Saturday, February 28, 2004

MP3s can be found further down the page.

Instead of my usual weekend thing, I thought I'd post a few photos from my neighborhood. I think I've mentioned that I live in Brooklyn, which is the hot place to be these days. I hope that these shots will help convey at least some of the electricity and the urban grittiness of the mean streets that I call home.

Friday, February 27, 2004

Wow, first thing is that Kurt Ralske (of Crash/Ultra Vivid Scene/etc.) comes out to say hi here (near the end of the thread). While I agree with him that Rev is far and away the best UVS album, I think he's being too hard on the first two CDs.

A long time ago I read an issue of Tape Op (a neat zine about the mechanics of recording, generally aimed at non-pro's though it covers a lot of ground) where they interviewed the guy who recorded an early Flowchart album. He mentioned (about 1/3'd of the way down the page) having recorded a Can track bubbling under the surface of the song Metro Survey. I finally got around to checking out that song recently, but I can't hear the Can song. I only know Can's ouvre through Flow Motion, so maybe it's a later song. Or maybe I'm just missing it. Or maybe it's actually on another song...or maybe it's just one of those lies that engineers tell to trick people into buying CDs.

Anyway, it's an interesting experience to listen to the Flowchart song while straining to hear the Can song: you wind up concentrating on some of the less obvious parts. Just so you know, Metro Survey has a long intro that doesn't change much, but the song does eventually start doing other things. It does sound pretty much exactly like Stereolab, but that's not a criticism. Later on, Flowchart moved away from being carbon copies, but I think I prefer them in their less-original period.

You can get a whole bunch of Flowchart songs (including the one I posted, but I thought it'd be more convenient to put it here) at this place.

I woke up sick with a cold today and somewhat depressed after finally reading "Our Band Could Be Your Life" last night. God, what a friggin bleak book when you think about it. The song that always cheers me up (and it worked again today) is Martin, Doom! It's Seven O'Clock by the Boo Radleys from their Wake Up! album. (English people: yes it was a hit in your country, but it sure wasn't over here). Wake Up! is where the Boo Radleys shake off most of the remaining traces of their shoegazer past and embrace pop, and I've always associated it with Blur's Parklife. If they were movies, they'd make a great double feature. It's funny: reading the lyric sheet you'd think this was a depressing record, but the songs are so bouncy and optimistic sounding that you'd never know that.

After Wake Up!, the Boos got a little too experimental for my taste (not that I dislike experiments...I just don't think it was their strength, though I can cherry pick lots of great songs off of the subsequent records). After their break-up, songwriter Martin Carr formed Brave Captain, and you can find out all about them by clicking the link to the left.

Thursday, February 26, 2004

I feel like a kid who didn't do his homework today...I was up way too late last night as my wife and I allowed ourselves to get sucked into this evil thing. And now I have to run out.

I'm posting one song that I've been feeling the need to play over and over and over lately. I think I've mentioned that I do a lot of listening while running at the gym, and I'm finding that I prefer long, repetitive songs of a certain tempo these days as a result. Vibe Out! is by Unrest, and at this point I'd say it's my favorite song of theirs, partly because it combines a number of their sides (melodic vocal, instrumental, experimental) into one and partly because that long ending is more interesting than some of their other long/repetetive songs (I like their 30 minute plus Hydro, but while parts of it are great, other parts aren't). This version is from the English Cath Caroll CD single, which is a slightly less bright mix than the one that appears on the B.P.M. compilation. Same song, but I like it better with fuzzier edges.

I wanted to post some tracks from Unwound's Leaves Turn Inside You today (fluxblog features an alternate mix of one song from this album today) but 1. I don't have space and 2. I can't imagine anyone flipping over any one particular track, whereas the album as a whole is a wonderful thing. I may devote a day to CD#1 of this double album at some point. I'm hesitant because it's also not an album that people tend to like on first listen, and I'm not sure that mp3 blogs are the best place for things like that. I'm wondering, do you just listen to the songs I post on the spot or do you save them for later? I have to admit that, even with the best intentions, I often find myself listening to the first twenty seconds of other people's postings and thinking "naah" and that's it, which is a pretty dumb way to listen to new songs.

Anyway, sorry to be just posting one long song today with minimal info. But it is a great song. Double apologies for anyone who uses dial-up w/this site.

Wednesday, February 25, 2004

With the Pixies apparently getting back together, I thought I'd do something Pixies inspired. Nemo were a band from Belgium, they pretty much define "Pixies inspired" and it's through pure luck that I know about them. I walked into a club called Brownies in New York City back in the early 90's and accidentally caught the latter part of their set (opening for someone else...I can't remember who). Here's the irritating part: they finished with an absolutely amazing fast was really incredible...high energy...catchy as hell...their geeky lead singer was playing/singing like there was no tomorrow. But all I can remember is what I just said. I have no idea what the song was called or what any of the lyrics were or even what it sounded like, therefore I'm never going to figure out what it was (unless someone who was also at the concert tells me, and the show wasn't exactly well-attended). Sure was great though! Here's I'm Sick and I'm Proud and here's Oh Ann from Nemo's pretty-darn-good debut CD Nemo. I actually went to a lot of trouble to get ahold of their follow-up Popmusics, but it's not nearly as good so I stopped following the band. Here's a website with more info.

Lint were a Boston-area supergroup of sorts, and I bought their debut CD Cold Scene for two reasons. One: someone at the record store had taped onto it a label that read "Swirlies!" and I was in the midst of an obsession with the Swirlies at this point. Two: the CD, in a bit of genius marketing, can also be played on a record player. Kind of. Basically, they managed to glue a CD-sized flexidisc onto the top of the CD so that (with the help of an included doohickey) you could fit the CD onto your turntable and play a short (bad) song. So clever!! It's held together for years too, which I didn't expect.

Surprisingly, the CD also holds up pretty well in a non-physical sense, though it starts to drag towards the end. Here's To Me (I love this despite the vocals on the chorus, which sound like the angriest twelve-year-old girl in the world has suddently entered the room) and here's Puppenstuben which features lead vocals by ex-Swirlie Seanna Carmody. Lint have another CD and a bunch of singles, but despite the fact that I'm somewhat fond of Cold Scene I've never felt a great need to own any more Lint.

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

So yesterday ended with Larry Coryell singing a song by Jimmy Webb called P.F. Sloan. You probably know at least one song by Jimmy Webb: he wrote MacArthur Park and Up, Up and Away, and it's probably impossible that you've avoided hearing one of those.

P.F. Sloan (the "P" stands for Phil, don't ask me about the "F") was a songwriter who wrote a lot of hits from the 60's, including this one which I'm just about sure you've heard in some version or another (the version posted is his original demo from 1965; every time I hear a "demos" bootleg by a modern band, I can't help wishing that today's artists made demos like they did back then).

Anyway, another song by P.F. Sloan is called Lollipop Train (a bunch of people have recorded it) and, if you follow the doings of the Siesta record label, you may have seen an album by a band called...Lollipop Train. It's part of a series (mentioned here before) of somewhat precious, quasi-psychedelic records that were ostensibly for children, though I have my doubts about how well they'd actually go over with the under-twelve set. What's neat about the series (besides the fact that it gives a friendly face to various cult figures from England...Simon Fisher Turner, Momus, Mike Alway, Louis Philippe) is that pretty much every song and album title is a reference of some sort -- generally to films or somewhat obscure music from the 60's. You can fill in huge chunks of your musical/trivial knowledge by just googling everything connected with this series.

A lot of Lollipop Train's output (and actually everything in this series) can be considered either charming or annoying. A lot depends on your level of Anglophilia. Luckily, they do a very sweet cover version of my favorite Monkees song Porpoise Song, and here it is. They also do a lot of things like this.

And finally, Angie Tillet who appears from time to time on various Lollipop Train tracks also has her own band (the concept of "own band" is kind of meaningless with this group of people) called Death By Chocolate who seem to be the most popular thing to come out of this entire project. They have two somewhat overlapping albums, one self-titled and the other called Zap The World. Again, it's a mix of 60's references, spoken bits, cover versions of songs from obscure (especially in America) movies, and so on. Even if you've been faithfully watching tributes to the 60's and 70's, you're still probably not going to get most of the references. Typical (actually on the less obscure side) would be this tribute to the Velvet Underground called The Salvidor Dali Murder Mystery.

Monday, February 23, 2004

Today picks up where Friday left off, so if you didn't read that entry you might want to take a quick peek. It's worth keeping in mind that Allmusic's review of The Real Great Escape isn't at all atypical...most publications that I've checked either ignore it entirely or use words like "disaster" (to cite one example).

I'm pretty sure that the problem is simply that jazz reviewers aren't the right people to ask about this album.

I have to run errands this morning, so for now I'm posting two tracks. I'll be revising this page around 2:00 today, and I'll be replacing the songs with different ones. I just don't have time to write anything substantial right now. So visit twice today and you'll get to hear a substantial chunk of the album.

[I'm back. This is now the revised version with different songs.]

Part of me wants to get into a long explanation of why The Real Great Escape isn't at all a disaster, but that seems sort of pointless since I'm posting tracks from it and you can judge for yourself. I've been tempted to make something of the fact that the cover photo features Larry running down an alleyway, but I don't really go for lit-crit type reviews so I won't.

Here's the first song from the album, The Real Great Escape, which starts off in Jimi Hendrix territory, but soon turns into an extended one-note vamp with Larry's singing disguised by some sort of talk-boxy effect. After the beginning, the song basically hits a point where it sounds like the climax of the instrumental break of a pop song, but then it just stays there. There's a lot going on, even though melodically the songs is basically one note, and I highly recommend headphones.

Here's Makes Me Wanna Shout which has has a vocal melody that pretty skillfully navigates a whole bunch of chord changes. The bit where he sings "After all the complicated changes we've been through..." is so pretty. I'm tempted to read that line as a joke, but actually the song's changes aren't all that complicated for a jazz musician, so probably not. Really, I can imagine an edit of this (minus some of the soloing) fitting in nicely with some old Chicago. The saxophone solos put me off, but as I've said before I don't think that's the sax's fault -- it's my own issue.

Finally, the last song on the album is called P.F. Sloan and it was written by Jimmy Webb (whose work you probably know, even if you don't know that you know it). It's one of two Webb compositions on the album; the other is All My Love's Laughter which is a wonderful ballad that wouldn't have been out of place on a Mick Ronson album (note that Scott Walker also did a cover of that one).

I just don't know what problem people have with all of this. The songwriting is good, both on the Coryell and the Webb tracks. The soloing isn't obnoxious, Larry's voice has no problems that I can hear (I think it's actually pretty interesting), the sound is great, the band is tight with emphasis on the drummer who manages to avoid doing a lot of the things that jazz drummers can do that I find annoying. Even the synthesizer isn't a problem (though I suspect that they were saved by having to use an ARP which had a fairly limited number of crap settings...I'm pretty sure that a few years later this album would have been ruined by the addition of wank-o-ramic synths galore). What's sad is that there really isn't any more Larry Coryell product that sounds like what I've been posting (aside from some extremely hard to find stuff that predates his Lady Coryell album). Personally I love what he was doing here and wish there was more. I got briefly excited when I learned that his son Julian was putting out rock albums, but what I've heard is really awful LA style generica.

In honor of that last song P.F. Sloan, tomorrow involves connecting the dots between Larry Coryell and the band Death By Chocolate.

Friday, February 20, 2004

I conceived this as a blog that wouldn't go on indefinitely, and I'm getting somewhat close to the end of what I wanted to do (best guess is that I'll wrap up in March or April, but it depends on a lot of things).

One person who I really wanted to make sure I get to is Larry Coryell, so today and Monday will be all about him.

He's a major jazz artist, but I'm tackling him from a rock perspective. Also, Larry Coryell is one of the most likely claimants to the title of "the guy who invented fusion" but I'm really hoping that the word "fusion" won't scare you away. Here's a one-minute snippet of Larry doing what I usually think of when I hear that word (from his Spaces album released in 1970). I'm not in a position to say if it's good or bad, but it's not something that appeals to me on a gut level. The songs I'm posting today don't resemble that clip much: they're much more in the rock spectrum of things. I'd say that early Can, Velvet Underground and early Chicago are more the frames of reference for the songs of his that I like the best. (If you've only heard later Chicago, be aware that their early records were very different, e.g. the noise-guitar solo piece on their first album.) I suppose that Jimi Hendrix is kind of an inevitable comparison, but I've never heard much similarity between their songwriting style, though the guitar sounds do have a resemblance.

Ok, I hope you're still here. Basically, I could have bought any of a large number of Larry Coryell albums as my first album of his, and in most cases I would have thought "hmm, not bad" and re-sold them. It's not that I dislike jazz, but hearing jazz for me is like being told a joke in French. I'll probably understand most of the words, and if someone explains it to me I'll realize that it's funny, but on a basic level it's likely to miss the mark. Luckily, the first record of his that I ever saw looked like this:

I should probably interject here that one of my rules of record shopping is that if you see a vinyl album that came out between 1968 and 1972 by a band/artist you've never heard of, and especially if the cover art is quirky, you buy it. I'm not saying that'll work 100% of the time, but it's got the best hit/miss ratio of any buying strategy that I'm aware of. And clearly, a naked family standing in a field on a 1969 release qualifies. [Most of Larry Coryell's early albums were reissued on CD not long ago in very cool mini LP sleeves, btw.]

Enough about me. Here's the first song from Coryell, called Sex. I love his rough singing (Allmusic makes all sorts of deprecating comments about his voice; I honestly have no idea what they're talking about). The things I like best are the way the bass and drums are so minimal, especially during the guitar solo. It reminds me a lot of the kind of thing Can were doing on Monster Movie, where the rhythm section sticks to small variations on a simple beat, with the bass using only a couple of notes. The rest of the album is good (jazz fans all apparently love The Jam With Albert) but I think that Sex is the song that belongs in any rock fan's collection.

Just prior to Coryell, Larry had released a record called Lady Coryell which sees him trying out all sorts of styles (including a somewhat dubious country western song called Love Child Is Coming Home). Again, though, there's one stand-out song for me: the title-track Lady Coryell. This is an instrumental, but it's really wonderful, and interesting all the way through. What I love best is the part (there's about 2:56 left in the song when it starts) where a noise guitar solo gets going and the song suddenly sounds almost exactly like European Son by the Velvet Underground.

On Monday I'll feature songs from his "pop" album, The Real Great Escape. Allmusic says:

A disappointment, this was Larry Coryell's attempt to move beyond the jazz audience into the pop/rock arena. Unfortunately, Coryell can't sing, though he gives it a valiant attempt on these songs. The band is augmented by horn charts on some of the tracks, Steve Marcus plays a couple of smoking sax solos, and there are glimpses of Coryell's guitar ability, but the music isn't very good. The Real Great Escape kinda sounds like Dreams, another band of jazzers whose foray into rock didn't work very well. It should be skipped by all but the Coryell completist. It is surely an album the guitarist himself would just as soon forget.

I'll find out if you agree next week, but my own opinion is that they're severely mistaken and that it's, in fact, an absolutely fantastic album. (I don't trust anyone who uses the phrase "smoking sax solos" to write about a rock/pop record.)

Thursday, February 19, 2004

I'm going to continue with Fall related stuff today, using them as a jumping-off point...tomorrow I'll be moving into very different territory.

I've been listening to The Fall's BBC Sessions compilation Words of Expectation a lot lately. As you probably know, there are now one million albums available by the Fall, and every song that they've done can be had as a demo, live version, dance mix, instrumental, name it. There is literally no possible way to get anyone excited about any new Fall product.

Nonetheless, Words of Expectation features wonderful sound...much better than a lot of the original album tracks had. The performances are extremely crisp...I'd venture to say that a number of these versions are definitive (Jaw Bone and Air Rifle being one of these). Another one that I'm liking more in its BBC incarnation is New Face In Hell. If you're a fan of Pavement, some smarty-pants Fall fan has probably already told you all about this song. Bad Pavement.

After he left The Fall, Marc Riley formed a band called the Creepers. I haven't yet heard anything by them that struck me as all that exciting, though I kind of gave up looking at some point. My favorite song by them is their cover of Brian Eno's Baby's On Fire. There.

My favorite song by Brian Eno (from the phase before he ran out of ideas and had to invent ambient music in order to cover this up) is The True Wheel from Taking Tiger Mountain By Strategy. Here's a really neat boppy cover version by the not-so-well-known band Pink Filth. Their label's website has some interesting things tucked into its nooks and crannies. This should be of some interest to anyone who likes the Divine Comedy but wishes that they sang about horses more often. [BTW, I haven't managed to get ahold of the Pink Filth album that contains The True Wheel yet, so I had to resort to using a tape from the radio. I apologize for that, but it's a really cool version and I don't think many people have had the chance to hear it, so anyway...sorry about the sound quality, etc.]

Finally, my favorite song that features Eno vocals that doesn't appear on Here Come The Warm Jets, Taking Tiger Mountain By Strategy, Another Green World, or Before And After Science (the first three are albums that I'm sure/I hope you already own) is Broken Head, which he recorded with Cluster (also known as Kluster), one of them thar bands of Krautrocky varmints from Germany.

Tomorrow: nothing at all to do with the Fall...

Wednesday, February 18, 2004

Fall covers...

... are almost always fun. Here are two cover versions of songs by The Fall. One is very, very faithful (Totally Wired by Monsterland...I like this a lot) and one is anything but (US 80s 90s by Dymaxion). I got the Monsterland song from this really great website. I haven't had a chance to listen to everything, but I love the layout and concept. I wish more people would do pages just like this for their favorite bands. The other Monsterland song that I like on first listen (you can get it from the other website) is Magazine which strikes me as what Superchunk would have sounded like if they'd liked the 3Ds more [as I think about it, I realize that they must have liked the 3Ds, since Merge issued the 3Ds in the US]. Note that Kurt Ralske (of Ultra Vivid Scene) produced Monsterland's one album.

The Dymaxion song comes from a CD that compiles almost everything they did. It's kind of hard to describe, but the Fall cover is actually not atypical. It all sort of sounds like the soundtrack to something, but the songs are pop-song length. I find it more interesting than pleasant, to be honest.

I realize that I've name-dropped the 3Ds a few times, so a song by them is probably in order. They were a New Zealand band who did an especially good job of mixing up various aspects of the local sounds, often with some neat, sloppy/artsy/feedbacky guitar work on top. Their strongest album is probably The Venus's the song Beautiful Things, which kind of shows off the band's melodic and squally side. It's slightly different from the album version, which has female lead vocals. I do wish they'd had better production, but it's good enough if you turn the volume up a little bit. [Listening to this, I'm not sure if it makes the best case for the band. I'm going to re-visit the 3Ds on a day when I can devote all of my space to them. Meanwhile, though, videos!]

Finally, a 3Ds related band, Look Blue Go Purple. Look Blue Go Purple included Denise Roughan who later joined the 3Ds. A reissue of the compilation of pretty much everything by LBGP came out not that long ago (a few years?) and it's really great stuff. There's strummy acoustic guitars and songwriting reminiscent of the Bats especially, but between the flute and the minor chords there's a more melancholy feel to most of their songs. Their "big hit" (at least on the college stations I used to listen to) was Cactus Cat, but I'm finding that the entire compilation holds up very well. Here's 100 Times, which has been my favorite song lately.

Tuesday, February 17, 2004

I'm still kind of sad to have had to let the Lisa Suckdog post go...

Anyway, today [actually tomorrow, but because of time-differences I'm running this on the 17th] is the day that BBC Wales is broadcasting a big Young Marble Giants themed fiesta. I'm still not clear on whether the band has new recordings that will be aired, but if you look here and here, you'll know pretty much everything that I know. (I'm not posting any YMG tracks here, as I assume that their fans already own their entire output. If you've never heard them, you may still have heard one of their songs as Courtney Love covered their Credit In The Straight World, and I'm assuming that most people have heard that.)

To honor this special occasion, I'm presenting several songs from the very Young Marble Giants-influenced band Confetti. (It's funny, when you actually play Confetti side-by-side with YMG, you notice that they're really very different. But the overall impression is that Confetti were cloned from YMG.) Here's Warm and here's Diet (an Au Pairs cover), both taken from a Vinyl Japan compilation that includes all the Confetti you could ever want or need.

And to honor the presenter, apparently Huw who used to sing for The Pooh Sticks, here's On Tape from his band's Peel Sessions. I hadn't heard this song when I first encountered the Teenage Gang Debs' (Bratmobile spin-off band) cover of it on a Teenbeat compilation, so I didn't really get the joke. Now I get it, so I'll explain it and ruin it. See, the original On Tape is about a guy who brags of having all sorts of obscure albums...on tape. Ha ha. So in the Teenage Gang Debs version, the first line goes (they changed the lyrics) "I've got Three Tea Breakfast..." And, see, that's funny because Three Tea Breakfast was a cassette only release by Beat Happening. Ha ha.

Ok, that's enough twee obscurity for one day. Maybe I should bring back Lisa Suckdog tomorrow!

Monday, February 16, 2004

SST was the home to many of the shining lights of 80's indie. Black Flag, Sonic Youth, Husker Du, The Meat Puppets, Das Damen (who actually do have one great EP), the Minutemen...the list goes on and on. You might be surprised to see the full SST discography and discover that an awful lot of SST releases were not by Black Flag, Sonic Youth, Husker Du, The Meat Puppets, The Minutemen, or, in fact, by anyone other than Zoogz Rift.

I first discovered Zoogz when a college dj played this song back to back with Scott Johnson's great John Somebody, and I still have the two songs permanently linked in my mind. (Here's an excerpt of John Somebody, just in case you don't know it.)

Anyway, poor Zoogz. I just have this sense that when people talk about SST's glory days, they're not including classics like A Very Pretty Song for a Very Special Young Lady, where Zoogz lets his sensitive side come out. Nor will they recall the way Zoogz's friends stuck up for him, and treasured any chance to see him live.

But I take comfort knowing that Zoogz had a good sense of his worth and knew how to look on the bright side of things. Well, most of the time.

Friday, February 13, 2004

Urge Overkill, still more Sammy, favorite reviewers, Espers

[Update on 2/15/04 -- I note that eMusic has a live Urge Overkill show available, recorded on 2/5/04. Wow, things happen fast these days. I know, I know, you can get a CD of a concert right after the concert finishes, but still...]

Urge Overkill are touring again...definitely one of the more unexpected reunions. I loved their Saturation album (yet another great DGC release from the early/mid 90's), was unimpressed by their final CD Exit The Dragon (though I still play it once or twice a year, hoping that something will jump out at me), and like The Supersonic Storybook ok. I never did get around to listening to their earlier albums -- bad reviews and the fact that good production seems like a critical component of their sound have kept me away. Despite the fact that it contains the overexposed (it appeared in Pulp Fiction) cover of Girl, You'll Be A Woman Soon, their Stull EP is the CD I play the most. It's hard to choose a favorite, but (Now That's) The Barclords probably comes the closest. Stull was produced by Kramer, of Bongwater fame.

I wanted to mention a very helpful internet music reviewer. I don't know who Mmarsupilami is, though I can tell that English isn't his/her first language. (I'm going to use "he" because it probably is a he). He seems to have taken on the task of reviewing new arrivals at eMusic. I like him because he seems to have reasonably good instincts (you'll sort of figure out where his weak spots are), and finds a number of gems that get overlooked by the general blogosphere. Some of his reviews are almost poetic:

School of Etiquette by Boyskout
Pop/new-wave ala early Cure, Sleater Kinney, Siouxsie and the Banshees and Joy Division. Yes and we are in 2004. In their while, Cure, Cleater Kinney, Siouxie and the Banshees and Joy Division weren't making music of twenty years before. I know we can make this criticism about a lot of other. Right!

Or on Alan Licht's A New York Minute [sorry Alan...I don't have a vendetta...I just like this review]
I don't know why I downloaded this one. Perhaps because it was very long tracks for a long while. So, I lost my tracks for my count and time. It's not music. I prefer to listen the washing machine...

His new arrivals list is here, and he has a bunch of others, broken down by genre. I think he must put in eight hour days doing this...Mmarsupilami, I want to thank you for your hard work! I don't actually use eMusic anymore, due to their horrific customer service and frequent breakdowns, but I still go to your pages on a regular basis. Thank you.

Here's my favorite Sammy b-side, Cafeteria Hawker and here's my favorite song from their first LP Debut Album: Shoot It Around! The only problem I have with this album is the fact that it was recorded on 8-Track cassette, which was possibly the worst sounding recording format ever invented. [BTW, Laptop (Jesse's post-Sammy band) had a split single with Solex (featured on Fluxblog today). Small world indeed.]

A blog that covers some similar territory to this one (but with more of an emphasis on punk, and no mp3s) that I kind of like is Agony Shorthand. He even has a bit on the Dustdevils (Google search "Agony Shorthand Dust Devils") which made me happy.

I'm adding this note on the band Espers, because Pitchfork reviewed them today. They have a very nice live appearance on WFMU here, in case you want to check them out. WFMU really gets good live sound, btw.

Thursday, February 12, 2004

The new Thou album I Like Girls In Russia can be streamed at Thou's website (especially good news because their CDs can be really hard to get ahold of if you don't live in Belgium).

I like to carry songs around with me on my iPod, so (in case you feel the same way) I'm posting two tracks from the album here today. First is the single I Won't Go To Nashville. At first I thought this was kind of simplistic, and it reminded me of the Raveonettes (really it's only the opening riff that sounds like them), but it's grown on me a lot.

Second is Kickin'. There are all sorts of weird roots-rock references on this album, but they're filtered through so much post-Blur guitar and electronics that the effect is pretty distinctively Thou. After a few listens, I'm liking this record a whole lot. I do wish the band's website was in English (or at least French, which I can sort of read.) Ok, what I really wish is that this band had a US label again. I'm looking at all of these singles on their website (that I'll probably never manage to find) and getting sad.

More Sammy: here's an alternate, very T. Rex-y sounding, version of Slim Style. The original is from Tales of Great Neck Glory, and it's about one of Jesse's co-workers from when he slung pizza in the East Village.

Wednesday, February 11, 2004

[Re-reading yesterday's post, it strikes me as more negative than I'd intended. I wouldn't want to give the impression that I'm trying to belittle Love Child. They were a decent enough band, and their first single/first album is a lot of fun. The problem (which isn't really a problem in the grand scheme of things) lies with a couple of critics who seem to have overrated them for reasons largely unrelated to their actual music. Their album Witchcraft does actually have a few worthwhile songs...just nothing particularly essential.]

Anyway...Sammy. I should probably say right here that they were one of my favorite bands, so you should probably take my comments with a grain of salt. I've mentioned Laptop here before (hooray, they got one whole vote in the Pazz & Jop poll!). Sammy were Jesse Hartman's band prior to Laptop. As I see it, the main problems with Sammy are:

1. Their name. It's kind of bland.
2. Their cover art, which looked either like random photos of things or like pictures from Robert Chambers' photo album.
3. Every critic in the world who says that they sound "just like Pavement" when, with the exception of a couple of early songs, they just plain don't.

For starters, here are two songs from their second and final album, Tales of Great Neck Glory. This came out on the DGC label (at a time when that label, after signing Sonic Youth, was especially indie friendly -- Boss Hog and The Sugarplastic also had albums on Geffen around the same time). First is the album opener Possibly Peking, which should establish that Jesse Hartman sounds like Lou Reed, not Stephen Malkmus.

Second is the quirky Horse or Ballet? which apparently refers to a game which helps young preppie girls decide what their true priorities are. One of my favorite things about this song is the fact that, when I first read the lyrics:

I received a call from Marty
Said there's a rumor going 'round
Elizabeth is throwing a party
I said: "That has to be
the most ridiculous suggestion
I ever heard 'cause I just talked to her
and all I got was this question

I couldn't imagine how they could possibly be shoehorned into a verse without sounding forced, but Jesse makes it work. By and large, the lyrics on Tales are clever and somewhat cinematic (reflecting their author's background in film).

One of the nicest things about this album is that you can usually find a copy for $2.00 or so on eBay or in a used bin near you. I'll feature at least one Sammy song (probably b-sides) each day for the rest of this week.

Tuesday, February 10, 2004

Alan Licht seems to be getting his name out outside of the noise/improv community these days. I was surprised to learn that he wrote some of the liner notes for the recent Television remasters, and a google search turns up a pretty decent number of articles and references. He got his start in a small band at Vassar college (Allmusic: "in upstate New York"), Love Child, whose reputation seems to have increased somewhat out of proportion to their actual output. I thought I'd feature a few Love Child tracks today.

(I should probably mention that I was at Vassar at the same time that Love Child was active, and we all know that the folks from your hometown will never respect you, even after you're a star. I do have to emphasize, though, that a Love Child concert, while fun in a pinch, wasn't the sort of thing you got tremendously excited about in 1990 in Poughkeepsie. And an Alan Licht improvisation in the food court was more an excuse to go get lunch at Wendys than the inspiration for an article on improvisational minimalism.)

Anyway, Robert Christgau probably had the most accurate take on the band in his capsul review of their first CD Okay?:

Too bad these punk-going-no-wave neotraditionalists didn't study their Ramones harder--instead of crowding 21 songs into 45 minutes, they might have grouped the 14 snappiest into a dandy 27-minute shot in the dark. Of course, that would have consigned most of conceptualist Alan Licht's to the cutting-room floor. Here's hoping Licht gets bored like the arty dilettante he is. Then liberated girl Rebecca Odes could join punk-going-pop Will Baum in a band of their own.

They did have some nice novelty-type songs. Here's Rebecca Odes singing (they were instrument/vocalist switchers, like Beat Happening) on Sofa, He's So Sensitive and Church of Satan. Will Baum, the songwriter who kind of got kicked out of the group to find obscurity with 9 Iron, actually wrote my favorite song of theirs, Things I Noticed. And here's Alan's shining moment, Know It's Allright.

One of the stranger components of the Love Child discography is a 7" single of covers of Moondog. I don't usually post songs here that I don't expect people to enjoy, but this probably has enough historical importance to qualify for an exception. (Actually it's not as bad as I remembered).

I'm not going to post anything from their second and final album Witchcraft, because honestly it isn't very good. You're welcome to disagree, but I want to put my opinion on record as a corrective to the Allmusic reviews, and especially to a very bizarre article that ran in a zine called Badaboom Gramophone several years back, which seems to hold that Love Child were the crowning culmination of the indie revolution. Make up your own mind, but you've been warned. [I had to look for this. It's in Badaboom Gramophone #4, and it's by Joe Harrington. It almost seems like a joke, but I'm pretty sure it's not. Kind of essential reading as a piece of really odd revisionist history...or as a joke about revisionist histories, being run into the ground like nothing you've ever seen before.]

In my opinion, actually, Love Child's most important contribution to modern civilization is the fact that Rebecca Odes and Brendan O'Malley (Will Baum's replacement) served as the touring rhythm section for Jesse Hartman's band Sammy.

(continued tomorrow)

Sunday, February 08, 2004

Most Fountains of Wayne songs can ultimately be traced to other, more interesting, good example of this is No Better Place. The little guitar-based riff that starts about five seconds into that song (and repeats after each "no better place") is from Ultra Vivid Scene's Portion of Delight, a great song by a great band who deserved more attention than they got. (Kurt Ralske, who basically was Ultra Vivid Scene, produced Adam Schlesinger's "grown-up" band, Ivy, way back when.)

Ultra Vivid Scene are pretty well documented on the internet, often in a great overlooked band sense. They were on the 4AD label which has very thorough discography pages, and their used CDs tend to be fairly cheap, so if you're intrigued it shouldn't take much effort to fill in any blanks. It's much harder to get information about Kurt Ralske's previous band, Crash (the Allmusic entry is particularly un-useful).

Crash mostly featured songs written by lead singer (now deceased) Mark Dumais. They put out a few singles and one album called I Feel Fine. It's a frustrating record...mediocre production and often-off-key singing take a toll on some pretty good songwriting. Side one of the record is very Smiths influenced and sounds like something that might have appeared on the Sarah label (like, say, the Orchids but less polished). From the sound of things, though, someone bought a copy of Psychocandy right before they recorded side two. The first track (also the only one to feature a Ralske songwriting credit) is probably the best on the record. It's called I Feel Fine, and features Linda Smith on backing vocals, as well as a very Ultra Vivid Scene-sounding guitar break.

One Dumais-written Crash song appeared on an Ultra Vivid Scene b-side. It's called Don't Look Now, and it makes me wish that someone would go back and cover other Crash numbers. To the best of my knowledge, the only other band to do this is the Magnetic Fields-related Moth Wranglers who have an interesting version of the same song on their album Never Mind the Context.

Following Crash, Mark Dumais had a band called Tangerine who put out a CD and a single, that I know of, on the Creation label. I haven't heard this yet, but I have to admit that I'm curious.

Friday, February 06, 2004

The Moonbabies are kind of outside of my normal sphere, as I expect that their new album The Orange Billboard is going to be fairly popular (though I'm notoriously bad about guessing these things). Nonetheless, the song that I like the best isn't among the full-length samples on their web page, so I thought I'd post it here. It's the very Isn't Anything sounding Slowmono. I'm expecting this album will get a rave at Pitchfork any minute now, if it hasn't already.

And since I'm in vaguely shoegaze territory anyway, this is frequently my favorite song by the Nightblooms. It's from their first LP The Nightblooms which is not a live album, despite what Allmusic may say, and it's called A Thousand Years.

I'd planned on writing about Kicking Giant this week, but decided to move a little further away from incompetent noise after yesterday.

A recent KaitO live appearance on WFMU that I missed. Luckily, all is archived. They're really remarkably tight for a band whose sound is based on a lot of spontaneous whoops and noises. I'm hoping that they don't follow in the footsteps of the Clinic (great singles comp, great debut, get a lot of attention, then release mediocre album that leaves a lot of people wondering what the fuss was about).

Thursday, February 05, 2004

Weird Bands

Two bands today that were strange in very different ways, both from the late 80's.

The Ophelias have always struck me as what Game Theory might have sounded like if Scott Miller had 1. never heard Big Star and 2. been a genuine crackpot. Interestingly, Mr. Miller ranks their self-titled debut as his second favorite album of 1987, so there may be something to my theory (which I see is shared, up to a point, by the allmusic reviewer). They had one "hit" of sorts on college radio, Mr. Rabbit, but the album it's on never came out on CD so it's not as well known these days. I love the unneccesary gasps that singer Leslie Medford emits following each chorus ("Every little soul must shine, shine, gyaaaaaah!"). I'm saving my second favorite Ophelias track, a cover of the Kinks' Wicked Annabella from a 12" single, for a rainy day. They have two other albums, both on CD though out of print, and each has at least one (possibly more, depending on your taste) essential track. One song from the Ophelias' final album The Big 'O' also appear on the interesting More Oar tribute to Skip Spence (this tribute pulls together artists from all over the spectrum: Beck, Robyn Hitchcock, Robert Plant, Flying Saucer Attack...I'd assume that most people will like at least one track and few will like them all).

Given that this blog is getting more hits lately, this is probably the wrong time to focus on Lisa Suckdog, but I noticed this article the other day and figured "now or never." I hope you'll read the article first [I assume that the fact that Lisa Suckdog may not be work-appropriate surfing is self-evident]. God, it's incredible to think back and realize that there was a time when Spin devoted an entire feature to Suckdog related projects. How times change!

Basically, I agree with a lot of what the author of the article has to say. He gets a little dramatic, but that's part of the fun in writing about "bad" albums. The aspect that needs to be emphasized is that there really is something compelling about Drugs Are Nice. If I had to pick a moment that kind of metaphorically describes the experience of letting the album into your life, it would be this (segment) from The Song of the Flying Cats of the Stars. A knock at the door, an introduction and then...

The idea of picking "songs" from Drugs Are Nice is silly since the record (it was also available on CD, but that's really silly) is more of an experience than anything else. I was going to just rip all of side 1 as one big mp3, but then decided that that was being controlling, plus there are some bits from side 2 that I wanted to include. Without further ado, here are Your Dragon (Lisa introduces herself and sings the only thing approaching a normal song on the record), Beasts of the Night Gather Together (there is a bit of a Where The Wild Things Are subtext to this record), Alligators Lurking (normal drugged up trailer trash kids wouldn't have come up with "breathing through their nose") and The Number of the Priest (I now have trouble saying Harrison Ford's name in the correct order thanks to this). I'm leaving out Oh Mighty Pigeon and Ugh Ugh Ugh only for space considerations. Then with side two we get Lisa's artistic statement: Jokes About Women (their ankles...hah hah). Damn, I don't have enough room for her Chaka Khan tribute Being In Love...why did I feel the need to rip these at 128k? Also, sadly, I don't have space for the album-closer Brontes In The Attic which is kind of sweet: Lisa and Rachel (coming down, from the sound of things) murmer along to a slowly-running-down music box as rain pitter-patters in the distance.

So what's left to say after that? I hope you'll trust me when I tell you that I genuinely like this album and don't just keep it on hand to torture people with. Like the author of the article, I probably play it a few times a year, but I have a big problem with people who choose their "favorites" based on what iTunes tells them they listened to the most. Some records are too special to play every day. The worst record ever made? Obviously this person has never heard Welcome Interstate Managers.

Tomorrow's post will not resemble today's.

Wednesday, February 04, 2004

Laibach are probably best known for their cover versions, especially for their take on the Beatles' Let It Be album. Slightly less well known is their Sympathy For The Devil ep, which includes a whole bunch of different versions of the Rolling Stones song. A lot of these versions (much like the Let It Be album) are conceptually interesting, but kind of a drag to listen to.

One, though, works on all levels. Here's the "Who Killed The Kennedys" version. I won't make a claim for "better" but I definitely prefer this to the original. I think it has some of the best integration of samples/sounds that I've heard.

One of the more interesting surprises I've had was reading the Playboy interview with Norman Mailer from January of 1968 and finding out where a lot of the spoken bits come from. (There are more, but you get the idea.)

One thing I'm still wondering, though, is if the voices on the track are the actualy tape of the interview, or someone reading it. I've never seen Godard's movie Sympathy For The Devil, but I keep thinking that Laibach must have used something from that.

Blonde Redhead are getting a fair amount of press lately for their new album, and I wanted to do something relating to them today. Unfortunately, I don't have enough room to host my favorite song of theirs (Symphony Of Treble from Fake Can Be Just As Good which, by the way, doesn't sound like Sonic Youth) which would have gone nicely with the Sympathy/Devil theme. Instead here's the DNA song from which they get their name.

Tuesday, February 03, 2004

Mystery Band

The Shanks. Here's everything I know. I saw their CD Brang in a shop in 1999 (the CD doesn't actually have a date on it anywhere, so I'm trusting a website for the release date). The owner of the shop had put a sticker on it saying "Art Damage in the tradition of Wire, the Fall, etc." so I decided to give it a whirl. The band is from Ireland. There are two songs on the CD that I've tended to put on mix tapes. One, 2 Dogs, is pretty obviously inspired by the Fall's Bombast although it steals in a very interesting way. The other is the much more "Irish" sounding Turn Me Around. The rest of the album isn't amazing, but it's consistently interesting.

So, what else have they done and where can I get it? Good question. Allmusic never heard of them. I've managed to find about two webpages that give any info at all (here's one of them). Supposedly this got a lot of play on the BBC, but here in Brooklyn that does me no good. I keep on the lookout for a rumored second album.

Years pass, and I'm in a Salvation Army and I spot a CD with the name "Shanks" on the cover. It's on a foreign label with a US office (Schemer, a division of Semaphore, which was, I'm told, a Netherlands based label). How it got to a Salvation Army in Brooklyn...well, actually I do have an idea, but I'm not going to tell you because that particular Salvation Army is a total treasure trove and it's mine!

Anyway, the name of the CD is Masterbait. Ugghhh. Not promising. But it also says "Produced by Mayo Thompson" which does seem promising. Basically, it's a band with a decent, post-punky sound but not much in the way of songs. I'm thinking it's a different Shanks, but what are the odds that there'd be two unrelated, obscure bands by that name, and that I'd find both of their CDs? Very strange. I'm not going to post anything by Shanks #2, because I can't find anything worthy of my limited space. (I did learn, via an I Love Music thread, that they also covered Wreckless Eric's Whole Wide World on a single).

Maybe if I lived in Ireland this would be less mysterious. Anyone out there care to clear things up? And what about this ephemeral Call Centre, who seem to have included several members of the Irish Shanks before disappearing from the face of the earth, leaving behind only a cached web page?

The thing is, Brang is a really intriguing album, with a lot of neat ideas. You'd think it would have made a bigger splash. And it's only five years old. I can understand lost garage bands from the 60's, but this is ridiculous.

I recently checked on the Siesta label to see what they're up to. I loved their Reverie series of psychedelic children's albums (Algebra Spaghetti et al.) but that seems to have petered out for the most part. I did notice the band The Magic Whispers have a nice cover of the Magnetic Fields' 100,000 Fireflies, and here it is. It's not better than the original, but it does improve on Superchunk's slaughtering of that song.

Monday, February 02, 2004

Ok, today's post has to do with Damon Krukowski and Naomi Yang (the 2/3's of Galaxie 500 that aren't Luna) and it's kind of funny. Back in 1995 I got a promo copy for their album The Wondrous World of Damon & Naomi. I don't remember when I noticed this, but at some point I discovered that the word "Wondrous" or rather the "ondrous" part was on a sticker that had been stuck onto the CD. I peeled it off and discovered the horrible truth:

So, I'm guessing that some poor Sub Pop employee had to put a little sticker onto some unknown number of promo CDs - god (and Sub Pop) only knows how many. Yuck. I wonder if heads rolled. It's kind of the indie-rock version of the Beatles' Butcher cover!

After all that, The Wondrously Wonderful World of D&N is actually my least favorite album of theirs. My favorite is More Sad Hits and here's my favorite song Little Red Record Company. That long fade out ("And when the bubble breaks will we fall too far? Will we fall in place or will it move us on?") is one of the prettier things I've heard in my lifetime, and there are definitely days when I'm convinced that More Sad Hits is the best thing by any Galaxie 500 related band, possibly due to the production.

I'm of the generation/demographic that responds to the name "Kramer" by thinking of the guy who produced the above song. Here's David Bowie Wants Ideas by his old band Bongwater. I plan to do more of them in the future, when I get around to Slapp Happy, but in the meantime this is the song that's been making me smile of late. I really miss Bongwater...I can't think of any bands that really fill the niche that Kramer and Ann Magnuson left empty when they split. It is worth knowing, though, that some of Kramer's solo albums actually are pretty good, and sound a lot like Bongwater minus the monologues. Here's Strings, as an example. It's from his The Secret of Comedy CD.

Finally, I have a new favorite band. May I present Boyskout (I'm sure that they didn't become my favorite band because of their video or anything). Apparently they've moved to NY from the west coast...I see that they're playing at Under Acme this coming week. Hmmmm. Actually the idea of combining Sleater-Kinney with the Cure with Suicide Girls seems to be a reasonably good one. I did manage to listen to Back To Bed a few times without watching the video, and it's still a good song.

One last item. I'm saddened that I keep running into people who used to like Flying Saucer Attack who still aren't aware that there was a new David Pearce album in 2003 (not counting the live FSA CDR). I featured songs by Clear Horizon here last year. I see that this site has a great Clear Horizon song posted [thanks to hublog for the heads up]. This is a fantastic album that needs to get more exposure.

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