Thursday, March 31, 2005

 

Really weird coincidences part 2: Mold

So back in 1994 a band called Mold released an EP called Sonic Youth at Disney World on the not-so-big Funky Mushroom label (also a home at times to God Is My Co-Pilot and Azalia Snail). The EP made Robert Christgau's Best of 1994 list. Of its four tracks, the two keepers are the title song (very funny, with a hazy glow that's periodically interrupted by hardcore outbursts, and did I say funny?) and Bob Mould Hates Me, the true story of an unfortunate recording session. Production was by Kramer, and there's a slight Bongwater-meets-90's-alt. feel going on.

I first heard the song Sonic Youth at Disney World on WFMU, and it was memorable enough that I snapped up a copy of the EP, probably in 1996 or so. To this day, I put that track on most mix CDs that I make. At some point, I found another album by Mold (it has a hook on the cover) but, as I recall, it wasn't funny. I haven't played it in years, but my memory is that I didn't like it, and so I didn't bother to follow up on them. Mold info on the internet is virtually nonexistent, so through the cracks they slipped.

A few weeks ago I was shopping at that strange record store in Park Slope on 5th Avenue near 9th street, and I found a used CD by Mold called Reject that I'd never seen before, and the price was right, so curiosity won out.

This isn't going to be one of those "Oh my god, a lost classic!" posts. But...it turns out that Mold kept their sense of humor and their talent past that first EP. Reject was their second release, again on Funky Mushroom. The date on the CD is 1994, though Christgau lists it as coming out in '95.

It's a pretty damn charming album. Drummer Christy Davis has a fantastic voice, and a way of delivering lines with a perfect mix of sexy/sweet/snotty that isn't as easy to pull off as she makes it seem. There are a lot of good noisy ideas (some Sonic Youthy, some more psychedelic) going on in the guitar department. In a perfect world, every song would be a tiny bit funnier and a tiny bit catchier and Reject would be a classic. Instead I'd rate Reject as a consistently interesting, often funny, quirky and scrappy little album. I like it. I'm rooting for it. It's grown on me (please don't make the obvious joke). It may not change your life, but you should hear it. I'll post tracks at the end of this piece.

But first, the plot thickens. I managed to google guitar player Steve Scavuzzo a few days ago and he and Christy agreed to answer some interview questions. In the course of this, I learned that they had played what was to be a one-off Mold reunion show just a few days earlier! Weird, right? The show went well, and they're playing again on April 1st. I hadn't planned on running this piece quite so quickly, but obviously it makes a lot of sense to post today, given that the show's tomorrow. Mold will be playing at another band's record release party, coming on shortly after 10pm at 65 Pearl Street, Brooklyn, NY (downstairs). I'm gonna try to go. A few more details are here.

The interview is actually very interesting, and it went like this (I sent the same questions to Christy and to Steve):

MB: I (like a lot of people, I'd guess) found out about you via the Sonic Youth At Disney World single. I never did see you live, and I'm curious about how Mold formed, who your fans were, how well known you were, where you played, etc. I know Azalia Snail and God Is My Copilot from Funky Mushroom...did bands on the label have anything to do with each other?
Christy: Mold formed out of the discontent that guitarist Steve Scavuzzo and I were having in our then current project, Barbie Complex. Steve's old band mates Chris Adam and Phil Sudo (who died of cancer in 2003), Steve, and I decided to form Mold as a sort of side project. The "side project" quickly became our main band after Steve and I decided to quit Barbie Complex and pursue Mold as a more full time endeavor. We played Brownies, Tramps (opening for Throwing Muses), Mercury Lounge, Luna Lounge, and many other NYC venues. We also traveled and played in Chicago, Boston, Philly, Pittsburgh, Jersey, Rhode Island, and Connecticut. We weren't really connected to Azalia Snail or God Is My Co-Pilot, although I know Craig from GIMCP and see him from time to time in the east village. Our fans were mainly friends with a few actual fans sprinkled in.

Steve: Mold got together while I was playing guitar in a band called Barbie Complex. Barbie Complex was more serious and while I was contributing to the writing for that band (our singer wrote all the lyrics), I wanted a project where I could write complete songs that were a little more loose and fun. After I wrote "Bob Mould Hates Me" (a true story, by the way), I decided to put together a side project called Mold (a takeoff on Bob Mould. I believe Mould is the English spelling of Mold). I got the guitarist (Phil Sudo) and bass player (Chris Adam) from an old band I was in (Half A Chicken) and the drummer from Barbie Complex (Christy Davis) and we recorded two songs. Barbie Complex was signed to Funky Mushroom at the time so I took the songs to them and they agreed to put them out. I had sent the Bob Mould song to Kramer who agreed to produce 2 more songs for us and the four songs together make up the Sonic Youth EP (the Sonic Youth song is also a true story). The band was never meant to play live but after the CD came out we decided we wanted to keep it going so we started playing some shows. Phil moved to Hawaii after the Reject CD so we got David Weintraub in to replace him. Phil eventually wrote a book called Zen Guitar, moved back to NY and died of cancer in 2003. I'm not sure if any of the bands on Funky Mushroom had any connection other then the label. We had certainly heard of and had seen those bands live but every band on the label was very different. Mold certainly started out in the typical way, playing only to friends. But over time, we played out quite a bit to the point that we were able to fill Luna Lounge or Brownies on a Saturday night and even played some festivals including one in Chicago.

MB: It seems like you weren't sure whether Mold should be a "funny" band or a serious one. The first ep sounds like it's going for a kind of a Bongwater meets early 90's alt. thing, but the recordings seem to move away from overt humor over the next two CDs. Reject seems split and the 3rd one is mostly straight (as far as I can remember). Curious about why that happened, and I'd also love to know who you felt your influences were.
Christy: I think Steve's initial intention was to convey our sense of humor in regards to the indie rock scene. So many bands in the early nineties were taking themselves too seriously. Our band, on the other hand, got a kick out of making fun of ourselves and those who took themselves too seriously. After "Sonic Youth at Disney World" was released, we were looking to expand and go into a more serious direction. After the hook CD (the second full length CD we did) we replaced Chris Adam with bassist Alan Levine and begun writing with a little bit a different approach. We started to veer towards more instrumental and experimental songs and begun implementing Moog, Theremin, Keyboards, and more effects, etc. Our third full length, "Honey Lava" was a cross between Pink Floyd, Yo La Tengo, and Throwing Muses. I'm sure there were many other influences that were subconscious. Oddly enough, after our disbanding, I came across a lot of bands that had a similar sound as Mold. Bands like Sigur Ros and Mogwai reminded me of later Mold (sans female vocals, of course.)

Steve: It was originally meant to be a humorous side project. As the band got more serious, I started to feel that most humorous songs lose their humor real quick after a few listens. I was never a big Bongwater fan but I loved Camper Van Beethoven and the Young Fresh Fellows so I always thought there was a place for Mold. After Christy and I left Barbie Complex, we wanted to devote ourselves full-time to Mold and started to take everything about it more seriously. I also ran out of funny but true stories.

MB: Who wrote the material? Any interesting unreleased Mold lurking around? The only releases I know of are the EP and the two CDs. Were there any singles, etc. that I don't know about?
Christy: Steve and I wrote all of the lyrics in the beginning and slowly, our second guitarist, David (who joined shortly after the first full length was recorded) added a song or two. Later, I pretty much wrote all the lyrics. The music was written by all of us. That's what I miss about Mold the most -- our very democratic communal writing style. It was such a great experience to see a song unfold as we worked on it. As I stated before, "Honey Lava" was never released. Unfortunately it was improperly mixed and never mastered. I think the songs on that record are our best. Recorded live in an old theatre on the lower east side, the album has a raw energetic sound. We have no way of re-mixing or mastering the material as the masters were thrown away by the now defunct studio that we mixed the record in. We have a couple other recordings that were never released.

Steve: For the first EP, I wrote everything. Reject had some contributions from Christy and Phil. The third CD (the hook CD) was more of a group effort. After the hook CD, we replaced Chris with a guy named Alan Levine and the band moved in a more Radiohead direction (circa ok computer). I was playing organ and moog in addition to guitar, the songs got longer and more pink floyd prog like. We did a number of recordings including a full length that was never released and maybe 8 other tunes that were recorded but again never released. The master tapes were lost for the full length we recorded although there are some CDRs of the album floating around.

MB: Why did the band come to an end?
Christy: In 1999, I became pregnant with my now 4 1/2 year old daughter and after Alan decided to move to North Carolina, I didn't feel like starting from scratch again and finding a new bass player. We all agreed to split. We played with Chris Adam again just the other night at Luna Lounge. It was to be a one shot deal, but we've since been asked to play two more shows. It's funny how even though we hadn't played with Chris in 10 years and hadn't played most of the songs in ten years as well (since we were on to a new repertoire in the last four or five years of our tenure) we still were able to jump right in and sound as if we just picked up where we left off. It's been a lot of fun reuniting and feeling like it's all new again.

Steve: In 2000 Alan decided to move to North Carolina (he had gotten married and couldn't afford NY any more). We all had other secondary musical projects going on at the time and we just couldn't face finding another bass player because we really liked Alan as a person as well as his playing. We still enjoyed each other's company and the music we were creating but we had been doing it for a few years and felt it was the right time for a break.

MB: What have you been doing since?
Christy: I have been playing drums with singer/songwriter Rebecca Moore for about 5 years (www.bluviolin.com). Her music is quite unique, I think. Sort of avant guard with cello, violin, guitar, bass, samples and lots of effects. Rebecca's voice is beautiful. I also play drums with a trio called Kansas State Flower. In that band, acoustic guitarist/singer Matt Roth (Schwervon!/Major Matt Mason USA), Bassist Julie Delano (The Leader) and I do a lot of harmonizing and trading vocal parts. Matt pretty much writes the lyrics and songs and Julie and I add ideas and parts as we rehearse. I really enjoy this band a lot and consider it my "main thing", but unfortunately, due to (mainly Matt's other projects) we rarely rehearse and play live. He's been on tour in Europe with Shwervon! supporting Kimya Dawson for the last 6 weeks. We started a recording a few months back and hopefully will finish it by the summer. Look for it on www.olivejuicemusic.com. Lastly, I play with Audra Tsanos and Her All Star Band doing Music For Aardvarks and Other Mammals. It's music for babies and toddlers. Cool music, mind you, not Barney-esque whiney crap. David Weinstone created Music For Aardvarks and records the CD's and we perform the songs live. We have gigs every month thru July '05. (www.audrarox.com)

Steve: I was working on the first Black Sea record when Mold broke up and David and I have been working on that project ever since. We have released 2 CD's and we are about to start on our third. David has played in and continues to play in a bunch of different bands and so does Christy. Chris hasn't done anything musical until the reunion and I don't think Alan has been doing anything either.


MB: How do you look back on Mold? In a way, you were one-hit wonders, though I guess Sonic Youth At Disney World wasn't technically a hit. Have you ever been approached about having that song included in an anthology? Is that what people tend to remember Mold for, or is that just my impression? Did you ever hear from Sonic Youth (or Bob Mould)?
Christy: I don't think "Sonic Youth at Disney World" was a hit, by any means, although it gained a smidgin of attention. With Kramer's name on the record, that helped gain some notoriety. Robert Christgau named it top 10 ep of 1994 in the Village Voice. I worked with a woman whose then husband was a very close friend of Lee Renaldo. He was given SYADW and then I subsequently saw Thurston Moore at a WFMU Record Fair and gave him a copy. He remembered it and seemed to have a good sense of humor about it. Phil was a college roommate of Bob Mould. I don't know if he got a copy of the ep to Bob or not. The song "Bob Mould Hates Me" is a true story of an encounter Steve had with Bob during a recording session with Steve, Chris and Phil's first band, "Half a Chicken." "Sonic Youth at Disney World" is also a true, yet embellished story of a time when Steve and his wife Laurie followed Sonic Youth around Disney World.

Steve: I always look back on Mold very fondly. I tend to be very critical of the bands I've been involved with and always think things could have been done a lot differently and better. Mold started off as a project that's only concern was to make fun, enjoyable music and it ended the same way. Along the way we got distracted by the desire to be successful but we took our lack of success very well and I was glad that we all remained friends at the end. Our reunion gig at luna was a lot of fun. When you no longer need to conquer the world, it removes a lot of stress and second guessing about what you are doing. After the Luna show, we were actually offered another gig in Dumbo for this Friday which we are all looking forward to as well. No one has expressed much interest in old mold, probably because the CDs were not widely distributed (Funky Mushroom never had any money). Most people that remember Mold remember the live shows and were very disappointed when we broke up. I know that Christy gave a copy of the cd to Thurston Moore and he said he liked it. A copy was sent to Bob Mould but we never heard from him. No great loss there.

Here's a healthy sampling of Reject, with brief comments:

Here's To The Winners (opens the album on a hopeful note)
Burn Me (a solid song with great singing by Christy)
What Is Fame? ("If I had a hundred bucks to see all the local bands that suck...")
We're An Alternative Band ("We're coming to your town, we're gonna sleep in a van...")
Waiting For Phoebe To Die (Before I heard this, I assumed it would be about Phoebe Legere. It's actually about a very annoying and evil dog who plagued Steve. Steve had been falsly assured that the dog wasn't long for the world. Christy's delivery of the final line is really wonderful, and it's great how knowing what the song is about completely changes the way you hear the lyrics.)
Me Again (a fairly straight, pretty and slightly psych ballad that appears twice on the album. This is the acoustic version.)

Reject is, to an extent, tied together by a bunch of consistently worthwhile instrumental tracks, and it comes across, somewhat inadvertently, as a concept album about being a struggling little band with attitude, fighting the good fight in the 90's.

I'm working on getting ahold of some mp3s from the unreleased Honey Lava album. Don't have them at press time, but I may post them in an upcoming piece. I've also got to dig out my copy of the hook album and see if my opinion has changed.

Sonic Youth At Disney World by Mold
Bob Mould Hates Me by Mold

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

 
I'm desperately trying to get a piece up by Thursday (the band it's about are playing on Friday) so I just don't have time to prepare anything substantial until then.

These days, when I don't have time to think up an interesting topic, I just free associate about conversations going on at I Love Music.

Here's PM Dawn (the floaty fluffy hip-hop band) doing their non-floaty, non-fluffy, non-hip-hop impression of T Rex (with a little help from Marc Bolan). This is from their last reasonably buy-able album Dearest Christian, I'm So Very Sorry For Bringing You Here. Love, Dad. I posted this track once before, but it was a while ago.

From the same album, here's the very non-floaty, non-fluffy, non-hip-hop Hale-Bopp Regurgitations, which is the second of three songs from the CD that would fit nicely into a 60's rock fan's collection. The third is a pretty stunning multi-part pop collage called Untitled that ends the album (I'm not posting that one, lazybones). I'm not quite clear on how many copies Dearest Christian sold, but I'm guessing that the answer is "not as many as it should have."

If you hop over to the I Love Music thread that inspired this musing, you'll find that someone has posted the killer b-side (scroll down) to their equally killer single Downtown Venus, from their equally equally killer CD Jesus Wept.

Art Deco Halos by PM Dawn
Hale-Bopp Regurgitations by PM Dawn

Monday, March 28, 2005

 

The return of Luigi Nono: mp3 blog coincidences

With all the mp3 blogs around these days, it's easy to run into situations where two people post the same track on the same day, or where you just found a CD that had fallen under your bed and someone else writes about it, or where it turns out that someone else loves and appreciates Fountains of Wayne in exactly the same way that you do, and it's like the two of you were separated at birth or something. I write most of these little surprises off, 'cause it's a big world.

The only one that really sticks with me is the day that Suburbs Are Killing Us decided, apparently at random, to write about Italian Communist Serialist composer Luigi Nono something like the day after I first picked up a stack of his CDs at the urging of my father the classical music guy. I'm sorry, that was just bizarre.

It takes me a long time to process music like Nono's, but I've been listening to him a lot lately and feel fairly confident that Guai Ai Gelidi Mostri II, from a CD called Luigi Nono 3, is worth sharing with the general public. Flute, clarinet, tuba, 2 contraltos, viola, cello, double bass & live electronics combine into a really foreboding hum that goes on for five or six minutes before a demonstration of the meaning of "dynamic range" bursts onto the scene (fans of Sonic Youth's Freezer Burn/I Wanna Be Your Dog may experience a fond feeling of deja vu).

I listen to this a lot on the Church Ave. subway platform while waiting for my train to the city at 4:30am, and it works really well in that context.

I think you'll like this even if you don't usually dabble in modern classical stuff, though it'll probably help if you're into noisy experimental music, at least slightly. I'll share more Nono as I find things that seem like they might have (relatively speaking) a broad appeal. One wonders how he would have reacted to following a post about Mod Fuck Explosion, but sadly we'll never learn the answer to that.

(I'm using the same photo that Suburbs used for his piece, but really, what else would you do? It's kind of perfect.)

If you think your band had a tough time at that show where the sound guy sucked, consider this:

Nono’s opera, Intolleranza 1960, was performed in La Fenice in 1961 but this time the neo-fascists used a different and more subtle stratagem of opposition. The performance was well under way when a shower of stink bombs rained down on the orchestra. There was a mad scramble to get out, including we critics on the front seats and there was mayhem for the next ten minutes. The stink was incredible. Eventually, the performance was resumed, but in a rather subdued fashion. This time, I don’t think Nono was pleased. -- Reginald Smith Brindle

Guai Ai Gelidi Mostri II by Luigi Nono

Friday, March 25, 2005

 


Tengoku!
Gesundheit!
Thank you.
Don't touch my moustache.


Unrest have been in the news a lot lately, what with their recent reunion show and the re-release of Imperial F.F.R.R. with bonus tracks. I'm one of those heretics who prefer Perfect Teeth, but I do like Imperial a lot and I'm glad to see that Unrest are still fondly remembered.

Their discography is pretty chaotic, and collecting everything is tough. Today's tracks aren't as obscure as some, but I find it odd that they're left out of the Allmusic entry on Unrest. In fact, the only place I know of that reviews them is, once again, our hero Mark Prindle.

Mod Fuck Explosion was a movie by John Moritsugu who has a way with hard-to-find soundtracks. Another movie of his, Hippie Porn, had a soundtrack that was supposed to come out on Matador, but didn't. They're sorry about that. I have a cassette copy, and some glorious day (when I find a cassette player) I'll get around to it. It has an otherwise unreleased Dustdevils track of no great importance.

Luckily, Mod Fuck Explosion came out on vinyl (thought not CD). A remix of the track London's Theme turned up on Unrest's B.P.M. compilation, but as far as I know, the rest is only available on the record. It's not top-notch Unrest, but it's also not terrible, it's the classic BPM lineup, and the movie's theme song is pretty great. Here's Mod Fuck Explosion Theme and Zim-Zum.

On to the other side...


Maybe someone reading this can clear something up once and for all. The other side of the album is by "Karyo Tengoku," a "Japanese noise band." Or so we're told. I'm not sure if Mark Prindle is being coy when he says they sound like a fake Japanese noise band, or if he just has the same suspicions I do. Between the lyrics ("Hiroshima Hiroshima Hiroshima Hiroshima...Aah, Atomic Bomb, Aah Atomic Bomb...We Never Forgive You, We Never Forgive You...") and the accents (very "no tickee, no laundly") and the total lack of any info anywhere else, I'm both amused and skeptical.

Whoever they are, they're actually not bad and I find them funnier and funnier as the years go by. Here's Hiroshima and Soul Brother.

You can still buy copies of the Mod Fuck Explosion album here. The record jacket (especially the Karyo Tengoku side) is very pretty.

 
Still working on the real Friday post. To kill some time meanwhile, here's The Divine Comedy covering Ride's Vapour Trail.

This post inspired by something over at chromewaves. Real Friday post on its way...

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

 

Just about a year ago here at Mystical Beast I was in the midst of a project dealing with worthwhile albums that aren't listed in allmusic, by bands that are. I have another one for Friday. To get back into the mood, I'm rerunning one of the old posts. I was listening to these songs on the subway last night and really enjoying them.

I've had limited success in getting people to like 18th Dye...sometimes I wonder if they're not actually as good as I think they are (ok, ultimately I think they are as good as I think they are). They released two albums and an EP of minimalist but rocking 2-3 chord songs that skewed towards a Wire-like formalism, while also managing to include controlled feedback and other noisy elements from time to time, such that they're often mistakenly compared to My Bloody Valentine. They were on Matador in the US, but Matador never issued their posthumous singles collection Left, and it doesn't appear on Allmusic.

There are a couple of major flaws with Left. The most glaring problem is something that I hope no other band will ever do ever again: right in the middle of the CD, they included four other bands performing absolutely terrible cover versions of 18th Dye songs. It completely screws up the flow of the CD. Nonetheless, Left is completely essential (if you like the band) if only because of two tracks that it includes. One is arguably their best song Coffee Cup Revisited which was previously available only on a vinyl 7" single. The other is this very atypical non-album Eurodisco-on-steroids version of It Feels Like I'm In Love.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

 

Inner Dialogue: like raisins in a glass of seltzer, so are the threads on I Love Music, bobbin' up and down and up and down.

Presumably nearly everyone reading this blog knows the I Love Music board. Beloved by fans of the Dave Matthews Band (don't click if you don't have a fast connection), and the ideal place to express your love or hate for MIA (whose videos, btw, have been playing a lot on the New York Noise show that I semi-raved about a few weeks ago. Bad dancer, cute as the dickens, and I'm not as thrilled by her music as others seem to be. Nice use of elephant.).

Since I don't have a job that requires killing time at a desk, I tend to skip most of the fun threads (the kind that get a million witty responses that'll change our lives forever) and gravitate more towards the ones that vanish quickly.

One kind of great one has been valiantly sinking and rising for the last few weeks: Inner Dialogue! Are they or aren't they the great lost Sagittarius/Free Design style outfit?

And the answer is yes! Big yes! If you've run out of Free Design albums to buy, this is seriously your next stop. Whew. I was getting worried.

You can still stream the whole album here, but sometimes portability is a good thing. Here's Inner Dialogue and Yesterday The Dog, and for god's sake pay attention to the lyrics!

There was definitely a vinyl reissue of this at one point, and I'm pretty sure there's a CD as well, but my Japanese doesn't seem to be up to the task of confirming this.

Inner Dialogue by Inner Dialogue
Yesterday The Dog by Inner Dialogue

Sunday, March 20, 2005

 


Scooped!

So over the weekend the forthcoming Stephen Malkmus album became fairly widely available, and I think it's safe to say that there's going to be an mp3blog scramble starting next week. So I don't really need to post anything from it. Go elsewhere and downloadeth. I doubt you'll have to look far, come Monday.

It's pretty good, though lacking the "Hey, wow, this doesn't suck" factor that made Pig Lib such a pleasant surprise for me. If you get a chance, download the eight minute jam-athon No More Shoes. It kicks off with a very Fleetwood Mac melody, before turning into standard "lets let the vocal line jump random intervals" Malkmus product, followed by some late period Sonic Youth-y guitar-over-one-note-bass jamming that's pretty fun.

More interesting to me, I discovered over the weekend that I'd been scooped on a band that I was pretty sure nobody else would think to write about in a million years. Partly because they're way, way obscure and partly because their album isn't actually great.

So imagine my surprise when I saw that vinyl mine had done a feature on Mass Tango back in February. Go ahead, google them. Once you separate out all of the unrelated links, you'll find that there's absolutely no info on them on the internet, with the exception of vinyl mine and now me, and I think one or two sites that give the tracklisting for CMJ's Certain Damage #12 CD.

Two blogs in two months. It's safe to say that this is the most publicity that Mass Tango are likely to get. I don't know much more about them than vinyl mine. The only real detail I can add is that they appear to have released a 12" single at one point, containing two album tracks. Aside from that, it's like they entered the Federal witness protection program following the release of their self-titled album in 1988.

I said it's not great, so why dwell on them? I've had it on my iPod for a while, and although I never find myself loving it, I continue to find myself very intrigued by it. I seem to have reached that point that twenty-year-olds often find incredibly annoying (I know that 20-year-old me felt this way), where I'm often more interested in a mediocre-interesting band than in a good-but-uninteresting group. Forced to come up with a brief description, I'd call Mass Tango a mix of early Game Theory (dinky production, quirky songwriting) and Christmas (again with the quirky songwriting plus some vocal resemblance). In all caps: THEY WERE NOT IN THE SAME LEAGUE AS EITHER OF THOSE BANDS SO DON'T GET TOO EXCITED.

Had Mass Tango recorded another record or two, I sense that they might have had the chops to pull off a great lost classic. They didn't. Aside from the CMJ thing, they never made it to CD, they don't have a fan running a website, and they didn't even make a HYPED2DEATH comp. History will bury them. Today I'm posting a big chunk of their album, in an attempt to delay the burial by a day or so. Despite all the backhanded comments above, I do think that it's worth hearing. It'd be nice if Ken Cushman (presumably pictured above, center) decided to google himself someday, found this page, and informed us that he's been secretly recording brilliant songs for the last 17 years. We'll see...

Everything's Open Wide (One of two tracks written in 10/4. Have to give bonus points for that. As is often the case on this album, the verse is better than the chorus.)
Highway 10 (Probably would have worked well live. Ken has a pretty good voice, as I think about it.)
Go (Also sounds like it would have been great in concert. The album's production tends to undercut the rave-up tracks. I always like the way Sarah Bell sings the line, "You look like a crucifix fallen down.")
Our Heads Are Spinning (This is the track that appeared on the CMJ comp. Really neat chord progression, and the keyboard works against the melody that Sarah's singing in a really interesting way. BTW, my photo of the album is kind of dark, but Sarah Bell appears to have been a candidate for inclusion in the pantheon of indie rock cuties.)
She's Gone To Mexico (The mix of guitar and keyboard screams early Game Theory to me. Pretty decent guitar playing on the solo.)
Freaktown (Another one with a very Game Theory beginning, until the singing starts. Again, the chorus doesn't live up the verse.)
Dreaming of Jane (This is the track that vinyl mine posted. The second 10/4 song on the album, and I'm guessing that putting them 1st and last was on purpose.)

I'd be thrilled if anyone had anything to add to this. If you're only going to sample one or two tracks, I'd recommend Dreaming of Jane and Our Heads Are Spinning.

Friday, March 18, 2005

 

Die Hölle ist für die Kinder

Since I mentioned the band Alice Donut the other day, I'm gonna repost my favorite song of theirs.

I could give you some background on Alice Donut, but really why bother when there's Mark Prindle? If you've somehow managed to not be familiar with his site, you now have several days' worth of reading ahead of you. Self-involved trivia: my old housemate long, long ago worked (at a real job) with Alice Donut's lead singer, and I once had a conversation about wrist guards and rollerblades with their guitar player at a sporting goods store.

Here's Lisa's Father. I hope you all learn a valuable lesson.

(Image above is not from the comic book referenced in the song, but please remember that it's also wrong to cast mind bondage spells.)

If you haven't yet translated the song's lyrics into German and come up with a series of talking points, please go here.

For everyone who can't be bothered to click that link, please take some time over the weekend to work on the following. Papers are due on my desk Monday morning by 9:00am:

1. Check the unknown words in your dictionary!
2. Find out what James Stewart did in "It's a wonderful life"!
3. How do you like the fact that the woman with no eyes appears twice in the lyrics?
4. Are the lyrics meant seriously or are they making fun of people who try to convert you? Collect the evidence for and against! [His name was "Lisa's father"/15 minutes/the father calls her "Lisa's mother"]
5. Which details are unrealistic?
6. Point out the sermonic style!
7. Do you think it is legitimate to use the serious subject of child abuse to ridicule religious fundamentalists?
8. What do you think about missionaries?
9. Compare "Lisa's Father" to "The Little Girl"!

Lisa's Father by Alice Donut

Thursday, March 17, 2005

 

[I meant to post this on Monday, but got sidetracked.]

As long as I'm on the subject of Daughters of Albion again (see Thursday's post) I may as well mention Farewell Aldebaran by Jerry Yester and Judy Henske, which is yet another great semi-lost folk/psych/unclassifiable classic.

Interestingly, there's a Frank Zappa connection for both bands. Farewell Aldebaran came out on Zappa's Straight label (also home to early Alice Cooper and Captain Beefheart) and Kathy Yesse of Daughters of Albion subsequently released a (not very good) album on Zappa's DiscReet label. Go Frank!

(Please note that I don't much like Frank Zappa's own albums, so if you're also in that camp, please don't be scared away by the above info. Neither band sounds like FZ.)

Farewell Aldebaran is still non-CD, which is really irritating in this age of iTunes. I'm pretty sure that it hasn't even come out in Japan, the glorious country that's largely responsible for preserving America's musical heritage.

It's not that Farewell Aldebaran exactly sounds like Daughters of Albion. DoA is poppy and catchy, Farewell is kind of all over the place stylistically and much less radio friendly (not that DoA probably got much radio play). Both albums start with folk informed by rock, and then do all sorts of unexpected things with production and arrangements. Farewall Aldebaran is more traditional in some ways and more out-there in others. Sorry to be so vague, but it's kind of a tough record to explain. If it got a rerelease today, it would ideally be on Drag City. How's that?

The best example of "unexpected things with production" is probably the title track from Farewell. Tell me what you make of this.

The problem with putting this album in an mp3 blog is that no two songs really sound alike, so giving an overview is somewhat pointless. Here's the album opener, Snowblind, and here's The Three Ravens (I'm going to go out on a limb and speculate that Damon & Naomi pray in the direction of this song several times a day). I'd guess that you'll know at this point if you want to start trolling gemm for a used copy.

Judy Henske is still around and active, and it doesn't seem impossible that this album will get a CD reissue...eventually. A great fan page is here, and here's Judy's official site. Be aware that Farewell Aldebaran is a unique item in the catalogs of both artists who made it, much like the Daughters of Albion album.

Farewell Aldebaran by Jerry Yester and Judy Henske
Snowblind by Jerry Yester and Judy Henske
The Three Ravens by Jerry Yester and Judy Henske

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

 

Bleach, Bleachmobile, Bleach03, Whatever...

I've been championing the Japanese band Bleach for something like four or five years now, ever since I heard their slap-bass spazzout masterpiece Shikai No Haba on a compilation CD. Other than that comp, which included one other song, there was no other Bleach available in the western world until the Arrivederci Baby label finally released an album in the UK called Three Girls From Okinawa that included Bleach's Hadaka No Jyuu album, three songs from their Kibakuzai album and a video.

The track names were translated into English on Three Girls, so Shikai No Haba became Width of a Field of View. Call it what you will, it's a mind blowing hardcore/noise tornado that's nowhere near as random as it might seem at first, and it's got a surprisingly pretty instrumental break tucked away in the middle.

At one point Bleach started calling themselves Bleachmobile, but that didn't seem to work out because they're currently appearing at SxSW as Bleach03. As far as I can tell, they're playing tonight and friday, before heading out to the west coast to support a new US release of their most recent album, which came out in Japan in 2003. Very exciting, though I'm jealous as I sit here in Brooklyn.

One nice thing, though, is that the SxSW website hosts a new (to me) Bleach mp3, titled Raiko (I'm wondering if this is the track Raikou~Kareki Ni Hana Wa Sakanai from the Japanese version of the album that's about to come out in the US...I just don't know).

And it's...utterly fantastic. Again they're mixing hardcore, metal, and spazz-rock while keeping the songwriting tight and the playing super-tight. It boggles my mind that Aquarius Records doesn't seem to have picked up on them yet. It seems like Bleach tour America every year or so, blow a few minds, and then disappear back to Japan, and I don't understand why they don't seem to catch on.

Kind of funny trivia: apparently there's a Christian band also called Bleach whose fans have been known to accidentally order Three Girls From Okinawa. Much hilarity ensues, presumably. Read the reviews over at Amazon.

Just about everything I know about Bleach can be found here and here and here.

Ooh, more here, including photos and more mp3s.

Width of a Field of View by Bleach
Raiko (?) by Bleach

Monday, March 14, 2005

 

The Raveonettes have a new album due in early May, Pretty In Black, which means that we're probably due for a deluge of "Oh my sweet Jesus, they got rid of the distorted guitars revealing the pop band that was secretly hidden inside...who, I ask you, who could ever have predicted this?" articles from any number of writers working on a deadline.

Personally, I'd say that the big change with the new album is more that the quality of the songwriting/plagiarism has improved dramatically, with production issues coming in second. Songs in different keys! Songs that you can tell apart (even if they are awfully derivative of other songs)! It all hovers somewhere between Mazzy Star, Lee & Nancy, Dean & Britta, oldies radio, and, despite it's best efforts, The Jesus and Mary Chain, so bonus points for originality are still withheld, but I'd call this a fairly huge improvement over the fun-but-utterly-disposable Whip It On/Chain Gang Of Love, and probably more succesful than the Jesus & Mary Chain's feedback-ditching precedent.

Here are two tracks from it: Uncertain Times (Dean Wareham is kicking himself for not writing this), and a surprisingly worthwhile cover of My Boyfriend's Back with dinky drum machine put to great use. Is this version of My Boyfriend's Back as good as Alice Donut's definitive take on the same song? Surely you jest, but I've been enjoying the Raveonettes' version as more than just a novelty.

I'm not sure I'd call Pretty In Black an essential purchase, but it's definitely a big step in the right direction. If you (like me) had pretty much written off the band due to the saminess of their material, it might be worth taking another look.

Uncertain Times by The Raveonettes
My Boyfriend's Back by The Raveonettes
My Boyfriend's Back by Alice Donut (I will so kick your ass if you don't download this)

(Note to my sister, and, um, I guess everyone else. I decided to put off the Farewell Aldebaran post until later in the week. Check back on Wednesday.)

Thursday, March 10, 2005

 
Martha, Muffins, Singles That Are Different

Some fairly exciting news on the horizon, coming down from Canada. Word at the Martha and The Muffins website (current news section) is that a CD release of This Is The Ice Age will be (finally, finally, finally) coming out this spring. It's been a long wait.

Despite the cutesy name, Martha and the Muffins were a pretty neat and artsy new wave band who had a hit of sorts with a song called Echo Beach back in the 80's. They also cause all sorts of confusion due to the sometime presence of a Tim Gane, no relation to the guy from Stereolab.

This Is The Ice Age is, by a reasonably general consensus, their best album. Think the artier side of new wave with a good dose of Brian Eno and you're in the right territory. Most of their songs were sung by a Martha, but here's a very nice track called Swimming that's sung by Mark Gane instead.

One of my favorite songs of theirs was written by the less prolific Martha in the band, Martha Ladly. Conveniently, this web site has done a "where is she now" and it's pretty interesting, especially if you're a Factory Records fanatic. Martha Ladly, before leaving the band, wrote an atypical but nonetheless wonderful track called Was Ezo that appears on an album called Trance and Dance.

Interestingly, the 7" single version has a different mix, and I hate to tell you this but I like it much better. The differences are subtle, but let's just say that the single version is more psych-rock and the album version is more brittle new wave. Even more interesting, given the false Stereolab connection, the lead up to the chorus of Was Ezo sounds an awful lot like Stereolab. Very strange! Here's the single version.

On the subject of 7" singles with different mixes than the album version, let's talk about Daughters Of Albion.

I've written about them a few times. In my opinion, their self-titled album is one of the best not-on-CD treasures of the 60's. Call it an American (specifically Californian) reimagining of Seargent Pepper, with top notch pop songwriting, very interesting production and an epic, multi-part final song (1968) that rivals A Day In The Life for "wow" factor, though it lacks Day's gravitas.

Kind of interesting to see what happens when you subtract an element. There's a 7" single that contains two songs that also appear on the album, Well Wired and Story of Sad. The album version of Well Wired sounds like it was mixed by someone who had never seen a mixing board before, and it's just amazing. Here's Well Wired from the album.

The 7" version, meanwhile, is mixed much more normally. And it's nowhere near as good. I wouldn't have predicted that, but hearing is believing. Here's the 7" version of Well Wired (my vinyl is noisy for the first 20-30 seconds, sorry).

Swimming by Martha & The Muffins
Was Ezo by Martha & The Muffins
Well Wired (album track) by Daughters of Albion
Well Wired (single track) by Daughters of Albion
1968 by Daughters of Albion

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

 

Anytime you start to think that the internet has made the world small, and that you can find info on any band, anywhere, do a google search for "Gasolin'" and then come sit with me as we ponder the fact that there doesn't seem to be a single current English language webpage devoted to this band from Denmark who made a valiant attempt to conquer America back in the 70's. I'm told that they were beyond huge in their home country and its surroundings, but I doubt that more than a good sized handful of people in the US know of them. The only reason I'm in that handful is that a truckload of their used albums mysteriously appeared in a local record store some years ago, and I was intrigued by the cover of one of them (shown above).

For an absolutely fascinating time-waster, go here to read about the artist behind that cover painting and his obsession with celery and malfunctioning women's underwear.

Gasolin' managed to release a few albums in the US, but these pretty much fizzled. Limping home after a disastrous US tour, they regrouped and recorded Efter Endnu En Dag with the help of Roy Thomas Baker (all revved up after producing Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody!!). It looks like a generic hard rock album from the 70's, but it isn't.

After a lot of poking around and googling, I did manage to find a cached page in English (it reads like it was written by someone outside of the US) discussing the record. Rather than pretend that I'm an expert, I'm going to just reproduce it here as it's the best source of info I've found that I can read.

Gasolin' returned from the American tour a bit wiser... the tour had been a great experience for the band, but also a financial disaster. The band had a fifty-fifty deal with record company to split the touring expenses, so Gasolin' had pay about 600.000,- dkr. for their trip across the Atlantic!

So the new studio album recorded shortly before the U.S. tour had to be a success... and it was! When the band started their tour in Denmark in January 1977, the album had sold more than 130.000 copies. When Gasolin' started such a number of records was unthinkable... record companies didn't even press that many copies of any release!!

But Efter Endnu En Dag got a very rough welcome from the press, and it also managed to divide the fans... those who loved, and those who were not so keen on it. And it was a different record for Gasolin'... Roy Thomas Baker was fresh of the success with Queen's A Night At The Opera, an highly experimental, but also extremely successful record. A Night At The Opera incorporated many music styles; hard rock, soft rock, opera, music hall jazz; and Roy tried to do a similar thing with Gas 6 as the record was called by insiders with the band. Such a sound weren't really welcome in Gasolin's music, if you have to trust the reviews of the album from back then.

But Efter Endnu En Dag might still be the most well written and well played of all the Gasolin' albums. There is one or two misfires, but aside from that I find this album to be one of my favorites!!!

It opens with the excellent Pilli Villi, that is a satiric look at the left wing aka The Reds! Most people believed that Gasolin' themselves were extremely left wing, and while a lot of their sympathies probably were with that camp, they weren't closer to it, than they could have a laugh at their expenses too. Pilli Villi might be my favorite Gasolin' song.

Pilli Villi goes straight into Mamma CuCu, a strange dreamlike song in English written together with the English lyrics written for What A Lemon. It's also a very beautiful song, about a kids reaction to seeing war on TV... "was it just a movie like you said??". This is another song, that I'm very keen on!!

One of the experiments is the next song; the jazzy Bella Donna. It's not the most well conceived experiment Gasolin' ever made... the jazz music doesn't really fit with the style of the band, or with the rest of the album, by the way!

Kloden Drejer Stille Rundt is a very beautiful ballad, heavily inspired by John Barry's James Bond music. Kim has later revealed that they all were head over heals in love with the music John Barry had created for the James Bond movies, and wanted to incorporate some of that into a song of their own. And it's easy to hear... Franz lead guitar in the background keeps returning to the James Bond theme... aside from this, the song is one of the most well written and well produced songs on any Gasolin' record.

De Gule Enker is another disappointment in my opinion, but a mercifully brief one. It only lasts a minute and a half! The song is played on organ (courtesy of Mr. Jönsson), with a solo on trumpet (courtesy of Swing Jørgen, who also co-wrote Pilli Villi). Franz would play the solo at concerts, on his trusty old saxophone.

Sirenesangen is another satirical jab at modern living, about how we find material goods like cars and stereos more important than ending wars!! Heavy stuff, indeed. Sadly no official live recording of this song exists, as it was really great live, but Kim Larsen has played this from time to time recently with his current band Kjukken! And of course the song ends with a guitar noise which just continued and continued... this was done by cutting the sound into the "lift off" groove at the middle of the record, and if you didn't have an "auto lift off" record player, this sound would drive you nuts... this of course doesn't work on CD

Side 2 open with the English soft rocker Twilight Birds. The song has received a lot of flack for being too commercial and is generally hated by most fans it seems [idiots! -- Dana]. But I find it one of the best songs on the album [you're so right -- Dana]... but what do I know?? Anyway, Roy's production lifts this song above the average, and the choir pieces are brilliant.

Tantes Foto is a delightfully unpretentious experiment with reggae. The song was also a highlight at the concerts, because Søren would play the drums at the edge of the stage, instead of being partially hidden behind his enormous drum kit. See the gallery section for pictures of this!

The song features an extremely complicated chorus, of Wili, Kim and Franz singing together. It has to be heard, and must be incredible hard to pull off.

De Fem Årstider is a typical Kim Larsen song, even though the song is credited to the entire band! It is sung and played solo by Kim and Palle Mikkelborgs beautifully arranged strings and horns.

Pas På Svinget i Solrød is the albums hardest rocking song. Full-throttle hard rock (heavy metal almost) and with a satiric text about our living! The title is derived from an old Danish film called Pas På Svinget i Solby from 1940.

Stenalderjazz is a piece of neo-classical orchestra courtesy of Palle Mikkelborg. Exactly why it is placed here and the second-to-last song I have no idea, it would have made more sense to have opened the album with it, as a sort of an overture. The music played is orchestra versions of the other songs of the album in the following order: Twilight Birds, De Fem Årstider, Mamma CuCu (sounding almost like the theme from Jaws!), and Kloden Drejer Stille Rundt.

Stenalderjazz goes straight into This Is My Life the most hauntingly beautiful song I have ever heard from Gasolin'. It is a brilliant production, though the advanced sound of the CD reveals that the second verse (the one where they all sing) was recorded with a metronome ticking in the back ground... you can very clearly hear it on the CD!!

There's no guitar solo on the song, but instead Birgitte Lindhardt sings the notes of the solo. This reminds me of Pink Floyds "Great Gig In The Sky" from "Dark Side of the Moon", which was probably also what they had in mind. If memory serves me right, they also played this version of the song at the concerts, only with Franz playing the solo on his saxophone! Later Kim would re-record the song in a faster version, which would be the version played by both Gasolin' and Kim's various solo bands for years to come. But recently Kjukken have been playing the original version!

Verdict:
Despite the flaws the album is another favorite of mine:

NOTE: The album were also released in Spain, under the title "Al Cerrarse Un Nuevo Dia". All song titles on the back were printed in Spanish, but the album were the same with Danish lyrics!!


I find myself largely in agreement with this mystery reviewer. Here are my three favorite tracks from the album:

Mamma CuCu by Gasolin'
Twilight Birds by Gasolin' (very ELO sounding!)
This Is My Life by Gasolin'

(You can download an mp3 of the last track, ripped from CD instead of vinyl, here.)

There's a great timeline of the band running to 2002 available here, from the same cached site that provided the above review.

I know that Twighlight Birds was released (at least as a promo single) in the US, but I'm not sure about anything else. If I have any readers from Denmark (or anyone who just happens to be a fan of Gasolin') it'd be wonderful if you felt like posting more info in the comments section!

Monday, March 07, 2005

 

And I'm back. Thanks again to Sleeve for taking the helm last week!

Assuming that I didn't overlook a web page, I'm thinking more and more lately that what the internet really needs is a site devoted to the catalog of Pickwick International, Inc. I was reminded of this by a recent post over at An Idiot's Guide To Dreaming, featuring a lovely cover version of Kraftwerk's Autobahn from a Pickwick Top Of The Pops compilation. Does anybody know if the UK Pickwick behind that is the same (or related to) the Pickwick from Long Island City? They seem to share a philosophy of quality.

Those of you who've studied your Lou Reed probably know that one of his first jobs was working for the US Pickwick as a crank-em-out songwriter, trying to cash in on current trends in rock with tossed off retreads of the top songs of the day, and that The Velvet Underground was the result of Lou trying to form a band to tour behind his prospective hit single The Ostrich. Details on Lou's Pickwick days, including Realaudio streams of a bunch of his pre-Velvets songs, are here.

I'd guess that the bulk of the Pickwick catalog could generously be described as crap, but I have a soft spot in my heart for one album in particular: Tribe sing the creative genius of George Harrison, John Lennon & Paul McCartney. And for so many reasons. I love that George Harrison is listed first in the title. I love that the word "Beatles" doesn't appear on the cover. I love the little button in the cover photo that says "British Power" and the fact that there's a joint tucked discreetly beneath the cover model's hand. On the back cover it's slightly more smoked and sitting in an ashtray and the model has melded with a guitar. I love the fact that Pickwick was so fucking cheap that you didn't even get an inner sleeve (and I bought my copy sealed, baby).

But most of all, I love the song selection. And I don't mean Let It Be or Something. Or great Beatles hits like My Sweet Lord or Isn't It A Pity. Or Mother, or even Maybe I'm Amazed. What I love is the thought of somebody's grandmother picking up this album at Woolworth's, bringing it home to her Beatles-loving grandson, and introducing him to the glory that is Tribe's take on Yoko Ono's Why. Yes, here we get to the heart of the "the best examples of the Beatle decade, rocked by the Tribe in brilliant new stereo arrangements."

Two of the main guys behind Pickwick were Jerry Vance and Terry Philips aka Jerry Pellegrino and Philip Teitelbaum. Both of them were also involved in a band from the late sixties called The Hobbits, who were very un-Hobbity aside from the name. The best web page I can find dealing with that band is here. The Hobbits' debut album Down To Middle Earth is pretty good sunshine pop, and includes one utterly essential and fairly bizarre track called Daffodil Days. If you're going to listen to this, I'm pretty much ordering you to stick around for the end as the song progressively derails from the tracks of normalcy and spirals down the Hobbit hole. And it didn't exactly begin with the dignity of Gandalf either, if you know what I mean.

As a new service for the Mystical Beast reader on the go, I'm going to start posting the day's tracks at the end as well, so you won't have to wade through all that distracting word stuff up above. Enjoy!

[Update: a smart reader pointed out that at the time this album probably came out, 1971, George Harrison had the most succesful solo career of the ex-Beatles, which might explain why his name comes first. Developing on that thought, I wonder if they included a Yoko song on the off chance that she might turn out to be a big post-Beatles star. Kind of a canny approach, if that's the explanation.]

Why by Tribe
Daffodil Days by The Hobbits

Friday, March 04, 2005

 
The week flies by... I'm burned out, tired, and I just read the whole M.I.A. thread on ilx - it's long and intense. But now it's time to talk about some super inspirational West Coast bands.

Mecca Normal have to come in first, hands down. Since they are from nearby Vancouver BC, I have gotten to see them at least half a dozen times in the last 15 years. They are an exceptional live band, their duo format allows them to stretch and morph songs in really amazing ways. They had a brief moment of popularity on Matador in the 90's, but their new album has barely been available and I heard their latest tour was less than successful. A real shame. When they last played Eugene (in my basement) singer Jean Smith noted that a lot of the indie scene of the 90's was fading - all the clubs and bookstores and venues are going under in the new harsh economy. What inspires me most about Mecca Normal is the emotion that they convey in their music. Since I don't have the new album, I want to post a really heartbreaking track from the one before that.

"The Family Swan" is the title track from the album of the same name on Kill Rock Stars.

Oakland's Sleepytime Gorilla Museum are one of the best live bands I've seen in this new decade. Featuring former members of Idiot Flesh and folks from Charming Hostess and the Tin Hat Trio, this band of visionaries create apocalyptic prog-metal with a seriously surreal art twist. Last time I saw them they had a butoh dancer along with them! They are currently touring the Southern USA, and I couldn't think of a better live act to recommend. My most inspiring SGM moment involves memories of them in post-future Mad Max pajamas all falling asleep on stage at the same time. From their debut...

"Sleep Is Wrong"

Seattle's Tiptons used to exist in a different lineup as the Billy Tipton Saxophone Quartet and released at least three CDs under that name. The two big names here are Jessica Lurie and Amy Denio. Lurie has played in Living Daylights, and Amy Denio deserves an entire week of Mystical Beast to herself. Playing with three other badass women as sax-quartet-with-drummer band The Tiptons, they just put out a new CD called Tsunami. They inspire me through sheer musicianship, composition, and technical chops. Here is their version of the traditional song

"Gypsy Wedding"

The Epoxies are a great Portland band that present a glossy Devo/Cars/Rezillos hybrid that is nothing short of awe-inspiring on stage, where they all have these crazy space age laser hats. They played a show here last year that had me enthralled. I'm inspired by their singer's "80's tweak dance", as a friend of mine coined it. I believe they only have a debut CD, from that here is:

"Need More Time"

Another member of the Sleepytime Gorilla Museum clan is singer/songwriter Faun Fables a.k.a Dawn McCarthy. She used to play with SGM member Nils Frykdahl as The Two Dimensions (best duo name ever?) and now Nils backs her on a lot of the FF material. She has played some of the most luminous, life-affirming shows that I have seen in the last few years. Drag City just reissued her early records, from 2003's Mother Twilight here is:

"Begin"

So I just heard that San Francisco's Slow Poisoners broke up. I'm sure that guitarist/singer/songwriter/artist Andrew Poisoner will create more amazing things, but it's sad to see them go. At their Eugene gig they broke more strings and other equipment than I've ever seen in one set, but persevered somehow. Andrew is a great networker and is very good about setting up shows for touring bands in SF, and I respect that. From their excellent (and IMHO underrated) CD Days Of The Soft Break, here is:

"I Walk A Lonely Road"

Wrapping things up for the week is Seattle's Tart. What inspires me most about them is, once again, their commitment to network/advise/help out within local indie scenes. They also have a lot of focus and savvy about DIY business, it reminds me of the days of Simple Machine or something. From what I believe is their third self-released CD, here is:

"Circus"

Damn, I'm exhausted. I hope y'all like some of these tracks and are inspired to investigate the bands further. They are all worthy of support.

Until next time...

Back to your regularly scheduled Mystical Beast programming...

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

 
Eugene, Oregon sure has some great bands. Of course, the same is true of every place I've lived, although the quality does ebb and flow. Right now Eugene seems to be at some kind of critical mass. New labels are forming and releasing CD's and there are literally like 100 bands in a town of 120,000.

In any local scene, it seems to me that the key is documentation. You have to record the stuff that happens. This is why, in my opinion, the early DC hardcore scene (to take one example) was so influential - the bands actually put out records and toured. There was video, and photographs, and print media. Now, we have MP3 blogs...

I'll post my favorites first, to try and convince the casual listener. We'll start with Dan Jones, and the great title track off of his second album (with backing band The Squids):

"One Man Submarine"

Next up are local favorites The Ovulators. They have been in the studio recording in these past few weeks, but aren't going to be done for a while. Those familiar obstacles of time and money. Only one decent recording of a show with their current drummer is out there, so from June of 2004 here is:

"Stalling"

Third up is the three-piece known as Yeltsin. Jake and Dana have played together for many years... I used to book their band Buckhorn at Icky's Tea House like ten years ago. Together with drummer Jivan Valpey (who, like most drummers, has played with a ton of bands) they recorded a 5-track EP and landed a major label deal, although I can't remember who and their website (www.yeltsinrocks.com) is down for a very short time so I can't check. Anyway, you can email them at yeltsin (at) yeltsinrocks (dot) com. From that EP, here is:

"Ex Oficio"

Of course, there are a whole bunch of other good bands... Ed Cole used to play with Dan Jones in Activator, was in The Naysayers before that, and has two self-produced CDs out. He currently plays with his band The College Girls Of Tora Bora and also plays bass in White Hot Odyssey (featuring former Cherry Poppin' Daddies singer Steve Perry on vocals) From his second CD (Forgotten Hits) here is:

"I Remember You"

Ed's website also crashed, you can reach him at edhead101 (at) blogspot.com

Launchpad are a newer band that arose from the ashes of High On Peeps. I really liked the Peeps - they reminded me of early 80's NYC no wave like ESG. Similarly, Launchpad are pursuing new paths that are not typical rock band directions. I have written before about them sounding like a band that would play at the club in Liquid Sky, and I stand by that. Primarily improvisational, they have been recording and playing at a rapid rate in the new year. Here's an early track:

"Hotsy Totsy/Pinwheels In Outer Space"

Guess what? Their website (at Ebloggy) also crashed. But you should check out Launchpad member Mr. Random's Blog Of Randomness for Launchpad news and a ton of links to other local Eugene bands.

Last up is my favorite "side project" band in town, Heavenly Oceans, featuring Yeltsin guitarist Jake Pavlak and drummer Tony Figoli. I'm just a sucker for duos - more about that on Friday. They went into local Dogwood Studios and recorded an all- instrumental CD last year. Here's:

"Teen Drums"

The thing about the Eugene scene right now is that not only are there good bands, there are good venues as well. Unfortunately there are only a few all ages spots, but the bar scene is overflowing with gigs. There's also good radio (University of Oregon station KWVA features many local artists and a local music show), good record stores, good artists, and good media. All the ingredients for some memorable art, or at least a good night out... Let's just hope we document some of the best moments.

Besides Mr. Random's site, interested listeners can also tune in to my blog, which has lots of local links, discographies, and music writing. Long live local music!

It was easy
It was cheap
Go and do it...

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