Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Brian Baugus "Actor Songster Sage"

(Barking Moondog, 2010)  A dive bar philosopher take on School House Rock. Sounds like Monkees blues demos played on the biggest sideburns on earth.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Malaco The Last Soul Company presents 50 Years of Excellence

(Malaco, 2018) This is my favorite Record Store Day release this year because it presents 10 songs of stunningly equal excellence, created formulaically, but with a formula so perfect it gives innovation a bad name. Malaco was put on the map by King Floyd's killer "Groove Me" but found their lane with Z. Z. Hill's "Down Home Blues," a blues song so good that it became a hot hit well past the days when a blues song could become a hot hit. From then on Malaco's identity became the label that made juke joint soul music for whomever still wanted juke joint soul music in the 80, 90, 00s and beyond, be it older African Americans, European soul fiends, or anyone else with good taste. Combining solid, straightforward songwriting, excellent artists, the same perfect backup singing on almost every record, funky grooves, and (from the 80s on) keyboards doing their thing, Malaco never wavered. Unlike Ichiban, which got into the juke joint jams game while still releasing nasty hip hop (and Vanilla Ice) Malaco had their eyes on the prize. While they released a more comprehensive CD box set, and a few late night TV mailorder CD collections, what makes this concise comp so special is getting latter day cuts like Johnnie Taylor's "Last Two Dollars" and Mel Waiters "Hole in the Wall" on vinyl, which may exist somewhere but I've never come across them. As Little Milton makes clear --  hey -- the blues is alright! And as Denise Lasalle makes clearer, your husband is out there shooting pool with his dick. Lessons learned! Thank you Malaco.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Happy Hour in America #6 by Tim Lane

( All I ever wanted in life was an exquisitely rendered, narratively hypnotic comic about a young Steve McQueen fucking and fighting his way across this great country. And I got it! Life fulfilled.

True Believers #1: Thanos The First, True Believers #1: The Infinity Gauntlet

(Marvel, 2018) Marvel puts out dollar reprints of significant comics, the best of which were a massive Jack Kirby centennial series. These two are being put out there to get the kids up to speed on the villain character from their upcoming Avengers movie. And they have successfully un-sold me on that flick (hopefully there's a new Madea movie next week, or its Netflix for me). Marvel's 70s druggy cosmic comics were almost OK when they were funny-ish  (like Gerber's Howard the Duck stuff) but they mostly saw mainstream comics' everyday weaknesses (cliches, boring action sequences, weak collaborations with inkers making drawings worse, corny dialogue, choppy storytelling, absurd design) amplified because of over-ambitious agendas to craft new creation stories and universal orders. As Stan Lee is going through a rough patch it is worth celebrating his true genius: he knew knocking out assembly line comics that felt special and more grown up while still appealing to the juvenilia part of our' lizard brains was a goldmine. The specialness was handled by ambitious genius like Kirby or Ditko, who did all the creative heavy lifting, and whose craziest ideas bubbled to the surface. But those concepts were wisely reigned in by Lee's Borscht Belt dialogue. But even on his own with his semi-coherent New Gods and Eternals stuff Kirby still had tough 40s broads, Vaudeville spectacle, and Film Noire gangster dialogue helping him keep things grounded (that's why his best storytelling is Mr. Miracle, a god-on-earth comic that's actually about vaudeville performances). But other "visionaries" were not as lucky. Jim Starlin is great in many ways, but this Iron Man comic that introduces Thanos is the worst example of cosmic goofery, as it never even seems grand or special, just too many trippy, powerful, universe shattering ideas held together by mundane Iran Man fights (and a strangely unreasonable explanation of how Iron Man gets dressed). The backup story gets more coherently cosmic, and the Thanos' creepy stalking of Death in Infinity Gauntlet (she's the Jodie Foster to his Travis Bickle) is kinda captivating. But the idea of going to a movie this grandiose, absurd, convoluted, and inevitably LOUD, is exhausting. I am more OK with the sexual deviant Archie show and the Peanuts insurance commercials than I am about these over the top comics adaptations. Call me if they make a Little Lulu movie. 

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Weather Warlock "Sunset Waits for No Man"

(Rhinestone Records, 2015) Quintron's weather-controlled analog synth monstrosity can independently create soundscapes without humans or can collaborate with free jazz noise punk metal warriors and create ambient Classic Rock that murders evil demons. That is a versatile tool!

Saturday, April 21, 2018

How to Speak Midwestern by Edward McClelland

(Belt Publishing) This is a pleasant little book breaking up the Midwest into regions and explaining the linguistic peccadillo of each part, and the whys, and weirdness of it all. That is presented with conversationally academic studiousness. But the second half of the book is just a great unscientific, silly, random-ish, delightful blog post about slang from each region, some hardly slang at all (numbers of highways [190 in Buffalo], nicknames of popular bands [the Mats in Minnesota], horrible traditions [Devil's Night" in Detroit], and State Pies [Sugar Cream Pie in Indiana]). Fun and goofy, this part of the book certainly has some debatable entries (in Illinois we call sneakers "gym shoes," we are told, which I did not know was particularly regional, and there's no mention that we have a sandwich of that name, sorta (sometimes spelled Jim Shoo). And shouldn't there have been a 20-page study of "jagoff," I need more jagoff in my regional dialect breakdowns (it's credited to Pittsburgh and given far less attention than it deserves). Also learned MN-men and gals clown on the Fargo-talk for tourists. Good for them!

Friday, April 20, 2018

Mama Lion "Preserve Wildlife"

(Family Productions, 1972) This album is infamous for one reason. The cover shows the Mama Lion, herself, Lynn Carey, a paragon of Farrah-era 70s sexiness, behind a gilded cage. Open the gatefold and you see that behind the bars SHE IS ACTUALLY NURSING A BABY LION! So my recent acquisition of this was worth it for that. Unfortunately, only for that. The growl of this lioness, trying to make Janis proud, is successfully loud, but fails to sound good in any way. Terrible tone, a few grating squeaks and cracks, and general vocal awfulness make this a tough listen. It is interesting to consider how influential Whitney and Mariah were on future terrible singers, as there is no melisma or scary scales thrown into any notes here, she is just singing straightforward ugly. If it took taking a wild animal to teat to get this record out, god bless her, she earned it. Also interesting: the record label logo is Romulus and Remus going at the wolf, so give it to this band: when they went in on interspecies suckling, they went all in!

Thursday, April 19, 2018

The new NANCY by Olivia Jaimes

(Andrews McMeel Syndication/GoComics) Upon noticing that a new artist started on the Nancy daily comic strip a few weeks ago I caught up and told some folks about it, and then, to my genuine surprise, the Internet gave a shit about it. There has been a nice/not so nice wave of over-love and over-hate for this strip for the last couple days. Whomever Olivia Jaimes is, I am going to say I'm a fan, first and foremost, because the comic does something I am amazed at: despite roughly 100% of the strips either being about social media or meta jokes about comics, visually and humor-ly, this captures the spirit of Bushmiller much better than the artist who has helmed the comic for nearly a quarter century. Bushmiller "only" put in 44 years, so Guy Gilchrist's tenure a significant stretch. And Gilchrist is a significant cartoonist - he and his brother worked directly with Jim Henson to do the excellent Muppets comic strip in the early 80s. But Gilchrist's version of Nancy is barely a comic. Gilchrist is a music fan/songwriter and it seemed like he was more interested in getting Nancy's sexy aunt Fritzi in rockabilly gear, or referencing fave bands (last Sunday's strip -- Gilchrist still does the Sundays -- has Fritzi wearing a "Whispering Bill Anderson Fan Club" white tee, which should, but can't possibly be, an actual thing). There was one comic I recall that had six panels describe the Moody Blues in florid praise-terms, and the "punchline" was, "'s The Moody Blues!" I don't know what that is, but it's anti-comical, and immeasurably removed from the pure visual joke deliver system Bushmiller perfected. The legacy of the original Nancy comic should be that in addition to being visually stunning in its jarring simplicity and perfect composition, it was fucking hilarious. It is an all time Top 10 comic strip, if not Top 2. And though Jaimes is not exactly copying the style (especially on teachers and non-Bushmiller characters) and isn't exactly copying the jokes, there is something here that is capturing the weirdness, bluntness, and sublime comedy of Nancy. The actual robot drawing in the Bot strip is a delight, not to mention Nancy's shade.
And, yes, these are not the funniest strips ever, but daily comics are rarely flat out funny, Bushmiller is exceptionally exceptional. It is a grind to create/illustrate a gag a day, so like morning radio jocks trying to fill 4 hours, there's some leeway here. Kinda funny is an A, and you can go weeks without an A+ on a comics page (excluding the Peanuts reprints).
Also, there's a sense with this new strip that with newspaper comics, and newspapers, losing relevance, we are now in wild wild west-land, where one can do whatever they want, and a couple of these comics have delved into some underground/indie/semi-sequitor stuff.

Bottom Line: I'm team Jaimes/Team Sluggo, and Team Read the Funnies Every Day  Til I Die.  

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Fanny Walked the Earth

(Blue Elan) I love Fanny. On the one hand, almost every one of my rock n roll crushes has been a lesbian, so when I say I have loved June Millington since I was a kid, I mean that in a goo goo eyes, heart-a-flutter, mesmerized by her rockin' badass-ness and stunning beauty way. But I loved her band more: Fanny, the killer early 70s group with her sister Jean, featuring June's blues/rock guitar slaying, great songwriting, and fantastic chemistry, made four devastating records in a row from 1970-74. Their best song was the glammed up "Charity Ball," but they had a pretty diverse catalogue. After Fanny failed to become the Classic Rock Superheroes they deserved to be, the Millingtons were key figures in the Women's Music Movement, that culminated in the Olivia Records/Michigan Womyns Fest scenes, which certainly was influential and extremely positive for countless people who needed what the Millingtons were making happen. But there's still a sense that they were robbed of Dr. Hookin' their way to the cover of a certain magazine. This argument is held up by the their new record, with old school Fanny drummer Brie Brandt, and even a guest vocal by June's replacement in latter day Fanny, Patti "Pleasure Seekers" Quatro. At it's best this album makes it clear that if the industry gave them their due Millington could have had a Tom Petty-like career, crafting catchy, solid classic rock for decades. There's a few less muscular flower power peace and love moments on here (which are nice), and their nostalgic recap of their garage rock days, "Girls on the Road," kinda sounds like the theme for a Disney Channel show about a teen rock band (except for that guitar solo that renders the garage's brick walls a pile of rubble). But when they are deliver the purest rock n roll, like on the spooky "Storm-Crossed," or the punchy "Lured Away," they are (Charity) balls to the wall, and as Fanny-tastic as ever. I am so glad this record exists.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

George Strait "Pure Country" OST 25th Anniversary Vinyl

(MCA) Cracker Barrel apparently stopped carrying those candy-by-the-decade bags, where they bundled weird 50s or 60s or 70s or 80s confections that are still inexplicably being produced (who gets a sweet tooth, goes to a store, then chooses Necco wafers?). But they started carrying vinyl! And man did I wear this cassette out in 1992. The movie is super good: the guy from Friday Night Lights plays a villainous lip synching country "singer" who takes over for superstar George (I believe he is named Dusty in the movie) after our hero abandons the glitz of stadium Country concerts for the "pure country" of his down home roots. Then it ends with Dusty vanquishing the lip syncher (I think the line is "never show your face in Country Music again...") by getting back to playing Vegas! If I recall correctly, at the time Strait was being advised by Col. Tom Parker, so I attribute this to that. Anyhow, they songs were great, as George had the pick of the best Nashville songwriters as usual, but also had thematic license to make a few tunes with bombastic production, and he ends it with a weird version of the theme song sung by his tiny son in a cracking voice. This is a great album, including a song "Overnight Male," which is a postal worker version of George's first hit, "Fireman," and the killer, "Where the Sidewalk Ends." Note I did not one iota of Googling to research this, so all facts may be wrong...2018!

Lally Scott "Chirpy, chirpy, cheep, cheep" b/w "Henry James"

(Philips, 1970) Picked up this single mostly based upon Lally's bangs, and I got some serious bangs for my bucks (actually my's a long story). The British Lally (who had a hit with "Chirpy" in Australia but saw other artists have bigger hits with it around the word) created an innocuously joyous schoolyard chant/glam goof that I listened to fifty time in a row. It is catchy and pleasant, like a head cold that makes you lightly loopy in a good way. The flip is apparently not about the Transatlantic proto-modernist novelist,  but rather about a shop with a lot of hot girls that work there, that he perhaps is fantasizing about owning. If this is a literary reference (Portrait of a Hot Lady Shopgirl, maybe?) I missed it, but the song is a scrambly, raveup, post-skiffle/psyche adjacent banger. According to the Internet Mr, Scott died in June 1977 in either a Harley or scooter accident. Hopefully he got to see Star Wars. Hopefully the Cantina band played "Chirpy chirpy" in their set at some point.