Saturday, November 28, 2009

MORE FROM THE HERB!

Hey readers, hope you're enjoying your holiday weekend (even though some of us have to WORK!)...thankfully I myself managed to make it through Thanksgiving Day without succumbing to that traditional sport of overeating, although it sure helps your waistline if you happen to be sitting smack dab next to your mother who's giving you the evil eye and complaining about how fast you're gorging yourself despite this being the national day of gluttony and a time-honored tradition to boot! Hey mom, how else am I gonna enjoy my meal if I don't scarf it down like a wild dog going down on a baby gazelle's belly! Otherwise the day off was pure enjoyment...I mean it's sure grand to have an entire twenty-four hours devoted to acting like you did when you were three and there was nothing else to do but sneak around the house and look through your sister's underwear drawer. Sure could use more days like that!

Enough...hope you like this particular post collecting a bunch of reviews and other jetsam pertaining to items that you might want to discover but then again could care less about. It's hard figuring you readers out, but I figure that if you've tuned in this long you're probably more than apt to accept my impressions re. a wide variety of review items a whole lot more than you would say, those of DISTORT BLOG. So sit back and enjoy, and always remember that if you think my opines are outta line and unacceptable in today's harmonious world, there are at least ten blogs (some even located in Melbourne!) filled with the kind of Stalinist hammer-fisting shove-it-down-your-throat credo you were obviously born for! Have fun with my bloviating, or get ready for the next Five Year Plan. The choice is up to you!

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One nice tidbit that I came across this week is the following video of Kongress, shot at what I believe was the real Halloween '76 (not '77) show at Max's Kansas City recorded by none other than that photographer of the stars Bob Gruen. It's a fantastic snippet not only of a considerably obscure yet legendary New York rock act true, but also an accurate document of what really went on at a Kongress show (dig that cra-azy Crozier dancing and cra-azier Crozier wig!) as well as captures the high-energy drone music that Kongress was best known for at that time. Note that this lineup of Kongress has the dual axemanship of German emigres supreme Robert Crash and Renate, who is a woman but you know what I mean anyway.

'n so w/o further ado...

KongressHalloween76 from Otto von Ruggins on Vimeo.

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And while we're on the subject of Max's, you may have noticed a new entry onto my list of pretinent blogs entitled THIS AIN'T THE SUMMER OF LOVE 'n yeah, I know that new rock music blogs are probably about as welcome in the here and now as new fanzines were in the already over-saturated eighties/nineties but as the old saying goes this one is different! And while we're on the subject matter I must admit that I did have my doubts as to whether or not I should link up this blog (Imperial Dogs-derived name and all) given their devotion to some of the more metallic musings extant (which I have nothing against mind you, but might seem out of place at least in my hemisphere), but I knew that THIS AIN'T THE SUMMER OF LOVE bears mention because of the blog curator's Herculean task in not only writing about the fabled Max's Kansas City nightclub but his attempting to present an entire gigography for the venue running the club's entire lifespan! Well, at least the lifespan of the upstairs space from roughly 1970 until its closing in 1981 when many an act played this dive causing serious competition to friendly rival CBGB, but any way this effort, monumental as it may be, is something that should not only be lauded but SUPPORTED!!! (If you want to be taken directly to this particular post 'stead of searching for it on the actual site you know where to click.) Naturally at this point in time there are a lot of omissions and perhaps an error or two (maybe some of you eager beavers can help out), but I'm sure whatever efforts that are put into this particular ongoing post will be for the betterment of all, especially reagrding knowledge-hungry anal retentives like myself. And frankly, if somebody's gonna hafta pour through years of VILLAGE VOICE and EAST VILLAGE OTHER microfilms in the name of research better he than me!!!
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Thin Lizzy-FIGHTING LP (Vertigo)

One from a pile of albums I bought from Tim Ellison about five years ago. Nothing special or particularly eye-gouging here, but it made for nice enough bg sounds while reading through fifties/sixties vintage TV GUIDEs in the basement. Liked the song about the suicide with a .45 and don't it make you cry a whole lot, and the rest couldn't hurt you that much either.
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Ut-IN GUT'S HOUSE 2-12-inch 45 rpm discs (Blast First)

A certain writer, in the pages of my very own fanzine even, once referred to this demi-famous femme trio of New York/London origin as a bunch of "grating no-talents", and even though this particular writer is for all I know a pretty with-it scribe and all (at least judging from his various other opines spewed during the very-late-eighties) I find that I must disagree with his assessment of this surprisingly long-lived no wave (in the truest sense) act on a number of levels. First off, I find nothing inherently wrong with music that "grates" as long as that grating is, shall we say, attuned to my own sense of enjoyable anti-music aesthetics. Grating is one thing that made no wave music such an appealing style of rock & roll in the first place (that and its relationship to/enhancement of the New York scene of the day) and hey, didn't a lotta members of that "older generation" we used to hear about hate rock & roll in general because it was grating i.e. didn't adhere to standard pop music structures or at least the kind they grew up listening to and somehow used as a standard for what all music should aspire to no ifs/ands/buts?!?!?!?

And as far as being "no talents", well as the old canard goes who needs talent to play rock & roll! In fact as history proves, the more that talent was poured into rock & roll the more boring it became, and considering that acts brimming with chops were obviously the big money makers of the seventies and beyond only proves that despite their image as young turks and wild carouser types the musical buying public (a.k.a. people between the ages of 18 and 34) were just as one-dimensional and as ball-less as their old folks who watched LAWRENCE WELK or JACK BENNY only to hear Dennis Day sing. Of course there are exceptions to the rule since the people in say, Can and Manster could play their gear, but at least they certainly tried their darndest to sound like addled teenagers who just picked up their budget guitars last week and were still struggling to get the chords to "Wild Thing" right. Sheesh, what good are technique and style if the ultimate end result is playing in some pit orchestra while some ditz sings her soprano voice beyond the hearing range of dogs onstage?

Ut are grating no-talents and I love 'em just because of that! Yeah they might have come out of the same late-seventies "art" enclave that became so overtly VILLAGE VOICE radicalized in the eighties, but thankfully they never stooped to brandishing radicalized socio-sexual polemics (that I could discern) and in fact took off for London once NYC became the hotbed of extremist prattle which it unfortunately remains to this day. (Not that they left for those specific reasons, but they sure had a keen sixth sense knowing that the best time to skeedaddle was when the skeedaddlin' was good!) And perhaps best of all, these no wave veterans fortunately didn't go off in artistic non-rocking directions unlike a good portion of the no wave originals who traded in their punk rock ideals for downtown improv chic. Ut sound just as much of a no wave rock & roll artyfact years later as they did back in '79 when they were more or less tailgating the latter portion of that particular rock stratum. Y'know, right before it all sorta became obtuse and more of a "statement" than a continuation of a sound that began with Link Wray and sorta electricized itself via the Yardbirds and Who on and on up to what seemed like a bright nova that hardly anyone around here would have given the time of day to!

Recorded during Ut's London era, IN GUT'S HOUSE shows the trio of Nina Canal, Jacqui Ham and Sally Young reverberating just as New York underground as ever, and in a high-energy 1977 NO magazine kinda way too! Like with the rest of the early no wave acts these recordings are the perfect reaction to/continuation of the New York style of the mid-seventies (y'know, when all of those staid rock mags began reporting about the new punk bands in the city and all of these bored and pissed teenagers headed for lower Manhattan to get in on the act?) as everyone from early DNA to Red Transistor did. Ut make it even as a seventies New York extension of the Velvets, or at least the wise use of violin sure gives these proceedings that special VU feel sounding like any standard seventies emulation stripped to the barest of essentials. Yes in many ways this is a cliche, but we sure could use more cliches like this these days!

Otherwise you could say that IN GUT'S HOUSE is seventies no wave recorded in the eighties w/o the eighties decadence and other general "isms" thrown in. Sound is scrunk guitar with standard Maureen Tucker drumming so akin to the no wave mode with mad chant vocalizing, and if I had to compare it to anything in particular I'd say this sounds more like mid-'77 period Mars when they were still halfway-gelled or perhaps a good idea of what those unrecorded no wave acts (including Canal's very own Gynecologists) might have been attempting at one of their all-too infrequent gigs. And perhaps it sounds better today than it did when I first reviewed this back in the eighties (thought it was OK though it did get tossed on the sell pile---fortunately you do not have to break the bank to get one today) because so much gunk was going down during the eighties and has ever since to the point where these outta-the-way stabs at "experimental" rock w/o the put-on pretentiousness are all the more welcome. And now that I have more time to separate the chaff from the wheat I know enough which wheat I want to toss out and chaff that deserves my attention, and here in 2009 WE REALLY NEED ALL THE CHAFF WE CAN GET!!!"

Great production too, like on that one number entitled "Mosquito Botecelli" where some interesting work in done distorting the vocal track. Perhaps Ut are due for some kind of retrospective release? Better them than say...Great Plains????*
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The Randy Coven Band-SAMMY SAYS OUCH! CD (Guitar)

As some of you readers know, I like to peruse those old NYC club listings to espy the names of whatever group or act was playing at such notable hangouts as CBGB, Max's Kansas City and Club 82, then judging from the group's name (which I'll admit is like judging a book by its cover so forgive me Bo Diddley) perhaps pick up a recording or two by said band just to see if their music happens to live up to the punkiness of their interesting moniker. Sure, trying to score platters by groups on the basis or their seemingly under-the-covers gritty New York sounding name is obviously risky to an extreme, but I have come across some relatively enjoyable obscurities in my various travels and continue to snatch up whatever I can by groups who perhaps ain't exactly my cup of tea, but enjoying 'em through the filter of a gritty New York rock scene is sure more pleasurable than hearing 'em touted by some local newspaper critic who happens to look at everything through a sickening FM classic rock mentality!

Happened to catch the Randy Coven Band's name on a CBGB listing along with that of ex-Brand-X bassist Percy Jones and two acts with fantastic yet going-nowhere names like Cinema and Detour via this 1988-vintage (May 12th, a Tuesday I believe) CBGB listing, and since in no way could I ever locate recordings by the last two acts no matter how hard I try (though I see that A&M had a group called Cinema on their roster around the same time...could they be, and should I care?) I decided to latch onto one by these Randy Coven Groupers. And hey, it turns out that this Coven guy is well-known in guitar avenger circles and even has a number of recordings that were available at one time and what he does (mainly instrumental jazzy-rock guitar) is rather entertaining despite the image of the guitar hero as it stands after thirtysome years of classic rock mutation. So even if he's one of those guys who plays a professionally-made ax which is oh-so-finely tuned and knows his chords like I know the skin-tag burn marks on my face, Coven has made a downright listenable recording with SAMMY SAYS OUCH!, and even some of you more doubting BLOG TO COMM readers might want to check out for a change from the same-new, which can easily turn into the same-old once overplay sets in.

Beware, if you're one of those nattering nabobs who say that even though I do champion a lot of "good" acts I still do the same for artists who produce pure merde, you probably won't like this. But then again your own musical tastes might veer way off my own perfected course and how can I argue with a horse-blindered amerindie fan anyway? Nice groove Coven and band get into here, at times maybe too commercial for my tastes but just when you're ready to flick off the switch he sure knows enough to get atonal and rough just to please us musical masochists. In many ways Coven reminds me of Lou Rone, and if you're really hopped up on Rone's axmanship you'll probably like Coven as well with his nods to the fifties greats filtered through the sixties experimenters, thankfully forgoing the seventies dolts in the process. Might still be available on the web somewhere...got mine through ebay which was fortunate enough for me even though the people who sold me my copy didn't tell me that the cover was soaked and stuck together to the point where I can't read a thing about Coven and company in the insert. Hey people, if you wonder why you got the negative feedback, now you know!
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VEHICLE OF THE WEEK! THE 1957 BRITISH LEYLAND ROYAL TIGER COACH! There's this guy called diskojoe who sometimes comments on this very blog, an' he happens to also be an automobile enthusiast so undoubtedly he peruses sites pertaining to that other subject matter so near and dear to his heart. Anyway, for reasons known only to himself diskojoe, perhaps out of an undying love for automobiles and perhaps my own soapbox, clued this one vehicle-oriented blog in about my piece on sixties-vintage Japanese automobiles which they dutifully linked up, a nice gesture even if they had to insult this humble blogger by suggesting that the post in question was written by a person who definitely wasn't an automobile enthusiast! Whaddeva, while strolling through the various linkups offered by said blog I managed to come across one dedicated to vintage trucks which I thusly decided to peruse out of curiosity, and lo and behold didn't I happen to come upon a snap of this very beaut which just happens to be a British Leyland bus of all things!

Now it ain't like I get excited over public mass transit the way I do over expensive European luxury cars of the fifties, but this one was different not only with its massive chrome grill which seems so unlikely for the likes of a bus, but the addition of tail fins (!) was definitely a spirited touch! What a beautiful piece of craftsmanship this vehicle was, and if you somehow think the things looks familiar it does and it SHOULD, because none other than the Lesney/Matchbox people were sellin' a model of this one for as little as fifty pennies back in the early-to-mid-sixties! Really, who (including myself) didn't drool over this crazy looking bus with the American automobile design motif back when they were saving their change to buy the Matchbox car of their choice circa age six!

It's no wonder that the Royal Tiger looks so hotcha, for it was actually designed by none other than the Eyetalian Ghia coachbuilders who also gave us the infamous Karmann Ghia and loads of those flashy Chrysler experimental cars that still get written up in various automobile magazines years after the fact! Combining fifties-era Italian design and clunky transportation might seem like a lost cause, but Ghia certainly pulled it off here with total smoothness. I mean...marvel at the sparkling grill and sleek modern styling that with little change (like maybe elongating it somewhat) could have appeared on a special order limousine owned by some head of state, not to mention the interesting if needless use of those tailfins which naturally add that sense of speed and grace to something usually associated with grubby city streets. It's too bad none of these that I know of were imported to the USA, and for that matter I wonder if this model was mass-produced since I can't find any references to it on the web other than the aforementioned snap...perhaps only this one prototype was made and Leyland chickened out and decided to stick with a standard clunky model leaving this concept model just that! Maybe it would have been too expensive to mass-produce with all that chrome, and what do jaded inner city people on the go really care about aesthetics anyway?

If you do want to see a 3-D version bad enough you can always snatch up the Matchbox model which is relatively easy to obtain, and maybe cheap enough at that. I dug mine out of my aged collection just for that purpose, and danged if I haven't even put it back yet considering how I like to absorb its late-fifties aura when I get a little tired reading my fanzines. Heck, sometimes I'll get down on my kness and go "vroooom" with it just like I did as a widdle kid, that's how much this vehicle affects me in a pure unadulterated way! Now don't go saying I never pour my heart and soul out for you!
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IN CLOSING... I thought that I'd share a li'l something I found in an old punkitudnal-era issue of CREEM (dated February 1972) that sure has added meaning and historical value into a subject that deserves a lot more of it that it ends up getting. Now as we all know the letter section of that once-tuned magazine was almost as important as the actual mag itself (in fact even more when the likes of Dave Marsh and Greil Marcuse would get on their cultural high horses when discussing everything from Bruce Springsteen to the Chicago Seven) with the famous or soon-to-be writing in with their own at-times witty comments and/or responses on/to various articles and reviews included in prior issues. Even a cursory look into a classic-era CREEM (roughly 1971-1975) will find such names as Peter Laughner, Charlotte Pressler, Andrew Klimek, Michael Weldon, Peter Holsapple and Lance Loud scattered amidst the usual aliases and other wizeacres writing in with their own personal vendettas and opines which certainly got out of hand the same time the magazine did. Well, amongst these future partisans of the proto-punk brigades comes yet another name of all-import, that of underground film maker and Figures of Light singer Wheeler Dixon who as a college-aged provocateur actually winged this particular letter CREEM's way thus becoming part of their eternal legacy if only via this note. For historical purposes I have reprinted the entire missive which I believe will help out future punk entomologists when they are compiling the textbook for Elliot Murphy's "Rock 101" class sometime in 2074, after it's all really dead and buried:
Dear CREEM;

Who are Slade? Slade is "just a buncha "skinheads from London", once called Ambrose Slade, who had an album out on Mercury called Ballzy, which was mostly a bunch of covers of other stuff, not so hot, but then they metamorphosed into Slade and "Got Down" was big stuff when I was in England this summer, blasting from sunset rooftop to basement, smokefilled flat in late August, almost as much as "Get It On." The other thing is about a band I hooked up with while in London called the Pink Fairies who as far as I'm concerned are the only real authentic, functioning loud, violent and arrogantly assured band left in that desolate burg, which has become a rip since decimilisation revalued the pence and upped it's unit by 1.4 times approx. Really (shock) but London is just as expensive as mid-Manhattan now. Anyway, the Fairies have a single out on Polydor called "The Snake" b/w "Do It," and the album is called Never Never Land. Dig Black's opening guitar work on "Snake," which is faster than (or as, so pick a good simile). Also a former member of the group is Twink, late of the Pretty Things, but a few weeks before I knew them he vanished, leaving no word of his whereabouts.
And with that I declare this post ended, and ended for good!
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*Hope you guys can still take a ribbing even though I know you Columbians continue to hate me to pieces even after all these years!!!

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

Another great post. I was expecting mention of the new Ugly Things. Wednesday?

Jalmo said...

Chris, it is so good to once again follow the trail of your snaking spittle underscoring the things you digs (and don't). What a treat to read your enthusies about the Berrocal bounce (a Brit floated me some other Berrocal, along with a mess o impossibly rare Annette Peacock--just ask), and Kongress, and Deputy Dawg....wow, it all makes me feel early thirty something again. You plied me with some great stuff back in the 80's

DX said...

Distort Blog is not a review centred blog, mate.

Christopher said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Christopher said...

OK, so let me correct my faux pas..."I figure that if you've tuned in this long you're probably more than apt to accept my impressions re. a wide variety of review items a whole lot more than you would accept the pro-Dave Lang felching made evident from the remarks of that anal probing asshole at DISTORT BLOG." Better?

DX said...

Who is Dave Lang?

diskojoe said...

Chris, sorry to be a bit belated, but I'm currently dealing w/an ongoing personal matter. Anyway, the reason why I hepped that vehicle blog to your article was I just thought that it would be interesting to those guys (a lot of them have the jones for Ramblers/AMCs, as well as old Japanese cars). It's nice to know that they dug your article & that you found more groovy stuff to write about.

P.S.: Do you have any relatives in the Witch City (Salem, MA)? I went to high school w/a guy w/the same last name as yours.

Christopher said...

Thanks for having them link me up. I hope you realize that the comment about my feelings being hurt because of their comments was just a big joke. Most people don't know when I am obviously telling the truth or pulling their leg, and to that I say what a ma-roon!

I dunno if that guy you went to school with in Salem and I are related, though when we used to go on family trips my mother always used to scour the local phone books to see if there were any people with the same last name and we have come across a few! Of course very few people would want to own up to be related to me in any way!