Wednesday, November 26, 2003

The Australian act Magic Dirt are one of my favorite bands, though they haven't been making it easy lately. After a few great Sonic Youth/Stooges inspired ep's and albums that didn't sell very well, their lead singer Adalita took singing lessons and turned a wonderful, untutored voice into a dubiously "rock" sounding voice. At the same time, the band removed most of the quirks from their songwriting and neutered their sound. I found their "sellout" album, What Are Rock Stars Doing Today awfully conventional and boring, with the exception of the hit single (a hit in Australia) Dirty Jeans which is great despite the fact that it repeats the same lyrics over and over and over and over and over again. On the b-side of the Dirty Jeans single is this rockstar-esque cover of Liz Phair's Supernova. If you turn it up loud enough, you'll catch some of the bass-heavy guitar sound that made me fall in love with the band in the first place. (After getting ahold of an import version of the album which comes with a bonus disc of b-sides, I discovered that most of the non-album tracks are good, which makes the blandness of the album proper even more infuriating.)

For some reason, their web site seems to have disappeared recently. I hope they're ok. They released a new album Tough Love this year, and it's a slight step back in the right direction. I'm going to do a feature on them sometime soon, so no more details today.

Mystical Beast will post next on Monday, December 1st.

Tuesday, November 25, 2003

Did not get much sleep last night, so I'm posting a link instead of the usual. Stereo Total were at one time Momus' favorite band, for what that's worth. They come across much like Serge Gainsbourg performing in every style he ever tried plus punk, all on one album, and additionally feature the wonderfully named female singer Francoise Cactus. This rarities collection has been around for a while, but it's really fun, and even comes with cover art in case you want to make it into a CD. All in all, I think it's one of the better legal free downloads floating around the internet.

Monday, November 24, 2003

I'm going to try to stay away from ultra-current events, links to other blogs, etc., but I'm so overjoyed to learn that the funniest sitcom ever is finally coming out on DVD next year that I'll break my rule.

(I hate clicking on links when I don't know what I'm clicking. The funniest sitcom ever was News Radio.)

Today I'm posting something by a band called Mold...I think you'd have to call them no-hit wonders because they had one great song but it wasn't a hit. Not by a long shot. It's called Sonic Youth At Disney World and appeared on a four-song ep by the same name in 1994. Kramer of Bongwater fame produced it in his Noise New Jersey studio, and you can definitely hear the Bongwater influence. My favorite part comes at the end when the singer refers to Sonic Youth's drummer as "the drummer." I still think SY made a big mistake when they kept Steve Shelley, but that's a rant for another day. The only other song of interest on the Mold ep is called Bob Mould Hates Me, and it's not all that good, but has one cute line where they rhyme "said his belly was big" with "made him flip his wig." Ok, two cute lines: they also rhyme "drank his lemonade" with "made him play the piano parts from Zen Arcade." I bought one other Mold album after this, and it was terrible so I never bought anything else by them. I still have's one of those unsellable early 90's indie rock relics that no one wants.

Friday, November 21, 2003

Small Factory's ouvre hasn't held up so well, or maybe my tolerance for nasal guys and/or off-key girls singing songs of lust disingenuously veiled as songs of puppy love has decreased over the years. Through the early 90's, though, they seemed like they were going places, moving from the 7" vinyl indie ghetto to a decent indie label to a major label and then....poof...they broke up, two of them turned into the god awful God Rays and then broke that up.

They only released three CDs, one of which is a singles compilation. In my opinion, much as I loved them at one time, they're not relevant anymore and the only real reason to listen to Small Factory at this point is to get nostalgic for a certain innocence of the pre-dead-Kurt days when it seemed like any nice group of youngsters with college degrees could become the next Unrest. With that in mind, I'm not posting tracks with the intention of "selling" the band. Movies is the b-side of the one single from their last album For If You Can Not Fly. It's kind of slow and boring, not particularly typical of the band's sound, and really emphasizes how nasal and annoying Alex Kemp could be. It sounds to me like the sort of thing that Alex might have played in concert while David changed a string. My copy of the single is, however, a very pretty shade of green.

Alex Kemp played bass and was the kind-of-dorky, kind-of-asshole, kind-of-cute center of attention. In the beginning he played acoustic bass (the guitar kind, not the stand up). David Auchenbach was the guitar player who never said much. Now he produces indie bands. He started out playing acoustic guitar in concert, but the band would amp up the volume, so the acoustic thing was kind of misleading, at least live. Their early singles were on the wispy side, so there was always a tension between their inherent twee-ness and their desire to be "rock stars." Drummer Phoebe Summersquash (hippie parents) was cute as a button (probably her official motto) and acted as foil, organizer and mediator in concert. She and Alex became a couple at some point, which seems to have moved him away from the puppy love stuff and towards a somewhat more adult affect.

Song number two isn't even by them. On For If You Can Not Fly, they played a nice cover of Happy For The First Time In Weeks by the strikingly named band New Radiant Storm King. This is the original, just for the curious. Pretty good song actually, in either version, but Small Factory's version is tighter and more concise.

Finally, the only song I can stand off of the terrible, tuneless God Rays album is this bit of interesting weirdness called Boy Scout Thriller. I heard later that Alex was a trust fund child, so I assume that music was just a hobby and that now he's a painter or a designer or in a video with Paris Hilton or something. [Actually it appears that he still plays music, though on a very under-the-radar level.]

Phoebe Summersquash still pops up as a drummer here and there and oddly enough, someone seems to have named their cat after her.

Thursday, November 20, 2003

Back in the early 90's, when chickfactor was just beginning to flex its muscles, Small Factory and Versus were, in a way, the Beatles and the Stones of a smallish New York area scene that took bits of Olympia innocence (see Beat Happening) and mixed them with a soupçon of east coast cynicism, a splash of Anglophilia, and a dollop of actual ability to rock out. I used to see them play together frequently, and while Small Factory possessed the charm (I think I'll feature them tomorrow), Versus tended to blow them away in concert, having received the larger share of the dollop of rocking out.

I tend to assume that anyone reading this can go to Allmusic for band details if they wish, so few if any will appear here. Versus' first non-single release was called Let's Electrify and it came out on their own teeny Remora label, and is worth a buck or two on eBay these days. It's one of the very few cases where the rare and out-of-print item is the best thing a band did. Here's the title track, and here's my own favorite song of theirs, That Girl's Gone. They had a longish career after this, and many of the albums are decent, but maturity didn't suite them well. Later albums had a tendency to plod along competently, which means that they were always better live. (However, their singles/demos compilation, Dead Leaves, is often far less than shabby.)

Wednesday, November 19, 2003

I wasn't going to post a track today, but woke up early so I changed my mind. Here's The Collision by Currituck County, which is really Kevin Barker from the boring band Aden doing a John Fahey meets indie-rock thing. His first album, from which the song comes, was Unpacking My Library which has a few nice tracks and a bunch of ok ones. He has a new album out called Ghost Man On First that's more traditional sounding (except for one strange heavy metal instrumental that somewhat breaks the flow). It's nice, but really almost qualifies as straight folk music.

Tuesday, November 18, 2003

For the most part I'm taking Wednesday off, so no new mp3. One small bit of info: a few posts back I mentioned that there was a new Moles compilation out (The Moles being Richard Davies' old band, Richard Davies being an ex-member of Cardinal, and if that doesn't help that's the end of the line). Turns out that, while not advertised as such, it actually contains different mixes than have previously been available on LP or CD. I'm currently trying to find out what they are...the label doesn't even know. Apparently Richard did them himself, and they may be new or really old or who knows. Anyway, I'm awaiting an email from the man himself to clear things up.

Punk rock today, after all that jazz.

First song is by a German band called Die Toten Hosen. They put out a pretty cool album called Learning English: Lesson 1 in 1991 on which they covered a bunch of punk rock classics. Members of some of the original bands even helped out (Joey Ramone, Johnny Thunders, Captain Sensible, etc.). The one original, (Carnival In Rio) Punk Was, is possibly the best song on the album, and features Ronald Biggs on vocals, and sounds like a great outtake from the Sex Pistols' Flogging A Dead Horse (which I've always kinda liked). "Dad, what was punk rock?" Now you'll know.

Song number two is by Bikini Kill. People always seem to review them in terms of Kathleen Hanna's lyrics, politics etc., and the band did put out a lot of sludgy polemic. But, on their Rebel Girl single (with the help of Joan Jett, and I suspect that she helped a lot given how much better it is than anything else Bikini Kill ever did) they pulled together three perfect songs. I love New Radio because it's smart enough to stop after 1:33, because it contains two wonderful blood curdling screams, because it features a variety of Kathleen Hanna's many vocal styles (hectoring, purring, screaming, etc.), and of course because it leads into their one true classic song Rebel Girl. Which you'll have to get elsewhere. While it's tempting to buy their singles compilation, may I humbly suggest that the Rebel Girl 7" is probably a smarter buy. Three perfect grrrl punk songs, no filler, and you don't need to listen to the lyrics to like it.

Monday, November 17, 2003

By "tomorrow" (in last Friday's post), I of course meant today, Monday. Just to finish up with Annette Peacock: Mick Ronson, as part of his bid to become the next David Bowie, chose to cover one of Annette's best songs ("I'm The One") on his solo debut. In addition, he did a just-about-exact copy of her neat re-working of "Love Me Tender." Sadly, Mick's bid for stardom failed. Still, on the b-side of the single from his second solo album, he performed yet another Annette Peacock song. I'm posting the two versions today. Here's Mick's "Seven Days" and here's Annette's "Seven Days."

While doing some very slight research for this I happened to notice that Annette Peacock is selling copies of two of her CDs through CD Baby. This is worth knowing, as most of her albums were released through her own Ironic label and can be pretty hard to find, nor are they likely to be re-released anytime soon, though you never know.

David Bowie paid a subtle homage to her on his Hours album, with the song "Something In The Air" which steals the chord progression and some of the moog noises from the end of "I'm The One." That aside, Annette's closest brush with mainstream fame came when her weird, incest-themed song "My Mama Never Taught Me How To Cook" appeared in the movie Chasing Amy. Unfortunately, the soundtrack for that was never released. Her website (under construction) is here, and seems to indicate that she's still working.

Friday, November 14, 2003

Yesterday I featured Mick Ronson's version of the Annette Peacock song "I'm The One." Here's the original. I love Mick and all, but I have to admit that Annette's version just shreds his to pieces. It's from her debut release, also called "I'm The One" which came out on RCA, bringing her to the attention of labelmate David Bowie. This record (which isn't yet out on CD) is notable for featuring some very early use of a Moog synthesizer to modify vocals. Robert Moog (guess what he invented) gave an early model to Annette, and she made pretty cool use of it in the studio and live. And moogs were not exactly compact at the time.

I have two unimportant things to say on the subject of Annette. First: I met her at an in-store appearance a few years ago. I think she must have been in her fifties at the time, and I hope I won't offend anyone by mentioning that I was kind of taken by surprise by she is. Really. It was sort of astounding. I lent her my pen to use to sign autographs (I had brought a nice felt tip and all she had was a ball point, and after she signed my album I didn't need mine) and received just about the sexiest spoken "thank you" I've ever experienced.

Ahem. Ok, thing #2. It's always struck me as odd that Mick Ronson, who was poised to be MainMan's next star after David Bowie retired Ziggy Stardust (read about it in any Bowie history, but seriously, they really gave Mick some major publicity) decided to cover a song by this weird, out-there jazz figure. And it's not just one song. More tomorrow...

Thursday, November 13, 2003

Ok, today's post continues yesterday's Karen Mantler theme, and I hope I get the following family tree right. Karen's father was Michael Mantler (famous jazz guy) and her mother was Carla Bley (famous jazz woman) who is married to Paul Bley (famous jazz guy) who at one time was married to Annette Peacock (obscure yet famous jazz woman) who got her last name from Gary Peacock (famous jazz guy). That's a lot of famous jazz people at the family reunion.

So, in keeping with this theme, here's a song by David Bowie's old guitar player Mick Ronson called I'm The One which appeared on his debut solo album Slaughter on 10th Avenue. More on this tomorrow...

Wednesday, November 12, 2003

Do you want a song to put on mix-tapes that's not going to get lost in the shuffle? Today's track should do nicely. Karen Mantler (daughter of the famous jazz-person Carla Bley) (they both sport the same strange haircut) recorded this ode to her dead cat Arnold in 1996 on her utterly essential album "Farewell." You might not guess the subject from the song title. It's called "Arnold's Dead."

I once read a review that pointed out that the lyrics on this record sound like they've been translated into French and then back into English again. It is wonderful how they never rhyme or scan. Mostly they detail Karen's troubles in life: she owes money to the electric company, she lusts after her male assistant, and her life is hell (as one song goes). Worst of all, though, is the loss of her beloved cat, who had appeared with her on the cover of her two previous albums (My Cat Arnold and Karen Mantler and Her Cat Arnold Get The Flu). Poor Arnold!! Be sure to stick around for the atonal munchkin chorus at the end of the song!

This post leads into a very short feature I'll be doing for the next few days on some people related to Karen Mantler, but there's going to be only a slight bit of jazz content, so don't worry (if jazz normally worries you).

Tuesday, November 11, 2003

I swear that the vocalist on The Open Ground reminds me so much of Robyn Hitchcock when he speaks. The voices are very similar, but it's really the choice of adjectives that seals it. I wonder if Robyn was a fan of Pussy (whose only album came out in 1969). And I wonder if Pussy anticipated how difficult it would be for future rock historians to discuss them without eliciting giggles from the peanut gallery.

Monday, November 10, 2003

I didn't have time to upload today's track last week, when I first mentioned Laptop, but this is such a classic that I'm going to do it now. Jesse Hartman has been coy about telling what band he's referring to in I'm So Happy You Failed (AAC). At times, he's said it was about The Strokes, but given the success of their new (crappy as the first one) album, we'll have to find another band to attribute it to.

Anyway, my favorite part is the end, where he brings in a children's chorus to sing the refrain. If that isn't a stroke of genius, I don't know what is.

I got really excited over the weekend when I stumbled across an album making the internet rounds (it's not new, but new to me) of Richard Davies (see Moles entry below) playing with the Flaming Lips as a backing band, but turns out it's not so great. Oh well. So I won't be posting anything from it here.

Friday, November 07, 2003

Nick Heyward used to be in Haircut 100, but more importantly he released one of best pop (or maybe I should use the dreaded "power pop" term) albums that I've ever heard.

I'm in the midst of converting my CDs to AAC files, having finally purchased a hard drive large enough to hold a significant chunk of my collection. While ripping Nick's CD "The Apple Bed," I was just knocked out by how good The Goodbye Man (AAC) is, despite the fact that it is a tad derivitave of a Mr. Paul McCartney & Co. You can probably find a cheap copy used...the American version has bonus tracks.

Thursday, November 06, 2003

Hooray!! Joy Zipper news!! A new EP, The Stereo and God has appeared, and it looks to be a teaser for the release (finally) of American Whip. Just to bring people who don't know the band up-to-date quickly...Vinnie and Tabitha...Long Island...boyfriend girlfriend...he did drugs...she helped him stop...released 8-track demo as s/t "Joy Zipper" and made a little splash in the UK...druggy dream pop...great song "The Power of Alan Watts"...follow-up announced for release in early 2003...reviewed everywhere...never appeared...$$$ on eBay.

Ok, so finally things are looking good. I'll celebrate with a track from the last teaser ep they released months ago. This is called Absent Father. It's an AAC, so go out and get iTunes already. It's really great! The ep is also worth getting for the cute, lovey-dovey video of Vinnie and Tabitha cavorting by the seaside.

Wednesday, November 05, 2003

Thunderstorms that keep interrupting uploads shall not stop me from posting two tracks from New York City's Laptop's 2003 album, which is in the process of getting overlooked as people begin assembling their best-of lists. The record is called "Don't Try This At Home" and it contains more of Jesse Hartman's cynical and catchy synthpop (think again if you're thinking Magnetic Fields). With added guitars this time out, some might say it sounds a bit like the new Dandy Warhols album, except the Laptop album came out first.

I note that there's a teensy blurb on the band in the November Mojo, so perhaps the media blackout is beginning to lift. If ever a guy deserved to get the Strokes treatment, it's Jesse, who's been at it for years, first as Sammy and now as Laptop. He still gets ignored in his hometown, but if you have a chance to see him live (with his band of backing dominatrices, I kid not) I'd advise doing so. Here are the first two tracks from Don't Try This At Home. First is Want In, and second is Back In The Picture. Please listen to the lyrics and marvel at a man who can work "my difficult little shiksa" into a catchy song about a one-night stand.

Tuesday, November 04, 2003

Not to turn this into a fan site for The 88, but I just noticed this link to a (pretty great) live broadcast of the band. There's a brief interview section as well.

As Mystical Beast was busy with the Dustdevils when Elliott Smith died, respects were not paid. Here's a link to the site of The 88 who are (somewhat self servingly, but probably with good intentions) posting an mp3 of themselves backing up Elliott. On that page you can also preview tracks from their album.

And, here's a song that's in need of updating at this point, unfortunately.

Monday, November 03, 2003

Based on the number of visits to this site from people looking for the rare US Maple track, I'm thinking that a US Maple rarities day-or-two might be in order. But, for the next week or so, the Mystical Beast is going to try to bring back all the pop fans who were lost during the Dustdevils blow out. Tomorrow brings a link to a rare track by a band previously featured here, backing a famous rock star who recently died. Also, a tribute to dead rock stars everywhere.

In unrelated news, the Mystical Beast has recently learned that some kind folks have reissued a bunch of stuff by the Moles (Richard Davies' great old band) with a bonus disc of rarities (also available on vinyl). Go here for details.

Sunday, November 02, 2003

Today is the final day of Mystical Beast's Dustdevils feature. I leave you with an alternate version of Throw The Bottle Full (the regular version appears on their final album, Struggling Electric and Chemical) and finally, the last track on Struggling Electric and Chemical which is called They Don't Sleep 8 Hours A Night. The Dustdevils released one single (Extant) after Struggling, and then broke up, but I've always felt that "They Don't Sleep..." would have been the best way to go out.

Mystical Beast will take a well deserved rest on Monday and then resume on Tuesday. While you wait, here's a joke to tell your friends (taken from the liner notes to Struggling Electric and Chemical). There was this sloth (right), wandering through the jungle. It got mugged by a bunch of snails. Police asked it later, what they looked like. Sloth said...'Don't know, all happened too fast.'

Saturday, November 01, 2003

The Dustdevils' first album Rhenyards Grin has an almost goth feel at times, and the recording quality isn’t the best. Still, there are some interesting things on it. This track is The Lost Divide, and you can sort of hear pieces of their future sound through the haze. Today I’m also posting one song from their first album for Matador Records, Geek Drip (which was Matador’s second ever release). Geek Drip is also flawed by bad sound, though this time it’s because someone lost the master tape and they had to use a cassette. The only track I really love on that album is this, which is actually a cover. It’s called Mobo Girls, and it's just a piledriving mass of guitar. (By the way, the original version appeared on a single by Hose that was Def Jam records' first release. Yes, that Def Jam.) Finally, I’m posting a rarity. The Freeze Whistle appears on Gutter Light, but this live version is from a really hard-to-find album called Rorschach Blot Test that came out in ’88. Tomorrow is the last day of this tribute. Trivia note: some copies of Rhenyards Grin came with a flexidisc of a cool song "Mother Shipton" that was later expanded on the Dropping Well EP into a really great noise-fest. Read more about the real Mother Shipton here. The Petrifying Well sounds pretty neat.

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