Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Superions "Destination...Christmas!

(Fanatic) Fred Schneider does his best to make his work with the B52s sound subtle, mellow, and tasteful with this X-mas album that you should probably keep away from the kids. Opening with a jingle-ized nod to Divine's hi-nrg classic "Jungle Jezebel," and closing (or, should I say, climaxing) with a Santa-fied take on Serge's Je T'aime," this is clearly the Christmas record for the family members who are strategically uninvited to Christmas dinner (or at least asked to leave their "roommate" at home). Highlights include a song where Yetis massacre the North Pole HQ, a get freaky under the tree jam, and some X-mas-themed stripper music. Perhaps this is more outrageous than good, but there's such a thing as being so outrageous it doesn't matter if it's good. Fruit! Cake!

Kid Creole and the Coconuts “Anthology Vol. 1 & 2”

(Rainman) Kid Creole (interviewed in these pages a few years back) is a fascinating figure, turning disco inside out with his beautiful backup Coconuts, with Dr. Buzzard’s Original Savannah Band, and with some of the best live performances of the late 20th century (drawing on the best of the early 20th century). I suppose the act is still amazing, and if you saw them live you would be dying to throw money at them, so this CD would serve a great purpose. A double disc collection of greatest hits, covers, new songs, and good times is a winner. But these are re-recordings, not the original (a collection of which, spanning the career, would be better). But if I bought this from a scantily clad Coconut I sure as hell wouldn’t complain.

Mehran “Angels of Persepolis”


(www.flamencoguitarplayer.com) Flamenco-tacular! Though dramatic and moving, it’s hard to tell how these songs relate to Iranian history and culture outside of the titles. But it sounds great.

John McVey “Unpredictable”

(www.johnmcvey.com) This rootsy songwriter showcase is way better than the new albums by Steve E. Nix, Mik Fleetwould and Lynn Tse Buckinhand.

Mark Mansfield “It Happened One Evening”


(Lucid Veil) Mark is the man! Dramatic story songs, or story-like songs with madrigal like singing and sax or harmony or keyboard flourishes that make this fall somewhere between lo-fi Phil Spector drama and outsider art.

Treasa Levasseur “Low Fidelity”

(tressalevasseur) With a voice that recalls Carole King and a sensibility that recalls Candye Kane, this is some exquisitely recorded R&B meets singer-songwriter stuff that will groove you…deeply.

Kit “Invocation”

(Upset the Rhythm) Strange soundtracks for the happiest, yet consistently scariest, monster movie ever made. Bubbling. melodic. experimental jingles are the new punk rock.

Tall Grass Captains “In the Resistance”


(Ubique) On this odd, off-kilter, experimental, World Music abusing, skewed pop, haunting voiced journey, it’s tall gas, tall ass, or tall grass…nobody rides for free!

Fred Shafer “Resistor”

(MVD) Although I feel bad saying that this bland non-rock music shouldn’t even be made, I keep recalling that I felt bad having to listen to it.

David Newbould “Live From Austin


(www.davidnewbould.com)More bold than new, as like many Austin-ites David appreciates the route of the roots, and knows solid old time songwriting will get you there faster than taking the trendy highway.

The Golden Filter “Voluspa”


(www.goldenfilter.com) Dance music for brilliantly hip penguins who can only waddle slightly, but look cool doing so.

Fairchild Republic “Ships Are For Sailing”


Fairchild Republic “Ships Are For Sailing” (myspace.com/fcrepublic) Fair.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Funky Knights


 (hyperspace) Blues club funk that isn’t here to break ground or get a New Yorker essay written about it, it’s here to make a drinking crowd groove. Fun is key!

K-X-P

(Smalltown Superstar) Kontains Xquisite Pounding!

Brookhaven “When the Chorus Walks"


(Expel) brook HEAVEN!

Don’t “Away Away”


 (www.thedont.net) Do! Not doo doo!

Eaves of Ass zine


(Craven Rock, 10511 Phinney Ave N Seattle WA 98133) Craven supports his writing by travelling around the country enacting whatever hustles he can, working the welfare state, the tourist industry, medical science, and anything else to get by and have enough free time for creativity. At least that’s what he’s done for years. This issue tells harrowing tales of trying to get by on the hustle in a recession. The writing is sharp, the stories are relatable and interesting, and his observations are ass-tute.

Face Value “Rode Hard, Put Away Wet: Clevo Hardcore ’89-‘93”


(Smog Veil) Late 80s/early 90s hardcore that has more to do with early 80s hardcore than its contemporaries. Perhaps the timeless land of Rocket, Iggy, and the Dead Boys skewed the time continuum. One of the most impressive things here is that their demos are not only ambitious, but better than their albums.

Baby Eagle “Dog Weather”


Baby Eagle “Dog Weather” (You’ve Changed) Should be called Able Beagle because this record connotes ability and talent, and also loyalty…to a vision, even if it doesn’t quite fit any genre.  Contains Jim Carroll-esque vocals, folk-ed up indie rock, and harmonincatfights.

The Offbeat “inlovefield”


(www.theoffbeat.co.uk) Though this somehow qualifies as some kind of alternative, John Peel-would dig, arty, post punk serious music, it has so many elements of poppy 60s goofy American garage (including hooks, jangly rhythms, girls names, and non-arty beach Boys pop influences) that if the band was called The Offbeats and had Beatles bowl cuts I’d be OK with that.

Rasputina “Sister Kinderhook"


(Filthy Bonnet) Amazingly this high drama poetry olde tyme madrigal-core concept album does not have a hint of renaissance faire or 7th grade girl’s diary toi t. In my opinion the best kind of rock opera/concept album is the one where I can’t figure out what the hell is supposed to be going on at all in it…so let’s see…giants…slaves…snow hens…mission accomplished here!

Jerry Jennings “Shortcut to the Center”


(PB) I’m not a student of jam bands, wailing, guitars, fusion-ish rock, or brilliant wankery. But even I can hear that this dude should be playing for ten thousand jam fans a night. Produced by Ronnie Montrose and featuring more lpm (licks per minute) than a lollipop festival, this JJ is dy-no-mite!

Get Well zine

(by Chris Estey) This is a great concept for a zine…really, really good writing! 

Jenn Franklin “Girl Invisible”


(www.jennfranklin.com) The reasons I like this are because Franklin has a moving husky voice, and seems to have a deft gift for songwriting. It’s not because she’s super good looking. Really. Though she is pretty good looking.

Monday, October 18, 2010

The Maybenauts “big bang”

 (Horse Drawn) My fave local band delivers the rock, or at least a few tasty slices of it on this 5 song ep. Though these cuts, as exquisitely recorded as they are, don’t quite capture the band’s live energy, the power of Leilani’s voice or Vee’s guitar wailing, “Girl Fight” is as solid a serving of kickass as you can expect. Though the cartoon cover is cute, I have to say I’m surprised how lo-fi the design on this CD is – this seems like such an ambitious, talented act I expected to be blown away by the art when they finally released something. But forget visuals (which is hard to do when the band has a panda in it), this still banged pretty bangingly and big!

The Scenics “Sunshine World"

(dreamtown) I don’t know much about this Canadian New Wave band that made these brilliant recordings in ’77 and ’78. Why they aren’t legends is hard to say. Perhaps their allegiance to the styles of the Velvet Underground and their parallels to the style of Talking Heads made them seem unoriginal, but that’s hard to believe considering how dynamic these tracks are. Perhaps they had some weird ideas and pushed them too far for folks’ tastes. This does end with a 15-minute psychedelic new wav e boogie power pop amble epic. Maybe they were too political – “I Killed Marx” is one dark tune. Maybe Tommy James destroyed their career because he didn’t like their inside-out “Mony Mony” cover? Whatever the reason, it was a crime, and these are the Scenics of the crime!

Psychic Borderland


(www.gallerymjb.com) They say you hear something new every day. But you don’t. In fact you almost never hear something new. But this is new: melancholy psychedelia!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

LICK ME - HOW I BECAME CHERRY VANILLA by Cherry Vanilla

(Chicago Review Press) [Guest Review by Madeline Bocaro] Five Stars - With a Cherry on Top! Cherry Vanilla’s new book is so delicious, that I devoured it in one day. This is a long awaited tome from someone who was in the midst of all the mayhem - a fearless, sweet and vivacious groupie who became a ‘superstar’ - the nicest ‘bad girl’ around. It is sprinkled with name-droppings which include Jimmy Durante, Dean Martin, Cousin Brucie, Eddie Munster, Kris Kristofferson, Joni Mitchell, Warren Beatty, Don Johnson, Patti Smith, Mick Jagger David Bowie and Andy Warhol, to name a few. The back-cover praises are sung by filmmaker Tim Burton, Kate Pierson (B-52’s), groupie extraordinaire Pamela Des Barres and Countess Luann De Lesseps (Real Housewives of New York City)…from the sublime to the ridiculous!  The intro is by Rufus Wainwright. Cherry’s book is even more exciting than her Scoops For You column in Creem magazine! 

Cherry’s mission statement: ‘…the passion of the groupie is probably the purest, holiest thing in all of rock and roll.’ 

Born Kathy Dorritie in New York City (1943), she grew up in Woodside, Queens – just one train stop from Manhattan.  The mystique, lights, grit and glamour of the city drew her in. Her mom worked in a hotel above the famous Copacabana nightclub, where young Kathy witnessed 1940s and 50s old school glamour first hand - velvet mink, dazzling diamonds, expensive perfume, famous singers and movie stars. These textures and people shaped her life, and all the kinky details are gleefully revealed in her book. 

Cherry speaks innocently of learning to enjoy and appreciate the fervent Catholicism that was forced upon her. ‘It was the first live dramatic theatre I knewbut my true religion was rock n’ roll.’ Amidst some touching and naive childhood stories are instances of brutality on behalf of her un-glamourous dad who worked at the Dept. of Sanitation. His savage abortion of her pet Dalmatian’s puppies resulted in little Kathy’s OCD, and later manifested as nymphomania, an illness that she enjoyed with flair and gusto!  

With show biz in her heart, Kathy started DJ-ing in the 1960s at a New York nightclub, spinning soul, R&B, Motown, Janis and Jimi. Honing her social networking skills by working at Madison Avenue ad agencies gained her newer and gayer friends. Weekends on Fire Island brought new drugs and more VIPs. Cavorting backstage at the Fillmore East allowed many more rock star encounters and conquests. Kathy’s passion for words, poetry and music fueled her zeal for Public Relations. She became lover and friend to the famous and infamous at Max’s Kansas City, and everywhere she went. She joined the Dadaist performance troupe Theater of the Ridiculous (described in her diary as ‘tragedy disguised as comedy.’) 

One of her clever ruses was ordering printed cards at Tiffany & Co. which read, “You are beautiful, so am I” with her name and phone number. This ensured liaisons with many beautiful strangers. But Cherry admits, ‘good old- fashioned lovemaking, both in body and spirit…despite all of my experimentations and petty perversions, has really always been my favorite kind.’ After narrowly escaping yet another dangerous predicament (her love of NYC is  apparent here) she says, ‘New York City cops are so great. Without treating me like the dumb slut I obviously was, they escorted me back up to my apartment…’ 

In the early 70s, Cherry Vanilla lived and worked in the best of both worlds. She was among Andy Warhol’s factory superstars, and also was present at the beginning (and instrumental in the climax) of David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust fame. When worlds collide, fabulous things happen! The Warhol entourage was in London performing Andy’s play Pork. The Bowies attended, and essentially hired the entire cast on the spot, as their publicity crew. Cherry was  appointed as Bowie’s spokesperson at his PR firm Mainman. She spun his decadent debacles into humorous headlines, and became lovers with David and his wife Angie.  

Upon realizing that she was an artiste herself, a succession of performances ensued (starting with a poetry reading and book, Pop Tart Compositions). Mick Jagger & David Bowie attended one of her comedic cabaret shows at NYC’s Reno Sweeny’s. Her first UK touring band included Sting of the Police. She also released a few albums and was a part of London’s early Punk scene. 

My fondest memory of Cherry was walking past her buttocks and hand-prints in cement, hung outside the entrance of Trude Heller’s nightclub Greenwich Village for many years. 

Congratulations Cherry on this super sweet book. You are a Rock Star! 

Tonetta “777”

(Black Tent) Justin Bieber was discovered off of Youtube, but now “We” have “our” Bieber! The mysterious Tonetta, who has spent the last few years posting his minimal, disturbing songs accompanied by visuals that include masks, underwear, fake breasts, abrupt edits (which are rare, these are mostly one take one-ders), expert dancing, noise, shock , and awe. Features his anti Elton John screed, his guitar explosion and his crucifixion song (which I would not have expected to be as good without seeing him in his Jesus briefs, but it was actually better!) While a double DVD is what we need from Tonetta, a140 gm vinyl deluxe release is a pretty great start!

Two Hours Traffic “territory”


 (Bumstead) It’s not two hours of unpleasant congestion, they are “stuck” in Traffic because they are taking their sweet (and it is sweet) time getting there, stopping for poppy picnics along the way, and maybe they are listening to a Traffic album or two on the tape deck (though 80s solo Steve Winwood, or maybe a Shoes tape, are more likely).

TWO ESSAYS of pressing relevance by Chris R. Morgan

(First As Tragedy Then As Farce) The essays are important, not so much spoofing the lectures of academia, but rather taking up some lost art of informed, intellectual dandyism, saying little and offering the absurd, but weaving a web of words that makes it all seem germane, urbane, and not insane. Which is particularly impressive with essay #2, a Modest Proposal-style treatise on how the path to America’s future economic health involves monetizing necrophilia. And he makes a good argument. “Code Blue,” all the way!

Tribute to JJ Cale Volume 1 The Vocal Sessions

(Zoho) JJ Cale is great because his compositions could be picked up by hard rocking arena giants who wanted to reveal their ability to do something rootsy with heart, and somehow they would never fall flat on their faces. John W. Cale made Eric Clapton, Skynyrd (the great “”Call Me the Breeze,” not covered here), and even Widespread Panic seem smart and sensitive. Despite a growling cover of “Cocaine” by hard rocking Rufus Hall and band, this album seems to be as much about JJ the recording artist as JJ the songwritier, not only ignoring his more famous Clapton composition (“After Midnight”) but choosing songs that were highlights on Cale’s beloved, if not top selling, records. Lots of guitar rock on this, some nice vocal group offerings from the mighty Persuasions, and some jaunty Southern Rock from Dixie Tabernacle. What sells me most here is the twang factor when Tim and Roddy Smith's Groove Gang (with Darryl Johnson) do “Louisiana Woman,” which reminds me of a better band backing up Vince Gill in his commercial prime. They  should have called this tribute “Cale and Response.”

Unknown Component “The Infinite Definitive”


(www.unknowncomponent.com) Spooky, densely rich singer-songwritings from Keith Lynch, a man whose voice is halfway between joyfully pained yearning and stuffy headcold (making him sound like either a more congested Dylan or a more serious skinny guy in They Might Be Giants).

Welcome to Ashley ”Beyond the Pale”


(www.novo.net) Kicks ASH!            

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Tommy Keene “You Hear Me: A Retrospective 1983-2009”

(Second Motion) Keene has never been a superstar, but as arguably the most respected power pop dude for a coupla decades amongst  a small and devoted group of power pop fanatics (inevitably including people, who own or make decisions for labels) he gets to keep putting out his fine songs. Why none of his near perfect tunes aren’t monster hits I can’t say and why there aren’t millions of fans for a genre that is basically Beatles tribute music is also weird. But celebrate those mysteries on this generous collection, and see what I’m talking about, and be pleasantly confused about this puzzles yourself.

Cougars and Snappers and Loons (Oh My!) A Midwest League Field Guide by Dave Hoekstra


(Can’t Miss Press) Hoekstra, one of the last newspaper writers standing in Chicago, has delivered a thoroughly minor league book! And by that I don’t mean that his writing his bush league by any stretch, but rather that this isn’t another overly self-important dire tome about the World Serious or George Will’s poetic fields of symbolic green or fathers playing catch with sons or world shattering moneyball or AMERICA AMERICA AMERICA! This is a book that is as casual, pleasant, and completely mellow as watching a AA team whose players you don’t know and whose place in the standings is irrelevant and whose mascots and vendors are as much a part of the team as the third baseman. Collecting his columns about the Midwest League from the Kane County Cougars programs and reflecting on his loves of history, baseball, and spending lazy evenings at ballparks, Hoekstra makes it seem like everything is right in the game and the region. He lucked out in that the Midwest league is full of decades of weird records, characters and nuttiness, and especially that he hooked up with a team that made the Midwest seem really Midwestern by having a program where players, many from foreign countries, would live with local host families, making the players important parts of the town’s community and cultural fabric. This also made the players look back on their seasons on the Cougars with special fondness, as evidenced by Hoekstra’s locker room conversation with Dontrelle Willis, whose career was in a horrible downspin in 2008 when Hoekstra approached him. Asked to discuss anything else he would have clammed up, but recalling his warm memories of his host family, minor league coaches, and good times, he had plenty to say, with a smile on his face. In these pages the way we meet a lady umpire, a minor league ballpark obsessive who’s been to 162 parks, Derrek Lee’s Japanophile father, a baseball-themed microbrewer, a Dayton Dragon gospel drummer, lots of players, lots of old folks, lots of townies, and a 97 year old historian who explains about how the 1909 Hannibal Cannibals got their name. If you pay $80 for a Yankees ticket and there’s Jumbotrons blaring you can forget about ignoring the game and noise and reading this book. But next Summer you just might want to bring it along to  a game in Beloit, or Rockford, or Appleton.

New Lou Reeds “Hit Songs”

(Exit Stencil) This rocks so hard it made me change my major to geology. Plus, any record that contains one of those singing rock n roll history lessons (one with the chutzpah to put the band performing it squarely into rock history, no less) gets four boulders from this rock-ologist!

Truman Bentley, Jr. newsletter


(3219 Carden Dr. Columbus GA 31907-2143) Not sure what Bentley, Jr. wants to officially call this thing (at one point he toys with the name “Zero Human Population Newsletter”), and not sure if he’s still doing it, as the constant flow of thick envelopes I received for a year has slowed down (I last got one mid-summer). And more importantly, I don’t know what the heck this is! Like all great “kook”-style manifesto/diatribe/handouts this densely-packed single sheet Xerox is single spaced, cut-n-paste graphic aided, and has hints of paranoia, megalomania, xenophobia, and other words ending with vowels. Yet Bentley also seems to be a very smart dude who is perhaps parodying these tropes. His humor is always evident, and when he gets all power mad he uses hyperbole and absurdity, declaring things like, “TRUMAN is GOD,” The NEWSLETTER is a HOLY CULT,”  “Love is only for TRUMAN. He is the KING, THE PRINCE, GOD-FUHRER MAGI of all life.” He also seems to be far from an outsider, having enough knowledge of fluxus and dada to dismiss the movements. And for a serious cult leader he makes lotsa nutty pop culture references to things like the Three Stooges, The Avengers TV show, Spongebob, and Mayberry RFD. And his biography is so murky he almost seems fictional. Does he work at a Florida restaurant called Snacky’s Shack? Does he make a cable access show? Does his daughter go to a posh elite religious school? Was he the best worker at a pizza place in college? Is he a car expert, helping promote car shows or races? Is he KING? But saying all that, if it turned out he isn’t “real,” and this is some kind of hipster joke I would be shocked, because Truman Bentley, Jr. works so hard and is so dedicated that this is a true work of art, passion, drive, and some kind of genius. s he created a film?Whatever this thing is I will always respect it, and encourage folks to send a couple bucks his way for a sample, if only for one densely packed page commencing with one of my fave opening passages ever: “CONTINUED FROM ANOTHER NEWSLETTER:------CAT FOOD. The main SPACE ALIENS have heads that are CATS”

Sputnik, Masked Men, and Midgets – The Early Days of Memphis Wrestling by Ron Hall

(Shangri-La) Of all the amazing music, video, tour guide books, photo books, and rock ‘n’ roll yearbooks the great Memphis label/store/institution Shangri-La has unleashed on the world, this gorgeous photo book may be the best.
There is a brief, interesting history of Memphis wrestling included, but truly the pictures tell more than words can in this book. The 50s rasslers (the book covers not only local Memphis athletes, but stars who spent time on the Memphis circuit) like Lou Thesz, Baron Leone, Gorgeous George, and the Swedish Angel (not Tor Johnson, but scarier looking). Just staring at the hard, sculpted, world-weary faces of these man-giants could occupy a few hours of your day, but it’s when the book hits the 60s that photos, clippings, and captions really get rolling. Sputnik Monroe was Memphis’ ring superhero in the 60s, and with his futuristic two-tone hair sitting atop his raw hamburger face you can tell what a special dude this is at first sight. One of the most insightful passages in the book is one about Monroe getting arrested for hanging out with black fans in a black bar. He hired a black lawyer to defend him (a Memphis first) but made no objections when the judge fined him for breaking the segregation rules. That’s just the way it was (some ads in this even direct black fans to the colored sections of the arena). With the “Sputnik” in the title out of the way, let’s get to the Masked Men and Midgets. The photos are grouped by amazing categories: midget wrestlers, women wrestlers, black wrestlers (Rocky Johnson, the Rock’s pop, is prominently featured), wrestlers who pretended to be ethnic villains and heroes, donning turbans, fezes and feathers, depending on the country’s pulse at the time, , masked wrestlers, bears who wrestled humans, and (the most beloved Memphis wrestler ever, Jerry Lawler included) rockin’ wrestlers. It’s very easy looking at these photos to understand how wrestling and rock ’n’ roll appeal to the exact same corner of the exact same brain lobe, and it seems that in Memphis that was particularly true. The brief text in this book (including an intro by Lawler) tells about sneaking Elvis into matches, and there’s a great shot of the King (Elvis, not Lawler) rocking a concert in a wrasslin’ ring. Also, many of the best grapplers were friends with Memphis musicians and cut novelty records. Some of these 45s’ labels  are reproduced in the book, and a CD included has four classic lost records by grappling greats. Sputnik actually made a record about clashing with Memphis musicians, and Jackie Fargo does a maudlin Red Sovine-esque tale of a dying wrestler’s last match to save a child. So basically, this is the best book ever.

The Elements by the Tinklers

(Shattered Wig Press) I was surprised to see this book because I knew the Tinklers from a couple of great albums I bought years ago at the space that sold Shimmy Disc albums next to CBGB’s. But according to the press release and clippings, and part of a documentary I saw on the Documentary Channel (which I didn’t even know was a channel until I stopped to watch this movie) the Tinklers have been around for over thirty years and have done as much writing, art, and happenings as music. This book is a brisk, triumphant morsel of edutainment that imparts information about several elements occupying the periodic table. This is done through a narrative that is sort of like a Dick and Jane old time book where a guy and gal go around meeting people who conversationally, indirectly teach them things. But in this case as we learn about the remarkable properties of magnesium from a Milk of Magnesium swilling Magnesium, Unlimited intern or sodium’s benefits from a little girl at the saltwater beach doing a science fair project, each impartation of scientific knowledge also reveals the damage our country suffers because of problems in industry and labor, and we get glimpses of the inevitable erosion and dysfunction in our protagonists’ relationship (that science fair girl gets Mary’s biological clock ticking, forcing Steven to make a heartbreaking false promise). In other words: awesome book. (sidenote: Microsoft Word spellcheck had no problem with the word “Edutainment” Apparently Bill Gates is a KRS-ONE fan.)

Impossibly Funky – A Cahiers du Cinemart Collection by Mike White

(Bear Manor) I have a new rule about book reviews: Any book that has an image of 70s exploitation movie torturer/midget porn star/Funkadelic sideman Louis DeJesus on the cover instantly gets a stellar review. But even without a fine illustration of the littlest Boodsucking Freak I would be spewing all over this fine tome. The material here is culled from the pages of my fave film zine Cashiers Du Cinemart. Even that title alone was great: a highbrow pun on the French film journal Cahiers du Cinema, with a thrown in reference to the emerging wave of filmmakers/critics/zinesters/eventual bloggers who were getting their education not at NYU or UCLA but by working a video stores and gobbling up archival and international lowbrow VHS releases. That editor Mike White initially made a splash by challenging the king of these film nerds, Quentin Tarantino, was notable, and to me represented one of the reasons to love the zine. White garnered attention not merely for writing about QT but by editing together clips of Reservoir Dogs with nearly identical scenes from a recent Hong Kong film, City of Fire, showing how blatant Tarantino’s lifts were. While I didn’t feel (considering Tarantino’s style which seemed to be a montage of exploitation film tributes/borrows) that crime warranted White’s righteous indignation, I appreciated that the best zine work, the stuff that borders on single-spaced kook pamphlet rants, involves stubbornness, blinders, and crazy drive. What’s more impressive is that with perspective White has un-stubborned a bit, and the section of the book devoted to this chapter in White’s life gives equal time to his own critics (especially regarding White’s would be-Pulp Fiction debunking). The other running theme in CduC that I truly appreciated was their devotion to an obscure, little-loved Blaxploitation film called Black Shampoo. Over the years the zine went from championing it to interviewing virtually everyone involved in the film to celebrating a DVD release for which White wrote the liner notes. Unlike the kind of confrontational obsession of the QT stuff, the Black Shampoo material was all just about pure joyful passion and devotion and love, which is something I love to read about no matter what the subject. But the thing that unites both of these threads is the willingness to do the work. Not only to track down obscure films, tirelessly research the production and cast, locate off the radar people, and spend hours processing stuff, but then putting in the time to make a zine/book to share rather than horde this info. The book (which updates most articles and includes some new material) features several of my fave CduC pieces of all time. There’s an interview with the guy who played the son in the Rodney Dangerfield classic Back to School (a film that features a cameo by Kurt Vonnegut helping to write a book report on himself) who went on to become an avant-garde feature filmmaker adapting Vonnegut to the screen. There’s a rundown of every unproduced Superman script. There’s some of the funniest, most obsessive coverage of Star Wars and Lucas’ insane tinkerings you’ll ever read. There’s a Svengoolie interview! This book, if such a thing is possible, may actually be funky!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The Freddie Steady 5 "Live From Sugarhill Studios”

(Guest Review by Gentleman John Battles) (Steady Boy Records) On his latest effort, Freddie Steady Krc proves he can not only play the guitar as well the drums, but he can also play the room. Not just any room, either. Houston's Sugar Hill Studio gave birth to The Big Bopper's "Chantilly Lace,” Roy Head's "Treat Her Right,” The Sir Douglas Quintet's "She's About a Mover,”  and many other true classics of Rock n’ Roll, Country, Blues, you name it. Freddie saw The Sir Douglas Quintet when he was 10, and, from there, his destiny was sealed. It had to be something of a spiritual pilgrimage to go back to the very beginnings of so much of the music that he loves, that you love, and that I love.  Krc wasn’t about to mess up a good thing. There are no overdubs, no digital equipment, no computers used, nor animals abused in the making of this recording. Just a live Rock n’ Roll party.  In Mono !!! There was even a Go-Go dancer on the premises, I'm told, but  you can't see her on a CD. Or, can you?  Joined by his bandmates in The Explosives, guitarist Cam King, and bassist Chris Johnson, with Will Ivy on Keyboards and Eric C Hughes filling in Krc's usual place on the drums, the band is a living, breathing force to be reckoned with, just like the room they're recording in. The opener, Pat and Lolly Vega's "Niki Hoeky" is chock fulla swamp hokum, which Krc carries off without a trace of irony. It, like most of these songs, has enough macho bravado to do the barometer of all such THANGS, Roy Head, proud (here's the thing that would be the prize: Get The Explosives to back Roy for a FULL SET at next years' Ponderosa Stomp). Krc also revisits The Explosives' calling card "A Girl Like You" (which, like "Shake Some Action,” still sounds like it should have been, or WAS, a hit). "What's So Hard About Love" (yeah, really) gets the full SDQ treatment, and a decidedly mas macho reading of The Beatles' "No Reply" goes into new terrain altogether. The Novelty-Hard Blues of "I'm an Armadillo" evokes the tenacity of the Texas State truck stop. No, I don't mean a place where Truckers stop for food and gas, I mean the damn things are always getting stopped, DEAD, in their tracks, by trucks. In a new version of the fairly recent homage to "Cavestomp 2001,”  The Downliners Sect  (with whom Krc is now activating Wonder Sextuplet Powers. Watch this space), Electric Prunes, Creation, Mark Lindsay, The Professor and Mary Ann, are still name checked (though Freddie didn’t mention that's where he met me. Oh, well), but is it possible, this version has more pure punk energy than the original? Bet your ass. All told, this is a pretty swingin' session, recommended for longtime Krczsters, and as a good place to get started if you just got to the party.  There's lots more where that came from, with the usual suspects, and then some. But you'll be hearing more about THAT, soon enuff.

Astral “Down the Rabbit Hole”

(vibraphone) This brilliant guitar-fueled shoegaze is produced so exquisitely that there’s an extra layer of hazy filtered ambience that the music has to seep through. Thus, I’ll call this “shoegauze!”

Josie Falbo with Sweetening


The Lord Looks Into Your Heart” (Toddlin’ Town) This gospel EP is unique in a genre where one expects conformity. Falbo sings with a voice that is both heavenly and extraterrestrial, sounding something like an enchanting futuristic vibrato singer on a Star Trek episode. But what is best about this work is the songwriting which often has Falbo rushing syllables to make the wordy, smart lyrics (many borrowed from scripture) fit, and has the kind of delivery and structure that one finds in song-poems and amateur songwriting. This is not an insult: it makes the faith expressed here feel more genuine and not as manipulative as a glossy, polished product. The production (by Chicago recording vet Larry Nestor) is anything but primitive, yet despite slick production this record, especially the jaunty, should-be hit “2000 Years” feels like the work of sincere, original outsiders…in a great way.

Neil Hamburger “Hot February Night"

(Drag City) I read a recent Neil Hamburger concert preview that claimed he was not funny on purpose, that’s the joke. While the original joke of Hamburger, a character who first emerged as a phone prankster and then, more fleshed out, as a parody of lounge comedians’ self-released souvenir records, involved him being a sad, comedy failure, that’s not the case anymore. Though he may have originally been imaginary, so many people believed in Neil that like Tinkerbell, Pinochio and Jesus he became a real live man, and for years now he has been a working live performer, constantly on the road, and constantly looking for laughs. Sincerely. As a actual, 3-D performer if Hamburger were telling non-jokes night after night he would have already committed suicide, but he has been crafting funnier and funnier one liners, many unnerving because of their bluntness and shock value, but funny nonetheless (“Why don’t rapists eat at TGI Fridays? Because it’s hard to rape with an upset stomach.”)  Hamburger not only tries to craft funny lines, but also parodies comedic tropes, showbiz conventions, and clich├ęs. He is not Andy Kaufman alter-ego Tony Clifton, not only because he isn’t (usually) trying to torture an audience, but also because he is not about arrogance. Neil Hamburger is about sadness and anger. And laughs. This album, however, does not capture Neil at his best because he is not in the rock clubs where he tailors jokes denigrating Nickelback, Justin Beiber, and Jim Morrison (Why was he buried in a 10 foot coffin? “To accommodate his dunce cap.”) to “hip” crowds. No, this is recorded in massive arenas as he opened for Tenacious D on their last tour. So the crowd isn’t here to see him, and they paid too much money. By the time these performances were recorded, Hamburger already knew where his bread was buttered, so he’s coming out swinging, cursing at the audience and alternating between teasing them with false introductions for Jack Black and Kyle Gass and threats to have the masons on the crew build a brick wall so the unresponsive left side won’t be able to see Tenacious D. While there are a few ‘Burger fans in tow (a lonely voice shouts “We love you” at the beginning, and there are spatterings of  “who’s there?” in response to Neil’s “knock Knock” ) this document is mostly about combat: Neil versus tens of thousands of booing non-fans. Neil Hamburger began as a make believe act playing to  near-empty, totally indifferent pizza parlors and developed into a real one that plays a packed Madison Square Garden filled with actively hostile masses. That has to be some kind of triumph. This is not exactly like the awesome late-in-the-game MSG concert albums by Elvis and Sinatra (in part because this album is culled from gigs surrounding the New York date, as the Garden has prohibitive restrictions about recording performances, created to protect the Knicks from having their pathetic exploits publicized or documented). Unike the King and Chairman, this is not a man showcasing his best material. But perhaps we should be comparing him to Garden legends Sugar Ray Robinson, the Ali-smashing Joe Frazier, or 60s Welterweight Benny “The Kid” Paret. These were mighty pugilists who, like Neil, entered the Garden with fists blazing ready for anything. Of course Paret got caught in the ropes, was pummeled mercilessly, went into  a coma and died a week and half later. But tha-a-a-a-t’s my life!

Let Them Know – The Story of Youth Brigade and BYO Records DVD


(BYO) My first thought on seeing that there is a documentary on this veteran SoCal hardcore punk band is that it seems unnecessary: they were the subject of the greatest hardcore punk documentary of all time, Another State of Mind. Of course, it’s fair to want to know what happened to the Stern brothers over the last 28 years, so I’ll give this a pass. The second thing that occurs when watching this is that it seems a little weird for BYO to release a documentary about themselves where the praise of the Sterns brilliance is so effusive. This at times feels like the episode of WKRP where everyone feels compelled to say nice things about Herb to the TV crew. And even when they get critical (like the coverage of Youth Brigade’s brief rebirth as non-punk The Brigade, which had the singing Stern doing his best Nick Cave art rock impersonation) it always ends with someone convincing you that everything was awesome and perfect. That said, I really liked this film. While the fluffy, in-house industrial quality might not make it a masterpiece, I can’t think of any reason not to be super positive about BYO and Youth Brigade. I am not a fan of Orange County/pop punk/post-Masque SoCal punk in general, but Youth Brigade, Seven Seconds, and the BYO comps are as good as that got, and anyone who’s seen Another State (which is dissected, revisited, and at moments, re-staged here) has to be a fan of the band that didn’t pussy out like Social Distortion. Because the Sterns were so ambitious, so resourceful, and such good organizers, you get an overview of a label/family/collective with so many chapters it stays compelling. They coexist with the early L.A. punk bands, they start what they see as an actual commune/organization, they open their own club, they book the biggest punk shows the region has ever seen, they oversee riots, they film a documentary, they start the swing revival, they capitalize on the corporate punk resurgence, they keep it real…there’s a lot to cover here and it’s all interesting. Highlights include the always authoritative Ian Mackaye being interviewed on the same Dischord House steps seen in Another State, and the consistently funny Fat Mike from NOFX sharing really good anecdotes (director Jeff Alusis did the NOFX reality show). Even all the 90s bands reflecting on BYO is not a turnoff to old schoolers because they are so sincere. This comes packaged with a double LP and book, and I was a little surprised how little actual Youth Brigade (as opposed to cover versions, and 7 Seconds' "Sink with California" is pretty good) is included on the comp, but so it goes.

God’s Gifts “Pathology”

(Hyped2Death) Why this Manchester band remains incredibly obscure while Joy Division, the Smiths and the Fall still have teenagers contemplating suicide to this day is a mystery. OK, it may be because this retrospective CD features some of the most delightfully ultra-minimalist, ultra-miserable music ever recorded. The real money shot on this compilation of recordings from 1979-1084 is the 12” version of “No God.” If the 12” format was invented for dance records this almost qualifies as parody: it’s a dirgelike drone that is for the most part played on one (unaccompanied) string and sung in pretty much one somber note, convincingly giving sonic evidence to back up the chorus’ claim that “there is no god!” “The Shroud of Turin was a good trick,” indeed! Other toe-tappers include “Creep In” (which sounds like someone left a “Bela Lugosi is Dead” vinyl in direct sunlight), “People,” which sounds like it  is played on funereal flugelhorn, and the surprisingly peppy “Deicide (Their Soul is Hate).” If I am underselling this I apologize. I not only like this more than Morrissey and not only does this hit the mark more than Mark E., but I’ll say this out-Manchesters Freddie and the Dreamers and Oasis.

Messthetics #107 D.IY. ’78-81 London III

(www.hyped2death.com) This may not be the best volume in this collection of Euro-post punk obscurities, but it once again makes collectors of American Killed By Death/or hardcore rarities seem like mentally retarded monkeys compared to their Brit undergorunders who seem incapable of making even their rawest d.i.y. punk be anything less than cerebral, challenging, and genuinely weird. My fave groove on here is the Twilight Zoners’ No Wave-ish “Twister, but I’m most impressed by the most rhythmically challenging roller skating song ever made (done by the delightfully named Jelly Babies). There are a few things that are a bit too pretty for my tastes (Avacados, Steppes) but there are also some barnburners on this, particularly the stuttering grit of Occult Chemistry’s “Water.” I cant think of any reason you would not want every one of these compilations that comes out.

The Rolling Stones: Rare and Unseen, Beatles: Rare and Unseen, John Lennon: Rare and Unseen

(MVD) (Guest Review by Gary Pig Gold)

Now that Generation Boomer is shuffling slowly but surely towards the twilight of its purchasing power, spending far more time on the sofa than in the clubs or under the headphones, the DVD is becoming the preferred delivery system for the sounds – and, you bet, sights – of yesteryear. Of course with the Top Forty having long since gone TiVo, an audio-only package today seems as antiquated as, well, a record album …remember those? Even supposed sure-bets like those recent Beatles remasters, not to mention the Rolling Stones’ deluxe Exile On Main St. repackage, each make damn sure shiny happy li’l documentary films accompany all the aurally enhanced yeah-yeah-yeah’s and tumblin’ digital dice.
So it should really come as no surprise that what remains of once-almighty entertainment conglomerates are now frantically trolling the globe for every still-existing cache of promotional or even newsreel footage with which to slice, dice, then tack onto their latest deep-catalog up-grades. Just as back in the dawn of the CD age itself, the lure of the Bonus Track (ideally of the “previously unreleased” ilk) was employed to tempt us into purchasing Pet Sounds or the Elvis Presley catalog yet again. And again.
Wienerworld Ltd.’s Rare and Unseen series, now available from the fine folk over at MVD Visual, duly compile quite often remarkable footage of retro-icons John Lennon and those once-Rolling Stones into two, hour-plus collections which whisk us back to the very earliest days (interviewing Colin Hanton from John’s pre-Beatle Quarrymen) straight up to the near present (check out the Stones hanging fire with Martin Scorsese at the Berlinale Film Festival Shine A Light premiere). 
In between it all we chart The Chief Beatle’s long and incredibly winding political awakening via those “Bigger than Jesus” wisecracks straight through his campaign to ensure “War is Over,” whilst meanwhile Mick Jagger struggles to decry his position as Voice of a Generation circa 1967, then two decades later defend his War is Most Definitely NOT Over “Undercover Of The Night” video to a most skeptical indeed veejay. Plus it should go without saying that both the Lennon and especially Stones discs present quintessentially quaint drug bust montages direct from the court house steps of Swinging London: clips which, as the Sixties progressed, replaced the airport departure/arrival staging as every pop idols’ ideal photo-opportunity.
That said, even the most jaded and/or cynical viewer will have a smile raised when watching former British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s father-in-law reminisce about the marijuana dealer he once shared with John and Yoko, not to mention Mick Jagger turning up with his father – and the Duke of Kent! – for the gala opening of his very own Performing Arts Centre circa 2000. Stickier still, we witness the (in)famous food fight at the Stones’ Beggars Banquet launch, Mick taking particular pride in violently grinding a pie into the face of Brian Jones before the assembled photographers. One can perhaps find some solace in the fact that Mr. Jones, for one, never lived long enough to become the TMZ age’s latest sacrificial star.
In between all the fun and custard however lies most revealing footage of Brian’s replacement Mick Taylor (looking extremely reticent; shell-shocked, even) being paraded before the media just prior to his on-stage debut at the Stones’ Hyde Park-slash-Jones Memorial concert, plus a fascinating, long-thought-lost 1973 interview with an equally, most uncharacteristically ill-at-ease John Lennon which aired only once on London Weekend Television.
Fortunately, throughout both discs the talking heads from the present day are kept to a bare minimum – I mean, why in the world does Phil Collins, of all people, pop up briefly? (“I never met Lennon,” he admits. “And I don’t know if I’d have liked him if I’d have met him.” Hmmmm… this from the former child actor who was awarded his Big Break by appearing as an extra in A Hard Day’s Night?!) So, for better or sometimes even for worst, the myriad stories are left strictly told by Messrs. Lennon, Jagger, Richard, Watts, Wyman and Jones themselves; Bill Wyman, in fact, emerging throughout as perhaps the most astute and unquestionably articulate of them all.
Yes, these were the days when musicians still carried their own equipment as opposed to their own speechwriters and publicists. Wonderful verbal warts and all then, like the music its subject matters once recklessly created,
Rare and Unseen John Lennon and Rolling Stones, along with companion disc
Rare and Unseen Beatles, are every bit as entertaining to watch as they are to, yes, merely listen to. 

Monks – the transatlantic feedback a film by dietmar post & lucia palacios DVD, Silver Monk Time - a tribute to the monks CD



(Play Loud!) Despite a British Beatles boost, garage rock is thoroughly American…in fact garages themselves are pretty damn American; politicians don’t promise chickens in every pot and cars in every driveway, because they knew Americans wanted to have to move their automobile so their teenage sons can practice “Louie Louie.”  Thus it’s no surprise that when Americans heard the mind-blowing proto-punk music made by the mid-60s, German-based American ex-soldiers the monks it immediately registered on this side of the sea as some of the greatest garage rock ever recorded. Sure there was a tinge of contrarian, nihilist avant-garde in their unprecedented instrumentation (buzzsaw electric banjo, thundering all-floor tom tribal drumming), dark lyrics about hate and war causalties, and strange black outfits that mirrored actual monks, right down to the shaved tonsure haircuts. But us Yanks figured Count V wore capes, The Phantom wore a mask, when he howled “Love Me,” and the monks shaved circles in their heads – it’s a great gimmick, not art! I’m giving all this background to explain the sometimes cold, sometimes harsh reaction this remarkable film has received from factions of the American garage rock community. Post and Palacios, who caught monks fever decades ago in Germany, began working on this documentary at the best time; in the years after bassist Eddie Shaw’s book had finally provided background on the mysterious band, and in the years surrounding the act’s one full reunion. Considering the subsequent deaths of two of the five monks, and the re-submersion into shadows of formally lost monk, Larry, this is pretty much the only monks documentary that can ever be made. And thus, the fact that the filmmakers see the band as more of a brilliant art project than a garage rock phenomenon rubs some folks the wrong way. Also, the fact that the filmmakers attribute a lot of the brilliance of the project to the band’s svengali managers who had a lot of the weird ideas is reasonable but frustrating in a few ways. The most obvious frustration is that while all the monks are ready and willing to talk, the management isn’t interested in being on camera and revisiting what they must consider a short-lived failure. But worse is that despite the guidance the monks received unquestionably making something genuinely unique out of a regular beat club band (albeit one with more diverse talent than their peers, considering the way the group’s membership represent not only the breadth of America’s wide geography, but also its musical breadth, as jazz, rockabilly, R&B, and C&W were in the backgrounds of the unlikely quintet), the filmmakers may be giving to much credit to their management. Much emphasis is put on a manifesto the group committed to, but part of that manifesto was to never smile on stage, and footage of Gary Burger on German TV shows that although the group embraced much Teutonic tutelage, they were American pickers and grinners all the way, and what made each monk special was the way they were not sheep-like, but thoroughly individual.  But I don’t begrudge the German filmmakers in any way for giving a German perspective on this band, and the incredible research, intelligent interviews, and excellent editing make this a must see. Sure, one could argue that a tangent into the work of a German director who was scheduled to work with the monks but never got to bring his vision to fruition may be indulgent…but shit, if you found sexed-up ancient footage of a nubile, pre-disco Donna Summer in an avant-garde TV commercial you would leave it on the cutting room floor? I can see why some garage intelligentsia (and to  a lesser degree, a monk or two) have had some objections to this, but they are misguided. Monks-philes need to embrace this last look at the full band. Similarly, one can see how garage purists would be aghast at the double CD compilation "silver monk time," a tribute CD to the five American G.I.s gone monk-y. But here they are completely off base. This CD includes futuristic artists like Alec Empire and Psychic TV, German art rockers like Faust and Fehlfarben, and big names that don't necessarily register as big amongst connoisseurs of "Dirty Water," like the Fall, Mouse on Mars and Barbara Manning. But none of them are desecrating the monks' music. What is most amazing about this is how clearly the monks music, without much alteration, can seem like punk to punks, psyche to psyche-heads, avant-garde to avant-gardeists, novelty music to humorists...their sound is so unique that no one is wrong. This is one of the best tribute albums I have ever hard, in no small part because the artists have such  a connection to, and respect for, the music that they leave the best elements intact. But also each artist hears the music so differently that the tweaks really alter and elevate the songs...no karaoke here! The involvement of Gary Burger (who updates his vocals for the current wars with Empire and also teams with Faust) and the late Dave Day not only give this a stamp of approval, but also may force some haters to have to buy it. Highlights include Silver Apples and Alan Vega taking “black monk time" to space, "The Raincoats finding the sweetness and beauty in "Monk Chant," and (the garage rock approved) 5-6-7-8-s going absolutely "Cuckoo."

Wreckless Eric and Amy Rigby “Two-Way Family Favourites”

(Southern Domestic) Stiff Records vet Wreckless Eric demonstrated surprisingly organic chemistry with New York songwriter Amy Rigby on their recent collaboration, and seeing what they did next songwriting-wise was intriguing. Surprise! What they did next songwriting-wise was nothing! Instead they collaborated on this amazing collection of cover songs by songwriters from the Beach Boys, Byrds, Who, and more. And this ethereal, ghost-like CD will soon be your favourite, unless you live in this country, in which case, it will be your favorite. 

Monday, October 4, 2010

ag ag lady “broken television slash mirror”


(Broke Whore) This has more slinky musicality than most 8-bit damaged audio music, and I still think that if Cathy the comic strip character ever started a noise band and heard this act opening for her, she’d excitedly declare, “Ack! Ack!”

Floating di Morel “Said My Say”


(play loud!) Like a classy Suicide (the band, not the act of desperation) these cats present minimal, chilling music, but wear ties and sweep the warehouse before inviting you over for a bizarre ultra-underground concert.

Faust live/klangbad – avant-garde in the meadow DVD

(Play Loud!) This double feature DVD delivers the German avant-garde live magic to the nth degree. I say that in part because the beautifully shot documentary of the 2005 Klangbaad fest (not sure what anyone was talking about in the brief non-concert moments. I did not pursue subtitles) appears for the first 15 minutes to be the MOST avant-garde fest ever, because it seems that they have built a huge stage and invited a bunch of acts like Circle, Minit, Jutta Koether, Nista Nije Nista and Faust…but no audience! This is a seriously high concept fest! Eventually we see two or three people at a park bench enjoying the non-abrasive noises.  Then a half-hour in we see the catering preparing a mountain of rolls and are disappointed to realize that a lot of people are actually going to show up. But the bands don’t change tone much whether an audience is there or not, and the crowds seem pretty tame as they contemplate the cerebral acts, not even flipping out at the light shows and madness of Krautrock legends Faust.  Cut to the other feature, a full document of their performance at that fest. Now Faust is a band who holds a special place in the heart of Chicago musicians during the 90s. Not simply because all the post-rockers and hipsters were Kraut-ophiles , but more importantly because during their reunion tour stop in Chicago they took  a chainsaw to the brilliant, beautiful catwalk at the Lounge Ax nightclub, destroying one of the best structures for cocky, theatrical performances, leaving a lot of local frontman stuck on stage with their lowly musicians. Damn, you Faust! But they are redeemed here with an hour of psychedelic soundscapes of escalating noise and tender sonic violence. Still, the crowd stands arms folded, unmoved. It makes you long for jam band fans doing the Grateful Dead dance! 

A Tribute to Bad Lyrics (compiled by Pat Moriarty)

(Ear lllusion Records) For this CD/comic/secret bonus CD-R set, cartoonist Pat Moriarty drew from his collection of archival recordings with bizarre, awkward lyrics and made his talented musician friends knock out recordings utilizing the exact lyrics (many of them doing faithful covers of the original music as well). And this is GREAT! Artists like the Boss Martians, Kurt Benbenek, Charlie Burton, Chuck Macomber, and Moriarty himself (and kin) do fine jobs taking songs written by amateurs for the most part (song-poems were semi-scams in which tired studio hacks would improvise music to the lyrics of people who sent in money with hopes of stardom). These recording artists do stellar jobs, some making music arguably more interesting than some of their original material. So audibly I can’t recommend this enough and since he only made 500 and mine was #154, if this floats your boat jump on it (write to cartoondepot@earthlink.net and put BAD LYRICS in subject line). HOWEVER, I’m not really crazy about the presentation. Not Moriarty’s great drawings and design (including an extra pocket for a CD-R, which in mine, and I bet yours, will include all of the amazing original tracks). No, I’m talking about the attitude. The use of words like “worst,” “abysmal,” “awful,” “turd” and other such niceties approaches these strange poems with condescension and derision. Everyone else who has done worthwhile work on song-poems (most notably our own Phil Milstein) admires and loves how different and beautiful these slipped discs are, and not just because the studio musicians are so gifted. Milstein tried to track down the writers who he saw as heroes of sorts (as do I). And as, I suspect, does Moriarty. If he really thought these were terrible he wouldn’t be so motivated. This isn’t a prank project where he makes great musicians record things that suck. This is a celebration and I’m not sure why Moriarty has to distance himself. That said, it’s still awesome.

Bars Across America by John Greenfield

(www.pintsizepress.info) John Greenfield is a fine journalist, unquestionably the most important writer covering bicycle related issues in Chicago (which may seem trivial until you consider that civil rights, vehicular homicide, and a surprising amount of bike messenger related underground rock music is in the mix). As a solid writer obviously it’s not going to be a chore reading a book he wrote, but there is one major problem with this tome…John Greenfield is a good human being. While that’s usually a plus, if you’re going to write a book about drinking it doesn’t really work out. I’ve certainly seen Greenfield in dozens of bars in Chicago, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen him drunk, and if I have he must have been a pleasant drunk. But literary imbibing pretty much has to involve out of control scumbaggery. Sure, we love Bukowski’s intellect, sense of language, and gritty misdeeds, but we wouldn’t want to be anywhere near that asshole. Greenfield does not have the chaotic vibe that makes a drinking/bar book riviting. Early on in this book (a chronicle of the author, along with various short term companions, riding his bike across the country and visiting bars in each state on his route), Greenfield’s girlfriend is perturbed by some loud singing neighbors at a campsite. Now we’ve all seen Animal House and know exactly what the proper drunken response it to an annoying acoustic guitar jam. But Greenfield goes over and politely asks them to keep it down. He even, seemingly without derision, compliments them on their choice of Smashing Pumpkins cover tunes. That is not how an out of control AA-reject would handle that situation. Of course, Greenfield is the right guy to (soberly) recommend a bar or restaurant, and as a guide book this has value. His aversion to corporate, trendy, new-fangled bars and attraction to neighborhood, old-timey, character-rich dives means I may bring this along when I travel (not by bike, however), and this book also makes a good case for the value and possibilities of bonding with your dad on bike trips. But if you want to read a book about Biking While Intoxicated and having bike brawls in bike(r) bars, this may not ring your bell. Or spin your wheels. Or change your inner tube. Sorry, I’m bad with bike metaphors.