Thursday, March 31, 2011

Nix Comics Quarterly #1

( This is a genuinely outstanding anthology comic based on old EC's, your favorite records, Duplex Planet Illustrated, too many long nights in bars, and a Kool-Aid drinking membership in the co-cults of old comics and loud rock 'n' roll. Unlike other comics that are influenced by music, this first of al,l does not suck, and second of all, has perfect pitch as far as knowing what icons to tap into (old blues man with the hellhounds on his trail, spooky sunglass-bearing mystery rocker) and exactly where to go with it without becoming trite or obvious. Every one of these stories was a delight, with a twist, a punchline, or  a payoff that made it totally worth it. Though there are a bunch of artists (including Roctober's own King Merinuk) drawing these tales, the author of all of them is Ken Eppstein, and unlike alternative books with single writer/various artists (like Pekar's and Eichorn's stuff) this isn't attempting to be personal, thus suffering from disconnect between artist and writer. These are just just great stories that each benefit from having an ace artist attached. That the production values are so high (full color, plus well-done classic comic book ad parodies) is just another reason you need your Nix fix.

Phil Manzanera "The Music 1972 - 2008," "Diamond Head"

 ( Manzanera is a guitar hero to many guitarists, but he clearly played with too much elegance and class to become a household name amongst the air guitar-ing lumpen. As Roxy Music's axman, and an Eno collaborator, Phil (a songwriter as well) can take solace in the undeniable fact that he crafted music that had more influence on the new wave/alternative/underground scenes than all the biggest guitar wankers comboned. And he can feel good about getting a nice retrospective box set and archival reissue on the market.  The reissue of his 1975 solo debut (a record I've definitely never seen before) is about half instrumentals, and they are OK, but it wasn't like Phil was lead guitarist in a group with wailing solos, so these are really tracks based on nice rhythm guitar structures that could use a little more embellishment then they get here. The vocal tracks, especially the standout, "Big Day," sung by Eno, are much more satisfying. To be clear, everything on here sounds virtuoso and musically posh, it's just easier to dig the vocal stuff. Though two tracks from "Diamond Head" make the retrospective box, "Big Day" does not, so my brother, you gotta buy both. The first two discs contain 25 career spanning tracks, including cuts he played on Roxy, lotsa interesting solo stuff, and "Needles in the Camel's Eye" from "Here Come the Warm Jets" (which I bet you haven't listened to in ages). It ends with a DVD featuring a documentary on PM that I was too exhausted to watch (after hours of satisfying CD listening), but it also has some cool live and promotional stuff from over the years that I was really feeling. Or should I say Phil-ling

The Matadors "Get Down From the Tree

(Munster) Czech yourself before you wreck yourself, or more likely wreck your furniture dancing around your living room to these 60s beat/psyche/soul-ish tracks from what I'm being told was Czechoslovakia's top band in the late 60s. Highlights here include the Seeds-esque "Don't Bother Me," the bouncy title track,  a spaced out groove explosion of a "Shotgun" cover, a go go dancing version of the Popeye cartoon theme song, and a super heavy track called "Malej Zvon Co Mám," and you all know what that means! (According to my golem friend it means "our Budweiser kicks your Budweiser's as "). I don;t want to act like this is the greatest lost band of all time, burt I do want to guarantee that if you trac this down you will find at least 4 or 5 songs that will blow your gourd!

Incendiary Words Vol. VIII #1 - Commemorating soccer past and present

($1, Steve De Rose 4821 W Fletcher St Chicago IL 60641) Steve gets a kick out of soccer...and you will too after celebrating the Power's 20th anniversary of their championship, checking out the 2011 Fire schedule, and kicking it with MUCH MORE! G-O-O-O-O-O-O-O-OAL!

Gary Lucas & Gods and Monsters "The Ordeal of Civility"

(Knitting Factory) Lucas, known for his guitar wizardry on those two awesome 80s Beefheart albums, leads this group that's so "downtown" I wouldn't be surprised if his original plan was to clone 5 John Luries as a backing band. But when blatant downtown-ery is lcombined with an innovative fingerman like Lucas sincerely strange and wonderful soundwork springs forth. That an overall guiding aesthetic seems to be housing moments of sonic weirdness within extremely pleasant, super accessible songs makes the party all the better.  

Faerie Wunderpuss "{=-0}" CD, Faerie Wunderpuss/Alla split LP

( Considering the power and quality of Faerie Wunderpuss' recordings it's pretty amazing they still manage to remain obscure and mysterious in this town. Combining experimental psyche vibes with the slick intensity of industrial music (without any of that genre's ugly or grating-ness), the band (on these ornately packaged one and a half releases) hypnotizes and confuses. Several of the songs feature a woman's striking voice performing spoken word/abstract poetry over stark underground music, which could theoretically be building on the Chicago traditions built by Algebra Suicide and DA, but really isn't. Everything this band does, while certainly quoting, reacting to, and reflecting lotsa specific darkwave/punk/whatever tropes, seems sort of divorced from any specific precedents. Looking forward to more weirdness and art from these pusses.
The Alla side of the split, by the way, is awesome. Way darker and weirder and dronier than any of their relatively jubilant prior releases, and it ends with a killer locked groove that could be used to either torture Guantanamo prisoners or make bees mate!

Hupomnema by Mahoney

( Here goes a review that no one who didn't go to Rhode Island School of Design in the 90s can even hope to understand: I love Mahoney's role in the UFA graphic collective because he makes work that's as formal and bizarre as Fort Thunder stuff but somehow much more accessible (despite the narratives being way more obtuse than Suerte's and Shithead's). "Hupomnema" spelled sideways is "Hey! I'm Awesome!"

Wut Even Am Doin by Jacob Thornton

This is how I like my comix - drippy, confounding, funny, and grammatically groundbreaking! In the tradition of greasy-looking birthday clowns who smoke during the party and witty NAMBLA members, Jacob Thornton (any relation to Roctober's 1st cartoonist, Sarah?) knows how to creep you out with chuckles rather than chills! 

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Brain Food comix by Mike Toft

( So many comics are adapted to movies these days that it seems some creators are angling for a movie adaptation more than they are commited to making food comics. I will go out on a limb and say Mike does not expect Hollywood to option his epic about a corrupt Obama and some pedophile priests conspiring to provide hardcore zombie porn (made with real zombies) to our Muslim enemies. tehn again, they made Suckerpunch...

Ha Ha Tonka "Death of a Decade"

(Bloodshot) I don't think it's their intention (especially not based upon the title and some lyrics) but Ha Ha Tonka's finest achievement is to make Southern Rock sound happy, like music made by possibly well-adjusted, occasionally sober, regular folk. When it swells to Epic-ness (like on "Jesusita") this album can  feel pretty grand and moving and jarring, but for the most part it just, despite itself, sounds kinda good and joyful  (even when singing about lonely fortune falling or trying to send out an ominous Spaghetti Western vibe [though it gets oddly sombre when singing about "The Humorist"]). "Death of a Decade" is unwittingly the life of the party!

Monster Island Plus "Del Otro Galaxia"

(We Ri Pro) (Guest Review by Gentleman John Battles) Monster Island Plus, a two man band, long before it was the hip thing to 
be, hailed, alternately from Denton and Dallas, Texas (with the occasional trip to Brussels). 
In the mid to late 80's, MI+ 
were part of a burgeoning music scene in Denton, which also included 
Snake Farm, Bliss, Charred, 
The Whirlygigs (for whom Monster Island drummer and singer Eddie Holland  also played), 
Professional Christ Imitators (a two man hardcore band that never seemed 
to have played out), The 
Hydrolators, and some guy called John Battles. It would be several years 
before anyone in Dallas 
picked up on this VERY DIY music community, one that would go on to usurp 
Dallas in local band power 
and even as a preferred stop for touring national acts. For original music Denton was largely limited 
to a former State Fair corn dog stand and a still intact ex-Pizza Hut, 
which served hot dogs and 
hamburgers, instead. Then, there were frequent house parties (more on 
that, later). Guitarist and 
singer Tim Pope joined then-exotic percussionist Holland in more 
toned-down affairs than what 
appears here, some 25 years later, for their first-ever studio release. 
The tempos and instrumentation 
go from one extreme to another, light and heavy like an Iron Butterfly (Pope used to look like he could 
have been a member of said band). There's a lot of humor, but, if you're 
not a fanboy or a former 
NTSU student, some of it MIGHT go over your head. Or just get stuck in 
your head and STAY there. 
They're joined by a full studio ensemble on most tracks, but since I 
don't do acid (and, I'm NOT 
saying they do, either), I'm having a really hard time reading the 
liners. Pope and Holland pull off 
some unique harmonies, and Pope lays down some cool coffeehouse acoustic 
and hard Garage/Psych 
electric guitar while Holland makes with both Latin percussion and big, bawdy Rock'n'Roll 
drums. All or mostly originals, barring a strong version of "2000 Man" 
by The Rolling Stones (I can't 
BELIEVE no one jumped on the chance to cover this when said year rolled 
around, especially with the 
prophetic line "Well, my wife still respects me, I've really misused her, I am having an affair with a 
random computer."), reworking the lyrics slightly, and throwing a verse 
to suit the year 2010, when 
this was recorded. It's just possible, too, that they recorded it in 
honor of the nearly-forgotten 
version KISS did in '79 (But the fact that the band members are dressed, 
quite convincingly, as Paul 
Stanley and Peter Criss, on the cover, didn’t influence my 
observation). The acoustic/electric tug of 
war reminds me of The Deviants' and Pink Fairies' first albums, while 
other songs, still take on a 
Hawkwind "Space Rock" quality. "Klaarg The Klingon" sounds like The 
Simpsons doing Star Trek, 
not a bad thing at all. The real standout track has got to be "The Leaning 
House," a staple in their set 
back in The 80s.  The Leaning House was this old house in Denton that 
sorta ...leaned. It's possible, 
somehow, that it's still standing (last I heard, it was). All the Punk 
Rock Art Student people seemed 
to live there, yet, it was hard to tell who actually lived there, and 
who was visiting. The Leaning 
House was host to many great parties, with local bands and visiting 
performers from as far away 
as...Dallas. These parties were often shut down or quieted down, anyway , by the cops, while the frat house next door carried on at three times the volume. But, Monster Island 
Plus could tell you more of 
it's legend than I can, here. They could also tell you more of the legend 
of special guest guitarist, 
Takashi O'Hashi, a megastar in Japan. So, while this group carries with
it a "Hey, your chocolate is in 
my peanut butter!/Hey! Your peanut butter's in my chocolate!" aesthetic, a collection of musical and personal explorations, gathered over more than half a lifetime, the end result makes perfect sense in this day and age. 

Chase Hamblin "A Fine Time"

( (Guest Review by John Batlles) Chase Hamblin is a songwriter of contrasts, not contradictions. His carefully orchestrated compositions never seem overblown. And his voice is both high-pitched and authoritative, kind of like Leonard Grave Phillips if he took himself seriously. Fans of, oh, I dunno, Nilsson, Badfinger, Hollies, Kinks, Brian Wilson, and maybe even that Lil' Ol Band of Randy Scouse Gits will probably enjoy this profusely. You'd swear this guy wears his hair long and straight, with a top hat and a black suit (and, you' be correct) while he acts as Ringmaster in his own Rock'n'Roll Circus.  Sometimes you can hear a pin drop even as horn or string sections weave in and out of the mix, and straight up rock guitars and Hammond B3 organ enter the ring. There's even a garage rock-derived number, if you're patient. Hamblin is a name to watch out for in the near future. His musicianship, songwriting, and singing are all tasteful and confident, and his command of the studio is remarkable. And, guys, you might want to put this on when she's over. 

Floored By Four

( Remember when Mike Watt made 90 second songs? Remember when Nels Cline performed in a band that made him make boring music? Remember when Yuka Honda made cute songs about food? Remember when you didn't know who Dougie Bowne is? Well forget all those rememberings, because this art jam power quartet cleans the slate and builds a musical mountain that infects earholes like an alien virus while midwifing the birth of a new sound form and making writers nonsensically mix metaphors! Not exactly rock or noise or prog or jazz or jam or inside-out-Steely Dan-music, this is harder to describe than it is to heartily recommend. I only wish my description could be more florid by a fourth!

Slim Cessna's Auto Club "Unentitled"

(Alternative Tentacles) Americana so creepy, ominous, nuanced, weird, rich, and multi-layered that it's downright Un-American! I demand to see this band's birth certificate!

Citizen Fish "Goods"

(Alternative Tentacles) The only band alive not featuring septuagenarian Jamaicans that can incorporate ska without embarrassing themselves. Dick Lucas' timeless (though 70s-ish) urgent, convincing punk vocals mixed with the ska-party vibe of the instrumentation adds up to that punky reggae party we heard so much about back in the day but never really experienced.

niceness in the '90s an indie music memoir by Jim Miller

(Pleasant Peasant) I once read a book by a gifted writer about his days in a minor 90s indie band that he thought was really important and interesting, and it was torturous. Although Miller is not as good a writer, and his stories are probably less interesting on a whole, this book is actually a pleasant read, in part because Miller seems to be a humble, honest dude who realizes his career in the marginal bands Trash Can School and Black Angel's Death Song was not monumental, but meant something to him, and he relates that well. The book also highlights his brushes with West Coast 90s rock royalty, even if their are pretty tangential (he's friends with Jane, whose addiction proved inspirational, and his band briefly rode L7's short coattails to decent bookings). Even his tales of groupie hook ups are kind of grounded and humble. And most importantly, he's a Chicago South Sider by birth, so we give him extra props and a Polish sausage for that.

Said I had a vision - Songs & labels of David Lee

(Paradise of Bachelors) Although technically this is a label compilation rather than a single-artist album, as framed by the archivist/record geeks who put this together "Said I had a vision" is the story of David Lee, the artist. The North Carolinian ran labels that released a handful of records in the 60s, 70s and 80s, by a diverse roster of artists, but most of the songs were penned by the genre-bending visionary, and that he could shift gears between soul and gospel, righteous and ridiculous, funky and solemn, makes this LP a fascinating document. The money shot of this comp is supposed to be the stellar (and highly collectible) Ann Sexton 1-2 punch of a single "You're Letting Me Down" b/w "You've Been Gone to Long" (the latter one of the many songs where that rogue "Jody," who Johnnie Taylor seemed to know a little too much about, got your girl). Certainly the remarkable voice of Sexton (a fine soul vocalist who had enough regional hits to she would have been vaguely familiar to avid crate diggers even if those kooky British Northern Soulsters didn't elevate her to superstar status) is noteworthy, and it's really intriguing to hear how Lee's composition could be lifted by a gifted interpreter. But for my money the best tunes on here are the gospel numbers by the Mellerairs, "Vision" and "Aint it a Shame." The latter  hasn't left my head for a week. The recording date of that simple, near perfect hymn is unclear, though it seems to be from the 80s. To say its songwriting and recording are timeless is not just a turn of phrase here -- you could successfully pass this off as a 60s, 70s, 80s, or contemporary recording. Other mutts in Lee's litter of musical miscegenation include Bill Allen's "The Party," a slightly warped slice of country soul rock 'n' roll with a littel psychedelic acid slipped into the moonshine, the Constelations' R&B workout "If Everybody" and their novelty dance tune "The Frog," and Brown Sugar, Inc.'s numbers, which range from bare bones sweet soul to a sublimely familiar party jam. The album ends with Lee himself delivering a soulful, country, bluesy, mildly poppy, gospel-ish ballad in a hauntingly unusual voice that teases listeners -- had he recorded all his compositions himself perhaps Lee would now be considered an odd vocal genius, a cult hero, an outsider artist (though his expert, beautifully rushed phrasing of "days...weeksandmonthsandyearsgoneby-y-y-y..." marks him as anything but naive), who knows? But thanks to this worthy release (accompanied by an LP sized booklet that squeezes as many vintage photos as it can between generous chunks of text telling Lee's story in simple yet poetic language) he'll be considere something. And that's good enough, because he certainly was something.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Truman Bentley, Jr. newsletter

(3219 Carden Dr. Columbus GA 31907-2143) I gave myself a nice injection of danger and challenge today by reading the latest stack of Bentley's dada/fluxus/riotous rant/megolomania-gasm publications on a crowded bus. The danger was that anytime one unfolds one of these dense, collage-explosion sheets you never know what offensive, absurdist, Satanic, PC-insensitive image or text might catch the eye of the citizens seated around me -- one envelope opened up and cascaded dozens of confetti-sized advertisements for the anti-Obama tabloid The Sovereign just as the bus entered Obama's neighborhood! The challenge involved getting inside the hand-made, tape sealed envelopes which normally require surgical instruments to open. While I would contend that despite Bentley utilizing the kook-aesthetics of single spaced, ultra-dense, maniacal pop-culture obsessed (he must have just reconnected with the 60s show the Avengers recently) diatribe style, I do not consider him any kind of a dangerous, weirdo threat. However, while struggling to open these paper and tape lockboxes I definitely thought, "No way in hell am I using my teeth and putting one of these things in my mouth!" What I also realize about discussing someone who communicates in classic "kook" mode is that despite presenting this stuff to you, dear reader, like there's some universality, with cats like this I really don't know if he sends this to thousands of folks or just to me! All that said, Bentley's writings on world domination, aspiring culthood, Sonny Bono, conspiracy, sensuality, Yoko Ono, space aliens, and sitcoms is OK in my book. But not in my mouth.

University of Strangers by Bob Pfeifer

(Smog Veil) Pfeifer's novel, which marries the oral history format so popular in punk rock non-fiction with the diary format that rules the pre-teen girl book market, is a brisk, thrilling dip into conspiracy, corruption, and celebrity. What makes his exploration of the latter interesting is the decision of  Pfeiffer, a rock 'n' roll lifer, to find a way to sincerely lionize and celebrate musicians authors, filmmakers, comics, and journalists he admires without cynicism or any TMZ-esque desire to tear 'em down. The story is a fantasy about a Latin American novelist recruiting a high echelon hipster approved army of well known artists to fight injustice, and it intriguingly satellites the Amanda Knox trial in Italy. Despite that description, the novel is mostly low key and realistic. Though, in honor of Latin American novelists of renown, the realism while not reaching the level of magical certainly falls into the realm of absurd realism. I don't read tons of fiction, so pardon my limited palette of references, but I have to say that Pfeifer's torrent of well known name after name does not demonstrate the writerly chops of someone like Coover who intentionally overwhelms with excess, or even of that American Psycho book where all the brand names set the weird tone. And the author also has a little trouble writing in the voice of distinct comics like Woody Allen and Steven Colbert. But what the writing does achieve is a driving rhythm with characterizations that ring true enough to make the reader feel invested, and a narrative that is prurient, heroic, and cliffhanger-y enough to make reading it kind of delightful. Includes a bonus download card of songs to accompany the album, but I have a strict policy of not putting anything associated with conspiracy theories into my computer.

Razorcake #59, #60, #61

( As a dude of a certain age, and someone who always considers the eras of pre-and-post Green Day/Hot Topic/not-getting-beat-up-in-high-school-for-dressing-punk-rock, I will always see Maximumrocknroll as the legit “punk bible” and everything else as a pretender or  riff on it.  That said, I can honestly say I never waited anxiously for the next issue of MRR, but after part one of the Nervous Gender interview in Razorcake #58 I couldn’t wait to read this issue. It was pretty satisfying that the story of an L.A. 70s/early 80s punk band I’d heard of but knew little about turned out to be the tale of triumph/tragedy/absurdity involving a band made up of gays, Latinos, artfuck geniuses and at times L.A scenester-turned lesbian folk singer-turned Duke Kahanamoku statue restorer Phranc, and a German illegal alien toddler on drums. This story is crazy interesting, and even though part two didn’t match the pure absurdity of part one it had a lot more human emotion and beautiful narrative. This is an amazing thing to cover, and while I still don’t care about most of the new bands they feature, I can’t point out enough how much I appreciate the magazine really doing legwork to cover under-documented historic bands (Thee Undertakers article a few issues back was also awesome). This issue also has an interview with cult actress Mary Woronov. Though issue 60 breaks the streak of unbelievable, unknown 70s bands coverage, it does have a pretty detailed, clearly written, lengthy How To Put our Your Own records guide. And issue #61 has new Roctober contributor Ryan Leach using the most tenous of punk connections (his years working the non-music angles at Seattle's Rocket magazine) to get him to expound on the evils of media conglomeration. (note: I wanted to put a weblink up to a story or photo of Phranc doing the restoration work on the Waikiki beach statue of the father of modern surfing Duke Kahanamoku but it wasn’t online anywhere, but it really happened, I swear).

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Hot Rod Hucksters "Party at Sam's Place"

( (GUEST REVIEW BY JOHN BATTLES) The first rule , it seems, to being a modern Rockabilly band, is you've got to sound like PUSSIES. I was around when The Stray Cats ruled the roost for about a year, and Rockabilly bands were springing up like so many pigeon turds at the Uptown Chicago train stations. The hell of it is, a lot of them could have taken the current crop down to the mat, contrived as they may have been. The Hot Rod Hucksters prove to be an exception on their new CD, which was recorded at Sun Studio (that may sound a wee bit precious to some but, they played the room, the room did'nt play them). The result is an uncharacteristically stripped-down latter-day billy bash. Some strong originals here, but it's mostly covers associated with Sun Records or the era in which it peaked. Standouts include "Love Me" by The Phantom, wilder than you think , and Charlie Feathers' later recording, "Rain".  "Boozer" is a standout original by guest vocalist and  pianist Tim's the only time you'll hear the "F" word on this CD, and he takes his sweet time getting there. Another special guest at this session is Lisa Manson from The Dyes, Chicago's most promising young Rockabilly/Garage/ Children of Lux and Ivy band out there today. Lisa lends her most howlin' and wailin'est Wandafied vocals to Elvis' badass blues "Trouble" (based, of course, on Jackie DeShannon's "Bad Girl" version), Johnny Powers' "New Spark," and even "That's All Right," the one that started it all (Dan Kroha told me Muddy Waters' "I Can't Be Satisfied" was actually the first Rockabilly song, but I'll make bet it was Leadbelly's "Defense Blues"). The Hot Rod Hucksters play with genuine fervor and, there's that word again, rawness, but not at the cost of their own professionality. I want to tell America, these are good boys, and they play the HELL out of that Rockabilly music. (Apologies to Mike Stax)

Downliners Sect "Dangerous Ground"

(SteadyBoy) (GUEST REVIEW BY JOHN BATTLES) The Sect returns! But in order to venture forward they had to, first, go back. This, the first-ever US release of a Sect studio album, was actually recorded and released in Europe back in 1998, utilizing the same lineup that performed, to date, their only two live concert appearances in America, in 2001 AND 2004, respectively. I was at both shows, and they killed! Harmonica player Paul Martin left the band a few years ago, and, sadly, drummer Alan Brooks left this world recently. The band is still killin' 'em on the homefront, and who knows? Maybe we'll still have our chance to see them again Back in The U.S.A. (Uh-huh , EE - VUN!). Not surprisingly, the fiery Rhythm 'n' Blues sound of days gone by is all still there, from the Bo Diddley beatin' rhythm section to the warm, bluesy tone of the slide guitar. Apart from a nod to their Skiffle roots, "Working on The Railroad," this is an otherwise all-originals collection, and their songwriting skills are as strong as ever. There's been another studio LP, not yet available in the states, but this is easily their best studio effort since "Showbiz," the band's comeback album and call to arms, not against, but with, the pub and punk rock bands they inspired. "Dangerous Ground" is just a great album, whether you're already a fan, or whether you only know them through Billy Childish, who picked up much of his sound, dress sense and Snagglepuss phraseology from the Sect, or if you've never heard 'em at all but know the blues don't have to be a drag, and Rock 'n' Roll does'nt need to sag. Their work here is fun. My work here is done. Exit, stage right !

Monday, March 21, 2011

The Chainbreaker Bike Book by Shelly Lynn Jackson and Ethan Clark, A Rough Guide to Bicycle Maintenance By Shelly Lynn Jackson, Bipedal, by Pedal (edited by Joe Biel), Anarchist Bike Rally / Confidential Mad Libs (compiled by Joe Biel)

Guest Reviews by John Greenfield) (MicrocosmThe Chainbreaker Bike Book is a great DIY guide to bicycle repair and bike culture from two veterans of the grassroots bicycle scene in pre-Katrina New Orleans. The first half of the book is a punk-rock mechanics manual, breaking down the art of bike maintenance to a level that anyone can understand, with a friendly, encouraging voice and charming, hand-drawn illustrations. The second half reproduces all four issues of Jackson’s Chainbreaker zine, the hard copies of which were destroyed during the hurricane. Articles range from a tribute to African-American cycling great 
Marshall “Major” Taylor to a hilarious story about delivering friend chicken by cargo bike to Bourbon Street strippers.
In A Rough Guide to Bicycle Maintenance, Jackson provides the essential info you need to keep your bike running – flat fixes, brake adjustments and basic tune-ups – into zine form. This is perfect for those who are just getting started with doing their own wrenching. 
Bipedal, by Pedal is a collection of essays and cartoons about the history and significance of the worldwide Critical Mass bicycle protest-parade phenomenon. It is a great primer for anyone who is new to the movement, as well as a nice roll down memory lane for seasoned Massers. 
Anarchist Bike Rally / Confidential Mad Libs is a little booklet that provides Critical Mass comedy courtesy of the Portland, OR, Bureau of Police, via the Freedom of Information Act. A collection of police documents dating from 1993 to 2005 keeping tabs on the Rose City’s burgeoning Critical Mass bike ride, it reveals the cops’ growing paranoia that this parade of scruffy two-wheeled activists would “start a riot that would endanger the lives of families and children.” It’s a hilarious read. 

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Spider Fever "Whatcha Gonna Do" b/w "Party Girl"

(Hozac) Raw but unmurky punk magic from San Francisco that manages to channel the three V's: Viletones, Sonny Vincent, and a mean vampire. The b-side sounds exactly like what you pretend that 1976 Killed By Death single you spent a month's rent on sounds like.

Women in Prison "Strange Waves" ep

(Hozac) This record is a cloud of guitar noise fists pummeling music angels. And that's not a metaphor, that's a fact.

X-Ray Eyeballs "Crystal" ep

(Hozac) Sex-splayed my earballs.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Tiny Tim “Lost and Found”

(Secret Seven) (Guest Review by Clara Ware [with optional afterword by Chris Ware]) 
I love Tiny Tim. He’s my favorite singer. I have all of his songs on my radio. When I first heard him I thought he was a girl because of his high voice. And when I first saw a picture of him I thought he was a girl because of his long hair. But he can sing in all kinds of different voices! He’s a girlish boy and he sings in boy-girl voices and he sends nice messages. My most favorite Tiny Tim song is “My Dreams are Getting Better All the Time,” but my new favorite song is “Me and the Man on the Moon,” which is on this record.

Do you know why Tiny Tim played ukulele? It’s because he started off playing a guitar but then he researched that he could run away faster with a ukulele if somebody was chasing him. He also drank tomato sauce and ate pumpkin seeds. (He would not probably eat them at a restaurant, though maybe he could just order some tomato sauce at a restaurant and at Halloween time when he would carve a pumpkin then he could eat the seeds.) If he was alive now I would give him a huge hug and I would say “I love you!”

Some of the songs on this record are rockin’ and some are jazz-rockin’ and a lot are him playing his ukulele by himself. Some songs are old versions of other songs, like with trumpets going in different tunes than in the later ones. But “I Ain’t Got No Money” — this is the one! Doesn't it sound good? The beginning sounds like daytime. The tune is great. It makes me think of a broken electric guitar. I like to dance to it. “Maggie May” is kind of too slow for me, but it’s still cool, though — he sounds like he's trying to be an old man. My favorite song of all is “Me and The Man in the Moon.” I like it because it's about how people made fun of Tiny Tim, so it's kind of sad and kind of happy. I like how it starts the best, because it sounds like soldiers marching or that song "Those Were the Days my Friend" by that lady. (I like that song, too.) I really think this is the best song on the record.

“On the Old Front Porch” is good but I kind of like the later version better because there are more instruments — this one is just him playing his ukulele. I think “When You and I Were Young, Maggie” is about somebody getting married. It's sad because it also sounds like somebody dying.

If I was going to say something about this record I would say “it’s good!” and I would also say “buy it!”

Thank you!


My daughter Clara (six years old as of March 4th, 2011) first became enamored of Tiny Tim (born Herbert Khaury 1932-1996) at age three while on a car trip to Michigan; I happened to have his renditions of “On the Good Ship Lollipop” and “Livin' In The Sunlight, Lovin' In The Moonlight” mixed into a CD of time-passing oddities and she kept asking me to play those songs over and over — and over. She also asked me who was singing and what he looked like and, especially, if we could get more songs by this person. For years my friends Walt Holcombe and David Greenberger had been telling me that as a ragtime record collector I should really look into Tiny Tim — “you’d like him,” they both said — but stubbornly, like a record collector, I resisted. I guess it takes ones own progeny (and a longing for musical variety on car trips) to really be prodded into action, because, well, they were right; after a gradual warming to his music and a concomitant slow accretion of his recorded oeuvre at the insatiable urging of Clara, I’ve come to the not-unique-at-all conclusion that Tiny Tim is one of the most fascinating, if not great, musical recording artists of the 20th century. 

Among the first public examples of the “collector” culture that now more or less defines American popular music, he grew up in Washington Heights, spurned for his strange looks and mixed background, losing himself in ragtime recordings of the turn of the century and comic books (sob! My brother!), playing ukulele on the New York subways and in East Village bars until being “discovered,” offered a record contract and rising on the crest of an amazing wave of late-1960s weirdness that crashed him into everyone’s prime-time living rooms, famously culminating in his marriage on “The Tonight Show” in front of tens of millions of eyeballs. But the tide receded quickly, and by the early 1970s he was left broke and divorced, playing ever-smaller venues and circus side-shows into the ‘80s and ‘90s — yet remaining every bit as awkwardly dignified and optimistic as he ever was, right up until the end when he collapsed back stage shortly after singing “Tiptoe Through the Tulips” for one last time.

I have to thank Clara for taking the time to listen and hear what I’d been missing. We’ve since as much of Tiny Tim’s available output as we could, and she’s gotten some of her friends interested, as well (young girls really like this guy!) memorizing probably three-quarters of the recordings: well-known songs, completely obscure songs, great songs and truly awful songs. This new album collects records previously available only to die-hard paleontologists (we’d previously heard most of them on a bootleg CD via the efforts of kind collector Ernie Clark) though the recordings here have been well cleaned and very well curated, spanning Tiny Tim’s interest in popular tunes from the 19th century (“When You and I Were Young, Maggie”) to the ragtime era (“On the Old Front Porch” — this early rendition more exactly imitates the Billy Murray/Ada Jones 78 from 1913) to his multiple attempts at comebacks as exemplified by the sad tune “Me and the Man on the Moon,” which may be YouTubed by contemporary listeners for added pathos. In all of these recordings his gawky earnestness and matronly self-possession come across warmly and clearly, cradling the last tattered threads of self-sung popular song into the harsh environment of the 20th century mainstream music industry, where I think it’s safe to say they’re now being woven back into the fabric of our culture, at least if the increasing interest in early music and homemade performance is any indicator. I should add that Tiny Tim was also never anything but “himself”; any teenager who’s ever listened to some inside voice and decided to change their shoes or their hairstyle or their voice — and now, any teenager who doesn’t do this is actually considered somewhat weird — owes something to Tiny Tim for telling him or her that “it’s okay.” God bless us all, every one.

Tutu and the Pirates "Sub-Urban Insult Rock For the Anti/Lectual 1977-1979"

(Factory 25) Had they ever released anything Tutu and the Pirates would undoubtedly be considered not only one of the pioneers of Chicago punk, but also one of the most gloriously absurd, totally fucked up bands in this city's long absurd fucked up musical history. But because the ridiculous rockers, who utilized plumbing tools, porno, and mountain man beards as props, and sang about serial killers, child killers, zombies, sadism, rats, Freud, and pimples, were such a popular live act that they couldn't conceive of not being signed, and never self-released any of their fine 70s recordings. Thus they were an unjustly forgotten band. After being featured in the Chicago punk documentary You Weren't There the band not only began playing reunion shows but also agreed to release their glorious archival material. Certainly a band this ridiculous made music that can be considered novelty punk, but what punk can;t be considered novelty punk? Describing the music, lyrics, and impact of these songs feels like trying to explain a joke, so I will simply say that if you have any interest in punk history, or just have a sick sense of humor, you should seek this out.


(Hozac) Half haunted house soundtrack/half audio drug trip, this is an album that you may not remember any details about after you're done listening to it, but your brain will be significantly altered. The "K" stands for "kinda hazy about what the hell just happened here."

Maximumrocknroll #335

( What has always been good about MRR are the columns, the zillions of ads that provide a snapshot of "the scene," the often absurd scene reports, and...maybe nothing else. Some of the record reviews are good, but so many are abysmally written it's hard to endorse them as a whole (though I'm fonder of the book and movie reviews, which are longer, and in the 80s and 90s I definitely used the zine reviews as a catalogue), and the interviews with bands are pretty boring. What is sometimes good about the zine are theme issues, including the recent comix issue and the great gay punk issues years ago (which featured an awesome, clearly fake piece about skinhead bootboy bed buddies). What is sometimes great is the April Fool's issue - I think one issue had folks freaking out because the zine was ending and going internet only or something, and the one I loved involved every columnist conspiring to include something about some heinous fate slated for MRR's deceased founder's legendary record collection (prankish-ly hitting record geeks where it hurts most). Sadly, The Christian Punk Issue is not a theme issue, even though Christian punks are interesting topic (Chicago's Jesus People USA used to fascinate me), and more sadly as an April 1 prank they only go as far as the visual pun on the cover. Still, this ish had tons of great ads!

I Slept With Joey Ramone by Mickey Leigh with Legs McNeil

(Touchstone) They say rock & roll was the safe haven of many a misfit. This tome offers unflinching, conclusive proof. Mickey was the brother of the
late great Ramones frontman, and knew Joey when he was still Jeff Hyman, long before he had a street named after him in New York's East Village. The tale is riveting, but not a pretty one, following the family as they move through several neighborhoods, having to deal each time with a new group of neighborhood kids who can't quite get used to the enigma that was Joey, with a divorce unceremoniously thrown in the mix. It's one thing to be friendless when you're just a kid on the block, but the drama really heightens during the Ramones years - despite the all for one/one for all aura, Joey is constantly butting
heads with guitarist Johnny Ramone. After Johnny steals Joey's girl, you can see Joey gradually embracing his inner asshole, becoming more bitter as the book (and, unfortunately, his life) grinds to a halt. Leigh's involvement doesn't end when they both move out of their mother's house; through it all, Leigh is moving in the same circles, playing in bands that are roughly contemporaneous with the Ramones (but without the big-label breaks), and even co-writing some of the Ramones' most enduring songs without receiving any credit, which is understandably a sore sticking point. Some harsh truths in this book, but still fascinating.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Janina Angel Bath "Gypsy Woman"

(Prophase) Phreak pholk phlautist Bath delivers 22" of mind expanding psyche/folk/bliss/trance/incantation/majick musick (it's an LP with a 10" hidden in the gatefold like a Crackerjack prize, both pressed in swirly colored-sand-in-a-bottle colored vinyl). While the album(s)'s tracks at times sound more like rituals (or ethnic instrument experimentations) than songs they are never boring, and while deep, droning sounds often dominate this never seems dreary. And I have a theory that explains these seemingly otherworldly anomalies: she actually is an angel.

Paul McCartney Really Is Dead: The Last Testament of George Harrison

(MVD(Guest Review by Gary Pig GoldIn the summer of 2005, a package arrived at the Hollywood offices of Highway 61 Entertainment from London with no return address. Inside were two mini-cassette audio tapes dated December 30, 1999 and labeled The Last Testament of George Harrison.

A voice eerily similar to Harrison's tells a shocking story: Paul McCartney was killed in a car crash in November of 1966 and replaced with a double!
British intelligence, MI5, had forced the Beatles to cover up McCartney’s death to prevent mass suicides of Beatle fans. However, the remaining Beatles tried to signal fans with clues on album covers and in songs.

Until now, the “Paul Is Dead” mystery that exploded worldwide in 1969 was considered a hoax. However, in the film Paul McCartney Really Is Dead: The Last Testament of George Harrison, the mysterious voice on the tapes reveals a secret Beatles history, chronicling McCartney’s fatal accident, the cover up, dozens of unknown clues, and a dangerous cat and mouse game with “Maxwell,” the Beatles' MI5 handler, as John Lennon became increasingly reckless with the secret. The voice also claims that Lennon was assassinated in 1980 after he threatened to finally expose “Paul McCartney” as an imposter!

Highway 61 Entertainment has investigated this stunning new account of the conspiracy to hide McCartney’s tragic death and produced this unauthorized documentary that includes newly unearthed evidence. The mysterious voice on the audio tapes narrates the entire film in what may prove to be the most important document in rock and roll history, leaving little doubt that PAUL MCCARTNEY REALLY IS DEAD!

Nevertheless, as undoubtedly and forevermore convincing as this stunning film may certainly be, your intrepid Rock and Roll Reporter has in fact gone to the ends of the Internet to fearlessly uncover, believe them or not….


1. Give My Regards To Broad Street (…especially the movie).

2. James Paul McCartney (the real one) was born in Walton Hospital, Liverpool, on the 18th of June, 1942. Numerically, that makes him a Number 6. However, the sixth song on the album Beatles 6, “Words Of Love,” was in fact composed by Buddy Holly, who died not only on the third of February, 1959, but stipulated in his last testament that all posthumous, universal rights to his publishing catalog be granted in perpetuity to none other than JAMES PAUL McCARTNEY for the nominal fee of… two hundred and fifteen thousand dollars (U.S.)

3. When spoken backwards, the title of the 2006 Paul McCartney classical album Ecce Cor Meum is MUEM ROC ECCE.

4. Paul McCartney’s first fiancé, the actress and cake decorator Jane Asher, most recently appeared on British television in the comedy series The Old Guys. Its first season theme song was composed by the Scottish poet/humorist Ivor Cutler who, in 1967, was actually hired by the fake Paul McCartney to portray bus conductor Buster Bloodvessel in the Beatles’ Magical Mystery Tour. Buster, in one of the film’s most truly disturbing of many such sequences, is seated at a restaurant table alongside Ringo’s auntie Jessie as she is being served shovels full of stale, flaccid spaghetti by none other than… JOHN LENNON.      

5. Throughout the Beatles Anthology “bonus” material featuring Threetles Ringo, George and “Paul” sitting and reminiscing over ukuleles together, George is constantly seen being painfully condescending to (when not ignoring altogether, that is) none other than… PAUL McCARTNEY.

6. When you hold a hand mirror beneath the title written across the top of The Beatles’ Second Album jacket, you have to be very careful not to tilt the cover too much to the right, otherwise the record itself will fall out of its sleeve and most likely become soiled and possibly even permanently damaged by coming in contact with the floor below.  

7. “I haven’t spoken with Paul in several weeks now myself”:  RINGO STARR, Press Conference, Fallsview Casino, Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada, June 23, 2010.

8. Everyone, from producer George Martin on down, seems to agree that the Beatles’ 1968 double-length White Album should have been shortened by at least fifty-per-cent. But nobody to this day – including EITHER Paul McCartney – can agree on exactly which songs to cut!

9. Throughout the 1999 Nitin Sawhney remix of the Fireman single “Fluid (Out Of Body),” an electronically-altered tape loop of a voice sounding strangely like that of Percy “Thrills” Thrillington can be heard saying, over and over, “Fluid (Out Of Body) doesn’t really mean Fluid Out Of Body, as in Fluid pouring Out Of somebody’s Body – presumably mine – like the Bodily Fluids, mainly blood, which supposedly poured out of my body when I was decapitated and left to look like a walrus during a horrific car crash late on the rainy night of November 9, 1966 after I angrily stormed out of a Beatles recording session following a heated debate with John Lennon over why I wasn’t allowed to perform on the track ‘She Said She Said’ …REALLY!”

10. Had the real James Paul McCartney still been alive, the makers of Paul McCartney Really Is Dead: The Last Testament of George Harrison would certainly have already heard from his solicitors.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Roch "Lightweight Bipolar Mania"

( Much like the insect with which they almost share a name, this rock-inflected, emo rap act will survive a nuclear holocause based on tenacity, vocabulary, and fashion sense.

DA "!"

(Factory 25) Of Chicago's early punk bands DA is one of the most interesting although theoretically they shouldn't be. Chicago's early 80s bands tended to be cerebral (even when Bondi tried to be a meathead it was brainy, smart meat). Obviously Chicago was on the verge of an Industrial revolution in the 80s, so being dark was par for the course. And having a poet's soul like vocalist Lorna Donley was nothing special in the town that spawned poetry slams and Algebra Suicide. Yet somehow the band (much more convincingly in this full LP of unreleased recordings as opposed to the 1982 single I'd previously heard) manage to make smart, dark, poetic punk/post-punk really resonate with spooky rock 'n' roll power. And contrary to rumor, their name was not based on the local pronunciation of "the."

the book bindery. by Sarah Royal

( I imagine these detailed, rich, funny, sometimes bizarre, lovingly told work stories have quite a bit universality -- although I fear too many people have labored only at corporate, personality-free workplaces, even most TGI Fridays, Staples, or patent law offices have strange personalities, goofy power dynamics, and wiggle room for levity and mischief. Of course, unlike Sarah's experiences, they won't have cross-dressing bosses, mysterious mafia bar lunch joints, and classic rock dudes...oh wait, every company has classic rock dudes working somewhere. What makes this book extra special to Chicagoans is the snapshot of a weird neighborhood filled with great local characters that ring so true to our odd awesome city. That Sarah also explains how book binding works, gives a feel for her bike and bus commutes (including her friendship with  a sad, lovely bus buddy), and conveys more thrill than drudge in describing her work days makes this an awesome read.

Clarence "Jelly" Johnson "Low Down Papa"

(Delmark) I am still more impressed and baffled by player piano technology than I am by any subsequent digital innovations. And this is not me being some kind of analog luddite, I just actually can't believe that over 100 years ago somebody could play a piano and a roll of paper could record what he or she played and then you could roll it again and it would sound like that person jamming! That's like speaking into some toilet paper and then playing it back! That's better than anything your iphone does! Again, I'm not denigrating digital, the fine enhancements they seem to have done to make these 1920s "roll-cordings" by Chicago ivory ticker "Jelly" Johnson sound like he's in the room with you is 010100101-derful! (Get it? "ONE-derful") While obviously the technological miracle of a piece of paper capturing the inflections and organic warmth of one the city's greatest blues pianists is baffling, whatever space age voodoo made it sound clean, new and warm is welcome in my book. The reason it was worth gushing over these audio-documenting marvels from either side of the millennium is that unlike a scratchy, hollow sounding 78 or a thin-sounding MP3 you found online, this record really lets you hear the music, not the age or rarity or archival relevance of these songs. Tracks like the groovy "That's Your Yass, Yass, Yass," the lovely "Moanin' the Blues," the slinky "Corn Trimmers" (I'm sure whatever that means is nowhere near as perverse as I imagine...but maybe I shouldn't be so sure), and the naughty title track sound great...not important or ancient or historical or museum-ish...just great! Must be Jelly, 'cause jam don't play like that!

Munly & the Lupercalians "Petr & the Wulf"

(Alternative Tentacles) This sounds like one long theme song for a Wiccan/Were-warlock telenovela on the Renaissance faire-circuit equivalent of cable (maybe such  a thing involves Punch and Judy-style puppets and, if you pay for HD, mushroom distribution). I am not implying that this falls into any lame poseur Wiccan/were-warlock scene...this is hardcore!

Tonetta "777 Vol II"

(Black  Tent) I suspect, using some kind of Bizarro-world Bieber philosophy, VOl. 1's tracks were chosen because they had more popular/interesting Youtube clips focussing on the strange, disconcerting, costumed solo sex-dance music videos of the Immoral Mr. T. (obscure Russ Myers reference...look it up). However, the songs on volume II are way better, or worse depending on which side of the sewer you're seeing things from. One aspect that fascinates me about  Tonetta is that he's theoretically homophobic in the sense that when he sings about any of his own gay desire or activity it is so drippingly, repulsively, creepy that it kind of slanders all same-sex scenarios. Of course that would also apply to all Tonetta's hetero, solo, and other sex stuff too...Tonetta triumphantly soils all imaginable carnality with his magnificent weirdness! He actually makes rape sound so bad that you forget it was pretty fucking bad to start with. The other great thing about Tonetta is the minimal music that seems to be out to discover the absolute least amount of distance one must travel from Wesley Willis' play-the-default-keyboard-setting philosophy to actually make songs that are so catchy they bore into your head...and then, of course,  spooge!