Saturday, July 08, 2006


Betcha thought I up and died hunh? Lemme rephrase that...betcha hoped I up and died! Well, here I am, back and proud, and perhaps ornerier for the worse of wear ready to tear into a whole slewwa things I got hold of recently (or not so) that sorta fell through the cracks so please, settle down and read on, and if you're bugged by the whole affair you know where you can write, or go for that matter!


Rick Noll thinks I'm long-winded. Well bud, I guess that means you don't want me to write a jambus-packtus review of your latest where you can coffee-bean pick all your fave li'l lines and use 'em in future promotional material as if people out there actually care what I have to say about the Left or any of yer fine digital wares, let alone know who I am inna first place! But I know that Noll is craftier than Shylock and shorter to boot, and no matter what I say he has the uncanny ability to string together various patches of wordage I fling his way in order to work up good useful phrases that'll boost his wares, just like in MAD magazine when some foreign film distributor took Hugh Downs' negative reaction to a recent import and chopped up the comment in order to look snat! Noll gets that way sometimes.

Anyhow, I wanted to rush a review of this Left collection out before some other blog gets the honors and Noll writes a gushy "thank you" to said blog getting me even hotter under the collar (I get that way sometimes)! And it's sure great to see this long-forgotten Pennsylvanian bunch get the reissue treatment not only because they deserve it and not only because something like the complete studio sessions of this truly punk/hardcore bunch is even more needed in the here and now than it was twennysome years back, but since I don't have a workable turntable it's not like I can spin the myriad asst. of Left vinyl offerings moulding away in my record collection on a daily basis. And frankly I won't be spinning this one daily either, but it's sure nice to have something to listen to that rots your brain once in awhile, and if anything'll rot it the Left surely will!

Anyway, if you remember not only the Left but such gulcheral watermarks related to 'em like Bona Fide Records as well as INNER VOID fanzine (one of the funniest cheapo throwaway mags of the day), then you'll dig this croaker to the max. Not just any pithy hardcore pseudo-hippie peaceandlove gunch (remember how punk, the antithesis to the hippie credo of the seventies, eventually became what it stood against in the eighties thanks to the tireless hard work of a buncha communists in Berkeley who merely helped end one chapter of the punk continuum and started another, watered down one?), the Left were hardgunch rock and rollin' madboys who, like the Angry Samoans and Rancid Vat amongst few others tried to wrestle the punk banner away from the aerie types and reclaim it as a hard squelch modus operandi that sure smells better down the line'n all the save the whales rattling that was goin' on back when we needed more high energy and less patchouli oil!

This is a wowzer of a disque to boot, with all those anti-PC faves that seemed to inspire me to greater heights of nose-tweaking getting the royal treatment and boy am I glad of that! Just one spin of such classics as "The Vietcong Live Next Door" (there's a tiger cage waiting for YOU!) and "AIDS Alley" (kinda like Dave Lang's idea of junior achievement) takes me back to the thrilling days of yesteryear (a whopping two decades of yesteryear at that!) when it seems as if the Left as well as a few scattered agitpunks (talking agitated punks, not Crass wannabes!) were the only ones making life interesting enough for the besotted true believers out there. It's too bad that this particular scene hadda poop out around the late-eighties or so ending up as hip-to-be-retarded fodder for Chuck Eddy's heavy metal remushings. The whole thing is one mad powerhouse of primal hard-crashing energized electrodes slamped right onto your right side of the brain, and it's even eclective enough to borrow from Blue Oyster Cult one minute then the Thirteenth Floor Elevators the next sounding as pure and as whole as rock & roll as that International Youth Language was supposed to be before the translation broke down somewhere down the line.

Of course all of the above praise of the Left for their energy (after all, they did one of the few covers of "TV Eye" worth its weight in Iggy's boogers) and their standing firm in the face of even-Newer Left dictatorship of the maladjusted trust fund kiddie hijinx doesn't mean this one's a perfect slab of BLOG TO COMM-approved ginchiness. Y'see, in the "unreleased tracks" segment of the disque (usually tacked on at the end, as it is here) the Left kinda live up to their name with a tune entitled "Columbus Day" which happened to be a well-placed poke at the 500th anniversary of the Big Discovery and all the evil that has been wrought thanks to the bloke's miscalculations! Sheesh, I really can't blame 15th century guys for acting the way they did just like I can't blame 16th, 17th or 18th or even 19th century ones for behaving the way they did given they didn't have the wise enlightening advice of people like Oprah and Dr. Phil to guide them, but it sure seems that a lotta snobs just love doing that, being so lofty and all. Now, I can blame people of the 20th and 21st centuries for their behavior since they shoulda known better...I'm talking people like Lenin, Stalin, Pol Pot, Sanger and Mao (and their apologists in the leftist rock world) who somehow seem to escape a load of heavy duty censure while good guys like Franco and McCarthy get the ol' heave-ho from a lotta "open-minded" knowitalls who think they can run our lives better than we can! Now I know that Rick's a dyed inna wool lefty (just take a look at his myspace page, or at least click on the part which'll take you to his blog where you can actually see a pic of Prez G. W. w/his mouth taped shut!) and such stuff don't bother him even though all of that anti-Bushschpiel only makes me wanna love the guy even while he turns my paleo stomach at times, but hearing the Left traipse straight into the heart of MAXIMUMROCKNROLL territory doesn't exactly endear me to them that much!

Yeah, but you can always bleep over that sorta self-righteous hate-the-rubes upper-crustism if you like and dig the more typical rest o' the picture. A real powerful treat for those of you bogged down by too much amerindie bloghype drool and that's the honest-to-ME truth!

Well Rick, was that long-winded enough for you???

Artful Dodger-RAVE ON CD (Ariola)

In some ways I dunno why I bothered picking this one up. After all, Artful Dodger were (along with such local hairchest rockers as the Michael Stanley Band, the Wild Horses and whatever group the Balzer Brothers were playing in at the time) what one would call pretty hot stuff in late-seventies Cleveland Rock circles. Y'know, the kinda groups who were getting a lotta notoriety and exposure from the Cleveland Rock, Media while all of the great high-energy post-Velvet Underground wonders were having a hard time scraping taxi fare home from one of their gigs. Real Anastasia Pantsios fodder, if you know what I mean. Back in the day stuff like this drove me batty, especially when it seemed as if groups like Pere Ubu and the Styrenes were only getting (or were lucky enough to get) pathetic token coverage which was strange considering alla the hype about how Cleveland loved its rock & roll. That was a lie...Cleveland only loved technical proficiency and two-dimensional hackery and if that makes me an elitist...well, thank goodniz for that! I hear H. L. Mencken was one too!

But if Artful Dodger's success in Cleveland during the height of Pantsiosmania (obviously) didn't make me wanna hear these guys, what was it that did get me to fork over the big 'uns for this disque anyway? What else but a 1976 Max's Kansas City gig listing from April of that year which had a headlining Artful Dodger playing at that hallowed dive with none other than the infamous Milk 'n Cookies as opening act! Wow, so that means that Artful Dodger were one of the myriad assortment of groups who, in the wake of media exposure to not only Max's but CBGB, flocked to that burgh alongsides such local wonders as Pere Ubu and the Dixie Dregs to get some big city notoriety so to speak! And the fact that the powerpunkpoppers Milk 'n Cookies (I think I reviewed a CD of theirs somewhere on this blog...) were the opening act for this gig certainly said something...dunno what exactly it said (other'n "Chris, you'll hitch your star to anything with a seventies underground rock catchphrase!") but whatever it was it sure got me interersted in this batch!

So I get this Cee-Dee and plunk it in the machine and guess what? Very little of the early-mid-seventies Cleveland powerpop post-Raspberries commercial-yet-invigorating rock I was hoping for shown through, but that doesn't mean Artful Dodger are that much of a dud. True the opening track where each and every Dodger thanks Cleveland and the Agora for making them the big stars they are (?) is enough to bring back memories of WMMS-FM late-seventies back-patting regurgitation, but strip the shuck away and you get...halfway-decent power-pop that without the slick production and the lame lyrics could have worked a bit. The album proper is fairly middling (nothing here grabs like it should!), but the bonus '76-era Agora broadcast, probably similar to their Max's set earlier that year, does have a nice mid-seventies pop-rock feeling to it that remarkably enough doesn't have me reaching for the eject button! Artful Dodger might have, had they only stuck around long enough to listen to the Milk 'N Cookies kids, evolved into a pretty good power-pop band just like the Raspberries and all those spinoffs that had Greg Shaw calling that burgh the New Liverpool, but as it stands they were too FM-rock headstrong to do any transcending themselves. A nice try, but not quite there. Perhaps the spectre of Pantsios was just too much for them to do any expanding, if you get my drift.

(Of course, the kicker to this story was that Artful Dodger weren't even from Cleveland, but I believe North Carolina [someone correct me if I'm wrong!], though like Michael Stanley they sure owed their success, and perhaps existence, to Cleveland and the sycophantic rockcrit good-old-boy scene that transpired there. So in many ways they might as well have been an actual Cleveland band given their popularity not only with the FM dolts but the snide businessmen who pushed this stuff [no matter how good it could have been---it's the thought that counts!] on the idiot masses!)


Never cared for this bunch's more progressive-tinged material (after all, their take of "Astronomy Domine" had me sending KILLING TECHNOLOGY straight into the "sell" pile), but when Voivod were into their cyberpunk hard-edged rant they just hadda've been the bestest of the eighties metallic mongers on the planet, or perhaps even beyond. Standing strong against all of the "light" metal that seemed to be all the rage (if you could call a piddling sound the likes of Quiet Riot a "rage"), Voivod really tore through the shredded sphincter of metallicus proper and put forth a maddening vision that still holds bucketsfulla integrity and pure callousness whilst the competition seemed to flub up somewhere down the line.

VOIVOD LIVES does have all the nice hallmarks of a good eighties heavy metal album from the low-budget cheezy cover (though nothing really touches the outerspace airbrush of Von Lmo's FUTURE LANGUAGE) to the bludgeon we've come to expect from such splatters, and thankfully these guys managed to pull through with seemingly ease (or maybe it just looks that way). Recorded live in Holland and at CBGB, this disc stands as a testament as to what a good metallic romp done live should be...not as noisy as their earlier classics yet fluid in a strange way...perhaps Michael Snider's comparisons to yet another metallic monster MX-80 is in line as well? (I've heard somewhere that the guys in MX-80 really go for Voivod which wouldn't surprise me because those bubs like everything!) Still, one that people who pretend to like heavy metal shouldn't be without...unless their idea of heavy metal is the eighties wanker music that bands like Voivod stood in stark contrast against!

LSD March-new CD I forget the title of!

Yes indeed, I actually forgot what this one is called because the package (disque impaled on a postcard-like piece of paper) is so dang hard to make out! But given 'tis an LSD March offering what can you really discern from the thing other'n here's another pretty good post-Les Rallizes Denudes Japanese psychedelic punk offering that sounds pretty good but doesn't quite come up to post-Rallizes standards, or even anywhere close to that band at the height of their atonal bellow. As usual the sound is too clean unlike the vibrating mud feel of a good seventies Rallizes audience tape and the ballads don't always grab hold, but I still love it for the prime psychogarage energy that permeates these things even with the mid-oh-ohs technology trying to get inna way! Frankly any LSD March whether it be CD or ltd. ed. vinyl is worth getting your paws on, though I'd try to find their early bootleg-quality disques first since they seem to dish out the Rallizes-thrust a lot more than the newer and proficient platters. Ain't progress disgusting???

INFORMATIVE FINAL NOTE: Given CBGB's eventual capitulation within a few short months its like I've been trying to watch all of the interesting-enough giggings that are going down at all three of their stages before it all goes under, and that not only includes the big names that happen to play there but the young upstarts with monikers that seem intriguing enough to make me think they'd transcend the norm and harken back to something good, like the under-the-covers NYC scene of the early/mid-seventies f'rinstance. Most of these newies are outright turdballs to be frank about it, but surprisingly enough there was a band playing the Lounge called "The Ghost of Lester Bangs" last night that certainly piqued my attention! Yes, ever since that famed rock critic deep-sixed back in spring '82 it seems that his legend has just grown and grown, and while a majority of pipsqueak scribes either take him to heart full blast or demean him to the extreme (as Parke Puterbaugh did in ROLLING STONE, clearly an act of revenge!), all I gotta say is what else would you expect??? Anyway, it was kinda interesting to see a band naming themselves after the famed critic, even though I believe there were two others (according to expert Jim DeRogatis) who have done the exact same thing in the nineties but the thoughts behind such actions were nice, dontcha think???

However, what I caught of this group's act was anything but Bangsian. No, they didn't sound like the Lester Bangs throwtogether band of '77 nor Birdland or even his Texas recordings with Brian Curley at all and y'know, I have the sneaking suspicion that people who loved Bangs but hated his music would have thought even less of this new band's attempts at resurrecting old seventies rockism watermarks. That is, if you could say they were attempting to revive said decade. The group was too moderne post-garage to have been associated any way with the Lester Bangs legacy, with little vim or spark to seperate them from the throngs of new underground wannabes out there vying for someone's time and money. It kinda makes me wonder how and why they would want to capitalize on the memory of some fat dude who croaked about the same times these guys were probably still in the zygote stage but since stranger things have happened I shouldn't worry myself so. As for me, The Ghost of Lester Bangs was at least slightly inspirational...y'see, when I finally do start up my own rancid rock group, it's gonna be called Wayne McGuire!


denmom said...

I am ashamed to say I know where Artful Dodger is from. they are from DC, specifically Northern virginia, which is why they suck.

denmom punk mag

Rick Noll said...

Yeah, Chris you are a bit long winded, I took the liberty of editing the political crap and stuff about me--as you are at your best when sticking to rock and skronk in general and we appreciate your dead-on comments there(thats as gushy as I'll get) and surely a dyed in the wool righty like you realizes the Left is apolitical and "Columbus Day" is really a jab at all the bloodletting that has been done in the name of organized religion. anyway here's Blog to Comm lite:

It's sure great to see this Pennsylvanian (Maryland, actually) bunch get the reissue treatment not only because they deserve it and the complete studio sessions of this truly punk/hardcore bunch is even more needed in the here and now than it was twennysome years back, The Left were hardgunch rock and rollin' madboys who, like the Angry Samoans and Rancid Vat amongst few others tried to wrestle the punk banner away from the aerie types and reclaim it as a hard squelch modus operandi.This is a wowzer of a disque to boot, with all those anti-PC faves that seemed to inspire me to greater heights of nose-tweaking getting the royal treatment and boy am I glad of that! The whole thing is one mad powerhouse of primal hard-crashing energized electrodes slamped right onto your right side of the brain,.(after all, they did one of the few covers of "TV Eye" worth its weight in Iggy's boogers) A real powerful treat for those of you bogged down by too much amerindie bloghype drool and that's the honest-to-ME truth!

How do you like that piece of work!

Christopher said...

Good job there...though I gotta disagree w/you (and the Left)about "Columbus Day" which remains for me a big slab of politically pious gush (you mention organized religion's bloodletting? I mean, EVERYBODY was letting blood in the past but the real bloodletting these days has been done in the name of progressive humanism and besides, when the Left were singing about slaughtering buffalo I hadda hold my upchuck down just a little...).

Still, I hope your nice blub makes it to the hypesheets...can't wait to see my name in print!

Anonymous said...

I've seen The Ghost Of Lester Bangs a few times in New York City. I liked them, but was shocked that use that name. I'm sure some fans of the critic would think of this as blasphemous, while others might just be glad those kids remember him.

Anonymous said...

I'd have to say that I'm glad Artful Dodger never took a cue from Milk'N'Cookies. Artful Dodger was from Fairfax, Virginia (not D.C.), and was never considered a Punk music outfit. While Milk'N'Cookies are clearly disciples of the Ramones, Artful Dodger was 70's rock, with comparison's to The Faces, The Raspberries, Aerosmith, Cheap Trick, and Badfinger. The only Punk tie-in could be being managed by the same company as the New York Dolls, though more of an effort was to market them the same as Aerosmith. Their 1975 S/T debut and subsequent release "Honor Among Thieves" are much harder than "Rave On". Most of the live material on the disc you reviewed here are from those releases. As to the Cleveland push, that's not entirely true. Yes, the Columbia Sales Rep worked hard to promote them in the Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania area were they did well. But, Artful Dodger did well in other areas. "Scream" even topped local charts out in Iowa for several weeks. The UK, Spain, Japan, and even parts of Europe were receptive also receptive. Their releases reviewed well in Rolling Stone, Record World, and other mainstream music publications, not just the Cleveland scene and its magazines. Unfortunately, by 1980, the music scene shifted, Rock and Punk styles of the 70's went out, and New Wave became the rage. Even the Ramones went for a more mainstream friendly sound for "End Of The Century", the same is true for the Clash with "London Calling".