Monday, November 30, 2020
Sunday, November 29, 2020
(Columbia/Austin City Limits, 2020) This album sees Willie and his amazing Bicentennial band (featuring Sister Bobby on piano, and, of course, Paul English on drums [whom Willie introduces as "The Devi]) performing the Red Headed Stranger LP in sequential order, in its entirety (in case you thought full album shows were a recent destination festival innovation). Because this was shot for the Austin City Limits TV show the sound is pristine, and other than an explosion of applause at the opening notes of "Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain," the audience is not an audible presence for the most part. But even if this was mic'ed differently, you wouldn't hear much crowd noise. Unlike live recordings from a decade earlier when Willie was clowning and making show like the Nashville heroes he was writing for and playing with, the Willie who wrote, recorded, and is playing on this album has found his own voice (even when interpreting other songwriters). He believes in these songs, and these arrangements, and this album, so much that his performance has him concentrating and contemplating the music, while presenting intimate, personal renditions that the audience is receiving with equal reverence. There are so many live Willie LPs, and a lot of them are very good, but I can definitely say that this none sound like this one, and any Willie fan (which I assume is everyone) would do themselves a favor by cozying up to this Stranger.
Saturday, November 28, 2020
(Munster, 2014) I guess because Mike Kelley not only became an art star (whose dolls on tables I saw transform numerous galleries into spooky flea markets), or maybe it's because I have actually seen their videos and visual art as literal art installations in galleries, but Detroit's influential weirdos Destroy All Monsters have long been the definitive Art rRock band in my mind. Which I now realize is not fair. In my universe there's a whiff of pejorative to that term, while there is nothing but magic emanating from such soothing subgenres as Monster Rock, Trash Punk, Psyche Noise, and Imaginary Horror Movie Soundtrack-core, all of which I realize are far more suitable cate-gore-ization safter immersing myself in this epic collection. Formed in the early 70s by Ann Arbor college misfits/comic book fans/noisemakers, eking through the mid-70s making messy explosions of creativity, then changing up personnel going into the 80s as the charismatic frontwoman/visual artist Niagra recorded and toured most that decade with various lineups featuring herself and Ron Asheton of the Stooges, as anchors. They reunited in the mid-90s and played reunion shows and released recordings until Asheton died in 2009. This collection is mostly dynamic, joyously chaotic, fully rocking live material from all eras of the band (some from the huge Thurston Moore-curated release from 2009, some taken from reunion show videos). Niagra's paintings and the band's art zine (of the same name) and the museum exhibits certainly mean this band earned that A-word, but listening to two hours or righteously ridiculous rock'n'roll messes means they don't have to wear any of the respectability or bullshit associated with that scarlet letter. Thank the Devil that despite being officially curated into institutions, they were, fundamentally, a gruesome 1950s horror comic of a rock band!
Friday, November 27, 2020
Thursday, November 26, 2020
(Rowdy Farrago, 2015) These are re-recordings of the band’s favorite original songs from the previous nine-year re-launch, and I’m not sure all are better than the first time (the older you get the harder it is to chant “Existence is Resistance’ without getting winded or losing the tempo) , but they absolutely needed a chance to change their Jimmy Seville song about their beloved TV fave to a new lyric skewering the outed predatory pedo, so that was an opportunity well played.
Wednesday, November 25, 2020
www.abstractartimus.com) I suppose I should never be surprised by obscurity, Rock'n'Roll has never been a meritocracy (if it was the monks would've been bigger than U2). But I really expected Brooklyn-via-'Bama rocker Abstract Artimus to catch on: his intoxicating, minimalist, nearly-New Wave take on Southern Rock riffage and swagger is just so much fun. On this sampler of demos and early releases my delusional prognostications prove justified, especially on the opener, "Break My Bread," which combines $5 drum machine beats with fuzzy guitar hooks and horny vocals resulting in Oreo-level addictive sonic cookies. There's some noisy punk stuff here I don't recall hearing before, and even one song that breaks the three-minute mark (most, sublimely, barely make it to two), but overall this does nothing to change my past assessment. Shame on you tastemakers for not tasting this sweet, sweet stuff.
Tuesday, November 24, 2020
Fakefour, 2020) History will smile on Serengeti when the saga of Chicago hip hop is told in 40 years, as this underground innovator, in a move that is simultaneously grand and low key, did the impossible: He made novelty records with depth. The prolific wordsmith has also made scores of solid non-novelty numbers, but the track that will will make it onto futuristic volumes of NOW THAT'S WHAT I CALL CHICAGO HIP HOP will no doubt be "Dennehy," his 2006 ear-candy introduction to Kenny Dennis. This Dennis is neither a menace, nor the Miles sideman of the same name, but rather a middle-aged delivery driver with oversized approximations of both a Chicago mustache and a Chicago accent, and the song is a very funny catalogue of manly 80s actors, a tailgate BBQ shopping list, and an insistence that Zayre's stores existed after 1989. However, when he declares in the first couplet his allegiance to O'Doul's there's already something more than a Bill Swersky Superfans minstrel show going on: what stereotypical Chicago sports fan would drink near beer? There had to be more to his story, and over the next dozen years we learned, over dozens of tracks, dozens of character-building biographical nuggets explaining why this man rapped, why he disliked Shaq maybe more than he loved Ditka, and we even delved into his darkest struggles. In sixty years the worst detail we've learned about the clearly disturbed David Seville is that he's willing to leave his Chipmunk children with his idiot cousin (when finding himself body cast-bound, due to squeakquel-related shenanigans). "Monster Mash" came out in 1962 and we've yet to learn a single thing about Dracula's relationship with his son. Serengeti, on the other hand, infused his Mario-mustached alter ego with so much depth and pathos that it was shame to see his saga end on 2018's Dennis 6e. But in a rare positive 2020 surprise, we get this prequel (or prsqueakquel, if you prefer) which presents two lost disco-era tracks that a teen Kenny somehow recorded in response to the 1979 Disco Demolition debacle at Comiskey Park, in which the second game of a double header was forfeited after a radio promotion involving dynamiting disco records inspired long-haired rockers to bum rush the ballfield. The excavated audio reveals that Kenny blessed us with a proto-hip hop gem that is the Pale Hose's finest rap moment since Main Source declared, "Fuck Red and White, I got on Black Sox." With a groovy beat, but a more mellow groove than those etched into the vinyl that morning shock jock Steve Dahl blew up that fateful day, Dennis recalls "the Day that Disco Died" both wistfully and very personally. It seems that he went to 35th and Shields, ticketless, with hopes of his twin loves of South Side baseball and deep grooves hooking up, anticipating the crowd dancing in their green wooden seats. He did not realize the anti-disco theme of Dahl's dastardly plan, and the night proved so historic and traumatic to young Kenny that he mis-remembers the stoned and drunks teens goofing around on the field as a hate field race riot dominated by riot gear-clad "maintain disorder" cops. Actually, the quickly regretful creator of that promotion, Mike Veeck, ordered security to let the kids cavort on the field until they tuckered themselves out rather than use force. The widespread revisionist take of that night as an overtly racist and homophobic milestone gives too much credit to '79 Sox fans and Loop ("Where Chicago Rocks") listeners. While the group was certainly largely racist and homophobic, the first Disco act any of them would have named would have been Bee Gees and the idea that "Disco Sucks" was a slogan denigrating gay oral sex requires a more sophisticated sense of humor than most of them possessed. As Kenny summarizes, this was Rock vs. Disco, and they were just picking sides (and the eventual triumph of disco-inspired hip hop would years later reveal those Bridgeport-ians to be on the sad and sorry side of that particular Civil War). Anyhow, despite this being a 7" single, this Disco-era 12"-worthy seven minute epic is an emotional journey for Kenny in which Rock reportedly rules, but a deep disco musical movement around minute five begs to differ. The flip side is kind of a square dance song about bears, I think not the Soldier Field type, but rather the Brookfield (zoo) type. Perhaps it was a prognostical pre-epitaph to the hillbilly alter ego of anchor Joel Daly, who died four months after this was released (though canonically, around 490 months after this was recorded). It's a banger, but in the wake of the epic A-side I couldn't fully process it. "Field on Fire" is a Dick Allen home run of hip hop (yes, I know Allen is not a '79-era example, but he's a player I imagine wee Kenny revered); a magnificent new chapter in the life of a man as funny as longtime unofficial White Sox mascot Andy the Clown, and as deeply sad as (I assume) longtime unofficial White Sox mascot Andy the Clown.
(Rowdy Farrago, 2018) So, if this is in fact the last Destructors album it is a grand way to go out. Not because it’s actually grand or actually an opera, but because it really brings things back to the beginning. The only way this is an opera at all is if you look at it as a story, and the story is just about a group of young punk rockers in the 70s going to the city to experience the punk world, fight Teddy Boys, and worship girl punk rockers, then take the train home after a long night. The band is at their most anthemic and rousing. The scene-setting opener (not technically an overture, but more a broad declaration of punkishness) seems kinda unrealistic (a punk history lesson that imagines ’77 punker teens actually appreciating the Stooges, Modern Lovers, and MC5 --- and god bless them for rhyming “Dictators” with “innovators”). But it follows with a more grounded manifesto called “We Are the Punks.” The songs here are sharper and more exciting than on a lot of their albums, and the whole thing ends with the band chanting the names of a bunch of diverse bands they like (Chelsea, Crime, Eddie and the Hot Rods, Electric Chairs, Misfits, Talking Heads). The beautiful thing is you know that out there there’s hundreds, maybe thousands, of fans who not because of the band’s ’77 heritage, but really because of the insanely hard work and dedication they put into their prolific final 14 years, would proudly list the Destructors in their stirring and silly and inspiring and goofy punk band catalogue anthem!
Monday, November 23, 2020
GARY PIG GOLD
MUSWELL HILLBILLIES TURN 49
It’s a better country-rock album than anything by The Byrds.”
When the esteemed J.R.Taylor first put those words in The New York Press awhile back, I couldn’t help but laugh. J.R.’s always tossing around outrageous statements like this, and obviously loves a good scrape as much as anyone else who chooses to live – or write – within the confines of New York City. But then just the other day, I found myself listening yet again to that 1971 Kinks klassic in question …and I’m certainly not laughing anymore.
Without naming any more names (and believe me, I could greatly expand on Mr.Taylor’s little list!), let’s just say that one has to at least question the musical, and perhaps even socio-geographic, pedigree behind most of what’s since been loosely labeled “alt.country”: To whit, Strip the vast majority of [insert your current fave raves from the genre here] straight down, or better still see and hear [ditto] live on stage some night, and you’re likely to recognize, should you really be hip-honest enough, little more than just some plain dumb ol’ r-a-w-k in the USA with a couple of B-benders and sparkly shirts (if you’re lucky) tossed on top. The Stones and even the Georgia Satellites, fer Chrissake, have done it all already all over and over again …and with quite a bit more spit and panache, truth be told. And let’s not even get started on that pioneering Rank And File combo, OK?!
Cut to: Dry ice and lens balm. Setting the Way Back machine for November of 1971, the freshly-revitalized Kinks have just signed a new recording contract in the wake of their worldwide smash “Lola.” Yet who on Earth, or elsewhere for that matter, would have expected the band would – or could – deliver such an understated li’l gem as the Muswell Hillbillies album for their debut platter on none other than Elvis’ label? Defiantly out-of-step in its time (like all the best music, the Kinks’ especially, seems to be), Muswell remains remarkable today not only for its sound (“acoustic ragtime,” I’ve heard it called), but for its weird and utterly wunnerful – not to mention downright clairvoyant – under-current of suspicion, betrayal, paranoia and, yep, all-purpose government plots. MH is literally dripping with deceit, deception, and konspiracies of each and every stripe, primarily set against the seedy backdrop of post-World War II Britain.
It was in those dank times that the less fortunate amongst inner-city London’s bombing victims were being coldly up-ended and down-rooted into the equally bleak (government-approved) “new-towns” rapidly springing like weeds atop once-quaint suburbs. Not coincidentally, most each and every actual Kink spent their ignoble childhoods amidst such prefab rabble (for more utterly chilling tales, check out Ray Davies’ unauthorized autobiography X-Ray). Pedigree in spades, in other words.
Many of Muswell’s best songs address – more like CONFRONT – this sad, sorry state of affairs (“Here Come The People In Grey,” “Acute Schizophrenia Paranoia Blues”) and how the once-proud victims attempt to cope with their sordid new lives and neighborhoods (“Alcohol,” and the early ode to anorexia “Skin & Bone”). Like some bleak, David Lynch-directed spin on their televised namesakes the Clampetts, Muswells’ songs talk of a REAL social revolution – namely the enforced displacement of families and the resultant choking of cultures and ideals – as opposed to the more globally innocuous, mere Top 40 sloganeering of “Street Fighting Man” or that “Hey Jude” B-side then so en vogue. But really, Ray and his Kinks have always had a soft spot for society’s down-trodden, abused misfits: they were just far too honest and pointed in their examinations of same to score many hit records in the process.
And as for the MUSIC on Muswell Hillbillies… well! The panoramic cover shot of five hairy goofs propped up in some corner pub offers the first clue towards the treasures enclosed: It is in fact a snap of Our Heroes in the smoky interior of the Archway Tavern, where Ray and his family used to spend their Thursday nights listening to “the worst country and western band in the world,” Davies recalls (who, it turns out, were from Ireland. An early U2 encounter, perhaps? Just kidding. I guess). Indeed, the first sound you hear on the album is the gentle strumblings of an acoustic guitar – teasingly like their aforementioned “Lola” monster. However, song number one, “20th Century Man,” soon grows (via a possibly ironic McGuinny bridge section) into a delicately-layered, full-on stomp upon the terrors of far “too much aggravation” out on “the edge of insanity” (as the at times barely audible vocals screech). Welcome to the REAL jungle, Apeman!
Ray’s brother/foil/lead-guitarist-extraordinaire Dave picks up the tale: “Muswell is a really strange record, because it’s so rooted in our London backgrounds, yet it has all the emotional elements, and a lot of the instrumentation, of American blues.” Sure enough, “Holloway Jail,” for one, would have provided an ideal candidate for the Man In Black’s very next opus. Plus it was at this precise moment that the original Kinks guitar-keys-drums line-up was first augmented by brass and woodwinds …but, most thankfully, NOT in the same quasi-Memphian fashion as those Stones and other assorted Mad Frogs and Englishmen. No, Ray just set up an extra mic in the bathroom, hired three players to approximate the desperately liquid New Orleans horn stylings of the Twenties and Thirties, and deftly turned “Alcohol” and “A.S.P. Blues” into slippery, slidey blues-ups of the lowest odor (…imagine, if you dare, Dr. John directing Side One of Blonde On Blonde). But then, just when you’re ready to slit your eardrums over the inevitable cacophony of despair and perfectly bum notes which abound, a shimmering beauty like “Oklahoma USA” comes drifting through the underbrush, proving – as if any more evidence were needed – that Raymond Douglas Davies is without a single doubt one of r’n’r’s absolutely supreme melodists ever. Hmmm… Can you say “lost art”?
With all that said, must I really now admit I haven’t truly heard a peep that comes remotely close to approaching the lyrical, musical, and dare I say it emotional depth of Muswell Hillbillies in most every alterna-twang twung over the past few decades? I thought not. Sure, most of the biggest and loudest practitioners of insurgentsia may all duly own and apparently cherish their factory re-issues of Sweethearts and Hank’s 40 Greatest Hits, but most everyone else toiling in this particular musical tarpit not to mention each and every single one of you out there reading this right now, should without a doubt add AT LEAST this one Kinks record to their kollection pronto: Life, as Ray sings herein, may very well be over-rated, but Muswell Hillbillies most certainly is NOT.
Alona's Dream, 2015) This is one of my favorite releases form the last few years, not because it's the best, but because it is perfectly not the best, because the best classic American hardcore was always supposed to seem like you were seeing your friends band and they were better than you expected, if not exactly professional. Hardcore was mostly actual little ass kids going the fuck off, and probably the best thing about this is this is that it sounds exactly like little ass kids going the fuck off, with Barry trying to sound menacing with tough guy affectations expressed with Dennis the Menace's vocal cords. That said, as Brian and Corey make extremely clear here, the other thing that great American hardcore was is music that can, by design, be delivered extremely powerfully and perfectly by little ass kids attacking their instruments (not to leave the drummer Todd out of this, but the cassette 4 track they recorded this on pretty much took care of that, but you can tell he is holding up his end). Covering Sham 69 with fury and conviction as if they were in a Cockney pub rather than a friend's rec room is a powerful whippet huff of perfect punk rock fantasy.
Sunday, November 22, 2020
Hershey's) I am not sure if they are marketing this to white supremacists, but if so it's conceptually a total failure, because even David Duke and Steve Bannon would admit without hesitation that this candy is inferior to the brown version. Along those lines, I would have really bet money that the M&M with Trump hair was not going to make it through an entire presidential term, but I was way wrong; I think they might have made him bigger on the wrapper. So there may actually be a huge racist confection consumer market I have not been accounting for.
(www.2776.us, 2014) Reggie Watts frustrated that his time-travelling buddies Right Said Fred refuse to travel anywhere but 1991 (where they meet a rapping Blossom), Triumph at his ethnic joke insulting best Music Man-singing over riffs by a slumming Rebirth Brass Band, antoher 60s comedy LP-style bit has Jonathan Katz reviving his Dr. Katz character while Maria Bamford does her crazy voice character stuff acting out a marriage counseling session between the Union and the Confederacy. Even the relatively unfunny Nina Totenberg-helmed NPR-style report on a future Supreme Court ruling regarding rock n roll delivered this zinger: “Ruth Laser GinsBorg.” And funny or not (and it was kinda funny) I will never complain about a Bbcat Goldthwait/Sally Timms duet
Saturday, November 21, 2020
(Alternative Tentacles, 2014) This was kind of weirdo when it came out but since then Panic! at the Disco and Fall Out Boy have released albums that are kinda identical. These tentacles had a further reach than the alternative, it seems.
Monday, November 9, 2020
Sunday, November 8, 2020
(UT, 2014) If stodgy, oldies radio reverent, cliché riddled surf music is the established church, this zine is a theses nailed to the castle door declaring surf music alive, young, dangerous, and ugly again! Issue one has a rat on a longboard, a lot of recommendation for Japanese surf classics, scales to practice, and a defense of (nay, a mandate for) shitty instruments are all here, and all wet, in the Wipe Out! sense. Issue #2 continues the surf gospel, with more interviews and boners.
Saturday, November 7, 2020
Thursday, November 5, 2020
(UT, 2015) The Moderns, who begat Modern Warfare, are a circa 1979 poppy punk band that are kinda mean and nasty sounding despite being hooky and upbeat. This amazing record is apparantly previously unreleased, and you would be stupid not to get it. Modern Warfare, the 80s iteration heard on several beloved punk comps, sound about as modern a mimeographed No Wave gig flyer or as a Devo 8-Track. And just as good! This reissue also serves as a marker of stupidity if one do not attempt to obtain it.
Wednesday, November 4, 2020
Tuesday, November 3, 2020
GUEST REVIEW BY GARY PIG GOLD
(Eagle Rock, 2011) For all intents and purposes, Lindsey Adams Buckingham has lived a charmed life.
Raised in the comfy Bay Area opulence of 1950's Atherton, California, a handsome, athletic golden boy suddenly and forever sidetracked by his elder brother's Elvis and Buddy 45s. He quit the school water polo team, transferred with his guitar into a local hotshot band called Fritz, left for L.A. with their singer Stevie, produced with her the magnificently stunted Buckingham Nicks album, was soon after asked to join Fleetwood Mac with whom he helped craft a 40-million-plus-selling album called Rumours and, by 1978 at the age of twenty-nine finally found himself at the very tip-top of his game.
For all intents and purposes, that is.
But Lindsey's next creation was a great big deluxe Christmastime four-vinyl-sider called Tusk. It was, to hijack a young Neil analogy, the sound of a band steering off the well-beaten MOR and heading straight for that ditch. Costing over a million dollars to make then selling less than a fifth of what Rumours had, the anticipated blockbuster was considered a failure, and its prime architect was to take the blame – and the fall, only reluctantly being allowed to occupy the Big Mac driver's seat ever again.
Of course as we can all plainly see, and even more easily hear from a 21st Century perspective especially, Tuskwas in fact only the kind of "failure" Pet Sounds or Around The World In A Day had been for their respective resident genii. Realizing as much before most everyone else had however, Lindsey promptly struck fully out on his own with a grand little album called Law and Order in 1981 and has ever since led a kind of dual musical life, dividing his time between solo projects and Fleetwood Mac "reunions." Or, as he himself calls it, the "small machine" and the "large machine."
Obviously it's the former on joyous display throughout Eagle Rock's Songs From The Small Machine: Live In L.A., a two-hour-plus, 19-song DVD of the show Lindsey and his compact combo toured with in support of the Seeds We Sow album.
I had the pleasure of attending both a recent concert of Lindsey's, and even more enjoyably – and quite revealingly – an intimate lecture/performance held in New York City's 92nd Street Y, I kid you not. Both settings showed a man who in many ways remains the awestruck kid who long ago checked into Heartbreak Hotel with Peggy Sue. Or, as he himself explains by way of introducing Live In L.A.'s "Trouble," "Before there was a band, before there was any commercial success, before there was songwriting, production, there was a boy listening to his older brother's records and teaching himself to play guitar. I guess as I evolve and mature as an artist, one of the things that I come to appreciate is that you must look for what is essential. You must look for the center. And, for me, it becomes increasingly apparent that that center is, and has been, the guitar."
Lindsey of course, like most things he does both on stage and off, never fears to play his guitar in vividly wild extremes. The five-song, totally LB-only prelude which opens his show not surprisingly finds Lindsey delicately whispering upon his fretboard one moment, then thrashing his instrument like a deranged, prancing ostrich the next (an engagingly terrifying contrast he often brings to his songwriting itself; witness "That's The Way Love Goes" later on in the set). Remember, though, that this is a man who in another time and place dared follow "Never Going Back Again" with "The Ledge."
He is also a man who considers himself more a song stylist than a song writer; a subtle but meaningful distinction perfectly illustrated at Lindsey's recent Y lecture as he performed an utterly sublime version of the Rolling Stones' "I Am Waiting." As the man explained, that song, along with "She Smiled Sweetly" (the final track on Seeds We Sow) represent to him the Stones at their absolute creative peak under the guidance of the brilliant Mister Jones who, like Lindsey, specialized in styling a song with exotic musical and tonal textures. Lessons, no doubt learned early by the young Buckingham via Aftermath and Between the Buttons, which remain apparent throughout the man's recorded work to this day.
Conversely on the concert stage however, it's Lindsey's "small machine" (as in bass/keyboardist Brett Tuggle, guitarist Neale Heywood, and drummist Walfredo Reyes "the groovin' Cuban" Jr.) who are relied upon to provide perfect instrumental/vocal accompaniment, be it by channeling Brian Wilson and his Friends during "All My Sorrows," the Quiet Beatle's "I Need You" A-chord for "Turn It On" …or simply by getting wisely out of the way as their fearless leader's four-and-a-half-minute (yikes) guitar solo plows "I'm So Afraid" to its logical concussion.
All four guys also treat the crowd-pleasin' classics "Tusk" (just as delightfully silly as ever – even without USC's Marching Trojans) and "Second Hand News" (what better way to salute Buddy Holly's anniversary?!) with due respect yet renewed enthusiasm. But, say what they often will about that large machine, the small one still must rely upon the Big M's "Go Your Own Way" to get the asses filling Beverly Hills' Saban Theatre completely erect as this particular show, and DVD, draws to a close. It is my prediction that as Fleetwood Mac tours become less frequent in years to come, Lindsey will lean more and more heavily upon his long-ago work with the large machine to ensure a feasible small-m touring career. I mean, even Sir P McC more or less performs nothing more than a Beatles tribute show nowadays, doesn't he?
"For myself, I know that I have made quite a few bold choices," Lindsey says introducing "Seeds We Sow" Live In L.A. "Choices that were not always popular. But I think time does have a way of revealing things." Songs From The Small Machine surely reveals one adult child still reflecting upon his brother's record collection but still active, still flourishing and still reveling in the now. And still painting from, as he likes to call it, the far left side of his palette. The days of forty, or even four-million-selling albums may be long gone for one and all. But you just watch, and listen: I bet Lindsey outruns, and outlasts, them all.
After all, that's still how they do it in L.A.
Monday, November 2, 2020
Dark Entries, 2020) This wonderful record features what I assume are bedroom recordings the great Patrick Cowley made as he was figuring out what he could do with electronic instruments in the mid-70s. These are cover songs, relatively faithful to the originals by Donna Summer, Herbie Hancock, People's Choice, and the rest, but also spare, loose, and underground dance floor ready. There are a few vocals, but these are mostly extended instrumentals that I played over and over and over while I negotiated my weird 2020 days, with my life feeling funkier by having these grooves as my soundtrack. Bazuka's "Dynamite" is one of my favorite records ever, and though I could have done without Cowley's Jimmie Walker impression to open it, I can honestly say that hearing this unexpected cover version was a major treat. While these versions are (obvioiusly) much sparer than the Motown or Moroder productions, figuring out how to break down beats and grooves into something simple, sublime, and grand is exactly the kind of work the architect of Hi-NRG needed to do to get to the point where he could lift Sylvester to the heavens, and could spread his "Menergy" around. The recordings on this were done between 1975 and 1977, but that's all the information included as far as their provenance. In lieu of liner notes there is a jarring decade-old essay by Cowley's friend Francesca Rosa (whose photograph of a bushy Cowley graces the cover) that opens with warm anecdotes about being broke, carefree roommates in SF during a time that felt to them culturally comparable to Paris in the 20s. It ends with a lengthy, heartbreaking, detail-heavy account of Cowley's brutal battle with HIV, striking him down just as his career was taking off. The biggest hits by Cowley, Paul Parker, Sylvester, Two Tons of Fun, and the other artists in the Megaton Man's realm are eternal and authentic and magnificent, but hearing these groovy sketches that are more low key and just kinda fun adds seasoning to the sounds of that scene, so I am really glad Dark Entries is unearthing this stuff.
GUEST REVIEW BY ROBERT DAYTON
(ME) If Billy Eilish and Lil Nas X can be #1 then this should be too, it is just as indescribable. Synthy, catchy falsetto power pop but also squelchy and peculiar with loads of input from Trey Spruance of Mr. Bungle, Don Bolles of Celebrity Skin and Fancy Space People, along with his longtime collaborator Leigh Newton. Half of the songs are about horror movies and there are ballads. Glorious and funny. Major Entertainer put it out himself and put himself on the line on blue vinyl which is all the more reason to buy it, buy blue and not be blue. If 1/10000000000 of the people who saw Star Wars got this he'd be doing okay.
Sunday, November 1, 2020
(Kraft Foods) In honor of Halloween season, this is the genuinely scariest snack food I have ever eaten. Buying a pack of a savory, salty treat last week that with promises of flavors of corn, chili peppers that are specifically labeled as picante, and, on top of all that, lemon, I expected a flavor explosion! I even bore concerns about being overwhelmed by the ambitions of Kraft's flavor engineers, or of frustrations of vague flavorings being overwhelmed by the heavy hand of the Salt gods. So when my tastebuds detected the near nothingness of this bland offering I genuinely worried that I had contracted COVID and had lost my sense of taste. Fortunately I had other flavors nearby and a quick tasty test revealed the fault was not in my sensors but in the timidness of the generally reliable Corn Nuts division. If mild flavorings are going to be a thing moving forward I can adjust expectations and learn to appreciate subtlety, but that is a revolution of gas station snacks for which I will need ample warning. Until then, I will be visiting the next rack...hello Combos!