Saturday, August 09, 2008


OK, my past few weeks of posts have not exactly been up to BLOG TO COMM snuff, but as usual I have a good excuse that I'm sure would've even done Eddie Haskell proud had he decided to use it against one of his many adversaries. It's called REAL LIFE, and believe-you-me that even the densest of BTC readers will comprehend just what kinda of ennui a snot like me has to go through day in/out to the point where (after putting in a solid eight hours [even more!] at the concentration, office and doing my housebound "chores") all I can muster up is sitting in front of the boob tube staring at the umpteenth rerun of some DROOPY cartoon or better yet plopping right into my comfy chair in the bedroom and spinning the same Amon Duul I disque over and over because I'm too lazy to delve into my collection to find some worthy Cee-Dee I haven't played in quite awhile. I remember getting into a similar funk a good thirty years back when August just seemed to coat me with a dinge of a weird self-loathing. I think the terminal overcastness of the month coupled with the humidity might have helped ooze me into that state of nullitude, but strangely enough the only thing that seemed to break me outta my funk so-to-speak was a Dr. Mabuse movie (the original Fritz L**g silent) that aired on the local PBS station one Sunday evening. Don't ask me why.

Thankfully a few well-timed orders helped freshen up my psyche and right now I feel back to my old fun-loving self. Ahh, let me tell you that there's nothing like living the old BLOG TO COMM lifestyle by doing what comes best to the well-rounded fanabla...mainly kicking back in the aforementioned comfy chair, stretching the legs up on the ol' bed, and listening to some new to thine ears high energy rockaroll while reading a classic fanzine or five and resensifying oneself to the manic peckings of Meltzer and the rest of the real-life noise boys. I could see myself doing this for the rest of my life, and if you think I'd be an ogre for being so self-centered while there are people starving in India all I can say is why don't you go there and sacrifice your very bod for the stewpot and leave me alone? I'm sure a few hungry untouchables will thank you for it!

Here's just a sampling of a few goodies that I have received over the past week that I thought I'd let you know about before you decide to take the big monetary plunge like I did. More recent arrivals are ruminating in my fertile mind for future posts (don't want to jam-pack my cranium with music and end up dying from the impact a la the Leader in an old HULK comic!) so whatever you do, don't tune out lest you miss some mighty fine rock screeding that I could only hope will inspire you for once in your life to be a truly negative force in the war against latte liberals, knowitall teachers and other people getting away with their crimes against humanity these days! so midoudt further adieu, it's time to clue you in...

Figures of Light-SMASH HITS CD (Norton)

Well, I have been waiting for this particular release to come out ever since I got hold of the Figures' reissued single that Norton put out two years back (in fact, I was waiting for it even before Norton announced it was going to be released, psychic that I am!), and now that the thing's here and safely nestled within a stack of digital wares begging to be reviewed this weekend all I gotta say is...BOSS JOB, NORTON!!! Now, I should 'fess up to the plain truth and tell you that I was a little bit worried as to how this platter was gonna turn out...after all, haven't we had more than our share of aging sixties/seventies garagesters trying to re-live past glories by reforming their old bands whilst trying to re-capture a youth that many of these guys gladly gave up for their white-collar jobs and a heavy duty hankerin' for Earl Klugh? I mean, looking at more'n a few of these white-fringed baldies with goatees (grown to keep the eyes off the bald spots!) reminds me of something I would have seen in a mid-sixties period MAD satire that never did get off the ground. But hey, with the young 'uns these days trying to prove to all of us that they can be every bit as boring as their elders why should I squabble about age anyhoo?

Ageist cracks aside (as if YOU are a spring chicken, eh?), SMASH HITS is just that, a great slice of heavy-duty garage punk that sounds just as much 1966 mid-Ameriga as it does the '73-vintage post-VU cum Stooges CREEM-rock it professes to be or even that rare bright shard of intelligence in the mid-eighties come to think of it. Yes, core members Wheeler Winston Dixon and Michael Downey may be old coots now, but they still can sound just as wild and rock & roll as they did back in 1970 when Rutgers coeds on the lookout for future hubbies wet panties over the fearsome roar these Figures of Light could toss out in an age of introspect and post-psychedelic frazzled nerves.

You may remember Dixon for his underground films which I assume Norton will be reissuing on DVD any day now...he had been making them ever since 1964 when he was but fourteen, and I think Downey was part of the same u-ground "cadre" as well. But whatever you think about aging academics getting back to their rock roots after all these years all I gotta say is I'd rather see Dixon and Downey than my old High School English teacher reliving hippie heaven with her Peter Paul and Mary-inspired folk trio anyday!

Surprisingly Ramones-y/Cramps/Hasil Adkins approach on these otherwise post-six-oh garage-marinated tracks no doubt thanks to the KICKS team helping out not only in front of but behind the scenes. (Billy Miller, he the utterer of the "you guys make 'Sister Ray' sound like 'Macarthur's Park'!" observation regarding the Light's debut gig recording, produced the entire shebang.) Primitive but not pretentious, closer to Umela Hmota than the Motards, with a CREEM sense of suburban sprawl firmly in place to the point where you too will think you're stuck inside some Sharpsville PA nutty pine basement listening to a band that will go nowhere but the attic, that is. And given that Dixon's about a good two years away from his own six-oh it's amazing to listen to the guy sing...he sounds just like every other sixteen-year-old scrunch-whiner of the late-sixties on these recent re-dos from the Figures songbook that, like all good mind-addled teen rock sorta breaks down all manner of time and taste barriers to create sounds that seem to transcend a whole load of classifications. To me it'll always sound like something I sure wish the band down the street woulda been playing 'stead of "She Came in through the Bathroom Window".

Naturally (as it is with these high-quality all-out rockin' packages) I coulda used much more, like maybe one disc with the entire live debut tape and another with alla the new stuff, but I guess that one'll have to wait until 2020 when a neural implant will give us every second of Figures sound and vision embedded into our li'l peabrains. But why should I bitch 'n moan over what seems to be pure teenage (in a true CREEM 1972 sense) perfection? True, judging from that tee-vee smashing finale (which comes off as one of the most cataclysmic live show finales since METALLIC KO or Suicide live in Brussells) the entire gig must've been one big huge, throbbing expression of total suburban teenage angst and why should we be denied the full meal deal any longer??? Dear Mr. and Mrs. Kicks...please rectify the situation at hand and unleash this caustic material right now. We high energy rock & rollers DEMAND it!!!! (Howzat for pushing my rockism weight around, eh? Betcha it don't work.)
The Dictators-EVERY DAY IS SATURDAY CD (Norton)

Hoo boy...remember when these Dics tapes were being circulated about on the clandestine trade lists of the mid-eighties and you flipped noggin over the fact that such rarities as the group's 1973 demo tapes as well as BLOODBROTHERS outtakes that sounded better than the legitimate takes weren't available on vinyl (them being the virulently anti-Cee Dee days)? I sure do, and I even remember how twennysome years back none other than Billy Miller hisself was practically down on bended knee begging lead Dic Adny Shernoff for permission to make these tempty recordings available to more than a precious few! Well, it took over two whopping decades for Shernoff to finally give the green light, but then again what are twenny years in light of an ETERNITY of heavy metallic rock bliss anyway? (TRANSLATION: if you go to heaven you get to listen to all of the great high energy music that has been created for your own enjoyment, while if you go to hell it's nothing but listening to a popular Melbourne-area blogger talk to you about his ten favorite SST albums over and over again ad infinitum! Yeeeesh!!!!)

But music as good as the stuff on EVERY DAY IS SATURDAY is enough to make me tend to the straight and narrow so's I won't end up "down there" as part of an eternal alternative music workshop discussing the social validity of the nineties "_____core" phenomenon. In fact, when I was listening to this momentous platter last night I was throbbing and pounding, fill'd to the brim w/such ecstatic glee that I thought I was back in the late-seventies and getting all googly over this music just like I did the first time around! Yeah, it's that good, as good as it was reading about the Dictators in a whole buncha magazines when GO GIRL CRAZY came out and trying to find the platter in the bins at the local record shop (can only recall seeing it ONCE and why I didn't buy it then I'll never know!). Good as forgettin' all about 'em for a few years until you re-discover them via MANIFEST DESTINY and BLOODBROTHERS and then seeing their mugs once again splattered all over the place as if they've never left. And even as good as finally BUYING their recs at ultra bargain prices because...well, it's the eighties and nobody wants to talk about seventies high energy rock & roll music no more. Nobody but me, but then again I always was a stick inna mud.

But man-oh-Manitoba is this 'un grand! The early '73 demos are fantabulous sounding like heavy metal before it really got a name for itself and all we got were boring eighties hair bands for our troubles. I'm still jaw-gaping surprised at just what a powerful group the Dics could be even this early in the game, and if you thought songs like "Weekend" were boffo on GO GIRL CRAZY wait'll you hear how they came off before the Blue Oyster Cult production team got their mitts on 'em! "California Sun" also pops up with a surprising new line about those frisky girls in Frisco...I just hope they were girls Adny...I mean, in SF you can't be too sure! The new stuff like "Backseat Boogie" is top notch enough that it should've made the first alb, but my fave of the batch has to be "Fireman's Friend" (yes, taken from the SUPERMAN show, the one where these criminals who give out free coffee and doughnuts to hard-working firemen are working up a scheme involving walking through raging fires in an asbestos suit!) which is perhaps the third NYC underground-rock-related song about the Man o' Steel that I can think of offhand, the other two being songs about Lois Lane (and both titled "Lois Lane"!) that were done by the Planets!

The late-seventies Asylum-period Dics are done well too, not only with some nice radio ads stuck in amidst the blast (that's one thing I like about these Norton disques...those ads for albums, gigs and whatnot really give their releases that "you are there" feel!) but tracks that, like I mentioned earlier, sound better here than they did in legit form. Unfortunately we're deprived of a few great rarities like "Tits To You" but that doesn't mean the hot flow of lava is gonna be any chillier, and if you're one of those goombahs who really dug such already outstanding tracks as "Baby Let's Twist", "I Stand Tall" (not for your average MRR fan!) and especially "Borneo Jimmy" (tribute to Meltzer) prepare to be astounded. Like I said, it's all heavy metal like it used to be in the good ol' days, and if Black Oak Arkansas had only evolved a bit differently from their early-seventies "Feet on Earth, Head in Sky" days they mighta ended up just as good as these Dics, only with a Southern accent!

Did I mention two takes of "Sixteen Forever"? Howzbout a number of nineties/oh-ohs recordings to round things out? Well, if I didn't, you get 'em here and they don't even charge you extra!
Cold Sun-DARK SHADOWS CD (World in Sound Germany, available through Forced Exposure)

Dunno how this missed on my radarscope for so long but here's one of those unexpected outta-nowhere offerings you kinda thought just hadda exist down the line and well, with all of that other good proto-everything stuff comin' outta the woodworks these days why shouldn't we be treated to a platter by the band that more or less would coalesce into Roky Erickson's very own Bliebalien once the haze of late-sixties psychedelia turned into early-seventies jadedness. The death of Texas psychedelic rock and its mutation into hard blues and New Country didn't quite affect electric autoharpist Bill Miller and band the way you mighta thought it would, and on these '70 recordings Miller's Cold Sun keep the spirit of lysergic addledness alive with a drive and vision that reminds me of just what the Thirteenth Floor Elevators woulda been cranking out had they come back from San Fran with a few more of their braincells intact.

Miller's electric autoharp, complete with various effects and presumably some preamps, was a magnificent construction that on this disque serves more that just as some massive rhythm instrument (which it is!) and despite what some observers have said is not quite an amplified jug substitute no matter how ethereal it sounds. At times it uncannily resembles an electric piano or a harpsichord of some strange construction, but whatever you may think it was a stroke of brilliance that Miller decided to choose this instrument which, although a small part and parcel of the folk boom of the early-sixties, has little of the jug-band frolic to it and is played in such a feral manner that any traces of Lovin' Spoonful good-timiness is shot for all good.

The music is minor-key dark psych (woulda made a good Elektra album along with the first Stalk Forrest) with hefty Doors refs thankfully filtered through a more Velvet Underground style of riff-angst. (A story about Miller discussing the Elevators with Lou Reed backstage at the Vulcan Gas Works sure makes me wish to be one of those proverbial flies on the wall!) Lyrics seem to hearken back to the late-sixties mysticism of the Elevators yet sound far more foreboding than anything even the mind-damaged ones could conceive of, with perhaps a far more doomed take on psychedelic concerns than the more myopic bands of the day would dare fess up to. Coupled with a high energy that many acts seemed to have forgotten about at the time Cold Sun win well with their double dose of mental crackup outlook and searing feedback atonal attack. Joy Division's got nothin' on these guys!

Anyway, if you want to know more about Cold Sun and their importance to the history of Texas rock why dontcha just click here for the entire deep-dish scoop on these Lone Star weirdies!
The Byard Lancaster Unit-LIVE AT MACALESTER COLLEGE CD (Porter)

Finding original Byard Lancaster albums has become just as hard as finding funny jokes on Comedy Central as of late which is why I really cherish (in a pure, Association sense) this reissue of a particularly rare Lancaster side that originally came out on the very private Dogtown label back in the early seventies. Playing particularly free (meaning you don't have to sit through those flutesy tracks that appeared on Lancaster's otherwise boffo IT'S NOT UP TO US), Lancaster and his various units pretty much have the Coltrane free flow and well as the Shepp percussive back to Africa sound down pat on these highly attuned sides. In fact, the only thing really missing's Sonny Sharrock's angular guitar lines but I guess he was too busy with Herbie Mann at the time and besides, Lancaster and group (including longtime bassist Jerome Hunter) are doing pretty fine for themselves in their attempts to alienate the mass of jazz listeners even more with these free-play numbers. The bonus tracks with Lancaster as a sideman (these being by "The J. R. Mitchell Experimental Unit") also do the disque fine with its fine slide from early-seventies post-new thing bop into the mid-seventies loft scene of which Lancaster was a reliable part.

Regular BLOG TO COMM readers'll probably already have this 'un on top of the current pile natch, but for those of you who are just perusing the blogs looking for "relevant" and "socially responsible" choices to adorn your big wide wonderful world of music collection all I gotta say is that you'll look really suave with this one proudly esconsed next to all of your Malcolm X spoken word discs. Of course that still won't keep you from getting beat up once you make a wrong turn on your bicycle, and I don't think your Che tee-shirt's gonna help you much either.


Anonymous said...

That massive COLD SUN article you linked to is amazing. Anyone who cares about 60s/70s Texas music must go back and click on that link IMMEDIATELY!!!

Bill S.

Anonymous said...


Chris, it's Wheeler Winston DIXON, not "Smith!" Where'd you get THAT from?

Could you please correct your post, and thanks a bunch for the rave review.

Wheeler Winston Dixon

Christopher said...

Mr. Dixon-correction made! Sorry, but that's what I get for reading 1984 while listening to your Cee-Dee at the same time!

Anonymous said...


VERY VERY cool review of The Dictators and right below it the Cold Sun Review - too much !

DID YOU KNOW that Billy Miller of Cold Sun and Andy Shenoff did an album a couple of years back ?

The Group is Blood Drained Cows and the album is called, "13".

Shernoff is producer and Miller`s pardner is ex-Angry Samoan Gregg Turner on vocals and writer.

The autoharp is the lead instrument and sounds like a drill going through your head - WAY more mean and sick than Cold Sun or stuff he did with Roky.

Maybe you already have the CD - reason you put The Dics review right above the Cold Sun review.

GREAT reviews of both.

I don`t know why you aren`t Shernoff`s publicist.

J.D. King said...

"... but as usual I have a good excuse..."

Quit your bellyachin' and entertain us.

Woody said...

I never knew any of the unreleased Dictators stuff was around back in the mid-80's! The version of "America the Beautiful" really flipped my wig the first time I heard it.

M.F.A.P. said...

Thanks for letting me know about Cold Sun and their beautiful record. It's been the best finding of this summer!!