Thursday, September 23, 2010

Reverend Horton Heat "Laughin' and Cryin'"

 (Yep Rock) (GUEST REVIEW BY JOHN BATTLES) Too cool for the Rev, now, are ya? I don't give a shit, I'm going to tell you why his latest release is probably his best any damn way. This is the closest he's come to the classic, stripped down RAB/RnR/C&W sound of yore, meaning back when the recently ordained Jim Heath was still a soundman, and sometime resident, at The Theatre Gallery in the Deep Ellum district of Dallas, while maintaining a Monday night residency at The Prophet Bar, which grew and grew. Some guy called John Battles was credited with originally calling him "The Reverend,” and Heath quickly built a new personna around himself, answering the musical question, "What might have happened if Jerry Lee had not been kicked out of Bible School for playing "My God is Real" in Boogie Woogie time?.” Now, Heath/The Rev has gone through a lot of changes since he debuted this thang at The Prophet Bar (then across the street from The Theatre Gallery) nearly 25 years ago, and are some of his albums definitely better than others? Without a doubt. Is this his finest effort since "Smoke 'Em If You Got 'Em,” the genre-defying Frosh effort on a still-young Sub Pop Records, that still holds up very well today? Is pig pussy pork? Not only does it hearkens back more to the stripped down, roots-oriented sound of the late 80s, when the band were still schlubbing their way through Texas and Oklahoma (before finally deciding to break key cities like Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Chicago without benefit of a recording contract), but it brings back so much of the lyrical humor that made it's way into so much of Heath's early work, when he gradually eased most of the Sun Records and Johnny Burnette Trio material out of his setlist, as he was pulling great original songs out of his butt at an alarming rate (seriously, those very lines were on the cover of The Dallas Times Herald). In recent years, he's gone back and recorded several of these early numbers, and he's not about to stop, now, though, of course, you'd think they were new songs, given their freshness, and subtle arrangement changes, and, well, if you weren’t there, these songs will be new to you, anyway. That's not a slight on you or wherever you're from, Hoss, we've all missed out on something great in this lifetime. One thing that's never been missing, but is surely prominent, here, is the Reverend's razor-sharp wit. "Ain't No Saguaro in Texas" quickly dispels the myth that the ginormous Saguaro cacti are indigenous to Texas. Even the Legendary Stardust Cowboy knew better than to say that in his similar laundry list of prickly pears, " Cactus.” "Death Metal Guys" draws on the rather obvious differences between Rockabilly Guys, and, well, you guessed it. Best line of the whole set, "Jerry Lee Lewis shot his Bass player down, down to the ground with a .38 round. But Death Metal guys would have eaten his brains, and people call Jerry Lee Lewis insane!"
 "Please Don't Take The Baby To The Liquor Store,” written by Bassist, Jimbo Wallace, almost reads like a Country Song from the Late 60s, like George Jones when he took a "Liquormission" from the sad songs to sing a great Novelty number, which, I can't stress enough, are not as easy to write and record as some people think. The late, great, Hank Thompson pointed out that it was an elusive, though not dead, art form in Country Music, back in The Nineties, when Country Music was practically a dead art form in Country Music. But just as hilarious, if not more so, is Jim Heath's "Beer Holder,” about, you guessed it, a guy who drinks so much beer, he can use his belly, or, possibly, his m'oobs, to hold his beer in place while he watches TV. "Aw, The Humanity" begins with a somber tone, until you realize he's comparing a lost love to The Hindenburg ("Aw...The Humanity"), Led Zeppelin and even Snoopy and The Red Baron. "River Ran Dry,” dating back to the earliest days at The Prophet Bar, back when you didn’t have to Swing dance, nor even Jitterbug, to Rockabilly. It's like a Status Quo Boogie with a Punk Rock tempo. A welcome return to the band's live set, it used to clock in at about one minute, thirty seconds, but they've since added a verse.
"Drinkin' and Smokin' Cigarettes,” one of the best early numbers, doesn’t undergo much in the way of changes, but falls in comfortably with the newer songs, and even kick-starts the album. This song always displayed Heath's guitar playing to the maximum effect, and, nearly 25 years later, that still rings true. In the last few years, his playing has improved, but not at the risk of foul wankery. Now, Jim probably wouldn’t be above having a drink with Steve Vai or Joe Satriani, but he knows a guitar solo can be a thing of beauty, without becoming one of excess. Likewise, Jimbo Wallace still mans that Standup Bass with the dexterity of an Archer, substituted telephone lines for catgut, and the rhythmic Alchemy derived from Rockabilly, Country, Blues, Jazz, Punk, and band pal and genre unto himself, Mr. Ian Kilmister....Lemmy, if you're nasty. Drummer Tim Alexander fell in right away when he joined the band several years ago (and, if Pete Frame ever made a family tree for The Reverend Horton Heat, he's have one Rev. Heat, two bass players (Wallace and his predecessor, Swingin' Jack Barton), and enough drummers to turn that family tree into a forest). He rates Cozy Powell and Ian Paice among his key influences. We're inclined to think of long, boring solos when we look back on that era, but drummers of their ilk understood the variables of merely keeping time and going in for the kill, and when one was necessary while the other could kill a whole song. He's a team player, he's one of the boys, and he's a keeper. They're sounding and feeling more like a band all the time, as they should, though it's easy to get in a rut, travelling the world over, sometimes not having as much time to work on new material as you might like, much less to spend time with your families. Perhaps that's why this is the first RHH album in five years. If it ain't worth doing it RIGHT, it ain't worth doing at all. A little reminder, unless you have kick-ass 20/20 vision, you may have difficulty spotting this at your local record store. The band name is printed in black on medium-dark blue, rendering it almost impossible to read in a CD rack.

James Williamson with The Careless Hearts CD/DVD or LP/DVD

 (Easy Action) Before rejoining The Stooges in earnest, "Straight" James Williamson had to re-learn the old songs, and, well, just start playing the guitar again. It had been 35 years. Williamson had befriended San Jose's Careless Hearts before the tragic turn of events (Ron Asheton's demise, but you knew that) took place, but wielded something positive (James' re-enlistment. You knew that, too). The Careless Hearts acted as a practice band, until Williamson returned to The Stooges, and, to show his appreciation, he offered to play a club date with them, and brought Steve MacKay, "Funhouse" era and latter day Stooges Saxophone player, along for the ride to the pretty music. Burnin' to you straight from Hell, baby! Even after seeing the new, improved Stooges (I mean, they're improving their OWN thing all the time), which changed my relationship to everything I thought about Rock n’ Roll, I find listening to this set highly enjoyable. Doofus and Dillhole will be quick to say, "Yeah, but that singer's no Iggy.” No, he isn’t, he's a Paul. Paul Kimball, that is, and he more than rose to a very, very difficult task. Surely, it was the toughest job the whole band ever loved (barring Guitarist, Derek See, who's now James' guitar tech. Tuffer and luvin' it), but it's all on the singer, isn’t it? Kimball doesn’t do something foolish, like trying to sound like Iggy. He does the sensible thing, which is to sing the HELL out of those songs in his own way. Admittedly, I'm reminded, at times, of Radio Birdman's Rob Younger, but if that ain't good, grits ain't groceries, eggs ain't poultry, and The Mona Lisa was a motherfuckin' MAN. The band beefs up Williamson's already immolatin', motorvatin', no hesitatin' Guitar sound considerably on several faves from every aspect of The Stooges' career. James emerges, bending the strings and the pedals like he'd never stopped playing the stuff that he did and could have played the stuff he didn’t. All in all, a wondrous thing to behold, even if you weren’t actually there. I wasn’t there, but that's where the magic of video comes in. The day after the show happened, all or most of it was available for perusal on You Tube. The professionally shot, chock fulla closeups, great sounding, hard hitting document, natcherly, made me wish I had a DVD from the same source. Now, I have. Or, so, I thought. The accompanying DVD has good sound on it's side, anyway, but the CD already sounds good ("Very...very..Good.,” to paraphrase Mary Weiss. Speaking of whom, her beautiful daughters, in spirit and chutzpah, Angeline King and Hanna Rifkin from The Bang!, turn in some sexy and atmospheric backing vocals) and, as it turns out, this copy of the show was shot from the back of the club, or close to it, by a single camera, on a tripod, with no close-ups. I'm sorry, I wanted to love it, and maybe the owner of the better copy wouldn’t give them permission to use it, but it's hard to watch. I was three songs into it before I knew which one was James.  If your DVD player remote has a "Zoom" function, it's possible that you can blow it up and make the image more discernable. My remote has no "Zoom" (which I found out AFTER I bought the player), and some people may not care, either way. I liked the idea of presenting the album as a CD with a DVD as a gatefold digipack (these things are REAL common in Mexico. If the industry, here, had thought to do more appealing packaging jobs like this, maybe it wouldn’t be sinking. Have no fear, I hear younger people talking about "The vinyl" and "Vinyls" quite a bit, these days), but The Stooges are proof that presentation is only part of the package. If that package isn’t filled with beef, instead of baloney, I'm sorry, why bother?

13th Floor Elevators "Sign of The Three-Eyed Men " 10 CD set (Charly), "The Psychedelic Sound of Sonic Cathedral-a Tribute to Roky Erickson and The 13th Floor Elevators." (Sonic Cathedral) Roky Erickson with Okkervil River-"True Love Cast Out All Evil" (ANTI)

(GUEST REVIEW BY JOHN BATTLES) Could it be that " Sign of The Three-Eyed Men" is, quite possibly, the greatest box set of the 21st Century? Hmmmmmm, could be. We've got 90 years to go, but unless Bear Family starts putting out all killer-no filler 60 Garage/Psych sets (and yours truly lays an egg), this one may be IT. Unfortunately, it is no longer available. Surely, it's fetching enormous bids on e-bay, but it hasn’t been available direct from the label since Lady Gaga was still eating egg salad sandwiches for dinner. But check this out, TEN CDs of virtually everything known to exist by The Elevators (not everything, mind you. They were quick to point out that some recordings weren’t deemed good enough, quality wise, for release). A huge, 72 page 12" hardback book, ENGORGED with rare-as-hen's nuts photos, the majority of which didn’t even appear in Paul Drummond's unquestioned Bible of The 13th Floor Elevators, "Eye Mind,” was just about worth the price of admission in itself, to say nothing of the folder containing beautifully reproduced band memorabilia. Drummond, of course, wrote the outstanding, exhaustive liner notes, uh, I mean, BOOK, that will have one just as engaged and entranced as the music itself...and, then my friends, there IS a matter of THE MUSIC ITSELF. Well, first and foremost, there's the band's groundbreaking, earth shaking first two albums, appearing in painstakingly rendered mono and stereo mixes. One needs to hear both, and then decide which one they prefer, in the event that they don't like each one equally for significantly different reasons. Now, you've read or heard this before, but their third official release, "Live,” is not considered a real 13th Floor Elevators album. It consists of various earlier studio tracks dubbed, poorly, with canned applause (in other words, the phony live Seeds album is far superior. And that, perhaps, is a little scary). Now, there were some fine songs that hadn’t appeared elsewhere for years (a notable exception being the long-out of print "Elevator Tracks"), it's true, but they do appear here, sans the screaming girls (this was, also, around the time people stopped screaming, and started LISTENING). Honorary band member and songwriter of no small note, Powell St. John (who went on to form the popular Frisco band, Mother Earth, with White Blues mama, Tracy Nelson, and now performs with Roky Erickson's former Frisco-based group, The Aliens!), contributed a fine, moderately Psychedelic, Pop ballad that woulda coulda shoulda been a hit, "You Gotta Take That Girl.” It's been described as "Macho advice" (ala Roy Head's "Treat Her Right,” which IS pretty macho, but advocates kindness toward Women...with dividends! "HEH HEH HEH! YEEEEEEAH, MY MAN!!"), but really reads as Big Brotherly concern for a really special young lady (that the storyteller apparently blew it with), playing Cyrano to a nice guy who just can't get it together. Yes, a couple of lines wouldn’t fly today, but it is a lovely song. On the opposite side of the pyramid, you've got "You Can't Hurt Me Anymore,” a wilder roller coaster ride than "Roller Coaster" itself, which should have been a single, or a cut on the first LP.  "Headstone-The Contact Sessions " contains the aforementioned tracks, plus very interesting early versions of songs that would go on to see the light of day on their debut "The Psychedelic Sounds of The Thirteenth Floor Elevators,” and studio versions of cover songs that were staples in their early live show ("Everybody Needs Somebody To Love" by Solomon Burke and "I'm Gonna Love You, Too" by Buddy Holly). It's great listening, replete with outtakes and even the single "All Night Long" by San Antonio's Bad Seeds. Teddy and The Tall Tops (then featuring Mike Buck and Speedy Sparks of The Roky Erickson Band. Buck actually saw The Elevators, with Mouse and The Traps AND The Byrds!) briefly added a spiffy version of the song to their set in '86 (the song was a direct rewrite of The Elevators' "Tried To Hide,” done with the band's blessings). But it's not a "Lost Album,” in my estimation, rather, a collection of their earliest known recordings, some of which have been made available elsewhere, but not with such clean sound. This is the primer for the first album, for them, and, now, for us. The magic was already there, but had yet to manifest itself into their real first longplayer. Likewise, a real welcome addition to this set is "A Love That's Sound,” also not a "Lost Album,” as I see it, but preliminary recordings for the vastly underrated "Bull of The Woods,” the group's third, and final, real studio album. It contains radically different versions of songs that appeared on that album, plus a few fine, previously unreleased, numbers. While "Bull" was a great album (OK, it does have "Acquired taste" written all over it, but it will grab you from different angles, and pull you in more with each listen), you get a good idea of what their swan song album could have been by perusing "A Love That's Sound" (a title derived from, perhaps, the finest song on the album, Stacey Sutherland's "Street Song,” which bears the line "All the fires of Cain's motivation can't defeat a love that's sound.” The working title for the album, BTW, was actually "Beauty and The Beast,” later used for a live Erickson CD). The band was falling apart by 1968, Roky and Stacey getting put away (Roky went down first, which is partly why his vocal contributions are rather minimal, though he sounds more confident and less paranoid on these earlier sessions than on the finished product. Stacy Sutherland would go on to sing several of the songs that Roky sang during these sessions. "Bull of The Woods,” admittedly, suffered from excessive overdubbing, partly due to the band being reduced to a three piece. Tommy Hall's signature jug parts (Recorded before he split for San Francisco, where he lives to this day) are almost completely inaudible (Rumored to not even exist!) on the album, but come thru loud and clear, and take on an almost Jazz-like quality, if you can believe that, here. There are also some real gems, such as "It's You,” better known as "I Don't Ever Want To Come Down,” released, for the first time, in the 80s, under that name (it IS the chorus, which is surely what threw the compilers off), and later covered by Chicago's Waste Kings. "Wait For My Love" appeared on the fine "Epitaph For a Legend" LP (a two-LP retrospective of International Artists acts. A box set of all IA's singles is long overdue, though, perhaps, a legal impossibility), but was later overdubbed, to near-irrelevance, and released as "Till Then" on "Bull of The Woods,” still a good song, mind you, but lacking the fiery guitar sound, and the confidence and uncluttered composition of the original. But it's not the only song that arguably sounds better than on the original album release. Still, "Bull of The Woods,” though it became largely Stacy's album, is better off for his having taken charge. Stacy's remarkable talents really come to the fore, despite the sometimes murky production, and make me wish he'd lived to have a real solo recording career. Well, they just make me wish he'd lived. He fronted various groups in the 70s, but was seldom recognized for his efforts. His last-ever gig, noted in "Eye Mind,” found him eighth on the bill, playing with Greg "Catfish" Forest, who would play, in the late Sutherland's absence, at The Elevator's last reunion attempt, in 1984, and, later, in an Elevators tribute band with former Erickson bandmates, Freddie "Steady" Krc and Cam King from The Explosives, as well as Ronnie Leatherman, who'd played on The Elevators' first and final albums (details of which are sketchy), and Roky's Brother, Sumner Erickson. Interestingly, Guitarist, Chris Holzhaus, who played at what was Roky's last gig for six years, nine years later, in 1987, with King, Krc and Speedy Sparks, made it to fifth on the bill at Sutherlands' last live performance (It was widely, though erroneously, believed that an abortive Elevators reunion attempt in 1977, which failed to bring Erickson or Hall from their home bases in California, though both were on the bill, was Stacey's last-ever gig). Both of these totally different versions of the album (well, "A Love That's Sound" is really the foreplay, not the lovemaking itself. But it's so damn gooooooood). Incidentally, just now, I just heard the less awkward take of "Livin' On,” and heard Roky speaking briefly at the end, and, then there was a huge clap of thunder at my window. "Sweet Surprise" is screamin' Psych, by way of Stax Records and Texas Blues instrumental masters like Albert Collins and Freddie King, in which Sutherland really lets his guitar do the talkin', a Rock n’ Roll Paladin who shoots from the hip, and asks questions later. Incidentally, that same guitar is on sale, if you have enough money to buy a small island (the price has reportedly dropped, the economic crunch being what it is). I actually saw it on display once in New Orleans, but it was listed as the same model, NOT the same actual guitar.   I saw a vessel containing probably more apparitions than any cemetery or ghost tour that town had to offer. And I didn’t even know it! Forgive me, Dark Angel.  Rounding out the collection is three CDs worth of live material (not everything known to exist, but certainly MOST of it). "Live in California" comes from the same source as perhaps the first Elevators bootleg, taken from an early Frisco gig, and released in 1980, though a double live LP, reportedly, came out on Rubber Dubber, one of the earliest bootleg labels, in the 70s. The original release, which bore crude artwork by a young Robt. Williams, and less predictably, crude sound, though the remixing job here is a drastic improvement. The San Francisco Psychedelic Ballroom scene was just in it's infancy (and the Elevators delivered the child), so, this set, from the Fall of '66, only consists of roughly half originals, and the rest, covers by their personal favorites, Chuck Berry, Buddy Holly, Kinks, Beatles, and Solomon Burke, by way of The Stones, all done quite unlike you've ever heard them, or are likely to ever hear them again. This was still the norm, in Frisco as well as in Texas. In a very short time, The Elevators would expand their repertoire to include virtually no covers. A real standout, though, is Roky and Tommy's vocal and jug duel on "Everybody Needs Somebody To Love.” A seldom heard live version (in fact, it appears to be the only live version in existence) of Powell St. John's outstanding "You Don't Know (How Young You Are)" (Covered, about 30 years later, by The Sir Douglas Quintet) is an indication of things to come. Band originals like "Roller Coaster" and "Fire Engine" come to life, not with arrogance, so much as confidence. The confidence of a band that directly influenced the San Francisco scene, to the extent that they were frequently mistaken for a San Franciscan band, but were widely snubbed for having a hit record. It's simple. Unlike today, the better records got to be hits.  "Live in Texas" compiles various pre and post-LP performances from club dates and TV appearances on "Somethin' Else" (not to be confused with the L.A. based pop culture program), hosted by longtime Dallas-area DJ, Ron Chapman. While all these performances are shit-hot, they do contain their share of covers. BUT would you really walk away from the chance to hear a young Roky Erickson wailing his way through "I'm Down,” "I Feel Good,” or even "Satisfaction?” I didn’t think so. The Garage band staples are rounded out by "Tried To Hide,” "Fire Engine" (preceded by a truly hilarious discussion of the electric jug between Tommy Hall and Ron Chapman), and "Roller Coaster,” plus two versions of "You're Gonna Miss Me.” If you're a longtime fan, chances are you have this stuff, but with inferior sound. Saving, if not the best, certainly the most interesting, for last, there's the ingeniously titled "Death in Texas,” a chronicle of a band falling apart (but still making good music), then resurrecting themselves, years later, to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. The disc begins with excerpts from a now-notorious Houston gig in 1967, when the band were debuting some of the material on their second album (no small feat, straight or tripping). A good portion of this material has been released before, with decent sound, but not with the entire impromptu jam session with members of The Conqueroo, which includes a nice, keyboard driven "She Lives (In a Time of Her Own), Bob Dylan's "It's All Over, Now (Baby Blue),” basically the only cover song the band released on LP (the bogus "Live" album, notwithstanding), and a pretty killer, Chuck Berrified, instrumental featuring Stacey's guitar, tuned to pure Rock n’ Roll. It isn’t the entire show, however. While it's true that the whole show exists, it goes without saying that the band sounds acid-damaged and increasingly paranoid. Sutherland would recount the tale, in his last known interview, of how the cops came and dragged him off the stage, while he was "peaking.” To his horror, he saw members of the audience became wolves, and he found himself on trial. Angels told him he would either be sent to Hell, or be allowed to remain on earth. He was given three predictions, one, that he would break up with his longtime girlfriend, and, another, that he would go to jail. Both "Predictions" actually came true, and, at the time of the interview, he simply stated that he hoped the third would never come true, because it was the most horrible of all. One year later, Stacy would be shot dead by his live-in girlfriend who confessed to the crime, but never served time for it. Meanwhile, back in the past, the cops took Stacy to the edge of town, and told him they were going to kill him. They later claimed it was merely tactics to try to straighten him out. The well-known live recording is a reflection of the paranoia of those times. It is, however, a good set, despite the fact that both Roky and Stacy had become increasing withdrawn. It could be argued, because of it's generable availability, and not wishing to document a train wreck, that only some of the band's finest live moments appear here. From there, things get strange. Roky was released from Rusk Mental Facility in late 1972. Stacy had been out of the Federal Penetentiary for a while, by then but he'd developed a heroin habit. Roky stuck to reefer for a while, though so-called "friends" were slipping him harder drugs, and his resistance quickly got weak. If you could see past all that, it seemed like a good time for an Elevators reunion, didn’t it? In 1973, the band reformed in earnest, utilizing a revolving door policy, which included Roky, Stacey, original drummer John Ike Walton,sSecond bassist, Ronnie Leatherman, and Roky's brother, Donnie Erickson. The revamped Elevators lineup alternated from faithful reproductions of their more popular originals to period-appropriate Boogie Rock. The five songs, here, find them, basically, in good form. It just leaves me wanting for more, personally. I have a five song bootleg with "Maxine,” a Chuck Berry/Little Richard style rocker that doesn’t appear to have turned up, again (except on the exceptional "Austin Landin" comp). Did Roky actually write it? Quien Save?m Plus an unhinged "(I've Got) Levitation,” both of which can be heard here, though the other three songs would be welcome additions to this set, especially if, possibly, cleaned up. By now, it's common knowledge that this lineup also played "Rainy Day Women,” which does exist on tape. The big rumor, it seems, was that the band only played two gigs at this time, one in Houston, and one in Austin. It's now widely understood that they did several gigs, including at least one show in Dallas. Tex Edwards of The Nervebreakers (who backed Roky twice, in 1979, in Dallas) was at that show, and confirmed that they opened with Slim Harpo's "Shake Your Hips,” just weeks after The Stones had put out their version. A fine version appears here, as does Roky's Bizarro World Boogie, "Stumble (Smoke The Toilet).” It does, in fact, ROCK!! I for one (and I might be alone, but for once, I doubt it), would like to hear whatever else exists from that ill-fated period (of course, with the help of Doug Sahm, Roky would spearhead his solo career in 1975, while other members turned up in largely folk and Country-Rock bands, though Stacy's interesting late 70s Hard Rock recordings can be heard on his myspace). A version of "You're Gonna Miss Me " from the 1984 "Reunion" (which was more of a Roky show, but the rest of the band, consisting of Ronnie and John Ike, plus Craig Forrest, mentioned earlier, went on severely under-rehearsed, and found themselves playing mostly Roky songs, and covers like Buddy Holly's "Not Fade Away" and Bo Diddley's "Before You Accuse Me.” "It could have been good music,” Roky later said, "But it was slow moving" (Roky, for one, was screaming hellfire and unleashing savage guitar skronk almost like never before, to say nothing of his hilarious stage patter, but while no one would argue that it was The Elevators reborn, it was a noble effort, nonetheless). The original band, despite their dalliances with LSD, which led to more damaging drugs, could still deliver the goods, live, as evidenced, here.. Perhaps the band didn’t change man's thinking process, as Tommy Hall insisted they could, but they WERE a great Rock n’ ' Roll band, and they did change the way we look at music.
"The Psychedelic Sounds of Sonic Cathedral-A Tribute To Roky Erickson and The 13th Floor Elevators" is an extremely limited edition (just 200 copies on bright yellow vinyl. I grabbed it, believing I wouldn’t see it again. But I did. And I will) tribute to The Horror Rockin' Horror Rock King, The Emperer of Ice Cream, and, of course, that Little Ol' Brain-Scorching Band From Texas, has been getting rave reviews. I'm sorry, this isn’t one of them. I'm sure the latter day Psych cognoscenti would label me a square for not knowing about, nor fully appreciating, the latest Psych/Noise/Drone guitar bands, while I cut my teeth on Lithium Xmas and The Peyote Cowboys, who could've eaten any of these bands for breakfast. Now, this was a labor of love on the musicians' part, and the proceeds are going directly to Roky's trust fund, and God knows it's better than "Where The Pyramid Meets The Eye,” which contained, MAYBE, five standout performances, and that's if you really stretch it. Heaven knows I'm going to work at liking this, it wasn’t exactly cheap, and, well, I'm stuck with it, aren’t I? It reminds me of a funny story that Chris Connolly told me. When he was a wee small lad in Scotland, he had just enough money to buy one album a month. One time, went to Woolworth's, and purchased what he thought was a Deep Purple LP. It turned out to be one of those studio exploitation LPs that actually became very popular in The UK in The Seventies. On top of that, the band in question was Thin Lizzy! Should have been the saving grace, right? Nope. Connolly told me it was still crap, but he was stuck with it, so he FORCED himself to like it. I kind of feel the same way, now. That's not to say it's all bad, or even inaccessible, it's just that parts of it make me feel better about my own musicianship. Some of this stuff recalls Spacemen 3, whom I liked all right, save for the Heroin vibe. Besides Roky himself (who appears here, with The Black Angels, doing a live version of "Roller Coaster"), I was familiar with almost none of the acts on this comp. The Black Angels played out for a time with Roky, giving him some challenges like dusting off some Elevators' classics, and some lesser-known originals, but I was never blown away by what I'd heard from them, personally. Their version of "Roller Coaster" is faithful, if buried in screech and feedback  (as are MANY of the tracks featured here). Roky's voice is deeper and more gruff-sounding  (though he's never had a hard time with the high part of his voice, nor throwing in his trademark scream, when I've seen him, I've noticed, lately, that his voice sounded overwrought on some of the You Tube clips I've heard), though his phrasing is impeccable. He is in control. The Strange Attractors (not to be confused with sometimes Roctober contributor, Soul Rebel's, band) don't add a lot to a heavier version of " Reverberation (Doubt),” though, at times, it sounds like it's going to segue into "T.V. Eye,” which might have actually worked, at that. I'm reminded a bit of Deniz Tek from Radio Birdman, on a night drenched with humidity and the smell of Fosters.  All The Saints' "Don't Fall Down,” which prominently features a Dentist's drill drum machine, which gave me a headache, but could become an international dance floor hit for all I know. Hush Arbors had the right idea, at least, by tackling a song from the grossly underrated Third Elevators LP (there are only three. I repeat: the bogus "Live" LP doesn’t count), "Dr.Doom.” They really tried to get inside a rather complicated song. I'd like to see somebody do a Stacey Sutherland tribute album, with highlights from "Bull of The Woods,” the only recently released gems that led up said record, and Stacey's 70s band, which can be heard on myspace. Dead Meadow's version of "Kingdom of Heaven" is slow and plodding (but so is the original, and writer Powell St. John's own version, recorded a few years later with Mother Earth) with some nifty wah-wah guitar work thrown in for good measure. Darker My Love's "She Lives (In a Time of Her Own)" (have you noticed The Elevators had more songs with two titles than half the Country and Western charts in their day?) sticks to the basics, throwing in some nice harmonies, disjointed guitar parts and "Sister Ray" keyboards. Sarabeth Tucek's "Splash 1 (now I'm Home)" is probably going to be huge with Hipsters who've long since shed their Rockn’'Roll fur, and speaking of fur, it is as warm and cuddly as a kitten, though, for all it's loveliness, it's not one I'll find myself rushing back to. Sonic Boom, late of Spacemen 3, puts in an appearance with Cheval Sombre on another one of Roky's celebrated love songs, "You Don't Love Me Yet" (one of the greatest denial songs of all time). They seem to be giving the song, an overhaul by way of The Elevators' "May The Circle Remain Unbroken" (which was Roky's last recording to be released for a long time. Too damn long). Eerie, discordant (there's even cricket sounds!), but not overly cluttered. Lower Heaven's "Fire Engine" contains some decidedly understated vocals (which is actually not a bad thing), and is one of the more "Psychedelic" sounding performances contained herein. In truth, it brings to mind The Jesus and Mary Chain, way back when you could only find their records as obscure imports. Le Volume Courbe's take on "I Love The Living You" (One of many songs Roky wrote, and secretly recorded, while still an inmate at Rusk) sounds not unlike a late 70s Marianne Faithful record, if only for the raspy, sometimes broken, vocals of Charlotte Marionneau, but it's in keeping with the less abrasive tracks on this album. "Unforced Peace,” which also dates back to Rusk, goes into an overlong, "Leaning on the keyboard,” sound, while the melody is contrary to the original, but I'm not hearing much, there. It's also the longest track on the album. The closer, "Goodbye Sweet Dreams" (Performed by I Break Horses, almost the best band name on here, but that honor would have to be A Place To Bury Strangers, a band name worthy of T. Tex Edwards) manages to be sweet and abrasive at the same time. Again, this album was made for all the right reasons, I can't fault anyone for that. But for all the hype I bought into (also nobody's fault but my own), if it turns out, by some fluke, that they really did press only 200 copies (Like I say, I've seen it more than once), you may see my copy turn up, gently used, very shortly, though, the rare Roky track makes that less likely. There are certainly highlights, but overall, I was left wanting. I mean, REALLY wanting, like the time I went to this Bar B Cue place in Dallas, with a smokestack billowing the essence of 'cue, only to find out they'd been closed for an hour. If Roky's track had been released as a 45 with just about any of these tracks as the "B" side, I'd be shittin' in tall cotton, hoss. Now on to the real deal: Roky Erickson with Okkervil River’s
"True Love Cast Out All Evil.” First of all, when Roky's first album in 15 years was in the planning stages, different ideas were being batted about, mainly the idea that Billy Gibbons, who'd been sitting in at several of Erickson's recent gigs, had tentatively signed on as producer.  But details surrounding the making of this album were slow in arriving. Roky's privacy is respected by his friends and his true fans alike, so, one could only speculate on who would and wouldn’t be involved. The Explosives would have, should have, had the chance to do their very first studio recordings with Roky, after an ongoing relationship of over 30 years, but Roky and The Explosives parted company before recording had begun. The Explosives ARE Roky Erickson's backing band, whether they ever work together again, or not. I'm not taking anything away from The Aliens, The Nervebreakers, The Resurrectionists, The Evil Hook Wildlife E.T. or The Roky Erickson Band, but The Explosives put in the time, and sounded just as tight and hard-rockin' in 2008 as they did in 1979. I'm just saying, there have been, and will be, other bands, but I say, render unto Caesar that which is Caesar's, give The Explosives theirs. That said,I was just as excited as you by this release, probably more so. Advance copies sold out on Record Store Day, but I was able to locate a single copy on the official release day, after a lengthy search.  The gatefold packaging is impressive (taking a tip from the bootleggers, and from Sympathy For The Record Industry), but I'm sorry, Roky looks better today, than the cover photo would suggest. A minor gripe, I suppose...the photo's not bad (as in "Live in Dallas 1979"-bad) or anything. It's a very good photo. It just makes him look older and more dissheveled than he actually does in person. Anyway, it had been implied that Roky was developing some new material for the album. It's understood, however, that he hasn’t shown much interest, lately, in writing new songs (though he's been playing the organ a great deal at home, which might be VERY interesting to hear). In Roky's world, if it ain't fun, it ain't worth doing. It's possible that he'll arrive at the conclusion that writing new songs CAN be fun, yet. It's probable that, for all the people who've probably suggested that he get back into songwriting, it still has to look like his idea. The songs on this album, it turns out, were originally written while Roky was a prisoner (I mean, "patient") at The Rusk Institution For The Criminally Insane from 1969 to 1972. Easily, half of these songs have been legally released in some form. One, "Please Judge" was on his last studio album, as well as on an accompanying single (In the form of a home recording). I'm not complaining about the content. These may be some of the only original songs that Roky still owns. Last time around, he was only believed to hold the publishing on a half dozen songs. Real Roky fans, of course, don't mind having multiple copies of the same songs. It's just somewhat anticlimactic, in this case. But you take Roky Erickson on his own terms, or not at all. In other words, it's fun for you, or it's not. Devotionals CAN be fun (Have any of you been to a Virgen De Guadalupe parade in Mexico? THAT'S fun). One of the best-known song/poems that appeared in "Openers" (the collection of poems written while Roky was still at Rusk.  An excellent, updated version was published by Henry Rollins, with most of Erickson's known songs and poems), "Devotional Number One,” opens this collection, but it is the actual recording, made approximately 40 years ago, in secret, with a hand held microphone, at Rusk. As such, it's a rough-sounding, though historically important, recording. The words are lovely, whether Jesus is your Homeboy or not (though, there's a passage about The Devil tempting Christ which did not appear in this version, and some of the phrasing is different than the printed version. ), then we move on to, perhaps, the most famed verse to appear in the entire printed collection, "Jesus is not a hallucinogenic mushroom.” One could argue that such a proclamation borders on sacrilege, or is just an attempt to bring some levity to an otherwise solemn and sincere tome...or even, possibly, a reference to said fungi being used in Native American religious ceremonies. Listen carefully, though, when you actually hear him sing the line, that angelic quality in Roky's voice leaps out of the below-fi recording like a pop-up greeting card. "Please Judge " is as good as, maybe, on some level, better than, the version that appeared on "All That May Do My Rhyme" (though it has that "Forever Changes" orchestral quality in it's favor). To minimal backing, Roky sings, in a subdued manner, as though you're sitting in the room with him, and the lights are turned out. But this time, he's not telling ghost stories, but singing of the real-life horrors of jail and the institution. "Goodbye, Sweet Dreams" (which closed out his documentary... The fact that Roky consented to sing ANY song, particularly, an untested song, at that time, on camera, would have come as a welcome, almost unbelievable, surprise, had I not seen it after the fact that Roky's truly miraculous comeback was already well underway). Anyway, this recording sounds like it could be a minor hit, or, at least, a favorite on College and Public radio (Is there still such a thing as a minor hit in this brainwashed, second run movie house-free society?). Moderately Psychedelic-sounding, a light in the darkness. Looking for your Hard Rock Roky kicks?  There aren’t many of those, though the studio rendition of "John Lawman" is not too far removed from the live version Erickson used to perform with The Explosives. An almost Sabbathoid rocker, ala "Bloody Hammer,” with Roky getting in his first good screams for the day. They're really the only ones to be found in this intimate setting.  The arrangements Okkervil River have built around Roky's overworked, though still husky-sounding voice, crown him with their subtlety. If you're looking for a latter day Texas Psych feedback freakout, you won't hear much of that. What you will hear is a relatively varied bag of Folk-Rock, with occasional scattered showers of Hard Rock embellishments. Make no mistake, the studio recordings aren’t hurting for sheer rawness. Even the accompanying Chamber Orchestra reflects Roky's intuitivenes. "True Love Cast Out All Evil,” "Think of as One" and "Birds'd Crash " are further odes to salvation through love, something Roky's generation spoke of freely, though Roky held on to that thought in his darkest hour. "God is Everywhere,” another field recording, accompanied, appropriately enough, by live birds ("The birds sing. Isn’t this a lovely way to accompany The King?"), closes out the set. As Roky's discordant (in a cool way) acoustic Guitar fades into the distance, beautiful, newly recorded, strings flourish, if only momentarily. A light goes off, "Goodbye Sweet Dreams.”    For Roky and Dana. What God himself has brought back together, let no man tear asunder. 
Thanks to Nardwuar, The Human Serviette, for mentioning me in his recent interview with Roky Erickson.
"Doot Doodle Doot Doot....”...  "UH-HUH..”

Augie Meyers "Country"

(El Sendero Records) Like the title sez, Bub. The King of the hair-singin' Vox Continental organ returns with a down to earth Country sound that never strays too far from the Tex-Mex sounds he put out with The Sir Douglas Quintet and The Texas Tornados (who've Recently reformed, with Doug Sahm's son, Shawn, and Conjunto legend, Flaco Jiminez sharing center stage with Augie). "Sometimes,” the opening appetizer (you get red sauce AND green sauce with that) contains enough Stonesy Country guitar licks, plus a classic SDQ-style keyboard solo. "Hey Sarita" is one of those simple joys of romance numbers Meyers has always excelled at (not unlike "Bailando" by The Texas Tornados). Come on, you've got to love a song about pitchin' woo and burritos, too! With cheese! "There's a Good Chance For Romance" follows a similar path, but from a single guy's point of view. The Happy Go Lucky protagonist puts having a good time first. If he doesn’t hook up tonight, tomorrow's another night. "The Pain of Her Leaving," and "I Cried My Last Cry" draw from the late 60s Country Rock sounds that you'd better believe Augie and Doug Sahm had a hand in creating, but geared toward the present day, even Light Beer gets a tear in it, now and then.  BUT, there ain't no giant beer signs with pictures of Toby Keith or Liann Rhimes in Augie's Old School Honky Tonk World (actually, could you go out to the car and get some tools so we can pry that Liann Rhimes display from the wall?)...Just a hole in the wall with sawdust on the hardwood floor, where the beautiful strains of a fiddle and a steel guitar are locked in a soul-shake with Augie's Countrified Piano and rockin' keyboard sound. It seems almost effortless. Brother, it ain't, but, that's the beauty of it. Meyers has made unpretentious, uncluttered music his stock in trade for nearly 50 years (or has he already passed that mark?). Other guys (or gals) can solo til their fingers turn to nubs, or TRY to make an ass out of George Jones,singing, BUT there's something they need to realize they're not. They ain't down home. Meyers' delivery is far more user-friendly. It helps if you're already a pretty good sized fan of Traditional Country but, this collection should appeal to anyone who can get their mind around some good-natured, good timin' toons. Augie is a national treasure in whatever he does. "Country" is just another color in the musical palette. The green is the best, I think, but, try the red, too. 

The Loons “Red Dissolving Rays of Light”

GUEST REVIEW BY JOHN BATTLES (Bomp) Yeah, it's a funny thing, my ex-old lady used to put me in charge of the make-out music. Well, I don't really keep any Barry White on tap (No pun intended), but I found The Loons' second CD to be deeply sensual, swirling to heady depths and plateaus. Also, it was within reach. She later demanded that I never play it again when she was around. Even so, it's a sexy damned album, like "A Web of Sound" by The Seeds or "Easter Everywhere" by The 13th Floor Elevators. The Loons generally take about 5 years between albums. Since their first long player, I've seen them in four different states...of MIND. No, really, I've seen them in California, New York, Nevada and Illinois.... Though their live show differs a bit from their previous album, at least, in that they're definitely there, first and foremost, to ROCK when they hit the stage, with plenty of screech, fuzz, skronk and wail (sounds like a Don Martin cartoon).They can stretch out and experiment a bit more in the studio, but, I'm proud to say, their new effort, on Bomp!, no less (Greg Shaw stopped, briefly, while Lux Interior told him he had the best hair on the L.A. Punk scene, to smile transparent, tho' powerful, beams of sunlight on the whole affair) ROCKS, with an enticing melodicism. As with before, you can do your dishes to it, or you can do your freaky business to it...OR, dare I say it? You can dance to it, too. Glenn Campbell, from The Misunderstood, makes two "solo" appearances on Psychedelicized Steel Guitar. How cool is that? The only thing I didnt like about the album....the end.

Voice of Addiction

( One of the finest live punk acts in town, this political band balances some of the best (and occasionally some of the worst) aspects of rock, emo, ska, metal, and even Billy Bragg righteousness. If you go to shows in Chicago you can't not have seen this band, and that work ethic makes them one of the most Chicago-ish of Chicago punk bands this side of Dead Steel Mill. I'm not expecting a revolution anytime soon, but it's nice to hear someone at least wants one.

Rock ‘n’ Roll Monkey & the Robots “Do What the Bees Do"

( I have a confession to make. On the last album by this group that I reviewed I’m pretty sure (subconfession: too lazy to look up last review) I gave them some extra consideration and pumped up the praise because their band name seemed to by be market tested to appeal to  a demographic of one: ME! If you called castor oil Monkey Rock ‘N’ Roll Robot juice I’d guzzle it like a college kid downing Red Bull. But there need be no grade inflation this time. “Do What the Bees Do” is genuinely one of the most solid garage rock records I’ve heard in years. Plenty of 60s garage pop magic and retro organ but no nostalgia or kitsch, enough humor and whimsy but no novelty, and it has spare garage rock aesthetics balanced with kitchen sink sensibilities (flute, harmonica, melodica, and sitar find their way in). But most importantly it’s got the HOOKS and GROOVES! With music this amazing if this band was named Smooth Jazz Pigeon and the Math Homework they would still be awesome!

Kristian Hoffman “Fop”

(Kayo) Best known (to our readers, at least) for his work with Klaus Nomi and Lance Loud, Kristian Hoffman has been a fixture on the Los Angeles music scene for years, popping up whenever someone very interesting is doing something very interesting. Last April Fool’s Day I was invited to a private magic/variety show in a tiny theater built a half century ago in a residential backyard, and there accompanying the illusionists, mimes, puppeteers and Prince Poppycock was the masterful, florid, moving piano playing of Mr. Hoffman (dressed magnificently, I should add). His latest recorded work is a grand, brilliant song cycle balancing excess and subtlety…Hoffman’s compositions have intense drama and no expense seems to be spared, but he also knows how few notes to play, and when to reference a spare vaudeville performance instead of a glorious Broadway fantasy (though the latter usually wins out). I wouldn’t compare the rock opera nature of “Fop” to a Jim Steinman production, because this doesn’t have rock excess aspirations. The grand music and grand theatrical achievements are never overwhelmed by wailing guitar. The guitar playing on this (by David Bongiovanni, and Hoffman, with  a few appearances by our friend Andrew Sandoval) is excellent, but knows its place, never taking the rock route of overwhelming the composition and singing (which falls somewhere between Off Broadway one man show singing and 60s pop crooning). Why have a guitar solo when a string section can swell magnificently? There are some straight up rocking exceptions, of course, including a great naughty God Rock song called “Hey Little Jesus Get Out of that Hole.”  Other standout tracks include the sexy “Soothe Me” and the grand “Out of the Habit” (best song ever to mention a davenport), and I should mention that the design (including a thick lyric book) is breathtaking. I’m sorry you can’t all experience Hoffman in a private magic theater like I did, but amazingly, listening to this CD was just as satisfying as that remarkable experience.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Jack Bruce – Composing Himself by Harry Shapiro

(Jawbone) I may not be the best person to review this because I am one of the rare people not enamored with Eric Clapton’s playing. On the other hand, the fact that I love Cream and none of Clapton’s later work makes me more intrigued to know the story of Bruce, the only member of that power trio that managed to remain somewhat anonymous despite the group’s massive success. Singing and crafting Cream’s songs Jack Bruce actually deserved stardom more than Clapton – - that’s how lead singing usually works. But in creating a new template for rock where the thundering guitar and drums (and to  a lesser degree, Bruce’s bass) are so monumental that they eclipse traditional rock, it basically takes the “lead” out of “lead singer.” Bruce’s fate is less surprising when you read about what a mess his life has been, fighting with bandmate Ginger Baker, befriending heroin, and constantly searching for something musical that will either succeed or fulfill him. A Glasgowian lad with a knack for music Bruce grew up on the rough streets and worked his way into rock by playing in proper bands before joining the 60s Brit blues bands that everyone seems to have been in. I don’t get the impression, however, that he was as enamored with black American music as his pals, or if he was, not in the same fawning way. The years after Cream (Cream’s short career is but a short portion of the book) has him exploring, soaring and usually crashing quickly.  The best and worst thing about Composing Himself are the same thing. As Bruce tries again and again to put something together, fails, tries again, fails, tries again it becomes kind of monotonous. But I suspect that is exactly what the life of Bruce felt like, with a Sisyphusian series of disappointments running one into another. This book (basically an autobiography, Shapiro is clearly just sprucing up Bruce interviews) lets you feel like rock star…but unfortunately that rock star is a man who has not had it easy.

The Unravelling “13 Arcane Hymns”

( Wicked industrial prog horror music that unraveled my innards and made the bogeymen that live under my kids’ beds come out and ask if they could download the tracks for their Zunes. I would have thought monsters would have ipods, but, you know, they’re monsters. This music buried me alive!

The Rebellion "Time"

( If this music is any indication, what qualifies as a rebellion in Canada wouldn't get a waiter's attention in Chicago. But if you're looking for soaring, triumphant pop rock this might elicit a rebel yell from you. Well, maybe a polite rebel yelp.

The Devyl Nellys

( Nelly Levon has one of those Americana/pop voices that is as soothing as it is moving. When the songwriting, which is for the most part strong here, she can pretty much enchant and convonce you to do anything. Not a dark record, but there's some shade cast to make things a lot more interesting than your typical slick indie urban country record.

The Workhorse III

(MVD) A punk power trio power vomiting up power rock that is powerfully powerful!

Lotus Effect "Rabbits & Royalty"

( Crunchy guitars, heavy sounds, unusual vocals and complex, alternative rock compositions add up to  a formula that could hit it big. The effect I got was that it made me take the lotus position and thrash around spiritually.
Rabbits & Royalty

Three Mile Pilot "The Inevitable Past is the Future Forgotten"

(Temporary Residence)  Aren't you so excited that they're back that you could have a Three Mile Riot! Or perhaps a Three Smile Riot! Or a Glee Smile Riot! Although the music is neither smily or gleeful, of course. It's sorta sad, low key, and desolate, even, but it's also kind of pretty, thrilling and triumphant. This will remind you that there was 90s rock that you actually liked.

The Titles “Dirt Bell”

(SMR) I will grant them this: for a band called the “Titles” they actually triumphed with an awesome title for this record. The best thing about the whole record is the title: Dirt Bell! Dirt Bell! That is genuinely awesome.

Kathryn Williams "The Quickening"

( Williams marries the eerie, genre-pushing elements of the freak folkers with the grounded, beautiful-singing-centric foundations of the 60s folk movement. If you listen to this record whilst wearing a mood ring expect to see a whole new color.

Sundowner "We Chase the Waves"

(Asian Man) SunUPPER!

The Migrant “Travels in Lowland”

(Koda) MiGREAT!

The High Violets "Cinéma"

( Shoegazer music where the shoes being gaze are the ones they wear on Sex in the City.

Jonny Rumble "JR"

(Rock Proper) If this was the soundtrack to your rumble you would be fighting with bubble wands and gumballs.


( Candy-like chaos that crumbles, constructs and caterwauls with beautiful energy. Made me feel good in my man corn.

Solaram "Love & the Sweet Divine"

(Rainbow Quartz) Subtly spacey. Like being on a slow rocket ship. Like watching the sunrise from the other side of the sun. Like filling your astronaut tank with something other than oxygyn, if you know what I mean. Joe Tagg's swirling, floating, grooving guitars make a superb space bed for a poppy space chill session.

Capstan Shafts "Revelation Skirts"

(Rainbow Quartz) Made my shaft do  a cap stand!

Grip Weeds "Strange Change Machine"

(Rainbow Quartz) A huge bucket of Pop non-corn dripping with psychedelic guitar butter and sprinkled with melodic seasoning. Reminds me of Rundgren's writing, the Music Machine's hooks, and a magical elf's studio productions.

The June “Green Fields and Rain”

(Rainbow Quartz) This magnificent record will have you floating on a poppy psyche cloud that's as fluffy as dudes harmonizing "ooohhs" and as ethereal as a mindtrip.

The Gurus "Closing Circles"

(Rainbow Quartz) Mellow-delia that's poppy and sweet. If this has anything to do with the late Gang Starr jazz hip hopper of the same name I would be pretty surprised, but you never know.

Versus "On the Ones and Threes"

(Merge) It has been forever since I heard this band and forever ago I remember them being more light and poppy. Of course maybe I was just a sillier dumbass then whose brain processed things that way. This is a fairly intense, beautiful, subtly textured suite of sweet songs. Every band should wait ten years between albums, it apparently helps with songwriting.

The Rockin' Ace "Hello Rock 'N' Roll" b/w "Light A Fire With Desire"

(MassPike) Two spare, striking tracks from the mysterious Ace, a man who is synonymous with neither rock nor roll individually but who indubitably is when you put an "'n'" between those words. As long as I've admired his amazing comix adventures I have to admit poseur status here and confess I'd never heard any of his I assume ultra-rare records. So I was a little surprised at the gentleness and subtleties of his voice. I expected a super deep scary rockabilly croon. But then again, we know he's a lover and a friend of ghosts, so this voice is perfect.

The Midwest Beat "At the Gates"

(Dusty Medical) I love trash rock, but at this point what really blows me away is when a 60s-inspired, non-psychedelic band eschews trashiness altogether and really delivers the goods! This is some British Invader (without fake accents), 60s pop, rave up faux blues magic! Should be called the Midwest Unbeatables!

Drug Dragons "Old Controls"/"I Hate Rat People"

(Dusty Medical) Like swimming in a pool full of Codeine and your own blood!

Call Me Lightning "When I Am Gone My Blood Will Be Free"

(Dusty Medical) Should be called Call Me Thunder, because this Keith Mooned me with some serious power.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Prob Cause "Spring Cleaning"

( When it comes to Chicago mixtapes, you can't get more Chicago than a dude shouting out to "Chicago Girls" in Sox hats and offering to explain lyrically why Kirk Hinrich shouldn't have been a starter for the Bulls. There's some pretty great production on this, especially on his anti-industry, pro-blog song, and on a cut with Psalm One guesting, but the pop rap about those Sox-hatted gals is the standout here, and if he wasn't down on the industry, might be the one that would get him calls. 

absent-cause #4

( This now thick zine gets better every issue...and darker, and spookier! And with the addition of a bonus Dracula Tijuana Bible, funnier too!

Tweak Bird

(Volcom) Ultra heavy biker boogie crunch music that is doom free (in part thanks to the singer's castrato munchkin voice) and is more fun than making popcorn. This made me feel like I could fly. And not the bogus John Travolta big airplane way, I mean this made my head leave my body and fly around the room. I think.

Dead Cat Lounge "Don't Come Back"

(Fish) This would be completely timeless hardcore punk 'n' roll if it didn't date itself by having a song about foot fucking Barbara Bush. Though I guess that's a timeless desire, as well...

Vermillion Sands

(Alien Snatch) Italian fuzzed out Americana playground chant square dance orgy pop.

Shit Horse "They Shit Horses Don't They"

(Odessa) This has to be my favorite record of 2010. I always give points to any act with a theme song that incorporates the band's name, but when the name is this good, and the song is actually a disconcertingly short jingle, I'm already in their pocket. But what I really love about this band is the defiance of the trend of a predominantly Caucasian band getting an older black singer and then instantly thinking they are transformed into cool hipster Soul Brother sidemen by the magical Negro's presence. This group refuses to become cool, refuses to be pigeonholed into playing so-called black music, and refuses to condescend or exploit their singer. Instead his resonant tones stand out more because he's singing with (and against) oddball damage music. By making jarring, meticulously crafted songs that eschew blues patterns and conventions their frontman doesn't become a weak copy of a 60s icon, he becomes an individual doing his thing. Plus the songs are about horses and shit. Which is what this band is. The SHIT!

The Pack AD "We Kill Computers"

(Mint) Goddamn it's bluesy in here! But not bluesy like the Rolling Stones or Led Zeppelin fetishizing old black dudes while not really respecting them. This is its own thing, cliche free, not always sounding like typical blues, and always steamrolling. There are a lot of drum and guitar duos out there these days (they seemed to start forming before the recession made a small band seem more practical, but it sure was convenient) but I can't think of any that sound bigger and badder than this carrion chomping Canadian snowbirds. Best yet, they always get better, this album leaves the last mighty effort in the dust.

Sheetah et les Weissmuller "Hola Ye-Yeah"

(Screaming Apple) More fuzz than a peach, more psyche than a psyche-lorama and more French than a fry, these Franco Freakers are making some of the most authentic 60s Seeds-isms this side of Dominic Priore's dreams. This is the Sheet!

Images of America - The Chicago Music Scene 1960s and 1970s by Dean Milano

(Arcadia) This collection of photos and frustratingly brief captions of hundreds of Chicago musicians from the 60s and 70s is great in some ways, weak in some ways, and great in some ways because of its weaknesses. Because Milano was involved in the folk scene this book skews more towards folk and country than perhaps was reflected by Chicago's music consumers (I imagine more r&b and blues records sold, and there were plenty of venue for that stuff, but perhaps less photos survived). There are many photos in this book that are pretty common, or pretty crummy, or just shot off of records, so that's disappointing, but you get what you can get. And I found a number of small factual errors, but since the text is secondary that's not such  a big deal. Ultimately by choosing obscure and off kilter figures for inclusion in the rock (and show band?) section, the Blues, R&B, and Soul section, and the jazz section you actual get more interesting and strange stuff than if he worked from the top down and included only the biggest cats. I certainly never heard of Rich Markow the Living Cartoon, but I'm glad to see his picture. And you can never see enough Baby Huey photos!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Jeff the Brotherhood "Heavy Days"

(Infinity Cat) Hot HOT H-I-T-S! This record will sell more copies than the Bible! These songs are catchier than ebola virus!

Hamper McBee of Monteagle, Tennessee "The Good Old Fashioned Way"

(Drag City) Lomax-ed out country and English ballad-type music recording meets WPA oral history project meets your dream uncle. In addition to having a name too fake to be fake, McBeehas a resonant voice that's too hypnotic to become monotonous, even when he sues a monotone or talks and talks and talks. He could be lying, he could be truthing, but botoom line, your Modest Mouse CD ain't gonna give you tips on running a still, break down the mental manipulations of carny hustling or tell a long story that climaxes with  a masturbating monkey driving a little car.

People Eating People

(The Control Group) First of all, I would have named the group Purple People Eating People (a second purple would have been overkill). Second, if Brecht-ian cabaret meets Beach Boys pop music isn't the next big thing I'll eat my hat. Or my head.

Steve Morse & Sarah Spencer "Angelfire"

(Radiant) Note to self: records with word "devil" = buy every time! Records with the word "angel" = not so much...

Dafni "Sweet Time"

(Daffer Doodle) Her voice (and smile) may be incredibly sweet, but there's something else there. I want to credit some of it to the beautifully executed low key American backing music, but it really is all her voice, which manages to have this happy Western quality, and a resonance that recalls lighthearted folk music. But then there's this tinge of Billie Holiday in there, and that can't be sweet or happy, can it? Dafni has a magnificent instrument!

Falling Blind "Comets"

( Melodic hard rock that you'll fall for, but you'll really dig the album rock cover cover painting since the 80s! Add a demon or walking corpse and I'd buy the shirt!

Darshan "Lishma"

( I liked Epryhme's record -- righteous Jewish social/political hip hop floats my boat, but the production could have been more interesting. In this group, a duo with chanter Shir Yaakov, the deep, jazzy, challenging grooves elevate his skills. Side note: for anyone surprised to see Orthodox Jews making deep hipster hip hop remember one thing...many Hassidic boys are teenagers in Brooklyn in 2010! And they are bearded! If you are a young, bearded Brooklynite you get a 7.5 on Pitchfork when you sneeze!

Diablo Royale "Greedy Dogs"

( Political rock by guys dressed so rock and looking so good you can't believe they care about the world...but they do! These Diablos are hella good! But you know everytime they whip their hair around or strike a rock pose that someone thinks is cheesy there's gonna be someone who calls them Diablo Royale...with Cheese!


( Jaunty, witty, indie pop that's not afraid of not being cool (they sing about comic books more than love). This collection of pleasantries and rarities brings to mind jolly music hall performers of yore, which is a way better model than most of the mopey rockers out there.