Monday, May 30, 2005

 
Happy Memorial Day

To celebrate, I'm fulfilling a request and posting two more Dyan Diamond tracks. Here's Nervous and Baby What You Want Me To Do. Chris Spedding wrote the former, Jimmy Reed the latter.

Haven't written about New York Noise in a few weeks. First off, computers are nice but just don't compare to sitting around and watching videos on TV. I finally saw the Trachtenbergs, and it was about what I was expecting, unfortunately, though if Meg ever quits the White Stripes, Jack should consider this band's drummer as a replacement. I'm still not really warming to Adam Green's Jessica Simpson or Beck's Hell Yes (two videos that are on heavy rotation) but am convinced by My Favorite (who appear every week). Their (old) song Burning Hearts is a must-hear (regardless of how you feel about The Smiths) and the video is wonderful. Despite being a concert piece, it gives you the impression of watching an early set by a group that later went on to be world famous. You can read a brief history and interview here. And you can download the Burning Hearts mp3 and the video and some other stuff here.

Also promoted last night was The National. The live clips weren't doing it for me, but I did like their videos (thought to be honest I was only half paying attention). Have to give it more thought. Their website, with mp3s and video, is here.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

 

Dyan Diamond, continued

So, before I had my musical world rearranged (see previous two entries) I was about to post a bunch of tracks from Dyan Diamond's not-on-CD solo album.

[Better comments forthcoming, as soon as I tear myself away from The Secrets.]

Animal Girl - the feminine correlate to Fowley's Animal Man?

Hot - Heart?

In The Dark

Mystery Dance - Costello cover

Someone Like Me - The hit.

Western Avenue - What Kim Fowley, in glam mode, would have sounded like as a teenage girl.

 
Just a quick note: Spoilt Victorian Child has a piece up on the Bullette album today [and has been joined by a number of others]. People, this one is seriously something special, so believe him if you don't believe me! Take a break from the Wilco bittorents for just a day, ok? You'll survive.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

 

Presses stopped: Bullette

(We'll get back to Dyan Diamond tomorrow.)

There's not a track on the new album The Secrets by Bullette that couldn't be improved by lopping off a minute (if not more) and that's the only negative I can think of, so why not make it the lead.

In all other respects, the most original and intriguing album of 2005 is likely to be this out-of-nowhere mp3 download. Not sure if my recent post on her pal Rob Montejo's old band Smashing Orange created a psychic pull or if it was just a coincidence. I woke up at 2:00am on Monday night and reflexively checked gmail. Found a message sent at 11:00pm earlier that night that was just "off" enough to pique my interest (the photo, in which Ms. Bullette looks not unlike someone who might have hung around with Lisa Carver back in the day probably didn't hurt), clicked a link, and gave a quick listen to two mp3s. I'm not the sort to download a full album and give it three consecutive listens at 2:30am on a weeknight, but that's exactly what happened next.

Influences are listed, and include Nancy Sinatra (very apparent in the vocals, plus there's clearly some Lee Hazlewood in the songwriting), Marc Bolan, Alex Chilton, Loretta Lynn, etc. It's tempting to think of her as an outsider artist, especially after listening to some of the synth pieces that come at the end of the album (one of which is a Rob Montejo production), but her blog makes it clear that she's smarter than your average cookie, and very aware of what's going on in past and current music. Call her an insider/outsider artist, but there's nobody (to my knowledge) making albums quite like this in 2005, full of dropped beats, stream-of-consciousness melodies, un-selfconscious lyrics, and ultra-creative-on-a-shoestring-budget arrangements. I catch the occasional similarity to Linda Smith (another generally solo female artist, who has a number of shared influences) but that's about as close as I can come, and it only applies to a few tracks. Overall feel is more like this should be a forgotten cult album from fifteen years ago, 'cept it's brand new.

I checked out her old band Nero's mp3s (the video makes for interesting watching) but nothing they did is preparation for her solo stuff.

As mentioned, the whole album is available for free at her website, but for the lazy:

We Are Not From Sugar, possibly the most accessible track. Not entirely unlike Stereolab, and will leave you unprepared for...

Lemonade. It's not as easy to dodge a beat as the guitar part on this makes it seem. This one, in turn, sounds nothing like...

Don't Start Believin'. If you think you know exactly where this one is going after the first two verses, you're either psychic or mistaken. Very Nancy and Lee, up to the point where it hits the bridge.

I could go on. The weirdness of this album generally isn't the dramatic, in your face kind (e.g. screaming, yelling, overtly clever lyrics, production overload). It has more to do with an artist (sort of a la Daniel Johnston, but without the amateurness, creepiness, etc.) pushing normal song structures slightly around the bend. Lyrics are also posted, and are worth paying attention to. If she hooks up with the right producer, her next album could be an out-and-out classic, no apologies needed.

Monday, May 23, 2005

 
D. Diamond: interviews that didn't happen, part one.

This is part one in a series of posts on artists who I wanted to interview but didn't, for various and sundry reasons.

The "D" in D. Diamond stands for Dyan, but I didn't learn that until years after I first saw the name in print. For reasons of his own, Kim Fowley decided to credit her for her cowriting assistance on his Sunset Boulevard album by initial. I always wondered who this mysterious person was, since the songs that they cowrote (especially In My Garage and Love Is A Game) were among my favorite tracks from one of my favorite albums. There are a few D. Diamonds in rock-and-roll, and since Sunset Boulevard was recorded all over the world (and since the liner notes were kind of sketchy, and since Kim Fowley could theoretically have worked with just about anyone) and especially because I'm pretty weak when it comes to the LA punk scene, I never connected some dots that a better informed listener might connected.

A few years ago I stumbled across a copy of Dyan Diamond's first and only record (on MCA,1978) called In the Dark. Bought it because Kim Fowley was credited as cowriter on a few tracks, because Chris Spedding (former Womble) had a songwriting credit, and because it contained a cover of Elvis Costello's Mystery Dance (just because Elvis Costello bores me doesn't mean I'm not interested in hearing other people cover his songs). Got the record home, looked it up on google, and had one of those Eureka moments. I probably would've made the connection quicker had I ever heard anything by her old band Venus and the Razorblades.

One of the more unusual things about all of this is that Dyan was something like fourteen when she started working with Kim Fowley, and was still well under twenty years old when she recorded her album. She sounds a lot older. From some research online I learned that she never followed up In The Dark, though she apparently continued to perform live for several years and included non-album material in her sets. I wanted to track her down to find out 1. if any of her post-In the Dark material was ever recorded 2. how she and Kim went about collaborating on songs and 3. if she had any good Kim Fowley stories. That was about two years ago.

At this point, here's what I have: I managed to get in touch with one of her former bandmates, but got a kind of a bad feeling after a few back-and-forth emails. Let's just say that if I had wanted to do a piece made up of snarky putdowns, I'd know where to go for material. Since they didn't actually know where she was currently, I dropped the subject. After that, I tried to get in touch with Kim Fowley, but never got an answer (since my e-mail didn't contain any get-rich-quick schemes, this didn't surprise me). Finally, I put the word out that I was trying to track her down to various Internet types who might know.

I never got anything definitive. My best guess (could be totally wrong, but several unrelated sources seems to think this) is that she went to law school and is currently working as an attorney and isn't particularly interested in being tracked down. It's funny: I always operate with this assumption that semi-forgotten music types are just dying to talk about their pasts. Of course, the reality is that talking about your past doesn't necessarily put any money in your bank account or, when you get right down to it, enhance your non-rock star life in any way. For those of us who've never released a record or vied for stardom, this can be hard to understand, but at this point I've been friends with enough former musicians to realize that having your name in Trouser Press/Allmusic/etc. isn't the highlight of everyone's life.

I'll have a big chunk of In The Dark on Wednesday. It's a pretty fun mix of early Heart, Fowley-trash-rock, and retro-rock along the lines of the aformentioned Elvis Costello cover. Meanwhile, here are the three songs that Dyan helped with on Sunset Boulevard: In My Garage and Love Is a Game and Blow-Up. It's tempting to assume that that's her singing backup vocals on the first two, but I just don't know and probably won't unless I hear from her or from someone who was at the sessions. Blow-Up ("What do you think of my fingernail polish?") doesn't sound much like anything else I've heard by Dyan. Presumably, Kim was the one who came up with lines like, "Junkyard dog in the hardware store, you got back door possibilities, a whole lot more."

Kim Fowley's Sunset Boulevard still isn't on CD but is, strangely enough, available from eMusic. Vinyl rip, so don't get too excited if you already have the record, and I'll say again that this is one release that really works best on vinyl, with cryptic liner notes, the unusual cover-art, etc. On some level, I hope it never does make it to CD.

I haven't heard every record ever made, obviously, but I'm willing to go out on a limb and guess that there is no other record quite like it (this may not be immediately obvious from listening to the tracks I've posted today.) A look at Fowley's CV makes it clear that he's in love with rock and roll, which makes his ultra-cynical attempts to pretend that he isn't incredibly touching. You have to love a guy who thinks that a fake Dylan accent is the key to cracking the youth market in 1978.

Friday, May 20, 2005

 
Lilys substitutes

Just got an email from the Pas/Cal people, with a link to a new mp3 here, which I'm liking a lot right from the get go.

While the band often got compared to Belle & Sebastian in the past, I really think that the Lilys are more on point. Fractured but poppy wandering song structures coupled with a 60's vibe, and it's surprising to see them pulling this off nearly as well as the Lilys do, given that the Lilys often seem like a high-wire act. Very nice, since for my money Kurt Heasley is the most interesting pop songwriter working today.

Lately the Lilys' production has taken a turn for the strange, which seemed to put a lot of people off. Possibly Pas/Cal, who hew closer to the softer side of the Kinks and the aformentioned B&S, will be more succesful with the prog-60's pop formula. I'm very much looking forward to their full-length, if they ever manage to finish it.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

 
The Orange Peels Circling The Sun

Keep hearing albums this year that I wish were slightly better. I'm starting to feel like a guy with a house full of half-empty glasses.

Disclaimer: when I scan reviews and see a combo of the words "Beach Boys," "California," "Summer," and "Power pop," my brain usually shuts off and I have to run into the other room and play the Axemen's Three Virgins for a while until I wake up.

But I did get a copy of the new Orange Peels album Circling The Sun in the mail, and I listen to everything I get in the mail (because I don't get very many CDs in the mail, so it's still kind of exciting). I know the band well, having spent an inordinate amount of time trying to like their first album (unsuccesfully). I've realized at some point that what I'd really like is if head Peel Allen Clapp would hook up with a Scott Miller type weirdo (if not Scott Miller himself) because Allen's good with the verses and the singing, bad with the lyrics and bridges and the little odds-and-ends and fiddly bits that transform good pop/power-pop into greatness.

About half of Circling The Sun is top-notch, even to this doubter, and I'm pretty sure that people who frequent Notlame will love it, love it, love it. A few songs have the feel of early 90's US indie doing 80's UK indie-pop (think some of the non-shoegaze parts of Spin Art's One Last Kiss comp.) and it's a direction that I find peppier and more interesting than the more California-sounding tracks. If you can find it elsewhere, check out a bouncy track called What's It Like Mary Jo? for an example of what I'm talking about.

On the other hand, the "radio ready" song is pretty clearly I Don't Wanna Shine, the story of a young light bulb who dreams of being a dentist. If only. Perfect example of mediocre lyrics futzing up a killer power-pop hook. Note how the song gets way more interesting on the third verse when we start to get a little creative with the mixing desk. More of that, Allen!!!

So, if you liked their old albums, this one's a no brainer. Buy it (Parasol.com yadda yadda yadda). Not sure it's the CD to break them to a super-wide audience, and there are a couple of tracks that I personally find flat out icky: every time Boy In Space comes on ("Standing here, before you now, hoping for, something somehow, looking for, an open door, this is what, I'm hoping for") I dive, dive, dive for the fast forward button. That's the exception, not the rule.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

 
Didn't want to follow a noisy post with another, so today is current poppy stuff that I've been liking.

I checked Technorati (hint: if you're thinking of posting about, oh say, Wilco and want to check to see if anyone else has ever done that, you can go to technorati.com and find out) but it looked like only one person had posted Canal Street by Love As Laughter, from their new album, and I'm not sure if it's still available.

I'd written about LaL some time ago, under the heading of "bands that come close to being great, but miss." Despite the deserved great reviews that LaL's new CD is getting, I still hear some basic problems. Underwritten endings, missing guitar solos, a slight shortage of hooks (compensated for by a charismatic looseness). That sort of thing. When I first heard Canal Street, I was surprised that a West Coast band had written the best NYC song I'd heard in some time. It sounds more like an NYC band than most bands that actually come from the city these days. Then I found out that LaL had relocated, making me feel incredibly smart for a moment. Wish they'd come up with a real ending for the track, but I'm not complaining too much.

As a reminder of glories past, here's my other favorite LaL track, #1 USA which still needs a friggin' bass. It's from their #1 U.S.A. album on K records.

Stumbled across what I think is the forthcoming MF Doom/Ghostface Killah album, but I'm not 100% sure [it's not...see comments...but still don't know what it is that I found]. Any experts, feel free to let me know if this is something else.

I'm not sure if Doom's sound is getting too familiar, but the album isn't knocking my socks off like Vaudeville Villain did. On the other hand, it's got another one of those weird, off-kilter things that I only ever hear Doom do. Here's Helpless Fool, produced by RZA (so it says) which isn't lyrically the strongest thing around (not horrible, not great) but I love the piano bit every bit as much as I loved the Beatles sample on Tick, Tick way back when.

Monday, May 16, 2005

 
Did I say I wasn't going to run out and get the new System of a Down album?

...'cause if I did, I totally lied.

Personally, I use the word "great" in several different ways when talking about music. There's "great" as in "fit to share a mix CD with the Dustdevils" and "great" as in "way, way better than I ever would have expected." The new System of a Down album turns out to be great.

Recent article in the Times gives them grudging respect, but goes to more than the expected amount of trouble to try to drag them down (via lyrics) to the level of their quasi-peers Linkin Park/Limp Bizket.

(Have I ever written about the fact that some years ago I very nearly became related - by marriage - to the guy most responsible for gracing the world with Linkin Park? Had that happened, could I have used my influence to bring about the Jad Fair/Linkin Park mashup that I dream of so often? The fate of the world can turn on things like that.)

I was kind of struck by SoaD's SNL performance despite the typically crappy sound. Then what's-his-name over at Stereogum took a potshot and promptly got his ass handed to him (his final post being a swiftly back-peddling "So, people who I've just insulted: please give me advice on this band that I know nothing about") and that was the straw that motivated me to get the new album Mezmerize.

I doubt it's going to end up in my top 10 of 2005, but it's easily the best (or most interesting, maybe) album I've heard in recent memory that I'll actually be able to discuss with the rest of the world, and I can just about guarantee you that it's a better use of your dollar than, for example, the forthcoming Believer snoozefest (I have so many reasons for being annoyed by this that I've decided to keep them to myself, so we can agree to disagree if you feel differently).

Back to SoaD: it reminds me structurally of Opeth in the way it quick cuts from chugga-chugga metal to a totally different genre. While Opeth go from cookie-monster grind to prog-psych (and are much heavier) (and better) this one seems to go from metal to rock-influenced Armenian folk (I mistook the latter for fake reggae during their SNL appearance. My bad).

On one level SoaD are sort of easy to stick daggers into, and if I were the type to make fun of bug-eyed guitar players with strange hair, I might. Maybe it's the Armenian thing or maybe it's their competition, but I find myself willing to cut their affect/lyrics more slack than usual, especially in the face of some surprisingly sophisticated songwriting. Clearly I don't get out much, but I haven't heard anything on the charts recently that twists and turns and eschews standard verse/chorus to the extent that SoaD do.

I have a feeling that posting an mp3 might be asking for trouble (powers that be: I'll be happy to take this down asap if it's a problem...I'm not terrifically invested in promoting things that are already popular) but I'll give it a shot. Here's the final track on the album, apparently part 2 of a Hollywood-related theme, Lost In Hollywood. It's mellower than the rest of the CD, though that's not the reason I'm posting it, and the loud songs are good too.

And since I may get asked to take that track down, I'll put up my favorite Opeth song as well. Here's Deliverance. Learn to get past the vocals, if that's a problem. Al Johnson is a great singer. Arto Lindsay is a great singer. So is this guy. Deliverance is long and kind of a big download (around 20Mb) but completely worth the effort: a well plotted multi-part epic with an incredible pay-off at the end that makes a lot of mathematically-inclined indie look pretty silly.

[Update: on May 18, Fluxblog (of which I'm much, much fonder than Stereogum) takes shot at SoaD as well. Ass-handing in progress. Strange how people fixate on their looks, which are really no weirder (in the grand scheme of the world) than anything else. Mezmerize continuing to rock the iPod, as they say. I suspect that it's going to be a tough one for a lot of people, as it's an undeniably strong album from one of the most casually dismissed - I'm guilty too - genres in current music. I'm expecting to see it on a lot of year end polls from people you wouldn't have predicted.]

Friday, May 13, 2005

 
Smashing Orange reissue

Possibly the most unfortunately named band since Fuschia Sabbath, Smashing Orange were probably doomed to semi-obscurity from the moment they picked their monicker. Too bad, as their first EP-and-singles are somewhat legendary among shoegaze aficionados. Back in the day, they were hailed as the one US bandwagon hopper worth checking out.

Ebay watchers may have noticed that the early, out-of-print stuff has been popping up recently , and as usual the cynics among you would be right. There's an extremely belated CD reissue of "the good stuff" out, on Elephant Stone Records and titled 1991. Among others, the nice folks at Parasol are selling it. From the reissue, here's Sugar.

Fans of this stuff always seem to be horrified by Smashing Orange's subsequent transformation into a shoegazey biker rock band (or something like that). I'm not going to go all revisionist, but I've always had a soft spot for Something Comes Down from their 1992 CD The Glass Bead Game. Maybe you're pickier than me, but I say that a song that 1) kicks off with the singer going "Let's get it on!" and 2) includes the lyric, "Skintight leather across your ass!" and 3) has the singer imploring "Rock me one more time!" before the second wah-wah guitar solo, cannot possibly be all bad. Take it as fake cock rock or something, but it's totally catchy at the proper volume.

The rest of the album is decent enough. If you see a used copy for a buck or so, it's well worth a listen, though it's probably not going to change your life and you really don't want to spend more than a dollar or two at most. Seriously. Other tracks feature more vestiges of shoegazing past, but of course the song that I like second best is yet another over-the-top hard rocker, Look Behind You, which blasts off of the trailing notes of a much mellower song called Indians Say. Love Medication, Love Penetration! Whooo!

(Wow, you know it's something like ten years since I've listened to this album, and I gotta say I'm enjoying it more than I expected to when I filed it in the "I never listen to this, but something tells me to hold onto it" binder.)

Thursday, May 12, 2005

 

Yesterday's post about hearing Paul McCartney's Junior's Farm at work sent me straight for the Lee Harvey Oswald Band's cover of same. I didn't feel like this post got enough attention the first time around...some of these tracks are seriously amazing. So here's the original piece back for a second time.

If your boss is standing right behind you reading this, you might want to find some way to distract him/her while you casually re-direct to a page about boss things (as opposed to a blog about music by horrible people named Zowie Fenderblast and Dredge and James Meat, who seem to think that young girls and japanimation characters doing heroin is the height of wit, and who write songs with titles like Getting Wasted With The Vampires and Green Like The Color Of Blood).

For a history of the Lee Harvey Oswald Band, you can start with Allmusic, though after you think about it for a while and start to wonder why a band that formed in the 70's only released product in the 90's, and on Touch and Go at that, you might want to mosey over to Trouser Press for an alternate history.

One nice thing about the LHOB is that you can own everything they did by buying two CDs, both of which can usually be found cheap and used (how appropriate). Especially on their first CD A Taste Of Prison (which includes their first EP) they kind of sound like a bootleg recording of David Bowie jamming with the Stooges, except there's a real Urge Overkill "This is Rock And Roll, Baby" feel to the whole proceeding. I wish the album was a little bit...better. The idea of an uber-trashy Bowie-esque fake-relic is a great one, but when it's arguable that the rockingist track on your CD is the Wings cover, you might want to spend some more time in Badass Songwriting 101 and less time writing your liner notes in Japanese.

Jesus Never Lived On Mars is what I want them to be doing, but they only manage that level of quality a couple of times. A Taste Of Prison sounds cool, it sounds real, it sounds nasty, but it doesn't always sound good.

The second album Blastronaut has better sound (like a good bootleg this time) and better songwriting. The opening sing-along track The Greatest Man Who Ever Walked The Face Of The Earth runs smack into an extremely Man Who Sold The World sounding ultimatum called Surrender Earthlings, kicking things off in style.

[Between that track and Hilly Michaels' Close Encounters and Graham Coxon's People of the Earth, I'm getting tempted to put together a mix of "Earth people, we have come to destroy you...or something" songs. Any other suggestions?]

And, Rocket 69 (Hmmm, the first three songs on the CD are the three I'm featuring: that doesn't bode well!) is possibly the best thing they ever did, getting the proportions of beer, lust, and catchy chorus just right. Actually, the rest of the CD is pretty good, ok, fairly great if you're in the right frame of mind. Again, I want it to be faster, louder, and most of all funnier, but that's a "glass half empty" way of looking at a fairly strong album. I still think that the Dwarves and Urge Overkill did this sort of thing better, but LHOB carved out their own distinct niche in the land of fake (but real) Rock Stars.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

 
mp3.org people, don't click on this. No mp3s!

Just a random thought...the gym where I work has some sort of streaming radio thing, and in the past there's been an 80's/90's program that's often amazed me: Ultra Vivid Scene being one in particular that freaked me out, with X's "Hungry Wolf" a close second. Recently they seem to have switched into a classic rock mode. This morning, Junior's Farm (followed by Smokin' In The Boys' Room -- Motley Crue, not the original) with some Rush song that I didn't recognize in there somewhere (probably post-Signals). I'm getting kind of excited.

 
Brendan O'Malley has ruined rock for an entire generation!

(Ok, not really, but I needed someone for the title.)

Recent events (a Sammy diss at another blog, unexpected contact with a relative of an original member of Love Child) have had me thinking about Alan Licht and Co. yet again, and it dawns on me that I've referenced the title of one of his old records a gazillion times without ever explaining.

Long ago, Alan Licht put out a little 7" single with the arresting title "Calvin Johnson Has Ruined Rock for an Entire Generation." I remember seeing it in the rack at Kim's Underground (the shop that pretty much spawned the evil Other Music) and thinking "Oh no!" for I was besotted with Beat Happening at the time. There's a list somewhere of my "top 10 albums" that I wrote up in 1991 that includes three Beat Happening albums. Why I did that, I have no idea...meaning of course that in ten years I may be writing about my favorite band System of a Down and looking back with self-pity on the delusional freak who spent all his time writing about Tin Tin.

(I want to take a moment to go on record as being slightly intrigued by System of a Down's Saturday Night Live performance, with the fact that they've been recently dissed by Stereogum only upping my interest. I was kind of reminded of Alice Cooper/Zappa which seemed sort of refreshing for an SNL band. I'm not saying I ran out and bought their album or anything...)

Anyway, right or wrong, it was a great title for a single. Later, Kim Gordon's band Free Kitten would reference it, and then everyone had a group hug and read a copy of Sassy together.

Here's the single:

Six Million Licks for Tone Loc

Tone Poem for Nikki Sixx Million

[For everyone who doesn't follow Vassar alumni quite as closely as we do, Alan Licht is "the guy who wrote the liner notes for the Television reissues" or "the guy who played in that Text of Light band with some guy from Sonic Youth, but it doesn't sound anything like 'Goo' and I want my money back" or "this guy who opened for this band we went to see who did this weird thing with a Donna Summer tape" or "this guy who used to be in a band with the founder of gurl.com"]

Monday, May 09, 2005

 

Joy Zipper's Other New Album


Joy Zipper are now inhabiting parallel universes. If you go to their US website, you can read all about their new CD American Whip. If you go to their UK website, you can read all about their new CD The Heartlight Set.

How this all came to be is kind of complicated and I've explained it before. Still, this US/UK split seems like a weird way to handle things, given, you know, the internet. The band is currently touring the US, and I'm wondering how exactly they're dealing with the whole situation (how do you promote a two-year-old "new" album when you have a real new album available in another country). A concert review here describes them playing "a brand new song called 'Window' that has yet to be recorded" (it's not brand new and it's been recorded twice now) but I can't tell if the band is lying to their audience or if the reviewer is just misinformed.

The Heartlight Set seems a little too unfocused to get Joy Zipper a major publicity upgrade. The CD opens up with Go Tell The World's drumbeat sounding for all the world like Gary Glitter until Tabitha Tindale comes in singing with her angry voice (the one that sounds like Kim Deal) and for a short while I was thinking that this was going to be the "the drugs wore off" record where Joy Zipper rock out. Not exactly a direction that I expected or wanted the band to pursue, but interesting enough.

For the most part, though, the opening is a false start. The album quickly settles back into a mix of mellow-ish ballads and American Whip style fuzz-touched drones (one track sounds almost exactly like a mix of Summer In The City with Spacemen 3's Hey Man). If you've been collecting EP's, you'll recognize revamped and slightly improved versions of several familiar tracks: 1, 2 Dreams I Had and Window. There's at least one mostly acoustic ballad (You've Changed) that sounds almost like a bid for mainstream radio, with Vinny's thin voice, the failure to go into a hard-rocking 3rd verse, and a sudden unexpected transformation into Sweet Home Alabama being the only things holding it back from world domination. Not bad, actually, though surprisingly normal.

The only spot where the wacko Joy Zipper that I first met really surface is on the wonderful For Lenny's Own Pleasure, which sounds like it comes straight from their first album: no chorus, oddball druggy lyrics delivered in Tabitha's happy voice, and an unfocused trajectory that seems like it could go on indefinitely, in a timeless smoking-pot-in-your-parents'-basement sort of way.

There's some strong material here, together with a few tracks that sound disturbingly stripped of most of the quirks that make this band such a source of fascination for me: sans quirks, Joy Zipper can get awfully close to post-Breeders 90's alt. girl rock and/or California 1970's singer songwriter. The overt My Bloody Valentine-isms of American Whip are mostly gone, other than the odd echo here and there. Kind of hard to make sense of what the group is up to here, though that probably describes everything they've ever done.

If you don't yet know Joy Zipper, I'd probably lean towards American Whip as a better introduction. If you're a fan, Heartlight Set is definitely worth picking up, though Americans might want to wait for a domestic release. On the other hand, given this band's history with record labels, it might be wise to jump on the import when it comes out in June. Who can say.

Friday, May 06, 2005

 

Reruns again: V-Effect

[Used to do a column a day. Then three a week. Now even two a week is tough. Mystical Beast slides slowly towards oblivion. Here's another rerun, one that probably deserves a bigger audience than it got the first time around. Also, No Wave made one of its semi-regular appearances over at I Love Music the other day, and as usual this band nearly got left out. Here's the original post with some very minor revisions, and one extra track.]

I was still in high school in the early 80's, and I don't want to pretend to be an expert when I'm not, so I'll refer you to this article at Perfect Sound Forever which gives a lot of background for the bands that followed and were influenced by the original No Wave groups. (I had no idea that Amy Rigby was once part of that scene!) [After this ran I did a piece that expanded on that a little bit, here. I'm still very proud of the photo on that one.]

I do mean "influenced": V-Effect don't sound like anyone on No New York. They were much less chaotic, noisy and aggressive, and will probably remind you more of "downtown" or "Knitting Factory" music. My working definition of "Knitting Factory music" (which is no longer the right term, since the club books differently now): music with annoying saxophones that Americans don't like.

As you might guess from that definition, it's not a kind of music that I normally take to. But, V-Effect have a few things in their favor. Their songs have fairly tight structures, there's a lot of post-punk evident in their rhythm section, and their lyrics, which often sound like a Seven Sisters version of the Minutemen, are especially sharp. From their one album Stop Those Songs, here are my three favorite tracks: A Tree Grows in Managua, Boyce Life and New Song (Old Story). If you have to pick just one, I'd go for Boyce Life which features a clever take on its theme of cold war spying (see The Falcon and The Snowman for background details). [Not sure why I didn't post Master-Slave the first time around, as it's also utterly fantastic. Here it is.]

Band members were Rick Brown (who I know the best due to his later band Run On, formed with his wife Sue Garner and ex-Love Child guy Alan Licht), Ann Rupel (later in Curlew and probably other Downtown Music Gallery-type acts that I don't follow), and David Zonzinsky (about whom I know nothing).

The album is very much out of print, and has never been on CD. I kind of think that now might be a really good time to reissue it, given the recent resurgence of interest in this sort of thing. [Hasn't happened yet, and I sense that the No Wave revival-of-sorts is losing steam. Maybe in 2025. V-Effect also appear on a 1982 compilation called Peripheral Vision.]

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

 

Checking up on Jessica Bailiff...

...is something I do regularly, ever since she helped nudge David Pearce of Flying Saucer Attack somewhat out of retirement with their Clear Horizon album several years ago. I'm still not sure that that album has gotten the proper amount of appreciation, especially given how well liked FSA were at one time. In case you didn't listen to me two years ago, here's another chance to hear Watching The Sea. For my money, it ranks up with FSA's best and beats the pants off of Smile in the "getting the older generation back to work" competition.

According to her website, there'll be another Clear Horizon album someday, and I'll keep one of my many eyes out for that, though my eye isn't holding its breath.

Meanwhile, she has a few new projects that are scheduled to come out soon. Most involve EPs and such, so I'm not posting any tracks.

One is a collaboration between Jessica and Rachel Staggs (of Experimental Aircraft) called Eau Claire (to be released on Clairerecords ha ha). An awful lot of bloggers, myself included, have posted Experimental Aircraft's wonderful song Symphony, one of the better shoegaze attempts in recent years, surprisingly created by a bunch of Texans. "Better" especially in the sense that they took the time to write an actual memorable melody before swathing it in gauze. I'm not going to post the track again, but if your button-clicking finger isn't out of wack, you can still get it at their website. Note that they too have a new album on the way.

Getting back to Eau Claire, you can hear some (kind of mid fi) samples here. The track Song For is surprisingly poppy and might please folks who find Jessica's solo stuff a little too spacy, while Freefall is more what you'd expect from these two. Kind of depressing that fewer than 400 people have heard these songs, if the stats on the myspace page (at press time) are to be believed.

Elsewhere, Jessica has a forthcoming 4-song 7" single that includes a cover of FSA's Come and Close My Eyes. The original is from Further, which is my favorite FSA album. Rather than try to describe FSA's sound, here's the original track. (FSA were influenced by a lot of people: old Pink Floyd, various Krautrockers, My Bloody blah blah blah, and the sonic limitations of a 4-track cassette recorder, but ultimately their sound was their own to the extent that comparisons are kind of pointless).

And finally, while I'm not really a fan of Low, I know that a lot of indie-types are. Jessica had a track on the Low tribute We Could Live In Hope that came out late last year. I'm mostly mentioning that to try to make her relevent to any god-forsaken soul who's thus far failed to hear Flying Saucer Attack, Clear Horizon, or her solo albums. Ultimately it may be the least interesting reason on this page to check her out. She was probably more interesting covering the other slowcore band (the one that didn't quite make it) Codeine. Here's her not-always-gentle version of their song Cave In, from an old split single (which, like much of her work, was produced by Alan Sparhawk, so I should probably be nicer about Low. Sorry.).

Foo Fighter fans may be interested to know that the original Codeine song was the inspiration for the not-very-Codeine-sounding band Cave In.

Monday, May 02, 2005

 



We found a box full of CDRs of unmastered mixes of Shannon Worrell's The Moviegoer. Why you might care:

For years J&R Music World seemed to have an endless supply of cut-outs of a CD called Lucky Shoe by a band called September 67, and I often thought of buying a copy because it was produced by David Lowery (of Camper Van Beethoven and, um, some other band) and because it was on the Enclave label, which was briefly the home to Belle and Sebastian's If You're Feeling Sinister before folding. Ultimately, neither of those reasons seemed compelling enough to get me to pony up $6.99.

Had I bought the album, I might have followed up on the two members of the group, one of whom was Shannon Worrell.

I also would have heard guitarist David Immergluck in one of his post-Ophelias appearances, as well as a bunch of other people related to Sparklehorse, playing the backing tracks. I might have bought Shannon's debut CD Three Wishes, which currently sells for $50-$80. Had I done that, I would have heard a song called Eleanor that features Dave Matthews on backing vocals. (That last bit isn't so exciting. Also, don't let it scare you away. Shannon came from the same scene that birthed Dave Matthews, she was pals with him, and I forgive her.)

More to the point, I would have known who she was yesterday afternoon when my wife and I were out walking around Park Slope and passed a cardboard box full of CDRs sitting on the curb, waiting for the garbage man. Most of them were wet. I liked the cover art:

...which reminded me a bit of Belle and Sebastian. As did the presence of a song called The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner (see B&S's The Loneliness of a Middle-Distance Runner). Also, something about the CD just looked like it might be interesting...I've gotten pretty good at judging books by their covers. So I grabbed the three least-wet copies.

Interestingly enough, on the way home we passed a stringy bearded guy with a guitar and I snidely said to my wife, "Buffalo Soldier will be performed tonight," and my wife said "Phish, more likely," and we had a conversation that briefly touched on the Dave Matthews Band, and then we saw a squirrel doing something cute and the topic changed from jam bands to squirrels and we eventually got back to the house.

Later still, we played the CDR and discovered that it is, in fact, pretty good. Make that very good. File it under interestingly arranged jazz-inflected orch-pop girl-folk, if you can find a copy to file (it's out of print). I'm reminded at times of a number of Suzanne Vega derivatives, Camera Obscura and Lois (of K records). These are unmastered mixes, but aside from some bass-heavy EQ at times, they sound pretty good. Here's The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner, which is one of several somewhat jazzy tracks that I tend to like the best, with very nice horns on the chorus. [As I think about it a few days later, I'm pretty sure that this song is an overt B&S homage, between the lyric about the "Bell(e) who broke the world" and the very B&S coda and the title.]

A little research showed us that the proper album The Moviegoer is kind of an under-the-radar cult classic among the cooler members of the post-Lilith set, who occasionally turn out to have better taste than they're often given credit for. We also learned that John Linnell of They Might Be Giants played accordian on the album, and that his wife Karen Brown produced it. I wonder if they live on Prospect Park West (site of the CDR spotting).

Here's semi-jazzy track #2, Shoot The Elephant, which finds a meeting place for folk influenced 90's alt-rock and Portishead. I'm liking this one a lot.

I don't have a copy of the real CD, so I'm not entirely sure, but my CDR contains a song not listed on the tracklisting of The Moviegoer over at Amazon. Here's that one, the echoey piano and spoken word Deep Sea Swimmer which sounds like it was written as an album-ender. If you go here, you'll see a tracklisting for the album that matches my CDR (unlike Amazon's) but the stream for Deep Sea Swimmer is actually the acoustic version of Movie Star Mom that ends the album according to Amazon, leading me to believe that the song order/selection was revamped at the last minute.

Ok, so it's not like discovering a Velvet Underground acetate at a garage sale. Still, pretty neat find. I'll be buying a copy of the real CD and will report on any interesting differences. Anyone who aleady has a copy, feel free to comment.

(Incidentally, there were about ten other copies in the box. After I found out what it was, I took the bus back up to see if I could find the rest, but they were gone. So, somewhere out there, there are copies of this floating around. Who knows who found them. As I reread this piece in the morning, I'm struck by the fact that my comparisons kind of suck...if I listened to more college-folk and alt rock I'd likely have done a better job. Still, that one song does sort of sound like Lois doing Belle and Sebastian, kind of. I read elsewhere that she sounds like Shawn Colvin, who I've never heard. See previous post about living in a cave.)

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