Monday, January 25, 2021
Saturday, January 23, 2021
(El Ranchero, 2021) When I was growing up eating Jay's potato chips was the same as drinking Old Style: it was the Chicago brand. You were a sellout if you went Lay's. Instead of a bigger bag they sold the large size in a huge box, bigger than, but comparable in audaciousness to, those cereal-sized boxes that house the alleged-porno VHS tapes sold by Maxwell Street hustlers (I say "alleged" because though I was never bold or desperate enough to buy one, I was stupid enough to buy enough "gold" jewelry on Maxwell Street that turned my skin green to have doubts about the signals on that magnetic tape). My brother pitched for one of the Metro-Afro American League semi-pro baseball teams in Washington Park and their coach worked at the Jay's factory and opened one of those boxes and gave you one of the two bags inside as a reward if you won a game (he won at least one, and saved that bag for far longer than any manufacturer's recommendation). But in 2007 when Jay's was sold to an Eastern pretzel conglomerate I shifted allegiance to Vitner's, even though I'd been told that their South Side factory actually only produced pork rinds, and they jobbed out chip manufacture (today's Internet indicates I may have had bad snack intel). Sometime in the 2010s they merged with something called Snak King from California, but that just sounded made up, and they still seemed to get preferentially placement in every gas station and liquor store in town, so I still pretended they were 100% local. But it was just announced that Utz, from Pennsylvania, bought out Vitner's and plans to move all the manufacturing out of town. So looking for a new local snack fave I am willing to go outside the chip box (or bag, in the post Jay's heyday) and was excited to see that the El Ranchero tortilla chip company is pushing something called Rodz, which are "tortilla sticks" that are tiny, tightly rolled tortillas, which are harder and crunchier than most of your stick-sized snacks. The Hot Rodz lives up to its "lime-chili" claims by definitely having a better flavor-to-heat ratio than most of the "Flamin' Hot" fam snacks, but I'm not crazy about them enough, and the heat they do have kind of slows down my snacking. (as opposed to the speeds attained by their cinematic daredevil namesake, portrayed by Andy Samberg). I'll "stick" with the Zesty Rods, which don't exactly have as much citrus punch as promised, and are maybe too salty, but I sure kept eating them. I cannot say that I have found my new Chicago Ride or Die snack, but I will definitely get these again, and lots of points for getting behind a non-basic snack format. And for making a "Z" out of tight tortilla rolls.
Friday, January 22, 2021
Jabs, 2020) I have been in a few bands and all of them had two things in common: the singer had excellent hair and their demos were fucking terrible! Of my friends' bands I would say that possibly 20% had a demo that you wouldn't toss (in CD-R era) or tape over (prior to that, or recently if your friends are super hip) at the first opportunity. Well, I was too boring back in the day to qualify as an actual friend (and maybe a bit intimidated by their futuristic savagery), but I knew the Scissor Girls, and this re-release of their 1992 demo (getting a sexy 45rpm 12" vinyl treatment) showcases no wave minimalist chaos geometry groove sounds that are better than any music you've heard this month and sure as hell better than any demo in shoebox of friends' band'stapes. In their original lineup, before Kelly Kuvo added vaudeville sensibilities that complimented and contrasted with Azita's gravely serious (while still absurdly theatrical) magic. The sounds of Sue Anne's urgent, weird guitar attacks brings back jarring Czar Bar memories that are both warmly nostalgic and a form of PTSD (courtesy Heather's martial drumming), and since Sue Anne left the band before most of their recordings this is an invaluable document. Demo-nic!
Thursday, January 21, 2021
Wednesday, January 20, 2021
Tuesday, January 19, 2021
Monday, January 18, 2021
Sunday, January 17, 2021
(Rhino,1986) The late Addotta's hard boiled detective meets overcooked fish pun record "Wet Dream" on the lowly but hilarious Laff label was surprisingly successful in 1984 which led to a little known vegetable pun follow up on Rhino. This should be a $500 record because who bought it? How many copies could exist? But somehow used copies are well under $5 and you need to own the literally worst collection of awkward puns ever assembled: "I got off-acado," "a radish-ing beauty," "the problem still romaine-d" "my little story is okra now...thank you so mulch!" "Mulch" barely qualifies! You want to end on that one? I loveyou Kip Addotta! There is a video where he is still a detective, for some reason, alternating with surreal ancient veggie cartoons. COMEDY!
Saturday, January 16, 2021
Freakymagazine.com, 2020) I know we complain about the algorithmic surveillance state of the Amazon/Google Gestapo monitoring our purchases and searches and direct marketing to us beyond belief and acceptable norms. But if this is the fucking reality can't they at least be better at it? Last year there was a tour that hit Chicagoland of a Ronnie James Dio hologram backed by Dio members and I did not hear shit about it until it was too late! How does that happen in this supposedly Orwellian data-megeddon? And now I receive the FOURTH ISSUE of a contemporary MAD-magazine knock off featuring some of the best Roctober cartoonists and it's the first I've heard of the publication? Is there a glitch in the Matrix? Andrew Goldfarb delivers his funniest stuff yet in this slightly naughtier and occasionally nastier take on the sublime and lame humor of the Usual Gang of Idiots. And these New School Idiots include the wonderful King Merinuk, my all time fave 21st Century Wolverton-ian. In fact, that Goldfarb's take on MAD consists almost entirely of Wolverton, Don Martin, and the weirdos in Will Elder's background makes this more timeless than the issues of Sick,Weirdo, and Crazy burdened by bad movie parodies by subpar artists. This magazine has great artists, poop jokes, funny margin gags, and a "See Thru"feature that is cleverer than four fifths of the Fold-Ins! I love this Freak show so imma Freak tell the world: FREAK OUT!
Thursday, January 14, 2021
GUEST REVIEW BY GARY PIG GOLD
Being eight years old in the Toronto suburbs of 1963, I was at the perfect age – and in the perfect place – to, yes, Meet the Beatles. Because by the time “these youngsters from Liverpool” hit The Ed Sullivan Show on 9 February 64, my friends and I had already spent the past several months familiarizing ourselves with John, Paul, George and Ringo’s initial A-sides via Ontario’s mighty 1050 CHUM-AM Radio.
In other words then, the British had no reason to invade Canada. They were invited.
Unlike with our big neighbours to the immediate south you see, each of the Beatles’ earliest discs garnered automatic release via Capitol Records of Canada, beginning right at the beginning with “Love Me Do” in February of ’63 (the version with Ringo on drums, by the way!), and the Canadian Beatle Discography boasts many other rare slices of vintage vinyl totally unique to the genre …and as a result extremely collectable.
For example, the Canadian Beatlemania! album not only sported an identical cover and track line-up, but was released the very same week With the Beatles was in the UK (making it the first Beatle album released anywhere within North America), and its twelve-inch Capitol Canada follow-up, the Twist and Shout album – # 1 on the Canadian charts for ten weeks in early ’64, as documented in Piers Hemmingsen’s most authoritative The Beatles In Canada: The Origins of Beatlemania! – was in fact the very first “big record” I ever had the pleasure to have owned. Not counting my beloved Jetsons and Deputy Dawg long-players, that is.
And what a remarkable record it was: Fourteen action-packed tracks featuring all four – “count ‘em”! – of the band’s first Brit 45 top-sides, plus a generous helping of Cavern-baked covers from their homeland debut album Please Please Me. Being too young then to know, and still too young to care if nary a Beatle wrote each and every note or lyric herein, Goffin and King’s “Chains” strung so easily around Len/Mac’s similarly George Harri-sung “Do You Want To Know A Secret,” Bacharach and David’s “Baby, It’s You” seamlessly followed John and Paul’s “P.S. I Love You” on T & S Side 2, and the magnificent Arthur Alexander’s “Anna (Go to Him),” which kicked off this entire collection, continues to this day to hold more than its own against any Beatle composition you or even I could mention.
And while Lennon’s wholly larynx-fusing “Twist and Shout” completed the first Beatle album in Great Britain, the ever-inventive Canadian Capitol chose to close its namesake 33-and-a-third with none other than – wait for it – “She Loves You.” Take that, Sir George Martin! (and tell Dave Dexter, Jr. the news).
Meanwhile in the seven-inch division, “Please Please Me” actually hit the CFGP Top Forty in Grande Prairie, Alberta during April of ’63, while two of Capitol Canada’s most unique couplings, “All My Loving”/”This Boy” and “Roll Over Beethoven”/”Please Mister Postman,” sold sufficient (smuggled) copies to reach even the American Hot One Hundred a year later. Also, the U.S. Tollie “Twist and Shout”/”There’s a Place” 45, which soared to Billboard # 2 in April of 1964, was an identically-coupled Canadian Capitol Top Ten much, much earlier.
Plus! May I just add that every single one of the above-mentioned original deep-grooved, meticulously mastered Canadian (mono!) pressings put their American counterparts – not to mention even the latest digital incarnations, truth to tell – to total, unequivocal sonic shame. Really!
The moral of this absolutely Fab story then? Good music IS good music, and shall forever remain so, regardless of the size, format, packaging, advertising budget or even country-of-origin of the item in hand.
And of course, any discussion of very, very good music that doesn’t contain multiple uses of the word “Beatle” is a discussion I just must immediately bow out from. Unless it comes to that up-coming “happy” Let It Be cinematic re-tooling, that is…
Wednesday, January 13, 2021
Tuesday, January 12, 2021
Monday, January 11, 2021
Rockink, 2017, 2018, 2020) Sometimes is seems like there are just too many bands. One of the early Roctober contributors felt strongly that reviews should function as herd thinners, discouraging would-be artists on the bottom of the Darwin pile to give it up. While that mainly seems like a fantasy/grandeur illusion about imagined influence, it's also just mean, but on occasion I definitely get overwhelmed with mediocrity. However, what keeps me going is the opposite phenomenon. Sometimes I can't believe how many absolutely excellent musicians are out there that I've just never heard of. There's an inevitability of lost geniuses of yore popping up on curated archival releases or in the pages of Ugly Things or the Oxford American music issue, but what blows my mind is when a new CD or link, often accompanied by unimpressive graphic design that holds little promise of greatness, reveals something genuinely, sublimely wonderful. Listening to Krueger's 2017 debut (I just discovered his three albums) I am marveling at the rich, powerful poignancy of his storytelling and the genre-expanding quality of the music, feeling both enriched and like a sucker for not knowing who the hell this was. While steeped in Americana, and traditional in a sense, the strongest music muscle memory I experienced was recalling hearing Lyle Lovett for the first time, and how he took the best narrative and musical and sincerity aspects of Country music without feeling bound by the genre's limitations. Krueger similarly looks beyond Country/folk/singwr songwriter to all kinds of jazz and a few kinds of rock, and the musicianship and production is beyond stellar (looking through the co-conspirator credits on these records I can see why: Gary Lucas, Peter Stampfel and Robbie Fulks all sit in with his excellent band). Tales of bar-haunters and all kinds of love shine through on the first album, and the sophomore release has a harrowing portrait of an amazing character (and a skit where his family berates him for spending too much money recording albums). The new album builds on some old demos so the slick studio polish and army of collaborators is gone (and his kids have less to complain about, vis a vis, their inheritance going the way of Chinese Democracy), and it seems like a suite of song created to perform at weddings of very close friends. But the lyrics, about the complexity and challenges and idiosyncrasies of love and partnership are so precise and cutting that these must either be the most solid couples imaginable or their future is doomed for starting on these beautiful but offsetting notes. But if they break up, it will be OK. There's still a lot of fish in the sea of love, and there are still a lot of amazing musicians swimming in the review pile.
Sunday, January 10, 2021
(Snack Factory, 2019-present) So these are already merely pretzel-shaped, but not actually pretzels, because they are crispy chips instead, which is awesome if you can still convince me of their pretzelness. But if you then replace the salt with sugar I am out! I hate to be a Pretzel Truther in these days when conservatism has the worst name it's ever had, but this just ain't a pretzel, and pretzels taste better than this! Oh, I ate it all. But under protest.
Saturday, January 9, 2021
Twenty One Eighty Two Recording Company, 2019) Interstellar psychedelic Middle Eastern jazz, as a rule, should feel like a time-defying mystical incantation calling forth spirits of beautiful, blissful chaos. By that standard, this is a success. Not sure what other standards one might appl, but if they involve a a snugly fit obi, a cover designed to be a sacred black and gold object, and tasteful oud (or as i call them, the three "O"s), this also checks those boxes.
Friday, January 8, 2021
Thursday, January 7, 2021
Wednesday, January 6, 2021
Tuesday, January 5, 2021
Monday, January 4, 2021
Sunday, January 3, 2021
Third Man, 2020) I am not sure exactly what to say about this one. Amanda Petrusich at the New Yorker (who earned my loyalty with her great book on 78 collectors) responded to this LP with a treatise on Greatest Hits collections in general, and that's just about right, because this is a functional Greatest Hits. Because they were legit playing the shitty clubs and releasing 45s on the same labels as the other underground garage bands in their first years, and because they didn't change or compromise when they became Major Label sorta-superstars, it takes me a minute to remember they had actual real life hits, which all sound really good packaged together. Jack White's songwriting, and their good taste in cover songs, and the band's stripped down energy and good drumming, and the fact that they were the only group since to fifties to remember the value of a two-minute pop song, made their hits actual good songs they did not age poorly and are fun to listen to (individually or together). My broke ass has stupidly been unable to bring myself to quit the Third Man record club, which I cannot afford, but for my bad financial decision making this quarter I was rewarded with the deluxe edition which has a third LP of B-sides, a remix, and Loretta Lynn and Tegan and Sara covers, plus special artwork and a toy, and art prints. I don't necessarily like the design on this more than the photo-centric standard album artwork, but the production of this is bizarre and exquisite (there is printing on the inside of gatefold sleeves, and the one that holds two LPs is wider than the one that holds one, and the red striped white vinyl is stupid beautiful) so I hope Congress is glad to know my stimulus check was well spent.
Saturday, January 2, 2021
Friday, January 1, 2021
(LandingPatch Productions, 2003) This movie is so painfully unfunny that it makes me like Pauly Shore more, out of sympathy. To grow up surrounded by comedians and have humor be a cryptic foreign language is a tough cross to bear. In this movie Pauly fakes his death to help his career, and along the way coerces scores of his pals to do cameos (including one dead one, via an impressionist). Runner Up for winning the movie is Adam Sandler who makes Stiller and Sheen and Durst and Mini Me look like chumps for feeling obligated to film their scenes, as Adam only appears as a disembodied voice (Pauly writes a scene where a prison janitor mistakes Pauly for Sandler, which seems like a stretch --- Rob Schneider I woulda believed). In addition to fantasizing that he is Sandler-esque, Shore also imagines that Black people really like him, as it opens with Ja Rule being the only one on earth that digs his TV show, and later features a painful scene of him winning over a Black prison yard clique with repetitions of the N-word. The top performer in the movie is Todd Bridges who decides to play his role as a Koran-reading prison veteran straight and earns his dignity, his props for good acting, and a Redd Foxx doll. Actually, the Redd Foxx doll was the MVP.