Saturday, April 16, 2011

Hipshakers Vol. 2 - Scratch That Itch

(Vampi Soul) This boss biscuit features 20 mostly danceable tracks from the King/Federal catalogue, almost all from the 60s, (an exception being the 1956 burner "Buggy Ride" by pre-Dolemite Rudy Ray Moore). The lineup includes some big names (Willie Dixon, Hank Ballard, Freddy [pre-Freddie] King, and Amos Milburn), though with the exception of Otis Redding doing his legendary "Shout Bamalama," they're doing some pretty obscure numbers that I've never seen on comps. Granted, Eddie Kirk isn't doing the best monkey song, Freddy King's not doing the best Watusi (though he sure can wail on guitar), and "Scratch that Itch" is a pretty generic dance number. But the bands and the singers (especially the chip on her shoulder shouter Carol Ford and the whistling Titus Turner) elevate middle of the pack stuff to joyful jukebox music by sheer will and skill. This is a fun relic of an era when the jump/R&B/orchestra cats who were playing rock 'n' roll before there was rock 'n' roll were still working and didn't have it in them to successfully copy crossover stuff.

nrbq "Keep the Love Goin'"

(Clang) Although the lineup they had from the 70s thorough the 90s wasn't the actual original late 60s lineup, I always saw NRBQ as an act like the Four Tops or the Dells, where the chemistry and truth of the classic lineup was one of the most magical elements. Unfortunately, when Tops stopped spinning on this mortal coil at first it was cool when they went on as a trio, but it just started to sound wrong and bad as original voices were absent or replaced. I don't think the Dells have performed since Johnny Carter's death, which makes sense. But there's no doom to report about the new phase of NRBQ. The great, great, great news to report  is that they are excellent and are making fantastic music. Why shouldn't they? Terry Adams has been playing with the fine Terry Adams Quartet for years and though some may bristle at the recent name change from TAQ to NRBQ, I applaud this. Terry Adams can buy three goldfish and tour as NRBQ and if you refuse to see the show you are going to miss some primo entertainment, cuz Adams knows how to move a crowd. Chicagoans will be a bit biased about the new band because local boy made good Scott Ligon is exerting his influence on this Newer Rhythm Blues Quartet, and anyone who watched him tear up local stages for years can hear his writing, style, and chops driving this great CD. In fact, on the hot opener (a tribute to Boozoo Chavis) you can even hear Adams picking up a few musical tricks from Scott's brother Chris (Adams recently put out a Chris Ligon retrospective CD). But the best thing about this CD is that it's timeless and fun, which is the argument I've often heard about why NRBQ belong in the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame. Adams and his co-horts, old and new, have always tapped into something that makes their music never sound dated and never sound dull. I hope Terry Adams VIII is leading NRBQ in the year 3010!


(Saustex) Here's some things about the white boy blues: the zillionaire practitioners, your Stones and your Zeppelins, seemed to exoticize and condescend the African American bluesmen that begat their artform..all the way to the bank. Then you've got the more reverent students, the Jewboys in Chicago in the 60s, your Bloomfields, Butterfields,  Corky Siegels, paying respect and limiting their own ambitions. Then you've got the kid prodigies turned hacks like Johnny Lang, who you can't blame for seeing Buddy Guy as a cartoon character -- the Papa Smurf who anointed them, hell they were 8 when they started, what did they know? But then you've got the crazy motherfuckers that you really can't even figure out what race, class, logic, soul, or sanity have to do with anything. Little Howling Wolf playing his noseflute on Chicago street corners, a hundred Hasil-inspired wild-eyed one man bands, Captain Beefheart zonking us with his Doo Wah Diddys, schizo Peter Green foregoing Fleetwood Mac success to jam the blues...these are the kooks that midwifed Churchwood's gruff, threatening, slightly bizarre, and 110% badass noisemaking. This is no minstrel show, these Texans are bloozin' it up because they got something smart and ugly to say and they need to express it as simply and pretty as they can, and that's where the blues comes in. That they seem quite possibly out of their gourd nuts doesn't hurt!

Mike Bloom "King of Circles"

(Little Record Company) He's no Mike Bloomfield bluesically and no Mike Bloomberg legislatively, but when this haunting multi-instrumentalist singer songwriter gets on the mic you feel it on your bloomers!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Mama Rosin Together with Hipbone Slim & the Kneetremblers

(Voodoo Rhythm) Wild English bluesabilly meets spooky Swiss Cajun combo and the results are greater than the sun of their parts, yielding low-key, high impact, sublime strangeness. These Europeans don't so much fetishize American rural music as they do practice it as a religion, and this is their authentic, sincere gospel music. Their squeezebox/shuffle version of "California Sun" (or "Louisiana Sun," as it's re-named here) sounds like a million Euros!

The Pussywarmers "The Chronicles of..."

(Voodoo Rhythm) Apparently if you are a Swiss anachronistic jazz orchestra playing a faithful, non-ironic melange of Dixieland/German drinking songs/1930s roller rink organ music/Brecht mutations/oompah/Cab Calloway tribute/French seduction ballad/Tango/warped rural Lomax recording music it somehow sounds like psychedelic punk without even trying!

La Peste DVD

(La Peste) As the music industry morphs, CD sales die, and nobody knows what to do next, it's exciting to see people trying something differently. La Peste was a mid-70s Boston punk band who had a collectible spooky, 3-chord single ("Better Off Dead"/"Black") and who already have had a couple of retrospective compilations released (on Matador and Dionysus). But this release feels like it's trying to not so much re-package material as reinvent the package. If this was just an archival concert released on DVD it would be cool, but this is a concert that was shot eerily well by Jan Crocker (the incredible crowd dancing shots look like they were from a punk rock Soul Train) and the post production is so intense (the sound seems like studio recordings dubbed in/the editing implies more cameras were present than at any 70s punk club gig ever) that this feels like a fresh angle on presenting a band's entire catalogue in the post-music industry era. There are videos in addition to the already music video-ish concert and there is a gallery of images with more audio. And most of all there is some excellent punk rock music captured here in a way that may seem more stilted than punk should be (due to the equivalent of high production values -- I'm sure there was no budget, but the talent of the documentarians makes up for it) but nonetheless captures this magic moment when punk bands weren't sure what punk meant and mixing up awkward lifts from Britain, art rock, garage rock, and melody was fine by every dancing fool in that audience.

The Electric Chair DVD

(MVD) In this strange, beautifully shot oddball of a movie a painfully unfunny aging Jewish would-be comic finds himself  in a weird dive club, populated by cryptic characters (including a praying hassid and a man forcibly ejected for laughing) where he shares the stage with a rimshotting drummer and an electric chair. As his hack one liners morph into the kind of dire, ugly truthtelling that Lenny Bruce thought he was doing the crowd remains stonefaced but the death seat becomes more and more appealing to the sad clown. Obviously adapted from a theater piece (a one man show, I'd venture) this doesn't suffer from the stagey awkwardness that plagues other screen adaptations like Short Eyes, because this dialogue is all supposed to awkward and stilted. Victor Argo is pretty amazing in the lead, and this lost mid-80s black and white art film is really worth watching.

Alive! Is Michael Jackson Really Dead?

(Elbow Grease) This DVD is so great! Not because the content or the research into  a Michael Jackson death hoax is compelling or original -- the bulk of this involves taking stuff from mainstream internet sites and the TMZ TV show. This is great because of the personality of the host, an excited woman named Pearl Jr., a self-described "Michael Jacksonologist." 90% of the video is simply voiceover while clips from TV or images culled from the web illustrate a hodgepodge of disconnected MJ fake death theories, several of which make Paul is Dead conspiracy stuff seem sensible. In choreography seen in the This Is It concert film Jackson has added a move where he points down, indicating that he will be in the ground soon. Numerous cryptic domain names were registered just after Michael's death. On the Forest Lawn website (note that Elvis, who also may have faked his death, was buried in a different cemetery that was also named Forest Lawn) if you type in 'Michael Jackson' it won't tell you where his grave is. All this is set against a repeating loop of scary music. But through all the ominous audio Ms. Jr. never loses her smile. What makes this video  a delight is watching how excited and happy Pearl Jr. is to present even the most modest discovery, to present anything, to just be engaged. Her enthusiasm is unbridled and infectious. As she histrionically punctuates things with "hmmm...," "How is it really possible...," and "well I'm here to tell you...," you totally root for her. TMZ would be ten times better if they fired all the jaded, smarmy hipsters and just went with someone as excited by the work as Pearl Jr.. One theory she presents is that the death must be fake because the surviving Jacksons act so weird (meaning they've been faking deaths for 40 years), and they smile too much for a grieving family. But Pearl Jr. never loses her broad, charming grin no matter how much death and misery she describes, and I would say that unlike some distraught Jackson obsessives, she is not particularly invested emotionally, but rather is recreating a gossipy discussion in a beauty shop where everyone instantly takes an opinion and shakes heads and makes declarations even if they haven't thought it out or don't care that much: it's just a form of fun discourse to pass time and it's actually more enjoyable to watch then dense, kooky, paranoid, hard to fathom conspiracy nut research. She really should have her own show, spending fifteen minutes online researching Bigfoot or Charlie Sheen or Obama's birth certificate and then buoyantly expounding on it for an hour. That's something I'd watch.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Young Islands DVD

(Gulcher) What I hate about every one of the "mumblecore" films that I've seen is that despite being no budget/underground-ish they almost always seem to just be a cheap version of something commercial, with the humor being hackish and the sex or edge or youth-element being manipulatively titillating.  Director/writer Kevin Chenault's Young Islands is a film following a kid who seems relatively OK, other than the bedwetting, glue huffing, bi-curiosity, a hooker hook up, a crumbling family, and an ass kicking. Despite all the action of the previous sentence what makes this film legit is how mundane and straightforward it presents shitty, small town life. The semi-pro acting, the evocative black and white photogrpahy, and the soundtrack (in which poignant ambient sound is occasionally jarred by Gulcher slipping in some Gizmos action) should be a model about how to approach independent, underground, non-commercial film. And how to huff glue.

Me First and the Gimme Gimmes "Go Down Under"

(Fat) MFFATGG make records where they do pop punk style covers of popular songs in different genres/themes, and the albums are usually fun and sound like they're fun to make.  But what I really like on these records is when one of the songs they choose to cover reveals itself to be so powerful and well crafted that not only is the cover version something special but it actually proves incontrovertibly how great the original artist was. While nothing here approaches their cover of Dolly's "Jolene" (certainly the song in the Fat catalogue that gets the most consistent spins in the house) the winner here is definitely Rick Springfield. The Air Supply song shows how that group's harmonies are as important as the composition, the Olivia Newton-John song proves her to have a pretty lucky lady to have ruled the charts with that material, but the Working Class Dog himself, Mr. Mission Magic, Dr. whatever his name was on General Hospital, proves himself to be punk-worthy, kickass, and inspiring, and after Springfield hears this version I bet he adds to "I've Done Everything For You, You've Done Nothing For me," the poignant postscript, "...fuck you!" Sorry to report no Pendulum, Kylie Minogue or Rolf "Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport" Harris included.

O. Rex "My Head's in '73!"

(Gulcher) If this release left out the two CDs and the case contained nothing but the front cover photo of a no-chance-in-hell-to-make-it trio of incongruous dudes looking more confident and badass than any arena rockers ever did, this would still be my favorite release of the year. "My Head's in '73" contains about fifty (!) early 70s ultra no-fi tracks of DIY garage metal punk l trash mush that is so intense, pure, and ridiculous that you'll want to start an O. Rex cover band. In fact, I want to start a band that covers their cover versions (their stakes on Cream and Seeds songs made me cream my seed). I guess I'm supposed to have heard of them before and be excited about this release because O. Rex had a coveted single (included here), had a future Gizmo in the band, and became Afrika Korps, but this is my first O. Rex exposure and the mix of genuinely funny songs, a few kind of moving rock anthems, and a bunch of pure rock 'n' roll, blow me the fuck away. I wish I had the words to convince you to buy this, but I'll leave it simply at BUY THIS!!!!!!!!

Pour Habit "Got Your Back"

(Fat) Should be called "Rich Habit" because this speedy, aggressive, occasionally political, always intense, melodic punk band sounds like a million bucks!

Old Man Markley "Guts N' Teeth"

(Fat) OMM's aggressive bluegrass with some punkish drumming adds youthful appeal to a genre that always had a weird youth element (every bluegrass or fiddling fest I've ever attended has had strange family bands with can't-shave-yet teens sounding like seasoned Bill Monroe sidemen, perfectly vocalizing murder ballads with the same weird detached look in their eyes Michael Jackson always had as little kid). There are at least three things that make this band really stand out. First is the vocalist's staunch refusal to affect a fake hillbilly drawl, instead utilizing the phrasing and tone of pop punk/emo singing, which is rarely a style to aspire to, but it was a good move here. Second is the band's rejection of formula. Some songs are punked up bluegrass, some are straight up traditional, and some are nicely minimalist (the title track is just acoustic, vocal harmonies, and a squeezebox solo). And third: everyone loves fiddles!

Screeching Weasel "First World Manifesto"

(Fat) Watching local Weasel worshippers wring their hands over Ben's recent bad behavior may be the most absurd thing I've seen in decades of seeing intense Chicago punk absurdity. Obviously hitting girls in public is not a good career move, but Weasel (I suppose by his own admission if you consider his chosen punk surname) isn't supposed to be Mr. Nice Guy. He has never been a pleasant presence, his music has always been kind of soulless and cookie cutter, and the look he has in his eyes always conveyed a kind of coldness that  felt like it went against punk community standards (just like Charlie Sheen's cold, beady eyes go against comedy standards). Thus, I am not questioning Screeching Weasel fans for turning on their hero, I'm questioning them for being Screeching Weasel fans. That aside, there are certainly a couple songs on this that remaining SW followers would dig, especially "Fortune Cookie" and "Frankengirl." But there are some things, like the opening track where the never-youthful Weasel sings in his jaded nasal affectation, "don't grow up," that, even if he's knowingly criticizing himself and the scene, are just hard to take.

Ninja Gun "Roman Nose"

( Forlorn folkish country-tinged story songs that make you long for...
a). human contact
b). more music from this moving Georgia act
c). that the band hadn't stuck with the bandname they carved in their desk when they were 11 dreaming about playing Warped Tour.

The Last Relapse "Machine"

( Last Relapse play measured, jarring, genre-defying music that resonates and vibrates with weird energy that makes you want this relapse to last.

Eldridge Rodriguez "You Are Released"

(Midriff) ER, the badass from the Beatings, manages to find either infuse American weith Noise, or do the opposite, and the result is something that has emotional weight and the weiight of a fist hitting you in the gut. Should have called the record "You are Released from the E.R.."

These Trails

(Drag City) This reissue of a 1973 Hawaiian private press nature worshipping non-folkie hippie music LP will not be mother's milk to fans of either heavy psyche (the two tracks titled "Psyche" involve pleasant, mellow finger plucking with a little spooky singing thrown in) nor fans of private press ineptness (though thoroughy uncommercial, this couldn't sound more professional). However, fans of lite psyche will appreciate the mild ominousness of the psyche-ish tracks (especially the rushing wind in "Lost in Space," though I suspect that is an inaccurate interstellar sound effect), and perhaps fans of private recordings made by cults may be able to read something into these lyrics and the occasional creeping darkness in the mostly bright, blissful music. What everyone should dig is that this is really solid, fits no category, and seems to be made by folks invested 110% in a project that they likely did not consider a profession. I just hope McGarrett and Danno never found their stash.

Sidi Toure & Friends "Sahel Folk"

(Thrill Jockey) If you like your Malian music beautiful, beguiling, kora-free, and not on an iffy CD-R purchased from the a guy also selling tea and "folk art," then this will be your cup of tea (do you want a CD-R with that?). Toure (and his friends) play seductive guitar plucked melodies accompanied by entrancing vocals that will leave listeners blissful. What makes this recording so magic is that everyone here seems to be world class yet the session feels low-key, casual and friendly, as if the musicians are hanging out and playing for each other more thans for us. So basically, these djelis jam!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Eprhyme "Dopestylevsky"

(K) This is definitely better than Ephryme's last record, but necessarily more interesting. It used to be when he would rap fast he'd lose his way, and sound like a high school kid doing his best, and now his vocal dexterity is on point. However, I actually liked that patina of amateurishness, now he's got that kind of Frontalot nerdcore thing going on where he's being cerebral and avoiding tough guy ebonics, but he still sounds like he thinks he's too cool for shul. I also certainly appreciate that the tracks are denser, tighter and better, but last time he was using all these klezmer musical cues and I'm not hearing that here. Not that I need Brooklyn Hassidic rappers to be Brooklyn Hassidic from sunup to sundown, but one of my fave things about my days in BK was seeing Orthodox teenage kids with their black hats cocked ace-deuce, knowing full well that they qualify as Brooklyn hipsters despite keeping it Kosher. Not that Eprhyme abandons any ethics or beliefs (this is fully righteous) and he never denies his heritage (destroyed temple metaphors abound and he gets gangster by boasting, "I go from polishing jewels to demolishing crews"). It's just that I guess I prefer weirder records that are worse than badass records that are better. great cover art, btw!

Corpus Christi and Sam Crawford "Charity and Chastity"

(Shit Music for Shit People) Half creepy/half delightful rural folksong weirdness that will make you glad banjos exist. Hank Williams tunes done with the sincerity and authenticity, right down to (sonically) capturing that crazy look in his eye. You will play this cassette so much it will be as worn out as a thrift store cassette copy of Guns n Roses "Lies." 

Rob Carlton "Seven Thunders"

Carlton, who I'm told spent time in the trenches with BOC and Cinderella, delivers some instrumental power-trio style (minus the other two guys matching his heaviness) guitar pummeling. He turns his ax into a broadax slaughtering his sonic enemies! His amps scream to heaven and God nods approvingly! He hits his pedals like he was biking up the rainbow bridge of Asgard! Even on the more introspective tracks his guitar ungently weeps, meaning, it wails.

Precious Jules "Pearls Before Swine" w/ "Chinese Rock"

(Agitated) Garage trash veterans become glammy, vibrating, teenage punkers, making heroin music sound like tootsie roll pops taste.

The Hitmen "Dancing Time '78-'79"

(Shock) I gotta admire this label. Last year I completely savaged a CD of this Aussie pub pop band's 80s output, dismissing it as hackery, then they go ahead and send me another double CD, which musta cost a mint in postage (the CD booklet alone weighs 23 ounces). Apparently they are not gluttons of punishment, but rather a label that lived up to their name by shocking me with a 70s sampling of Rob Kannis' post Radio Birdman project. Opening with some garage rock/doo wop/surf covers (produced by Deniz) this collection keeps up a poppy, punky, edgy, fun party music vibe that is genuinely killer. The best thing on here may be the live version of "Dancing Time" which is more Birdman/Saints or even Stooges/MC5 than anyything on the other Hitmen collection I heard. The crowd is rocking, the guitars are rumbling, and Johnny is cocky in a great way. There's also a killer live cover of "Shake Some Action." That they saw themselves as conduits of 60s garage and it's 70s spawn is what makes these rarities and live tracks so alive, and now my year of denigrating the Hitmen is dead. Have you ever heard of this awesome Australian band, let me tell you about them...

Steve Hofstetter "Pick Your Battles"

(Next Round) I like comedy. It makes me laugh. On occasion. And I like old comedy records. And I like Hofstetter because he pretends to be doing observational comedy but he's really just dropping short joke after short joke which puts him in the old comedy record tradition of masters like Redd Foxx, even if his dry, measured delivery never evokes Foxxian foxiness. Then again, he's pacing himself: standup is a five minute medium and the cat's got an hour to deliver here. I'm kinda tickled at how he seems so proud of his edginess, begging the crowd to react to abortion and cocaine bits, and even doing several jokes about how he's too dirty for little kids to hear, making it seem like he's just a big kid proud of his naughtiness. Which is, of course, the right thing to be proud of. Best joke: "If you do meth you lose your teeth, but you need teeth to say 'meth.'"

hollAnd "I BLOW UP"

(Teenbeat) Half clinical electronic mechanical robot sex music and half spastical rock nroll caveman sloppy sex soundtrackl, this record will get you off at least half the time.

Maybe It's Reno

(Teenbeat) "Unrest" spelled backwards is ""tsernu, and this gorgeous, rich, weird sound thingy by former Unrest-er Bridgit, has her demonstrating some serious tsernus, if you know what I mean. This is the happiest sad music you've ever heard, this is kind of ridiculously beautiful, and this is what a magic music box would play. Maybe it's Awesome!

Groove Junkies "In the Zone"

(MoreHouse) If this release grooved me anymore then if I spun around naked and you put a stylus on me this exact music would emanate from an orifice! In the zone indeed!

Kevin Kinsella "Great Design"

(ROIR) The 10 Foot Ganja Plant dude expands his repertoire (is he now 12 feet?) to add some soulful, phreak pholky, vibes that maintain a mellow while injecting a thrill here and there. Much better than Tim Kinsella's postmodern reggae work!

Subject to Change "Somerville Speakout"

(Teenbeat) The best local cable access show I ever saw had a hoarse black preacher in a crown in an empty studio pontifcating while too-loud free jazz blared in the back/foreground. The only thing that would have made it better would have been if he were a black horse preacher. I bring this up (not the horse part, but the preceding description) because I'm not sure how much I would dig a CD of a guy delivering complaints in a voice only a notch above NPR-timbre, but add smarmy cocktail jazz, and I'm golden. If this is supposed to be making fun of mundane complainers it fails, because I love the complainers even more when their words are nerded-up and jazz-assisted. No complaints!

Bells Of "Young McDonald & the 5 Season Farmers"

(Teenbeat) These bells rang my ding dong!

Terminal City Ricochet DVD

( I'm kind of shocked I never heard of this punk rock dystopia epic, not only because it's pretty good and ridiculous, but also because it's pretty damn good and ridiculous. What should by all accounts be a totally no budget film somehow crafts totally believable post-cultural apocalypse hellscapes, a credible exposed brain child special effect, and the best story of rock n roll terrorism since Bono led that real-life African coup. Just chalk it all up to Canadian know how. And there you have the reason few ever heard of this film -- it's way too Canadian to gain Repo Man cult status. It's hard for the other 194 countries of earth to wrap its collective head around a world where the virtuous messianic figure is a punch drunk hockey player and where a victorious revolution is celebrated by having a D.O.A. dance party. Actually D.O.A. is really good in this, and Joey deftly plays a (non hockey) goon, and speaking of punk thespianism, Jello Biafra does his best ever acting as a vile villain. Actually, I'm going to conclude the reason this movie may have fell off cult radar is that it came out a few months late. To do a hardcore punk themed/anti-rock n roll dystopia movie in 1990 places you just barely into the wrong decade for such things. But 20 years later, who cares? This is great, and the bonus CD of D.O.A. and Nomeansno songs (amongst others) is worth its weight in Canadian dollars!

Swilson "Demonology"

(swilson) Demons are wicked and this is wicked good, which is why this is called "Demonology." Also because all these trashy low fi weirdo songs are about demons. Or witches. Who are maybe demons, I'm not really up on my demonology. He uses "cats" and "bats" in one song...but doesn't rhyme them with each other...which makes him a genius in my book. My Necromonicon (or whatever you all that thing that's propping up the tilty table in the den).

Jets Overhead "Bystander"

(Vapor) Should be called "Bydancer," because this will make you move! Kind of slowly and awkwardly, but it will make you move.

Mickey Newbury "American Trilogy"

(Drag City) Who knew Mickey Newbury could sing as good as he could write? I guess anyone who bought his LPs in the early 70s knew, but did anyone buy his LPs? Well, maybe he was not as good a singer as a writer, but he was pretty damn good, his melodramatic readings of his own words more than compensating for any vocal limitations. Funny thing here, Otis Blackwell and everyone always said Elvis just copied demos verbatim, but for the title track here Elvis actually had to tone down the drama of Newbury's version. This is a sampler from a four disc set releasing all his records and a bunch of extra rarities/demos etc, which may be for diehards only, but this taste really did make me want to hear the album tracks. What would Newbury filler sound like? All I have to say is, the Newer the bury the sweeter the juice!

David Bowie rare and unseen DVD, The Sacred Triangle DVD

 (Sexy Intellectual) I expected a lot from the Sacred Triangle documentary, a look at Bowie, Iggy and Lou Reed circa '71 centered around the Max's Kansas City scene. But seeing Jayne County and Leee Black Childers jabber away made me want to see a movie about them, not a bunch of stuff I already know about the most famed freaks in above ground underground music history. But I expected the rare and unseen Bowie DVD to suck, all boring interviews from the late 80s and 90s i was sure. i was sure wrong. Instead it's mainly a dry but compelling interview from Man Who Fell to Earth Days that demonstrates Bowie's class, ease, and awesomeness (and that he was a different species from Englishmen). There's also a gracious interview outside a concert with an amteurish reporter and even a 90s interview where he still comes off as pretty awesome, much awesomer than any music he made 10 years in any direction. But he's no Jayne County!

White Hills "H-p1"

(Thrill Jockey) An omnibus of ominous! 

Son Lux "We Are Rising"

(Anticon) Lon Sux.

That's Life "Saloon Songs"

( Should be called Bat's life, because this stumble-sung youth punk knocked me upside down!

Revolver "Parallel Lives"

(Astralwerks) This music is why I don't go to Renaissance Faires...and this coming from a guy who LOVES giant meat legs.

High Llamas "Talahomi Way"

(Drag City) So light and airy and sweet I believe Willy Wonka was involved in the out for that ceiling fan! I'd previously only heard the High Llamas cover band, Hello Alpacas, so it was awesome to hear how the real deal sounds. And awesoem that they sound like a millionaire's doorbell.

Gary Higgins "A Dream A While Back"

(Drag City) Should change his name to Gary Haggis, because his music tastes that good!

The Skull Defekts "Peer Amid"

(Thrill Jockey) So awesome they should change their name to the Skilled Perfects!

Signals - A Radio Zine by DJ Frederick

( I love this zine about pirate radio in part because I don't know anything about pirate radio and I'm delighted that some of this stuff that sounds incredible might be something DJ Frederick made up to fuck with me! Are there really stations that just broadcast series of numbers and letters for hours, or days, that seem to be secret codes sent by secret agents or something like that? Did Stockhausen compose with shortwave samples? Could there really be a show called "Maple Leaf Mailbag?" I sure don't know, but I do know one thing...I'm kHZ-y about this zine!

Meet Me in the Middle by Gordon B. Isnor & Christopher C. Yorke

( Apparantly there is an app that writes dirty poems and they used it to make this book. I went to and put in the name of this book and it came up with this gem:                     
cum tutelage
Meet Me in the Middle by Gordon B. Isnor & Christopher C. Yorke
sordid nectar

I think that says it all.

Rockin' the Wall

( This documentary makes an impassioned argument for the role of rock music in bringing down the Berlin Wall, and despite some questionable techniques (dramatic recreations and split screen that would give Brian DePalma a headache) it's pretty effective. That the main musicians the filmmakers wrangled up got for commentary (and to help score the video) were from Vanilla Fudge should in no way indicate this was a V-Fudge-level revolution, and to be honest, I'm much happier giving props and credit to the Fudge than to Reagan!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

YOKO ONO & FRIENDS TO JAPAN WITH LOVE Le Poisson Rouge, New York City March 29, 2011

Macintosh HD:Users:madelinex:Desktop:5571898336_2d14db1207_b.jpgGuest Review By Madeline Bocaro

Yoko Ono and Sean Lennon held two benefit concerts for Japan this week, pulling many of their famous friends together to join their Plastic Ono Band. Over two nights over $100,000 was raised for Japanese earthquake relief. The first gig was at Columbia University on March 27th. The second one was really special.

While standing in line at Le Poisson Rouge on Bleecker Street, I noticed Kenny’s Castaways right across the street - the club where Yoko did several performances in October 1973. Back then, at the tender age of 15, I could not legally be admitted to the show. But now, here I stood almost 40 years later, waiting to see Yoko once again, resolved that she is still the most important artist in the world, remembering all the amazing times I’ve seen her concerts, exhibits and lectures over the years, and that John Lennon was right.

The sold-out intimate venue held 700 people quite warmly. The immense tangle of wires on the stage was evidence that this would be a very interesting evening!

Opening was Cibo Matto, the hip-hop/jazz/funk Japanese chicks whose delicious food-obsessive tunes feature all kinds of weird delicacies. Yuka Honda, Miho Hatori and Sean Lennon reunited their band after ten years. Their set included  ‘Le Pain Perdu’,  ‘Sugar Water’, ‘Aguas de Marco’, ‘Beef Jerky’ and ‘Birthday Cake’! We bopped to their beats and insane recipes; ‘Extra sugar, extra salt, extra oil and MSG!’ They were joined by horn players and an increasing number of participants, including Honda's husband Nels Cline of Wilco.

Patti Smith, New York’s own priestess of prose appeared raggedly yet regally with her full band, including Lenny Kaye. She spoke a heartfelt dedication to the Japanese people, and began the evangelic ‘Peaceable Kingdom’. ‘Beneath The Southern Cross’ followed. Then from her Easter album, ‘Ghost Dance’ chanting it’s appropriate and prophetic chorus of ‘We shall live again’ for Japan. A passionate ‘Pissing in a River’ from Radio Ethiopia followed. Then she dedicated ‘People Have the Power’ ‘To Sean and his mom, who have done so much work for the people, and whose family has always had so much care for the people…’

Sean announced, ‘Yoko Ono has entered the building!’ Within seconds, she appeared, singing ‘It Happened’ acapella. Although the song was written so long ago, it has recurring relevance at tragic times in Yoko’s life, and also in the state of the world. Her delicate singing abruptly morphed into screams of terror and convulsions, transforming into a song of redemption, ‘Calling’ from her latest album.

Yoko told us how the song ‘Mind Train’ originated. It was about 16 minutes long. John insisted on playing it for an unnamed famous musician, and Yoko expressed her regret of having this person endure the whole 16 minutes. However, I hope it was someone who was well deserving of the wrath of Yoko, and wish that it could have been myself instead. After all, one man’s pain is another’s pleasure! A quite lengthy ‘Mind Train’ ensued, taking us all aboard with another special guest, Antony Haggarty crooning along.

Ono also performed the hopeful ‘Rising’, the incredible blues jam ‘It’s Been Very Hard’ and my favourite - ‘Why?’ – an intense rocker featuring a free form guitar/vocal duet between Sean and Yoko, that is eerily similar to the John & Yoko version. Sean’s array of guitar pedals was astounding, and he utilized every one of them, especially the fuzz box! His girlfriend Kemp Muhl played bass all night. Greg Saunier from Deerhoof was on drums just for this song.

Yoko wanted to perform ‘I Love You Earth’ (from Starpeace 1985) because ‘the earth is angry now and needs to hear it’. Yoko allowed Antony Haggarty (who praised the song’s lyrics as pure punk) to sing this one, but then the two of them got into an I-Love-You fest that just wouldn’t quit.

Everyone sang and spoke something heartfelt and respectful in dedication to the people of Japan. However, Lou Reed shuffled onstage, cranked up his guitar to eleven and blasted out 'Leave Me Alone' from Street Hassle!  He brought along an iPad with a scrolling teleprompter - which was hilarious and pretentious because all he sings is, 'Leave me leave me leave me leave me leave me alone'!  (Yoko had sheets of musical notations too – when most of her songs are purely improvisational one-word mantras like 'Why?'!)

Lou’s song was ear splitting. He worked Yoko’s band of young Japanese musicians (and Sean) to the bone - making them play louder and harder. It was as if he was telling Yoko, 'Look! I’m even crazier than YOU are!' She stood beside him, glancing at his teleprompter, chiming in with a few inaudible screams, but she politely surrendered as Lou hijacked her band! He mumbled something about how we all must be shocked, but to the contrary, it’s just what one would expect from Lou Reed. I am not saying that it wasn’t great. I just hate to admit it because Lou is so damned arrogant!

Sean stood between Lou and Yoko, watching in awe, as if he’d bought a ticket to the show himself and forgot that he was in it. He was amazed at organizing and pulling off yet another spontaneous, chaotic, and enthralling Plastic Ono Band event.

Sean introduced the final song as a great one written by Neil was his dad’s ‘Give Peace A Chance’.

As we exited the venue, we each received a cool gift from Yoko – a piece of sky (jigsaw puzzle piece) in a drawstring pouch with a card inscribed:

The sky is cracked now above Japan.
Let’s come together in our dreams
to heal.

A dream you dream alone is only a dream
But a dream you dream together
Is reality.

I love you!

Spring, 2011

Helado Negro "Canta Lechuza"

(Asthmatic Kitty) I don't know enough about whatever International/underground/ethnic/interstellar/ultra hip/made-it-up-himself genres and movements he's referencing to be smart about this Spanish language blissful, electro blooping, meditative, steamy, nature loving, hookah full of sunshine, lie down and relax-dance music. But it makes me fell g-o-o-o-o-d.

Natural Selections Vol. 1

( North Carolina has a post-punk explosion and this compilation absorbed the brunt of the blast. Best bands ar ethe Spandrels, Balloon Wars and Pallas Cats, but best name is Machiavillains, because it takes balls to have a name that invokes Tupac, Madlib and MF Doom, and them play literate proggy postpunk.

The Ex "Catch My Shoe"

(Ex Records) (Guest Review by Jake Austen) The Roctober book that is coming out this fall was pretty much done like 2 years ago, but it was taking forever to get the book's forward from Steve Albini, and the publisher refused to edit anything or move production forward until they had all the text. So I would call Albini at Electrical (his studio) every few days and the crazy-assed thing is that he would take the call every time, even though he knew what I was going to ask and he knew he hadn't done it because he was so busy. Talk about a stand up fucking guy, I would never take a call of someone I owed something to, I would pretend I wasn't home and get people to lie for me or use caller i.d. like I was a fugitive. Anyhoo, just before he got it done (and it's a great forward, get the book in November) he was telling me that he would do it as soon as he finished recording X. Now I love all the old X albums, and I love John Doe in the George Strait movie and Exene is an awesome lady and I've seen Decline 78 times, but c'mon! No way is a 2010 X album going to be better than the Roctober book! Get your priorities straight! So finally I say to him, "Well is it at least Australian X rather than L.A. X?" And he says, "No it's The Ex." And I shut up. Then I said, "Oooh! My bad, take a-l-l the time in the world." Obviously, if the Ex have something to say, I'm happy to be the next after the Ex! Decades into their remarkable, bizarre, challenging career, the Dutch Crass (or the Interesting Chumbawumba) continue to not only be true to whatever radical politics, propaganda, and social mission they dedicated themselves to in 1980, but they also continue to challenge themselves, with this album using some weird takes on African music that should make David Byrne and Vampire Weekend feel chumpish. Ex-cellent!