MY OWN HORN-TOOTING TIME!
Probably its because you WON'T be reading about it anywhere else or see it plastered all over whatever media there is out there that makes note of such things, but maybe not-so-egotistical me feels like it's my duty to inform you faithful readers that this month, in fact this very WEEK marks none other than the twentieth anniversary of the very first issue of my very own fanzine BLACK TO COMM! Yes, a whole whopping two decades back the debut issue of this mag (then wrestling under the pretty doofy title FUD!) was unleashed upon an unsuspecting public, a humble twelve-page crudzine with an entire press run of about fifty copies (and that's including a brief reprinting in 1989) that had nary a readable word in it and incredible lame stabs at humor and record reviews to boot, but since it's MY crudzine and I know that it's stuff like this that makes up the vim and vigor of a "true" underground and not the usual bigtime alternative prepackaged wheelings and dealings, I'm of the opinion that blabbing about my efforts on this post have a lot more value (culturally, socially) to YOU as a whole (or even hole) than most of the blab coming out of blogland these sorry days. So sit tight Gertrude because it's gonna be a long, self-centered ride ahead!
Anyway, two decades back this upstart rockscribe, who had been toying with the idea of a fanzine creation for a good four or so years prior, (everything from a mag featuring nothing but various correspondence to an all Pere Ubu and related specialty pub, even going so far as to have started on a hand-printed sub-crudzine effort in '81, artwork samples of which had ended up in later-on issues as sort of an "in" joke), decided to finally get off the old duff and GO TO WORK creating a fanzine that would be JUST THAT! and not the sick state of affairs that some of these self-published reads had devolved into once the mid-eighties were rolling around. At the time I had become enamored with the previous generation of proto-punk fanzines that had come out during the early-seventies "Golden Age of Rock Criticism" and I guess the combination of 1) being stuck in a rather dire time for rock music in general (post-hardcore, post-post-seventies garage aesthetics) and 2) flipping over then-decade-old copies of such fanzines as BACK DOOR MAN, DENIM DELINQUENT and TEENAGE WASTELAND GAZETTE with their snotty anti-"Youth Culture" mentalities and deciding that what 1985 needed was a lot less introspection and a lot more jams kicking...well, let's just say that the combination of the two made for a bigger combustion in my mind than the slamming of "nitro" and "glycerin" together, the resultant boom being none other than the entire BTC "empire" that remains with us to this day (more/less).
It's so funny looking over the old issues rotting away in my closet, reminiscing about the problems I had with not only with laying these out but getting them printed and hoping they wouldn't look too crappy in the process. In those days there were NO copiers (at least in my area!) which could reduce already-typed articles/reviews/etc. to whatever dimensions I would need for a tasty and tight layout...all the machines I had contact with contained only two settings in which to reduce (50 and 75%) which is why those early issues (up to #16) look so "clunky", and I gotta laugh at the primitiveness of it all as well as at some of my more left-wing opines that were still being spouted well into the late-eighties. I guess that journey from kneejerk radical hipness (the kind that kills millions!) to my present right-wing anarchist state took a lot longer than I realized, but although you could see evidence of an anti-statist mindset even in these early issues there are many things written in these early issues that seem so anti-BTC in retrospect! It's also funny giving a gander at some of the bands I was championing (maybe w/a small "c" but championing still) at the time like Husker Du and a lotta other musical acts that I haven't spun in what seems like ages. Still, my penchant for high-energy rock & roll and pangs for the cream of the previous decade's energetic post-Velvet Underground scene was also in full-force, so you could say that I weeded the chaff outta the mag and concentrated on the purer, more blare-conscious music as the years progressed.
If you asked me which of the early issues were my fave I'd probably sputter a classic Ralph Kramden "A-hummana-hummana-hummana..." from here to Kalamazoo and back! Issue two struck me as being pretty decent at the time not only with the John Dowd-inspired cover (similar to efforts he did for not only the classic Troggs-issue of WHO PUT THE BOMP but TEENAGE WASTELAND GAZETTE, the final JAMZ and a few others I don't possess yet!) but with my piece on the then-current Australian high energy scene ("Continent Explodes on Impact"). You gotta remember that at that time it sure seemed as if the Detroit-inspired Aussie bands were not only the salvation of rock & roll but perhaps the last holdout regarding seventies trash aesthetics remains something to look back at without wincing, and yeah, before the glut of weaker recordings began being pumped outta that land o' Lang it sure seemed pretty exciting seeing what new groups and records were coming outta the Antipodes in those halcyon days. Also in that issue was a piece on the Raunch Hands who were yet another up-and-coming group out of the then-raving hot "garage revival" that captured my attention, as well as the debut of the "Inner Mystique" column by one Bill Shute (who had expressed a liking of the first issue although I've felt he was only being "kind" and didn't wanna hurt my feelings!). As you may or may not know, Bill had his own fanzine in the early-eighties (I still remember being shown a copy of it in the music listening room at Kilcawley Center located on the campus of Youngstown State University in 1982 and flipping out, so you can say that Bill was another big influence on my publishing desires) and having him do a "regular column" for the mag was certainly one big feather in the ol' cap since, if anything, what this mag really coulda used during the early days of struggle were some BRAINS, which Bill had in plenty supply. It was always a gas getting hold of Bill's columns, reading about whatever new reissue of some then-obscure private press or societal/political bugaboo he had, either laughing out loud at the brilliant ironies or shuddering in abject fear, but then again I get that way sometimes.
I also gotta say that the third ish was good, maybe not necessarily because of the insides (which contained some embarrassing, error-ridden scribings on my part) but because of the cover, a wonderful parody/homage to the Pretty Things' SF SORROW drawn by one-time contributor John Stanton who also did the wild Velvet Underground cover for #5 (utilizing a then-new photo which has since been over-used to the point of nausea) not to mention some nice scribing as well. And I gotta say one thing...looking at (and writing about) these early days reminds me of just how HAPPY this usually Sad Sack of a guy was during those times, which weren't any great shakes gulcherally but gave me a lot to live for, whether it be some new Syd Barrett or Velvet Underground bootleg to look forward to or some new group that Imants Krumins hipped me to, or even the fact that television hadn't begun its slide into total post-hippie wretchdom when such wonders as THE BEST OF GROUCHO and STAR PERFORMANCES, not to mention classic old movies that used to be the staple of the slowly-dying late shows, were now being shown on PBS of all places!
However, as far as the best of the early, less-professional (although the mag went from xerox to offset with #5) issues of what had by now evolved into PHFUDD! goes, my faves have to be issues 6, 7 and 8. #6 featured another fave early cover spotlighting my "heavy metal slugfest" pitting Radio Birdman against MX-80 Sound (getting hold of a batch of old CREEM's had honed my rockism vocabulary to the point where I was using their hoary old definition of the HM tag well into an era when metal had split into polar opposites of extreme brilliance or utter inaptitude with no redeeming trash aesthetic) not to mention pieces on Rocket From the Tombs and the Electric Eels which I was extremely proud of at the time. (An aside, I recall putting the finishing touches on this issue while playing Eno's HERE COME THE WARM JETS inspired by a recent reading of Lester Bangs' review of said album in the pages of the aforementioned CREEM.) Issue #7 was fine as well, not only with a brief mail interview with up-and-comers the Laughing Hyenas who were featured on the cover (I guess Chuck Eddy was put on this earth for a purpose since it was he who tipped me off to these Detroit maniacs before the inevitable rift!) but a hugeoid history on none other than local legend Blue Ash, a piece that I had painstakingly prepared complete with an interview with bassist Frank Secich (who lent me the use of his archives) and a lotta love-laboring going on considering how I felt like a bonafide Jimmy Olsen getting a SCOOP while this issue was underway. And the Peter Laughner special in #8 was another fave...it had been ten years since this Cleveland pioneer had died and considering how I got the issue out almost to the exact date of his passing was certainly an effort worth noting. By the way, the cover pic featuring a snap of Laughner taken onstage at the Agora during the Rocket From The Tombs gig at the "Night of Heavy Music" broadcast on WMMS-FM with no title or wordage (or price!) whatsoever was clearly a homage to DENIM DELINQUENT's Iggy-cover (#5), though such a fact didn't set well with See Hear's Ted Gottfried, who hadda sell the things and ended up printing the title and price on each of the copies I forwarded his way!
Not that those days were without their moments of angst (to be overemotional about it)...the fact that both Gerard Cosloy and Patrick Amory played the old "build up/knock down" game with me (resulting in dismal sales and adverse publicity thanks to some should-have-seen-it-coming bandwagon-jumping) really knocked a lotta wind outta my sails, something which couldn't be remedied by a much-needed title-change to BLACK TO COMM in 1989 as well as a switch to a more-professional (hah!) saddle-staple and screened photography layout a year earlier (suggested to me by one Bruce Mowat, who wrote the cover story on Simply Saucer to accompany this fanzine beef-up). By this time (1988) I was still keeping up a hefty and regular publishing schedule with four-to-six issues per year, and although I was constantly bearing the brunt of a lotta undeserved antipathy at the time I was still enjoying myself discovering not only classic recordings (Hackamore Brick, Von Lmo) but new faves like the Droogs' classic KINGDOM DAY, and as I said at the time I was flattered that this publication of mine was the first ever to feature this quartet on the cover and after almost seventeen years of fanzine adulation as well! But as far as the name-switch goes, although I thought it necessary in 1988 given all the crap I had to go through thanks to a few punques, in retrospect I never would have switched it to BLACK TO COMM had I only known that this once-obscure MC5 number would grow in fame (and notoriety) by leaps and bounds within the coming years. I was still on my BACK DOOR MAN jag which helped influence the moniker-switch (which was better than some of the new titles that were thrust upon me like (nothing about) U2 and RANDOM INSECT DOOM) but from the hindsight of sixteen years all I gotta say is that I coulda done better at least with the choice of title for my vehicle, but then again if everyone from Robert E. Lee to Soupy Sales had another chance to make that one significant change in their lives the world would be a much different place than it is today!
It was at this time that I also got to hitch up with a lotta people claiming to be friends, and while some turned out to be pals of the fair weather variety (in order to spare your senses just comb over the past year-and-a-half of blog posts for an inkling) there were a few, like Brad Kohler, who proved to be true and blue to the point of contributing articles and pix sorely needed to color the thing up. If you're reading this Brad, all I gotta say is...wanna buy any additional issues???
Anyway, by 1990 I had so much trouble keeping up with a "regular schedule" more or less, and since I had long-wanted to unleash a larger fanzine the dimensions of KICKS and WHO PUT THE BOMP (again, the Troggs issue) on you faithful readers I quit with the clockwork and decided to take my good ol' time lopping these mags at you. Frankly I consider this move on one hand brilliant considering the less-rushed look of the things and nice-solid reading and dismal on the other taking in account that the immediacy was lost given the lapsed time between issues. But since the music scene was changing and I was changing myself, perhaps in a different direction (having pretty much given up on a lotta what had devolved into alternative music during that time) maybe the changeover to a mag that wasn't exactly "topical" yet remained on the top of a proto-punk/old tee-vee/Amerigan gulcher trash-heap was a move worthy of King Solomon, or maybe Solomon Gruberger for that matter.
I must admit that of all the FUD!/PFUD!/PFUDD!/PHFUDD!/BLACK TO COMMs that came out it's these later ones that I am the most gosh-darn-it-all proud of. Since I was aiming for a KICKS look and a feel akin to the oft-mentioned classic early/mid-seventies fanzines I adore, I think I did a pretty good job and I'm sure some staunch observer like Lindsay Hutton might agree with me (but then again, he might not!). And I must also admit (at the risk of sounding like a gosh-it-all young dweeb) that it has been a total thrill for me to find out more and more information about all of these then-obscure proto-punk aggregates like Umela Hmota and Simply Saucer and not only do articles on 'em but release their wares on those disques that came with issues 22 and 25! Yes, of all the "accomplishments" (hah!) I've made o'er the years I think it's the inclusion of those CDs that I'm the proudest of even though I originally feared that those shiny pancakes would eventually KILL primitive music as we knew it! And yeah, I would have loved to have seen a Milk single back in 1980 and all of those Czech bands released for underground consumption around the same time, but if I had known only then that I would've been the one doing all this record releasing (OK, "CD" releasing) stuff I probably'd've freaked out to no end! And although the current music scene seems to be so dry and uninspiring these past few years (except for the new avant garde jazz that has played [and will continue to play] at the CBGB Lounge) it's always great to hunt out and (re)discover bands from the feral past (like Les Rallizes Denudes) who still deliver on the goods even if they're not around anymore while the "underground" of a current strain continues to bore beyond belief. And although not everyone seems to bear my musical inclinations out, I'll bet you a stack of back issues that come ten/twenty years, its bands like The Magic Tramps that are going to be remembered while the alternative flavor of the month club blog-hyped acts that are all the rage will be thought of more or less as a punchline to a sick joke.
And hey, it's great that I could use this mag (and blog) and HITCH UP with a lotta my heroes from the Tramps to Lou Rone to Mr. Bear, Billy 'n Miriam and many more too numerous to mention!!! (If I forgot ya, leave me a post to chew me out!) I mean, these are folks I only read about for years, but actually getting in touch via the internet or mail or however is a big thrill that turns this mid-aged baldo into yet another raving adolescent blackhead farm! I certainly can get off on that more'n had I just holed up in my room reading about a life I wish I could live but couldn't inna millyun years!
Anyway, despite all the self-backpatting and one-way congratulations going on in this post, all I gotta say is that despite all the bad stuff that's happened to me and the mag, the back-stabbing and the lack of interest thanks to distributors (many who have yet to pay me) and big-name people who coulda given me the push but failed to do so even after promising just that, it's been fun. Sure, BLACK TO COMM has never turned a profit or made anybody's top ten list or even got a hint of recognition from the "mainstream" and/or "underground" but so what? I did what I KNEW I should do, and my only beef these days would be that I didn't do what I did HARD ENOUGH!!! And if I've turned off people because of my certain views (which were honed and cultivated perhaps because of these very same people, if you get my drift), remember that these are the same folk who TURNED ME OFF long ago with their even-Newer Left blab so in vogue in the colleges and newsrooms of Ameriga these days. Well, it's nice GIVING IT BACK to the same people who give it to me and my family/relatives/associates all these years for being so ethnic and honest and middle-class and all those things so not-in-vogue with the same people who claim to "speak for their vague conception of the common man."
But enough of that. Let's just say that here it is, twenty whole years after that first FUD began creeping into the mailboxes of unsuspecting rock maniacs and the train is still chugging away... a few wheels have derailed and its not exactly on-time maybe, but the ol engine's continuing to churn out the high-energy rock & roll message that's STILL so desperately needed even these days when we ALL should know better. Really, I wish I could have celebrated this momentous occasion with you by publishing a twentieth-anniversary BEST OF BLACK TO COMM with choice moments from past out-of-print issues and even more in-depth reminiscences, but sad to say there just ain't any market for that, at least at this moment. Perhaps for our Silver Anniversay I can slap something together, but as the sixties radicals used to say, "things gotta change first!" And although the medium may now be internet and a new flesh and blood (make that pulp and ink) issue might be years away, the enterprise keeps on going and I doubt it will be going away for a LONG time. Anyway, I'm here, I'm JEER, I'm SNEER and I'm STILL IN YOUR FACE, and while yer at it howzbout buying a couple
Friday, October 28, 2005
MY OWN HORN-TOOTING TIME!
Sunday, October 23, 2005
Another Pretty Face-21st CENTURY ROCK CD (Bummer Tent)
The Magic Tramps-KICKIN' UP MOONLIGHT DUST CD (Moonlight Dust)
The problem with glam/glitter rock (at least in the United States and especially in New York City) was that, for all of the press and accolades it received and all the promise it held for overweight pimple-infested fat tubs o' lard cloistered in their midwestern bedrooms, NOTHING CAME OUT!!! Other'n the New York Dolls that is, but even considering just how much that group could inspire fellow rockers to heights of spandex greatness on one hand and get them all frothing at the mouth rabid on the other (witness their topping both the "Best" and "Worst" new group categories in the 1973 CREEM reader's poll) you'd've thunk that some enterprising label, even a cheap-o upstart like Paramount, would've had the initiative to do a little a&r hunting at the Mercer Arts Center for their own personal Dolls wannabes! But alas, given all the press, hype, attention and promise that the Dolls earned, the big New York Rock Putsch pretty much ended with a fizzle as glam screeched to a halt. And frankly, the same labels that upped their noses at Teenage Lust and Gilded Tramp didn't do that much better when the same En Why Scene morphed into the mid-seventies decidedly NON-glam era of Television and all those groups that seemed so refreshing especially compared with a lotta the disco and prog rock that was goin' on at the time but hardly anybody seemed to care anyway.
It would figure that it's taken well over thirty years for the rest of the New York decadence scene to start getting documented, and while I think we all could've used both of these disques a lot earlier'n now when its time for this stuff to be SCRUTINIZED by effete geeks, at least they're here for our perusal while we still have our wits about us. After all, I'd hate to be 99 years old drooling on my bib listening to stuff I shoulda back when I was twenty, and unfortunately that's gonna be the case when some archival neural-implant label gets around to issuing EVERY NOTE PLAYED IN NEW YORK CITY 1972-1975 well into the future!
Anyway, fans of the En Why sound'll probably get a big kick outta these two platters. The first is by Another Pretty Face whom you, I and everyone on the pretty face of this earth thought were from Metropolis at least until I reviewed their 1980 album FACE FACTS in the latest issue of my fanzine and revealed to you the fact that these glam guys were actually from Philadelphia, a place that doesn't exactly seem like a glitter hotbed unless you want to take the burgh's translated name at face value. Whatever, I kinda wrote off the 1980 variation of Another Pretty Face (not to be confused with the English post-punk act that almost got ME fooled) as just another buncha third-stringers bending with the prevailing underground winds, doing a glam-slam thing in 1974 whilst going the electronic gnu wave highway in '80, kinda making me wonder which route these trendy travelers took in between. Certainly nothing special, especially with all the other electronic fashion-plate electronic new wave groups fighting for your hard-begged money at the time.
As for the 1974 variant, this "real" first album which got ditched back in the day will answer a whole lotta questions. However, I'm not sure that the average reader of this blog'll actually appreciate the answers given, but I'll let you decide that on your lonesome. If you (like I) were expecting a Dolls-styled rush you'll be sadly disappointed, though if your tastes veer towards British Bowie/Spiders glam with just a wee touch of pomp...well, you'll STILL be bummed albeit if you like it a little heavier pomp-wise this should suit'cha just fine.
Yes, after just one listen to 21st CENTURY ROCK you'll know just why lead Face T. Roth and mysterioso glitter alien Jobriath were such good friends. This is pretty much after-hours nightclub schmoozing music, not much on the energy but if you go for something like the deca-sleaze of Nelson Slater's WILD ANGEL album (RCA '76, produced by old pal Lou Reed and yanked off the market by feminists due to the s&m cover snap!) you'll probably get some enjoyment outta it. I must admit that I do at least on that level, though I must confess that I haven't been spinning WILD ANGEL that much lately!
Definitely a professional clean-up spiffy production (courtesy Ed Stasium, his first in fact) loaded with synths and horns (courtesy Randy Brecker etc.), you can't call this disque proto-punk or high energy or ANYTHING that you were expecting outta glam rock, American or otherwise. Still its got a cutesy fun to it whether it be the poofy take of T. Rex's "Bang A Gong" or the even poofier "Da Do Ron Ron" which I'm sure wowed the habituates of the old 82 Club to heights of dance floor frenzy! And even though nothing here can wow you the way the originals (talking influences as well as original artists) have, you can still get a bitta fun outta 21st CENTURY ROCK if you squeeze it hard enough, although the only song here that perked my ears up was this eloquent slab of melodrama entitled "Little Boys" which might be an impassioned gay libber plea or just another "All The Young Dudes"-inspired romp through mixed-up confusion for all I know. Or care for that matter. Y'see, I like the chord changes.
If you wanna do better with regards to what glam slam should've meant to more of those crazy and confused wannabes in Idaho sending their pix into the "New Groups" section of ROCK SCENE magazine then just try the Magic Tramps. A band that perhaps has gotten so little even after producing so much hype and publicity all over the place (thanks to everyone from THE VILLAGE VOICE's Richard Nusser to Lester Bangs in PHONOGRAPH RECORD MAGAZINE), one would've expected the Tramps to've unleashed at least a couple albums before petering off into flea-market heaven. Unfortunately they never even got that far, but thanks to this new release at least a lotta historical inaccuracies and strange mysteries have been cleared up, and not only that but a lotta great music has been unleashed on us starved beggars as well.
Perhaps best known as Warhol Superstar and legendary madman Eric Emerson's early-seventies group (he of the infamous original back cover shot of THE VELVET UNDERGROUND AND NICO lawsuit fame), in reality the Tramps were a group that preceded and surpassed Emerson's attention-grabbing involvement. Originally an avant-rock trio featuring Lary (no sic) Chaplan on violin, Young Blood on guitar and Sesu Coleman on drums (in the best Maureen Tucker/Scott Asheton THUD tradition), this Los Angeles-based threesome managed to get a residency at some outta-the-radarscope hangout called The Temple of the Rainbow under their original name Messiah while simultaneously working (with a bassist) at a blues joint as the Magic Tramps. After hitching up with Emerson (who was acting in Warhol's LONESOME COWBOYS at the time) the quartet fled Los Angeles after the January '71 earthquake and settled right into a residency at Max's Kansas City where they were thankfully able to kick up a bit of a scene there, and during a rather dry spell in local music as well. (In fact, it was the Dolls who originally opened for the Tramps although the situation would be reversed within a rather short time.) And even after Emerson lost interest in being the group's frontman (wanting to devote more time to his acting career before getting killed in what remains a very peculiar and oft-disputed vehicular accident) Chaplan and Coleman continued on with a new version of the Tramps, more heavy metal perhaps but still of interest to the fans who not only supported bands such as these, but the entire media surrounding them for years on end.
And although proto-punk maniacs like myself hadda wait a good quarter-century for something like this to finally see the light (and it was a painful wait, especially given all the blab that was going on ever since those days about just how primitive and BETTER groups like the Tramps and Ruby and the Rednecks were next to the more professional and COMMERCIAL Dolls!), like I said before I'm glad that the stuff is appearing now 'stead of when I'm even older and more infirmed! Anyway, this CD is more or less divided into three parts representing the three periods in the Tramps' history (the Los Angeles days, the New York days with Emerson and the post-Emerson era when lead vocals were handled by future Joe Perry Project warbler Joe Mala!), and what's really super about all this is that this disque is supposed to be a sampler of FUTURE CDs, each devoted to these particular periods in Tramps history which will make for even more high energy listening as the days progress!
The early Messiah-period tracks are beautifully minimalist, sparse yet pretty much what I would have expected from a violin/guitar/drums trio (with or without a Warhol star on vocals) coming out of an American garage at the dawn of the seventies. Naturally I'm always in the market for obscure proto-punk such as this, and let's just say that these early tunes (recorded circa. '70/'71) certainly don't fail in regards to resensifying my oft-warped musical psyche. There's really nothing that I can compare the early tracks (with titles like "Ode To James Dean" and "Warriors of the Rainbow") to...true you can hear snatches of most other late-sixties/early-seventies groups of similar intent whether they be Alice Cooper or Hackamore Brick for that matter, but then again the Magic Tramps trip was their very own. The instrumental numbers are (as the booklet clearly states) "freeform" yet not noisy or atonal. Rather pleasant yet with an underlying intensity that would have seemed so out-of-place coming out of early-seventies Los Angeles but perhaps not-so if a thorough search of garage, basement and bedroom groups in the vicinity had only been conducted. Kinda tribal, minimal and slightly psychedelic yet definitely not hippie-ish. I'm even thinking of Amon Duul I circa. their Ohr period only even more stripped down, and I must confess that I even hear the drone that originally emanated from the early days of a certain New York "under-the-covers" band I mention way too often as do about a thousand other nimnul rock critics out there! "Hey People" with Emerson on typically teenage-sounding vocals is definitely Stones-inspired, and perhaps about as "Gimme Shelter"-influenced as Roky Erickson's "Two Headed Dog." There are many surprises in these early numbers from the American Indian-esque chant of "Rainbow" to the country blues-ish "Magic in the Moonlight"...if anything, these early tracks prove that the Magic Tramps might have been the ultimate punk promise of the time, and (at the risk of sounding anti-West Coast) their trek to En Why was perhaps the best career move on anybody's part, at least since cartoonist Milt Gross told Ernie Bushmiller to concentrate on the frizzy-haired girl character.
The New York-period material is equally grabbing, showing an energy and power that equals that of scenemongers the Dolls which really makes you wonder just why somebody didn't snatch the Tramps up for their OWN record deal. (Actually, as is explained on the Tramps' own website, the offers were coming but the band held out for an even BETTER one that I guess never did come!) After hearing "Trippin'" you'll be thinking that Bowie himself was hanging out at the Mercer Arts Center in order to rip off the locals just as much as Alice Cooper was...the song does sound pretty much like "Suffragette City" if you ask me, only with more or a New York street dirtiness that Bowie would definitely have washed away! "My Reflection" is hard to describe, a staccato-driven classical-ish number albeit with great "Til The End of the Day"-styled live life lyrics that never fail to stir up the old juices. And there's ONE thing I gotta say about Chaplan's violin playing, and that it certainly fits in with the mode of the music whether it be the freeform avantrock or glam, or even the heavy metal the group eventually ended up performing after Emerson's exit from the rock stage in early '74.
And speaking about those latterday mid-seventies Tramps tracks, well I'm sure the more punk rock-oriented amongst us probably won't cozy up to this version of the band as much as others might, but if yer one of those punks who also straddled the metallic spheres a la the writers at DENIM DELINQUENT and BACK DOOR MAN then these numbahs will get you up and moving more'n prune juice ever could. Lead singer Mala may be your typical hard rock frontman and I gotta admit that the promo snaps of these guys which you can see on the aforementioned site had 'em looking about as dorky as most of these seventies hard rocksters, but given that the band was making a conscious effort to "tighten up" and they didn't sound as wretched as some of these efforts could have, you may actually enjoy giving it a listen or ten while pouring through all your old fanzines. And besides, these guys did their own ode to Max's entitled just that, and it's almost as good as Jayne County's tribute!
And before I forget I gotta re-mention that website. It's a killer, not only with a rather in-depth history of the group but tons of flyers, articles and pix that'll have you roaming the regions for hours on end. And not only that, but they also link you up to a PUNK PLANET online interview with drummer Coleman as well as to a place (CD Baby) where you can even purchase this disque, and if you're a bit wary about this 'un even after all the hype I've bestowed upon it you can hear those wonderful instrumental tracks playing over and over ad infinitum for yourself just by clicking on certain pages...in fact before I received the CD I was occupying myself by listening to these intertwining/engrossing melodies over and over (and for HOURS on end!) whilst doing my obligatory rock & roll/comic nighty-nite pre-sack reading, and the rhythmic pounce of these songs certainly fit the mood just as much as PARADIESWARTS DUUL had been doing over the past few months! And really, could YOU think of a better recommendation than that???
Sorry Chinaboise, but this one just might top you as far as being the best proto-punk archival dig of the year goes. Come December 31, we'll see.
Posted by Christopher Stigliano at 12:52 PM
Tuesday, October 18, 2005
Hasil Adkins-MOON OVER MADISON CD; PEANUT BUTTER ROCK AND ROLL CDs (Norton)
Yer gonna hafta wait a little while until my oft-promised (and still in gestation) mega-length article/post I've been telling you about for a few weeks finally appears, hopefully sometime this week or so but until then I thought I'd tip you off to these two wondrous Cee-Dee reissues flung atcha thanks for the fine folks at Norton Rekkids. And as far as fine Cee-Dees being flung atcha go you can't get any finer'n this pair of aluminum archival digs these days (or at least today), for both of these classic offering certainly do bring back fond memories. Not necessarily of the fifties which I'll assume a good portion of you BLOG TO COMM readers don't even remember, but of the eighties. The mid-eighties to be precise, when there really wasn't anything that hot going on and new wave had pretty much devolved into nothingness compared with the bright light it had been only a decade earlier and the only thing that really thrilled me outside of a faltering hardcore scene and a few worthy seventies leftovers were those energetic and enthralling look-backs into the maybe not-so-distant past which Billy and Miriam and their Norton label not to mention their long-missed KICKS fanzine sure helped deliver on. It's so funny in some ways, because in twenty years time it seems that very little has changed and even this late in the game it's these look backs that thrill me more'n seeing what's happening in the here and now!
Anyway, two classic sides from Norton superstar and one-man hunch Hasil Adkins (who I'm sure you all know about and cherish in some respects so I'll skip on any historical background) have been reished on Cee-Dee, perhaps because the man is now dead or perhaps because Billy and Miriam wanted to honor him in this fine way, but most probably because these sides are pretty hot tickets if you ask me that'll continue to find an audience as long as there are still rockism-crazed no-accounts keeping the flame alive out there. Both tea coasters are fine produce if you ask me, MOON OVER MADISON being Hasil's more c&w-oriented splatter with what you'd call the kinda music (tearful rural moans rooted in the country sounds the Haze grew up on) that'll get your girlfriend all weepy and ready for the hunch of your lifetime. I like this one for those late-night keep-the-volume-down moments of personal reflection (melodies to accompany caffeine-induced insomnia) but my own personal fave-rave of the batch just hasta be PEANUT BUTTER ROCK AND ROLL, the more high-energy gut-bucket rockin' rollin' one that's really good for getting me in the proper frame of mind when I wanna noogie the dog. PEANUT BUTTER's also fine for getting in the right mood for thigh-boil busting, blackhead-squeezing and other matters of personal hygiene perhaps because of its incessant drive that really didn't manifest itself into the collective rock psyche until a good decade (1966) after these manic sides were laid down. In fact, I gotta say (at the risk of being drummed out of the Friends Of Norton secret club) that there was a bit of a rockabilly-push extant on these tracks that actually remind me of none other than Marc Bolan during his Tyrannosaurus Rex days, and if that don't earn the ire of Billy and Miriam I dunno what will! If you thought the first RAMONES album was a no-holds-barred breathtaking experience, try PEANUT BUTTER...it makes da brudders sound like the Snooty Blues!
Did I mention that each disque contains all-new material not found on the original elpee releases? Did I also mention the enclosed booklets not only with the obligatory rare snaps but liner notes by Nick Tosches as well as classic Adkins rejection slips? I didn't? Well, fooey on me! And fooey on this review! It sure is hard trying to keep up with the current reissue frenzy going on while trying to continue writing a gonzo-influenced blog especially at a time when hardly anyone could care less, especially when even I can tell I'm failing on all fronts especially with my lame attempts to capture the best of the hipster rockcrit style!
Posted by Christopher Stigliano at 3:45 PM
Sunday, October 16, 2005
Last Sacrifice-"Acid Rain Dance"/"Suspended" 45
While preparing a post of a greatly larger than usual scale (that is, unless I edit out all the wordy flack that seems to bog down too much of my scribings), I thought I'd toss this little gem of a review regarding a long-lost and unfortunately forgotten single (and personal fave) atcha. Anyway, does anybody out there remember this killer-diller of a seven-inch 33 rpm single (with over ten minutes of music?) from the wilds of Boston which got unleashed on an already-oversaturated underground market way back in 1986? From what I can make out, these Last Sacrifice guys were early-eighties remnants of the local scene who may or may not have still been together when this bombshell was released, and as far as I can remember (from various local mentions and a review in CONFLICT!) the fact that this disc was so power-packed came as a total surprise given the band's less-than-stellar live reputation! (I may be distorting things from a 20-year-memory hindsight, so don't hit me if I'm wrong!) Anyway (at least for me) this dark horse definitely was one of the better singles to creep out of the mid-eighties underground along with Tarba's (or whatever they were called!) "Candle On The Water" which nobody else remembers either but if I were some crafty bootlegger doing a PEBBLES/KILLED BY DEATH-styled sampler collecting my fave mid-eighties self-made wonders. you can betcha bottom dollar that BOTH of these platters would be appearing on my disc front and center alongsides such other classics by Halo of Flies and a few other winners who just happen to hold up more than a lotta the comparative pus that got circulated back then.
Like "Candle," "Acid Rain Dance" was a pounder that, albeit rooted in the contemporary underground scene for all the good or bad that may imply, eschewed a lotta the growing cliches of the various movements of the day and borrowed heavily from early-seventies hard rock. Maybe the strains of early Alice Cooper could be discerned here, though (as Chuck Eddy noted in his old CREEM METAL ROCK 'N ROLL column!) I would more or less say it was WHITE LIGHT/WHITE HEAT that had Last Sacrifice copping the most riffage which in lieu of my admonitions of just how the VU have degenerated into twee-fodder must prove that this single was perhaps the last honest appraisal of that particular elpee with regards to rock as energy before it ALL degenerated into nada! Certainly a subject matter I wish one Wayne McGuire would weigh in on given his past appraisals of the Boston underground, but until he comes out from hiding please do attempt hear it for yourself (if you can---and don't look at me...my tape deck's been broken for five years!).
However the flipside's an even better deal, a totally unexpected wowzer that adds an even deeper, totally powerful mystery to the whole shebang. Basically an electronic piece mixing elements of early Roxy Music, Suicide, The Deviants' "Nothing Man" and even then-contemporary UK sissy electronic acts without the posturing, the throbbing drone of "Suspended" still zones me out two decades later which is more than I can say about the instantly disposable mush that came out of the indie scene directly following the brief rebirth of underground credo in the mid-eighties. Amidst the tribal drums and synthetic baroque-derived strains, "Suspended" will continue to have you wondering...not only about the music itself but whether or not this song is "pro" or "anti" (God, Satan?), both, or maybe neither??? Whatever it is (and whatever conclusion you may come to), "Suspended" continues to hold interest like all good, energy-packed music does, reminding me of none-other-than Kongress at least as they would've sounded in some non-guitar lineup (shades of "Space Savior") perhaps in the early-eighties when they were playing "New Musik For The End Of The World."
And speaking of Kongress, here's a link to a great story on future Kongress vocalist Geofrey Crozier's 1967 Australian band the Magic Word complete with two songs that were taken straight from some old acetate even though you could never tell considering their clarity! (Praise be to Aaron Goldberg for the tip!) Fans of not only Kongress but 1967 psychedelic rock will certainly want to hear these tunes which sound like the typical British art-mod pop of the day only with an uncharacteristic-yet-not-unheard-of-for-the-times Velvet Underground riff/drone which makes me ponder a whole lot because in Australia the Velvets were such an unknown entity that there was even another group there using the same handle sans any knowledge of the original ones operating above the equator! I'm sure that the "influence" must have been a coincidence, or perhaps the mystical Crozier had some sorta psychic osmosis with regards to what Lou Reed and Co. were up to! Whatever, between these songs and the tracks you can pick up on Otto von Ruggins' website you'll be in for quite a listening experience that'll send you back to those thrilling days of yesteryear when high energy, no-holds-barred rock music like this was EXPECTED and not just a once-in-awhile treat!
Posted by Christopher Stigliano at 12:39 AM
Thursday, October 13, 2005
BLOG TO COMM REVIEWS THE COMPETITION!
Back in the "old days" when we underground rock aficionados (and assorted other fruitcakes of varying stripes) were allegedly in the throes of some great "fanzine revival" of sorts (albeit I never saw any special rewards for my own efforts during this period in time...go figure!), I used to peruse as many of the new offerings being made available via this "fanzine circuit" as I could stand. Now I gotta admit that some of these home-made magazines were pretty good reads in their own great amateurish way, but frankly most of these "efforts" (if you can call 'em that!) were strictly grade-z dullsville and in fact a few of 'em were downright abysmal! After being "influenced" by the great, no-holds-barred and definitely NON-PC rants you could see in a variety of now-forgotten fanzines of the past (which I will name as this post proceeds) this new generation of self-publishing that I guess was big enough that even the big mags took notice certainly came off weak, but since people who stapled three pages of their photocopied bile passing as honest appraisals of whatever flavor of the week music act was making waves were sending their wares in exchange for my, er, more professional endeavors, what else could I do but give 'em a read (before throwing the things away, that is???).
Well, since those maybe not-so-halcyon days the fanzine generation has more or less been replaced by the (taa-DAAH!) blog generation, and frankly it ain't no surprise seeing that a good hulking portion of nineties fanzine scene remnants are currently a part of the world-wide blogscene here in the oh-ohs. But what exactly are you getting when you click on your personal PC and go surfing amidst the ever-growing list of these aforementioned blogs out there in "notice me" land anyway? You KNOW what you're in store for when you tune this particular faverave in (mainly no-hold-barred high energy appraisals of ALL things deemed noteworthy with regards to your funfunFUN existence whether it be music, comics, mad obsessions...) but do you really get the same stellar quality in writing and information on alla those OTHER blogs like you get from trustworthy me? Rather than have you dear readers find out the HARD, STONE COLD TRUTH for yourselves, I've decided to peruse what some might call the competition and report to you my findings just so's you all can rest your pretty little heads and not have to fret over wasting your time searching out other rockism-oriented reads in order to help soothe your savage boobies.
AGONY SHORTHAND-Some of you readers may think I have a bee in my bonnet about not only this particular blog, but its "creator" who goes by the moniker Jay Hinman. Well, you readers certainly are astute. Yes, Jay has said some pretty vile, unsubstantiated and downright nasty things about me and egged on his legion of toadies who follow his every butt-drip with regards to spreading some unproven (and never will be!) falsehoods about myself, my tastes and my personal life based on some gross exaggerations I'll be mentioning later on, but somehow I just can't fault the guy. After all, being an "intern" for the flaming drug-hazed socialists at SOUND CHOICE would have a dangerous impact on a young and impressionable brain such as Jay's, and it's pretty obvious that Hinman's stay with this "legendary" OP spinoff has warped him to the point of no return. This might be the reason the man sports what could be called a strange left-leaning libertarianism that seems to mirror the current direction that the folks at REASON magazine has been heading in as of late, which might be one reason that this self-confessed libertarian (myself, that is) is more and more being drawn over to the paleo-conservative philosophizing going on at CHRONICLES (a mag and site tipped off to me by none other'n Russell Desmond of CAN'T BUY A THRILL fame, who even contributed some articles to it back in the late-eighties!), who at least know enough that you don't have to pal around with the ACLU-types and tie-dyed hippies even if you don't care for the current state of governmental concerns.
But Jay's political beliefs (no matter how wobbly) and personal attacks aside, what can I say about his blog anyway? Well, it is a popular one from what I can gather, with other sites linking it up and people from across the sphere leaving more comments than I can find on just about any other blog of note. But after reading a good portion of the thing, I can only mutter a hearty "why???" At times the guy hits it on the head with a few entries that I find not only readable but (believe-it-or-not) informative, but most of the time Jay seems to be rotating in his own orbit somewhere in the alternative/indie solar system, wanking on and on about a variety of acts (as of late: Scratch Acid and the unrepentingly socialist Ex) amongst a slew of others I've written off as watered-down shucks sometime in the late-80s/early-90s when it finally sunk into my bean as to just how yawn-inspiring these bands were when compared with the un-diluted form they allegedly were replacing. OK, that's where Jay comes from and he has every right to rah-rah his amerindie faves just like I have every right to divulge of my undying fandom for the likes of the Velvet Underground and DENIM DELINQUENT fanzine. However, Jay DOESN'T have the right to lambaste me as a "hypocrite" (popular left-wing admonition usually spouted by people who are dictionary definitions of the term) for doing the exact same thing with my faves that he does with his...mainly champion 'em and help egg people onto buying their wares thus boosting their status in some vague realm of an underground market of sorts.
But as far as when Mr. H does break from his norm to write about music that has been playing my soundtrack for a good many years...well, as the flittery Patrick Amory once said, he "lazes out double." A recent review of The Velvet Underground's WHITE LIGHT/WHITE HEAT was not only such a waste of bytes re-re-rehashing points and stabs of esoterica originally presented by much-greater minds the likes of Wayne McGuire back when the thing originally came out, but it also reminded me about just how far this record, which was originally championed by only the most forward-thinking rockist mindsets of the sixties and used as a template for some of the best music to come out of the seventies, has dribbled down to the most twee of musically-inclined lamebrains here in the mid oh-ohs. Not that I would consider Hinman part of that cadre, far from that, but sheesh, reading his gosh-it-all scribing applied to one of my faves (a record which thrilled me to feral heights during my original teenaged listening sessions) makes me want to give WHITE LIGHT/WHITE HEAT a loooooong rest after that damning with faint praise. And face it, a good hefty portion, nay, at least 99% of what does appear on this blog just makes me realize that all of the good and still readable material that popped up in his SUPERDOPE fanzine (oh excuse me...'zine since the term "fanzine" was tres-outre at the time!) wasn't even written by him but by erstwhile contributors Grady Runyan and Jon Behar, the former out of the music scene for all I know and the latter promising his own blog for what now seems like eons. And come to think of it, the fact that Hinman named his blog after a Flesheaters song has totally weaned my off that band with a pickle! Hey Jay, if you REALLY wanna rankle my ire and make sure my pleasurable musical listening days are RUINED for good, just write something positive about all the BLOG TO COMM faves and I'll guarantee you that I'll NEVER listen to or write about another note of music again!!!
But maybe I shouldn't be that hard on the guy even though he seems like the total wuss what with a wife and kid and a job/life straight out of some Peter Bagge comic. Like Fredric Wertham said about even the lowliest crudzine, there may be something of worth in there somewhere, and I'm sure that if you comb through AGONY SHORTHAND's massive archives you might find something an average BLOG TO COMM reader would want to learn about. Of course you'll have to fight your way through hundreds of posts on such lightweights as Mission of Burma and Come mixed in with the obligatory c&w and black music posts which are presented just so's Hinman can come off multicultural and all, but they even found a few good people in Sodom and you just might find a few good reads therein as well.
LEXICON DEVIL-Hoo boy, what else can I say about this living fart personified? Here I go, being so aw-shucks innocent enough as to actually THINK that old Dave here was a true-blue dyed-in-the-wool and whatever other hackneyed cliche you can come up with fan of me and my magazine, sending him mags and tapes while actually honoring his supposedly valued opinions on things both music-related and not, and what does the ol' sphincter go 'n do? None other than write up some big hate-filled screed attacking me and my mag for a slew of modern-day group-sins like racism (yeah, especially with all that racist avant garde jazz coverage I've given over the years), sexism (which makes me wonder what part of the body Dave's wife whips him with) and homophobia (which I never thought was a sin, at least compared with the rampant homophilia that's all the rage these days) but that was long ago. I'm still mad about it, not only because once you get down to it I don't think Dave would be any more of a "man" about these things than I am (though I dunno, since he might come off like that liberal white bunsnitch in some R. Crumb comic who, when being murdered by a gang of blacks, can only mutter "I can understand where you guys are coming from"), but because getting the "Et Tu Brute" treatment from him dragging up old feuds of the past (re. the YOUR FLESH flack which he purposefully misrepresented) and all that crap on his part really stung. And after all that brouhaha, the dil still doesn't get it as to why I was totally unhinged by his betrayal! Dave, since you're always mentioning just how the "fire will never go out" in my mind all I have to retort is...why should it?
But enough fun reminiscences. As for his blog, I gotta say that it's perhaps even more golly-gee than Jay Hinman's, with the usual mix of moderne fluff I saw as the shuck it was long ago mixed with the usual affirmative action picks which do seem suspect because I can never in a million years see such a nimnul as Dave cozying up to the likes of Mary Lou Williams (who he probably discovered only after reading a review of an LP of hers in BLACK TO COMM #25 anyway) other than to look "all-inclusive" or some other modern-day hogwash. However, unlike Hinman's at-times misguided yet perhaps entertaining entries, Dave cannot transcend his fanboy appreciation of whatever music be it punk, heavy metal, artrock etc. coming off much worse than a typical mid-teen just discovering the joy-de-vivre of it all. At least I can find plenty of high-energy jamz in the writings of the more fannish, teenage fanzine scribing of the seventies such as that of Greg Prevost's in the old FUTURE, but Dave's entire style and swagger (if you can call it that) just seems to me like one long misfire being written by some aspiring dweeb down in the Antipodes who wants everybody to like him while the bigtime alternative powers that be're laughing behind poor Dave's back and he don't even know it! Frankly, I'd graduated from that sorry state of "please like me!" around 1991 or so (maybe earlier) when I told more'n a few turdballs out there to take a hike, but I guess Dave is stuck in this sad state of adolescent fandom aspiration and what can we do?
At least the boy isn't posting as much as he used to, though right when I get all excited thinking that Dave has done the most honorable thing he could and hung himself the marsupial either posts a silly retort on some site or enters another useless entry on his blog usually regarding some disc we've heard about for years on end that he swiped from his brother! If Australians were any real sort of he-men they'd capture this great menace to their national pride and treat him with the same care and handling that their forefathers used to give to rabbits. I dunno, but I wouldn't mind a Dave Lang pelt hanging on my wall...howzbout yours???
LUNATIC'S ASYLUM-I was a bit wary of Jack Dee from his associations (read: frequent posting of comments) with the two aforementioned blogs, but since he never said anything nasty 'bout me that I can at least trace (other'n I repeat myself too often...hisssss!) I'll give him a pass this once. Anyway, I wrote up LUNATIC'S ASYLUM in one of my own posts earlier this years and after all these months all I gotta say is...the thing is pretty nice. Good even. You can tell from my exuberance that I really like this one...not only is LUNATIC'S ASYLUM one of the more picturesque blogs extant but Dee's writing and tastes are, as the British would say, spot on. Well, there are a few things (actually, many) Dee rallies round that I dunno if I'd sample inna million years, but I like it when he raves about long-forgotten albums and recent musical discoveries and believe-you-me this computer whiz even includes mp3's for people who are into things like that. Sometimes it seems like years twixt posts, but as Benjamin Franklin said "Good things come to those who wait," or was it Alfred E. Neuman? Either way, this one should win awards for SOMETHING if they ever get around to having Grammys or Emmys or whatever for blogs.
MUSIC CHAMBER-I gotta admit that I like Tim Ellison a lot. It's funny, because I'm not always 100% behind the music that he goes the whole 100 yards for like Klaatu or Franz Ferdinand, and sometimes his musical "jags" can look silly (like when he gets on his progressive rock high horse and does the old Chuck Eddy "It's square and popular so maybe I can get some notice by plugging it over whatever 'hip' stuff is big with the unwashed collegiates out there!" rant), but I like him nonetheless. Sorta like the way I like George W. Bush...I mean, I disagree with both of them a lot (Tim for some of the above musical ramblings and Bush for ignoring a true paleo-conservative/libertarian/anarchist direction this sick nation could've gone in, instead favoring a neo-conservative dribbling that only make him more of a middle-of-the-roadkill than he'll EVER admit or realize), but I kinda get mad when they're both being lambasted, Tim by relatively worthless know-it-alls and Bush by ultra-left chic post-Yohannonesque Stalin-worshippers. I get that way sometimes.
Anyway Tim's MUSIC CHAMBER blog is something that fans of him and his old ROCK MAG fanzoon really could use, though I gotta say that the entire affair needs...something MORE??? Like maybe more reviews and in-depth musings, longer posts and less of these lists which seem to permeate the thing. Many of the non-list posts are too brief as well, consisting of quickie commentary on whatever slice of musical esoterica Tim may whip up for our approval. Of course he'll link up an on-line piece of his for our benefit and I really liked it when he was posting old Richard Meltzer reviews, but frankly a rockism-inclined info-hound like myself wants much more and I gotta say that the Meltzer revisits only make me hungry. Hey Tim, how about more mega-articles, pix, insights on musical beings past and present and maybe even a little more FREQUENCY in the very near future???
THE NEXT BIG THING-Lindsay Hutton's another fave o' mine ever since I've heard all of the rant/rave about his fanzine entitled what else but THE NEXT BIG THING way back in the early days of the eighties. Here was a mag, one of the few in fact that lasted into the eighties which continued that hard-edged gonzoid style/tradition started by the likes of BACK DOOR MAN, DENIM DELINQUENT and FLASH way back in the early/mid seventies, and although Lindsay and I have had our own scrapes and scuffles o'er the years (which I think might have been brought about by personal factors going on in both our lives, though I don't wanna be another Dave Lang and blab a whole lotta misinformation) it ain't like any of us held a grudge against each other. Maybe that's because, in my own corny Pennsylvanian fashion I really dig the man for his down-home and fun-loving ways. I mean, I may rib him about haggis and blood pudding, but he sure seems to take it all in stride!
Anyway Lindsay's blog is one of the tops, with a buncha contributors like Jeroen Vedder and some other guy named Hutton (no relation) in there somewhere joining in the fray, and frankly for a good source of not only the latest in relevant entertainment news (like when some tee-vee star of the past dies---they never interrupt programming for important stuff like that) or maybe even news of a reissue or archival proto-punk dig of worth, you can't beat THE NEXT BIG THING. You may wanna beat some sense into Lindsay especially when he gets on his left-wing anti-American political soapbox, but given he's living in the middle of the People's Republic of Scotland where the peasantry expects grants and monies of all sorts from the ruling class and I understand the homosexuality rates are even higher than those in New York, San Francisco, Denmark and the restrooms at the Canfield Fairgrounds what would YOU figure? Maybe Hutton still cherishes his old-timey punk days and proudly displays his Crass badges and spiky 'do whilst walking down the streets. Maybe not. I really shouldn't pick on the guy, should I??? Heeza nice people.
THE STASH DAUBER-Why did I ever hook up with this guy??? Sure, promises of in-depth reviews with Detroit rock greats and lengthy long-distance calls detailing all sortsa interesting factoids did seem tasty back in 1997, but after all was said and done here all I can say is...whatta puss! If you like reading boring vignettes regarding some pushing-fifty's strictly dungeon life (complete with recipes of wifey's faves and all-too-brief [maybe that should read thankfully-brief] writeups on local musicbiz wannabes) all I can say is GO FOR IT, but really, if this thing had anything to do with the high-energy music its author purports to endorse then you need a microscope to find it. In retrospect I'm glad the guy jettisoned himself outta my mag and my life and may he find a peaceful and fulfilling life ahead of him in the drunk tank of his choice.
Naturally there are a whole slew of rock- (and other)-oriented blogs out there you'll probably wanna know about but I didn't write 'em up since I'm not familiar with 'em despite a looksee or two. (I am familiar with the above ones not only because I want to see what else is going on in this rock world of ours, but I want to see what nasty things are being said about me!) Anyway, these blogs're getting a pass...FOR NOW that is, but really, who knows which way this free-wheeling machine gun of a post will tilt in the coming months? As they used to say...duck!
Posted by Christopher Stigliano at 9:14 PM
Wednesday, October 12, 2005
O-Type-WESTERN CLASSICS CD (Family Vineyard)
The MX-80 family of fine underground rockism has sure been busy as of late, what with their now-controversial WE'RE AN AMERICAN BAND CD being unavailable for export and whatnot, and for a buncha old geezers I guess these guys are doing a lot better than I would expect folks their age (late fifties!) to be doing at this time (mainly, looking for WORK!). Unfortunately, not all of the maniacal jazz/rock/metal-fusion that's being pounded out of the same creative pool that gave us past classics by Chinaboise not to mention those great Ralph-era albums remains...take this new O-Type spinoff CD f'rinstance. Now I've been a upfront and center fan of this Bruce Anderson/Dale Sophiea MX-80 side-project ever since I heard their first (and currently unavailable) cassette tape when it came out back during those best/worst of times days (1986 to be exact), and although their subsequent offerings have been what you would call intriguing, nice, listenable yet somehow pushed to the back of the collection I couldn't say that they were useless. It's just that what I liked in MX-80 (Sound), the variety of side-projects of theirs I've heard and their various seventies/eighties recordings perhaps didn't translate very well into my music listening parameters here in the mid-oh-ohs. Artists grow in their musical developments and so do listeners, and although said performing acts may still have many of the same qualities now that they had two decades back, somewhere down the line paths crossed to the point of irreconcilable differences where specific portions of their style and procedure just don't mesh with whatever it is that I'm looking for when I want to do a little carpe diem myself.
This new CD is evident of that...WESTERN CLASSICS is a pleasant, well-constructed and maybe even enjoyable release (featuring what I assume are reworkings of film scores in the inimitable MX-80 fashion though since I don't think I saw any of the films in question I can't tell you), but there seems to be nothing here that really zones me to heights of rabid devotion that used to have me blabbing the MX-80 name to anyone who'd dare stand still for a minute. To me, it's pretty much toned-down and watered-over O-Type that, like I said, is listener-friendly enough yet has more than a little of the original metallic zooomph missing, a shame since it's that very joy de atonality that made Anderson/Sophiea et. al. such titans in an already-swelling pool of musical creativity back in the late-seventies. If you are interested in hearing these two longtime standbys at their unmitigated peak may I recommend the original MX-80 Sound numbers recorded before the arrival of Rich Stim and Dave Mahoney that ended up not only on the DAS LOVE BOOT CD collection of instrumental MX-80 recordings but the still easily-obtainable BLOOMINGTON ONE sampler from 1975 where the Anderson/Sophiea duo plus drummers sound about as un-hinged and as uncorrupted by current technoglitches as they'll ever be.
For those of you who think I've lost my bonkers by writing what could be called a rather negative review of one of my favorite avant-rock aggregations (a review which still doesn't give an in-depth description of the sounds included as one would hope for---maybe because I feel so disoriented and dejected like I've just come from an ether party after listening to this thing) consider this...at least I didn't review the new CD by another MX-80 offshoot, mainly Pluto's SHOEHORSE EMERGING on Rastascan which sounded so much like a typically energy-less attempt at past glories by leftover new wave heavies of the seventies (including ex-Tin Huey saxist Ralph Carney) that I couldn't even listen through the entire platter. At least the Anderson/Sophiea axis is not on this one (the only MX-80 player who remains here's "Hoss" Weinstein, and I'm sure some purists wouldn't even consider him a bona-fide member of the group) but it still sounds too "1982" to me, if you get my drift.
Posted by Christopher Stigliano at 3:50 PM
Sunday, October 09, 2005
Hollywood Squaretet-TET OFFENSIVE CD (Gulcher)
While I'm in the process of writing up a humongous essay-sized post guaranteed to take up at least half of a month-long blogpage (complete with all of my intimate minutiae and of course the obligatory slams at certain competing blogmongers), I thought I'd toss out a bone to keep you satisfied until the big kahuna arrives either later this week or perhaps at the end of the solstice for all I know. Anyhoo, between my blogscreeding and other music-related duties I try to keep up with, I occasionally get a few promotional items sent to the BLOG TO COMM offices, mostly by people who are under the impression that my perhaps not-so-legendary fanzine is still in production (let's just say it is dormant until the tide of bad publicity subsides sometime in the twenties). Rather than delude these fine folk into thinking that the time and energy spent posting their wares my way are totally for naught (unless they've produced one giant of a turdburger deserving of derision) I thought that writing up whatever disques of worth I've received for this here blog just might suit them more than fine, and it BETTER suit 'em considering otherwise they may have to wait fifteen years to see their progeny written up on paper!
Anyway, here's an acquisition jetted my way thanks to the fine folks at Gulcher, a CD by a recent signing going by the moniker the Hollywood Squaretet. They're a trio featuring one Kenny Kawamura on saxes, another Todd Homer on upright bass and alto sax, and even yet another Larry Copcar on drums and vocals. (Also joining these three are Mikaleno, former Homer collaborator Larry Robinson and Gil Chinn on guitars, each separately of course.) Some of you might remember Homer from time spent in the infamous Angry Samoans, but these days his trip is avant garde jazz and for a punk he (like Dee Pop, David Hofstra and a good portion of the late-seventies NYC survivors) does a pretty good job at a music that has more to do with punk than anyone other than myself would dare admit.
The Squaretet play what I would call moderne avant improv worthy of a lotta the fantastic blare that was laid down at the Sunday/Wednesday night free-form series that took place at the CBGB Lounge over the past four years (lucky New Yorkers are in for a special treat October 19th when what might be the LAST EVER avant garde jazz show will transpire at the fabled space) with an approach that's part mid/late-seventies experiment (talking the Sam Rivers-led loft series that spawned such legendary outfits as Air) and part the even-newer thing that has been coalescing around the two coasts as of late and with an alarming frequency despite the better efforts of Ken Burns and the jazz establishment to totally ignore it. It's hard to put into words (especially for an illiterate like me) as to exactly what transpires upon these laser etchings w/o looking like a typically dry jazz critic, but if you've been following the recent developments in the avant garde (where things change yet stay the same as in the best experimental tradition) I know you'll be excited by what's in store...irrythmic beat descended from Sunny Murray, halfway-decent post-Ayler freeplay, arco-bass depth... Major plus: the cover art/layout which apes the old Arista/Freedom design and perhaps un-intentionally. Major minus: the vocals/recitation which, although steeped in the past fifty years of beat tradition, don't quite gel with the modern blast extant.
Posted by Christopher Stigliano at 11:35 AM
Wednesday, October 05, 2005
Last weekend I attempted to post one of these top six highlights o' my current existence thingies (everything from books/music/video/whaddeva...) for your reading pleasure (and so you can emulate me and my vastly superior to whatever sorta existence mode you may be attuned to lifestyle) and guess what happened! The entire blogger system was "Down For Maintenence" for what was supposed to have been for one hour but turned out to be an entire weekend! And because of this unforseeable roadblack my entire post was lost for all eternity and if you think I was frothing-at-the-mouth MAD about such an injustice as this you are right! And if you think I cried my eyeballs out and stamped my feet like the spoiled brat that I am you'd STILL be in the know. And if you think I'd hissyfit myself until my face is blue all over this gross miscarriage of justice and never post another blog, well you'd be wrong about that one anyway but nice try. So here's an attempt to re-create the Great Lost Blog To Comm Post (with a few additional changes here/there), and if you think this one ain't quite up-to-snuff as previous endeavors, well that's MY problem!
1) Les Rallizes Denudes-early material found on 67 ET LIVE (disc one of the red-covered Les Rallizes Denudes box set), ENCYCLOPEDIA OF RALLIZES 69-79 BOX SET, BOX ONE (discs one and two) and LIVE BOX SET, BOX ONE (discs one and two)
Even a Helen Keller could tell you that Les Rallizes Denudes are perhaps my fave archival proto-punk dig of the decade. I guess it is due to this Japanese group consisting of a bunch of guys who had the same early-underground Velvets-spawned high energy approach to my listening parameters that such acts as Rocket From the Tombs and MX-80 Sound held for me a quarter-century back, and given how I consider this a bone-bared accomplishment (at least with regards to my own strident set of musical tastes) that's something they should be applauded for! And since kicks really are getting harder to find in the underground rock sphere o' things these days (even harder than they were fifteen/twenty years back when I could have deluded myself that Husker Du or the Jesus and Marychain were just as bared-wire intense as the groups they were taking their lead from!), and given my undying curiousity for the oft-forgotten sounds of Undergroundus Americanus (and Undergroundus Rock as the International Youth Language) that played a fuzzed-out soundtrack somewhere between the days of NUGGETS capitulation and Sex Pistols garage aesthetics revivalism, a group like Les Rallizes Denudes fits in perfectly with my much battered rockism sensibilities. And the fact that group leader Mizutani Takashi actually kept the ball rolling for almost thirty years (all the while keeping a hefty underground/mysterioso image a la Rocket et. al. that has yet to be revealed) ought to count for SOMETHING especially in these gulcherally-deprived times.
As you woulda guessed by now, Les Rallizes Denudes' earliest material satiates me and my aforementioned horse-blindered rockism tastes the most. Don't get me wrong, I do like Les Rallizes' late-seventies onwards blare but I must admit that a lotta it has a strange feeling of "sameness" that you can get from any number of current Japanese acts playing the post-Rallizes circuit over in the Land of the Rising Drone. And this sameness (coupled with better live recording techniques?) has made it rather hard for me to listen through the nineties-era MIZUTANI box set, the Arthur Doyle tracks included. I will make it through that set eventually but for now I find myself going back to the band's late-sixties/early-seventies recordings when they really were an underground force (with a suave "foreign" approach to the Amerigan Velvets/Stooges energies that be which might have actually fooled a few into thinking these fellows were French as their name would've implied?) that really stands the test of time especially when lined up against the reams of subpar hippie spew that these guys were up against!
I dunno if the 67 ET LIVE is exactly the same as the legendary 67-69 STUDIO ET LIVE disc which was legitimately released for a few seconds around 1990 since it doesn't contain that great "Smoking Cigarette Blues" track also found on a live 2-LP set one can pick up with relative ease for the moment, but whatever it is, it sure woulda made a splended release back then on a par with the sole album by Le Stelle Di Mario Schifano (or, as Brad Kohler calls 'em, Stella Dora Breadsticks!) as far as recordings showing a direct link to the first Velvets pop-art rock package goes. Starting off with a live freakout reputedly from their first gig early '68 (which sounds like the second Family Dog Tribal Stomp in '66 when Quicksilver, the Oxford Circle and Big Brother and the Holding Company let the feedback fly and war whoops wail), 67 ET LIVE is a pretty good selection not only of what the early Rallizes were up to during one of the hotter decades in recent memory, but just what a strong presence underground/punk concerns could have even in an area which didn't seem totally conduit to such expression (mainly Japan). Excepting the goofy "group sound"-ish pop tune (complete with kazoo) and perhaps the track that kinda sounds like an early version of Bob Segar's "Turn The Page" (which I gotta admit I like, both the Denudes track and the Segar original) this is pretty wild sorta early-Velvets meets Dave Allen hard rock with proper amts. of fuzz drone and feedback to satisfy even the most demanding tastes such as my own. From the six-oh scree of "My Conviction" to the vast array of dark live rumblings, I can't see any up-and-center reader of this blog NOT being in possession of these, unless you're the kinda guy reading this to see what nasty things I have to say about you, natch!
Maybe easier to find are those Illegal Alien CD-R box sets where early Rallizes gunch appears alongsides various seventies/eighties must-have performances, such as the ENCYCLOPEDIA OF RALLIZES set where discs one and two feature more of their early material and tuneage which didn't always make it even to the middle portion of the seventies. You not only get TWO live takes of "My Conviction" here, but some live material undoubtedly from '68 or so that coulda fit snugly onto 67 ET LIVE but didn't quite make it (sounding so close to EPI-period Velvets live improvs I'm sure some sneak coulda passed 'em off as just that!) not to mention some psychedelic raves that remind me of some mythical recently-unearthered Deviants romps straight from the stage of UFO! Of particular interest is this live numbah (title in Japanese) with the simplest of riffs which reminds me of a typical sixties garage band trying to figure out how to play "Sweet Sister Ray"...it's that tantalyzing!
LIVE starts off with a 38:12 '73 side so attuned to the pulsebeat of proto-punk mania (with interesting Stooges/Hawkwind similarities) that I'm surprised Skydog hasn't released this one as a single disc already! Even "My Conviction" gets revamped here almost sounding more in-tune with the early-seventies rather'n 1967, and I don't care what you think but this one already's got my best live album of 2005 vote even if it is thirty-plus years old! The '74 ELECTRIC PURE LAND disc which follows also has the pre-whatziz pretty much intact, though signs of the mid/late-seventies Rallizes sound are beginning to be discerned, and naturally that's another era and post entirely.
2) MAD IN ORBIT (paperback published by Signet, 1958, 1959, 1962)
My mother came into the room a few weeks back with a whole buncha old MAD paperbacks that she bought for me at some antique shop! And if you don't think I was surprised you're wrong as usual...y'see, when I was barely into the double-digits the LAST thing mater wanted me reading was MAD because she thought them books were contributing to my general sense of sassiness towards not only her, but aw-thor-oh-tee in general! Not only that, but MAD was dulling my mental capabilities to the point where I didn't wanna be just another cog in "society" and thus was letting myself slip and slide in school as a result! And I'll bet your bottom dollar that if I went in the wayback machine and asked my mother or yore whether or not she'd be buying her only son MAD paperbacks in the new millenium Old Mother would definitely say "nada!" So I guess that mommy has softened her stance o'er the years with regards to such brain-warping reading for her progeny, or maybe she feels that I'm so far gone that what harm could they do for an already doofed-out dullard such as myself. Probably the latter, which I don't know whether to take as an insult or not!
True I already had these paperbacks (and multiple copies as well) for years tucked away in a big box in my closet, but it was nice reading 'em all again. And my favorite of the batch just hadda've been MAD IN ORBIT which I recall reading for the first time in the parking lot of the Hickory Plaza long before it morphed into the Hermitage Towne Plaza a good two decades back. (Mom and Jillery were shopping for clothes at the now-defunct Little Guys and Dolls store while I was osmosing the book...when I write my memoirs it'll be pertinent things such as this that get the space at the cost of boring historical fact!) Anyway, MAD IN ORBIT remains a top collection of early-MAD wit not only for the snat writing and that excellent airbrushed art that was soon to be nixed (much of it done by Joe Orlando), but for such faves as the First Aid Booklet spoof that had me rolling in the aisles (actually the back seat) upon first reading and the inclusion of two comic strip-oriented articles, both including NANCY which as you'd already know makes for a fine and dandy reading experience if I do say so myself. And I also gotta admit that I really like the Space Age-y cover painting by the late Kelly Freas, a contributor to MAD who seems to have been all but forgotten in the wake of the later-on Norman Mingo depictions of the grinning Alfred E. Neuman (and by the way, do you know of people who prefer the work of Freas to Mingo? I know of one guy who swears by Freas and totally hates Mingo's portrayal of the gap-toothed one, and although I like both equally even though Freas seemed to have slipped in style during his later MAD days I can see the anti-Mingoite's point o' view rather clearly).
3) Can-UNLIMITED EDITION CD (Spoon Germany)
If you really want any more proof of my inbred dooficity, just gander upon THIS slab o' information that I should've kept hidden 'n under the covers lest I look even more foolish than some of you think I might be. My first exposure to the music of Can after years of import bin hopping came via a copy of the LIMITED EDITION one-LP version of this disque (the one with the white mice romping through a dollhouse on the cover) that I picked up at a flea market back in 1980. I didn't quite get into the sounds contained therein (well, I was told this was NOT the album to start with, but it only cost a buck!) and ended up selling the thing on my next trek to Cleveland Heights. Anyway, as even more proof of my budding mental laxity I also passed on copies of Elliot Murphy and Insect Trust albums that were available in that batch! Can you believe what a stoop I coulda been at the time (and beyond)???
4) THE FAUST TAPES CD (Recommended, England)
Another 'un I didn't quite "get into" (to be tres seventies about it) until Bill Shute sorta shamed me into it like he usually used to do. I never really cozied up to Faust at the time they were still alive and releasing albums one could only find in the most discerning of import bins...methinks that I was perhaps way too preoccupied with too much avant garde/progressive fluff at the time to have paid attention, and besides there were so many things vying for my attention (and moolah) back then so how would I know that Faust weren't anything akin to the new Jade Warrior anyway? Fortunately time has at least put it all into proper (?) perspective, with this collage of rock, art, jazz and just plain ol' noise landscaping coming off as the perfect distillation of that German aesthetic of art, discipline and post-apocalypse noise, with the right dash of punk added to krautify the thing, of course.
5) CREEM-1975/1976 ISSUES
Whenever I get the hankerin' for real rock & roll scribing sans the soggy tones of the current crop of weak-kneed "critics" best known for their oh-so-attuned political acumen as opposed to rocking out (a term Patrick Amory associates with the minds of pre-pubescent rocksters, but I'll take a twelve-year-old ideal of rock music over that of an aesthete anyday!), I always reach for a class mid-seventies rock read whether it be an old standby like BACK DOOR MAN or DENIM DELINQUENT, or naturally a classic issue of CREEM. Any dunce can tell you that the early/mid-seventies were a Golden Age for gonzo rock journalism and a time when you could find something of worth and might even in a college newspaper hack-out record review, and for the best of the batch you couldn't do much better'n CREEM unless you happen to be lucky enough to own the entire run of TEENAGE WASTELAND GAZETTE, which I doubt you are.
The issues in question today come from the final days of the Bangs regime (which finally capitulated somewhere early 1977, with the mag turning into a pretty pale shell of its former self as a result), and although you can detect a bitta the shape of things to come even during these last moments of Bangs-exertion (mostly in the later '76 issues, but that's probably because the music scene was changing), I find even the most commercially-oriented CREEM of the day vastly superior to the mag's more, er, arena-rock-putsch issues when even articles on punk rock upstarts (such as Richard Reigel's lackluster Dead Boys piece) seemed drab and certainly not befitting of the music that CREEM had helped to boost in the first place. (I could also blame the inclusion of new writers like Rick Johnson who weren't exactly up to snuff with regards to a pure CREEM anti-aesthetic, but even some of his scribings on the likes of the Gizmos
etc. come up to the usual standards.) The mid-seventies seemed like a better time for CREEM to continue on their quest to expose the better moments of the psychedelic past while hyping whatever good that was happening on the music scene (krautrock, nascent garage band frothings...), and although the mag could still surprise once in awhile even throughout their nadir in the eighties (a nadir reached by the hiring of one Chuck Eddy) as their Heavy Metal Special will attest to, its these mid-seventies mags that continue to capture my ever-palapitating heart and maybe yours too.
Highlights include the various Peter Laughner (a man seen as perhaps CREEM's shining hope as early as '75) offerings from his Television live '75 ROCK-A-RAMA entry to his classic review of Lou Reed's CONEY ISLAND BABY (notorious for detailing a number of tres-decadent and downright disturbing images which I am told never happened!). By the way, his Rocket From the Tombs crony Craig Bell can be spotted not only contributing a 'RAMA review of Eno's "Seven Deadly Finns" single but a negative writeup of The Sadistic Mika Band which he did in order to impress the powers that be...although he liked the thing he gave 'em the thumbs down in order to look hep! Not only that but you get the expected heaping helpings of Lester Bangs including his attempts to become the new Weberman to one Lou Reed amongst scores or still enjoyable reviews and other fluff. It's so fun reading these mags again, because I remember just how much articles like Richard Meltzer's review of the Dictators at the Miss All-Bare Ameriga pageant shocked/impressed me at the time, and how even such small asides as Robot Hull referring to Canadian hard rockers (and good ones at that!) Thundermug's manager as "Big Jugs" were typically tasteless guffaws of the past that still make it even in the present. Even fashion editor (and future Studio 54 effete even though she wrote how much she hated disco!) Lisa Robinson shines with her 11/75 ELEGANZA column on "The New Velvet Underground" regarding the New York bands and their black/white aesthetics, also notable for a mention of hubby Richard's '69 attempt at an avant-rock offering called Man Ray (who have been mentioned on/off in various scribings throughout the realm) who by Robinson's brief namedrop seem like the neatest attempt at a Velvets/EPI wall of starkness, at least until the advent of no wave.
6) HOT WACKS BOOK XV, THE LAST WACKS (book)
Yes, I've reviewed this one already in an earlier "High Six" five months ago, but as you already know I love these clandestine recordings with an unhealthy PASSION that maybe is a bit hard to describe. Bootlegs have always held a fascination for me, or at least they have ever since I first saw a binfulla them at White Wing records in Niles Ohio back in 1975, and since the entire concept of there being more'n just the limited assortment of music by your fave recording artists available on these clandestine discs was certainly appealing to a soul such as I, what would you expect anyway? And besides, given that the vast majority of these paper-insert elpees were actually affordable to a depression-era wage-earning kid such as myself (this was before the days of deluxe covered European bootlegs costing upwards of $20 a pop) you could bet they were soon to become a not big but rather decent part of my record (and later on CD) collection maybe just because of the fact that they were bootlegs and the mere thought of 'em made pure as the driven snow me feel like a regular Boris Badenov!
Anyway the HOT WACKS mags and books sure came in handy as far as sorting all this stuff out, and although the whole bootleg scene has been pretty much doused by legal decisions, police busts and maybe the lack of good, bootlable material at least this discography helps you with regards to exactly what there was in the boot world as well as what you've missed out on. And frankly, this book is the next best thing to bin-browsing with all of those Trademark of Quality, Wizardo and Melvin platters to once again acknowledge (and wonder exactly what they sounded like...though even experience will tell you that the sound quality guides given aren't that much of a help either!). It's also great for reacquainting yourself with legendary boot labels such as Skydog, as well as the obscure and puzzling of which there are many entries. If you (like me) always wondered about such weird, semi-legit companies such as Joker International (which released amongst their exploito, opera and easy-listening discs such rock classics as BEATLES/STONES LIVE, three volumes of Bob Dylan's A RARE BATCH OF LITTLE WHITE WONDER, a series of Hendrix jams that perhaps should have remained in the can and LED ZEPPELIN LIVE), well they're all included here as well. There were about five addendums to this massive "goodbye" issued before the HOW WACKS empire collapsed, but even if you weren't part of the same cadre who used to espy such exotic booty in the basements of outta the way record shops you might get a kick outta this book as well.
Posted by Christopher Stigliano at 10:44 PM