Saturday, November 25, 2006


Yeah, you must think I'm some sorta rich little bastard the way I'm writing about all these wonderful (and sometimes brand-spanking-new!) items the way I do on this blog, right? Well, the answer to that one is in actuality a huge "naw," for although I do like to flaunt my most recent fave-rave acquisitions under the nostrils of all you pee-ons out there frankly I don't have the capital or even the wherewithal to snatch up all of the great items that I would love to own and irritate you lowbrows with even more! In fact, a lotta the goodies here that I've been reviewing have been commented upon by me before, more or less likely in the pages of my own fanzine (NOT "'zine") which I'm sure some of you out there are well aware of. However, since I'm also postive that more that a good portion of whoever out there is reading this stuff have the brain-consistency of Maypo maybe I can get away with recycling old records as new fodder for the age of internet, which certainly comes in handy during a week like this where absolutely nada has arrived in the mail for me to write up and deliver to you readers whether fans, perusers or outright post-punk (yech!) toffee-noses!

Anyway, since there has been hardly anything of interest hitting the mailbox as of late here are a few of the items that have been occupying my precious "quiet time" (that is, quiet until I slap a disque into the ol' computer!) while I wait for a few crucial orders from Slippytown, Forced Exposure and perhaps Volcanic Tongue (dunno...they're still waiting for one of those rare Les Rallizes Denudes live sets to slip back into stock) to slither my way. You may consider this yet another variation on my mother's old "hide the toys and present them to the kid when he's crabbing for new playthings" moneysaving game she used to pull on me, or perhaps its one of those "gee, I didn't know I had this one in my collection" acts of extreme and brutal forgetfulness on my part...probably the latter, but anyway here are a few of the oldies but moldies I've been giving a spin in my abode as of the past week.

MX-80-OUT OF CONTROL CD (Quadruped)

Needless to say just how much MX-80 Sound helped rearrange my listening parameters back when such parameters were in need of being rearranged. At a time when heavy metal had sorta sunk from its grand early-seventies roots to a late-seventies miasma of fast chops, crystalline playing and general overboard cliche, MX-80 Sound were playing it in a grand manner sorta mixing the best of the early metal generation with various avant garde and fusion jazz moves making it totally palatable for a bright new batch of upstarts discovering all sorts of new sounds branching out into exciting new vistas, if you want me to be 1961 starry-eyed about it. MX-80 made heavy metal, and hard rock in general exciting again, and it did so at a time when it seemed as if the whole metal form was lurching towards some horrid mainstream appreciation level (and making concessions towards it at the worst time it should've) that put itself on the same plateau of commercialized caga as progressive rock, then (and this???)-contemporary black music and post-rock AM pop to the point of instant obsolescence. And let's face it. MX-80 either as a metal band or an underground act sure helped hone my tastes for various other metallic endeavors from Motorhead, Hawkwind and Von Lmo to a whole slew of up-and-coming eighties hard monster attack squads, and frankly I prefer to lump these guys in with the aforementioned bunch rather than the comparatively meek underground/alternative bands who have been claiming MX-80 as a major inspiration since the eighties yet still sound as college-art rock as the rest of the narcissic bunch.

This collection of MX-80's Ralph records-era releases was dredged outta the collection after I thought I'd give their historically-important instrumental disc DAS LOVE BOAT a breather, and considering how those two Ralph albums were such top spins during the all-important years of '80/'81 really should speak loads about where my musically-inclined head was during the days when even the enlightened ones were still intrigued by the whole B-52s/Devo axis of brave new wave that I shrugged off once these groups slapped their second albums on us making me realize that maybe the original intent wasn't that hot after all. Unfortunately the boss tracks ("Lady In Pain" and "Possessed") that appeared on the SUBTERRANEAN MODERN album were not reissued here as they should have, but we do get the single B-side "White Night" and sampler-only "Halloween" MX-80 LPs #'s two and three OUT OF THE TUNNEL and CROWD CONTROL respectively. It seems as if by '80's OUT OF THE TUNNEL MX-80 had washed a lotta the humor of their debut on Island (HARD ATTACK) outta their system...oh, TUNNEL still has the capacity to make one sit up with the pithy lyrics and "staid" vocal delivery of Rich Stim, but the sonic drive is unrelenting to the point of almost being unbearable and the lyrics on the group's wide range of anthemic pounders ("Gary and Priscilla" and "Man in the Box" amongst 'em) reflect the band's move towards more, er, nerve-wracking as opposed to humorous material. And the display of wall-to-wall guitar courtesy of Bruce Anderson to the non-chalant vocals (and lyrics) of Rich Stim make for a ear-punctuating display of just what the heavy metal idiom was capable of especially in an age of AOR schlock that only a thimble-brained moron would want to appreciate over a quarter-century down the line. Listening to OUT OF THE TUNNEL makes me wonder if any of the other heavy metal bands, particularly in En Why See like (besides Von Lmo) Sorcerers and Junior Birdmen were playing it in this particular uproarious style. These (and I'm sure other) self-professed metallic mongers were appearing at CBGB and Max's Kansas City at the time, and I think that the influence of various other underground factions (no wave, garage and heck, even the new wave of the day) might have had an impact on 'em and positively as well. And considering MX-80 themselves hit Max's Kansas City (and other En Why See hangouts) during the days of underground rave who knows if they had any effect on the populace at large. I hope I'll be able to document this era of metallic soundputsching one of these days, and if anyone out there reading this would care to help me...

When Ralph album #2 CROWD CONTROL came out I remember it getting a few bum reviews in the respected rock press. I do recall THE NEW YORK ROCKER dumping on them via an '81 live review (though TAKE IT! were still in their corner with Byron Coley proclaiming that MX-80 proved that "intelligent heavy metal" was not an oxymoron, while a Boston gig was praised especially for an unreleased number called "Gangland" which had a melody that sounded like how a bug walks around after you hit it with a hammer), and to this day I remember the TROUSER PRESS album guide laying into MX-80 for sounding like Blue Oyster Cult as if somehow that was a totally uncouth no-no in an age of new wave sentiment. And for a guy who's tried shaking off the bad taste of alla that early-eighties AOR-rock/hip-deejay praise of the Cult (consoling myself with the fact that their early wares were often heaped into a Velvets/MC5 stew of early-seventies immortrality and by a buncha writers I RESPECT too!) all I gotta say is that some of this pro-underground naysaying against certain more-worthy dark ages of rock mammoths out there sounds weaker and weaker as the days roll by, especially when the sounds that a lotta the ROCKER and TROUSER PRESS types were hailing as new and innovative during the early-eighties ultimately led to the deep and introspective pose we now call "alternative music," a shallow reflection of what once was and at least you know that if Blue Oyster Cult never "made it big" like they did they woulda been stars at CBGB and Max's in 1981, dig?

There's more of an eclecticism abounding here, which is probably the reason why I didn't exactly flip en-toto over CROWD CONTROL upon first spin the way I did OUT OF THE TUNNEL. But way down the is it exactly what those MX-80 haters called it...pure metallic monstrosity music a la early-Blue Oyster Cult with even some Stalk Forrest and perhaps a touch of Good Rats tossed in for added relief. "Face of the Earth" reflects more of a Tony Williams' Lifetime influence than could be heard before thanks to Dave Mahoney's drumming intertwining with Anderson's McLaughlin-styled play. (By the way, I never really could hear a Mahavishnu influence on MX-80's "Spoonfight" which appears on the '75 BLOOMINGTON ONE sampler making me ask whether or not I'm missing a point somewhere...). And even with all the "new wave" marketing and the fact that the band were playing all kinds of music for all kinds of people the heavy metal stylings can still be heard in full force from the chanted backing vocals to the soaring lead lines which I gotta say sound NOTHING like what metal had become at that sorry state in time. And stranger still, "Promise of Love" despite being one of the most beautiful of metal songs ever (reminiscent of the token slow burner per album that seemed to permeate the early metal genre) has one of the strangest vocals especially considering that they were written by Mrs. Stim (Angel Ross) with her husband singing them in the female tense! I guess there was some sorta hidden agenda with this one, but I dare not THINK what it may be!

Kinda fitting that right after this one (and subsequent tour) MX-80 went into their first self-imposed (?!) exile. The underground seventies were osmosing into the camp-wave eighties and I guess MX-80 wanted no part of that. Who can blame 'em? Anyway, the band's Ralph period remains their strongest and though the group has evolved, mutated and recorded to high heaven ever since, it's always great to come back to the heart of the matter which I think holds up a lot more than most of the acts vying for my money at the time ever could.


That's all it said, and this disque sent me by Dee Pop ages ago remained dormant in my collection for just as long a timespan NOT because I wanted to ignore the thing, but because these black Memorex CD-Rs NEVER wanna spin on any of my boxes! Fortunately a long car trip was in store this morning and whaddya know by the thing actually played whilst taking a long drive, so thankfully there's yet another "newie" for me to absorb and osmose in the hear and now rather'n a soggy leftover to call my own.

I've heard Bergman play with Dee Pop a number of times. Seems that this famed avant garde pianist had been appearing at the CBGB Lounge during the reign of the great freesyle series that I continue to blab about as if it were the hottest action in music history since Dylan decided to plug himself in. Unfortunately the guy has been rather quiet as of late, but I don't know if that's because of his health, personal everyday reasons and perhaps his legendary (amongst the few who know) temperament. As for Lol Coxhill, the British soprano saxist has been pretty much omnipresent on the UK jazz and rock scene ever since the raving sixties and earlier for all I know (look it up on wikipedia yourself!). A legend in his own somethingorother, Coxhill was a member of the great Kevin Ayers band The Whole World and, if you can believe Pete Frame's rock family trees, the Damned as well (!) plus his playing in proper jazz contexts hasn't been anything to sneeze at. (I remember when his WELFARE STATE album came out on Caroline back in '76 and I was so interested in hearing the spew yet none of the import services found it worthy enough to truck over here.) So with a combination like that I was expecting some interesting playage on this dark disque and I got it naturally blab blab rambleonyouknowtherestofthestory...

Anyway Bergman's stylings are in that nice restrained way (yet with the proper pounding added when the mood is sorta needed) kinda like a slightly-tamed Cecil Taylor or maybe a jolted Dave Burrell. Coxhill is perfectly Europe-cultured yet astute enough to follow the hallowed blare of Ayler...nowhere near the power and might of a Brotzmann mind you, but perfectly attuned to the equally Euro mindset of Bergman. Ida Know's on drums, and come to think of it I have no idea the origins of this disque (too lazy to run it through the dogpile). Whatever, it's one of those great encounters that avant garde jazz is fulla yet you KNOW that you ain't gonna live long enough to soak it all in like you'd wanna. A heaping hunking big thanks to Pop for the disc, which reminds me once again of last post's cry..."OPEN DEM VAULTS UP AND QUICK!!!"

Cross-"Melody Lady"/"Sugar Daddy" single (pressed on CD-R)

A master-tape dub of Cross' only single that, according to the no-play side of this disque was recorded at Electric Ladyland studios and in 1972, a good three years before Cross played their legendary set at the CBGB Summer Festival which Cross/Kongress/Von Lmo guitarist Lou Rone does not remember in the slightest! (A fellow Cross memeber pointed out to him that the reason for this was that Rone was higher'n a kite that night and thus WOULDN'T remember a thing including Debby Harry catching the group's set!) Still, for a single that was released by themselves (no label info available) and which actually got the typical one or two spins locally before getting dumped into the trash it's a pretty nice slab of early hard rock (not quite METAL!!!!!) that probably won't make it with you punk elitists out there but it will go over smart-like with you hard rock elitists! Side one reminds me of Free with vocals by Rone...actually, these were "scratch" vocals for the group's then-warbler REX SMITH to sing over but he quit or something like that so Rone's stayed. I'm sure it woulda been big stuff if played at the 82 Club, which is where Cross woulda worked up a big following had they only performed there! Flip is more early-seventies metal that I believe used to get called "cock rock" amongst the same hard-rock haters who used to flock to their Rough Trade catalogs for the latest in British dee-lights (me included), but I really gotta say that I liked the wah-solo which retained a good portion of the hard-thud effect that made me listen up to this primate-spew in the first place. Actually, a long-buried hard rock winner that would probably get a few of your rear ends lit if it only gets out into the public. And I gotta say ONE's interesting to hear Rone make his trek from Cross to Danger to Kongress to Von Lmo wond'rin' how the hell did he DO THAT?????

Quiet Sun-MAINSTREAM CD (Expression)

If you can't get enough of Quiet Sun on Phil Manzanara's infamous mid-seventies solo album DIAMOND HEAD then why not try their recently-rereleased album entitled MAINSTREAM. And mainstream it is anything but...not this just might be that garage band from outer space everybody's been waiting for, and given the history behind the group (stories of a young Manzanara walking around the town of Tottenham-on-Rye with fresh copies of FREAK OUT and THE VELVET UNDERGROUND AND NICO under his arm leading his public school band [originally called Pooh and the Ostrich Feather and changed to Quiet Sun only halfway through a listening session at Harvest Records!] at church and school dances in the staidest part of Merrie Olde add to the mystique) you know this just ain't no simpy halfdonkeyed cringefest one MIGHT'VE been able to stumble over back then. Anyway with Manzanara's new found success in Roxy and time to waste while recording DIAMOND HEAD, he got his old chums back together for this sesh and added Eno as a fifth wheel and brother/mother, it works pretty fine esp. considering just what a horrid mess early-seventies progressive music COULD be.

Don't get your hopes up TOO high if you've read all those blurbs from the UK weeklies where they call this one of the noisiest records since WHITE LIGHT/WHITE HEAT and all that typical British rockcrit hyperbole...yeah, Velvets comparisons continue to make me dribble especially if they predate the GREAT VELVET PUTSCH in alternative rock scribing 1982/3 onwards, and tho this does have a bit of the UK prog Velvet pounce to it probably thanks to Eno its probably Quiet Sun's OTHER big influence Lifetime (Manzanara caught 'em live and they made a big meteoric crunch shift in his solar path) that comes closer to the bullseye. Or if you want another little hint try Harvest-era Soft Machine without the art school degree attitude. Still, if you like your rock nice and loud this is one for thee.

It's hard to get their sound into print...English progressive rock discovers the Stooges? Syd Barrett returns Eno's favors? (The sole vocal track does come close to Eno imitating Barrett to a rewrite of "Jugband Blues"). Too bad Charles Shaar Murray or Duncan Fallowell (Nick Kent?) weren't here to write this review. Let's just say MAINSTREAM's an enjoyable bit of UK underground art done RIGHT a la early Roxy meets a fusion we could only DREAM of. For an added kick, read the reproed acceptance and rejection notices from from the group's original days...ironically enough the harshest one comes from Muff Winwood and Island records who made plenty on Roxy Music (and originally released THIS album) within a few short years!

(NOTE: the above review was originally printed in BLACK TO COMM #24, which was originally released to the public during the spring months of the year 2001 and remains AVAILABLE [hint!]. Hopefully this review [reprinted courtesy of the author] will inspire more of you readers to check out the back issue department [just click on highlighted link, dummies!] which will lead you to not only a plethora of tasty BLACK TO COMM back issues but [if you buy the things] tons of adventurous rockism-based reading material that only a mind-throbbing rock & roll fanatic could enjoy! If you like the views and opinions expressed on this blog as well as the flippant, snot-nosed angst one can find here as well then one would certainly like the vast array of articles, snaps and general disdain that pop up with regularity in the pages of BLACK TO COMM. I'm giving you another here QUICK!!!! You didn't??? Coward!)

EXACTA BOX, by Brad Kohler and Bill Shute (Kendra Steiner Editions)

Well, it just hadda happen. Brad Kohler and Bill Shute, two of the uncontested star contributors at BLACK TO COMM (see, I'm giving you ANOTHER chance!) during the early-nineties just hadda get together on one of Bill's chapbooks, this one having to do with none other than Kohler's fave rave pasttime mainly playing the ponies, and no I don't mean all that uncouth activity that's supposed to have been going on at this Oregon farm over the past few years either! Naw, I'm talking about horse racing, and although I gave up on that particularly vile habit when a full-time job and lack of time to squander it on the horses dictated a life-pattern change during the early-eighties, at least Kohler still has the leisure and presumably the moolah to indulge in the Sport of Kings even this late in the game and why should we deny him his daily fun just because he's filling the coffers of a whole load of unsavory characters, eh?

I dunno where Kohler ends and Shute starts on this's almost as bad as wondering where Ernie Bushmiller ended and his assistants began on those mid-seventies NANCY strips, but wherever the collaboration intersects (I have the feeling, at least judging from Kohler's writing style, that he shipped the words Bill's way and Bill just made 'em "presentable" for poetic consumption) it's sure an interesting, nay, enjoyable on or off the toidy read that "works" as a fine slice of everyday what-goes-on, this time at the racetrack where you can see a whole load of people who are more than just a cross-section of America as they like to say...they're addicted!!!

Some of it's straight Amerigan good ol' schmuckism while parts (like the one comparing the neat-as-a-pin elderly black guys you always see at the track to Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin at Potsdam) sound more Bill since I don't even think Kohler knows what Potsdam is let alone those three! Some of it is even sad (like the part about how Thistledown in Wheeling W. VA. [where I'd go once in a blue moon and even get treated to a nice dinner courtesy my uncle!] being the "second home" to the guy who had lost his wife and kid-to-be in an accident...dunno why but things like that tear into my soul sometimes) but it's done with a sorta non-suave verve that's pretty everyday, kinda reminding me of what Kerouac mighta whipped up if he had been born Brad Kohler but then again I can't see Kohler sodomizing it up at a bathhouse with Ginsberg! I'm sure you get the drift. A quick read too, and you know its good because my high school literary magazine woulda rejected it just like they did my superior brand of verse, which I realized was only due to POLITICS lo these many years (they hated my ass!).

Still, I wonder if Shute will be collaborating with any other BLACK TO COMM cadre like Paul McGarry (a treatise on Maple Syrup?) or Bruce Mowat for that matter (a treatise on internet disc jockeying???) Whatever Bill, please don't ask me to collaborate...a chapbook on mental illness is not what the public is clamoring for!

Before I go, I thought I'd tip you all off to a relatively new band whose recordings I think many of you readers out there would be more than "up to" (or at least would consider) hearing, especially in these wary times of ours when so much stuff passing itself off as "good" is vying for our hard-earned. They're called the Bon Vivants, they're from Atlanta, and they're on Old Gold records which I guess is a label that's more or less accustomed to selling noise rock/avant garde niceties you may or may not go for. Not only that but Eddie Flowers is also making available to us hungry rock-starved hoi polloi their debut 10-inch album (?)/EP (???) via his Slippytown website, and he gave them a pretty hot writeup that's almost as good as the spew he did for the Magik Markers which really must be saying something (other'n "BUY SOME OF THESE THINGS WILLYA???") considering how his MM hype ranks as one of the best slabs of rock writing for not only this year but perhaps the entire decade as well (with my scribble coming in a CLOSE SECOND I might add!). Anyway, Flowers' rants regarding this quartet (whose leader runs the Old Gold label which is strange considering the group's...well, I don't wanna get ahead of myself!) has the Bon Viviants sounding like a cross between Big Star, LOADED-period Velvet Underground and the Raspberries with Eno thrown in, and considering how very little if anything today could come off sounding like THAT I figured that sending Flowers the ten bucks for such a disque even though my turntable reminds unrepaired would most certainly be an asset to my already-overbulged collection. Anyway, it turns out that the Bon Vivants have their own Myspace page, and thankfully one of their tracks is up an available as we speak...gotta say that I didn't hear any of the aforementioned in the mix but they sure sound like nice local garage punk in the seventies vein...not quite like the Sneakers or some other mid-South pop act whose name escapes me at the moment but maybe getting there halfway. Can't wait to get the disc as well as a playable 'table to spin the thing on, and hopefully these Bon Vivants won't go the way of all those other mid/deep sound new wave bands who traded rock & roll and true innovation for commercial oblivion!


tim ellison said...

THE Rex Smith???

Anonymous said...

Chris, I'm glad that you're the first published commentary on this book since it was through you that Brad and I got together. Thanks,


ps, Brad's a sharp guy. He'd even know about Clement Attlee taking
over for Churchill at Potsdam.

Anonymous said...

Lol Coxhill played on the Damned's underrated "Music For Pleasure" album, which didn't get the esteem it deserved due to "the second album curse" and poor production by Nick Mason. Nevertheless it's a fine album,

Christopher said...

I'm (surprisingly) a tad familiar with MUSIC FOR PLEASURE, though I never thought Coxhill was a bona-fide member of the Damned as was suggested in a few places! I have a pretty good live Damned tape circa. '78 somewhere that the original owner bought at an English flea market which has Coxhill joining the band onstage for a few numbers including (I believe) "Looking At You," complete with funny anti-Coxhill comments preceding his appearance (as well as a brief bit of soprano sax playing, I guess Coxhill's, inserted!).