Sunday, April 10, 2005


Vinyl situation's pretty sad as we speak (not necessarily due to the lack of the much-needed plastic stuff, only that even the substitute Westinghouse turntable lent me by my brother-in-law has died a sorrowful death so I'm outta luck as they say), but I still got plenty of these tea-coasters to rattle off about given I haven't been doing any "serious" rock scribing for about a month. So, if you're one who likes to live vicariously through the writings of "highly-respected" (hah!) rock fanatics such as I (just like I used to and perhaps still do gape in awe at the old and new writings of certain rock journalists past and present soaking it all in more'n a sponge filled with hot soapy water ready to do battle with the bird doo on my car), then settle back and osmose to my own personal subjective opines on a number of cee-dees I've obtained over the past few months. (And, if I were one of those caustic, stuck-on-themselves writers who perpetuate the rock and blog worlds, I'd tell you to "get a life" if you're so hard up for your cheap thrills that you have to live through someone as cloistered as I am, but considering my stellar existence upon this planet all I gotta say is you're welcome to live through my writings, opinions, tastes etc. all you want! There's more'n enough "life" to go around, so live on!) And if you think these reviews "read" strained, strange and outer-worldly it's only because of this hangover I'm experiencing at this very moment...exactly what the hangover is from I do not know (not having imbibed in any of the strong spirits for quite some time since I drank 'em all up long ago), but I sure got them Sunday afternoon sweats so kindly bear w/me pleeze...(and I thought Dave Lang's reviews were insipid!).

NOISETET OBSCURE-I reviewed (what I could make out of) a live cybercast by this avant/improv group a month or so
back, and in the course of that scribble I mentioned something along the lines of that I didn't think that this CD in question would come anywhere near what I witnessed that night (which, through my foggy memory, was nothing less than free jazz cum rock taken to its logical 2005 extremes w/o looking totally silly), and after eyeballing their appearance via an archived gig my opinions were merely strengthened given the extremely high energy music Noisetet seems to put out in these low-fi days, and with seemingly relative ease to boot. Naturally I was told that this CD was just as fine and dandy as what I got an eye/earfulla during their recent CBGB Lounge appearance, but after a number of spins of this disque I just gotta concur with my original feelings re. this Texas-transplanted-to-NYC aggregate. Believe me, nothing tops what I saw and heard that Sunday evening true, but man-oh-man this disque is still a very good encapsulation of exactly what Noisetet does, or at least what they could capture in a studio without the live immediacy of it all. It's jazz and even rock with a strange-to-me mid-eighties feel, almost sounding like something that woulda frequented the main stage at CBGB in 1985 amidst the hardcore, metal, pop, punk, gnu wave etc. acts that were frequenting the club at the time. However, even with a more current approach to their reason for being, Noistet have a strong early-sixties avant jazz style which, when mixed with Donny Silverman's "bent electronics," kinda makes the thing come off like something you wished Frank Zappa's rock meets Ornette jazz stylings of the early seventies woulda sounded like had the man not been as stuck-on-himself as he was. In fact, Noistet are quite enthralling as they take the early avant and mix it not only with early-seventies accomplishment (Miles Davis in his electronic phase) but eighties post-fusion and moderne electronics and turn the whole thing into a jazz rock masterpiece that can even border on the fringes of (at least BLOG TO COMM-sanctioned) punk concerns if your mind can comprehend that. The cover ("deconstruction?") of Eric Dolphy's "Hat and Beard" is something not to be missed. Anyway, despite the early reservations NOISETET OBSCURE is a must-have for those of you who still pay more'n a little lip service to the unmitigated pow'r of the jazz avant garde, something which still seems to be steamrollering itself across the land if the quality of acts such as Noistet and many others are any indication.

Sonic Liberation Front-ASHE A GO-GO (High Two, 7835 Devon St., Philadelphia PA 19118)-With a name like Sonic Liberation Front I had the idea that these guys were some sorta terrorist/music organization like the dolts in Missing Foundation (or their record label Purge Sound League for that matter) who helped set the stage for radical thrash and burn in the eighties with their "confrontational" politix that seemed to inspire a load of pompous "direct action" at the time which never made it other'n with like-minded commies who continue to congratulate themselves for all their daring public disobedience that never really did anything constructive (thank goodness!), but their hearts were in the right place so I guess it was OK anyway. Well, this Sonic Liberation Front ain't cut from the same political/radical cloth as all of those blood splatterers of the past, though their aural shift is pretty revolutionary in itself. These Sonic guys are a heady mix of mid-seventies NYC loft jazz with a more-than-generous dose of Afro/Cuban percussion and influence tossed in...and believe me, although this stuff may be too radical for one Mr. Fidel Castro to digest (well, I hear that, contrary to popular belief, Castro really hates people of African heritage which may turn him off to the "Afro" portion of the equation but still, I couldn't in a million years see him and his pal Che Guevara grooving to anything this wildly radical even with a Cuban beat to it while smoking their cigars and kicking up their feet after a hard day at the palace), it sure ain't gonna be hard for you the avant garde maniac to get this heavy jazz excursion into your system with its mix of deep, free, Roscoe Mitchell-esque tenor sax and the wall of percussion. Like the best efforts of the earlier Art Ensemble of Chicago, Sonic Liberation Front mix new jazz and third world forms and come up with something that ain't just yer garden-variety "World Music" blather but a whole lot more...guttural. Only the acoustic guitar/vocal track "Agua Dulce" ruins things...its kinda like if you had a real hot rock record with high-energy jamz and total abandon, and then for some reason they hadda go and stick an acoustic folkie track custom-made for the Joan Baez gang right inna middle! Still, for up-to-date avant/Cuban free-form jazz...where else can you go?

(An aside: both Noisetet and Sonic Liberation Front will be playing the CBGB Lounge in the not-so-distant future...check their Sunday and Wednesday evening "freestyle" schedule for exact dates and times. And given the, er, precarious situation that the CBGB "empire" finds itself in these days and how not only the main club but the performance spaces next door may be closing down due to the rent debacle that Hilly Kristal finds himself embroiled in (sources say no later than August), this may be your last chance to catch acts like Noisetet, Sonic Liberation Front, and hundreds more of varying stripes in this classic setting before CBGB joins Max's Kansas City and Club 82 amongst the fallen seventies rock zones that made up a hefty portion of that decade's underground swing and style. I gotta give CBGB credit for keeping the seventies alive (or at least the better aspects of the seventies) as long as they did, but if you want to catch underground (and overground) music in its purest habitat perhaps you better make the trip to the Bowery to catch it all before it's too late. [And, if you're a person o' pow'r and might and you think you can do something to help save this hoary haunt, just click here and see if you can put your influence to work!])

THE MORAY EELS EAT THE HOLY MODAL ROUNDERS (Water, PO Box 2907, San Francisco CA 94126)-As far as I can tell, here's the story...between playing together as the Holy Modal Rounders, the oft-volatle duo of Peter Stampfel and Steve Weber would engage in their own pet projects which have been documented in a whole buncha articles, most of which I obviously haven't read. The mid-sixties were rife with such solo excursions, and although the only one that I know of Weber engaging in was the hot garage-y number "Half a Mind" on the ESP EAST VILLAGE OTHER ELECTRIC NEWSPAPER sampler (the song makes a re-appearance here), at the same time Stampfel had been lending his talents to at least two punky propositions, the All Night Workers (of "Why Don't You Smile" fame) and the Moray Eels. Just how much of this record is Moray Eels and how much is the Rounders I dunno (supposedly longtime Stampfel galpal Antonia was the vocalist for the Eels while erstwhile Rounders John Wesley Annis, Richard Tyler and playwright [as every description of him feels free to point out so why should I be different?] Sam Shepard were also members of a sort), but this, like the equally skewered INDIAN WAR WHOOP, is a wild mix o' psychedelic rock (before the burnout aftermath took effect) and the early-sixties folkie spurt that still satiates even this far down the line especially considering just how many dumbos took this original impetus and watered it down to the point where all anyone w/brains could do was yawn. It's rock true, maybe even punk (though I'd love to hear Shepard's famed improvised punk rant that drew reviewer Patti Smith into his dark circle), and in many ways this kinda sounds like some of the street-level New York music that took to the stages of CBGB and Max's Kansas City in the mid-seventies long before the punk rules were, er, "tightened" a bit (which wouldn't surprise me since Stampfel's Unholy Modal Rounders [with ex-Leather Secrets chanteuse/Robert Mapplethorpe crony Camille O'Grady on vocals] played both haunts in the mid-seventies with Stampfel's appearance at the former club being sporadic ever since). Though exactly just how much of this record is Stampfel and how much Weber is open to debate...Weber seems to be hanging in the background and boy is his voice raspy! Favorite Stampfel cut: "Dame Fortune" which not-so-surprisingly reminds me of one of those early Patti Smith tracks before she had a drummer. Favorite Weber cut: "Half a Mind" even if it sounds better on the EAST VILLAGE OTHER album.

Shannon Jackson and the Decoding Society-STREET PRIEST (Moers Music)-Here's a guy who's had a career that seems to fit in (at least) w/my own concepts of "World Music" (that is, music that fits into my world of musical listening sensibilities)...a veteran of the mid-sixties jazz avant garde, Jackson not only managed to hitch up with Ornette Coleman and James "Blood" Ulmer just in time for the big harmelodic push of the late-seventies, but by 1980 was front and center for the big punk/jazz/funk/r&b scene then coalescing at clubs such as (where else but) CBGB thanks to the likes of such enlightened minds as James Chance and Bill Laswell telling ignorant white suburban kids that the free jazz trip was just as good as their new wave fantasies which sure meant a lot more to thick-skulls like me than hearing long-past-it hippies like Grace Slick say that ASCENSION was "Coltrane's acid trip" (yeah man!).

Jackson's group "The Decoding Society" was one of those "punk/funk" (for lack of a better term) acts that was frequently performing at CBGB during those kinda dark ages times, and I just gotta chuckle thinking about all of the hipster wannabes from outta town who were probably trekkin' to that famous hole inna ground thinking they were gonna be soaking up all the hot underground new wave bands at CB's acting cool along with all of the other stoned tourists out to see the latest flavor of the week, then coming face to face w/the over-the-top hot jazz/funk of the Society! dB records this ain't, but what it was was a pretty neat turn for both rock & roll and jazz to go in, and perhaps this was the real fruitation of all that jazz-meets-rock crossover stuff that got Lester Bangs more'n a bit frothy back when the seventies were clocking over into the eighties.

There've been a slew of Decoding Society albums issued throughout their lifespan and even I have a couple of them in their original vinyl form wallowing somewhere in my collection, but not this one. Recorded in Bremen West Germany back in '81, STREET PRIEST probably comes closest to what CBGB audiences were being bombarded with amidst the reams of other local acts coming and going throughout that underrated (as far as the good stuff went, at least) decade. In many ways this ain't the total post-no wave splatter one would expect (if one had only heard a good portion of that splatter...much needed offerings by the likes of such contemporary aggros as Phillip Wilson's Magic have remained unissued for years!) but fine straight-ahead avant garde that most of you scouring the situation had come across at least since the introduction of the electric bass to the form some time in the seventies. (By the way, one of the two bass players performing here's Melvin Gibbs, still a force on the NYC rock/jazz continuum who in fact played in a new aggregation with longtime scenester Elliot Sharp at CBGB last night called Raw Meet [no sic] in case you're interested.) Speaking of future names in music, Vernon Reid's guitar soars fine enough with the same jazz/rock riffage he would soon thrill millions with as a member of Living Colour only a few short years later. Really, this is a fantastic driving, moody, high energy freedom offering that I must admit sure soothes the savage boobies more than a lotta current rock product ever will, and if STREET PRIEST (at least to me) stands not only as a fine testament to early-eighties underground jazz concerns but early-eighties underground/CBGB stylings, well, I guess that's my problem. And its problems like this I wish I had more of rather'n the ones I'm stuck with, sugar!

The Necks-MUSIC FROM THE FEATURE FILM THE BOYS (ReR)-Although I have developed an aversion to Australians for some strange reason, I found myself getting hold of this new offering by an Australian free jazz trio perhaps because of the adhype appearing on various websites making comparisons between this bunch and none other than the Velvet Underground! And yeah, it's been years since the mention of the Velvets with regards to some modern musical act has made my mouth water like it used to (not counting worthy contemporary Japanese concerns, natch!), but given that the hypers in question were making Velvet refs with regards to the realms of freedom jazz, you could say that my interest was piqued a bit. Not that I thought the Necks were going to sound like, say, Tony Williams' Lifetime let alone that Universal Musical Force Wayne McGuire laid the groundwork for back in the late-sixties, but given the lack of fresh ideas no matter how old they may be I just hadda give this one a listen.

Given that this is supposed to be the soundtrack music for a film I wouldn't wanna see in a million years, I still like it despite being able to hear all the pretension that flick undoubtedly exudes. The Velvets refs can be heard through the neat repeato-riffage one can find on tracks such as "Headlights" (which has a Velvets via Suicide drone to it as well...and I sure wish that more avant garde jazz groups would take the Velvet credo to heart like the Necks do!), and when the usual cineematic "aht" isn't getting in the way this soundtrack can be pretty engaging in the fore or background for that matter. It's not as "jazz" as I understand their other releases are, but these Neck guys can do a pretty fine job of creating a moody, atmospheric music w/some Velvety least w/o coming off like a buncha STOOPS, that is.

Let's face it, the only way I would wanna go to Australia nowadays is with ax in hand, but while I'm burying the hatchet (hee!) I might as well check some of the music out. Dunno how the rest of the Necks reperatoire holds up, but this one's good enough even for a once in awhile spin and who knows, maybe they'll let me have my own boombox w/CD player while I'm serving life down under!

Turpentine Brothers-WE DON'T CARE ABOUT YOUR GOOD TIMES (Alive c/o Bomp!, PO Box 7112, Burbank CA 91510)-Hmmm, can't find the hypesheet that came with this promo (y'see, I'm such a famous and well-respected rock scribe that record companies and people in general send me their product just so's they can read my opinions about 'em...pretty neat, eh?) so I'll have to wing it myself. Hmmmm...Alive records is Bomp's high energy division so I could expect something less pop and more MC5, right? Heavy organ brings back some Doors memories though I hear a lot more Hackamore Brick in the stew. The vocals are pure post-Morrison anyway. Nice '69/'70s cusp energy tricks here, sorta like the stuff Richard Robinson said was gonna be the top guns of the seventies scene and he was right, in a certain way. Amazing high-energy sound I haven't heard from a live/kicking group in quite some time, with the right touch of "garage" tossed in just so it doesn't go hippie on us. Drummer is actually a Turpentine sister as well! Some tracks like "Wastin' Time" seem to venture off towards more of a "boogie" direction but on the whole I found these Brothers (and "sister") to be a pretty enthralling batch. Just hope they don't milk whatever good they have done here for the next dozen releases to the point of meaningless like too many geeks who were discovered only after their initial pow'r surge had trickled into low-energy mewlings.

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