Sunday, May 30, 2010


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, 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!

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!

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
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!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

BOOK REVIEW! BABYLON'S BURNING by Clinton Heylin, reviewed by BRAD KOHLER!!!!

Hey, that guy from Nirvana is on the cover. Remember how he was a "spokesperson for a generation" or some crap like that was the result of Ballpark Franks brand 24 hour media overkill? "They plump when you cook 'em!" Yeah, and not too far down the line it looks like one of those shriveled weiners that resemble a greasy dog turd that has been languishing by the counter of a 7-11 for weeks. Who in the hell writes a rock song called "Sliver" anyway?

Johnny Rotten is on there as well. He just came through town doing interviews and sounding like the kind of democrat that has a dreamcatcher hanging from the rear view mirror in his car. Thirty-five bucks for him and his pickup band. I played "Poptones" on an internet juke once and when the line "the CASSETTE played poptones..." came on, I thought it might as well be "the eight track tape". How many songs can you list that mention obsolete technology? Bonus points for laser discs. "Poptones" is a pretty good song, but when you come right down to it wouldn't you rather hear CAN? But they're not on the internet juke where I drink. I guess the Iron Butterfly catalog took up too much bandwith or something. Disclaimer: I don't know what bandwith is.

The fact that Rotten was into Van Der Graaf Generator, though not a key component in the lyrical impact he would bring to the Pistols, does, I'm fairly sure, have some kind of subconscious effect. I just won't figure out what it is. "Praise picnicking in the British countryside". OK yeah, that's from "Poptones" but do you get my drift? Only someone who sits in their suburban prat room and examines record covers and inner sleeves the entire time the record is playing comes up with a line like that. I swear, was Rotten discovered in Malcolm's shop or in Piccadilly Square? Is this the sort of thing a college professor can write a thesis on now and get tenure with? Did Malcolm import punk straight from Richard Hell's living room or...enough. Like the dinosaur stadium rock that was targeted for extinction (though let's face it, this "movement" was the equivalent of a remora catching a ride on a great white shark) dinosaur punk history books must die. No wonder the eyes of the kids in the country are glazed over by rap videos. "Your assignment is to read chapters seven and eight and list three antecedents for Sonic Youth." "Oooh, you got Punk World Culture with Mr. Heylin? He gives too much homework. And don't wear your Dead Boys t-shirt. He'll give you detention!"

P.S.-The fact that Mclaren was actively trying to come up with a band he wanted to call MASTERS OF THE BACKSIDE during the early days of punk should have been the lead in his obit. But at least he didn't bloodlessly freeze dry history.

The cassette played...

Saturday, May 22, 2010


Given my typical long-winded (weak) imitation Bangsian prosody maybe I should dispense with the opening frivolities and spare ya a bit!

Various Artists-A-SQUARE OF COURSE CD (Big Beat UK)

You can tell that I'm a frugal MacDougal because even though I wanted this particular disque to have and to hold when I first learned of its existence I waited until it went down in price before snatching it up for my very own! Kinda reminds me of the days when I'm comb the budget cassette bin at Musicland in the Eastwood Mall searching for those great buy one for $2.00 and get the other for a mere penny specials they had. Yeah those factorycassettes as they used to call 'em did sound like mud and with the cheap click down or slide in cases the record companies used to pawn off on us to save the $$$ weren't exactly built to last, but can you think of a better deal especially for the depression-era wage kiddies like myself who hadda make do with this or make do with nothing at all?

Naturally I hadda pay much more than two bucks for this particular item but then again you have to take 35 years of inflation into hand. Hmmmm, still kinda expensive, but back then who woulda known that I would be just stuffed with alla the moolah I need to buy all these things I missed when they were first out there for the pickin'? Like Eddie Haskell, I can buy out the candy shop and give it to the poor if I wanted, but I'd rather splurge on alla the records I want even if I do have to wait awhile to get 'em at slightly reduced prices!

But should I have waited so long to get this collection of groups who recorded for or were somehow associated with the Ann Arbor-based A-Square label? Good question. I mean yeah, there were things on here that I wanted to hear ever since I read a writeup in whatever ish of UGLY THINGS this was reviewed in, and I would say that some of this is whatcha'd call "mandatory" 'n all. But is it that crucial?

To be hackneyed 'bout it, yes/no. Sure A-Square was a leader in documenting the late-sixtie Detroit/Ann Arbor music scene and were responsible for releasing (more or less since it's a long story) the fabled MC5 "Looking At You"/"Borderline" single, but frankly a good hunk of this disque will disappoint those of you who somehow thought that label was the bastion of local high energy rock just brimming with the Detroit heavy metal musings of every group in the tri-county area. I mean yeah there was a Detroit high energy scene with the MC5 at its epicenter (with more than a few local bands "emulating" the Five long before they hit the national spotlight a few years later), but despite all you may have believed this label just wasn't geared towards the harder edge of the Detroit style that was well-documented in the pages of TIME and NEWSWEEK with reverberations reaching as far as Prague and Umela Hmota. The truth of the matter is that the label, according to the dictates of its founder Jeep Holland, was created to capitalize on the AM pop scene and the comparatively gentler stylings of such acts as the Thyme, Rain and the Bossmen, not forgetting the MIA pre-"Guitar Army" Rationals who I guess were supposed to get their own Cee-Dee treatment which may or may not have come out by now (leave that brainy stuff to the people at UGLY THINGS to figure out!)

Although people tend to peg me as a total hard-rock/high energy adherent I certainly can have an appreciation for these more pop-guided tracks which sure kept hold of their mid-sixties punk rock roots as much as the MC5 and Stooges did. The Thyme did have their sappier moments true, but they still could make some smart late-sixties pop along the lines of "I Found a Love" which has that baroque smart style to it that groups like the Marbles would milk for all they could in a good decade or so. Even with their "wimpier" image they still could make some hot if commercial music that shouldn't "offend" any of you hard rockers out there one iota. The Scot Richard Case kinda straddle the soft/hard rock boundaries and it's sure great hearing them romp through two Pretty Things covers, especially "Get The Picture" sounding way better'n the low-fidelity version we first heard via BOULDERS VOLUME TWO. And, for also fitting into the Jeep Holland frame of potential top twenty fodder, Rain and the Bossmen do well enough with their late-sixties steady poppers which I must admit held their own against some of the sillier material to hit the charts just custom-made for the loudmouth gals with their transistor radios and Jacqueline Susann novels who you just knew were going to go overboard into total hormonal insanity once menarche hit.

I know, you're more curious about the harder gunch. There's enough of that especially after the dichotomy between Holland's pop rock sensibilities and John Sinclair's underground credo was more or less forged after the former admitted to liking the MC5 and the latter the Rationals (probably due to their personal homage via "Guitar Army"). Unfortunately most of the high energy Detroit flailings here are easily available elsewhere and in fact a few tracks including the Up's "Just Like An Aborigine" weren't really A-Square related, but in the company of the rest of these numbers they mingle about sorta like the AM dial of the day when some hard punker would be followed by a Frank Sinatra schmoozer the kind your dad just loved and wished you listened to 'stead of that rock & roll crap nobody would remember in one year's time.

Some surprises do abound, like a live Prime Movers numbuh with the Ig of Stooge himself singing "I'm a Man", not to mention this previously unreleased band from Saginaw called Half Life that certainly did get their sound and energy from Motor City ideals. The inclusion of the A-Square single by the Apostles, "Stranded in the Jungle"/"Tired of Waiting", was certainly worth the price of admission as these guys were reportedly also partaking of the MC5 credo and thus were a must hear on my list for years on end. Well, now I can tell you that I've heard the tracks and yeah, I really do like their borderline garage rock/high energy approach to these two covers (why no originals tho?). Natch I was expecting a hard drone with feedback frills and atonal Sun Ra screech galore but the band romps through the hoary old chestnuts in an organ/bass/drums frame quite different than the rock that Detroit was known for at the time. (The booklet notes do mention that the Apostles did have a hard time delivering on the volume that Grande Ballroom fans were craving even if their style did generally fit in with the mode of the music changing.) What I really want to know is, who is the black guy from the band pictured in the Apostles group snap and is he the same guy who can be seen standing onstage with the MC5 in a number of '69 vintage photos? This is but one of the historical questions that must be answered!

But you know what I'd really like? A Cee-Dee filled with nothing BUT late-sixties MC5-influenced Detroit offerings. Y'know, nothing but high energy fuzz-filled noise and drone recorded by those groups that Tyner said were ripping his band off back in some '67 interview he did w/Sinclair in THE ANN ARBOR SUN. Stuff like the Keggs, Unrelated Segments, Orange Wedge and who knows, maybe even some '67-vintage Amboy Dukes. Whatever, I could really osmose into something along those lines as I'm sure any red-blooded BLOG TO COMM reader (y'know, the ones who've read this far down the line w/o coming to the conclusion that this review is nothing but pompous mouthfoaming) would agree.

As many of you already know, there were quite a few musical acts who frequented the stages of the New York City "underground" rock clubs who were awarded with recording contracts once the record label antennae were tuned into whatever new beat they were hipped to from reading then-current issues of ROCK SCENE. However, for every Dictators and Blondie that "made it" there must have been at least twenty schmuck bands that didn't, as anyone who perused my review of some old issues of THE AQUARIAN a few months back would attest to. Now don't get me wrong, some of these off-the-radarscope singles and albums were pretty good, but many more missed whatever mark I suppose they were trying to hit (probably something with ah "underground" credo) by a country mile. My guess is that somebody decided to "clean these groups up a bit" and in doing so washed away all of the roughness and cooties that made these groups punky in the first place. Naturally everybody, from the fans to the bands themselves were disappointed which is why I think that the resultant albums from the likes of such groups as City Lights and Tuff Darts did not represent what could have been, one reason both of their albums and quite a few more are only once in a blue moon spins here at BLOG TO COMM central.

Anyone hoping that the Demons would have any semblance of a Heartbreakers style and pounce considering that Walter Lure (ne. Luhr) sprang from their ranks will be greatly disappointed, as would anyone seeing that Craig Leon produced their album and thus would have known better'n to goop it all up. Unfortunately only a small portion of these New York punk rockers' album lives up to the mystique behind the scene if not the band, one that seems to waft between glam rock and punk lite on most of this release. I dunno if I should chalk it up to first elpee jitters or a poor choice of material, but THE DEMONS only sparks on four cylinders and has that late-seventies pop gloss that might have sounded good when Leif Garrett or Shawn Cassidy were charting it up (that is, might have sounded good for Imants Krumins, but not for me!) but comes off positively wilted next to the music that made up the soundtrack for many a disaffected teenage ponce during the days of disco as the music that dare not speak its true nature.

The cover of "He's a Rebel" fizzles out (especially when compared to the Zippers' concurrent version) while "I Fought The Law" sounds almost too Los Angeles music biz to have appeared on the ABC MADE FOR TELEVISION MOVIE OF THE WEEK starring people whose previous series for the network were axed anywhere from one to twenty years prior. At least the group do succeed in displaying a modicum of punkiness on such originals as "What a Shame" and the sendoff "I Hate You" but still, the overboard production washes away all of the fly specs and everything I would enjoy in this group. The existence of this platter makes me hope that the set the Demons recorded for the unreleased second CBGB album is somewhere in the files and maybe the heirs to that club's legacy can release stuff like that 'stead of the new skapop and whatnot that is coming out on whatever's left of their label.

I'll betcha Jon Behar would love it!

One that didn't quite zone me given the possibilities, but hey, P'NK J'ZZ does sound better later than it did the first time around. Of course after James Blood Ulmer and Ronald Shannon Jackson (not to mention trombonist Joseph Bowie's own experiences with and without James Chance) I was expecting something of a more feral bent, but this outta-the-way platter does have enough of the late-seventies loft jazz pounce to it that makes this a recording to amuse. And, with the usual St. Louis BAG standbys like Julius Hemphill and Abdul Wadud in tow, P'NK J'ZZ does kick up enough of a sweat that echoes earlier (and later) Human Arts Ensemble albums that never let down even if they do have white guys playin' on 'em. Come to think of it, with the obvious dropoff in underground rock quality that's plagued us these past three or so decades this is a way better punk rock effort than anything you might see Dave Lang holding near and dear to his wretched little heart.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010


Is this moom hotcha enough for me? Why sure, since any film that reminds me of SUPERCAR can't be all bad. No, this wasn't acted out in Supermarionation; however it was filmed in England with mostly native actors even though taking place in Ameriga (Massachusetts to be exact) and since the actors affect Amerigan accents and do a good job at it other'n when they pronounce "been" like the fart-causing legume it does have that gulcher-warping feeling I so desire. The use of a definitely European-styled telephone in one scene is another tipoff as to the origin of the flick as is the appearance in one scene of an English Ford Zephyr (or was it a Zodiac?), but I can overlook minuscule trivialities like that and besides, Zephyrs were being imported into the US of Whoa back then anyways and I even see a few on vintage domestically-made television shows so why should I pick the ol' nits anyways?

Whatever you may think of limeys doing the yankee bit HORROR HOTEL is boffo box office bonanza (at least for your personal BO) starring none other'n a young Christopher Lee as this manic college prof who eggs on the vivacious Venetia Stevenson (ex-Everly Brother wife and one of the very few real-life 'merkuns in the film) to do some hands-on witchcraft research in a small Mass. town. No, it ain't Hyannis Port and no Kennedy's do appear, but the fate of Miss Stevenson is just as horrifying as she becomes the latest in a long line of human sacrifice for the local light worshipers (the more they kill, the longer they live kinda like in the Monogram Picture classic THE APE MAN). After awhile her brother's on the hunt to find out what's taking her so long to join the rest of the gang and with the aid of the only normal kook in the village and her blind preacher granddad he sets off on a pretty macabre adventure that culminates in a rather high-pitched bizarroid climax which really does surprise, especially since the movie does take a bit of a downturn (at least for this non-bereted reviewer) when the vivacious Miss Stevenson is more or less jabbed out of the picture.

Yes, I do admit that the loss of Stevenson does tend to shock me, and I can see how classic cinema lovers found THE BIRTH OF A NATION less a film after Mae Marsh jumped off a cliff rather than be subjected to the intentions (whether evil or not) of the ex-slave Gus. But it does pick up after awhile with the rush towards the fever-pitched (to use a fave cliche) climax and hey, if this one happens to pop up on one of your local low-budgeted UHF Friday night horror film slot by all means do tune in.

Lee plays it suave even if he does go over the top like all good satanists in these b&w films tend to while the rest of the cast ain't as douse-inducing as those forced to sit through syndication packages filled with old English films might have come to think (plenty of va-va-vooms for the few seconds of Stevenson in her corset!). Patricia Jessel as the reincarnated witch running the hotel did a good enough job that coulda been better (kinda sorta) while Dennis Lotis as the brother did seem to keep up enough of his British stiff-upper-lip restraint to make his role seem a little too rigid. But I ain't complainin' because HORROR HOTEL succeeds in its end result of keeping your attention and besides, that one guy who played Stevenson's wise-cracking boyfriend did have enough bopster spunk in him to come off late-fifties Amerigan-enough, playing it really Gary Crosby-esque to the point where you'd kinda expect him to turn up in a future edition of DRAGNET!

Saturday, May 15, 2010


It was around the turn of the seventies into the eighties or so, don't remember exactly when, but given that I was a person of limited finances but wild-eyed desires I was more than anxious to hear just about every little blip and bleep that was fermenting in my mind under the guise of "punk rock". Or maybe it was new wave by that time, but I'm talking about that whole underground schtick that certainly meant a whole lot more musicwise then than it would later on after becoming diluted and inbred beyond belief. But in 1979 it was still very, not the more annoying aspects which Bill Shute would so accurately describe as "gnu wave" in one of the two issues of his INNER MYSTIQUE fanzine but jaded yet refreshing, experimental and downright cacophonous sounds that were more apt to get written up in THE VILLAGE VOICE back when the likes of Bangs, Meltzer and even Lauren Agnelli were ruling the roost in their music section. All that coupled with the genre's fifteen or so years of conception and germination from the six-oh garage bands and Velvet Underground up through the Detroit frenzy and early-seventies En Why See rumblings with a whole buncha Flamin' Groovies albums tossed in. We're talking one hefty and unashamed legacy here, but what's a poor boy who couldn't afford even the $1.00 for a flea market find to do anyway other than pout out???

Well, one smart idea I had was to befriend a number of good guys who were willing to tape for me their rare singles and albums thus saving me a whole load of filthy dosh. Thanks guys, wherever you may be buried. Another even more smart idea I had was to write to all of those guys advertising their lists of rare and UNRELEASED cassette wares in the pages of TROUSER PRESS and try to hear some of the groups I was veddy interested in that way. I figure that for the then-exorbitant sum of $7 per C-90 tape I could hear at least two albums worth of music even if it was recorded on a portable seventies-vintage deck and the quality was pretty much iffy. But look at the quantity I was getting in the deal, and with the choice of recent live shows as well as old faves to choose from (not to mention recent John Peel Sessions and the like) I found cassette tape trading a pretty budget-conscious way to upgrade my collection, and my own musical knowledge of what was interesting out there at the same time.

Within a few years and the acquisition of an extra cassette deck I was making and trading tapes myself, and although by that time the music scene had definitely slipped from the feral seventies to the squeaky-clean eighties I was keeping abreast of the developments (and pratfalls) in what had become of the seventies punk idiom by getting hold of even more tapes, recording shows myself and going whole hog into this entire underground scene to the point where I was writing about it and even putting out my own little rag where I could spout off in Bangs-imitation about a wide variety of musics that had and were being made, w/o the strict editorial hand of Editor Powertrip out there mutilating my wordage or neglecting to edit properly when the occasion arose.

By the late-eighties I was mass-trading cassettes with folks all over this big bright beautifal globe of ours, though within a few measly years with the obvious dropoff in underground rock quality and the penchant for less-exciting and downright obtuse acts to grab all the glory that should have gone to the groups who were still approaching music with a 1975 New York attitude I pretty much slowed down to the point of quitting this tape thing altogether. Besides, the digital era of CD-Rs and new modes of recording things that I don't even know about was coming into vogue and cassettes were definitely on the way out. At this point I couldn't care less especially with rock & roll having taken way too many wrong turns to mean anything crucial on an international youth language level like it had in the seventies when more and more groups began using fear and energy as a way to get their particular point across.

So with the current lack of big bucks coming my way I figured that, rather than sit and boo-hoo about it why not break into a box of some of my old cassettes (items that I had either been given, traded or even bought on my own) and give those a whirl after a good decade-and-a-half of neglect. No "factory cassette" versions of popular vinyl fare here or even "first run" material issued by various groups who thought they'd get a good writeup by giving me a FREE (oh boy!) tape of my very own...these are live recorded in the fields tapes or perhaps some radio broadcasts or maybe even a few studio outtakes or rehearsal things that may have even seen a legit release since the days they were first being tossed about on the trading circuit! Really, I don't know what all is going to be listened to, or even found in the box I found neatly tucked away in my closet, so this one's going to be about as much a mystery to ME as it will be you, the ever loyal BLOG TO COMM reader! (And if you want to hear any of the material written up here tough turds...I've had enough trouble handling the operation of a cassette player and my technological knowledge hasn't progressed much if any since 1980 other'n my getting from here to there on this darn computer. If you're on the lookout for downloads or mp3s or anything along those lines I guess you're gonna hafta wait another three decades for BLOG TO COMM to catch up to 2010 standards, and who knows where we'll be by then anyway!)


Having seen the Daevid Allen and NY Gong show at the Kent Creative Arts Festival in April of 1979 (also appearing were the Styrene Money Band, Tin Huey and a dull local prog act called Orb) I was already familiar with the Zu Band by the time they were starting to get a little bit of notoriety under the name "Material" a few months later. Heck, I even remember seeing the gig listing for their show at CBGB with free jazz saxophonist Byard Lancaster wishing to all heck that I coulda been in New York for that very evening, and of course when Sonny Sharrock became a full-fledged member in July of '80 my interest was piqued even more. It took quite awhile for me to latch onto their TEMPORARY MUSIC EP which didn't quite tickle my fancy but MEMORY SERVES satisfied quite a bit, at least until I could find the Affinity reissue of MONKEY POCKIE BOO that eventually were hitting the budget lists within a few years.

This March '80 show features Material with their original guitarist Cliff Cultieri (hope I'm spelling that right) right around the time they were getting tagged as a pompous Floydian art shuck by the people at THE NEW YORK ROCKER. Well, the ROCKER always did seem to have their share of writers who were rather superficial in their appreciation of the new underground and little else, and these opinions only prove this because frankly I find Material at this point to have been a good enough under-the-covers band that fit in to the standard "new wave" genre yet had enough Floyd/Crimson/Eno influences to make their music different from both the punk carbon-copies or the giddier-than-thou pop groups on the New York scene of the day. Now really, I don't care for King Crimson much if any (haven't spun them in thirty years and my mind has been filled with memories of more pleasant soundscapading) but the way Material can take such import rock as theirs and do something with it was akin to TV Toy's similar mix of English art rock and Ramonesian fury. Interesting, if not downright invigorating at times. The so called "pretentious" lyrics mentioned in the ROCKER review thankfully couldn't be discerned, and the music itself at least kept my attention throbbing along with the beat so I'm not complainin'! Even contains an Eno cover ca. ANOTHER GREEN WORLD (or was it "China My China"?) but it sounded just as good as the time they did "Sombre Reptiles" when I saw 'em at Kent!

From the flipside of the above. Don't come across many This Heat live recordings so this one is but a gold nugget in a sea of poop, and the way it fits in with the late-seventies/early-eighties cusp o' British avant noisesqueal sure does bring back memories...of the days when I thought that Rough Trade was perhaps the single saving grace in that menopausal land they call Great Britain. (I got over my infatuation with that company around the time they signed the Smiths, a group that I will have to 100% disagree with Nick Kent as far as their fortitude and willingness to wrestle the sceptre of British pop away from the Culture Club like Kent somehow envisioned them to have done!) Noisy as all heck get out avant garde rock & roll here which sounds kinda like the way I'm sure many people woulda thought the AMM or even Pink Floyd woulda come 1973 or so. Fits in snugly with your Cabaret Voltaire fetish as well as old Renaissance Records/Systematic catalogs wallowing around somewhere in your vast resources (like they are in mine!)

Here's one I got from Bernard Kugel, the famous rock critic and inner circle confidant of Billy Miller and Miriam Linna (as well as former editor of the much-missed late-seventies fanzine BIG STAR). This was taped personally by Mr. Kugel for posterity I presume, and given the lack of Planet waves available legally this surviving artyfact sure helps us to see what all the fuss was about back in the seventies when they were wined, dined and then left cold by more than a few record company execs. The Planets perform some pretty good hard rock at this gig, not quite heavy metal but poppish in a way that conjures up both the Raspberries and Stooges with perhaps a little bit of Cheap Trick tossed in. Definitely attuned to the better portion of the late-seventies rockmind, yet so good that you know these guys really didn't have a chance in heck making anything other than an album or two that would get instantly cut out (which was good for depression-era wage kids like me but not for the rock groups who got dumped for their efforts!). Former frontman Tally Talliafarro is definitely MIA, so this must have been recorded right after the bit split between him and guitarist Binky Phillips (fortunately they were pals enough to reform the group in 1982, and later on during the final days of CBGB where they played a show which I actually reviewed after experiencing it in cyberspace). Again, one of the mighta beens on the New York City scene who struck out while the likes of Blondie and Talking Heads made way too many home runs but still lost the game anyway.
THE MEAT PUPPETS-BEYOND THE FLESH (studio/live tape from '81)

It's been so long I forgot exactly what a trashed-out mess a group like the Meat Puppets were. Dunno the origin of the tape offhand or whether or not it was a legitimate cassette release issued by the band but I recall getting this 'un in the mid-eighties from none other than Imants Krumins, a man whose vast record collection is near and dear to my heart, on a C-90 filled with some other wonders which I will mention shortly. Whaddeva, this forty or so minute excursion proves that the Puppets were more than just another early-eighties next step in the evolutionary development of punk rock but a talented free-splat trio with a load of humor (as Puppet Derek Bostrom's association with BREAKFAST WITHOUT MEAT would prove) to spread around in a scene that was too distraught and self-conscious of itself to let loose once in awhile. Features live covers of "I Wanna Be Your Dog" and "Everybody's Talkin'". As a bonus, Mr. Krumins helped fill up the one side of the tape with the Ramones' appearance on the ol' SHA NA NA show doing "Rock 'n Roll High School" where it sounds as if the famed greasers themselves were helping out on the chorus. Since that show vamoosed from the local tee-vee screens about a year before the Ramones' 11/23/80 appearance are there any viewers out there brave enough to tell me whether in fact this did occur? (C'mon, I won't tell anyone since heck, I used to watch SHA NA NA myself!)

Flipster of the above featuring what purports to be some early demos though most of this sounds just like the group's eponymous debut with maybe a few outtakes tossed in. Since the Surfers were one of those groups that I kinda lost interest in around the time the nineties were beginning to check in at least it was nice getting this refresher course, but I ain't runnin' to ebay to see what I can pick up at "buy it now" prices nosiree! Two tracks from the Television Personalities' John Peel sesh from '77 follow as does an outtake entitled "Back to Vietnam" which does help sate my yearly fifteen or so minute listen to this band rather well. Following that's Roky doing "Heroin" which I assume is the same version that had come out on vinyl around the same time I latched onto this tape as well as a Swell Maps rehearsal of "14th Floor" that would have been served better had it appeared next to the TVP tracks, but it's not like I'm picky or anything...

It's hard to imagine now, but back in the eighties the MRR empire really held sway over the budding p-rock kultur of the land. Well, it was a different era and a different scene than the underground rock of the seventies, which was jaded and nihilistic in its own way. By the eighties punk was still jaded to an extent yet just brimming with enough altruism to brighten up a dozen Shirley Temple movies. You could find a lot of that in the pages of not only MRR but a few dozen fanzines which seemed to mix the latest news with a starry eyed euphoria that if anything seemed to reflect the sickening radical bent of the early ROLLING STONE mixed with a good heaping portion of the underground press that didn't get the jokes that the underground cartoonists and the cadre that would later make up what would be punk rock was lobbin' at 'em.

Fortunately the music being aired on this particular broadcast doesn't quite hit the save-the-world levels that hardcore punk could aspire to on a good day. The interviews don't come off as unintentionally laughable as the ones where certain bands did their best to wear their Marxist compassion proudly or that one where some blanded out chick from the Amerigan branch of Existencil Press tried to make her point as emphatically as possible (for an emotionally-repressed Enemy of the State) that the music of Crass et. all, was not entertainment (nor could it ever be construed as such) but pure social/political commentary that should and COULD not be taken any other way! Don't even try it! Given the grim nature of this liberating music it's sure nice listening and reacquainting myself with some of these early-eighties hardcore and punk tracks that I seemed to jettison with the radical stance of its practitioners, a case of throwing the baby out with the bathwater if anything!

Naturally a good portion of this doesn't quite zone the frontals like it should being one big hard blur which can work on some levels if you allow it. But being the stickly reactionary that I am I didn't feel like doing that so it's not like I'm going to rush out and pick up the next Cause For Alarm disc I see. The English "funny punk" set brought back hoary old nostalgic feelings since I haven't played any Exploited or Toy Dolls in quite some time, while the Australian stuff did surprise, not only the Birthday Party from a John Peel session but X and the Mystery of Sixes, an occult bunch who prove that the devil not only lives in Australia, but that his daughter needs a new liver asap!

Tim Yohannon and pals ain't even doing their politically astute act here other'n when Mr. Y tells us that the Aussie group "Box of Fish"'s name is slang for a woman's unwashed "down there" pondering whether or not the femme guitarist for the band would take offense (I guess it would be "sexist" for a woman to practice proper feminine hygiene, especially for those in Yohannon's circle), and for a dude like myself who pretty much hated the eighties and continues to do so all I gotta say is at least some of these groups both championed by MRR or not represented a buzzing undercurrent of intensity and loathing under the veneer of general feely-good gush. I guess that's at least one good reason to listen. And although the mad radicals and pseudo-anarchists who made up the "scenes" from whence these groups sprang are now clearly the anti-free speech/enterprise mobsters in control I certainly wouldn't've thunk that then, which only goes to show you how naive I was as if the writing wasn't already on the wall!

Here's one I haven't spun in quite some time, a cassette that I netted in a trade with none other than Lee Ranaldo of Sonic Youth fame (see how I name drop the more important and meaningful amongst us in a sorry attempt to not look so provincial and outta-da-loop!). Tis a revealing enough thirty-minute selection of tracks that ain't just demos but taken from rehearsals and live showing off the nice primitive rant that this trio could work up without coming off like feminist effetes. I gotta hand it to Ut for not only keeping the no wave spirit of '78 alive and lasting well into the eighties (albeit in Merrie Olde) but not devolving into some of the more obtuse and non-inspirational music that many of the no wave originators begat in a short while. Dunno about you, but I really like the way these gals kept the true spirit of the noise-laden, snide seventies well into the restrained, giddy eighties without succumbing to the mindnumb that era so eloquently bestowed upon us (after all, that was the decade that gave us BLACK TO COMM).

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Moby Grape-LIVE CD (Sundazed)

Being a relative newcomer to the Moby Grape swing of things (the entire story behind my appreciation of the group can be found in BLACK TO COMM #20, which unfortunately for you is long out of print) the truth be known is that, like with many musical aggregations I discovered later on in life, I really didn't give two frigs about these San Francisco outsiders until I read a few raves written by some of my all-time fave rockscribes like Jymn Parrett and Billy Miller. Since there's only so much money in my bank account and it's not like I could afford to buy out the entire record store like I sure wished I could've (and it was worse when I was actually of the teenage variety and all of these enticing records were being tossed at me left and right!), taking the word of a trusted rock writer has always been one way to help save on the lucre while putting all of your hard-begged into maintaining a record collection of high energy and worth! Fortunately nowadays I can discern whether or not said recording is worth any trouble or effort to purchase merely by hitting youtube where I can not only listen to these old obscurities in question but see some amateur if nice video than an enterprising fan has posted in praise of his fave raves. This brand spanking new technology really does help out on the ol' pocketbook, and since I'm still enamored with the Nick Kent autobio all I have to do to find out if such oft-loathed yet praised by this sainted scribe material like Joni Mitchell's HEJIRA or Laura Nyro's version of "I Met Him on a Sunday" is as good as Kent makes 'em out to be is just track 'em down via the venerable video website and judge for myself. (In case you're taking notes, Joni's title track's pretty "eh" SoCal folkie jazz that would've been much improved on had Tim Buckley recorded it while I gotta admit that I actually did have a slight affinity for the latter's take on the old Motown standard to the point where I was actually fantasizing that the neurotic dago was in reality Carole King with 'nads! Howzat for being open-minded and willing to accept and enjoy all musics like the rest of those big city gravy train critics anyway???)

With the current ban on some of the Grape's late-sixties platters still in effect this live disc will sure help the recently initiated out swell. Choice picked like the best coffee beans from a number of vintage live shows the quality is fine, the performances top notch and the package pretty professional-like even if they hadda get David Fricke to do the liner notes as if there aren't any other starving rocksters out there just beggin' for work. And best of all this represents the Grape at their finest before the band devolved into a comparatively dull country rock act in the seventies, showcasing their overall appeal with regards to tackling not only rock & roll but blues and of course the more c&w tinged material w/o looking like a buncha dabblers.

As my usual trite self would say, this disque has it "all" including some class '67 live shows (including Monterrey...a great one even if you have to sit through Tommy Smothers' babbling introduction) as well as one from the MOBY GRAPE '69 days live in Holland beginning with a pretty nerve-y rendition of "Murder in my Heart for the Judge". It all goes to show you that these boys were yet another unsung sixties band that got washed away under the weight of too much hipster hype and really. we're all the worse for it! Lotsa old faves as well as a few new to my ear numbers show up doing do the legacy proud, and what's best is that the very same recording of "Dark Magic" which originally appeared on that LOST HOLY GRAILS bootleg a few years back shows up, and in better sound quality if you are attuned to such things. And although it left me hungering for more (a double woulda been nice) LIVE is an all 'round apt tribute to one of the few reasons anybody should have paid attention to the musical happenings in '66 San Fran 'stead of the hackdom that city would eventually be known for once everybody seemed to head for Marin County and jam on commune back porches.

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Yeah, I guess this is gonna be another one of those lackadaisical flop around posts

...which would be fitting considering how this is the lackadaisical flop around time of year. Yeah Spring, the season which no matter how long ya live will remind you of those glorious days when summer vacation was just around the corner and you were going to have even more time to spend with your closest friends, mainly television, the radio and comic books (none of this "male bondage" for me!). I dunno about you, but when I think of May I always think of things like the upcoming days of freedom (as well as recount the days of nerves studying for final exams) as well as those cool thunderstorms that always used to scare the bejabbers outta me especially when the local tee-vee stations would interrupt my favorite program to tell you about an impending storm with a cracked inverted upside-down slide as a visual. I know it is only a reflection of me, but I sure find things such as sloth and having a mindless, toddler-level appreciation of the culture that surrounded me to be one of my better attributes and don't you ferget it as my hero Quick Draw McGraw would so aptly say.

In order to get autobiographical about it and at least attempt to give this post a homey atmosphere lemme tell you that I just got back from Fishersville Virginia where I not only picked up a stack of old MAD magazines dating from their early-post Kurtzman days when they still had some of the zip to the early-seventies when a lot of the fun was missing* but six cases of Cheerwine which should hold me for a few weeks or at least until I get sick of the stuff. Given the lack of cherry soda in my life these cans are sure gonna help me sate my taste for a carbonated soft drink that ain't a cola/Dr. Pepper, root beer, citrus variation thereof or that weak pale-dry ginger ale stuff that lacks any true potency. But hey (while we're on the subject of carbonated soft drinks), anyone know where I can pick up some celery soda (aka Cel-Ray) here in the Western Pee-Yay area? Even the Kosher section of the supermarket has the Dr. Brown cream and cherry sodas but no celery if you can believe that! I mean, what else can one wash down a pastrami samwich with anyway, and you know that I'm not lying!!!

But as far as musical concerns go the event of the week definitely has gotta be the release of Rhino Handmade's latest repackaging of the debut Stooges album, something which I would probably have declared, had I been born a bitter man, yet another shyster trick to part us fools and our money but in fact might just be the ALL AROUND EVENT OF THE YEAR!. In many ways this certainly is a ripoff for us hard working Stooges fans considering how a vast portion has already been released via normal channels only a short time back, and the packaging ain't anything to do jumping jacks over either! And to add insult to injury the mandatory enclosed booklet reveals nothing especially uplifting with regards to the Stooges legacy (which was much better served back when early-seventies fanzines were raving on about 'em in the face of James Taylor fever), but what makes this item a must mooch has gotta be the inclusion of a few tracks that didn't make the cut last go 'round including the extended romper "Asthma Attack", a track I always assumed was performed once and only once at the fabled MC5/Stooges/Up show which got the first two of 'em signed to Elektra in a mad dash for Jac Holzman to keep up his reputation as one of those enlightened record company heads who was as hip and as swinging as the groups signed to his label!

So obviously enough "Asthma Attack" was recorded in the studio (either that or the revitalized Stooges are playing a typically Stoogian trick on us) giving us curiosity seekers good idea of exactly what these guys were doing live before having to settle into solid song structures that could be "captured" on vinyl. You may have heard that surviving piece of '68 Stooges taken from the Miller brothers' shoot of the Blue Cheer/MC5/Stooges show at the Grande Ballroom (a bit of feedback mania that surprisingly enough never was bootlegged)...well "Asthma Attack" is all that within the confines of a studio and it sure does work well capturing these guys' "avant garde" proclivities, at least more than "We Will Fall" did as the debut's token eclectic track. Believe-you-me, "Asthma" would have been a wiser choice of inclusion on the debut and "Fall"'ve'd done better had it been the legendary unreleased track that us Stooges maniacs were pining to hear all these years!

Most if not all of my current spins are oldies, no surprise given the lack of high energy archival material making its way to my craniun. And, still as no surprise, the top of the pops this week comes to us courtesy of the Germans, a race smart enough to at least have come up with two of my fave spinners Can and Amon Duul, they of the "I" variety. I guess I'm still under the sway of that ref. in CREEM referring to Can in sainted MC5/Velvet Underground/Stooges mewls of futuristic nervegrind, and for a buncha guy who were born in the thirties (and in their thirties at a time when that was considered to be menopausal!) and who "discovered" rock & roll when it was suddenly the hipster cause du jour Can certainly reflected the maddening energy and insanity of avant rock just as well as some doofs from Paducah who could barely put their admiration for FUNHOUSE into pure atonal expression with Kay brand guitars. I don't care whatcha think, but for me EGE BAMYASI just might be the ultimate expression in early-seventies underground rock moves perhaps even more than (shudder!) RAW POWER (a righteous 1970-'75 choice on anyone's list) and the thing continues to frighten me after a few hundred spins. And yeah, I know that Brian Ritchie's THE BLEND still scares the dickens out of me as well, but in a totally different way!

Also high on the krautscapades is Amon Duul "I"'s DISASTER, a rec that I must admit was one of my top all 'round spins during my senior year in high school (and no, I don't want to know what yours was). Of all of the AD I releases I must admit that this and PARADIESWARTS DUUL are my faves...both have this nice structured feeling, DISASTER steady yet decayed and PARADIESWARTS hippie yet avant punk. But I will confess that DISASTER still has the edge if only for nostalgic purposes. In many ways it reminds me of a jam session held between the Fugs and Velvet Underground, and strangely enough DISASTER is what I envision the Transcendental Simulematic Orchestra, the merging of the Fugs and pre-VU Falling Spikes who played at dances and underground film showings, to have sounded like perhaps with less percussive bash and more guitars of varying qualities but the ideal is there. You can tell where my passions and obsessions lie, that's for sure!
The Artrocker EP recorded live at the CMJ lovefest which took place at the CBGB Lounge spurred me on to seek out more works by the various acts that appeared at that luck latching onto anything by the Two Tears, but I did get some items by the rest probably because they're not in demand like a good portion of post-indie rock being made these days. And since nobody cares about these bands I can latch onto their recordings pretty cheap which does help out on the ol' pocket book especially in these sorta recession-esque times. INTRODUCING THE DYNAMITE SOUND OF THE FLASH EXPRESS was just one of my boffo Artrocker-related finds, a full-length Cee-Dee platter that surprisingly enough doesn't succumb to postmodern twee tendencies or flashy eighties UK weekly paper flash modes but rocks out, a quality which is still important in case your mind has been introspectively-numbed by too many Cat Stevens albums. The Express play some pretty straight ahead no nonsense rock too which is a surprise especially in these nonsense-filled times with a hard rock approach that ain't cocky and a general sprawl somewhere in-between the Flamin' Groovies ca. '71 and Stiff Records ca. '76. I had some reservations about hearing more Gin Palace numbers after finding some comparisons twist them and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs on some website (me not having cozied up to the even newer than new punk ravings of the oh-ohs which sounded too little too late for the game), but this group could pack a punch even with their vocals/guitar/cymbal-less drumset lineup and they didn't even have to evoke modern-day feminism or pseudo-Marxist rhetoric to get their message across. (The message being rock & roll I guess.) Nothing I'm going to spin daily, but it's nice enough to know that there was rock like this being performed in the past decade that didn't succumb to the worst aspects of the past fifty years of popular music like too much dross. As for the Hells, they're pretty snat as well riding the same level of six-oh update for the post-rock new millennium with nice pick and chooses from everyone from the Stooges to the Shangri-Las. Their self-titled platter's a bit short on the time but it still pleased me enough, in a kinda churlish way.

Hey, maybe next time I will come up with something other than these pale ale ruminations. But I doubt it.


*By the way. Kelly Freas had it over Norman Mingo all hollow!

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

IT'S A FANZINE (fanzine edited by Gene Kehoe, 2265 Byron Ave., Waterloo IA 50702 USA)

Yessir, if I can't get my fanzine kicks one way I'll hafta get 'em another! And with the death of the good ol' rock & roll fanzine having ended with the demise of a certain publication that's been mocked and ridiculed by the populace at large, and with the dribble of classic seventies-era mags like HYPERION and NIX ON PIX slowing down to an absolute halt it's not like I've been having a steady diet of high energy self-produced rambles to satisfy my own inner cravings as of late. So with the lack of rock & roll fanzines that don't look like NEWSWEEK making their way to my door I'll just have to look elsewhere for my kicks let alone KICKS, to the comic book fanzine idiom which surprisingly enough seems to have some life to it even though I woulda thought that the internet and major comic book publications would have put an end to the entire genre years ago.

IT'S A FANZINE is an oddity in whatever is left of comic fandom, a magazine that not only started up right around the time the original comic fanzine era had died out ('79/'80) but continues into the here and now with fifty issues under editor Gene Kehoe's belt and one more on the way any time now.

What we got here's a good thirty years of fanzinedom that at least attempted a regular production schedule just jam-packed with information, news, opines and LOTS OF ILLUSTRATIONS BOTH AMATEUR AND PROFESSIONAL having to do with the previous seventy-plus years of comic book history (w/a few healthy sidesteps into the funny papers) that certainly makes for a few solid evenings of intense perusing and absorption of enough information to make your head swell just like that guy's on THE WILD WILD WEST.

Naturally with my ltd. amt. of time and equally ltd. attention span it wasn't like I had the opportunity to become deeply engrossed in each and every issue received (almost the entire print run!), but I did scan 'em all and settled in on the Golden/Silver Age articles that naturally held the most interest. And held my interest they did...okay, an article on the history of EC comics ain't gonna be breaking any new ground as would the reams of pieces dealing with various superheroes we could easily enough read about online for free, but then again there's nothing like holding a fanzine in your mitts and absorbing info regarding your various longtime faves or even discovering some old ones you passed on the first time around! Kehoe and company generally have a good keen sense of what's good and what's not so hot, and between the reprints and the original art and alla the brainy postulating there's plenty of great material to be had in IT'S A FANZINE. I only wish that there was something like this permeating the underground rock sphere, a regular rag that blabbed on about the great acts past and present that came out on a quarterly, or even more frequent basis just like there were back in the seventies and eighties!

You get it all...stories on your favorite artists and writers (as well as your least faves...nobody's perfect), reviews of pertinent comic book issues, writers who like Steve Ditko but can't come to terms with his politics, plugs for favorite recent comic books and strips, writers trying to justify their liking the Archie Comics Group w/o looking like teenyboppers and loadsa Reagan-era angst!!! What more could you want in a fanzine anyway???

Sunday, May 02, 2010

A WEEKEND WITH THE GRATEFUL DEAD (a.k.a. would you rather hear it from me or some guy with a droopy jam-filled mustache and a fringe jacket?)

It's no secret that I'm not exactly what one would call a front and center fan of the Grateful Dead. It should be obvious to even the dimmest of you regular BLOG TO COMM readers as to why, but if you're still in the dark I could point your nose towards a couple of articles I've written which bring up the subject rather diligently. Perhaps I could just sum it all up saying that it's a combination of their dismal if not downright pretentious music, their sycophantic adoring fans and worst of all the sanctimonious nature of their legend that makes my stomach turn. However I must admit that writers whom I've liked and admired o'er the years have penned various niceties about the Dead even though on the surface I thought they all would have known better (but maybe in some small way I do admire some of these writers who manage to enjoy all different kinds of music outside of a punk realm even if they may be "smorgasbord schmucks" in Lou Reed's own words). I'm talkin' people like Lester Bangs, Richard Meltzer, Nick Kent, Lenny Kaye, Mick Farren, Peter Laughner and Brian Doherty amongst other worthies who have spewed positive assessments of the Dead's music. Hmmmm, if they could like 'em then maybe """""I""""" should try to do the same and drop my alleged preconceived notions and whatnot; try to understand, nay enjoy these asteroids for what they could be rather'n just react to what I saw in a buncha smelly hippies doing the gumby dance whilst speaking about their SF heroes in hushed, humble tones punctuated with a lotta "man"s.

So anyway here come these three disques that I got off Mr. Eddie Flowers, two of which I could recall buying from him (the third 'un was supposed to be a flesh and blood copy of Can's FUTURE DAYS AND PAST NIGHTS) but I'll just consider out deal PAID IN FULL and leave it at that. Nice selection too considering what a sucker I am for these bootleg recordings, but interesting packaging aside and overall quality just what's embedded in these shiny silver dollars anyway?

What else but Grateful Dead music that's what! And fortunately most of it is of the early Dead kind back when it was 1966 and they didn't quite yet become the poster-freaks for organic pseudointellectuals quite just yet. Of course just about everything was good in the middle portion of the sixties and the Dead were no exception, which is why a platter like MASON'S CHILDREN is actually one I don't mind playing over again and again sounding mighty fine in circulation with the various Velvet Underground and krautrock thud platters residing besides my chairside boom box. The '65 demos do click and sound not that much diff'n what else was going on in the folk rock-sated scene led by such respectables as the Vejtables and Charlatans. It is funny to think that the guys who were cranking out such enjoyable garage gems like "Confusion Prince" would later go on to typify everything wrong with mind-addled confusion in only a few short years but then again, who would've said in 1962 that the musical output of the Beatles in 7/8 years would sound like the theme music for the late late show? (Talkin' "The Long and Winding Road" in case you're still confused). Sheesh, even Pigpen doing da blooze wasn't as wretch-inducing as I woulda thought, but like I said the whole San Francisco sound and style hadn't the chance to rot on the vine...yet.

But strange enough the addition of some later-on tracks didn't mess the mood that much. As much of a loather of the WORKINGMAN'S DEAD/CSNY Southern California lilting harmonies person that I am the outtake of "Uncle John's Band" did not offend me as much as the original did. I can't understand exactly why...I mean the lyrics of this 'un are totally jumbled and obtuse beyond belief that in no way can I decipher any logical meaning out of them like Brian Doherty can (ditto "Mason's Children" and a whole load more which so abstract that I don't think a drug has been invented to make any sense out of these!) and the acoustic chiming isn't exactly high energy central. Maybe in the wake of a load of inferior produce being passed off as rock & roll this kind of prattle sounds better, jive and all. It would seem so since I just happened to listen to Yes doing "Your Move" on the radio a few days back and remarked that next to the current hit parade this made more sense. Which says more about today's music than the obtuse music that replaced the high energy of the mid-sixties I guess.

Wish I could say something fantastic about SUNDANCER, a collection of live '66 offerings that would at least be conduit to my own personal frame of musical whatziz, but I find these live performances just about as middling as those on the CREAM PUFF WAR offering I reviewed a few months back (see above link to be taken directly to my review...scroll down as they say). There's really nothing intense or attention-grabbing about the performances from the first half of '66 here that range from admittedly palatable to boring jams that I guess you have to be crocked to enjoy, or have to wait three hours into the set when they really start "cooking". Nothing offensive here mind you (that wouldn't start happening until the drugs really fried their brains and they started making solo albums extolling the virtues of Marin County) but the drill of tiresome sameness makes this one a pretty disposable affair. I'll bet the diehard Deadheads love it, which would figure.

MOUNTAINS OF THE MOON, taken from three '69 vintage performances, starts off with the huys doing their patented oldies rock covers sounding halfway decent if unprofessionally clunky. Such partydown tracks as "Good Lovin'" and "Big Boy Pete" (better known to you as the Kingsmen's "Jolly Green Giant") sound fun enough in the same way I thought it was fun looking at dead rabbits when I was eight...don't get me wrong, the unbridled unrehearsed amateurism actually helps these songs out and I just can't resist liking these renditions the same way I just can't help liking Larry Mondello; they both revel in that mind-numbed sorta sameness y'know. When the Dead get into the acoustic tinklin' and intricate guitar interplay my attention span does begin to waft off into other things, but y'know it all starts sounding better when I keep telling myself that Television coulda come up with some of this stuff and they weren't that shabby at all. But could Television get so time-change-y and intricate phase/mood-shift as the Dead wandering through "Dark Star" into "St. Stephen" and "The Eleven" sounding so clunky in the process? Oh well, at least the change does flow with my own short attention span plus the general mood does conjure a good late-sixties smart-rock feeling not that different from similar excursions by the like of Tim Buckley or even the early Fairport Convention so that's something that does redeem this disque a little.

And the "Feedback" section does work out that way I'm sure the Dead didn't intend (as total hard-drive scrunch intensity closer to the spirit of '66) even if we have to endure 'em doing their standard acapella closer "And We Bid You Goodnight" which naturally jolts everything back into hippie downhome mellowness. But after all's said and done this one will probably be an oft-repeated play maybe just for the fact that it does make for good background music the way it acts as a hippie pacifier on one level yet has some intriguing moments you thought the Dead were too scrambled to think up on another.