Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Faith “Subject to Change”

(Dischord) Alec Mackaye had a really weird way of phrasing vocals, kind of avoiding the beat, which was incredibly untypical for hardcore. Yet despite its atypical nature, this record was (and is, in this modified form with added demos included and lots of archival photos and graphics supplementing the original artwork) absolutely typical of the level of quality of the genre-defining DC hardcore of the early 80s that after 30 years of trying few have even come close to touching. The demos from the Faith/Void record are treasures, making this much more than just an EP upgrade.

Office of Future Plans

(DischordThere’s always room for cello!

VOID “81-83”

(Dischord) It seems weird and kinda wrong to say I joyfully love this abrasive nihilism, but I do! That’s always been my gut reaction to this classic DC hardcore/metal/jazz combo, and I’m further pushed towards inappropriate giddiness by the fact that the unique screamy screams are not simply heard here on re-mastered well-known nuggets, but on newly-found demos, alternate takes, and the rest of the stuff they recorded when they did their Flex Your Head stuff (which proves that despite the claims of the insert poster, no tuba was played that day!). Why does this make me so happy?!?

Evens “Warble Factor” b/w “Timothy Wright”

(Dischord) Heavy-assed lifting for just two people…and speaking of lifting…I am 100% behind this band’s pro-ant lyrics! In fact, if this band was made of two ants instead of two humans they would be even better…but I can’t think of a single other arthropod that could top this dynamic duo!

Tetras "Pereidolia"

(FSS) Soundscape/Krautrock/jazzbo/indie/out-die/little child-or-small-animal-making noises-with-objects/morse code/morose co-ed/oddly beaUtiful weirdness that put secret messages in my head that I can't tell you about. They're secret. But someday you'll know...THE WHOLE WORLD WILL KNOW!

Wrnlrd “Silent Night” w/ "Unknown Tongue"

(FSS) The first Christmas record to musically express the barren darkness that is the soul of an oppressed worker-slave elf in the frozen North Pole wasteland.

Steve Barton “Projector”

( Good news, not the same guy who messed up the Cubs, that was Steve Bartman! Better news: This spare, frail, fragile power pop (powerless pop?) is no error!

Age/Sex/Occupation “This Side of the Fence”

( A stripped-down Haircut 100 on an Al Green kick? The keyboard 3-piece in the corner of the so-so restaurant on Wednesday nights that plays covers-like originals, and you make a point o have a s-l-o-w humpday dinner every week just to get swept up in their sweetly melancholic semi-soul music? A band on the verge of eternal-income Katrina and the Waves ubiquitous single hit magic? Awesome?

Michael and the Lonesome Playboys “Last of the Honky Tonks”

( This honky knows how to tonk! Seriously, this is some A-grade, nostalgic, waltzin’ after midnight, tears in my beer, bar fight before closin’ time, Honky Tonk Heaven (where those angels who god didn’t make dwell) music!

Die Zorros “Future"

(Voodoo Rhythm) This is the new wave trash garage punk equivalent of the weird, muffled music played by dancing Santas or kinetic monkey dolls they sell in drugstores around holidays for last minute, cheap gifts. It’s also the best record ever! A jungle drum jam that’s a tribute to Chaino, Sam the Sham, Lancelot Link and that deranged one man keyboard band at the bus station, a make-fun-of-rockabilly song that’s better than your cousins rockabilly band, a cover of “Knights in White Satin” that reduces the song to a mantra of four chanted words (why learn a song to cover it?), difficult easy listening tracks…it’s all here. And more! And less!

Monday, February 27, 2012

Le Pecheur “Medieval Dreams”

(Azbin) First of all, I never know how to alphabetize bands that are adamant about using non-English definite articles in their name. I always put Los Straitjackets” under “L,” but if a band is actually from a Spanish speaking company I assume the Los should be ignored…though it’s hard. Because these Frenchmen reside in an English speaking country, I will reluctantly “L” this band. But I unreluctantly L-O-V-E this band, with their creepy, garage psyche weirdness and their witch-positive politics! I believe their name translates as “the sinner,” but it ain’t no sin to take off your skin and dance around in your bones to this awesome platter of shatter!

please, please, please: a tribute to The Smiths

(American Laundromat) I usually dig tribute album compilations – a chance for bands to pay homage, and also get looser than usual. But there are inherent problems with a Smiths tribute, and there’s problems that plague any tribute album. Amongst the former, considering how influential both Morrissey and Johnny Marr are on indie musicians, it’s hard to cover these songs without seeming to do impressions: perhaps the biggest name on here, the Wedding Present, do “Hand in Glove” with what sounds like an imitation of Moz’ vox and Marz’ (not an accepted Johnny Marr nickname prior to my typing it just now, btw) ax. As far as the latter, there’s too many folks on here that I just don’t know enough about to get excited to hear them do their rendition: I was pumped to hear Greg Laswell’s take on the Smiths, til I heard a decidedly unfunky solo piano minimalist suite…I  was thinking of Bill Laswell, who the heck is this “Greg” dude? But there’s plenty of good stuff here, like the fancy strings on “How Soon Is Now” by Mike Viola and the Section Quartet, Kitten doing a dreamy “Panic,” Joy Zipper doing a weird dream version of “What Difference Does It Make,” and (even though they didn’t do their namesake-ish song) Girl in a Coma bring some welcome twang to “Rubber Ring.”

Wild Belle “Keep You” b/w “Take Me Away”

 ( drug haze dub vibe dance music for slow skanking and late night grinding.  There’s also a bit of an outer space thing going on and some alluring vocals here, and best of all, the lady singer’s last name is Bergman, so maybe they can perform at your nephew’s Ska-Mitzvah!

Peter Maybarduk “A ring around the atlantic”

( Should be named Peter MayBe-A-Genius! Lovely!

BB Black Dog “No. One”

( Self-described as steam-punks (which explains the beards) and obviously fans of Hawkwind-esque wizard-y psyche (which also explains the beards) this CD isn’t foundationally steamy or psyche-y, but rather messes around with such powerful bass-driven funky rock that they are way more 1990s than 1890s or 1960s. And they have awesome beards. Except for the drummer -- nice ZZ Top homage!

Lagwagon “Duh,” “Trashed,” “Hoss,” “Double Plaidinum,” “Let’s Talk About Feelings”

(Fat) I understand why Dischord is slowly reissuing every early vinyl, and the great posh reissue of that Avengers LP that was perpetually out of print is one of the best things to cross my desk in a while, but it took me a minute to wrap my head around an extensive reissue project for this melodic punk band’s mid-90s CDs. I imagine they were mastered pretty well the first time, and Fat is pretty good about keeping its back catalogue in print. But even though I was never the biggest pop punk fan, listening to this stuff again, I can hear what was special about the Lag lads. Lagwagon had more grit than most of their peers and Joey Cape’s voice was rougher and more expressive than most of the nasal singing clones in that scene, plus I thought three of the sleeves (all original art is preserved in the reissues) were pretty funny: “Hoss,” “Feelings,” and the kooky collage on “Trashed” (the album with some of their best songs, including “Coffee and Cigarettes” and the almost metallic “Stokin’ the Neighbors”). So I can see why fans would be psyched, and though I’m still skeptical about the re-mastering, there are TONS of unreleased tracks and archival photos, and, c’mon, I bet your old CDs are scratched up, anyhow.

Redgrave “Mantis” b/w “Gone to Wither”

(Lovitt) Either recorded deep in a well, or deep in Hell, these two resonant, super powerful ghost-blues murk dirges will chill you like a corpse’s kiss. Scariest non-metal local band in Chicagoland!


(Lovitt) You ever crack an egg and it has blood in it? Powerful and weird, huh? This is the musical equivalent of a scrambled blood egg.

The Chorderoys

(www.thechorderoys.comMoody Americana that like corduroy pillows will be making headlines all over! Such as “Extra: This Band Is Awesome!”

Moonbound “Peak of Eternal Light”

(Unsung) I have seen the future, and it starts in the 80s! Progressive new wave that will make cyborgs climax!

Jon Porras “Black Mesa”

(Thrill Jockey) John, pour us another cup of ambient, experimental, dream soundtrack juice! And despite a declared dry desert theme (as opposed to a creamy dessert theme, or the wet seascapes of last year’s “Undercurrent” LP), let your cup of sound overflow with thick, strange-flavored audio intoxicant!

Paul Collins’ Beat “The Kids are the Same”

(Get Hip) It’s appropriate that this power pop classic was released on Get Hip, because if any power pop devotee (or just plain pop fan) has never heard this early 80s gem you need to get hip, quick. I suppose his hairline might not have been as MTV-friendly as it had been the prior decade when he kept time for the Nerves, but Collins sure had the hooks to hit it big in the 80s, and it’s a mystery and shame why these surefire-hits were never bonafide hits. The handsome reissue of a sophomore slump-defying should-be classic makes a good argument for the Beat as the new Beatles, and even if it’s 30 years late, this needs to be loved

The Authorities “Kung-Pao Au Go-Go”

(Get Hip) There are a number of early-80s punk acts that revived themselves today that I can still dig, but it’s rare that I can get the kind of giddy amusement from their new recordings that I get from their old recordings. These Northern Cali legends deliver that on their new album, with some great tunes, that are speedy, ridiculous, and convincing when they command the listener to “bone your own” and “harvest your own corn.” Their signature mix of poppy punk and experimental weirdness continues, and is made more distinct by vocalist Curtis Clyde Hall’s well-worn, mature vocal cords.  Apparently these are mostly old songs they wrote back in the day and never recorded before, which explains a lot (like why a guy who sounds old enough to be making nursing home arrangements for his parents is singing about adolescent father-hate…though I doubt the post-modern salute to Suicidal Tendencies was part of the original concept), and if that’s the case, more power to them! I respect your Authorities! 

The Pow Wows “Killing Me” b/w “No. Thirteen”

(Get Hip) I like my psyche garage rock like I like my women…dark and fuzzy! So these Canadian crypt-kickers give me the tingles!

Silo Halo “Night and the City”

(Etxe) You could play Halo in a silo for 72 hours straight without experiencing the dynamic moody emotion and swoony, lovely aesthetic richness of this DC trio’s post-post-punk, pre-post-rock debut.  And lord knows I get moody and start having some pretty aesthetic hallucinations after only 24 hours of video games, especially when inhaling wheat dust, so that’s saying something!

BingoNinja & the First Seed “Kissing at Summer Camp”

( There was an underground electronic experimental off-kilter dance music fan that had a favorite and Binge Ninja & the First Seed was its name-o!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

The Maxines “Queer Mod” ep

(la-ti-da) Now that we’re seeing boy-girl two piece bands all over the freaking place, it makes you think: what bands shoulda been lady/dude duos?, and my first thought is, ‘Hey, other than the functionality of a rhythm section, what the hell did Lux and Ivy need anyone else for?” The Cramps shoulda been a 2 piece! And now they are. I mean, not actually Lux and Ivy, obviously. But close enough. Buy this record or you are stupid

The Ballantynes “The Message” b/w “The Railtown Abbey”

( Don’t know if they actually have R&B charts in Canada, but if they do this soulful slab of glorious gospel-voiced, organ-grinding should be headed to #1 with a bullet!

Codeine “When I See the Sun”

(Numero) I can’t say I’m a huge fan of Codeine – I’m too damn busy to listen to anything that slow (same reason I’ve never seen Gone With the Wind – too damn busy to see anything that long). But I will say that listening to the breadth of what this drowsy-core, mopey, experimental band did I can at least say that they definitely earned the deluxe reissue treatment they are getting here – this was a band that seems to have completely succeeded in creating a visceral mood and an original soundscape…it’s just not a mood I want to feel or a soundscape I want to visit. But they do prove one thing: the nasal-voice singing thing is way better suited for sad-rock than for pop punk, emo, or any of the other awful ways it’s been employed.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Avengers “s/t” Penelope Houston “On Market Street”

(Water/Devoted Ruins/Glitterhouse) There is nothing wrong with basics in punk rock, and to a degree, the short-lived, long-revered Bay Area band the Avengers, was pretty basic. Minimal, aggressive chords + maximum attitude = punk classic. But then there was Penelope Houston up front to make them special. Her voice, while not exactly beautiful, had an intriguing way of injecting a true singer’s resonance, expressiveness and melodicism into even the most rudimentarily barked lyrics. Those lyrics also always had a pinch of poetry (and a cup of politics), though she did a great job keeping her Patti Smith leanings sounding Ramones-raw. The band only released three songs during their ‘77-79 reign, a few more tracks just after dissolving, then years later the self-titled LP that rustled up a few more tracks, but that was pretty obscure (I’ve only seen an original once). They finally got the treatment they deserved, and began touring again to younger audiences, when a proper retrospective with rarities and live tracks, substantially expanding their discography was released. Unfortunately, it was on the doomed Lookout Records, and got buried underneath the out-of-print record graveyard. Thus, any new collection would be great, but this lovingly assembled near-complete discography, reissue of the self-tiled LP, including new, better mixes of some songs, alternate takes, live material, and a great argument for the band’s greatness, is Tony the Tiger g-r-r-r-r-reat! Houston has a post-Avengers career as a solo artist, capitalizing on the unique husky voice and specialness hinted at in the Avengers. Her new album builds on the singer-songwriter stuff she has done between revived Avengers tours, and adds some bluesy roots elements, that put her on the Austin City Limits track rather than the coffeehouse circuit. 2012 is the year that the cornucopia of Penelope-nes overflowss! Plus, they will likely sell at least a few hundred copies by comic book fans thinking it’s a soundtrack to the Avengers movie!

Kicksville Confidential

(Kicks Books/Norton) To celebrate their 25th anniversary Norton Records got ink-slinger Avi Spivak to illustrate the surreal history of their label and to tell the tales of the sublime stars that make up their all-star, all-scarred roster. If I have not expressed this enough times, Norton Records is one of the greatest label in the history of groove etching, and the only ill will I hold towards it is that its success led to the cessation of Kicks magazine, my all favorite rock n roll publication, whose inspirational, jaw-dropping, splendid 7-issue run has as much to do with Roctober reaching 50 issues/20 years as anything else on earth or in Heaven. What makes Kicks/Norton so boss is that they are all about championing characters, and good characters make good comix, so this is a pretty posh periodical. Highlights include Norton’s Billy Miller recalling Dolemite’s dole-a-mightiness saving him from a beatdown, and Del Shannon schooling him at pinball. We see Norton Queen Miriam Linna fining an Arthur Lee pre-Love demo in a box of garbage lounge band tapes, and we see Sky Saxon hiding from the cops by singing onstage with the Norton house band, the A-Bones. We marvel at Screaming Jay getting in a street fight with Esquirita, and finally get to see the tale of Hasil Adkins eating the Andy Warhol soup can brought to life in glorious black n white! There’s T. Valentine scaring his cab riders, Question Mark confounding everyone, and Andre Williams getting sinning with Ike Turner. If you know who these oddballs are you will be thrilled to see them in inky richness that would make R. Crumb trade in his jazz 78s for teen garage band acetates, and if you’ve never heard of these cats, the playful presentation, dynamic art, and thrilling stories here will quickly have you hooked on the strangest stable of stars ever assembled. It’s enough to make me not miss Kicks for na hour!

Sheetah et les Weismüller “Evolution Francaise”

( There are two things I want to declare about this amazing record: Though I am extremely delighted by this band’s monkey-centric name, I more impressed that the French not only have their own spelling for Cheetah the chimp’s name, but also that they add an umlaut to Johnny “Tarzan” Weismulers’s! What I also want to make clear is that I apparently don’t know what “ye-ye” is. Listening to this sweet 60s psyche/pop/fuzz/flower rock album I keep hearing some element I can’t quite identify sweetening the sweetness and something in the back if my head says, ‘oh, that’s from French ye-ye music,” then I realize, I’m not sure what the hell that is! But I am sure that the Love-esque grooves of “La mauvaise graine” are likely to make Arthur Lee sit up in his grave and grave groove!

Talk-Action=0: An Illustrated History of D.O.A. by Joe Keithley, Treat Me Like Dirt: An Oral History of Punk in Toronto and Beyond 1977-1981 by Liz Worth

(ArsenalBongo BeatThese two histories of Canadian punk paint vivid pictures of a great white riot in the Great White North, but more importantly, are nice arguments for the value of the state of punk documentation. Treat Me Like Dirt follows the now-accepted form of historical punk data presentation, the oral history tradition, in which a collection of quotes by scenesters are assembled in a manner that tells a cohesive, linear narrative without much outside narration or obvious editorial bias. But prior to this book I could never tell exactly how compelling that form was because for all the other oral histories I was always extremely familiar with the characters, bands, records and scenes. Excluding non-Toronto bands like D.O.A., of all the bands in this book I literally own one single – a bootleg of the Viletones debut – and have only even heard two other bands in the book. I am genuinely in the dark about this scene, these people, and what this music sounds like, and I still found the stories, presentation, and form riveting. Starting at the dawn of the 70s when a few factors converged to help form the Viletones (including an American falling for a resourceful Canadian chick, and a Toronto teen falling under the spell of glitter rock) a scene was born. For the rest of the decade some of the most interesting bands (including punk convention challenging acts like spacey Simply Saucer and 60s-ish Teenage Head), some of the boldest female performers and behind the scene figures, and some punk-archtype sex, drugs & rock n rollers carved out an interesting community in what most of them describe as a pretty boring place. That the author was a young outsider and not a participant is impressive, but not nearly impressive as how riveted I, as a complete Toronto punk ignoramus, was by this book. The other punk archival project form that really excites me is the primary source compendium, be it the fanzine reprint books or the collections of Xerox flyers. While it’s surprising in some ways that a man known as Shithead would become such a thoughtful historian, the fact that the leader of D.O.A. has kept his band going for decades makes it reasonable that a few years back he decided to devote as much energy to documenting his band’s past as to crafting new materials, and while his biography, and CD and DVD band retrospectives were solid, I am most excited about this hefty scrapbook which contains some brief text, but mostly hundreds of flyers, t-shirts, set lists, hand-written lyrics, ticket stubs and band photos to tell the band’s story (and to jar memories of specific gigs from Joey Shithead’s not-so-shitty head). While one theme that’s undeniable here is that graphic design was way more awesome in the hand-scrawled flyer days of the early 80s than in 21 st Century, at least Joey’s handwriting never improved! Also, though much of this book has the band touring the States and abroad, the documentation of the ebbs and flows of Canadian punk history makes this a nice companion to Worth’s work. Plus, Randy Bachman has the back cover blurb!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Katrin the Thrill “earth is calling us”

( Dark modern rock with dramatic Grace Slick-ian vocals sung in an intriguing Greek accent. Plus: the creepiest God song ever!

Robbin’ Pain “This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things”

( This record has revealed one true truth to me: All American rock n roll in the future should be riff-perfect 70s bowery bar punk…and I will vote for any candidate running on that platform!

Nix Comics Quarterly #2, #3, #4

(www.nixcomics.comThis rock –n- roll-centric horror anthology is a full color blast, and has quickly become my fave indie book out there. The second issue opens with a gruesome rock n roll fable where an Alice Cooper-type and a Marilyn Manson-type face off…and they don’t use golf clubs! It is drawn by the great King Merinuk, the Wally Woods-ian superhero of neo-EC comics style.  By actually having a second issue the publisher also fulfilled the promise made in the first issue that there would be recurring characters: The incongruous (for a horror/rock n roll hybrid book) Bus Stop Ned is basically a white version of Harvey Pekar’s Mr. Boats mixed with a dementia-addled Duplex Planet character (illustrated overheard non-sequiturs that may or may not be profound), and the couldn’t-be-more-congruous (for a horror/rock n roll hybrid book) unnamed punk rock priest who fights monsters and apparently borrows all his clothes from the Ramones and his sunglasses from Question Mark and the Mysterians. With the third issue NIX finally learns something that every EC fan knew before they could read…a killer cover is worth its weight in bones (although the painted cover by Glen Ostrander is more akin to a Warren publication…or maybe one of those Mexican-artist Chick tracts). It illustrates a thrilling story (for record and horror fans) of a Brian Jones-esque Satan trying to swap vintage vinyl for souls. That, some werewolf massacres, more of the recurring characters, plus “true” soul tales about James Brown makes this the best issue yet DESPITE the absence of Merinuk! But the King is back in issue 4, which continues to raise the levels of both the graphic excellence (though the underground zinester in me loves some of the amateurish scribblings, the slick lines of Ostrander, Merinuk, Andy Bennett, and Ryan Brikerhoof are pretty boss) and the rock n’ roll quotient, with an in depth look at what exactly happened to Quick Joey Small after he went over the wall.  Recently they announced that they are going to do a reverse-EC, and instead of turning their cowboy comics line into horror books, they will be launching a western title…kickstart them at

Paper Beat Scissors

(Forward) Dude’s hauntingly weird and pretty voice beats paper and scissors. But does not rock.

The Portraits “1966-68”

(Music Gem) This CD collects a dozen cuts -- singles, unreleased tracks, and beer commercials (!) -- recorded by Milwaukee-born, L.A.-based band the Portraits. What’s most notable here is that the group sung harmony like the Four Seasons or Chicago’s Buckinghams (and they fell in with Mike Curb, so lush production, and orchestral flourishes were not unheard of) BUT they were a self-contained band in the late 60s, so they were not adverse to fuzzed-out guitar effects. This marriage of sweet, floral harmonies and nasty guitar sounds sometimes is amazing and sometimes is jarring. The former helped make their original arrangement rock n roll version of “Over the Rainbow” pretty awesome, the latter meant they made sense on one of Curb’s biker movie soundtracks (they were no Arrows, but their “Devil’s Angels” has some nice sounds on it). The beer ads (for Schaefer, singing the DUI-encouraging motto, “the one beer to have when you’re having more than one”) were the results of a contest win, and are kinda corny, but made me thirsty, so good job, Portraits!

Doug Prescott “The Journey & the Deep Blue Sea”

( Soulful cool out music that will  make you mellow and make you think…about being mellow! Like Jimmy Buffett with better grooves and worse pitch!

Pukka Joint Massif

(PO Box 2632 Bellingham WA 98227-2632) Buy zines, not lattes! Great advice from the most zine-alicous, cut-n-pastiest, Xeroxicist review zine alive!


(Hewhocorrupts) They recently had a poll in the Sun-Times to vote for Chicago’s all-time greatest rapper, and somehow they left Chica-X…the Roxanne Shante-meet-Kriss Kross-meets-L’Trimm-meets-Peaches! Off the list OK, I guess she isn’t actually from Chicago proper, being from the Quad Cities, clear across the state, but it’s a relatively narrow state, and if Cheap Trick can open a pizza joint here, Chica-X can belong to us, too! The pre-teen would be tops on my list even if she didn’t shout out Chic-A-Go-Go on her latest cassette, as her age-appropriately awkward swagger and fun, sassy attitude makes her the best underage emcee since Linus narrated the Christmas show. To the library!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Brad Brooks “Harmony of Passing Light”

( This hook-happy blue eyed soulman is such a one-man Hall n Oates he should be called Brad Hallnoates. But I guess that looks too much like “Halitosis,” so scratch that, stick with “Brooks.”

Twentieth Century Tokyo Princess “I’ve Never Been Happy & I’ve Never Had Fun"

( Lof-fi glam is a blow-your-mind concept, because glamsters, even if they are eating catfood for dinner and killing pigeons to make their boas, always seem to scrape up enough money for heroin and clean guitar production. But this nasty, overmodulated, hook-infected, mumble mouthed garage pop fits the bill. And I’m glad it’s on cassette…anything to make this magnificent mess sound worse!

Howlin Rain “The Russian Wild”

(American/Birdman) Incredibly impressive, but not impressively incredible, this arena psyche band has managed to organically combine all the great sounds of early 70s rock, and get everything right, somehow making Blue Cheer, CSNY, Ted Nugent, The Eagles, Elton, a little era-inappropriate Prince guitar, and a tinkle of piano lounge jazz fit together sensibly. The impressive part is how well they nail, and riff off of, the best 70s soft and hard rock. The next step will have to be cranking up the hooks or something, because even though all these tracks really sound like they came off a real, and really good, 70s LP, they come off as like awesome headphone-in-the-bedroom album tracks, not rock-out–in-your-fucking-car radio tracks. But can’t wait to hear the next howl.

The Lonesome Savages “All Outta Love” ep

(Kind Turkey) These lo-fi punk-a-psychoabilly cheeseheads return rock ‘n’ roll to where it belongs…the realm of the genuinely disturbing! Gruesomely great!