Friday, October 31, 2003

 
Tomorrow, one track from Rhenyards Grin:


 
Only three more Dustdevils days! After their debut album Rhenyards Grin, the band recorded the Dropping Well EP, then put out a pretty great record called Gutter Light whose cover features one of Michael's paintings. This album is a big step up from Rhenyard's Grin. The production is much crisper (though still lacking bass), the songs are more interesting, and Jaqi is moving towards her signature vocal style. I couldn't pick just two songs, so here are three. First up is Oyster Catcher, which ends the album. I love the way the guitars head for the stars as the track comes to a close. Second song Whim of Iron is strange and inspired. It starts with an atonal soft guitar part, then a surprising clang, then the guitar part comes back, but now it's huge. Later it returns again as a chorus of sorts. The drumming on this song, which switches meters/tempos a lot, is pretty cool. It's a shame the album doesn't have more bass (you might want to adjust the bass on your stereo). Finally, Losing Ground is a pretty neat almost-instrumental that ends side one. I like the part about 3/4 of the way through when the bassy sound kicks in in wide stereo and ta-da, suddenly there's a melody of sorts. Trivia note: I tried so hard to remaster/reissue this album on CD, but the master tapes were just beyond recovery. But, I actually own the rights. That's right! I own an actual record by one of my favorite bands (or at least until someone with a good lawyer comes along to challenge my contract with Michael)!

Thursday, October 30, 2003

 
Coming tomorrow: back to the main story, with tracks from album number two, Gutter Light (mystical beast is postponing album number one, Rhenyards Grin, because, well, it's not all that good. It's coming though, just to satisfy your curiosity.)


 
Dustdevils week continues, and chronology gets ignored today!
After the band broke up, the two main members separated. Guitarist Michael Duane moved to England and started a family (As best I can tell. He seems like a very sweet guy but also kind of an operator. I won't reveal any personal info, but I got the impression that he leads a complicated life). Meanwhile, singer Jaqi remained in the US, where she eventually hooked up with a couple ex-members of The Wedding Present and formed a new band called Cha Cha Cohen. This group released two great albums, both very Fall-influenced, both largely ignored by the public. Last I heard, she had married Keith Gregory (one of those ex-Wedding Present guys) and was living in Australia with no plans of any future musical projects. What a shame!! Today I'm posting one track from each of the Cha Cha Cohen albums. The first song is called Cool Slate and it's from their first, self titled album. The second is called to The Letter and it's from the follow-up "All Artists Are Criminals." Song number two really reminds me of something that the Fall might have put out in the last ten years or so.

Wednesday, October 29, 2003

 
Coming tomorrow...the mystical beast skips ahead in the story for no good reason and features Cha Cha Cohen (formed by Jaqi after the Dustdevils ceased). Trivia note: noted rock critic Sasha Frere Jones, in addition to being frequently mistaken for a woman by Slate readers, once remixed a Cha Cha Cohen song.

Tuesday, October 28, 2003

 
If I had to vote for one band that never got their due respect, and probably never will, it would be the Dustdevils. Every once in a long while I run across a fan of theirs, and we inevitably discuss the fact that the Dustdevils should have followed Sonic Youth to the noise-guitar-band hall of fame. Instead they broke up and disappeared. Good lord, they even got left out of the Trouser Press Guide to the 90's [the online Trouser Press has belatedly added a decent entry]. Go to Allmusic and you'll get a horribly incomplete discography. As far as I can tell, there's no fan page dedicated to them. They're just gone. This week I'm going to try to spread the word as best I can. Their best shot at being remembered is this song, track number one from their best album Struggling Electric and Chemical, which was a joint release by Matador and Teenbeat. It's a cover of the Fall song Hip Priest. How incredibly ballsy to cover what's essentially the theme song for one of the greatest bands of all time. And, dare I say it, after years of hearing both versions, I have to give the edge to the Dustdevils. Theirs is just flat out more powerful, and their lead singer Jaqi puts a great female twist on the Mark E. Smith style of singing. Judge for yourself here (be warned it's a big file). Trivia note: the bass player on this album was none other than Mark Ibold, later to go on to fame in Pavement.

Monday, October 27, 2003

 
One of my favorite discoveries of this year is a group called The 88. I believe that they're named after a song by the French Kicks, but I don't know that this matters much. Very briefly, they're like the second coming of the Kinks. The good Kinks. The ones who recorded The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society and Something Else. Ok, that's kind of a high mark to shoot for, and obviously The 88 aren't that good. But, their debut, self released album Kind of Light has at least three fantastic songs, and the rest is pretty darn strong. Not bad for a self released debut. Yesterday, I spent a very pleasant Sunday afternoon listening to the record, half dozing off, while playing with our new kitten, and it was one of those very happy moments. What I like best is that, while the Kinks influence is strong and obvious (the lead singer can do a perfect Ray Davies impression) they don't come off like a nostalgia band. There are also hints of Elliott Smith (RIP, sigh) and modern Britpop lurking around. Today's track is Elbow Blues, and it's an mp3.

Saturday, October 25, 2003

 
US Maple are kind of an acquired taste. I'd argue that they're worth the effort, but it really did take me a long time to get into them. This mp3 is also from their new album, and comes from the Drag City website. It's called dumb in the wings. I love the way the pattern that the drummer is playing doesn't actually sync with the guitars but you don't really notice unless you're paying close attention. This song is much more accessible than usual. In case you're wondering, they play their songs live almost exactly like on record, i.e. the parts that sound like mistakes are done on purpose. Not that that ultimately matters, but some people feel uncomfortable listening to a band that's "just making noise."

Friday, October 24, 2003

 
Finally got the hang of the uploading thing. Today I'm posting a track by US Maple from their new album Purple On Time. US Maple are one of my favorite bands, and they somehow manage to make memorable music despite dispensing with most of the attributes of a standard rock song. Their drummer rarely plays a steady beat, the singer rasps somewhat like Miles Davis, the guitars play strange made up chords that don't mesh, but somehow it all comes together. Purple On Time is a little bit more accessible than their previous albums, so it's probably a good place to start. This song appears only on the vinyl version. It's called favors are weird. Now that I'm using iTunes for Windows, a lot of my files will be in AAC format. This is one of them.

 
No mp3 yet because I'm still working on uploading to aol. Here's an interesting factoid of no particular use: I knew that Sonic Youth's song Eric's Trip was based on the scene with Eric Emerson in the Andy Warhol movie Chelsea Girls. In the scene, he's tripping on something, and a lot of the lyrics in the song are taken verbatim. What I didn't know is that there's a Swell Maps song called Epic's Trip (named after their drummer Epic Soundtracks, now deceased). How about that!! There also used to be a band called Eric's Trip. So much inspiration from one guy who took drugs in the 60's!

Thursday, October 23, 2003

 
Right now I'm listening to what I'm told is the Steve Albini produced version of Nirvana's "All Apologies." I got it from this place. [Oops, it moved. Guess I'll have to host it myself. Stay tuned.] Ok, here it is.

I'm not a big fan of Nirvana. I'm not even a little fan. But I almost always love hearing alternate versions of well-known songs. I like the dynamics of this version.

Here's an mp3 from Mark Robinson's new solo album "Origami and Urbanism." Here's another. The first one distorts a bit...I wonder if he did that on purpose or if his record label screwed up making the mp3. Both sound like Unrest, but like uninspired and tired and minimalist Unrest. Come on Mark, stop screwing around and make a good record again!

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