Thursday, December 31, 2020

Axiom Funk "Funkcronomicon"


 (Universal, 1995) I must have listened to this in 1995, Pedro Bell was really proud of the cover art and I had the CD, butdamnedif I remember it well. I recently picked up the vinyl that came out a couple years ago, and I can't believe I let this gather dust. While ostensibly this is a Bill Laswell record it is actually the best Funkadelic record of the 90s, featuring P-Funk OGs George Clinton, Bootsy, Gary  "Mudbone" Cooper, Michael "Clip" Payne, Gary Shider, Eddie Hazel, Bernie Worrell, Maceo, plus folks of equal funk footing (Sly and Robbie, Sly Stone, Herbie Hancock, Bobby Byrd, and even a Last Poet and dude with a bucket on his head! But assembling all-stars is one thing, more importantly, this album is a super successful, loving embrace of the earliest Funkadelic albums with some actual covers and returns to P-Funk themes of yore, creating a deep, loving declaration of loyalty to to The Funk. There is some stuff that has the kind of atmosphere you'd associate with Laswell (especially a trancelike Hendrix cover by Bootsy) but most of this is just outright soaking in cosmic slop. But what  I came for was the gatefold art and GODDAMN! Pedro was not yet having too much trouble with his sight in '95, but he still was rarely as focussed and powerful as he is here, and the assistants he sometimes used rarely were as true to his style and vision as Seitu is here.The amazing package includes a funked up booty art cover, plus a comic where Laswell gets destroyed by a soul-sucking green titty demon, plus some panels memorializing Hazel, goofing on "Newt Gangrene," and getting spook nasty, plus liner notes! This is amazing to listen to and better to look at. Pedro Bell forever!

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Blowfly, Live at the Red Line Tap, September 20, 2014

 


Guest Review by Steve "Pudgy"DeRose (Note: This is a "lost" review from 2014 that we are publishing for the first time. Blowfly passed away is 2016. Steve's Twitter account, however, survives, if you can handle soccer fanaticism and Japanese panty pictures)

There may have only been fifty-five patrons in attendance, but I'm sure they had a rollickin' good time at Blowfly's first performance in Chicago since September 2012. Had Blowfly changed that much since being profiled in Roctober #30 [2002]? Maybe, maybe not?

What was definitely changed was the venue for the concert; which also had the Untold Dirty, and Baby Brotha on the bill. It was the Red Line Tap [formally Roy's] at 7006 N. Glenwood on Chicago's far north side. the Red Line Tap is associated with the Heartland Cafe around its corner. Previously a show like this might have wound up at the Empty Bottle, or the Double Door.

The crux of Blowfly's act is that he's going to sing all the dirty and nasty lyrics to tunes you assign to other musical acts. Bawdy lyrics go back at least a millennium, so this can't be considered new. The comparison to make is with "Weird Al" Yankovic. "Weird Al"'s novelties are strictly "PG." Blowfly's versions are rated 'X'" (although I have never encountered a movie rated "X" for language - "rated 'R'" probably wouldn't sell as many tickets).

Blowfly begins the show wearing a hockey mask. The mask only lasts the first three songs or so. I did not recognize a lot of the songs he was parodying (and he didn't do "I Want To Be Fellated", which is what I was hoping to hear), so they must have been relatively recent. His backing band is a three-piece; the standard guitar, bass, and drums. He involves the audience in most of the numbers, going as far as bringing a female up to the stand to specifically impart the message he is intoning. Heh heh heh heh.

The most entertaining part of the concert was when he told the story about being on Dick Clark's American Bandstand when early rapper Kurtis Blow was also booked. This leads, as you may anticipate, into an extended rap playing on Kurtis' last naem. it was hilarious.

He also does at least one straight song associated with Clarence Reid (from the 1970s).

His set began 40 minutes late, but the opening acts were equally at fault. The show is just about 60 minute. 'Curfew' at the Red Line is 1:00am. Singing ended at 12:50am, and the next thirty minutes or so were taken up by commiserating with patrons, selling merchandise, and posing for photographs.

I have a Twitter account (@pudgem29) which delves into topics some people can't handle. But @officialBlowfly is one of two high-profile accounts who actually follow we (@BeauDure, a soccer writer, is the other). For that he certainly deserves something. He got as Japanese adult video from me. I've heard some scuttlebutt that Blowfly is being exploited and/or manipulated by the other guys in his act. But what ultimately matters is the quality of the performance. This was a solid hour of off-beat entertainment. If you can tolerate "blue" humor (& you should), you ought to buy a ticket to when this tour comes near you. Particularly if the venue being booked is as intimate as the Red Line Tap. Who else does this? Is there anybody new who is attempting an act like this? How much longer can he continue to do it?

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Reese's Big Cup with Pretzels, Resses's Mystery Shapes

 



(Hershey's) OK, I got really exciterd about the Big Cup with Pieces, but these two offerings brought me back to earth. The pretzel pieces, and the savory salt flair, are fine, but unlike the the wat the candy excess of the Reese's Pieces makes the jumbo size of the Big Cup feel more substantial,this somehow unembiggened the candy overall. But it's way better than the dumb mystery shapes, which are all vaguely Christmasy, but not really. The chocolaty off-setting  off-kilter shape-like reveals of a blobby snowman or an amorphous stocking look more like poop than sweet delights. And poop in a stocking is worse than coal.

Monday, December 28, 2020

AC/DC "PWR UP"


(Columbia, 2020) They had a Rock Mission, and they accomplished it: this sounds EXACTLY like an AC/DC record! Which you may scoff at, but think about the times the Ramones failed to make a record sound exactly like a Ramones record, which is ostensibly 3% easier. After one member died, one got caught for murder, and one lost his hearing the idea of a mostly intact reunion seemed unlikely, but here it is, as solid and thunderous as ever. PWR UP (not to be confused with the Pwr Bttm, gratefully) does have a weird spoken part that sounds eerily like Gene Simmons on "Domino," but I blame Brian's audiology therapist for that, everything else is just about perfect, and even that is kinda amusing.

Sunday, December 27, 2020

White Castle Sloppy Joe Slider/Smoky Joe Slider

 

(White Castle) Any time a White Castle marquee lists something I have not tried before I feel both obligated (they have served me well over the decades) and genuinely excited to try it. Often they are not great - mediocre waffles do not a good bun make, and everything does not work in nibbler form - but every now and again they hit. Now the Sloppy Joe is a weird one to undertake, because I imagine for most of us (Adam Sandler affirms this) our experience with them is from school cafeterias, so any affection has to do with nostalgia for mediocrity. And as far as that goes, the basic SJS delivers the inadequate meat to bun ratio, and the slightly tangy but not actually tasty sauce. However, add a slice of cheese and both of those faults are mitigated to a degree. I believe these sandwiches have been offered before, somewhat forgettably if my memory does not serve me, but this year they have added a welcome variation. The Smoky Joe not only pays tribute to the Robins R&B hit (with more gusto than the Broadway jukebox musical of the same name, which did not feature the song in its entirety), but by adding some extra flavor and some cheese and some crunchy onion ring crumbles this now appeals to me as much as it does to Joe. To Joe who, you ask? Joe Mama!

Saturday, December 26, 2020

How to with John Wilson


(hbomax.com, 2020) This is the best TV show I've seen in forever. Most of the short series consists of the meticulous lo-fi poetry of documentarian/editor Wilson illustrating his monologues about how to negotiate contemporary life with mundane, hilarious, poignant, disconcerting, joyful, astounding clips of the streets, stores, people, vermin, pets, signs, garbage, commerce, scaffolding, and feces of New York. The City is captured with more wonder and truth than the films of Woody, Marty, or Spike. While affecting a naive outlook he invites outgoing individuals to share seemingly bizarre aspects of their values and belief systems, but not because he is making fun of them or even because they are the world's weirdest people. It is because he gives them an opportunity to keep talking and does not stop listening. When a delightfully demeanored regular dude who is good at cooking, and good at explaining how he is doing it, also happens to open up about his theory of extraterrestrial infiltration, it is not because he is king kook, but because Wilson made him feel comfortable to share ideas that he, and perhaps many people you see all the time, find important. And while this may be the cheapest show on HBO, it is possibly the most masterful. Without spoilers, I have to acknowledge how genuinely brilliant it was for him to ask an intact-foreskin advocate about what recent movies he liked. Who would have known that question would lead to the best 20 seconds of TV this decade? How To Make The Best TV Show? Like this!

Friday, December 25, 2020

Reese's Stuffed with Pieces Big Cup

 

(Hershey's) The reason the King Size Snickers is such a magnificent candy is girth.Or more accurately, presence, as it takes up so much space and represents so much protein that instead of seeming like a snack it seems more like a steak. Long before the Seinfeld gag about eating a Snickers with knife and fork I marveled at the meat-like presence of the mighty King Size Snickers. But it just tastes pretty good. The Reese's Big Cup has the weight of the KSS (symbolically, not sure of the net weight), yet tastes a little better, but without the power/oomph/mouthfeel of the Snickers' intact peanuts. But add Reese's Pieces inside the peanut butter cup's peanut butter and you not only get crunch, but it is a sweet, sinful candy crunch! And the fact that you have candy coated peanut butter densely surrounded by the same peanut butter housed within the candy shell is an enigma inside a riddle. Or a chicken nugget floating in puréed chicken. This is a substantial, excellent confection!

Thursday, December 24, 2020

Heroes of Chicago House Coloring Book by Plastic Crimewave (Intro by Pepper Gomez)

 (Wake Up!) Steve Krakow's portraiture has improved over the years, to where he can really capture character and nuance in the eyes and smiles and posture of the under-heralded heroes of Chicago music he honors. Of course, it is hard to capture the energy and joy and seriousness and playfulness of house music in a drawing...but you can provide that when you color them in! The local history of house music, as it played out on the South Side, North Side, and eventually in other cities and countries where obscure Chicago DJs became superstars and Chicago underground heroes went unknown, is complicated and crazy. Suffice to say, some of the selections and omissions here would spark debate, and a few vocal critics would argue that some Villains of Chicago House slipped in. But the best part of a l-o-n-g night of dancing is the ethereal vibe of pure love, so putting aside any politics, this is just a beautiful tribute to Frankie and Ron and Julian and Farley and Marshall and Mr, Fingers and the other architects of Chicago's best export outside of cheese/butter/caramel popcorn mixes. Speaking of mixes, my favorite page, as a CAN-TV cable access veteran, is the inclusion of the always interesting Marcus Mixx (one of the best drawings in the book). 

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Chuck Berry "Wild Berrys"

 


(Pickwick, 1974) Yes, this is a Pickwick knockoff of Mercury-era blues songs, but if this had the same cover art and they had titled it "Chuck Amuck" it would be my all time favorite Chuck Berry album.

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Zine Explosion 1985-1995 by Burf Quimby

 

(Quimbys) Mr. Quimby has established himself as a towering historical figure in modern zine history, opening the best zine store in the world and more recently bringing zine retail back to New York, so reading this first hand, brisk, excellent summary of the key movers, movements, moments and mishegas in 80s and 90s zine history is a delight. I appreciate that he celebrates some of the transgressive characters and trends that might not be smiled upon as much today without acting like things were unproblematic nor putting down current mores. Along with some of the other mini zines he has been producing of late, I am really impressed with his development as a designer, with a clean simple look that still nods to the xerox era.

Monday, December 21, 2020

Lenny & Squiggy present Lenny and the Squigtones

(Casablanca, 1979) With David Lander's recent passing I just wanted to take the opportunity to note that this record is FUNNY AS F-word! Musical comedy rarely is good music or good comedy, and this is both.  Watching Laverne and Shirley showcased brief glimpses of the pure funniness of these two guys, but it had to adhere to the sitcom writers' needs, so to hear them in character have space to riff and craft jokes and mouth off at a heckler and be longform hilarious is wonderful. Lander and Michael McKean  developed chemistry with their longstanding comedy group The Credibility Gap (which also featured Harry Shearer, so it's surprising that the Squigtones feature Nigel Tufnel in the band and not the other Tap-per), and in the era of comedians as rock stars this just made sense, and shoulda been a bigger hit. The most memorable song is "Night After Night," an anti-monogamy ode which they did on the show  (and which opens with Lander's legendary, "This song is called 'Night After Night,' and it's about two nights in a row").But the funniest thing on here is "Squiggy's Wedding Day," a 50s parody with a manic Squiggy rattling off his celebrity guest list, with Lenny's feelings hurt because he is not on it ("you're teed off because I didn't invite you to  a song?"). Comedy gold! If only there was a Dr. Demento in the imaginary 50s!

Sunday, December 20, 2020

Monkey Up


(Air Bud Entertainment, 2016) Ostensibly this movie is a talking money remake of Dicky Roberts, with a failed actor (in this case an energy drink spokesman capuchin monkey replacing David Spade...not a fair swap IMHO) who doesn't have the range for a prestige acting job, but then moves in with a real family that teaches about life and love, resulting in him becoming a better thespian...and a better primate overall. But mainly this is movie about the challenges of making a movie starring an animal  trained mainly to do the '"Heil Hitler" gesture, adding an ominous air to one liners about jelly beans ("nobody likes the black ones") or Cyrano's big hook nose.

Saturday, December 19, 2020

Kiss Crazy #9

 


(1990) This issue of Larry Blake's UK KISS fanzine is possibly the best comic book ever made! In this "Rock N Roll Fantasy" story, Bruce Kulick, longstanding KISS guitarist in the makeup-free era, laments not having a super hero profile, but then the magical talisman from the Phantom of the Park TV movie turns him into a makeup superhero, and he must save the world from Mr. Blackwell (the wicked character from the KISS/Lou Reed concept album "The Elder") alongside the rest of the super-powered band, the Sgt.Pepper's era Beatles, and Space Bear. See, on The Tomorrow Show in 1979 a wasted Ace Frehley cracked up Tom Snyder by putting part of his costume on Tom's stuffed animal and calling it Space Bear. At the time that severely annoyed Gene who wanted to show off his intelligence and charm, but 11 years later it inspired, may I remind you, the best comic book ever made! At the end it turns out to just be a dream, but get this... Space Bear is hiding in Bruce's room and there's a demo they recorded with the Beatles in his Walkman!



Thursday, December 17, 2020

Keith Richards “Under The Influence”

GUEST REVIEW BY GARY PIG GOLD

(Netflix, 2015)

Friday, December 18, 2020

KEITH TURNS 77

I love Keith. You love Keith. We ALL love Keith Richards. In fact, very personally speaking, if it wasn’t for my first encountering the hallowed words “Chuck” and “Berry” on some extremely early Rolling Stones record, then seeking out “No Particular Place To Go” in particular, I probably never would have ventured past the second fret up my own childhood guitar. 

Which leads us, quite logically and musically, to Morgan Neville’s Keith Richards: Under the Influence, right there alongside the main offender’s grand new Live at the Hollywood Palladium pandemic-friendly Anniversary Edition(s). Needless to say both – and we would never expect anything less from these guys – provide a much-welcomed, not to mention sorely needed blast of stark, whiplash winter air across our masked, anonymous world. 

Strictly cinematically speaking if we may, Under the Influence opens not in spotty, smoky pirate black-and-white, but awash with stately timbered blues and greens as we find The Man Himself strolling barefoot yet regally through his lush lower forty or so. Keith similarly skulks – remember, even when this guy walks he looks like he’s cradling the nearest Telecaster – through the remainder of this superlative documentary, engaging along the way mentors (Buddy Guy), idols (Mr. Berry) pals (a typically articulate Tom Waits) and adversaries (yep, Chuck again) as Neville’s camera wisely takes a fly-on-wall approach to all splendid proceedings. Thankfully we’re spared most of the usual backstory clichés [cue grainy WWII London blitz newsreel] as it’s assumed, quite correctly, we already know the tale …hopefully via Keith’s very own Life. Much better, you see, to take a look behind, beside and yes, under just what makes this man, his music, and even his long and often inexplicable existence still so utterly fascinating and somehow inspirational. 

Where better to start, I ask you, than in loving stylus-on-vinyl close-ups of Rockin’ at the Hops and Best of Muddy Waters as our journey unspools from a Dartford railway platform to St. Louis, 2120 South Michigan Avenue, the Ryman Auditorium (via Hatch Show Print) and beyond. And speaking of Music City, we’re soon treated to a nice little glimpse of Keith’s Crosseyed Heart “Trouble” being crafted on six purely non-electrified strings …and sounding quite “country” indeed. Also, we feast eyes and especially ears as a vintage-’68 portable cassette recorder with condenser microphone is plopped onto a tabletop and Keith savagely strums into it the bargain-basement – “production”-wise, that is – origins of none other than “Street Fighting Man.” Of course that song, and that guitar foundation, basically paved the way for countless killer riffs, man, which propelled the Stones etc. into arena-rocking Seventies to come.

Throughout all and then some, Morgan ensures Keith’s trusty confidant and right-hand wrist Steve Jordan is never too far from the action …nor should he be, as from Talk Is Cheap onwards Steve has expertly facilitated some of the very best Rolling Stones records they never made. Fellow X-perienced Wino Waddy Wachtel pops in and out of the proceedings too; always wise to have an old Cowsills associate on board, yessir. Nevertheless, and not surprisingly at all I guess, several of Keith’s Greatest Myths (e.g.: spotting a whitewashed Muddy Waters painting the Chess Records ceiling when the Stones first arrived there in 1964) are spun into their second half-century of fictional service. But at least one, um, influence upon the subject matter is given due screen time …finally: While for some reason Gram Parsons seems to forever be AWOL from the The World’s Greatest Rock and Roll Band’s own documentaries (Stones in Exile most obviously), at least Keith now seems to have no reservations citing the source of and for, oh, “Dead Flowers” for starters.    

However – and, dare I say, this is a MAJOR however – is the next to zero mention, credit, or even significant name-check given whatsoever to the young man who, with all apologies to the late, exceptionally great Ian Stewart, put the Rolling Stones together, gave them their name, gave them their mission and, lest we ever forget, gave our very Birthday Boy himself his first-ever job as a professional musician (and a place to live in London when he finally plucked up the courage to leave home and art college, truth be told). Sure, we do briefly spot him blowing “I Just Want To Make Love To You” harmonica into Dean Martin’s face at The Hollywood Palace, and then most eagerly introducing Howlin’ Wolf to us young suburban North Americans at a long-ago Shindig. But we should ALL try to remember, as Morgan Neville seems to have neglected to, that there but for the grace of Brian Jones went… Keith Richards. Among others. To say the very, very least.

That gargantuan quibble aside, Under the Influence should still be considered Absolutely Required Viewing for all you rock ‘n’ archaeologists out there. If only to show our favorite Stone entering his 77th year not only alive, but as happy, productive, insightful, witty, personable, charming and downright entertaining as always. Why, he may even outdo Chuck Berry in at least several of those just-mentioned criteria. So there! 







Walter Carlos "By Request"

(Columbia, 1975) This record is so good! A nice stretch after "Hooked on Bach," and a few years after the Clockwork Orange soundtrack, Carlos delivered the equivalent of a crowd-pleasing lounge set, covering some Classical greatest hits (I have heard enough low budget canned Nutcracker soundtracks that these versions don't even sound particularly electronic to me), a Beatles cover, "What's New Pussycat," the actual wedding march song, and some delightful originals that are just endearingly pleasant. She woul make magnificent space age futuristic art sounds soon after (not to mention a record with Weird Al) but this is just old fashioned fun!

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Hot Dog Diary by Nathan Holzmann

 


(https://nathantolzmann.com/hotdogdiary/, 2018-2021) Since 2018 I have been avidly reading this lavishly illustrated journal comic documenting a decades ago ago bike trip across the country by artist Holzmann and his buddy, and I am thrilled every time a new chapter is released. Thrilled is a funny term here, because while the trip is certainly a journey, and I guess a series of tasks, and perhaps is epic by some standards, it is certainly not an adventure. Like, I imagine, any very long bike ride, this is mostly about appreciation of and endurance of the mundane. Thousands of miles of road, changing flats, eating at diners, finding a place to pee, getting rained on, meeting a few characters but mostly regular-assed boring people...all of this is a soothing, enjoyable, lovely non-narrative. These healthy, relatively well-adjusted dudes are not on a journey of discovery, are not engaging in debauchery, and face little adversity. But because Holzmann can draw 50 times better than he can bike (and he clearly can bike his ass off) it is just beautiful to see the road and the country and characters, and he really conveys how it feels to be tired or cold or exhausted. There are a few nice encounters along the way (meeting alum of their college amongst some wise monks, visiting a rope trick bar, appreciating outsider art) but mostly this comic, like the trip, is short on big meaning and l-o-n-g on just generally appreciating beauty (of this country's landscapes and of Holzmann's bad assed linework). Since he arrived at the Wisconsin Dells in the most recent installment I felt he may be wrapping it up (though now it occurs to me he might be heading to the East Coast, I assumed he was going to Chicago because he lived here for so long, but I can't remember the beginning of the story anymore). So jump in now to catch up before it concludes, or before they eat some Italian Beef at Portillo's and get slowed down.

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Peter Stampfel's 20th Century in 100 Songs

 (http://peterstampfels20thcentury.com/, 2021) Decades (if not 120 years) in the making, Peter Stampfel's wonderful project celebrates 100 years of 20th Century music with spare, lovely interpretations of one song from each year. For the first four decades of this I am reminded of the second career of recently departed genius dandy Ian Whitcomb, who quickly swapped out being the Harry Styles heartthrob of his day for a weird lengthy career as an earnest revivalist of early 20th Century popular music. While Stampfel's background in the trickster-adjacent Holy Modal Rollers, and his imperfect voice, should invoke Tiny Tim, I get more of Whitcomb vibe because, while frequently whimsical, there is no calculated novelty or goofing for attention here. This is an exercise in sincerity executed over many years with a handful of equally reverent collaborators.These are not just recreations; Stampfel explores the humor of Bert Williams' "Nobody" without mimicking Williams' delivery or touching on his pathos; his "Ragtime Cowboy Joe" is more wildly anarchic than even the Chipmunks version; I have never heard "Wedding of the Painted doll" before, but no one could have made anything that sounded like this. As we enter the rock era it gets interesting in certain ways ("Running Bear," "I Sold My Heart To The Junkman," and "Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep" are delights) but it gets REALLY interesting as the Century wraps up. Apparently Stampfell took  a break on this project a decade ago because he had a hard time getting excited about the late 80s and 90s, but more dramatically, he then completely lost his voice and struggled to learn to sing again, eventually being able to create a more frail, shakier, lower delivery. Thus, but the time we hear the Spice Girls, Beck, Fine Young Cannibals, and "Tubthumping" we hear them delivered with an extra sense of mortality and fragility, as if this record started with Baby New Year and ended being sung by the scythe holding bearded version. While some of the later tracks are a little over-produced, they are still lovely, and overall this is, dare I say it, the Record of the Century!

Monday, December 14, 2020

Chuck Charles "Hiya"

 

(www.chuckcharlesmusic.com, 2020) Talk about Normcore! This dude is rocking and mocking about watching TV, grocery shopping, and adult (not in the dirty way) relations, all mildly satirical, but mostly pretty much straightforward. Hiya right back.

Sunday, December 13, 2020

Death Factory "Drone Image"


(NoSides, 2017) Futuristic electro free jazz screech-scapes that are more noisey than it is Neu-sy, but still get the art-rock A+ in my grade book.*

*I am notorious for inflated grades and passing trouble kids through so someone else can deal with them, but an A is still an A.

Saturday, December 12, 2020

The Shoe Birds "Origin"

 

(Waxsaw, 20200) I had a hard time figuring out what kind of birds these were but I settled on Henery Hawk, grown up and mellowed out, and getting into insurgent country and indie pop in college. But I'm pretty sure what kinds of shoes it is...Crocs made out of moccasin leather! This one's for the birds...in a good way!



Friday, December 11, 2020

"All Ages - The Rise and Fall of Portland Punk Rock 1977-1981" by Mark Stern

 

(Reptilicus Press, 2015) This hefty volume tells a history of punk rock in the Pacific Northwest that is, in some sense, broad and comprehensive, but is actually ultra specific. The three best known acts of the region are represented, yet remain kind of remote -- Fred Cole's  pre-Dead Moon bands help birth the movement (Stern is in King Bee with Cole), are constantly playing, and Cole's music shop and gear are integral to scene developing, but he manages to live in his own world despite being a key scene builder; the Poison Idea boys are just coming into their own when this book wraps its story; and Greg Sage, of the Wipers, was so serious about his art that he was above the nuts and bolts (and pettiness) of the punk production and politics this book is really about. What gets covered in this exhaustive document (culled partly from latter day interviews but largely from memory and meticulous archived clippings, meeting minutes, accounting ledgers, calendars, and studio notes) is exactly how much work goes into putting on shows, creating space for underground music to develop, and producing a scene-documenting a compilation. There is some genuine ridiculousness (a committee deciding which bands qualify as punk), some brutal slaps of reality (the treachery of partnering with legit venues vs. the chaos of creating a functional punk space), and, most vividly, some Real Housewives-type drama that resonates and defines the development of Portland punk (including a guestlist snub that splits the scene). The book does a good job demonstrating the way self-destructive individuals can't help but spread havoc (yet still get welcomed back...there's only so many people to play the music) and the way outcasts and weirdos and genuine artists (Smegma is well represented) need to come together, however precariously, proving that the "Y" is always a lie in D.I.Y.. 

Thursday, December 10, 2020

Various Times: November 7, 2012 by Eugene V. Booth with Chrris Kuck and Jack Henrie Fisher

 

(Dum Ditty Dum, 2020) Yesterday I was marveling at the audacity of committing to do a podcast summarizing each of Bonanza's 431 episodes, but the ambition of this project really blows me away. Each book in this series covers a single day in the rock era, so this is a proposed 25.550 (and counting) volume set!  Though the dates are randomly generated this one happened to fall on the somewhat historical Obama reelection date, and though most of the material here is not Obama related, race relations and systematic racism have staring roles in this musical snapshot curated by Booth (and his consultants). For the most part this book focusses on Kendrick Lamar's triumphant 2012 LP, which was #1 that day, and the Peter Brotzman Tentet, which was on A European tour playing one of their final shows. For the former, Booth researches and analyzes the artist's history and the album's contents, and for the latter he interviews Fred Lonberg-Holm, and challenges Amiri Baraka's rejection of Brotzman (and other white improvisors), in part because Baraka dismisses some of these groups upon hearing their goofy names (which is, incidentally,  how this book opens, with Booth deciding not to dig deeper into the #2 Billboard song, "Some Nights," by fun., which he is unfamiliar with, not interested by, and gives up on partly because of the name. I don't know the song either, but I recall being impressed by their hit "We Are Young," which sounds pretty but is about genuinely miserable people getting blackout drunk because life, which includes a protagonist regretful for beating a his girlfriend, is terrible. AV Club once summarized the song as a celebration of how great it is to be young, so judging by names gets around). Anyhoo, this book kind of reminds me of The Best Show bit about the Rock, Root, and Rule book (I'm unsure of, but endorse, that Oxford comma). While this is the opposite (detailed analysis vs. a column of band names facing a column of rulings on ruling [or not]), they share the premise of publishing a book about the pop music musings you and your friends shared at length over coffee. This is not only because Booth recounts discussing these matters with knowledgable co-conspirators, and includes a Q and A with a cello fellow he admires, but because the premise and execution of this series feels more like an exercise than an academic pursuit. Specifically, it feels like the exercise of indulging in minutiae and exploring broad themes and making crazy comparisons (what rock opera does To Pimp A Butterfly most recall?) in the act of fellowship with your fave record collector buddies over beers, a bong, or brewed java. And it's nice to be invited to clink steins, take a hit, or pass the Splenda.

Wednesday, December 9, 2020

Bonanaz for Bonanza

 

(Earwolf, 2020) This is pretty much the funniest podcast I have ever heard. I was always supremely impressed by Andy Daley's optimistic, yet inevitably suicide and/or homicide (and hell) bound characters on Comedy Bang Bang, but to be honest 2020 has been so gruesome that I just couldn't take some of my favorite larfs. Early in the lock down I tried re-watching Review and I needed to pause the Ashley Tisdale episode every one minute, and eventually just had to abandon it. I really don't need extra cringes this year. But for Daly to find such a rich, life affirming outlet for his most murderous character has been a genuine delight. Cowboy poet Dalton Wilcox (spoiler: his poems are about dirt hole fucking), his musician pal Mutt Taylor (Matt Gourley, being as funny, charismatic, and weirdly knowledgeable as anyone can pull off while in trainwreck character) and Maria Bamford as a Christian entrepreneur (the brilliant comic's best character ever...literal out loud laughs every week) watch every episode of Bonanza in order. That's the show. Their characters feign obsession with and loyalty to the Cartwright boys, while week after week Daly, Gourley, and Bamford become more and more genuinely impressed by how actively strange, offensive, and confounding the program was. One running theme is Gourley's conviction that the show is recycling pilot scripts from un-produced Westerns  and just plugging in as many Cartwright boys as they need to fill the script. There are guests that watch along with them, and when they appear as wacky characters it's being extra, it proves better to just be yourself and genuinely react to this grand, strange show. The best guest was Brooklyn 99's Dirk Blocker, son of Dan "Hoss" Blocker, who was rightly treated like royalty. The chemistry, the abundant funniness, and the confounding tech (Daly, in quarantine, fumbling to call up the audio from Youtube clips, which they need to describe visuals-wise, is an unexpected pandemic pleasure) make this a can't miss. Of course like most of my fave podcasts, when they cut to commercial there is no commercial, as sponsors have better places to sell their fancy underwear and collapsible mattresses, but if this can hold on just 416 more episodes we can get the whole series in!

Tuesday, December 8, 2020

Maximum FF by Mark Evanier, Jack Kirby, Stan Lee &...Walter Mosley (?!?!?!!!!)

 

(Marvel, 2005) For the pandemic my big reading projects were consuming the entire series of Walter Mosley's Easy Rawlins books, and launching a read through of the full run of Jack Kirby Collector. So far I finished Rawlins (and started on the Leonid books), and I am up to issue 50 of the amazing JKC (hoping the pandemic ends before I get up to issue 80). Anyhow, with the only good parts of 2020 brain bouncing between in in Easyland and Kirbyville it was kind of jarring to discover the existence of this book. Upon first inspection this book-length reproduction of Kirby and Stan Lee's industry shifting Fantastic Four #1 seems to have some kinship with the Chip Kidd-desinged comics books which take familiar Snoopy or Batman imagery and embrace the familiarity while recontextualizing as art and cool and artifact and beautiful by making them bigger and bolder and newer and realer than we are used to seeing them on newsprint. However, the most important (to me, at least) element of Kidd's design is celebrating the printed comic or toy or board game as object, and luxuriating in the yellowing decay and wear and tear of enthusiastic spectatorship (I credit Kidd's influence with the public domain/easily licensed reprint boom that lets old comics look like old comics rather than washed out photoshopped messes or gaudily recolored anachronisms). Anyhow, the only place we get that element in this beautiful book is in the dustjacket which folds out to a poster of the FF#1 cover roughly the size of an Winnebego, which features on the flip side a reproduction of a complete, decayed, taped, yellowed copy of issue #1 (I had actually never seen all the ads despite reading a thousand reprints). Other than that designer Paul Sahre is taking the individual panels with crisp new coloring and blowing them up so that each page has has just half a, or one, or two panels. This is not a Pop Art excision, as the story is still to be read, but I definitely found myself reading it more slowly and appreciating the Kirby art's power much more than on previous readings. But what walloped me was the essay by Mosley. Granted, his 50+ books go beyond mysteries, with nonfiction, sci fi, cultural criticism, etc, and he made a couple comic book references in the Rawlins books, but this still took me by surprise. It seems that Mosley bought an early FF issue in the 60s as a kid and has been devoted since (the crappy copy on the inside dustjacket is his), but in recent years felt a disconnection which he defeated when he began scanning and blowing up panels to a huge size which opened his comic fan third eye and let him see his old favorites in a profound new dimension. This book was his concept and it is a triumph. The other essay in the book is JKC star columnist (and Kirby assistant and Garfield cartoon kingpin) Mark Evanier, recounting his detective work about the FF#1 inker (which he'd been working out in Collector issues). I may have never stumbled upon a book as in tune to my converging interests as this one. The book cost $50 originally, is easily worth $100, and I got it for $20, so please find yourself a copy, you will treasure it. Possibly not as much as me after consuming 14 detective books and 4000 pages of Kirby worship, but maybe next pandemic you could go my route.

DICK ALLEN REMEMBERED! Fan Interference - A Zisk Anthology



(Blue Cublicle, 2013) If you can find a copy of this great collection of idiosyncratic takes on baseball fandom, grab it. What follows is my piece on Dick Allen's #1 fan that appears in it, one of my favorite interviews I've ever done. Thinking of the late great Dick Allen, amazingly on the precipice of the Hall of Fame, with only a little thing like a global pandemic keeping a committee from enshrining him, I am also thinking of the the living Ziff Sistrunk (who made the news this year by prominently making his way into the coverage of Blago's return home after his Trump pardon). Please remember Allen's amazingness as you read this piece (which I could not find online anywhere and wanted to give folks a chance to read. It is from 2002 so I made a couple updates/edits):

Who Is Dick Allen? by Jake Austen

Richard Anthony Allen should be remembered as one of the greats: he hit over 350 home runs, had over 1,000 RBI, and was the decisive AL MVP in 1972 when he led the league in home runs, RBI, walks, and slugging. Instead, when he is remembered it is often in a negative light, based upon his incendiary chemistry with the fans and press. As Richie Allen he slugged for the Philadelphia Phillies from 1963-1969, where the notoriously brutal Philadelphia sports fans had it in for him.  (These are fans that historically have booed Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and Beyonce.) When he came to the American League he found a home with the Chicago White Sox (along with a new name—his experience in Philadelphia was so bad he insisted on being called "Dick" instead of "Richie."). He was a fave with the royal family of Chicago, Mayors Daley I and II, and as one old joke goes, "Who was the first black manager is baseball? Dick Allen, he ran the White Sox from 1972-1974." On the other hand, the press didn’t cotton to his unusual habits (he didn’t practice with the team, he smoked in the dugout, he didn’t give interviews) and the notoriously frank Sox announcer Harry Carey gave him hell, declaring, "Dick Allen has a million dollars worth of talent and 10 cents worth of brains."

Well one man is trying to right the injustices Dick Allen suffered, and that man is Ziff Sistrunk, Dick Allen’s #1 fan. We had a chance to talk with Ziff, and this is how it went down:

Who is Dick Allen?

Ziff Sistrunk: Dick Allen was a famous baseball player from the ‘70s. He was a person who was an example of the true American spirit of independence and freedom...a free spirit. He was a man who had tremendous power. Essentially, the Black Babe Ruth.

When did you become interested in Dick Allen?

I was a bat boy for him in the '70s. In those days they had contests, and I wrote a letter to the Cubs and White Sox, "Why I Want to Be a Bat Boy." I won the contest based on my letter and become the White Sox bat boy from 1973-1974. I was the first Black bat boy in Chicago history.

What is your greatest memory of Dick Allen?

Sparky Lyle on the mound for the Yankees, in front of a gigantic White Sox crowd. It was the second game of a double header, bases loaded, ninth inning. (White Sox manager) Chuck Tanner sent me in to the clubhouse to tell Dick Allen he was pinch hitting. He was sitting out because his contract said he didn’t play the second game of a double header. He came out and hit a screaming line drive into the upper deck. Me and the trainer were jumping up and down, screaming and hugging each other! Dick Allen brought excitement to Chicago sports (comparable to) Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen. Nancy Faust, the White Sox organist, plays a different song for every player, and for him she played, "Jesus Christ Superstar." I asked her why and she said, "Because he approached the plate like a king!"

Do you consider yourself his number one fan?

Not only do I consider myself his #1 fan (other than his wife and his mother who just died a few years ago...he was a mama’s boy), I am also the official president of the Dick Allen International Fan Club on Race Relations. It is called that because Allen was subjected to a lot of racism, and baseball needs to acknowledge what he went through if the sport is ever to achieve real racial harmony. When he played Triple A for the Little Rock (Arkansas) Travelers he was the first black baseball player in that state. When he first arrived the Governor and 200 fans met Allen at the airport with a sign reading “Don’t Niggerize Our Baseball.” When he went to the Philadelphia Phillies, the Phillies had never had a black superstar. On the field one game Frank Thomas, a veteran on the team who was near retirement, called Allen a “nigger son of a bitch.” Allen knocked him down and Thomas hit Allen on the shoulder with a bat. This was in front of fans, and the Phillies fans turned on Allen. The next day the attendance shot up, just to boo Dick Allen. They brutally rode him out of Philadelphia. He had to wear a batting helmet in the field because they threw things...nails...at him. His life was in danger. If you threw a nail at a player today you would go to jail. Baseball didn’t protect Dick Allen. Can you imagine the mental strain?  You can’t!

What does being his #1 fan entail?

What it does is it has me trying to correct the way that Dick Allen was painted as a bad person or troublemaker. He was an independent person who exercised the United States’ Constitution’s right to free speech. He chose the freedom to not speak to reporters, so of course they wrote bad things about him. I’ve been working on a documentary about Dick Allen for years, but it doesn’t have an end yet. I’m going to take my Dick Allen museum on the road and collect a million signatures, and present them to the baseball commissioner so that he will make a special proclamation. I think Dick Allen should be in the Hall of Fame.  It’s the only way his career could wind up and it’s the only way that baseball can achieve racial harmony in the sport. I was talking to (Allen), and he said he wouldn’t want to be in the Hall of Fame unless they also put me in as the first Black bat boy. That was a nice thing of him to say. You know, this is the 30th anniversary of the season he saved the Sox. They were going to move to Seattle or Florida before Allen doubled the attendance. I am trying to get the White Sox to retire his number and erect a statue. (Former Illinois Attorney General) Roland Burris said it best, he said I’m “keeping Allen’s legacy alive.” No, Channel 7’s Bob Petty said it best, “If Dick hadn’t been like Dick, then there wouldn’t be a Dick Allen!”

What’s the single act that you’ve done that best exemplifies your devotion to Mr. Allen?

I’ve collected over 500 pieces of memorabilia for my traveling Dick Allen Museum—his old uniforms, his bat, his glove.  I went to the Academy Awards to support Michael Clarke Duncan (nominated for The Green Mile) who I went to King High School with, and he told me he had Dick Allen’s glove, which I thought was strange. Allen only had two gloves. I didn’t know him and Allen were close. Duncan sent the glove to me and now it’s in the museum.

How would you like history to remember Dick Allen?

As one of the finest ballplayers to ever play the game. He ran like a deer, hit like Hercules, and dressed like the president. When everyone in the locker room had cotton drawers, he was walking around with silk drawers and a big Afro. They say he was a bad guy.  He never threw his bat, never argued with the umpire.  His mother raised him to be at peace with himself and to believe in God. The hostility he was subjected to was unfair. But he went through these things so others wouldn’t have to. Ballplayers are murdering people now, and Dick Allen is supposed to be bad. Yes, he didn’t like playing the second game of a double header, he didn’t go to spring training or take batting practice. He wasn’t perfect; once he had three homers and six RBI and had given the team an eight-run lead in the seventh inning and asked the manager if he could go. He went to the racetrack, and the team lost the lead and the game, and the reporters saw him at the track, so you can imagine how they let him have it. But ballplayers are murdering people now! He wasn’t a bad guy, just a rebel, an independent, free spirit.

How would you like history to remember Ziff Sistrunk?

As a person who stood for what was right in Dick Allen’s case, who put this in front of his own career. This isn’t about racism, it’s about racial harmony. We’re still not over Jackie Robinson. As long as baseball looks at Dick Allen as bad there will never truly be racial harmony in the game.



   



Monday, December 7, 2020

The Ones CD/7"/pins set

 

(Rerun, 2014) There was a joke on the National Lampoon radio show that went something like,What is the #1 hit in Canada? Whatever was the number one hit in the US 6 months ago. This amazing collection documenting the late 70s Milwaukee band Ozone (not the Zone brothers band), a/k/a The Ones, seems to indicate that in Wisconsin the lag is a little bit longer. Somehow this teen renegade aggressive edgy spirit-of-punk-rock band seems to have missed everything recent going on in London and New York and instead got really excited about new bands like the Stooges and MC5. And did their Midwestern proto-punk godfathers proud! Which is to say that this bag set (a 45 repress of their incredible 1979 single "Short Dress" b/w "Tightrope" - the latter of which can be seen rattling a Milwaukee telethon on Youtube ,  a CD of 16 raw and rad rehearsal and live tracks. and some pins) makes a compelling argument to put these heavy hitters in the Cream City HOF with the Haskels, Die Kruezen, Blue Ribbon Pub Cheese Curds, Jeffrey "Hack Man" Leonard's sleepy-eyed smile on his 1986 Topps baseball card, and Lenny and Squiggy (RIP). 







Sunday, December 6, 2020

Make Some Space by Emma Warren

(Sweet Machine Publishing, 2019) Hopefully as a music and culture fan you will get a few opportunities during your life to enter spaces that feel hard to believe - spaces where ideals and aspirations and even fantasies about creating a communal physical zone where art and expression and fellowship and a kind of ethereal cool that transcends fashion and trends (while often embracing them) thrives. Places like that often seem transient --  how can such  a thing survive in the realm of culture cannibalism and corporate capitalism? But even if you only get to enjoy it for one month or one night or one song, what it does for your soul is huge. Warren found such  a space in London's Total Refreshment Center, a marginally legit arts hub/recording studio/practice studio, and music venue where DJ parties alternated with live music nights that brought together thrillingly innovative young jazz musicians (with some notable Chicago artists making appearances). Combining elements of oral histories with a cultural critic's musings about the meanings of such space, and with thorough research about the Century-long history of the building, going back to its industrial origins, the writer takes their role as documentarian seriously and passionately. Most impressive is a coda where Warren explains how she tracked down the info, conducted the interviews, and financed the book's printing, demystifying the process in  hopes to encourage similar documentation of these too often ethereal moments in culture.

Saturday, December 5, 2020

 

(xxxwwmxxx@gmail.com, 2019?) Mw. McCurtin is one of the absolute best of the army of genius artists contributing to Roctober, and I am grateful and surprised every time I see something new from him. His drawings are richly beautiful, chaotically powerful, absolutely emotional, and super weird without suffering from any of the artifice, airs, or attitude often associated with hipsterism or intentional underground-ism. This art zine (which also had some buttons and stickers) has every inch jam packed with drawings of monsters, machines, musicians, and even coverless cassette tapes which all feel like fascinating, soulful characters. Like Charlie Brown's criteria for a Christmas tree, this masterpiece redefines "sincere."



All Hack by Dmitri Samarov

 

(Pictures and Blather, 2020) A few years back I read writer/artist Samarov's first collection of stories from his days as a cab driver in Chicago in the first decade of this Century. I missed his second book (which apparently had some bad mojo as far as distribution), and I had never seen his hand typed zines he did on this subject, so I was delighted to see a new beautiful, hardcover collection (of both volumes, all the zines, a selection of tweets taking notes on interesting rides, and related writing done after the second book), and borderline surprised that it was only $20. It is definitely interesting to learn about the ins and outs of the industry in the age of rideshares, when cabs seem like faxes (my no-credit card-having co-workers always paid friends cash to order Ubers rather than calling a cab, which they found inconceivable). Dmitry deals with predatory traffic cops, the whims of dispatchers, leased vehicles he hates (and loves), strange co-workers, arrangements for special needs riders, and particulars of where to eat, pee, and serve penance for wrongdoings. But the heart of the book is the vivid snapshots of the riders, many casually (or virulently) racist, and/or oddly open about their ethical deficiencies, but so many others delightful, fascinating, odd, beautiful characters, who reveal a lot (and leave a lot mysterious) during their short interaction. There is definitely some backseat fucking and drug deal adventures (and maybe a war crime or two revealed while discounting the cabbies ears), but more thrilling is learning about how interesting each individual in each corner of so many Chicago neighborhoods is, revealed by little trips to pick up a settlement check, deal with  a pet, or just go through a drive through for a burger. Samarov, an painter by training, says that interacting with these folks and contemplating life during these marathon shifts made him a writer. But for folks used to seeing his paintings at bars, him drawings bands at rock shows, and the thousands of aesthetic images he's made over the last couple decades, it is kinda interesting that while his written portraits are so vivid, his drawings of the riders are less so (understandable since his eyes were on the road). While not all of the people pics are evocative as you'd hope, where this book reaches the stratosphere is with the moody, magnificent ink washes of Chicago traffic, architecture, and the outsides of bars and businesses that were his whole world for 6 to 16 hours a day from 2003-2012. Some of the drawings of the people are intriguingly odd and ugly, but all of his cityscapes and auto view traffic portraits are all out beautiful. All hail this cab book.

Friday, December 4, 2020

Zisk #30, #31

 


(Zisk, 2020) Celebrating their 20th anniversary Zisk puts out a double issue that is really two issues and is definitely a crowning achievement. #31, the more regular ish, features Rev. Norb channeling Jack Kirby on the cover, making it by far the best cover they have ever printed. This issue features research, rantings, and really nice prose on what baseball fans call The Big 3 B's. Namely Buckner, Bob Dylan, and Bitching about all kinds of things you don't like about baseball (mostly of the usual statistical/rule change/commissioner stripe, but also a surprising knock on non-Dodgers teams honoring Jackie Robinson). But #30 is the big deal here, as they break format and just print a small book by Todd Taylor researching the tragic razing of homes owned by poor Mexicans in Chavez Ravine in Los Angeles, ostensibly to build public housing but after a bait in switch, making the Fountainhead dude look like Mother Teresa, they equate projects with communism and eventually just pay the Dodgers to take the land and a lot of money to replace everything and everyone there  with a privately owned park and parking lots. This, of course, necessitates bulldozing the last remaining homes after barely yanking the residents out kicking and screaming. It's a nasty and ugly and predictable tale, guest starring Fernando Valenzuela as the dude who eventually convinces Mexicans that it's OK to like the Dodgers. If your powerful baseball zine can make you feel like shit for going to  a baseball game, that's what I call a baseball zine!


Roy and the Devil's Motorcycle "Good Morning Blues"


(Voodoo Rhythm, 1996/2020) This archival (from either the 90s or Middle Ages, it is unclear) release is blues music if blues music means cursed spook-a-sonic-scape spellbook incantations made by ghosts that can only be listened to through a 1" transistor radio speaker that somehow has a tiny tube amp inside it. My world is always better with haunted house psyche drones as my soundtrack to I fully endorse playing this 24 hours a day where ever you go.

Thursday, December 3, 2020

Dr. Demento "First Century Dementia

 (Liberation Hall) As this shitty year closes out I finally have a clear cut favorite record of the year. That the music is mostly a Century or more old proves how far we need to get away from 2020 to get to something good. Though it would be more properly titled "First Quarter Century Dementia" (as all the recordings are 1895-1923), this collection is one of the Doctor's best compilations, as any joke that is still funny after a hundred years definitely holds up. First up, I don't know what happened over the last few years with digital restoration, but I can't believe  how clean are rich these sound. Second up, I normally would be  critical of the same artists repeating over and over on a comp, but this time I think it gives context. Billy Murray, according to the Good Doctor, released thousands of records, so why not give him multiple slots on this, especially if it means we hear him do historical goofs on prohibition ("Alcoholic Blues") and the then-sturdiness of American cars ("The Little Ford Rambled Right Along") and animal eating, which was apparently a fad in 1914 ( "Fido Is A Hot Do Now"). And you can certainly have multiple cuts by Billy Jones if they are include such all-time greats as"Yes We Have No Bananas" and "Barney Google."  It's amazing how many of these records predict comedy/novelty records that were decades away. Telephones were pretty damn new in 1913 but Joe Hayman already understood that a one-sided telephone conversation was comedy gold (even if Bob Newhart would be the one grabbing the gold a half century later). Jones finds a treasure with his Steve Martin-predicting "Old King Tut." And Cal Stewart's "Uncle Josh Buys An Automobile" is the same kind of hick comedy Andy Griffith built his recording career upon. There are some familiar favorites here (Bert Williams' "Nobody," DeWolf Hopper's "Casey At The Bat," "The Okeh Laughing Record") but also some new to me, including a weird 19th Century recreation of a Shakespearean actor having a mental episode, and Ed Gallagher and Al Shean doing a Ziegfield Follies hit that is amazing simply because they sing their own names in a very funny manner. Dr. Demento's liner notes are great, reproductions of the 78 labels are lovely, and this record is a gem. 

One addendum I love Dr. Demento, and I  delight in the use of the terms Demento, Dementoids, and Dementites. However, I don't love it as much when he throws around the term "Dementia" in this age of Alzheimers awareness. I am on a mailing list and when I see that in the subject line I always get a little sad before I realize what it is.

Martin Mull "No Hits, Four Errors"

 

(Capricorn, 1977) I never fully got my fellow RISD alum Martin Mull's deal. He was definitely funny in everything but I didn't super connect with his albums and I felt I had missed something, in part because I never got to see Fernwood 2Night, which I was convinced was a lost gem by the way trusted comedy fans discussed it. Well, after we lost Fred Willard earlier this year I found almost every episode on Youtube and it was worth the wait, Mull's character's smarm and disdain and guilt-free  relationship with ethics were a delight. Revisiting his greatest "hits" I actually had some revelations about his musical comedy. On "Jesus is Easy" and "Normal" Mull wonderfully takes a WASP-y view of the counterculture, one that Jewish comics couldn't really take, which is that he can just go back to comfortable status quo whenever he's done slumming. A little less impressive is his take on racial matters, as his "The Blacks Are Giving Me The Blues" is just awkward, and his "Santafly," is which he does a fake 70s soul falsetto, is problematic not only because he is doing vocal blackface, but because there are plenty of actual, legit, similar Soul Christmas records on the R&B charts, the idea that this is a ridiculous novelty just shows how disconnected he was from the music he was trying to parody. Sure Cheech and Chong did the same kind of joke with "Basketball Jones," but it at least demonstrated that they really knew the music they were riffing on. But that aside, some of these songs are really pleasantly pleasing (especially "Licks Off  My Records" and "Eggs") so I'm mulling moving Mull up to the next tier of comedy greats.

The Firesign Theater "Dope Humor of the Seventies"

 

(Stand Up Records, 2020) I am as big an advocate for comedy LPs as you'll find, so I have heard a number of Firesign albums, and the fact that I can't remember anything about them probably tells you a lot about my opinion on them. After listening to over two hours of bits from their 70s radio show I still can't say I'm down with the FT, and I really didn't laugh listening to this, but I do feel I have a better idea about where they fit into comedy history. The general vibe I get is sort of those comedy duos/teams you would see on Ed Sullivan footage doing Nichols and May type skits, but not as funny as N&M. But everything also has the kind of dank scent of 70s comedy for stoners, where general silliness mixed with sounds-like-smartness (without making any actual clear points), appealing perfectly to a slowed down, giggle primed brain. When they do an old man voice it is such an homage to Jonathan Winters that there's also a revival of the kinda chaotic manic madness that Robin Williams later ruined. All that said, while I didn't love this, they seem to be amusing themselves pretty much, which is fun to hear. Also, for fans, buy this instead of streaming for free because the booklet, featuring tons of fantastic reproductions of handwritten and typed scripts, notes, scripts with notes, scripts with doodles, and some great photos is my favorite part of this package 

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Mr. Boop Volume III: "Cease & Exist" by Alec Robbins

 

(Mr. Boop, 2020) I'm sure you are aware of the whimsical, erotic, fair use-defying comic Mr. Boop, in which Alec Robbins chronicles his life as the very happy husband of naughty nonagenarian cartoon legend Betty Boop, to whom he is married. But have you ever asked yourself what would it be like if he was NOT married to Betty Boop? Well no need to blow your own mind, Robbins does it for you in the latest collection of his romantic escapades. Past volumes have been the Ready Player Ones of cartoon orgy books, but here the copyright laws catch up with Alec in some very unexpected ways that you will hate to love (and vice versa). If you want your heart broken, if you want mainline true love and devotion, and if you want to see multiple drawings of Mickey Mouse's erection, cease and desist not buying this modern masterpiece.