It’s nice to see an actual nicely packaged independent comic book in these days where the now standard graphic novel formats are supposed to merit some brass ring of respectability.
Deforge has also done a Cold Heat special for PictureBox that is an experimental departure- aren’t all the Cold Heat Specials tho? This is more of a photocopied tract where he takes the various names of characters and such from the comic book and designs them as logos. 16 pages of pure hand drawn LOGOS. Elaborate, occasionally semi-readable, some in death metal font, one depicted as landscape standing like trees against the night sky, another as a name rendered in blood splattering from a fist to the reader’s face. Does this further the Cold Heat plot? Are we Gods? This gives Cold Heat iconic status.

The Aimless Never Miss "Tran"

(500 RecordsMore emo-ish sounds from a local staple of the Bay Area scene.  Saved from wallowing in the usual angst by some snappy melodies and unusual arrangements.  Could actually be be a hit (as, I suppose, their name implies), but not in an annoying way.  

Binky Brown meets The Holy Virgin Mary by Justin Green

(McSweeney’s) Guest Review by Robert Dayton
At last, the hard cover treatment for Binky Brown meets The Holy Virgin Mary.
Not only is this the Daddy of the autobiographical comic book, it is also the greatest and most unique (still after forty years). This comic book is a personal confession of Catholic sexual repression that blends reality with symbiology in ways that had never before been expressed, dark and deep yuks of substance in the funny book form. The reproductions of this particular edition take pains to show every single cut-and-paste and streak of white-out. It’s like we are literally reading the paste-up copy before it goes to print. I’ve never seen anyone do this before and I’m not entirely sure of their reasoning. Perhaps this was done to take it away from the world of art reproduction, to make it feel closer to the real thing, yet I found looking at all the blue pencil marks and covered-up glitches to be distracting and distancing when I was reading it for enjoyment. This version seems aimed at people more interested in the working methods. Included is a lengthy and insightful essay by Justin Green himself of how Binky Brown Meets The Virgin Mary came to be in terms of his own personal and psychological history, style development, and the slow growth of its’ eventual influence.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Wages by John Armstrong

(New Star Books) (Guest Review by Robert Dayton)
Work is Hell. Work is Hell. John Armstrong’s previous book “Guilty of Everything”, an unflinchingly honest account of his time as Buck Cherry of the legendary Vancouver punk group The Modernettes (soon to be a motion picture), presented a semi-un-glamourous picture of the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle. The follow-up “Wages” has not so much as a touch of glamour.The last time I saw John was a few years ago, he was in job-hunt sports coat attire, pounding the pavement, looking none too pleased to do so. For me, that was a foreshadowing of this book. “Wages” is a first-hand account of every job that he’s ever had. And it is entertaining! The cynicism densely drips and seeps off the pages, yet is tempered by being writerly and laugh-out-loud funny! He hones his pen with the most cutting and ascerbic of methods, facing such blinding realities head on with shirt-sleeves rolled up. Whether he’s shoveling shit out of chicken coops , hosing down the mysterious balcony seats of a skid row theatre, boxing up VHS porn, or desperately facing mortality as a newspaperman, all the while with bosses that are always out to screw everyone over, it makes for a compelling personal treatise on why not to work. He has funneled these years of utter drudge for our pleasure. What a drag that the book itself looks like the very concept of labour itself:  totally unappealing. Why did the Publisher hire a graphic designer who makes everything look like CDs for late 90s Nickelback wannabe bands? And I can’t think of a worse pull-quote for the back cover of a book than “Enter-fucking-tainment.” Let the punishment fit the crime: we must subject this book designer to all of the miserable jobs that John Armstrong himself went through and if they wind up half as inspired as “Wages” is then those jobs will have done their job.

Polkaholics "Wally! A Polka-Rock Opera"

(Polkaholics RecordsChicago’s Polkaholics have been destroying polka music in a loving way for well over a decade, and here they pay homage to one of their heroes (who I saw them be the back-up band for in 2000) Li'l Wally.  If you’re a thrift store junkie like me you might have a couple of Wally's records in your collection for those times when goofy but authentic polka music hits the spot.  This CD doesn’t sound anything like its subject matter, but tells the story with some pretty well-crafted pop/punk songs delivered with a distinctive 3/4 beat.  Great fun for all ages!