SON OF FEH?
Sheesh, you can tell that I'm a lazy Sherwood the City Slacker! First I relegate my "traditional" midweek posting to a ringer, then I wait until Sunday afternoon (actually evening!) to post my hot and heavy weekend runoff which I know you anxious readers have been waiting for since at least Saturday AM, wee-wee hours preferred. Well yeah, I must admit that I have been getting lax-ative in posting regularly, but let's just say that I've been undergoing one of those whatta-they-call "writer's blocks" where the words just don't flow as freely from my fevered mind at the same rate the diarrhea flows from my ample keester. Naturally I've had these creativity plug-ups before, especially during the time I was putting out my own fanzine at greater and greater intervals as the years progressed, but at least back then I could stay away from the tripewriter for months and not have to worry about meeting any self-imposed deadline for some ornery yet tres-metrosexual editor. But here in the type 'n post it age well, it's an entirely different situation, like who's gonna have their hand in the cookie jar first or sumpin'! Immediacy to the nth degree with the posting of ideas as soon as that li'l seed germinates in one's mind!
Really, I had a lotta plans for this weekend's post but I deleted a good hunkin' portion of it and rewrote, reshaped and remodeled the rest (but don't worry---I'll crank out an extra long one for you anyway!). I guess that I just didn't want the usual gang of idiots out there to take what I have written and misconstrue it on purpose in order to make their own little brownie points like has happened for way too long a time. This must prove that I'm only getting old(er) if I'm actually avoiding controversy for the sake of a li'l peace o' mind! Uh, well let's just say that I already have enough to worry about w/o some azzole from beneath the equator purposefully twisto-changeoing my opinions to suit his own purposes just so's a dozen or so ex-colleagues can chime in with their own hearsay and distorted takes on any associations I may have unfortunately had with them.
But hey, if you want to read some smart political discourse on a subject that I thought about touching upon, just click here and watch the scales fall from your eyes. My own personal opinion on the subject kinda fall between this and Justin Raimondo's at antiwar.com, but boy did I have a doozy lined up for you...I mean it!
Perhaps I should gab on about some of the "current events" that are going on outside of my small cloistered world of music, books, magazines and Dinky Toys. Something like perhaps the very recent passing of one Gary Coleman, the precocious child star of the eighties-vintage sitcom DIFF'RENT STROKES whose adult life has been one custom made for the tabloid press and afternoon courtroom television programs that were created for the housewives who wanna bug out on their God-given duty of cleaning the house and washing dishes. Strangely enough, I must admit to having watched that show on more than a few occasions back when it was originally being aired, but looking back I believe that was only because I hadn't yet weaned myself off of the medium of network television, perhaps still under the strange delusion that the 1979-80 television season was going to be every bit as good as the 1962-63 one. That has to be my excuse, since this series wasn't exactly the funniest thing to hit the cathodes, or at least it wasn't compared to a rip roarer like ABBOTT AND COSTELLO let alone that all-time great LEAVE IT TO BEAVER.
Maybe DIFF'RENT STROKES was one of those programs that, at least amongst us gulchered rockists, only Yankophiles like Lindsay Hutton would drool over...after all, he seemed to go nuts over just about anything that was Amerigan like ST. ELSEWHERE and MORK AND MINDY, but frankly I found these shows to be just more evidence of Our Nation going soft 'n flabby to the point where it might as well be The Blob. As for me, one thing I do recall, besides the episode where former WKRP IN CINCINNATI actor Gordon Jump tries to molest Arnold and his friend (the latter getting the ol' toucheroo) was the pretty chilling fact that overcame me when I finally came to the sad conclusion that it was going to be shows like this that would take over the afternoon/early evening rerun spots on your local television stations while all the good stuff like BEAVER and GOMER PYLE was going to get shoved in the broom closet. And you know, I was RIGHT, about five television generations over in fact. I guess if I were to really honor the memory of Mr. Coleman the best thing for me to do would be not to tune in to any DIFF'RENT STROKES marathons that may pop up on the screen but to keep on watching my DVD-R's of FERNWOOD TONIGHT (don't worry, a post on this 'un will be coming more later than sooner) and keep an eye out for one of his few appearances on that truly funny piece of seventes tee-vee at its best!
And well whaddya know, word has come in that Dennis Hopper has passed on, as if this wasn't any big surprise at least judging from the stories of his terminal illness that have been going around. Unlike many of you reg'lars I must also admit that I was not that big of a follower of his...oh, I started to watch THE LAST MOVIE back when my satellite net still ran Trio (was gonna watch PERFORMANCE but the folks were home and well...I didn't wanna get any detention 'r anything) and I saw EASY RIDER when it hit the late movie back when they actually still had 'em in the late-eighties, but I wasn't one to swoon over Hopper's acting abilities even if I will admit he sure packed a lot more punch into a performance making even a dudster like that film where he played that one-legged nutzo (y'know, the one where there was some dead girl inna woods for days on end and for some reason she didn't hardly decay or anything and none of the wild animals ate her corpse like you thought they woulda) pretty watchable. For me, I don't exactly think about his role in REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE or even the long line of pre-RIDER biker flicks he was in when I hear his moniker pop up...however, his portrayal of that young and wired Nazi who's given some hotcha and pertinent tips by none other than the ghost of ol' Adolf himself on THE TWILIGHT ZONE does come to mind, plus I hear his appearance on the mandatory and almost forgotten NAKED CITY (a series deserving of a proper season-by-season DVD set) is supposed to be a wowzer as well.
As John Cale would say, "enough". Here are a few new items that actually made their way to my doorstop over the past few that might have meaning for you given how some use this blog as a consumer guide to disques Robert Christgau wouldn't touch in a million years. But then again it probably won't. Quit deluding yourself, Chris.
***Irmin Schmidt-KAMASUTRA CD (Crippled Dick, Germany, available through Forced Exposure)
Maybe you thought AGILOK & BLUBBO was a boring slice of German kultur for the terminally guilty like I did and had little hope for the early Can's soundtrack work for this famed durty film, but in contrast to A&B's flat-out bornado the music here, at least some of the time, does work some wonders. True there's too much flute that makes a good portion of this sound like Pink Floyd's "Grand Vizier's Garden Party" pts 1/4 only but the opening number does have this driving Velvets feel that points the way towards at least a good five or so years of Can-tatas while Margarete Juvan's vocalizing on "I'm Holding My Nightingale" does have its own innocent charm like if Nico was really the good witch of the north. Of course the best parts are from the extremely rare single once again credited to Schmidt, though for some reason "There Was a Man" (aka "A Man Named Joe" which originally appeared on side one) fades out about half way. If anybody knows why such an esoteric stunt such as this was performed don't bother writing c/o this blog. I'm too busy wondering when they're gonna get to releasing the huge backlog of Can recordings that have been just wasting away in the Inner Space vaults.
***Sun Ra-STRANGE STRINGS CD (Unheard Music Series, available via Forced Exposure)
I haven't been buying let alone listening to many of the recent Sun Ra digups outside of those boffo Norton reissues of early r&b/doo-wop single sides, but the idea of Ra and band working out on nothing but stringed lutes, lotars, kotos and other pluckers kinda got the best of me so what else could I do but plunk down my precious hard-begged! This '67 session does typify the Arkestra of the day sounding rather ESP-Disk in approach, though by the time the band pulls out the twangers this gets to be one of the more atonal, barbaric and downright brain-scrambling Ra releases I've had the pleasure to hear. Imagine "Interpretation" from THE SOLAR MYTH APPROACH VOL. 2 taken to even more frightening levels of incomprehension and you'll know what this, bonus track and all, sounds like. I was spinning it while reading some old CREEM mags last night and the effect was so intense that for a minute I thought I was Dave Marsh getting my cajoobies stuck in a meat grinder! Now how about that!
***Various Artists-135 GRAND STREET NEW YORK 1979 DVD and CD (Soul Jazz, available through Forced Exposure)
Well, I did get the sneakin' suspicion that maybe this long-lost document of the very-late-seventies En Why underground would not be to my liking after reading the enclosed DVD booklet notes which described the East Village/Soho no wave rift thusly: "East Village was perhaps more Velvets-Stooges-Dolls-Suicide-Patti lineage; Soho was more loft space, more art meets rock partly focused around art spaces such as The Kitchen..." and if something like that doesn't raise any flags around your psyche you're obviously reading the wrong blog! After all, haven't we heard enough of that anti-rock boho Soho rant and droning which by the time the eighties got fully into gear sounded rather irritating, especially in the face of the pure rock & roll this stuff supposedly was replacing?
Well fear not Sweet Sue, for the musical acts that appear in Erika Beckman's documentation of the no wave in the art loft still has a good slice of the same high energy that I was certainly interested in whilst perusing whatever NEW YORK ROCKER I could lay paws on, wondering exactly what new and innovative there was out in under-the-ground music that might tickle my fancy and help me shed a few dollars in the process. The "scene" hadn't yet gone frothing mouth VILLAGE VOICE radical yet, and most if not all of the groups that appear on this DVD (or its accompanying CD soundtrack) have yet to affect that precocious arty demeanor that helped turn the eighties into a decade I think I would have preferred to skip over, only into what I do not know.
It's really fantastic that I've now finally gotten to see just exactly what sort of stage presence Theoretical Girls protracted and better still their two tracks show more of an atonal no wave feeling than any of their previous releases would attest to. The A-Band with ex-Daily Life Paul McMahon were perhaps the straightest act in the film, not as much no wave as one of the many post-Velvets acts that were flourishing in the area at the time. McMahon sounds more like an innocent Jonathan Richman awash in New York decadence...he really seems too nice for this kind of music! Ut were also a joy to behold presenting their more straightforward no wave bleat while I actually did not get bored listening to Rhys Chatham strain the boundaries of monotony with his "Guitar Trio" (featuring only one guitar!). Chinese Puzzle might go neck in neck with A-Band as far as group with the most bankability since their "Great Wall of Prague" was more of that good, pseudo-jazzy straight-ahead rock that does qualify as heavy metal in a pure Mike Saunders/1973 CREEM fashion. In fact I think I remember some old OP reviewer draw up MX-80 Sound comparisons and they do hold quite a bit.
As for the Static, I was expecting a bummer considering some things I've heard of 'em that sounded swell in '86 but thin afterward, but hearing Branca/Ess/Hahn put up a good wail with two guitars and drums (no bass variation of the stringed kind) had me palpitating for a ethereal visit to Max's Kansas City '79 when this breed of atonal throb really did seem to have a Velvet Underground legacy strongly in tow. And speaking of Max's, I recall Morales performing at the group's own "non wave" festival in '79 alongside the likes of Sick Dick and the Volkswagens, Marilyn and Los Microwaves. I was always under the impression that this Morales was Sylvia soon to be Mrs. Lou Reed #2 but she ain't, and the group's "Gay Girl in a Gay Bar" sounds typical '79/'80 Lust/Unlust art cusp and in a way that would have had mucho dinero rushing to their door had they got their single out around the time this document was being laid onto celluloid.
Youth in Asia...I remember them being occasional Max's habituates and with a name like that I was expecting more of a teenage punk rock quick flash, but these artistes do seem to stir things up w/o the expected haughtiness that plagued many of these intellectual snoots. Especially striking was Taro Suzuki's wide-palmed organ scrunching and madhouse vocals which I'm sure curled whatever doritos the art crowd in attendance happened to be munching on. Future Lounge Lizard Steve Piccolo, aided by equally future member Evan Lurie, wasn't as boho pose as I thought he would be, though the fake jazzbo should have turned his electric guitar on whilst playing. And closing out the disque is Jill Kroesen, she of Love of Life Orchestra and solo art project fame doing this piece that I gotta admit seemed under-the-covers Hew York-y enough and probably went over well with the people attending, but that didn't stop me from heading for the kitchen to get myself a bowl of Peanut Butter Puffs breakfast cereal to down during the rest of her portion of the program.
So yeah, I must say I am surprised and that most of this does jibe with my various romantic images of what the entire rock as bared wire energy was to mean back at that point in time. Well-executed and even multi-camera, with even a few visual surprised like photos by Robert Longo during the Chatham set, and if you don't want to buy it now just wait a few months before somebody posts in on youtube. But I gotta say that after looking at this seeing all of these guys with really short hair and horn rimmed glasses...boy, didn't people look weird back then? Not normil like we all do now, hunh?
***CHRIS BURDEN, text by Fred Hoffman, Lisa Le Feuvre, Paul Schimmel, Kristine Stiles and Robert Storf (Locus+, 2007)
I mean gee, who woulda expected a coffee table book on one of the true madmen of performance art anyway. Really, this Burden guy wasn't one of those freaky and frilly types who used to quote pertinent prose while bemoaning the sad state of affairs in this world where a man cannot marry his goat and live a happy and sexually charged life in suburbia. That sorta stuff used to get my dad snickering all over the place like, look at dem fruits out there! and other pejorative pronouncements I'm sure you all can think up on your own. Xenakis and Stockhausen used to get him angrier than a wet hornet in a urination contest thinking that "this" is what music has become...wotta racket (musically and financially)! As far as Burden goes, I dunno but I think this guy's art would make him just empty his guts out and pronto, though in the ensuing years I must say that daddy has mellowed a bit!
But hey, this is the second book on Burden that I've been able to score and it's a pretty good 'un, detailing in photo and caption the man's various works from his "body art" performances of the seventies on through his various installations and whatnot in the days ensuing. Lotsa surprises, lotsa photos I haven't seen before, and generally a thorough scouring of the mind of this mad genius who, true, hasn't done anything to bolster his image in the past thirty years (and given his role in the UCLA firearm incident a few years back he has changed his tune so to speak) but who was one of a handfulla beyond the edge artists of the seventies who sorta took the entire movement in from the radical and communal sixties into the jaded and snide seventies kicking and screaming the whole way.
Beware, most if not all of the text is worth skipping over unless you want to be sunk by the excessive wind exemplifying nada (and I'm sure most readers of this blog will be surprised to know that "White Light/White Heat" was a John Cale composition dealing with heroin withdrawal). Really, even that Chris Burden interview that appeared in an ancient BACK DOOR MAN shed more light on his work than the high-minded froth that makes up most of the text. And while I'm at it, let me go on record saying that it's not like everything that sprang from Burden's bean was really worth the time and effort to work to fruition let alone conceptualize, but gosh it all I do get excited over concept pieces named after Velvets songs and the idea of some guy having himself shot or run over by a steamroller in homage to Don Martin cartoons and if there was anyone on the face of this earth who could have pulled it all off w/o looking like a sadist or a sorry pretender it was Burden himself. Someone should stuff the ol' conceptualist and freeze dry him in an London art gallery, that's how important he IS!
***ORTHRELM CD (ugEXPLODE)
Another suprise package from ugEXPLODE came inna mail Thursday, and although my poor li'l ol' pitted heart would probably not stand the playing all three of these noise-mongering offerings received in one sitting it would be better for me and my fragile constitution if I just took one of these platters for study and left the other two for future consideration. Sound fair? No, sounds cop out!
Anyway, Orthrelm's a duo, a progressive rock duo according to the ugEXPLODE website meaning that if this stuff has anything to do with Genesis, Yes, ELP or even Tangerine Dream then give me a synthesizer and call me Rick Wakeman! This guitar/drums duo sounds nothing like any of the prog rock I've come to know and love/hate and I'm sure many aficionados of the form would agree with me. Actually Orthreim's entire modus soundorandi is closer to the various experimental rock acts of the eighties/nineties who decided to take the standard guitar/drums setup and go into even more atonal realms than before. Sure a lot of it was leaden, boring and perhaps masturbatory but Orthelm sound even noisier, grating and (best of all) entertaining than a lotta the antisocial nervegrinders who came and went while the rest of the world yawned.
Sure there are precedents such as the Doug Snyder/Bob Thompson DAILY DANCE album as well as Ascension (not the post-MC5 attempt but the English experimentalists) but Orthelm approach their meat in quite a different way, not sounding early-seventies post-Velvets like on DAILY DANCE nor European abstract like Ascension. This is hard attack, short bursts of atonal yet tight guitar lines with a drummer successfully following suit with his own hard ratta-tat that doesn't lose beat nor tire throughout. This is so driving and uncompromising that when the music does take for small outside-the-scronk beats or strums your nervous system will take it hard kinda like when you're falling asleep and you suddenly lunge.
I hear these guys have been doing this for quite some time and not only do they have a ton of releases out but their own website, myspace page and a following I could only wet dream of as well. Well I guess that's good for them, otherwise their inner anger would boil over and they'd be out killing people!
***The Who-MY GENERATION DELUXE EDITION 2-CD set (MCA)
You might think that, being a top notch big city rock critic for a great metropolitan newspaper that I'm up on a lotta the old mid-sixties rock & roll as a major catalyst in everyone's life kinda music but I'm not. And yeah, I may be ignorant on a lotta rock history but I'm especially stoopid when it comes to albums that the big names of the era, the Beatles, Stones, Kinks and the rest, were cranking out for not only teenage punks but smug pseudointellectuals who were thinking about climbing up on the rock bandwagon. I could blame it on a lotta things, like my folks not allowing Jillery to buy records ("You can listen to them on the radio, if we let you listen to the radio that is!") or paperbacks, but I think it was just a combination of a lack of moolah on my part (I was allowed to buy records and paperbacks, probably due to my parents seeing what a lack of such gulcher had on ol' sis) and a lack of knowledge, like should I buy this T. Rex album or maybe this Brady Kids record looks neet enough...
I remember seeing THE WHO SING MY GENERATION for like three bucks at the record department at Strouss' onna mezzanine and even at that price I couldn't afford to snatch it up. I mean, I couldn't even whip up enough dinero to score a $1.99 cheapo classic let alone ELECTRIC WARRIOR, LOVE IT TO DEATH not forgetting all of those freaky Frank Zappa albums with the wild covers. Maybe that's why I bid a wholesome $15 when a copy came up on ebay recently (the thing eventually went for upwards of fiftysome if I'm not mistaken) and also why I heavily debated whether or not to get the original CD version sporting the cool 1965 Big Ben cover or the 2-CD deluxe edition with more than a few alternate takes and extended versions yet with the English cover that I find less appealing. Decided to opt out for the latter, which is more for me music-wise but gee, I kinda feel like I'm cheating my past a bit!
Naturally reviewing something like this'd be akin to reviewing the Constitution. Most of you know what's on here and I don't wanna bore you other'n with my personal remembrances of record scavengings past. So for the sake of brevity here's a quick rundown of what exactly on this double-disc set lit my pits...sound is too clear and a lot of impact is lost in the digital translation, This comes off better on those old Decca albums and singles I've obtained o'er the years not to mention WHO'S ZOO, a verifiable top notch bootleg from the Golden Age. Still it's a joy hearing such new to mine ears tracks like their version of the Paul Revere and the Raiders classic "Louie Go Home" (here retitled "Lubie"). Alternate takes are fine 'n dandy, same goes for "Anyway Anyhow Anywhere", but sheesh, that sounds a lot better on that scratchy Brunswick single I used to drag out for instant nerve resensification! But instrumental backing tracks...well, only for historical purposes I guess, and the 1965 Who are to 2010 what 1942 Glenn Miller was to 1975 so I guess it's OK to study this stuff like it was Biology Class by now.
In all a great band, will go places 'n things like that, but next to the Troggs.......eh.
***FINAL FROLIC OF THE WEEK!: MIRRORS-"SHIRLEY"/"SHE SMILED WILD" and POLISTYRENE JASS BAND-"DRANO IN YOUR VEINS"/"CIRCUS HIGHLIGHTS" on the Violent Times label! In "honor" of the 35th anniversary of the Styrenes being "celebrated" with their recent World Tour (well, at least a small chunk of the world), the Violent Times label has reissued three early Cleveland underground singles for us gotta-have-everything maniacs who've been following the antics of Jamie Klimek and company for nigh on three-plus decades. (The label also reissued the Electric Eels' "Agitated"/"Cyclotron" single on colored vinyl but the $19.99 price tag seemed a little stiff even if the sleeve has been reproed in a nice gloss.) The reissue of the Mirrors 7-inch originally released on Hearthan might seem a bit redundant especially for those of you who have the various CD reissues but I find the job they did to be top notch and hey, if you have those Hearthan Pere Ubu singles that have been recently coming out at us boxed and un-so then this might snuggle in nicely even though Jamie Klimek and Jim Crook hated the Ubu contingent! Nice cover repro this time using colored ink if you can believe that, and they even spelled Jamie's name right this time! The Polistyrene single has always been a hard to latch onto rarity so its re-appearance on vinyl is cause for celebration, or at least cause to kick yourself in the head for not picking it up on all of those trips to the Drome you made way back when. However, I wonder why Violent Times didn't reissue the Paul Marotta solo EP entitled TOOL, a rarity that has never been reissued in any form which came in a pic sleeve featuring a real John Morton silk-screen of a screwdriver t'boot! I wouldn't've minded dishing out double digits for that 'un, and heck, unlike the others I might have actually played it considering how I'm even afraid to touch my copy!