The Shirts-ONLY THE DEAD KNOW BROOKLYN CD (The Stereo Society)
The Coachmen/Septimania-COACHMANIA! THE COACHMEN ON HOLIDAY IN SEPTMANIA! CD (CT!)
THE ELECTRIC MAGIC SIDESHOW EP-CD (The Electric Magic Sideshow)
(all of the above are also available through CD Baby)
Spring is here kiddies and you know what that means????? It means that the weather is pleasant 'n warm, the days are getting longer and it sure looks refreshing out there in the wide open spaces! So I guess that there just won't be as many of these BLOG TO COMM posts comin' your way as usual given the outdoor funtime conditions that we in the Western Pee-YAY! area are looking forward to these next four t' five months. So until October 'r November start rollin' 'round don't expect as many of these epistles as usual unless I get really bored or worse yet actually have something important to say! Gee, it's sure gonna be nice looking at alla that nature from my bedroom window!
Anyway, this particular post's gonna be nothin' but a trio of reviews of alla the goodies that I've received via my CD Baby order earlier this week. And goodness gracious hi-ho, but I gotta tell ya that I really like CD Baby...they specialize in all sorts of home-produced and under-the-radar Cee-Dee stuff that seems not only to bypass the usual underground sources like Bomp, Forced Exposure and Volcanic Tongue (mainly for being too "commercial" or "mainstream" for their tastes, which is perfectly okay for businesses which specialize in certain aspects of the musical experience) but sorta scoot the above-ground as well. I've seen stuff offered up for sale on the CD Baby website that I haven't eyeballed anywhere else, and that includes a lotta goodies that I've been wanting to hear for quite some time whether it be some act I once caught on the CBGB cybercast only to never hear from again or (gosh!) some long-forgotten item that I'd long given up searchin' for and I don't care what you say about such modern marvels as miracle drugs or other lifesaving inventions we have here in the Jetsonian Future, I am glad that we do have such things as CD Baby and for that we should all rest a little easier tonight knowing that some local buncha young upstart rock kids are gonna be able to sell their brand-spanking-new disque somewhere on this planet and that goes for dad's ukelele cantatas too!
I know that most of you readers will disagree, but I found the Shirts' tracks on the LIVE AT CBGB album amongst those two discs' highlights. Maybe I hadn't washed any prog rock inclinations outta my system at the time I first heard these hot Italians on that universally-shrugged off set way back inna seventies, but darn it if these Shirts' snazzy playing coupled with a raw production didn't strike a downright chord with me at the time. I found their later offerings (or at least what I've heard of 'em) on Capitol/Harvest to be rather slick thanks to either Mike Thorne's production or the expected group "maturity," but whaddeva I always considered the Shirts a primo En Why See outfit on the same wavelength as all of those other "save-the-world" bands who, come to think of it, also petered out during the early-eighties and right at the very nanosecond we seemingly needed this once-clever gush the most!
Naturally the Shirts, like a hefty portion of the groups who were flocking to the stages of CBGB and Max's Kansas City during that fabled rock renaissance, were aping for the bigtime moolah STAR SEARCH bonanza bucks all along as the post-Shirts Jing Machine albums ultimately proved. I remember reviewing that Shirts offshoot's sole disc (the other being a live CBGB tape that never did seem to get out much) way back in those dark late-eighties wincing at a lotta the Billy Joel-isms extant, yet I do recall one or two real winners in the bunch that transcended former Shirts leader Artie Lamonica's own progressive tendencies. Yeah the thing could've been considered gnu-wave quap, but looking back I kinda wish that I didn't chuck that one onto the sell pile because there was a certain sorta neat New York feel to the disc that, although seemingly outdated by a good ten years, sure seemed to satiate more'n the usual u-ground hotcha single to get tossed out to us hungry barracudas. And, come to think of it, the track that I did hear on that mid-eighties CBGB live collection was rather pleasing to the ears, but then again I also liked the Tulpa cut which certainly rankled the ire of more than a few Canadian Contingent readers out there in fanzine-land!
These new Shirts have been together since at least the late-nineties and as you'd sorta half-expect time has caught up w/'em. These guys now look like a buncha old white-haired wily Eyetalians whom you'd think should be smoking them thin black cee-gars and talking chooch-like but maybe that's the inspirational part about it. Singer Annie Golden used to be with this reformed band but has since split for pastures which don't look quite that much greener only to have been replaced by younger produce, mainly a Caren Messing and Kathy McCloskey, the latter also doubling on keyboards. But even thirtysome years down the line and hair a'whitening, these guys still sound youngish enough. Even frozen in 1979 time which is pretty heartening for a guy who misses the old Systematic updates he used to espy with total candor. And not only that, but they got former producer Thorne to do the production on this, their latest which I gotta admit it a pretty neat slice of something a lot different'n the usual blare that most hipster blognuts wanna be the first onna cliched block to tell all you potential Quinlans about.
It's good enough that even the patented eighties pop moves and blatant Clarence Clemmons impressions courtesy guest Arno Hecht don't quite drag this down. Neither does the anti-war/pro-hippie "I Declare War" 'n that's mainly because of the rather snappy pop beat its got. (But sheesh, if the Shirts are gonna get all radical on us I sure would've preferred hearing their long-jettisoned draft-dodger number which I guess would fit in a lot more'n the mindless VILLAGE VOICE leftie bent of way too many soapboxers these days!) And true you might consider this Shirts offering to be commercial in the extreme because it dones't feature any atonal guitar solos or manic blasts of feedback, but at least this brand of post-Springsteenian popslop is done in a rather refreshing fashion with smart sixties moves and seventies reflections of such sixties moves all packaged up in an eighties way which doesn't make me wanna puke!
Maybe that's because the eighties are so far removed from us and all of the bad gunk that this decade stood for is pretty much dead 'n buried and so distant, but hey, the Shirts can pull this sleek post-gnu wave off sans the usual campy smarm of a Madonna nor the terminal-hasbeenness of a Debbie Harry'n it even sounds neat New Yorky enough that a numbuh like "Bourbon Street" evokes the Big Apple more'n it does Sin City (which is the name CAN'T BUY A THRILL's Russell Desmond's parents gave New Orleans even though they'd take occasional treks from Baton Rouge where Desmond could scarf up all of those records he read about in CREEM).
'n for once the "talent" doesn't get in the way of some rather decent poppy (in the proper, streetcorner wopadago fashion) moments, and the closing live tracks from the final days at CBGB are rather enticing in their own early-sixties transposed to the late-oh-ohs way. A surprise winner which should prove that (contrary to public opinion) this scribe does not adhere to any particular musical taste or style other'n what hits him and hits him GOOD!, and y'know what? This hit me a lot harder'n just about anything else I'd care to 'fess up to this past month! Har!
Of all three discs being reviewed today this next one is perhaps the most difficult to relate to you with or even without the aid of words. We all know about J.D. King and his Coachmen through the interview with the man that appeared in the latest issue of my fanzine, and I'm sure that most all of you have picked up the latest Coachman Cee-Dee which I wrote about here as well, devout readers that you are. And with over five years of cross-communication going on between Mr. King and myself about all I gotta say is that King is a pretty hard man to figure out to the point where (dare I say) he exudes a frightening sense of Nordic energy (them scandies ain't all mind-numbed El Brendels!) that I guess just doesn't quite mesh with my more Southern Euro-bred "eh!" And frankly, after interviewing the guy and yammering on and on about various things both relevant to this particular post and not all I gotta say is the guy can be scary, lulling you into a sense of awe at one minute then slamming you without any fair warning the next but maybe that's my own mental kablooey acting up. It usually is, and a ton of medication ain't gonna woosh away the lifestyle blues no matter how hard I try!
But that still doesn't say anything about King's latest excursion into Cee-Dee land, a Coachmen/Septimania collab done while King and his "band" were on holiday (that's "vacation" for you Amerigan readers) in that strange European burgh which also goes by the name Septmania. (Confused? You should be me!!!) Loads of googling (King keeping mum) still has me in the dark about just what the who's and why's of Septimania are, but believe the hype or not all I gotta tell ya is that this is mighty fine crunch that gives the long-hackneyed term "avant garde" a new and dare-I-say much-needed facelift. Actually SEPTMANIA! reminds me of a lotta experimental mid/late-seventies soundscapading, perhaps akin to something Eno or one of those acts on his short-lived Obscure label (that David Toop thingie comes to mind although I never did hear it!) might have thunk up in a moment of rash inspiration. Maybe even Eno on his own mid/late-seventies "pop" albums could have hit some of the heights found on SEPTIMANIA! had he not been as boring as he could have been by the time ANOTHER GREEN WORLD hit the import bins ("Roger Wilco" hazza nice "Here Come the Warm Jets" lilt to it!). Instruments used include belaphone (is this actually a "balafon," an idiophonic African percussive akin to a xylophone which was very popular in sixties free jazz circles during the big Back to Africa movement?), steel water and friction drums, shepard's pipes and kazoo.
"Hit of the year"...remember you read it here first!
I'm sure a whole buncha you heavy-duty BLACK TO COMM readers who have been in on the trip for a good many decades know all about the obsession I have with seventies underground rock, especially the blare that was coming forth from the stages of such hip Manhattan watering holes as CBGB and Max's Kansas City during the middle and latter portion of that decade. One of the things that still zones me out about that particular era in time is that, while a whole load of beergardens of the day were more content with booking cover and tribute bands to play watered-down versions of already watered-down "hits" for a crowd that usually didn't give one whit, farsighted fellows like HIlly Kristal and Peter Crowley were giving original music acts a chance to play at their hangouts which certainly does come off wild-eyed especially during a time when music listeners were too zapped by classic rock radio (then going under the nom-de-puke "Album-Oriented Rock") to the point of terminal brain-death.
What really was interesting about the whole "New York Scene" of the time (and long after) is that the concept of what would be called "punk rock" was really an open book and perhaps remained so at least until news of the British variant began reaching our shores. Contrary to what many big city rock critics (the oft-regurgitating A*******a P******s comes to mind) would lead you to believe, the New York clubs were actually big on giving a wide array of groups playing original music stage-time whether they be r&b, jazz rock, folk rock, heavy metal or that strange brand of primitive rock that melded a whole slew of influences to varying degrees that got called punk. A look at the listings for such clubs during the mid-seventies will lend credence to my statement...after all, in '75 you could see an act like the Martian Rock Band (Kiss w/an outer-space motif featuring a future WASP bassist) opening for Blondie at Max's, while acts who were playing a weird array of heavy metallic thuds or post-McLaughlin guitar shards would somehow get lumped in with all those sixties-derived college art rock bands that the New York Rock Critics (Incorporated) were anxious to be the first to "discover" back in those ultimately best/worst times especially for rock & roll music.
I once made a comment to the effect that the problem with the plethora of self-produced singles, LPs, cassettes and what-have-ya ever since the mid-eighties or so was that a good portion of the acts who were releasing their own recordings had yet to develop their vision, foresightfulness and general talent to the point where their best moments would be evident in a recorded format. Heck, most of the acts who were at that time heading tenderfeet-first into the Brave New World of recording didn't even have any business making records especially with their paucity of not only ideas, but spark, ability and general jams kickoutness. This is a truth that I certainly learned the hard way in the late-eighties after tons of these homemade wares, which I would have gladly welcomed to my abode only a few years earlier, made me loathe most of what was passing for underground/alternative music with a heated passion that I still haven't washed out of my system! (And you could say that very little has changed since, only now with compact discs the norm we unfortunately have the opportunity to hear over an hour of some new band's piddling twaddle as opposed to merely two sides of a seven-inch record!)
Unfortunately the groups who would have most benefitted from their own indie recordings such as the mid-to-late-seventies New York acts who came straight from the CBGB/Max's stages never did have the opportunity to release their own material or, if they did, these platters had a hard time reaching the very same public that was most interested in hearing about these young rock revolutionaries who were creating refreshing, original music in the face of the same bar band groove and boring rock atmosphere that I certainly hadda grow up in. And maybe you did too and if you did you'd probably understand what I'm talkin' 'bout more'n some amerindie-bred blogger raised on thousands of self-released 80s/90s disques that might have said a lot, but really signified nothing. Let's just say that in many ways them days were bad, but at least there were enough groups who could lift one outta the doldrums that were being imposed on us thanks to media blackouts and a general lethargy brough about by too many quaaludes and a rather horrid laidbackness that was probably brought upon by too much Vietnam.
As for the Electric Magic Sideshow, I remember their name striking me like something outta that sainted past when I first saw that moniker on a CBGB listing sometime in '00 or so. 'n with a name more'n reminiscent of Geofrey Krozier's post-Kongress groupage the Shanghai Sideshow I had the feeling that this Sideshow was gonna be a great trip back to the mid-seventies hard rock glam/metal/pop scene that like I said used to battle it out at CB's for stage-space alongsides the likes of Blondie and Television. Once I actually tuned in for a live cybercast to no avail (seems as if the band wuz takin' their good ol' time making it to the stage) but that didn't stop me from finding a website (which has since been torn down leading me to believe this Sideshow est mort) as well as discovering the existence of a couple disques, this being their first.
An EP of a Cee-Dee as well, and it's a pretty hot 'un that captures the mid/late-seventies hard-pop that the Sideshow've been aping pretty snatly too. True the Electric Magic Sideshow ain't for everyone, but then again if you were one of those New Yorksters who liked the Brats and all those bands on the second Max's Kansas City album you'll probably dig these guys the most. In fact, the Electric Magic Sideshow are so indebted to the best that the hard rock of the just-post Golden Age of Heavy Metal had to offer both on and off the stages of the New York clubs that I sure could have seen their name cozied up on a '75/'76 CBGB or Max's bill alongsides such other "gotta-hear" aggros of the day as Uneasy Sleeper, Hambone Sweets and Trilogy. And as far as "revivals" go I gotta say that I find the Sideshow a pretty good return to hard rock glories of the past that I gotta admit never totally went away even though I'm sure that a few people out there would be more'n glad to do anything on their part to see that this sound remains dead 'n buried for good!
Heavy metal pop is a good way to describe such tunes as "Rock And Roll Song" and "One More Chance" (which sound like what I'm sure people were hoping Bad Company, and maybe even Eddie Money sounded like given their pedigree!) and yeah I know a whole batcha you cooler-than-thou types obviously'll up yer booger-encrusted snouts at this but like the ol' guy lookin' at the painting of the nude broad said I KNOW WHAT I LIKE and I'll take the Electric Magic Sideshow over most any effete offering that the likes of Ajax woulda tried peddlin' to me back inna nineties and if that seems blasphemous enough to you I hope you get the MESSAGE.
Hope for some rain (I can only stand to look at it outta my window for a short period of time!) and maybe I'll wing you a mid-week wowzer. But then again maybe not, but anyway keep your eyes peeled for another smashing success of a blogpost heading your way soon!