Monday, May 31, 2004

 
Happy Memorial Day! I'm going kayaking, weather permitting, so not much of a post today. From a compilation CD called Peace Together, here's My Bloody Valentine with a cover of We Have All The Time In The World, originally a Bond theme song, and here's Blur doing a cover of Elvis Costello's Oliver's Army.

As far as I can tell by listening, the MBV track owes a huge debt to Claudine Longet. The Blur song is very faithful to Elvis' version. I'm guessing Nick Hornby would like both of today's tracks!

Friday, May 28, 2004

 


No Wave Friday

I'm focusing on an album rather than on one artist today, and the connection to No Wave is more tenuous than usual. While No Wave is identified with the bands that appeared on No New York, there were a bunch of more "artistic" people who were involved with the scene. Today's album relates to the latter group.

New Music From Antarctica Volume 1 came out in 1982 and collected works by a bunch of people whose work straddled the line between art and rock, but sat more on the art side of things. My working definition for the two terms: people whose work gets classified as "art" get grants; people whose work gets classified as "rock" don't. I'm sure there are exceptions in both directions. You've probably read about Sonic Youth doing their first European tour off the back of their gig with composer Glenn Branca...as I understand it, people like Rhys Chatham and Branca were considered "composers" and were therefore able to raise money for their projects, and were therefore able to pay their musicians. Meaning that a bunch of the more "rock" people wound up playing in guitar symphonies at least in part so they could pay their bills.

Anyway, NMFAV1 is all over the place. If you follow up on most of the people who appear on it, you find yourself walking away from the kind of music that this blog covers and into a land of galleries, grants, installations and so on. One of the places this will take you is into the world of Disques De Crepuscule, a weird Belgian label that you can read about here. I'm torn regarding DDC...they released a ton of obscure and unusual music (you may remember that they put out one of the Wayfarers' tracks) but I don't like a lot of it, and their releases tend to be expensive and hard-to-find. I keep thinking I should investigate further, but it's a lot of effort...even file-sharing won't help you much with this one. I have one pretty interesting compilation from the label, and I'll probably post some of it in the future.

Is all of this a complicated way of saying that I can't tell you as much as I'd like to about most of today's songs? Why, yes it is!

Getting back to NMFAV1. I originally bought it because it has a piece called Drastic Classicism for Electric Instruments by Rhys Chatham. But, I'm going to be doing a Friday feature on Rhys in a few weeks, and I'll post the track then (which has, btw, a different length than the version on the recent Chatham collection An Angel Moves Too Fast To See. I need to sit down w/both and figure out how they differ.) Briefly, though, Rhys Chatham and Glenn Branca were the two people most likely responsible for inventing the idea of composing for electric guitars, and Sonic Youth pretty much got their ideas about electric guitars/weird tunings from Branca. (Chatham inspired a group too, the somewhat lesser known Band of Susans.)

Here's a sampling from the rest of the album:

First, this is Peter Gordon's Love of Life Orchestra performing the theme song Siberia. Members of the orchestra include Ned Sublette (who played with Branca and Chatham on some of their pieces) and drummer David Van Tieghem (ditto). [Sorry, there's one small skip on the track, but I thought it was worth posting anyway.]

Here's Jill Kroesen, a Chatham associate, with the wonderfully titled I'm Sorry I'm Such A Weenie which is kind of hard to describe. Vocal experiments plus electronics plus rock band minimalism...it's not at all hard to listen to, but I don't have any good points of comparison with other bands/artists.

Here's Ned Sublette with I Ain't Afraid of Girls (a song written by Jill Kroesen) which is also hard to describe, though "cowboy in downtown Manhattan at an art gallery" is kind of getting there.

Finally, my favorite piece on the album may be The World's Greatest Piano Player by "Blue" Gene Tyranny. He's a minimalist/avant garde composer and in this piece he makes something pretty interesting out of what initially sound like very cliched piano riffs. One hallmark of the people on this album, in fact, is that they often start with very accessible aspects of popular music before working their weirdness.

I'd be very surprised if most of the tracks from NMFAV1 didn't also appear elsewhere, but together they make for an interesting walk through the world of NYC in the early 80's that didn't end up teaching its girlfriend to play bass and forming a rock band.

Last thing: there was a video that went with NMFAV1 which you can apparently arrange with The Kitchen to view, though they don't exactly charge video-store type fees.

Thursday, May 27, 2004

 
World: Round. Part 2

Let it be known that The Sugarplastic bear some resemblance to XTC. Like The Mommyheads, they also had a shot at the bigtime via Geffen records during that label's short-lived flirtation with indie-ville in the mid-90's. Unlike The Mommyheads, the Sugarplastic are still around, with a really, really low profile. In 2003 they kicked off the release of an "album" made up of a series of 7" singles.

From their 1996 Geffen album Bang, The Earth Is Round, here's Another Myself and here's Don't Sleep. Maybe you have the same reaction that I do: the songs usually have a bunch of different parts and some of these parts are great, but others can get a little cutesy-poo, sort of college glee-clubby in a way. I'm not posting the worst offenders, but trust me when I say that it gets a little icky at times.

Surprisingly, this seems to be a later development. The band's first album Radio Jejune is a little less lushly recorded (I have to stress that Bang, The Earth Is Round sounds really wonderful) but for the most part the material is less cloying. The best song is probably Sun Goes Gold (with a very out-of-character lyric in one of the verses) but there are a lot of contenders. Fans of XTC should really love this one. In this post-Pixies world, I keep expecting huge guitars to come in following the off-kilter bass line that starts the song, but thankfully that doesn't happen. I'd love it if more bands would consider this as an alternative.

Their album following Bang came out in 2000 and it's called Resin. Same good/bad points as Bang, though it's more psychedelic (possibly due to producer Andy Metcalfe, best known for his work with Robyn Hitchcock). (Interesting quote from the chief Sugarplastic, Ben Eshbach, regarding Bang: "I came in every morning and turned all the reverbs off because I didn't want it to turn into a psychedelic salad.") Here's Tamarind Tree. Parts of this are really cool, but I often just want to shake Ben Eshbach and tell him to stop being so frickin' white-bread! The Japanese version of this album features a great, great, great track called Motorola Rocketship that's otherwise only available on an obscure compilation.

Regarding Motorola Rocketship, and continuing with my mini-shpiel from the day before yesterday about finding needles in the haystack of indie: Ben is the kind of songwriter who's totally erratic. I have no doubt that other singles of his could be fantastic, but it's just too risky to go spending lots of money trying to find out. If anyone reading this has gone to the trouble, I'd love to hear from you.

Meanwhile, I'm waiting for the Sugarplastic's album's worth of seven-inch singles to come out on CD (I've now learned that these vinyl-only collections almost always end up on CD, so I tend to hold off on buying them.) According to the band's discography page, there could/should be a 2004 CD collection of the singles, with bonus tracks. We'll see.

There's a really great Bio section on the band's site. It's written by Ben...I wish every band would have one member write their own history. It's so much more interesting than the usual promo bio's that record companies write. Finally, there's also a Japanese CD of demos, but the day I shell out for an import CD of Sugarplastic demos is the day...someone I trust tells me they're good. A fair amount of Sugarplastic product is available from Not Lame records (including some of the imports) but you should be able to find Bang, The Earth Is Round on eBay or half.com for a couple bucks at most.

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

 
Public Service Post #1

(The mp3s are near the end)

A flurry of critic vs.writer brought some excitement to the end of last week. Nick Hornby is a writer who seems to have decided that his love of Elvis Costello qualifies him as a music critic. That's kind of a snippy (though somewhat accurate) way of putting things. I don't pay much attention to him, but what I've read of his has made it very clear that I'm not going to learn anything interesting to me by reading his writing on music...I pretty much figured this out after High Fidelity, but his subsequent writing (Radiohead, etc.) has done nothing to change my impression: I don't think that he believes, on some level, that people really like experimental/edgy music.

On Friday Nick Hornby had an Op-Ed in the NY Times. You can read the text of it in this I Love Music thread (if you're curious and don't want to get it from the Times. It's about the 34th post in the thread as you scroll down). [I Love Music goes down from time to time. If the link doesn't work, it's probably just temporary.]

Shortly thereafter, Sasha Frere-Jones who used to play in my beloved Dustdevils (as well as his own band Ui) and who's written prominently for Slate and more recently The New Yorker (with a nice piece on Nellie McKay) published a very thorough dissection/destruction of Hornby's piece. SFJ's response is here.

I'm glad that he wrote that...I've been vaguely worried that Hornby would somehow get himself recognized, through sheer force of will or via literary connections, as a music critic with something to say. I generally steer clear of larger theoretical issues, but even in practical terms (i.e. finding interesting things to listen to) Hornby has been useless to me. If SFJ's piece can help in any way to keep Hornby out of the public eye, I'm happy.

That's not why I'm bringing the article up.

It occurs to me that some of the bands mentioned in both articles may not be common knowledge, and I thought I'd do my bit to help.

In his piece, Hornby wrote at one point:

The pop music critic of The Guardian recently reviewed a British band that reminded him — pleasantly, I should add — of "the hammering drum machine and guitar of controversial 80's trio Big Black and the murky noise of early Throbbing Gristle." I have no doubt whatsoever that the band he was writing about (a band with a name too confrontational and cutting-edge to be repeated here) will prove to be one of the most significant cultural forces of the decade, nor that it will produce music that forces us to confront the evil and horror that resides within us all.

The band that Hornby can't mention (he really is kind of irritating about the fact that they have a "transgressive" name/nature...he could have just said that the Times wouldn't let him print the name) is Selfish Cunt, as revealed by SFJ in his response.

Anyway, I have my doubts that many people in the US have heard Selfish Cunt. I don't think they're going to change your life, but I like to know what critics are talking about. Here's Britain Is Shit and Fuck The Poor from their single. I like the first song. It starts off kind of wobbly, but right after the break in the middle, when the guitars first come back in it builds up a nice little shuffly head of steam. Second song...not so much. I don't really hear much Big Black in their sound, but there is a drum machine, and they do seem to be confrontational, so I wouldn't argue too much. Even though he's being annoying, I have the feeling that Hornby is right when he implies that Selfish Cunt won't be the next Sex Pistols.

I'm also not sure how many people (in the grand scheme of things) have heard Big Black. They were Steve Albini's group in the 80's. Albini is probably better known as a producer and complainer these days. At the time I thought that Big Black had a monster of a sound, but when I've listened to their albums in recent years they sound much thinner than I remember them being. Here are the two songs that I liked the best about sixteen years or so ago: Kerosine, from an album called Atomizer and Heartbeat (a Wire cover) which was a single. Heartbeat also appeared on a CD called The Rich Man's Eight Track Tape which also includes Atomizer.

I can't help much with Throbbing Gristle. I've only owned one album of theirs (First Annual Report...oddly enough I found the record on the street) and all I can tell you is that I didn't like it too much (I've never been a fan of industrial music) and that I didn't know about the Moors Murderers prior to listening. My memory of the album is that the first song, Very Friendly, did sound something like Selfish Cunt, but I'm not going to swear to it and the record is in a box in my basement so I'm not going to check.

I also can't help with Marah (the band that Hornby likes, at the expense of the others) as they don't sound like something I'd be interested in. I have a feeling that someone somewhere has mp3s of them posted. Ah, here's a couple. Looks like you have to register to listen.

That's it. Tomorrow things get back to normal with a band that Nick Hornby would probably like.

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

 
World: Round. Part 1.

The Mommyheads were a quirky-pop outfit from Brooklyn who didn't exactly sound like XTC, but sort of came from a similar place: their songs featured more complicated chord changes than you normally get from a pop band, with angular verses often leading into catchier choruses. Just to define where I stand: I'm not a particularly great fan of XTC (don't love them, don't hate them).

One thing that a lot of Mommyheads fans apparently don't know (I'm basing this on personal experience, not scientific analysis) is that their first album Acorn (at one time a very hard-to-find item, rabidly sought by a very small number of people) was finally issued on CD last year by their still extant label Fang Records. From that, here's the first track Cactus Farm.

My favorite Mommyheads song was released as a vinyl-only single. It's called The World Is Round, and it smoothes out their songwriting into an incredibly catchy little should-have-been-a-college-radio-hit. Annoyingly, the Mommyheads' website has mp3s of some of their rarer singles but the quality of the mp3 of World Is Round really stinks! Some of the other ones sound ok, though, and it's more convenient than trying to find the actual vinyl.

A quick rant. A ton of singles/compilation tracks/etc. were released during the 80's-90's indie explosion, and the vast majority are essentially worthless. It's very tempting to give up looking, and I really couldn't argue with someone who preferred to invest their time in learning that new way to fold shirts or something else with more tangible benefits. And yet...there's a handful of vinyl-only, or from-obscure-compilations tracks that I'm incredibly happy to have heard. What I'd like is for someone with taste that exactly matches mine to go listen to everything, then email me a list of what's worth checking out. Thanks!

Ok, so many fans of the Mommyheads consider the out-of-print Bingham's Hole CD to be the group's high point. From that, here's the title track. In general the album is hard to find, but a fairly steady stream of used copies seems to fill Salvation Army shops in the Brooklyn area. I actually hear this album as something that could have appealed to a large number of more mainstream fans, but as usual I'm wrong. The Mommyheads did end up getting a shot at the big time (yet again on Geffen, the label that loved doomed indie bands) but despite the Allmusic rating, the fans of the band I've I've talked to tend to think the Geffen album wasn't so hot.

Trivia nugget stolen from the band's website: Adam Elk/Cohen, the Mommyheads' songwriter, provided vocals for the Yu-Gi-Oh album Music To Duel By.

Tomorrow is most likely going to be more informative than fun. If you're familiar with all the bands mentioned (or hinted at) in Nick Hornby's NY Times Op-Ed piece last Friday, you might want to skip tomorrow's post and come back on Thursday.

Monday, May 24, 2004

 


...continuing from Friday. Hilly Michaels' Calling All Girls video was all over MTV back in the days when MTV's programmers didn't have a lot to choose from and were occasionally forced to show decent material. The album that the song is from, also called Calling All Girls, is a fun though lightweight mix of glam and power-pop played and produced by pros (it sounds like it should only be listened to on a car radio). While not on CD, the vinyl is cheap (you should be able to find a copy for under $5, probably well under $5) and it's a friendly-sounding record that makes for a nice change of pace from heavier listening.

Here's Teenage Days and here's Shake It And Dance which sounds to me like one part Abba and one part Generation X's Dancing With Myself. (Or maybe Dancing With Myself sounds like this. The release dates are close.) Since the people who put Calling All Girls together weren't new to the job, it's probably no surprise the tracks I've posted today are #2 and #3 on side one. The rest of the album is good, but often it feels like the production is propping up some of the material (for the most part succesfully).

I guess the rule was that you put the hits first, the decent stuff next, and you get one weird song for side two. Possibly the best track on the album is the last one: Something On Your Mind. If you don't know the band Sparks, this may sound like Queen to you. If you do know the work of the Mael brothers, the source should be obvious (actually Hilly was a drummer for Sparks at one point).

Bringing me to Sparks. They've been around for thirty-plus years and never quite caught on in the US, though a lot of local critics love them. They started out doing quirky glam-pop and later moved into quirky dance territory. In 2002 they changed pace with an album called Lil' Beethoven that I like a whole lot, though it did seem to annoy some of their fans. It's an interesting CD. For the most part there are no drums and the lyrics are frequently phrases repeated over and over again. The music is often quasi-classical, with a lot of orchestral stuff mixed with beatless dance music. At first it can seem a little boring, but once you make up your mind that they really do want the album to sound that way, the record's charms start to emerge.

Nonetheless, the tracks I'm going to post are atypical because mp3 blogs aren't the best place to introduce songs that may seem boring at first. Here's Ugly Guys With Beautiful Girls, by far the most uptempo song, in which the narrator arrives at a shocking discovery about the way things work in this world. And here's the last track on the album, Suburban Homeboy. Lyrically it takes kind of easy shots at its easy target, but the fact that the words are set to Gilbert & Sullivan style music (and catchy Gilbert & Sullivan at that) pretty much pushes it over the top. Ugly Guys is slowly growning into one of my favorite semi-novelty songs of the last few years.

In general, Lil' Beethoven is a neat record that manages to be unique without being particularly difficult. The aspect that seems to annoy people the most is the repetition of catch-phrases (one song goes "How do I get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, man, practice," over and over. Another repeats the phrase "Your call is very important to us, please hold"). One nice way to think about this (I didn't come up w/this idea) is that the repeated phrases take the place of rhythm tracks. Personally I didn't feel the need to get so conceptual, but some people need a formal framework to enjoy things, so there you go.

Friday, May 21, 2004

 
I don't usually do more than one post a day, but time is of the essence for this one. I just noticed that Brooklyn band (their record label appears to be based right down the street from my old apartment on Atlantic Avenue) The Hong Kong are playing tomorrow night at Rothko on the lower east side. Show's at midnight, the opening bands look a little dubious, and something tells me it might be mobbed, so I may not go. If you do, I'd love to hear about it. Quickly, The Hong Kong have aspects of Stereolab and Blondie in their sound (everyone says this...it's kind of obvious) and while I have little confidence in my ability to predict success, they seem like good candidates. I see that Rolling Stone has already blurbed them, a while ago, in fact.

They're not a group I'm going insane over, but their album/ep Rock The Faces is pretty good and sounds made to be played live. There are downloads on their site and here's one more (Disappear) for those who are lazy, or whose curiosity can't be sated by two songs.

 
Normally on Fridays I focus on a No Wave band or something related, but given all the new visitors I'm going to postpone the next item on my list of things to do (New Music From Antarctica Volume 1 which, I'm guessing, has a limited appeal). Instead, I'm going to go with a later band and keep it briefer than usual. Then something from the early days of MTV.

God Is My Co-Pilot were a 90's outfit formed by Craig Flanagin and Sharon Topper. He wrote most of the songs, she sang most of them. Otherwise the band at times pretty much included anyone who's ever set foot in the Knitting Factory (NYC club that used to be one of the main gathering holes for the downtown avant garde), which inevitably included some ex-No Wavers. The music tended towards skronk (usually meaning the sound of Arto Lindsay's guitar playing) with about a million other influences. Lots of band details can be found here. If I had to do one of those "x sound like y + z" things I'd go with "Godco were like the Waitresses (boy writes for girl about girlstuff) + Bratmobile (playground/politics) + No New York."

GodCo released over 300 (maybe a lot more, I got tired of counting) songs across way too many albums, singles, etc. If you've ever looked through a "G" section in a used record store in NY, you've likely seen a GodCo album. As payback, I'm representing the band by one song. I thought about doing more, but decided that an overview was pointless. This is Double Zero from a single called Sharon Quite Fancies Jo that they put out in '94. It's pretty funny, and it's possibly the first GodCo track I've ever heard that I immediately wanted to hear again. I find it hard to believe that anyone really needs more than one release by GodCo, but finding which one is the one for you is the tricky part. Mine turns out to be a four song single. Maybe yours is a limited edition flexi-disc. I wish you luck.

Just as GodCo is known to most "G" section browsers, anyone who watched MTV in its early days knows Hilly Michaels, but Allmusic couldn't be bothered to review his albums and I don't think he's very well-known these days. The song that played on MTV (with a video that I can still remember nearly 20 years after last seeing it) was Calling All Girls from an album with the same name. It reminds me a little of a bubblegum version of Roxy Music. The rest of the record is pretty good too and I'll post more on Monday. Unless someone snuck it out when I wasn't looking, it's never been on CD.

Thursday, May 20, 2004

 
I did catch 801 at the Knitting Factory last night. They basically proved that Eno's songs are virtually indestructible, and I'll say no more. Had to leave before Ida came on. Oh well.

[While I was writing the next bit, I had the feeling that I wouldn't be the only person doing the Clinic today. I was right. Check fluxblog for more...Matthew and I seem to have similar opinions.]

The new album by the Clinic is unofficially out and about...the version I heard sounds like it might not be final (the mixing seems unfinished on a few tracks) but it's hard to tell. What I heard sounds like an improvement on Walking With Thee in that it has more energy and immediacy. It was slightly sad that Walking was the album where they started to get widespread attention, as I have a feeling that lots of people heard about "this great band" (possibly via Radiohead), bought Walking, didn't hear anything spectacular, and therefore didn't buy the preceding two albums.

If you haven't heard their first two CDs you might like the new one. It has better production and basically continues to spin variations on the two or three things that the Clinic do (cutting and pasting bits from the Velvet Underground, Modern Lovers and Violent Femmes on the one hand, minimalist homemade dub experiments on the other). If you have heard their other material, you're probably going to spend some time being annoyed while the Clinic recycle song ideas that have already been recycled several times. As an example, here's the current track #7 (title is apparently wdyyb) from Winchester Cathedral. And here's the great D.T. from their self-titled singles collection. See the problem? One more track from the singles collection, which remains my favorite Clinic album: here's Monkey On Your Back, which really nails the little details (backing vocals, shaker egg, stops and starts, that "whooo" bass noise, and the spot-on impression of Jerry Harrison on the keyboard solo). If you've never heard the Clinic, I'd recommend the new album. If you have heard them,and especially if you have Internal Wrangler and the compilation, I'd take your budget into consideration before buying. If you're the sort of person who felt the need to own every single Billy Childish release, feel free to ignore me.

Back in 2001 I got a promotional CD called Japan Nite Sound Sampler 2001 which was an attempt to get US attention for nine Japanese bands. I think that of these, Petty Booka, who do twee, ukelele-based versions of well known songs (I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend, The Tide Is High) have had the most stateside success, with a domestic release of a best-of last year.

The song from the compilation that I always liked best was called Shikai No Haba by Bleach, an unfortunate band name because there are reasonably contemporary American and UK Bleaches, not to mention a certain Nirvana album. I've never been a huge fan of...what's the right term...Japanese Spazzcore? But this song, despite sounding on first listen like a temper tantrum, actually makes sense and after a few listens to sort it out, it's pretty catchy. Even if it initially sounds to you like a bunch of angry twelve-year-olds freaking out, I hope you'll stick around 'til about one minute and forty-five seconds into the song when it suddenly goes into a really neat melodic bit before plunging back into the abyss. Also impressive is that the song, which pretty much starts out at 11, somehow manages to climax at around 12 right before the end.

When I first got the CD I tried to get more info, but couldn't find anything. Checked the other day, though, and Bleach have a web page here. The band doesn't look anything like what I'd imagined. Don't be put off by the cartoon drawing of the group...they don't sound like a California pop-punk band.

Last thing: Andrew Beaujon has posted a few more Women In Rock mp3's on his blog site. I haven't listened to them yet, so I don't know if they're good. I realized, reading his post, that I should probably clarify that "Mystical Beast" is the name of this blog, not a pseudonym. I just don't usually sign my blog-related emails...there's a reason but it's not at all interesting.

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

 
There are a few Brian Eno related things going on, so I thought I'd post some songs of his today. His four rock albums have been re-released, and what's kind of nice is that they haven't been remastered (they were "re-transferred" -- details can be found here) which means I don't have to go buy them again. No bonus tracks either. I have to admit that I'm looking forward to two death-related revelations: finding out who Deep Throat was and hearing Eno's unreleased rock songs.

I'm not sure if they planned it to coincide with the above, but Eno tribute band 801 are playing at the Knitting Factory (NY) tonight. I've yet to hear a truly bad cover of an Eno song so I'm assuming that the show should be at least fun, and given that my gym is right next to the club and that I usually finish around the show time of 8:00, odds are good that I'll check it out. Also on the bill is Ida, who've recorded one Eno cover (Golden Hours, which does kind of go on though it's basically nice) and who have a history of playing all covers shows. Maybe they'll do Roxy Music? I should probably see them: I used to work with Dan Littleton some years ago when he was a waiter and it's kind of hard for me to picture him as a rock star!

In case you're going to the show and want a point of comparison, there is one well-known live Eno set from 1974 (consisting of recordings from several sources, some better than others) that pops up on various bootlegs. I think it's most commonly known as Dali's Car, though I have it on vinyl as Floating In Sequence. From that, here's The Paw Paw Negro Blowtorch (which actually has pretty decent sound, as I listen to it again). The next three tracks are kind of blah, though one of them is Brian doing a version of Fever that's sort of interesting. But the album ends with a great Baby's On Fire going into I'll Come Running.

Someone visiting my site has a link to something neat: this place where I learn that an album that I've been totally unsuccessful in tracking down is going to be reissued. I've heard Bill Fox's solo recordings (sort of Dylan-y stuff) and been generally uninterested, but I knew that he was once in a semi-legendary band called The Mice. But, between the fact that there's another completely different band called Mice who just confuse things, and the fact that The Mice were pretty obscure, I never did manage to hear their album. Anyway, it's apparently coming out this summer, and the people doing it (Scat Records, best known as home of Guided By Voices) have mp3's posted. Also details on the upcoming expanded version of GbV's Bee Thousand which will probably be the first thing related to that band that I'm going to want to buy since...Bee Thousand.

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

 
I spent way too much time reading hip-hop bulletin board posts about MF Doom in preparation for today. What I basically learned is that either he has terrible flow or great flow and that he's either underrated or overrated. And that I still have no idea what flow means (and I'm not saying that to make one of those cheap "I can't understand them thar black people" jokes...it seems to have as many definitions as "rockism" and I'm getting the impression that it has the same meaning: people you don't like are rockists and have weak flow.)

Anyway, Doom is the only hip-hop type who I really keep track of, mainly because I've been unsuccessful in finding anyone else who combines his smarts and slacker attitude since Basehead, I think. This probably reflects more on me than on hip-hop, but I've got to say that cracking the puzzle of how to find more rappers like MF Doom has been a tough one. Maybe there aren't any. Maybe there are, but they're hiding. Or maybe I still haven't found the right people to ask. To date, the only real lead I've ever gotten was Count Bass D, and that didn't pan out as well as I'd hoped.

Anyway, the forthcoming Doom album is largely about food. Here's a track, maybe not the best on the album but the sample should make you smile, which I believe is called Cookies. From what I've heard (the copy that's floating around...who knows if it'll change prior to release) the new CD is very listenable but slightly lightweight. I'm sure it'll get a ton of press, so I'm looking forward to seeing what the reviews say. Personally, at this point I prefer the Viktor Vaughn album from last year (I still don't really like this year's Madvillainy album, though I probably haven't listened to it enough).

Just cleaning up loose ends. A while back I did a bit on Crash, the band that Kurt Ralske was in before he formed Ultra Vivid Scene. I meant to post the original Crash version of Don't Look Now (Now!), which Kurt re-did as a UVS b-side, but at the time my stereo wasn't playing 45s. So here it is. Like most Crash stuff, the production could be better, but I think I prefer this approach to the song to Ralske's version. Also, I keep being tormented by thoughts of how this would sound as performed by Morrissey (who was pretty clearly an influence on Mark Dumais' vocal style).

Monday, May 17, 2004

 
First some news: I saw a real unexpected band from the past on Saturday. I was flipping through Time Out's listings section while sitting on a bus, and suddenly noticed with a shock that The Scene Is Now (this was a very long-running NYC group w/all sorts of connections to no wave, etc.) were playing that night at the Baggot Inn (a club I never expected to find myself in - if you click the link you'll probably understand, especially if you read the section of rules for musicians or look at the other things on their schedule). Anyway, it was a pretty great, very relaxed show for all 18 people there (and if I subtract friends of the bands, I have a feeling that there'd be about 2 people left over, including myself) and featured Rick Brown and Sue Garner as the rhythm section. If you'd like to see an example of an older group of musicians playing music that can be broadly classed as rock without looking foolish or like a nostalgia act, I'd highly recommend checking these guys out (there's even the odd moment of no wave noise to liven things up). They sound very much like another related band called Mofungo; if you haven't heard Mofungo I'd say that the more melodic/folkier side of the Minutemen is kind of in the same territory, but both The Scene Is Now and Mofungo incorporated a lot of other elements. One problem: they don't seem to have a website and Rick & Sue didn't know any details about future shows, and this one sure wasn't easy to find out about. All I can say is keep an eye on the weekly listings.

Today I have three glam rock songs from slightly unexpected sources. Nick Heyward was the lead singer for Haircut 100, a pretty well-known new wave group. Since leaving them, he's had a solo career that's moved steadily towards power-pop. His last album (that I know about) came out in 1996 and was called The Apple Bed, and while its overt Beatle-isms seem to have annoyed some of his long-term fans, I think it's pretty great. I'd really like to know what he's been up to since then, but even with google I'm clueless aside from one track that appeared on a CD called Blockbuster A Glitter Glam Rock Experience that came out in 2000. This is his (possibly overly faithful) take on T. Rex's Hot Love. The liner notes don't give a recording date, so I'm not sure exactly when Nick did this.

I did a small bit on P.M. Dawn in March. They started out as a kind of wimpy, somewhat successful hip-hop group, then switched to a really interesting mildly-psychedelic soul/pop sound that eventually lost them most of their audience. Their final album thus far (I've read rumors of an impending new release, and I think there was another album that was never exactly available, but I'm not clear on the details) was called Dearest Christian, I'm So Very Sorry For Bringing You Here. Love, Dad. It suffers a little bit due to a number of similar sounding mid-tempo tracks, but includes a couple of neat rock songs, including Art Deco Halos, which is a pretty straight-up T. Rex rip (nice of them not to call it Diamond Star Halos).

Last track...I think I'd call this glam rock, though I'm not 100% sure. This is by a band called Women In Rock. They were a project of Andrew Beaujon, now probably better known as a critic and writer for Spin, who was one of the original pillars of Teenbeat records with his band Eggs. The song appeared on a vinyl-only single on 555 records, but honestly the b-side isn't so hot, and you can get the a-side on a CD compilation called Little Darla Has A Treat For You Volume 8. The song is called Throw the Apes, and I'd really love to hear someone cover it some day with huge production. It has a fantastic descending chorus that cries out for a full orchestra, and the drums could stand to be better recorded. Nonetheless, I've always enjoyed the original as long as I turn the volume way up. Knowing the full details of Teenbeat releases requires a level of devotion that I don't quite have, but I'm under the impression that there are other unreleased Women In Rock songs. I'm kind of working on finding out more...

Thursday, May 13, 2004

 
Updated the template (permalinks should finally work). I'll try to update the comments also (switched to blogger's comments)(then switched right back...don't like the blogger comments). Today's post will probably be late. I have one question: is Phoebe Summersquash *really* so popular that a different person comes to my site after googling her like every other day, or are you a stalker, or is that you googling yourself, Summersquash? Come out with your hands up!

Only one track today and I'm taking tomorrow off. Back on Monday as usual.

Yesterday, Nick Noyes briefly mentioned the band Alice Donut. Despite being on the Alternative Tentacles label (possibly because their lead singer's voice rivaled Jello's for, um, distinctiveness) they were actually pretty fun, combining some reasonably catchy rock with surreal/humorous lyrics. There's a very California-subversive feel to a lot of their material, so it's no surprise that they did a song based on a Chick comic book. This is Lisa's Father, which is my favorite song of theirs. I should probably do more on another day. [Who knew, they're back together with a new-ish album. Details.]

I've been wondering if I should post some Nellie McKay, or does everyone already have her album? Rarely have I gone from being so utterly embarrassed by someone to being so utterly enthralled. I've been listening to a bunch of her live patter, and she sounds every bit as self-absorbed in that context as on the album, but I just can't care in the face of the quality of her material.

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

 

Last Wednesday I wrote about a great “lost” band The Wayfarers. After I posted the article, I managed to get in touch with a few more members of the group, so I decided to do a follow-up today. Nick Noyes was a co-founder, though he left prior to their one album World's Fare. He sent me some demos, a couple of live tracks, and some posters and articles on the group. He wrote briefly about the band:

I can start with a basic chronology. Ken Kaufman, Cary Berger and myself were freshmen at Columbia in 1981. I'd grown up in the UK, in London, and had been lucky enough to be around for the explosion of music which happened post-1976. I even played bass in a band in the last couple of years of high-school, so I arrived in New York committed to playing music somehow (despite my less-than indifferent musicianship), although with rather doctrinaire ideas about what was hip and what wasn't.

Ken and Cary had rather more catholic tastes in music, and had been exposed to hep international bachelor pad music by their parents -- by which I mean Sergio Mendes, Getz-Gilberto (we covered Girl From Ipanema early on), the Bob Crewe Generation and the Ventures. While I was in the band we described ourselves as Surf-Samba (inaccurately, I'd say).

Cary and I had rehearsed a bunch songs by the winter of ‘81, rehearsed with Ken by spring ‘82, and were auditioning other musicians by fall of ‘82.

We were working with a drummer named Ragi Dindial who introduced us to Shari Becknar. Ragi (who HAS stuck with music) wasn't able to commit as much time as we liked to rehearsals and was replaced by Jon Fallet, although he stuck around as a percussionist for a while.

While I was in the band we progressed from playing dorm parties, to frat parties, to a local bar (on a 106th street and Broadway) called the Blue Rose which was owned by a Greek former movie actress, and which slithered with insect life. The owner kept her elderly mother, covered in blankets, on an easy chair next to the speaker. She was, luckily, quite deaf. As Nino Rota was an influence, the Fellini-esque aspects of the place appealed to us.

The last person to join the line up was Ray Ryder who played trumpet.

By the summer of ‘84 we'd started playing at 8BC [click the link for a very funny NY Daily News expose on 8BC, including a mention of one “Linda Lust” who bears a striking similarity to the identically initialed lead singer of a certain No Wave band] where, among others, Karen Finley appeared on the same bill. She was sticking canned yams in various places, but I think the downtown crowd found us weirder -- fresh faced, wearing paisley and Chelsea boots, covering Nancy Sinatra. We were heckled by people shouting "Cowsills!"

We also played a place called "the Dive" which was in Chelsea, which was run by a guy named Glen who was putting on bands of the 60's punk revival (the Chesterfield Kings, the Vipers et al.).

Our musical influences were pretty multifarious, but definitely included the Postcard bands, the Monochrome Set, the Compact label, and whatever we were finding in the cutout bins and garage sales from the 60's. I think we were goaded, also, by the desire to not to sound like a typical college band, which, at the time were either playing Grateful Dead covers, emulating Joy Division, or playing Motown covers. In fact the most popular band at Columbia as I remember it was called 'That Motown Band' and at least one of their members went on to find fame with Alice Donut.

Why did I leave the band? I wanted to go on a long back-packing trip through Asia, and the rest of the band wanted to continue playing. Perhaps if we'd compromised and all moved to Tokyo history would have been made, but it was not to be.

Dave Romine was a friend and available so it was an easy switch. By the time I'd circumnavigated the world (with my backpack) and ended up in Paris, I was able to pick up the single. On blue vinyl, I seem to remember.

When I returned to the New York area (Hoboken in fact) I was happy to be a hanger on, although I saw a lot of the band as I shared an apartment with Ken. But I didn't have to rehearse. Lazy bugger.

In their year (85/86) in Hoboken the Wayfarers hung out (were socially acquainted with) with members of Hugo Largo and Tiny Lights and were on the same bill as 10,000 Maniacs, and Yo La Tengo.


Thanks to Nick here’s an article that the Columbia University newspaper did on the band. The demos he sent me (he plays bass on these) are pretty high quality. Here’s Arabesque (which appeared on a Disques Du Crepuscule compilation -- the music is by Henry Mancini, words by the Wayfarer’s Ken Kaufman), here’s Time and Me (I really like this one a lot), and here’s Carousel. Here’s the band doing a live version of Nancy Sinatra’s The City Never Sleeps At Night (a Lee Hazlewood composition) at the aforementioned club 8BC (I love the crowd’s reaction to the news that the Nancy cover isn’t going to be “Boots.”). And finally here's one more track, a cover, from their World's Fare album: Conversazione.

So, until someone puts together a web page for this band (hint, hint…do I have any charitable web-designers in my audience?) that’s just about everything. I have one other demo and one live track that I didn't have room to post. One fan of the band wrote to ask if they had any recordings of their great live version of Taste of Honey, but the answer was sadly no. I'd like to thank the band members, who were incredibly nice and responsive to my questions, for their assistance in helping me put these posts together!

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

 
Especially given that there's a recent book about the Kinks' great album The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society, I'm not going to write a long essay. It's probably my favorite of the "ambitious 60's British Invasion masterpieces" although that's partly because it's much less conceptually ambitious than, say, Sgt. Pepper or Who Sell Out, which means that it's dated less. Actually, if Who Sell Out ended more gracefully, it'd probably be my pick. But it doesn't.

I do want to mention that there's a huge re-issue of the album coming out in June. Details are here and here (see the April 28th entry).

It'd be nice if, like software, CDs came with cheap or free upgrades for registered customers...I've already bought Village Green three times (vinyl, CD, expanded CD) and it's annoying to have to buy an expanded expanded version. Also, some of the bonus tracks look a little dicey: do I need to hear the instrumental version of Phenomenal Cat? I already know the answer to that. But I do want to hear the demos and the BBC Sessions that didn't make it to the BBC Sessions collection.

If you've never bought the album, though, your patience has presumably paid off, as I can't imagine that there's much left to scrape out of this particular barrel. Just to give an idea of what it sounds like, here are three cover versions by three indie-rock types. First Yo La Tengo with an early, tasteful (YLT's "tasteful" isn't always that far removed from "boring") cover of Big Sky. It's functional, but to these ears Ray Davies wins the singing contest handily. Also there's a repeating note (Harpsichord I think. Maybe 12 string?) on the original that's less insistent in YLT's version, and it makes a surprising difference.

Here's The Judy Bats with a nicely energetic Animal Farm...again not changed much from the original, but with fuller production than the YLT track. They tack on a horrible rockin' out ending...you might just want to clip the track about 30 seconds before it finishes. Finally, here's the oddball band The Ophelias (I wrote about them a little in early February) covering one of the strangest songs on Village Green, the creepy Wicked Annabella. This is from a Rough Trade 12" that The Ophelias put out in '87 and if ever a band should have done an all covers album it was probably these guys (see also their Mr. Rabbit and I Dig Your Mind). One of the things I love most about the Kinks is that they have songs that just seem to come out of nowhere...no relation to the other tracks on the album or to much else in the Davies' catalog, and Wicked Annabella is one of the best of these.

Monday, May 10, 2004

 
Before he made the world safe for white rappers, Rick Rubin was a huge Flipper fan with a similar sounding band called Hose. Their song Mobo Girls appeared on a strange single which was the first release on Rick's Def Jam records. I call it strange because instead of buying labels like most people do, he carved (gouged is probably more accurate) the song and band info into the center of the disc (along with some little pictures of a lion, a penguin, a crocodile, etc.) "Smurf it up, y'all" says the message in the run-out groove. Good single to know about when you're trying to prove your old school credentials...years later the Dustdevils did a monsterously good cover version of this on their Geek Drip album (Matador record's 2nd release). Hose released another ep that I know of, and had a few tracks on the Touch and Go compilation God's Favorite Dog, none of which are (IMHO) as good as the one I posted. I'm going to be doing a lot of 60's style rock this week, so I thought I'd start Monday with something totally unrelated. Sorry for the scratchy sound, but somehow I don't think it'll matter that much.

This is an interesting but not quite succesful cover of the Kinks' You Really Got Me...

...posted mainly to introduce this cool cover of Cream's Sunshine of Your Love by Bay City Rollers related band Rosetta Stone, who employed a strange mix of Giorgio Moroder and teen bubblegum rock on several tracks from their self-titled (in the US) album. Their official site is here if you want to investigate further, though I'm not sure you really need to.

I haven't mentioned The 88 in a while, and they seem to be picking up a little bit of promotional steam. They have a (not really earth shattering) video on their site, a song on the soundtrack to The OC, and some more movie tie-ins scheduled for the future. As I've mentioned before, the only thing wrong with this band is (apparently) their publicist, as the album itself is one of the best overlooked things to come out of last year. It's been a while since I posted anything by them, so here's Melting In The Sun. Tomorrow, in keeping with the sound of The 88, I'm doing some Kinks related stuff.

Friday, May 07, 2004

 
No Wave Friday

As someone mentioned in last week's comments section, the DNA compilation is out next Tuesday. Details are here. Some of the hard-to-find stuff isn't the best (especially the tracks from the Disques Du Crepuscule compilation, just to warn you) but it'll be great to have the 7" single on CD. Lately I've been wondering about the relationship between the beginning of Gang of Four's At Home He's A Tourist (this is the version from their Peel Sessions CD) and the beginning of DNA's You and You. I hear a lot of similarity, but maybe I'm overthinking things: try to imagine a bass in place of Crutchfield's keyboard and see what you think. The release dates are pretty close, and I don't know who wrote what when, so maybe it's just two people arriving at the same point at similar times.

One interesting thing though: despite the fact that Arto Lindsay just about never played real chords/notes, none of his guitar noise parts in the other DNA songs really sound like what he's doing on You and You. Same goes for Andrew Gill: he makes a lot of noise elsewhere, but the way he slashes at his guitar off-the-beat on Tourist is fairly unique. Maybe someone reading this can tell me more.

I tried to avoid No New York during this Friday thing, assuming that everyone is familiar with that ground-zero document of No Wave, but it probably wouldn't hurt to post a track or two. Here's DNA doing Not Moving...if you think of No Wave as unstructured noise, you may be surprised to hear how tightly put together this actually is. Also, if you've only heard this on scratchy vinyl or a lousy stereo system (I was in that boat until very recently) you may be surprised by the recording quality...I was listening to this at the gym on headphones and marveling at how incredible it sounds. Eno may have "just set up the microphones" but he sure placed them well.

When I first bought No New York I was young, and preferred the slightly more traditional side one (The Contortions and Teenage Jesus). As I get older, though, it's side two (Mars and DNA) that I like the best. Mars were known as the most out-there band on the album, but their stuff is surprisingly tight as well...now that the recordings are becoming more accessible, it'll be nice to see some of the hyperbole surrounding this stuff finally put to rest. As with DNA, you basically get a drummer playing a repeating pattern while the noise is pasted on top. And, if you listen to the guitar parts on, say, Helen Forsdale there's actually a fair amount of rhyme/reason behind what they're doing. The bass is playing what's really a fairly normal line...once you focus on what's holding the song together you realize that it's pretty far from the uncontrolled mess that you might expect if you've only read about it.

Thursday, May 06, 2004

 
The Beatles & The Stones

Yesterday I wrote a lot, so today I'm only writing a little.

In 1999 Sub Pop band the Spinanes put out a really charming little 7" single that hasn't ever made it to CD (and it really shouldn't ever go there as it's perfect as is). It's a small tribute to the Rolling Stones and features cover art nicked very nicely from Between the Buttons, which happens to be my favorite Stones album.


On the single are two cover versions from that record. One is She Smiled Sweetly (with the lyrics altered to reflect the female singer) and the other is a neat version of All Sold Out that I sometimes think I like better than the original. Wow, I just checked and it looks like the single is still in print over on the Sub Pop site. Highly recommended as fun little indie-rock novelties go.

Last week I promised that I'd post Das Damen's Song For Michael Jackson to $ell. There.

Finally, one more Stones song. This is Devo doing Satisfaction, from their hard-to-find live album The Mongoloid Years. The song is from a live performance at Max's Kansas City in May of 1977. That drum part remains one of the most counter-intuitive things I've heard.

Wednesday, May 05, 2004

 
A while ago I had mentioned a New York record store that was selling a ton of obscure 80's albums very cheaply (now the truth can be told: it was Bleeker Street Records which isn't one of my usual haunts). Probably the best thing I found there was an album called World's Fare by a group called the Wayfarers. It came out in 1986 on a french label, vinyl only, and pretty much vanished. There's little to no info about it on the internet, though I did note that it's one of critic Richie Unterberger's picks for top overlooked albums of the 80's.

It was only by chance that I actually bought it. The cover, while colorful, didn't look like the sort of thing I usually buy:



I don't know...to me it looked like it could be a 90's pop-punk record or the soundtrack to an animated French thriller. Then I flipped the jacket over, and the back looks like the work of one of the Paisley Underground groups, and includes one small photo that depicts a bunch of clean-cut students apparently performing protest songs in the quad.


Atypical jacket design always piques my interest, and I decided to buy the record because it was on the Lolita label (which once released an early Game Theory compilation); because I'd never heard of the band; and (to be honest) because it was priced at $1.99 and that's a level of risk I'm very comfortable with.

Turns out it's probably going to go down as my favorite find of this year. I was so intrigued by the record that I tracked down and contacted the only member I could locate on the internet, Cary Berger who currently does film soundtracks. He was extremely nice and answered all of my questions, and I'm going to post his response here pretty much verbatim (so people who go googling this band will be able to find something.) I had started by mentioning how odd I found it that there was almost no online info about the group. He wrote:

Yes the Wayfarers were sort of in the wrong place (USA, not Europe) at the wrong time (early 80s instead of early 90s).

Where are we now? Ken Kaufman is a pretty successful screen writer (Space Cowboys, The Missing). I am a lawyer for a big tech company, but I also do soundtracks (Cleopatra's Second Husband, Suture, Full tilt Boogie, The New Women) -- of all of these, The New Women (available on Amazon) is probably the most Wayfarer-esque. The rest of the band is not especially involved in music or film, although I am threatening to pull Ray (our trumpet player) out of retirement this summer.

Where to start. Ken Kaufman, Nick Noyes
[who left the band prior to their album] and I were freshmen at Columbia in 1981 interested in all things musical--post post punk at that time, I recall bands like Haircut 100, ABC, Bow Wow Wow etc. being the rage. We were interested in things from the 60s, but also the new sort of anti-rock sound being pursued by the likes of Young Marble Giants (and then Weekend), Aztec Camera (and the rest of the Postcard bands Orange Juice and Josef K), Crepuscule label generally [this is Belgium's Disques du Crepuscule label. Read about it here], Monochrome Set and the other Cherry Red [quirky English label. Read about it here] bands, and closer to home the Raybeats, the Feelies, and of course the pantheon from the 60s--Sergio Mendes, Claudine Longet, Ennio Morricone, Piero Piccione, Mina, Wanda de Sah, Ventures and other surf music, etc.

At the time, the 2 big schools of US independent music were Husker Du and the Replacements, although the limelight did seem to shift around a bit from Minnesota to Athens to North Carolina to Louisville, etc. We didn't mind that stuff (and now I actually like a lot of it more), but our interest was more in the anti-Rock that was going on in Europe. So I targeted the labels like Crepuscule, Cherry Red, Compact Organization and Factory to put out something by us. Lolita was sort of a second best solution, but they were interested in us and so we did a single with them and then the album.

Crepuscule did release one track on a compilation--it is our cover of the theme song "Arabesque" by Henry Mancini (we wrote new lyrics for it).

We played a lot in the East Village and the other hip clubs of the day
8BC, the Kitchen, Tramps etc.

When the record came out, WFMU and some other college stations were into it, but it didn't really fit into the prevailing tastes of the times. At the same time, in retrospect, I think we could have done a lot more to promote our vision -- i.e. we should have toured -- we didn't play out of NYC too much.

When the "lounge revival" subsequently hit
[basically the mid-90's], a lot of folks at least remembered that we were doing it way back when . . . timing is a funny thing that way.

These days, I am working on 2 albums--one with a female vocalist (band name TBD) and the other more of a guy post punk thing. What do I listen to? Everything--I love all the old stuff that keeps coming out of the woodwork (it's as if there is a secret alternative universe where new old records keep getting produced, and who would have thought that Margo Guryan and the Free Design would have their entire catalogues reissued, let alone that Brian Wilson would be playing Pet Sounds and Smile live!)--or for that matter all the great 80's reissues which are coming out now. But I also like a lot of non retro music -- e.g. The Notwist, High Llamas, The Wrens, Lali Puna, Tied and Tickled Trio, Stereolab, Sufjan Stevens, Divine Comedy, (well I guess some of this stuff is retro) Mum, Ms John Soda, Pheonix. I guess the focus is still pretty european.


I don't want to gush excessively, but what struck me most about this record is that when I first listened to it, I initially assumed that it was all cover versions. In fact, the band wrote all but four of the songs. The quality of the songwriting is every bit as good a what professional writers (like the above mentioned Margo Guryan) were putting out in the 60's. Even better, the Wayfarers had the chops (how I hate that word) to put the material over. The album is actually produced somewhat "dry" so it doesn't exactly sound retro, but they've got live strings and horns, a singer who can really sing, and all kinds of neat instrumental touches like ukelin and dijeridoo to spice things up. To me it sounds not like an homage to the 60's, but like they listened to the same source material that people knew back then, and then produced a classic 60's album about 20 years too late (or ten years too early for the revival).

I'm interested to hear what you think, but I find it almost impossible to believe that Have We Time (which sounds like something the Bangles would have covered) wasn't already several decades old in 1986. On the other hand, they do a version of the Buzzcocks' Harmony In My Head that's an amazing act of assimilation. There's a cover of Love's Maybe The People Would Be The Times or Between Clark and Hilldale, which is very nice, though slightly more predictable. Possibly the most amazing track is the final one The Pillow Game. Sounding at times like the title song for a lost Bond movie and at times like the theme to a 70's cop show, it doesn't quite seem possible that it was written and recorded by a bunch of kids right out of college. I listen to it, I go on the internet trying to find a movie called The Pillow Game that featured this, and I fail. Then a few days later I check again. My brain doesn't want to accept the idea that this wasn't a semi-major hit about ten years before it was recorded!

WFMU has a very brief, very positive write-up on their site (in the "old bin" section), and I think that there's still a reasonable market for something like this. Anyone out there want to twist some arms and try to get it reissued? It's really just way too good to languish in obscurity.

Tuesday, May 04, 2004

 
In that message that I run every weekend it says that when I find a worthwhile site hosting mp3s I may link to it instead of posting. But I never seem to do that. I think I'm going to take myself up on the offer today, partly because I have something especially good planned for tomorrow, and partly because I need to set up my old turntable (recent cat vet bills having scuttled my plan to have my Thorens, which won't play at 45rpm, repaired).

Pehr is a record label that knows what it likes: mostly slow, moody bands that usually sound like My Bloody Valentine, Flying Saucer Attack, early Kraftwerk, Galaxie 500, Mogwai and so on. I find that in this genre, small details make the difference between bands that I don't mind playing in the background and bands that I might actually be interested in, and I have the feeling that the details that appeal to me might not be the ones that grab you. Luckily, Pehr has a ton of mp3s on their site. If you have a fast connection you can assemble a really nice-sized compilation, and given that all the bands are working similar territory it flows very well. There isn't a single track that I actively dislike, and a handful stand out from the pack. I'd especially recommend the tracks by Empress, Of Normandy and Picastro, but why not just download everything and see what clicks (be aware that the mp3s are stashed in a number of places, so make sure to check all the pages: current, past, non-pehr, etc.). BTW, as far as I can tell, the band Hula (not my favorite, but fans of Low might want to give a listen) seem to be on their way to getting some attention.

Just to get you started, here's one track from the site by Pehr-distributed band Experimental Aircraft.

Monday, May 03, 2004

 
In and out of print

I'm featuring three female bands from the late 70's-early 80's today. They have one thing in common: in each case, almost everything they recorded is collected on one CD comp. Convenient, but history has shown that these collections tend to sell out, then skyrocket in price. As it stands, one of these is out of print and selling for $100 or more when you can find it, one has been in print for a while but who knows what'll happen if it ever goes out of print, and one was recently reissued (bringing its price down from the $200 range that it had reached). I'm in a rush today, so this'll be brief, but you can easily find a lot of info about all three on the internet.

The Dolly Mixture
Former band of Debsey Wykes, who's currently in a group that I like a lot called Birdie (they have formal and sonic connections with St. Etienne and the High Llamas). The Dolly Mixture released several singles during their career, but never quite pulled it together. Luckily, before they broke up, they self-released a huge batch of their demos as Demonstration Tapes, an album that you could be forgiven for passing over if you had seen it in a record store: it was housed in a plain white sleeve with information scrawled on it, and looked like it might contain test pressings by some girls who play at your local tea shop (or a copy of the Beatles' White Album that had been defaced by a teenage owner). In the mid-90's a CD version was available for a short period, but that's gone. Rumor has it that the Kill Rock Stars label may do yet another reissue, but nothing's firm yet as far as I know. Meanwhile, it's a classic album that still hasn't reached enough of an audience, with a great combination of influences that include 60's girl groups and the more melodic sounds of the punk scene that the Dolly's followed. It sounds like it was an enormous influence on Linda Smith, but since she's even more obscure I'm not sure that that helps. Rather than talk too much about it, I'm posting my three favorite songs (oddly, they're sequenced consecutively on the album) which should get the idea across. Here's Shonay Shonay (IMHO their best song) which is deceptively complex although its building blocks are a number of girl-group tropes. Here's their best known song How Come You're Such a Hit With the Boys, Jane? which (if I'm remembering correctly) was about a member of the second band to be discussed today. And here's Side Street Walker, from which you could probably deduce about 90% of a certain strain of slightly twee indie-pop that was popular in the 90's. My advice, to be honest, is go download it p2p while we wait for another reissue. It's a pretty fab album, and I'm convinced that it'll return someday.

The Marine Girls
Best known because one of them went on to be in Everything But the Girl (as opposed to the one who went on to be in Grab Grab the Haddock, which should be a lesson to you when you're choosing your band's name). Likely a major influence on Beat Happening, and by extension just about every subsequent group that arms itself with a just-barely-competent gentle amateurism. If you don't know the Marine Girls material directly, you might still have heard them via Unrest's cover of their song Love To Know. The Marine Girls CD compilation is called Lazy Ways/Beach Party (a great title because it really conveys what the collection sounds like) and it's widely available via spinArt.

Kleenex/Liliput
If you (like me) are a fan of Kaito UK and haven't heard this, you're missing a major influence (whether Kaito know it's an influence is another story). Let's call the band Liliput here for simplicity's sake (they had to change their name thanks to some no-good facial tissue manufacturers). In some ways, they were a Swiss equivalent of The Raincoats (aka that weird band that Kurt Cobain loved so much) and their career progressed in a similar fashion: early songs completely redefine the parameters of post-punk, while later stuff suffers (IMHO, of course) from over-production and relative normality. Not to say that I don't like some of their later output, but I suspect that it's disc one that you'll be putting on mix tapes. And the song I've always used is Split, which is one of those songs-that-don't-sound-like-anything-else. It's basically a playground chant of some sort, gone deliriously berserk. For a while the CD that compiles all of Liliput's tracks was out-of-print and selling for ridiculous prices (and I must confess that I made a bundle as a result, having been lucky enough to get when the getting was good). It's now available via Kill Rock Stars, and if you're interested enough to still be reading this, odds are you'll want to get a copy. Here's an interview with someone who was a member, and the Kill Rock Stars site has links to lots of other info.

Just to throw in a random odd-and-end, here's Momus' collaborator Kahimi Karie, who could have given Claudine Longet a run for her money in a breathy-vocals competition, doing a cover of a late Dolly Mixture song (it's not on the Demonstration Tapes, and it doesn't sound much like the material from that album) called Dilly Dally Dolly. Someone please point out to Sofia Coppola that Kahimi, who is Japanese, pronounces the title phrase correctry.

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