Wednesday, September 30, 2020

69 Cats "Transylvania Tapes"


(Cleopatra, 2104) This spookergroup features members of the Cramps, Blondie and front and center, 69 Eyes' singer Jyrki singing halloween versions of graveyard classics in a zombie Elvis voice, but also making some not-so-spooky classics more Frankenberry -season friendly. Anyone can deliver songs about dead Bela and London werewolfs in a haunted house soundtrack-style, but scarifying "Girls on Film" and "Runaway" is more impressive. Best yet is a duet with Wanda Jackson making "She's Not You" sound like a demon's "Boooo!" 

Dolly Parton "A Real Live Dolly"

(RCA, 1970) Dolly returns to her high school to perform a concert for her home town and recalls her days as a radio child performer, and revives her early Monument singles, and cranks up to fellowship. As her songwriting, amusement park, and every interview ever has proven, Dolly appreciates her Tennessee mountain hometown, and the mountainfolk return the love tenfold. But for all the love they show their native daughter, they really appreciate acknowledgement from a famous outsider, so when special guest Porter Waggoner plays to the crowd by dropping local references to "Frog Alley" and "Boogertown" the crowd loses their shit! Dolly does two songs to traumatize the kids on here. The best of her (many!) child death songs "Jeannie's Afraid of the Dark" appears, with Porter adding ominous oration, and she introduces a less brutal, adorable talk-song about being terrified into bedwetting by tales of "Bloody Bones." No one connects with an audience like Dolly, but put her with her classmates and bullies and kinfolk and townspeople and you get some real magic. The crowd is more serene than the howling teenyboppers on the Jackson Five "Going Back to Indiana" album, but the love they have for their hometown hero is just as deep, or deeper. And the Frog Alley jokes are way more plentiful.

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Jake Sollo "s/t"


(Pye/Africa Seven, 1979) This universe shattering Nigerian/British deep disco album, with forays into psychedelia and word funk and super sexiness, is the masterpiece by the rhythm guitar genius who had several successful careers in his short life, as an African pop purveyor, a London session player, and a member of the great Osibisa (mostly dudes from Ghana, but how could they deny this dude's talents?). This was reissued by Africa Seven a couple of years back, and amazingly, this is not a new LP cover, this is the original art!


(Dulces De La Rosa, 2020, but don't but the hot ones dated before 2009, they have lead in them, which I feel should not make them spicier, but what do I know about candymaking?) This is a sublimely good treat! Tiny balls of goodness with a crunchy candy coating covering tamarind pulp seasoned to be salty and sweet, along with tamarind's natural weird and goey properties. SO GOOD! But no so good that you want to eat more than 10 tiny pieces, so it is packaged perfectly. There is a candy bar form without the crispy goodness, but that has a mascot that is a just piece of wrapper-busting candy. These have anthropomorphic whole, unseeded tamarind characters, who look kinda poopy, which is funny. But these candy balls are no joke!

Doubtfire "S/T"

(Jerkoff, 2015) In the early days of Roctober we knew the nation was awash in pop punk, which was not our cup of tea, but we also knew that at least one group playing this music dressed up like eggs, in full egg costumes and egg makeup, and they made egg puns and had cartoony egg-themed art and we supported that to the fullest of our abilities, because that was exactly our cup of eggs. Well, a quarter century later we are trying to barely eke out another issue but the main egg has kept it up, releasing tons of McRackins band records, at least one Bil McRackin solo project, and now another group (a duo with one of the Prozacs), making him the King of in the Eggderground. While I forever dig the costume conviction, I still can't get excited by 90s style pop punk. But that said, there's a song on here called "Kung Fu Magoo" that i have been singing to myself for the last 48 hours. They cracked me!

Missing Monuments "s/t"


(Dirtnap, 2013) I am still amazed that King Louie (New Orleans genius mess version, not the Chief Keef compatriot, or Louie prima primate cartoon) made power pop adjacent rock n roll with this impressive band. If I was helping make a new version of the Archies I would hire KL to write the songs. Then I would get fired. Worth it.

Mary Sarah and Friends "Bridges"

 (Cleopatra, 2014) I am so glad Mary Sarah is alive. Because when your debut album opens with Dolly dueting with you on "Jolene,' followed by Willie jining you for "Crazy," and then Merle, Tanya, the Oak Ridge Boys, Ray Price, Vince Gill, and even Neil Sedaka join you on song after songs I am fearfully thinking, "Uh oh...Make A Wish Foundation." Thankfully this was either just great fortune (or mob connections or blackmail or genie wishes) mixed with solid enough talent, resulting in a dream album that did not make this young singer a superstar (although it was a step towards getting on The Voice a little while later), but also did not end tragically. So that's a Country and Western win!

Monday, September 28, 2020

The Loons "Inside Out Your Mind"


(Bomp, 2015) The best pop psyche album of this group's two decade career, this is just good, timeless music, retro not for cosplay's sake, but because there was really good music being made during the time they let Arther Lee make records.

Mile Me Deaf "Holography"


(Siluh, 2014) Smile me, YES!

Drifting Sand "Summer Splash"

(, 2014) I can't tell if they are making fun of surf music or if they bleed surf music, which (as  the Phantom Surfers, Los Straitjackets, and others proved eons ago) it apparently doesn't matter if you are clowning or cresting (a wave), when surf's up, earth's up...for having a great time with Dick Dale's ghost, plastic tiki decorations, and sunshiny sounds of dudes like Surfer Spud!

(Stop Worrying &) Love the Bomb "I'm Haunted," "Noun," "Fake Nature"


(Big Neck, 2011, 2015, 2020) If you looked up "Absolutely Perfect Trash Rock Guitar Rock Music" in the dictionary (and dictionaries had long, subjective, adjective-laden subjects for entries) there would be a picture of this band to listen to (if you could listen to pictures).

Dengue Fever "the deepest lake," S/T deluxe reissue (Tuk Tuk, 2014)

 (Tuk Tuk, 2015/2017) Oh, to remember the days when you could see live shows by grooving rock bands with riveting singers at a jam packed, sweaty club. And when you could name your band after a viral disease. Revisiting these records (especially the bonus track heavy reissue of their rare debut) I have all my terrors and tensions float away as soon as I hear Chhom's enchanting chimes.

Willie Nelson "Live Country Music Concert"

(RCA, 1966) This is the first early Willie Nelson record I have bought that is not particularly good. It is hard to remember that Willie achieved big time stardom in the 70s and his first decades in the biz were as a GOAT songwriter, but not a huge star as a performer (the jarringly generic, seemingly Russian bot-generated album title conveys just how special RCA thought Willie was). He simply was not the best performer at the time. While his banter is confident, it's dry and droll (and spending seemingly an eternity apologizing for covering a Beatles song before doing "Yesterday" is downright weird, though it must have been necessary in Fort Worth in '66), his medleys (of the absolutely greatest songs in the history of Country music, which Willie composed during the most impressive half-decade in any single songwriter's career) are sung in a distracted monotone, like a clockwatcher in a cubicle trying to get through his shift. That he would eventually become one of the most beloved live performers, growing his bond with the audience as he grew his har out, is not foreshadowed here. I LOVE Willie and am not happy to report a dud in his stellar catalogue. I guess RCA knew better than to truth-in-advertising this with the title "Mediocre Country Music Concert."

Dave Davies "Rippin' Up Time"


(Red River, 2014) Rips!

V/A "Gathering at The Earl of Old Town

(Dunwich, 1971) With all the very deserved attention going to the magnificent John Prine after our shitty country let him and hundreds of thousands of other treasures get away, I thought it was worth revisiting the best Prine-less document of the lengthy, important Chicago folk club era. Growing up being into punk and R&B and blues I knew about the Chicago garage rockers and lush horn pop and Chess bluesmen and even about the gospel acts, but really only got a peripheral perspective on how many folk clubs there were in town; how hopping they were; and how much talent this city was nurturing. Despite the title, this was not recorded live at the legendary club, it's a studio-recorded collection produced by former Friend and Lover, future Mark Twain impersonator, and longtime folk mainstay Jim Post (who has a couple of great tracks on this). This album is most famous for Steve Goodman's "City if New Orleans," though his wacky novelty number about outsmarting a narc is the highest highlight of the LP. Ginni Clemmens' rousing cover of "Wild Women Don't Have the Blues" is a close second fave on here, representing what I hope was the spirit, humor, and energy of this scene I never experienced. Aliotta Haynes and Jeremiah (of "LSD" fame)  appear here, as do both of the Holsteins, with Ed's bold "Jazzman" making you wish Carole King had never sullied that song title, and Fred's moving "The Man Who Sings" making a great argument for the power and under-heralded talent that filled a bunch of stages for a bunch of years. I recommend a Gathering (of these songs) at Ear of Head-town.

Hershey's Superhero Bar

(Hershey's 2020) Poor DC comics. Anytime anything highlights the Justice League movie it just commands unfortunate Avengers comparisons. While I certainly would not recognize an Ant Man or Black Widow logo (really any of the team's four [!!!] bug/arachnid-themed characters' symbols other than Spidey's), Marvel is smart enough not to make themselves look like chumps by putting unrecognizable grsphics out there. The new Justice League candy bar includes an arguably semi-recognizable Aquaman logo, but also, in the lower right hand corner, a completely unknown logo, which by the process of elimination must be for Cyborg.

That it sort of-kind of resembles the Chappelle's Show logo I guess is cool. That I found a different unrecognizable official Cyborg logo on Amazon is less cool. Also, unlike this picture from the Hershey's site, my bar had a Wonder Woman logo shaped like boobs. Also there are 60s Batman sound effects chocolate squares and a 1950s Batmobile, so branding is all over the place. Just all very weird. Plus, no almonds.

The Mojo Gurus "Who Asked Ya?"

(Red River, 2014) These Roxxers make big, dumb blues-based loud swampy bar rock, that is just about the best music you are going to get/can ope for from non-Spanish or Yiddish speaking Floridians. DirtbagRock forever!

The Candy Rock Generation "Super Rock"

(1969, Columbia Record Club) Is it super? Yes. Yes it is.  There was always a budget/cheapo record option, and while just getting every song free digitally is the ultimate triumph for cheap asses, to understand the knockoff budget covers album industry it's better to consider at the last gasp of physical CD sales. Imagine that instead of getting you a copy of Now! That's What I Call Music Volume Zillion with recordings of your favorite stars, your mom brought home a Kidz Bop comp of incorrectly covered versions of hits with the wrong voices and dumb changes made, but they didn't mention on the record cover that it was for kids or screwy cover versions on the cover. So back in the day there were hundreds of records that looked they might sorta be Beatles albums with deceptive covers, hell there were even 20 different groups of high pitched bugs and rodents recording a track actually called "The Chipmunk Song." So these records were not rare, and they were not weird or unusual. Until they Beatles got weird ad unusual, kids got high, record labels followed the trends, and Columbia House decided to release a 3 LP box set of the biggest hits of acid rock, psyche, mod, and weirdo sounds. So anonymous studio hacks got to recreate Deep Purple, Doors, Iron Butterfly,  Cream, and the Stones' ode to street fighting and revolution. Plus ALL the Beatles songs that fit the profile. Some of the stuff included here is from less subversive genres, with  a few bubblegum and Motown tracks. And more jarring are just some completely wrong inclusions ("Shake Rattle & Roll" between Bee Gees and Joni Mitchell tracks?).

Obviously it should be the instrumentation and guitar sounds that stick out as bizarre rather than the singing, but for me it's not. Sure, there is a circus organ call and response on the Beatles' "Birthday," , and they don't even try to get the production sound right on "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida," but for the most part getting professional studio musicians to play "Hush" or "Penny Lane" gets you pretty true to the sound of the recordings -- these dudes own all the pedals, and they can simulate freakiness, and they can sure fake rawness (what teen garage record has guitar and drumming that sounds garage-ier than "Stepping Stone"). In fact some of the productions are freakier than the originals ("Yummy Yummy Yummy" sounds a lot more psychedlic). But the vocalists ca't fake freaky. and wrong-sounding singing turns out to be really jarring. Having a normie croon "Fire" by "Crazy World of Arthur Brown" is...crazy! It sounds like a high school play actor trying to emote, and ends with a Daffy Duck-going-kookoo impression! I don't even know who sings on the actual "Shape of Things To Come," but I definitely can't deal with the smooth crooner taking over. And Jim Morrison should be easier to impersonate than he actually is, it seems.

My friend who originally made a CD-R of this for me really loves these knockoff collections and claims there is a Woodstock album recreation where they "cover" the spoken warning about bad acid. Since then I will buy this on vinyl whenever I see it and give it as a wonderful gift to friends. Because I am your mom and don't know any better.

Weird Mob "Wizzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzards"

 (Hiberbator, 2015) This is very good synthy, catchy pop that I could compare to at least, seven of your all time fave bands, but to be straight up with you, I asm writing about this album just because i wanted to count the Z's. It was 29.

Ron Haynes Game Changers "Game On"

(2013) Trumpeter Haynes (not to be confused with the East Coast O.G. drummer, Roy Haynes, which may be why the band is billed as the Chicago Game Changers these days) leads a hard working, heavy gigging funk jazz combo, and on this great album they balance badass originals with classics by Diz, and Lonnie Smith they  even bring in the legendary El Dorados for some vocals. If you end up  in a room with these cats jamming you are in a good room.

Go Time "Ratsel," "VI," "Midway"


(Gotimeband, 2015-2019) This is just a good band

Sunday, September 27, 2020

Carl Skanberg's Score-n-Sketch Cards


(, 2020) As the White Sox regular season ended today with a couple weeks of crashing down to earth after a solid month of riding higher than even at any time in 2005 season (with debate over which one of our superstars would be MVP, when running away with the eventually lost division seemed inevitable) I look forward with more optimism than the radio team to the playoffs (they were already attaboy-ing the team for just making the playoffs, tempering any hopes for post-season success). That said, 15 days ago I would have been flummoxed trying to choose the best thing about this thrilling, weird, distanced, crazy season. But now I have a very clear decision: it is Carl Skanberg's Score-n-Sketch cards! 

On Twitter and his Website the Suburbanite super Sox fan/cartoonist/designer has been releasing these all season and they are breathtaking wonders. The covers are 2-color prints of delightful baseball themed designs, often featuring animals being adorable. The actual scorecard is hand-ruled and filled out with exquisite yet loosely flowing handwriting. He doesn't do that 2 diagonal lines thing for a double, but rather writes in "2B," which I don't 100% advocate, and I don't know what all of his scoring means (are the dots under the strikeouts the number of balls when the dude struck out?), and Skanberg does not do the whole pitching line, but give him a break...just look at the facing page!

While the covers are fun, for diehards the treasure is the illustrated game summary with multicolored scratchy-lined gorgeous action packed, characature-rich action scenes. Skanberg sold two sets of prints so far this season, so I will reference these: Sure there are some dud games every season, but there's something to celebrate every game if you watch with an artist's/true fan's/fool's eye, so even these are cool in CS's presentations. Yes the Brew Crew demolished the Sox on August 6, but capturing Mazara's and Leury's little victories, and lovingly dealing with Eloy's clumsy fielding are enough for me. The Aug 3rd game is presented with a really dynamic Will Eisner-esque kinetic design, and the drawing of Ben Gamel's weird beard is worth the price of the print set. There is some beer pouring out of Bernie Brewer's barrel on one the covers that says a little much about mascot incontinence, but other than that this set is really nice

'But the Pirates set released later in the season is the real fucking deal! Granted, the 2020 Pirates made a lot of people look good, so why not our art hero? And reciprocally Skanberg made them look amazing, even in portraits of futility. The covers are full of nautical whimsy, as the seagull Sox battle goofy pirates and a behemoth octopus. But, again, its's the insides where the money's at. August 25 Giolito throws a no hitter and the intensity, drama, and joy captured on the portraits of Gio at the start and end of the game are perfect, and the summary of close plays and great fielding is a joy to behold. On another card the body language of Keuchel, Eloy and Mendick is impressive, evocative, and weirdly exciting. 

The masterpiece of the Pirates set is 9/9 game, where, yes, the Sox beat the parrot droppings out of the Bucs, and drawings of Robert's sliding catch, Abreu stretching to beat out a throw to extend his hit streak, and McCann clobbering one of two dingers are really good. But the protrait of Roberto Clemente on the day MLB honored him is breathtaking. The nobility, character and handsomeness captured is a step beyond all the other great art we were treated to all season long.

In a season where there is no going to games and 2-D fans populate a few hundred seats, these summary cards seem like a legit way to take in the game, as legit as any other remote way. But I do have two final caveats: when the White Sox win the World Series I will demote these masterpieces to 2nd best thing about the season, And if "Skanberg" is a very unsuccessful ska pun from the artist's woebegone 3rd Wave college ska band days then I take 28% of this praise back.

V/A "All Back to Crampsville"


(Righteous, 2020) Like the Songs The Cramps Taught Us compilations back in the day, this presents the crazy quilt of sonic shenanigans that inspired the psychobilly pioneers. Unlike those previous compilations, this is apparently not a bootleg, which makes the eclectic, amazing selections more impressive, since hoops had to be jumped through to get them. The biggest Cramps influence not included is Hasil Adkins, but there are definitly some Usual Suspect all stars, like Dale Hawkins, Bo Diddley, and Ed Kokie Byrnes, and two of the biggest anthems in the Cramps-inspired weirdo-verse are included: The Phantom's "Love Me" and Legendary Stardust Cowboy's "Paralyzed." But there's also gloriously obscuro tracks, some little heard revelations, and (especially thrilling for my neighborhood) the canonization of Oscar Brown. Jr. into this lunatic rock n roll realm with "But I Was Cool." A revelation to me as a young music fan was recognizing the twin pillars of record collecting genius were The Cramps and Dr. Demento, figures I loved in part because they were omnivorous vinyl adventurers, trying everything the found, hoping to find hidden strangeness. MOJO's Dave Henderson, who compiled this album, was similarly inspired when he saw the picture of Lux and Ivy's record lair in INCREDIBLY STRANGE MUSIC VOLUME 1 bookThe results are, as Felix and his Fabulous Cats croon, savage, and not at all, like Sidney and the Chimps chant, Blah.

Environmental EncroaChment "We're Only It For the Bunny EE-EP"


(, 2015) In Chicago we do brass marching bands the right way --- absolutely fucking insane! And with jokes!

Apple Pie Kit Kat


(Hershey's) Apple pie may symbolize USA all the way, but it's no pumpkin spice when it comes to random assed flavor profile mania. And this kooky kandy will not help the kulinary kampaign. First off it's an inverted Apple Pie, with the not-particularly-pie crust flavored wafers covered with apple cream candy, so the no chocolate thing already has Hershey's out of their comfort zone. It just does not taste too good. 

Neville Staple "Ska Crazy!"

(Cleopatra, 2014) This Special/Fun Boy One steps back from his Second Wave Ska salad days and revisits the songs/vibes and magic of the Jamaican forefathers of ska and rocksteady sounds. With socially conscious originals mixed with covers of Prince Buster, the Heptones and others, this is an incredibly satisfying listen (and better than anything ridden upon by 3rd, 4th, 5th [or beyond] wave surfers)

Ancestral Resurrection Ensemble "Rescuing Agape"


(2010) In the 60s as the Black Arts Movement was at its richest, Dr. C. Siddha Webber was an active muralist alongside Bill Walker, and the omnivorous artist also played music as part of the activities at the Wall of respect. He was a key figure in the long lasting Universal Alley Jazz Jam in South Shore, and ten years ago he released this criminally obscure magnificent meditation on the state of the world. With the brilliant saxophone of Jimmy Ellis playing against Weber's wise words chanted with authority and beauty, this mellow-yet-intense cycle balances straight ahead jazz, avant garde explorations, and Last Poets- era spoken word poetry. I am not a poet and cannot describe this as well as I'd want to, but if circumstances allow you to spend an hour with this masterpiece, please do. Dr. Weber joined the ancestors in 2016, but his 50+ murals made a lot of impact on the communities they enriched (some still exist, and he was restoring his best works until his passing). If there is more of his music recorded and available I do not know of it, so this wonderful, hard to find artifact is an actual treasure for which it is worth the treasure hunting.

Cheese Borger and the Cleveland Steamers "Terminal" "Best Record Ever"


Smog Veil, 2013/2018) As the top historians of Weirdo Ohio music, Smog Veil records has repped a lot of the Burning River State's best historical weirdo bands. However, this band really nicked a lot of notches (and Nick-ed the perfect amount of Knox-es, as it features the best drummer of Ohio weirdo worldbeaters the Cramps). The main Cleveland kook in charge is Cheese Borger, of Pink Holes, but other heroes who make appearances are Mike Hudson of the Pagans, Electric Eel John Morton, Pere Ubu-outlier John Thompson, and Steve-O from Death of Samantha. Remarkably, this band is not particularly weird, they make perhaps the most pleasant rock/pop by a poop-name themed band I have ever heard, especially on the more recent record where Meredith Ruthledge (Mrs. Borger, if you please) handling most of the vocals with power and nuance.  We have since lost Nick and Mike, and I thank the Smog monsters (oddly, an historically Chicago operation despite the Buckeye obsession) for championing, spreading the germs, and combining the viruses of Ohio oddness so many times over the last three decades.

Pet Theories


(, 2015) Full disclosure: this is my friends' band. Full brag this is my friends band! They make really pretty songs that are simple and good and simply good!

The Fur Coats "Gumball in the Meritocracy"


(Johann's Face, 2017) Mark Ruvolo has one of Chicago's most distinct voices in punk, literally in the sense of the tone vibrating off his vocal cords (even when he does his Klaus Nomi alien tribute) but also with his voice of the everyman lyrics, creating songs that just feel comforting and affirming and just smart enough, as well as catchy. Always good to hear him again.

Third Coast Kings "West Grand Boulevard

(RecordKicks, 2014) If these now defunct practitioners of de funk, a la Meters, were a woman, I'd like to meet her.

Saturday, September 26, 2020

Foco Roasted Coconut Juice


(Foco) This is the finest soft drink in the world. It does have some sugar added, so it's not perfectly healthy or "natural," but it feels better going down that pop or Kool Aid or anything blatantly shitty for you. It's robust roasty edge on the delicious coconut flavor, and the perfect level of pulpy chunks makes this the best thing to drink, possibly ever.

Kellogg's Llama Loops

(Kelloggs, 2019) I would say there was no real reason for this cereal, but that's just me being an old. Also, Ic did immediately buy it when I saw it on clearance at Walgreens, so my immediately buying it is a reason to make something. But to my point, these llamas are not character from a show or comic, or even a specific meme.Rather, it's a sort of a general meme, with a design style that references a kind of glittery post-Lisa Frank unicorn-iverse concept. And there is some kind of "National Llama Day" tie in. But I cna't remember how it tasted, only my general confusion about why it existed, so that is not a Cereal Hall of Fame rookie season.]

New Horrizzzons "Trial by Fire" incense EP/Canadian Romantic wiggle picture

(Robert Dayton, timeless) Robert, my Canadian Guy Friend, is a genius for so many reasons. One time at a Canned Hamm show his performance was so sweaty he caused the most intense spontaneous body odor (from the entire room!) that I have ever experienced. His earlier band July Fourth Toilet actually genuinely disturbed me, and I use snuff movies as screen savers. But these two projects took it to the proverbial "whole nother level." His sexiest persona, The Canadian Romantic, was made, believe it or not, SEXIER, by producing a lenticular winking wiggle card. Topping that, his pysche-pop band released an album in the format of A PACK OF INCENCSE! You know what I think about incense? I'm incensed that this Canuck is not bigger than Bieber!

Pinkfong "Baby Shark" picture disc

 (2019) It is either much better or much morse to have a three year old constantly flipping a picture disc on the turntable to play a one-minute earworm electro-jingle for the millionth time rather than playing it oover and over digitally on a phone or ipad. So not only is this child hearing annoying audio and developing compulsive behavior and demonstrating relatively poor taste in music but they are also training to blow their entire future paycheck on Discogs. So better. And worse.

Churchwood "3 - Trickgnosis"


(Saustex, 2013) I normally like my blues rock dumb as a brick, but this stuff is smart as a brick with a doctorate in poetry, and I really like it!

The Shondes "The Garden," "Brighton," "True North" musc video

(,  2013, 2016, 2019) Seven years ago I never got around to praising "The Garden," a weirdly perfectly throwback 90s dramatic, rousing rock n roll album by this Yiddish-themed band, and I am so glad this act, that somehow emerged in the mid-2000s with a old school too-good-for-120 Minutes-vibe is still righteously rocking. with a solid Passover-themed video less than a year before plague-themes became cliche.