Sunday, December 29, 2019

Code BMUS "Strike Now"

(1981/2014, EVER/NEVER) Mysterious 1980 post-punk broken furniture/field recording/coffee jitters art rock that's haunting is a pesky poltergeist way.

donnie "the colored section"

(2002, Giant Step/Motown) I spent a lot of this year re-visiting what I think might be a top ten neo-soul album of all time, and probably, the number one underrated album in the genre. Deep, challenging content married to deep smooth grooves, this album (as the kids say in 2019, so it will be outre in the new year, thus this shall be my last usage of said vernacular) slaps! If there is any knock against this it might be that the artist's nods to Stevie Wonder's work are too spot on/blatant, but then again, if you can write (and perform!) songs that sound as good as vintage Stevie it might be a sin to not do so.

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Toni Basil "Word of Mouth"

(1982, Chrysalis) I think this record is REALLY slept on. I went to Apple Music and they don't even have it, just a compilation. I really believe Basil is one of the most fascinating figures in American entertainment, certainly on screen: she's in a top tier Elvis film (in probably the most dazzling music number in any of them), attends an Annette beach party, meets the Rat Pack, is in Easy Rider, helped the Monkees go psyche, made Shindig swing, and appeared in a brilliant segment during the launch of Saturday Night Live, introducing proto-hip hop dancing to non-Soul Train viewers. Significantly, she was no Zelig/Forest Gump stumbling into iconic moments in pop culture history, she was a visionary choreographer, a thrilling dancer, and a radiant screen presence. As a musician she made two LPs, this debut being known for the smash "Mickey," a sly remake of a Brit hit which topped the charts around the globe and earned the ultimate accolade, a Weird Al parody. But unlike many so-called One Hit Wonders, her song was no fluke floating in the ether; Basil's keen sense of which exciting youth/underground cultural trends were Ready For Prime Time that she demonstrated in her 'ography was being applied to pop music, and this record is insanely good. I do not have the 1981 UK version which has a few different tracks, but the US version is thrilling. Most of it has a Devo vibe, and a lot of it just has Devo literally playing the music. She cover's Love's "Little Red Book" as a New Wave groover! She makes David Essex' "Rock On" more futuristic and less creepy! Every song was created with video and dancing in mind, and the kinetic energy is always sizzling, while also always being whimsical and fun in the way the best pop is serious about structure but not too serious about anything else. I am particularly enraptured with the single "Shoppin' From A to Z" (the picture sleeve looked like a shopping bag). This absolutely absurd alphabet song has Basil sexily buying matzo, liver, zippers, and other staples to a beat, because as you know, "good girls shop, bad girls shop," so what else can she do? And for "X" she pays tribute to Margaret Wise Brown's most intriguing "good night" recipient. As far as poppy New Wave albums I really don't feel like there are any that I love more than "Word of Mouth." 


(2018, owlsnest) Outsider music that's as introspective and thought provoking as it is raw and strange. More Daniel Johnston than Wesley Willis, but more GLVis than either of those colleagues, this Midwestern troubadour addresses topics of race, gender, and religion with jarring honesty, making this more than an oddball novelty. In fact, though some odd balls are juggled here, and this has humor and an original POV, there's really no novelty here at all (oiher than this being a one sided LP that used a font on the back cover that makes Comic Sans look dignified).

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Livefastdie "Hitstains"

(2014, Almost Ready)  Lots of shit references here in the art, lyrics, and liner notes (though I am counting "kick the shit out of..." as literal), but I think its fair to call this Vomit Rock. Trashy, ugly,  Zed Fi punk blurs culled from rare EPs onto this now rare LP. Makes your head feel like bad weed on a bad night.

Mad #11, #12, #13

(2019, 2020, When the Internet began reporting the death of MAD last year I was a bit perturbed, but hopeful, as they committed to publishing on a regular schedule with a mix of reprint and new material. Because Sergio Aragones and Al Jaffee are still alive, and because some of that oft-reprinted material is worthy oft-reprints I held out judgement. And judgment is ...mixed! The first issue was their now annual 20 Dumbest People, Events, and Things entry, which hinted at a great strategy, as they included a lot of old material that complimented the new material because they had vintage stuff about Trump and the environment and politicians and celebrities and corporations that completely, and very specifically, mirrored the subjects' contemporary shenanigans. Mr. Jaffee was not active (give a near 100 year old a break every now and then) but Sergio was as robust as ever., and the contemporary Gang of Idiots did pretty good in their now-limited capacity. Issue 12 was even better. Excited that QT included a Tom Richmond drawn Mort Drucker homage imaginary 1960s-era MAD cover in Once Upon A Time In Hollywood, they used that cover as the cover, then had a killer section of new material by contemporary artists designed to look like it was in a 60s issue of MAD, including a piece by Chicago's own Johnny Sampson doing a Fold In (and I cannot recommend his zine about his relationship with MAD Fold-Ins highly enough: ). So VERY promising so far. But the latest issue, with a music festival theme, is more disappointing than the fact it came out in advance of a music festival-free Summer. Some of the new material is OK, but some is weirdly topical in a non-hip MAD Kids way, though there are a few great ones (I believe Sergio's long overdue A Mad Look at Port-a-Potties was new). But the reprints were curated inanely. Some were decent but one was a Steve Allen sheet music parody from the 1950s that eleven people would have found funny in the I Like Era era and zero people would like today. And that was not the only sheet music entry. Honestly, because Trump is unparody-able I felt MAD was just about the only outlet that was doing a pretty good job these last few years, as he is a worthy target of smartly juvenile humor., so I felt they were on a roll. The hybrid reprint issues originally only lost a little momentum. But this new issue does not bode well. That said, batting .667 is pretty good, and considering the clunkers in Dick DeBartolo's movie parodies the last half Century, disappointment is no stranger to MAD readers. But I will only give them another 68 years to straighten up, then I am out!

The Tunes "Love Uncool"

(1982/2013, Cheap Rewards) Bouncy, chirpy Midwestern power pop that is SO prototypical it is almost hard to believe this is real and not a fictional band created by 21st Century Power Pop Re-enactors. There are some tempos that seem too fast for 1982, which makes me believe this is probably real, as fakers wouldn't have made that mistake, but this is SO perfect I'm still skeptical. Contains all the songs from the sole release by these Not-In-Kansas-Anymore (even though they are in Topeka) pop dreamers, plus six unreleased tracks, and they are all about girls, love, loving girls, and body temperature. And elevators and escalator metaphors. And like those machines, this takes me where I wanna go: To Deepfake Pop Heaven!

Monday, December 23, 2019

Midwestern Cuban Comics, Blammo by Odin Cabal

( I wrote about this raw, ambitious, funny, sexy, strange, ugly, confounding, inspiring comic a bunch, but I wanted to write about it one more time, as I fear its' lengthy, worthy run came to an end a while back. It is so good! That's all.

Blood Rhythms "Assembly"

(2015, No Parts Of It/RRR)  This cyclical cacophony is comparable to watching Warhol's Sleep (which is not a five hour shoot of a dude sleeping through the night, but rather a series of repeating eight minute loops of a dude sleeping, thank you very much) on fast forward repeatedly while wearing Clockwork Orange eyeball openers...consensually!

Sonic Chicken 4

(2014, Bachelor/Dusty Medical) Better than the Popeye's sandwich! (note: got joke in before the 2019 expiration date)

Jameldeen Tacuma "Show Stopper"

(1983, Gramavision)Bassist Tacuma's 1983 masterpiece is so one-of0a0kind balls out amazing I can't push it hard enough, but in all honestly, anyone who would nee dan explanation beyond just looking at the album cover may not be worthy of this album. These vibrant spacewave funky fusion soundz are slinky, weird, futuristic, unbelievably urgent, yet simultaneously c-o-o-o-o-o-l. Tjis record joltd me up like an ice cube bath.

Ella Jenkins "You Sing A Song"

(1966, Folkways) As the (older) kids say these days, this slaps! This might be my favorite childrens record of all time, just because the title song is so groovy, and Ms. Jenkins sincerity is magical. I saw her when I was kid, and this century I've seen her perform for kids a few times, though her focus is not what it once was. That said, this is music for cognition at every level, for like the Pete Seger Folkways record for babies, there's some kind of scientific study on young brains that has resulted in some tracks featuring almost drone-ish extremem repetition that is joy trance inducing, while eschewing pop songwriting rules. But then the title track is such  a smash hit that Casey Kasem shoulda spun it. 

Subordinate "To See Their Demise"

(2013, Suburban White Trash) In Crust we trust! I love not being able to understand a single bloody-throated scream lyric but still feeling secure that I know with specific clarity exactly what this band wants to convey to me. That I should die.

Ruined Fortune "s/t"

(2014, Hozac) Wickedness.

Platinum Boys "Future Hits"

(2015, Dusty Medical) Bar rock with glitter mullets. They might smash your head with a guitar and/or take your mind/body to the stars!

Saturday, December 21, 2019

Goth Throb, Say Her Name and Other Stories by Bianca Xunise

(2018,  Bianca might be my favorite cartoonists in the city, and that's saying something because Chicago is a town where genius cartoonists grow like mold in bungalow basements. Say her Name uses Xunise's ostensibly adorable style to tell non-cutesy truths about racial horrors in one of the most segregated cities in the world. These tales are so personal and honest and powerful, and extremely accessible, in part by characters looking cuter than Batz Maru (though her expressive faces are not fake-big eye Sanrio emotion evoking, but real as fuck). Her other zine is a thirst ode  to Dave Vanian and Dave Vanian adjacent goth gents (and ladies with less gloom but more boom, like Sister Rosetta Tharpe and Poly Styrene). If the Alley stocked leathers with these designs on it I would definitely be broke(er)  and look sex[y](ier).

Nevermores "Lock Your Doors...:"

(2014, ) Like listening to the unresting ghosts of the dead the Wailers through broken speakers in a Solid State ouija board. 

Friday, December 20, 2019

A Very Brief History of Buttons

(2015, Busy Beaver Button Co) This is my favorite art book from the 00s.  24 gorgeous pages of 220 years of button-mania, with guest stars George Washington, The Superbowl Shuffle Bears, ET, The Yellow Kid, Peter Max, and the Button Gal herself, wearing a giant peace button at a (presumably) Reagan-era rally. The single sentence button descriptions are as historical, poetic, informative, and revelatory as a lengthy Ted Talk.

Sir Lord Von Raven "The Age of Machines"

(2015, Guitars and Bongos) Regal desperation! I listen to this all the time.

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Apartment Number Three by Pascal Girard

(2017,  Spit & a Half) A twee, whimsical, light-hearted charmer about stalking, obsessing, B&E, and delusion. Also, the artist drew himself looking like Comic Book Guy meets Baby Huey, though he actually looks like Comic Book Scholar meets Huey Lewis. And also does not look like darkwave extreme  arm wrestling champion Pascal Girard. This comic is amazing and I highly recommend it, but also watch the cartoonist's namesake use Dracula powers to maintain his calm while this blondie loses his shit trying to out muscle the Dark Lord of Wrist Strength.

Monday, December 16, 2019

Dirty Hands Vol 4 by David Alvarado

(2014, ) I call this zine Jazz Dog and Donut Man and I have looked at it once a month for five years and had sexy nightmares about it once a week since then.

Shantih Shantih "Winter in September"

(Wid Honey/Dusty Medical) Ghostly jangle pop. Like the ghost chain rattlings are the jangles. Haunted twee!

Happy Slappy Dancin' by Max Edward Morris

(2018, Do You Even Read Comics?) The Keep on Truckin' of the tattooed face era!
(Sidenote: K.O.T. was Crumb's best meme)

Kim and Leanne "True West"

(2014, Hozac) There are three kinds of records in this world. Good; Band; and Haunted House Soundtrack-worthy. (Obviously I am also including Mazes of Darkness and classic Spook Houses) This record is no "Bela Lugosi Is Dead" played at 16rpm, but it is nonetheless spooky, disarming, and haint-ish enough to help turn your basement into an attraction that will earn you case quarters from every kid in the neighborhood. 

Camelot issue #1 by Miss Pussycat

(2018, Rhinestone Records) Miss Pussycat is a treasure. The artistry, sophistication, and stratospheric level of comedy in her puppet shows betrays any idea that her work is simple or childlike, or raw in any pejorative senses of those words (though it is certainly simple, childlike, and raw in every awesome sense of those words). More-so, I would never attribute her aura of sincerity, enthusiasm, and wonder in any way to affectation, and if you are a cad who would do such a thing, then this puppet zine will put a stop to that stinking thinking, toot sweet. In Camelot we get some peeks into a secret window of the magical, technical, virtuoso-heavy world of puppetry festivals/conventions, as the centerpiece of this is a million word interview with Peter Allen (not Liza's "Bi-Coastal," "First Gay Husband" but a veteran puppeteer from England) and his partner in puppetry Debbie, the Judy to his Punch (sans paddle abuse) . The mutual respect, the deep knowledge of the craft, the enthusiasm for an under-appreciated art, the joy, and the secrets make this long, entrancing talk very special (also, Miss P reveals some of her origin story). Puppet tour diaries, an interview with Kid Koala about his multimedia puppet project, a convo with punk puppet band Three Brained Robot, and a lovely talk with Nancy Smith (with beautiful photos of her expressive people, plant, animal and elf puppets) make this the Zine of the Year (in 2018, but also this year, so the Zine of Two years).

Monday, December 9, 2019

Platinum Boys "Buzz"

(2017, Dusty Medical) Urgent bubblegum mixed with some dignified, seasoned Strut Rock. Kind of a masterpiece.

Monkey Power Trio "Left Behind"

(2015, Obviously if the gimmick were that this band actually had monkeys covering Cream (or monkeys covered in cream [or Monkees covered in Creem]) that would be an A+ gimmick, but the actual gimmick (band members gather from across the country once a year for one day and create songs from scratch, then release those songs on vinyl) is a solid Asian F. This record features songs from 2011-2013, so their 13th-15th days (years) as a band. For only playing together two weeks they got pretty good, and at times create actually groovy grooves. They also get a little strange, spooky, and jarringly disturbing, which in retrospect means they clearly were making prophetic monkey predictions of the Trump era. I think they have released records since this but I am still processing the simian symbolism on these ten transmissions. You see, my gimmick is I only listen to their records four years after they are released, and only once, and I write my review after drinking six shots of Four Roses. And no spellchjeck.

Bald Knobber by Robert Sergel

(2018, Secret Acres) If you are thinking of the wholesome rural music and laughter of Branson, Missouri's Baldknobbers Jamboree, think again, because this book instead revives the legacy of the Show Me State's infamous Show Me How to Lynch a Criminal vigilantes of yore, who wore scarier masks then the KKK, but were ostensibly committing less hateful hate crimes. So...the surviving photo of this group's mask is super crazy, which makes it understandable why it would inspire this chilling work of chiaroscuro clean line comix, and why the bullied school-shooter-to-be protagonist would look at these rogue justice seekers as heroes. Domestic messes, cat turds, and horizontal stripes all culminate in a jarring snapshot of our terrible times, while reminding us that the past sucked as well.

Saturday, December 7, 2019

Pookie & the Poodlez "The Last This I Did As A Teenager"

(Rubber Vomit, 2012/2014) Poodles are some of the meanest dogs in the world. It actually takes some work to make a pit bull act like an asshole, but you have to be a Jedi dog whisperer to make a poodle not be aggressive and nasty. So it is iroonic that this shit is NICE! There's a few tapes of this band from the pre-Trump teens and all of them are packed full of glue-sniff, no budget, broken glass-flecked bubblegum. But this is the best one because the hi-end colored vinyl edition somehow sounds shittier than the ultra-budget cassette tape. So if their tape sounds better than their vinyl then this are the 21st Century Bad Brains!

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

AMA Dots

(2014, Rerun) If this Midwest-via-Transylvania band, circa 1979-1983, was an ice cream they would be Hagen-Doez, because vocalist Boolah Hayes can sure do what Nina Hagen does. There's a magnificent "Bela Lugosi is Dead" drum break on "Samizdat," from their unreleased EP on Autistic Records (of "Gacy's Place" infamy). Production by Iain Burgess is mysterious, spooky, not particularly kooky, and so good and weird. If this record had came out it would have changed my childhood. [Should I have gone with Hagen-Dots?]

Drugs Dragons "I & i/II"

(2014, Dusty Medical) Here's how you can tell if something isn a good record: You switch from 33rpm to 45rpm trying to figure out the correct speed. You check the stylus to see if it's severely damaged, followed by the speakers. You go on the Internet to figure out how to self-diagnose ear, then subsequently, frontal cortex damage, to see if that's why it sounds like this.

Here's how you can tell if something is a GREAT record: You conclude that rotation speed and system damage are indeterminable,  but decide to spin it thirteen times in a row anyhow. 

Monday, December 2, 2019

How to Make A Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwhich by Jada

(2015) This zine, made by a Kenwood Academy High School student a generation of High School ago, accurately informs one how to do what it set out to do with florid, pre-Internet,
cut-n-paste style illustrations/diagrams. I will now stop writing and eat.

The Prince Zine by Joshua James Amberson & Rachel Lee-Carman

(Antiquated Future, 2016) With the onslaught of Prince vinyl reissues and new material and the Prince-sorta-authored book coming out this year I have been thinking about this zine a lot lately. It is a 60-page assessment of Prince's work, with biographical sketches of him and his (unequal) cohort, with examinations of some of the naughty and righteous themes ("Controversy!") running through his work and life (running in hip-decimating hells, no less). What I liked about it most was that the author got very deep into world of Prince fandom, tracking down the bootlegs, reading up on the rumors, scouring every source for data, and basically entering the world of deep fandom, without actually becoming a blind, diehard superfan. I almost read Amberson as someone who loves the research aspect more than the subject matter. However the author is passionate about Prince, just pretty critical of early, and late (and a lot of the middle) work, and the author is very interested in how Prince's relationship with gender resonates with them and with the Prince-iverse. There are a lot of Prince books less solid than this zine (including Toure's weird one, which is quoted quite a bit here) and the illustrations are good, especially when the artist captures something sly, weird, and magical in Prince's sleepy eyes.