Saturday, April 17, 2010


Swiped that title from an old issue of TEENAGE WASTELAND GAZETTE (special no-prize if you can guess which ish!), but lack-of-originality on my part aside here's my latest excuse. At least I managed to write up some relatively-recent releases which I hope keeps this post uppa date 'n current even though I've been so drenched in the past that many of you readers probably do think I still live in my own time zone! But hey, for a guy who sure misses the years that used to start with "19" what more would you expect anyway?


Okay okay, I'm reviewin' these as a favor, or shall I say favour because Bruce Mowat up there in Bumfart Alberta'r wherever he's laid his carcass was actually down on his knees beggin' me to write about these two recently-released disques of Canadian heritage courtesy this long-gone band that he loves so dearly patriotic last refuge scoundrel that he is. Well gee, what can I do anyway? I mean the guy was making an outright fool outta himself with his pleading, and it wasn't like I was gonna spit on him'r anything and tell him to go take a long intercourse trek in the woods. Besides I was gettin' two freebies in the process so why should I deny myself of some booty that, given its date of origin (1977-1978) was not gonna be the latest flash in the pan precocious sensitive mewling that has become so accustomed to my spleen.

With a title like SUNSHINE WORLD I would've expected some hefty peacenlove vibes more akin to the mellow out early-seventies mindset, but this tinkler ain't exactly alternative pus the kind we know and love 2010 (or 2000, 1990, 1980...) style! Naw, the Scenes, benefiting from their seventies origins, are way beyond the whole hippie shuck 'n jive presenting us with a platter that not only comes off late-seventies original (in the face of pale imitation punk and water-weak "high energy" musings), but knows how to put up a killer racket with just three members! This ain't no power trio scrangling a la fellow countrymen Triumph, since the Scenics knew how to put up a holler that really does make me reminisce about all of those records I wanted so bad back in '77 only fortunately they were gonna be cutout by year's end anyway so why spend a lotta bucks when you can end up savin'!.

Mighty original stuff for the time too. Well, not totally original but at least the Scenics knew enough to "swipe" from the very best. Most of the time they do remind me of Simply Saucer Mark II with their smartpop punkiness that seemed to go against the grain of the more UK-defiled, while on "O Boy" I even flashed back to John's Children mainly because singer/guitarist Ken Badger sounds like he's vocalizing a rewrite of "Strange Affair"! Let's just say that if you're expecting punk rock rewrites with all of the fury yet none of the spark this might disappoint a bit. As if I have to second-guess everything that goes through all your collective beanies this late in the game.

The Scenics' other offering entitled HOW DOES IT FEEL Cee-Dee really had me thinking "throw for a loop" time. I mean can ya believe it, another Velvet Underground tribute album in a world already saturated with Velvets tributes from all of those wanky acts we've been feasting off the corpse once that became safe! And really, how many faint praises passing as tributes from reams of bright 'n bushy amerindie types have we been subject to these past thirty years. Sheesh, it's like one can't even walk into a bar or pass some buskers onna street w/o some perky Mary Tyler Moore 2010 type saying "Here's a song by a group called the Velvet Underground" before launching into one of the lamest versions of "Sweet Jane" imaginable! But hey, the Scenics are different if only because their entire oeuvre is based on a seventies fanboy base 'stead of the eighties/nineties/oh-ohs watered-down variety and this disque does the proverbial cooking because of it!

Appearing on this release are nothing but hotcha covers of a whole buncha VU familiars done live or in the rehearsal outhouse with that low-fidelity 99-cent cassette feeling that adds to the knotty-pine-ness of it all. It even can boast of a ten-minute closer of "Sister Ray" that seems more or a rewrite of that venerable number the same way the Pink Fairies re-did it as "Uncle Harry's Last Freak Out" or Eno and Phil Manzanara's "Miss Shapiro" for that matter. And as far these "tributes" go HOW DOES IT FEEL succeeds if only because these songs were recorded at a time when being a fan and follower of the VU was kinda like being the member of an advanced race that knew all the true meanings of life and energy, along with the myopic self-absorption that goes along with it. REM should've been tied up and made to listen to this until they cried for mama's boobies!
Various Artists-ONE STRING BLUES MASTERS CD (Delta Cat)

I must admit that ever since the demise of KICKS as well as Bill Shute's frequent phone calls I've not been as dutiful to the early raunch of blues, pre-moptop rock & roll and rockabilly like I should've. Those two sources of info were whatcha'd call mighty impetus-making when it came to stimulating my brain w/regards to a whole load of musics that one just can't read about in the trendy press, and frankly if it weren't for both Billy Miller and Miriam Linna's infrequent pub as well as Shute phone pestiness (just kidding!) I'd probably still be totally in the dark about such musical movements w/special regards to the blues, a genre that for some odd reason I had been associating with delinquent white men who were aping every move the J. Geils Band were making right down to the mirrored shades, jeans and leather jackets (not forgetting the facial hair and humongous drug intake)!

In the absence of these two powerhouses at least I've found one place to get my non-punkitudenal information from and that's Jim Marshall's HOUND BLOG. Marshall is another great source for seeking out old 'n exciting music you just haven't et yet, he not only being the founder and editor of the old NEW ORDER fanzine but a proud front and center member of the KICKS team back when they were flailing away at the godless ragings of gnu-waveism. Heck, I even remember when Marshall was contributing articles on such subjects as Esquirita to THE VILLAGE VOICE's music section which is a surprise since then-editor Robert Christgau was a sworn enemy of Miriam Linna (the rivalry coming to a head at a future CMJ panel discussion) and you'd think that anyone even remotely associated with her would be given the bum's rush from the pages of that fishwrap like pronto! Yeah, it's a surprise Marshall lasted in the VOICE's music section so long with his reviews that really stood against all of the offal they were tossing at us in the form of Chuck Eddy's high school pimplefarm reminiscences or some dumb cluck trying to tie in every offbeat reference in the latest alternative trough dump with repressive sodomy laws. After all, I distinctly remember those days when the battle lines were being drawn up and it was the boring heavy metal dudes, imitation country bumpkins and spandax new music fops on one side and of course the KICKS people on the other. Things were much simpler then, weren't they?

And really, if it weren't for Marshall how would I know that such things as one-stringed Deep South blues guitarists even existed in the first place? Well, actually I did have the up on that, since I remember seeing this one special on the local PBS station some weekend afternoon back in the seventies which first brought such things to my attention. I even remember a segment showing this young guy who strung up the post on his front porch and make his own guitar that very way and it all seemed so interesting and exciting hearing the kind of music that could come out of such primitive and "backwards" methods especially to some equally backwards kid like myself who was soaking it all in for the first time.

Thanks to Marshall's relatively recent post I'm now the proud possessor of a Cee-Dee containing a whole slew of these one-string wonders of both a primitive and even home-made electric guitar variety! The latter really did dredge up some memories since I remember when I was ten and in possession of an old issue of MECHANICS ILLUSTRATED which had an article on how you could make your VERY OWN electric guitar, an idea that thrilled me to no end. I remember pestering my dad into helping me make my own (complete with any old radio as an amplifier) but he steadfastly declined, perhaps in an attempt to further keep me away from the decadent and downright evil influence of that hippydippy rock music that he read about in the papers. Didn't work, but then again I never did make that homemade guitar either! Anyway these one-string numbers are whatcha'd call the cat's guts, not only with the primitive field recordings made by real under-the-radar guys who made their own axes from simple broom wire and two-by-fours such as the one that illustrates the cover above, but with more advanced self-made gear that were constructed by such wonders as Willie Joe Duncan, guys who were good 'nuff to actually make it into the hot urban blues scenes with their amplified twangings that made it to such "specialty" labels like (what else but) Specialty.

Face it, the snobbier amongst us (even those who claim to worship at the altar of such respected blues icons as Robert Cray and others whose music sounds so smooth they can get played on Sirius Radio) will probably upchuck at these hallers and twangs, but then again it's kinda reminiscent of those FM rock purists who used to go apopleptic when they'd hear some low-fi garage band single from the mid-sixties so who sez anything really changes! Yeah this really is the way down home isolated from everything 'n everyone blues that's only heightened by the self-made instruments and primitive situations that mirror a reality that I must admit is far removed from us pampered menials who sure had it comfy, especially when compared to the harshness that such men as Napoleon Strickland and the various "one string"'s (Eddie Jones and Sam Wilson) had to endure living in the middle of rural drudgery in a world that to ours would be like what Papua New Guinea is to Transfer PA!

For being such a "limited" instrument the players sure can get a lotta sound and range outta their one-string guitars or "unitars" as Willie Joe Duncan calls his. And these things "swing" whether they be accompanying their masters on straight-on blues (usually having a dobro-like sound, probably thanks to the attached bucket used as a resonator of sorts) or even accompanying a swinging r&b band such as on Louie Dotson's "Twitchy". Either way these recordings, the instruments and expecially the creators really know how to shake things up w/o the aid of a ton of equipment they read about in the pages of MUSICIAN that'd set 'em back more money than they ever made in a lifetime. Whaddeva, this is a nice change o' pace especially for those of us who love to revel in the primitive and just can't seem to find any of our BACK FROM THE GRAVE albums right now.
The Hollywood Squaretet-TESTOSTERONE! CD (Gulcher)

Yeah I do have a sore spot in what's left of my heart when it comes to SST records, or at least a sorta sore spot because mine was the only fanzine that they refused to advertise in (and back then a feller needed all the help he could get even if the product he was advertising wasn't quite up to standards). Yeah I know that in retrospect it probably was better that they didn't; after all I have my own personal sense of dignity to uphold and all, but back then you could say that I feel like I was being passed-over and I'm not even Jewish! But rather than have some people think I'm a petty fool for dredging up something like this from outta the past lemme just say that some of those later-on releases were pretty tasty in their own way especially when they got into this strange jazz-cum-rock mode that just wasn't being heard anywhere else at the time. (Of course SST released some mighty dog platters as well, but fortunately I put all of those outta my mind, and out of my collection come to think of it.)

This in the latest of Hollywood Squaretet releases reminds me a bit of some of those later-on SST albums, as well as this obscure MX-80 Sound project by Pluto called THE FIELD RECORDINGS which not only had a drummer/ranter like the Squartet do but a cover that'll dispel any ideas one might have of a nudist colony being the equivalent of PLAYBOY magazine in the flesh. Hmmmm, no wonder there's an SST lilt to this since that's none other than ex-Saccharine Trust guitarist Joe Baiza's in the fold. And that's not all, but (keeping with the under-the-ground El Lay aesthetic) ex-Angry Samoan/Mooseheart Faith member Todd Homer's also here trying to do his best to arouse the spirit of Charles Mingus from his Double Bass w/o having to punch out any bandmembers in the process. Larry Copcar's vocals are the price o' admission as he rants/raves/reels and swears his way into infinity doing everything from beat sputter to infantile jokes as well as mind-addled synape-snapping. The horn section holds it together loose enough w/o reminding you of some blues losers you stumbled upon during your night onna town. If you missed the Squaretets' first two you'll probably miss this one but as for the one who have latched on, you know what your doody is.

Hate to admit it but the Dark Sunny Land Cee-Dee that made my evening listening hours so precious this past winter has been pushed to the back of the collection, replaced by other recordings both old and new that have a certain way with my pre-beddy-bye brainwave patterns in helping me slip peacefully and soundly into slumber. Don't get me wrong, I still love the thing to the dickens but it's like I'm looking through my vast collection and suddenly I'll see an old favorite I want to reacquaint myself with and...well there are only a few hours I have to myself in the evenings anyway. But never fear, one of these days I'll find those 12-Cent Donkey discs and until I do at least this little tasty'll tickle my stirrups rather pleasingly while I thunb through my ever-tattering collection of fanzines and Velvet Underground-related bookage.

JAS is the trio of Steve Painter, also known as Dark Sunny Land, along with an Anna Koala on Moog and Jerome Raisin on guitar and effects, the same doody that Painter handles on his very lonesome as well. Together the trio create a thicker yet vaguely similar wall of sound to the Dark Sunny Land Cee-Dee, amorphous and free, and come to think of it sound a lot like what I would have expected that whole experimental underground rock trajectory to have ended up in 2010 'stead of as stale lower Manhattan reverse-snobbism. It is pretty engaging material that's uptight yet relaxing and experimental but in the same way this music was back before it all devolved into just another artsy post that's become so diluted even the podunks in Lackawanna Township know all about it. Y'know, I have the feeling this'll also become a late-night fave, at least if it's as conductive to DR. STRANGE reprints as Dark Sunny Land was.
Barr-Nevai-LABRYNTHA CD (UGexplode)

The last 'un from the recent UGexplode package that yielded a couple Weasel Walter free jazz revivals, LABRYNTHA certainly ain't in the same bag as those Big Bang bonanzas! Info is sketchy (look it up on the web fer yerself!), but this disque really takes the listener on a trip often heard since the days of METAL MACHINE MUSIC with wild oscillating tones and buzzing electronics accompanying distorted vocals that kinda sound like Kryton with his nipple-nuts caught in a blender. This definitely ain't gonna be one of my standard nighttime relaxers to peruse old NANCY collections by, but I certainly can see the validity of alla that energy and crunch that's been poured into this particular slice of electronic pain. Reminds me of some of those '90s outta-nowhere releases that tended to offend me more than anything. Hmmmm, my acceptance of this one must only prove what I've suspected for years...that I'm dead but the message just quite hasn't reached my nervous system yet.


Serena WmS. Burroughs said...

Chris/to whomever else it may concern...there are some tour diary clips up on YouTube of the current Styrenes tour, posted by Clamo99. They look like the work of J. "John Morton" Regular.

Serena WmS. Burroughs said...

Also, John "YSFOS" Morton is posting on Twitter as styrenes,