Sunday, May 2, 2021

Saturday, May 1, 2021


 (INFINITE self esteem, 2021) This is my preface to this magnificent book. All first editions come with a poster featuring all of the excised punctuation:

Celebrating The Great Gatsby’s entry in the public domain, Derek Erdman has transformed America’s most American literary classic into…something (and I don’t take the prior sentence’s ellipsis for granted after spending my morning reading dozens of pages of text that is without punctuation, paragraph break-free, in All Caps, single-spaced, and justified [nor do I take lightly opportunities to utilize an Oxford comma and inter-parenthetical brackets {though I should note that Mr. Erdman surprisingly did not omit italics}]). 

While this work seems to fall more purely into the Batman-villain realm of prankster project than into the high art transmogrification lane (less Rauscheberg’s erasing de Kooning and more “All Star by Smash Mouth but it gets 15% faster every time he says “the””), I feel the artist may underestimate what he has created here. “(D)on’t read that thing!,” he responded when I requested the full text in advance of composing this preface, “You're going to loop your brain!” Clearly Erdman sees this more like “Nyan Cat 10 HOURS,” a work to conceptually admire, but not to ingest in whole. And in keeping with the Youtube theme, admittedly I entered this endeavor wishing my head had a 15% faster modification to get through this more easily. However, it actually proved a brisk, if semi-comprehensible, read.  Being liberated from the tyranny of being able to know what the fuck is going on freed my inner Evelyn Wood. While many people actually know Hebrew, and others truly learn it for their Bar (or Bat [or Bas, if you’re Ashkenazi]) Mitzvah, for many American Jews who reach a Baker’s Dozen age, the experience involves learning just enough of an ancient written language to be able to phonetically sing your way though a few minutes of text without really understanding the words at all. For much of this book Erdman manages to make a revered tour de force of English-language literature seem like a mysterious set of symbols and inner-head sounds that have little or no meaning to the reader.  

However, it is a tribute to Fitzgerald’s craftsmanship that narrative and nuance sometimes survive this Formategeddon. When a turn of phrase breaks through this bastardization to jump out and tickle the reader (as does “the burden of the banjo,” or to be more accurate, THE BURDEN OF THE BANJO) it is a genuine triumph. I would even argue that the chaos and jumble and pre-COVID human density of the infamous party scene is actually enhanced by this word salad (bringing to mind the pandemonious late acts in Robert Coover’s metafiction masterpieces).

Ultimately, despite Erdman’s warning, my eyes ached a bit, but my brain is no more looped than on average. Easy on my eyes were Erdman’s illustrations, with rich, textured crayon line work that may not be perfectly period appropriate, but certainly called to mind Richard Merkin’s late-20th Century New Yorker illustrations, that recalled jazz age dandyism, making Erdman’s revival of a revival the more virile Stray Cats’ 80s’ version of the 50s to Merkin’s Fonzie’s 70s’ 50s. Overall, this work can be summarized in one ellipsis preceded word…GREAT

Thursday, April 29, 2021

Enchanters "Torture Chamber" b/w "Backstabbers"

(Transistor 66, 2021) First off let's get this out of the way: this definitely sounds like the name of a vocal group...because it is! The 70s sweet soul Enchanters from Chicago are pretty obscure, but I sure know them. The Philly group called the Enchanters are more well known because of Garnet Mimms (who continued to use them on his hits when he went solo). There's a white Los Angeles doo wop Enchanters, and even a ska Enchanters from Jamaica (mostly instrumental with some harmony vocals). But most important in this case, there was a relatively active Detroit 50s doo wop Enchanters, and that's basically Canada. So a Canadian garage rock band forming in the 2020s shoulda known this name was not fresh. But neither is pounding, wailing guitar rock 'n' roll with gorilla grunts and awesome Tales from the Crypt sleeve art. They are not trying to reinvent the wheel, they are trying to do donuts on bald tires! Craig from the great Leather Uppers provides hot (non-doo wop) vox and familiar rockin' riffs, and this single is anything but torture...unless you are are Lame-O who thinks an abused fretboard is as bad as a waterboard. You Lame-O! 

The Yerminator


(Freddies, 2021) Freddies, the Bridgeport Italian ice/pizza slice/Italian beef/insanely large freshly made pizza puff joint on 31st is now offering a burger to celebrate rookie White Sox Yermin Mercedes' amazing batting skills this season. It is $4.95 (to honor the length of the third longest homer in New Comiskey ever socked by a White Sock, which he did on our Opening Day) and delicious. While it is not particularly safe to assume that anyone in Bridgeport knows anything about traditional Dominican cuisine I am willing to believe that they did their homework, and that the meat is seasoned with DR flavors, that pickled onions, cabbage, and tomatoes are the right toppings, and that this chimichurri sauce they made relates in some way to what would be on chimiburger in Santo Domingo (or at least in Washington Heights). Traditional or not, it is excellent and a solid value, and Yermin has seven more hits in three games since they launched this. He is the Cadillac of Mercedeses! As is this burger.

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Jan & Dean “Anthology Album”




There’s Brian Wilson and his B.Boys, most obviously. Then there were Crosby, Stills, Nash and sometimes even Young, the Eagles, and my own personal favorite Turtles, Byrds, Mothers of Invention and possibly even Runaways. Not to mention Lindsey Buckingham’s Big Mac.

However, whenever the songs and stories of California are sung and strung, one name – one very important name – is most often left out. A man who, beginning in the late 1950s with a bank of audio equipment in his Bel Air garage actually invented, or at least kick-started, the entire Los Angeles independent rock scene. By writing and performing songs in his home studio which, taken into the Hollywood recording studios proper were meticulously crafted into bonafide hit records back when young Wilsons, for example, were still getting in trouble for staying out after the street lights went on at night.

The man I speak of is William Jan Berry; a singer, songwriter, arranger, producer, actor, promoter best remembered as one half of that certifiably zany (e.g.: vinyl Side 4 of The Jan & Dean Anthology Album!!) albeit boldly pioneering SoCal rock duo Jan & Dean.

By adding their Pacific-blonde good looks to East Coast doo-wop hooks, the records Jan and his highschool pal Dean Torrence made not only formed the vocal template for all surf-rock to come (starting right from the start with the “bom, bomp dip-de-dit”s of that very first Beach Boy song) but in their production employed various members of what came to be known as the Wrecking Crew when Jan’s sessions outgrew his garage and moved into Western, United, and the other fabled studios Uncle Phil, most notably, would later build his Walls of Sound within.

Yes: but before Spector, there was Berry. And before “I Get Around,” “Good Vibrations” and [gulp] “Kokomo” there was a sun-kissed little classic called “Surf City” which, with Jan’s assistance, gave co-writer Brian Wilson his very first Number One record back in the Summer of ’63.

The string of hits Jan went on to write and produce throughout the mid-Sixties, with their double-drum attack welded to lush orchestrations were, and remain, just about the best records ever to come out of El Lay. Credit for innovations both technical and musical which continue to go Spector’s and Wilson’s way – with the latter’s Pet Sounds most often cited – again are more than evident in Jan Berry records from years earlier. Most unfortunately however, an utterly debilitating road accident in April of 1966 (just down the road from J&D’s “Dead Man’s Curve”) kept Jan out of peak action for much of the rest of his life and career. Although brought back to the public’s attention via a 1978 made-for-TV biopic, the titanic twosome’s hit-making days never returned, though they continued to keep countless thousands of concert-goers throughout America well-versed beneath waves of harmonious California Myth until Jan’s death in 2004.

Thankfully, one man above all is helping keep his life and legacy, both on record and off, alive and well: Mark A. Moore’s landmark Jan & Dean Record (McFarland, 2016) remains the reference book on all things Jan, in the process recounting the very birth and growth of the Los Angeles rock industry.

Mark’s new biography, titled Dead Man’s Curve: The Rock ‘n’ Roll Life of Jan Berry is due out this summer. It can be pre-ordered through Amazon or publisher McFarland. You can view the Table of Contents on the author’s website, and watch the book’s promo video on YouTube.

Meanwhile, all Roctoberites are also urged to dive deep into my extensive interview with Mark and all things J&D which appears in Issue # 2 of Vulcher Magazine. What better way then to recognize, salute, and roundly honor Jan Berry on what would have been – what should have been – his 80th (!) birthday this April 3rd.

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Rolando Bruno y su Orquestra Midi "Cumbia Reaction"

(Voodoo Rhythm, 2016) Enchanting cumbia covers of garage rock classics like "Five Years Ahead of My Time" and "The People in Me" by this Argentinian one man orquestra. Not a novelty like the pseudo-lounge cheezy punk covers we heard a few years back, these sound like the kind of orchestrated takes of 60s rock that would be on swinging soundtracks and feels sincere and loving, recognizing unjustly obscure tracks as worthy canon fodder. Five years after it's time this is just hitting streaming services now so those not hip to the 7" can have their own swinging soundtrack!

Monday, April 26, 2021

Willie Durisseau "Creole House Dance"


(Nouveau Electric, 2021) So good! When Mr. Durisseau was 101 a fellow fiddler visited him and recorded the creole cat playing in a wonderful lost pre-war style, and reminiscing about gigging at social gatherings with his brother, making fiddles,  and such. As far as this recording session, by "house" they mean going to dude's house and by "dance" they mean sit in a chair. And as this greater-than-the-greatest generation musician grooves out it' s still the best party you will attend this year! Limited to only 100 singles (though shoulda been 101, obvs) so stop fiddling around and order!

Sunday, April 25, 2021

Ritter Sport Cornflakes


(Ritter) That is as good a tiny corn flake chocolate bar as I ever ate! 

Saturday, April 24, 2021

Popin'Cookin' Sushi


(Kracie) This is some bullshit. Or some genius shit and I am just a dumb ass. It looks on the box (a $4 box, btw) like this is some magnificent candy sushi, but it's a just a bunch of bags of colored sugar powder and insane instructions on how to shape them into faux-sushi. That's like saying every pack of Lik'n Stick is a candy lasagna dinner with stick utensils if you work hard enough. You might as well throw a bag of sugar and some food color into a package and say you can make a candy Last Supper mosaic...with  a little work. It was some good tasting bags of sugar, though, I'l give them that.

Friday, April 23, 2021

Robert Dayton "My ___ is Full"


(, 2021) Over so many odd (and I do mean odd) years, Robert Dayton has made funny music, creepy music, scary music, and genius/lunatic music. A pandemic-inspired EP by a man who does not even know where the kilter is, let alone what it means to be off it, is kind of a scary prospect. Hearing Dayton make weirdo songs about social media and isolation and negotiating real life doomsday stuff proves to be deliciously jarring (the cringe funk of "The Algorithms of the Night" should be experienced by long as all of them thoroughly brace themselves first). But (pen)ultimately he gives us some joyous relief at the end with an old school Slade/Gary Glitter party glam rave up about getting a dog...which (actual)ultimately somehow morphs into an ASMR soft assault on any feelings of comfort and joy you might have been experiencing. This record is better than COVID!