Saturday, April 16, 2011

Yeah I know...there's nothing to laugh about anymore. Nothing's funny, and even the stuff that's supposed to be funny which is marketed to you as top-notch and cutting-edge on COMEDY CENTRAL's nothing but loud-mouthed preachy propaganda for the NEW, IMPROVED, FREE FROM THE PAST 5000 YEARS OF CIVILIZATION GOOD LIFE, that is if you consider a world that seems closer to a seventies-era PBS kiddie show than a typical playground brawl "good". Really, it's come to the point where everything out there from humor to politics to general entertainment is so pasteurized, processed and (worst of all) Big Brother domineering these days that the only way I can get my jollies anymore is to crack open an old issue of NATIONAL LAMPOON and read some of the more offensive material they were known to crank out at a time when bad taste really meant something. They may have been crude, disgusting and certainly treading water that the likes of MAD or CRACKED certainly wouldn't dare venture, but at least 'POON were picking on peoples and ideas that I totally loathe, and if you can't laugh at people you hate who can you laugh at?

Maybe that's why I kinda like the DIVERSITY LANE comic panel as much as I do. True the comic can be cliched, not-popping-on-all-cylinders and worst of all more Partyline Republican (I'm loath to use the already overused term "neocon") than paleo, but when it does work the comic can make me laugh like nothing since DIRTY DUCK. Often compared to THE ADDAMS FAMILY (though that would be stretching things), DIVERSITY LANE features the rather NEW YORKER-ish looking adventures of a post-postmodern family where pop's a fiftysomething ACLU lawyer, mom's a bisexual who's living with two lesbian lovers (one a typical butch specimen and the other a frazzled hippie taken in with the expected new age curealls and such), the boy's a confused product of a genderbending upbringing and the girl seemingly wants to have nothing to do with any of it! Your typical Modern Day Amerigan family, and given some of the things I've seen recently I wouldn't doubt the entire layout one BIT!

Creator Zach Rawsthorne does have a certain flair, and although there's a lot in what he has to say that I'm not quite buying (such as the typical conservative-based unconditional praising of Sarah Palin, a lightweight whose finger I certainly wouldn't want on any button let alone those connected to ICBM's!) I can sure gag 'stead of groan (maybe both!) at his critiques of everything from enlightened liberal sociothink to anything traditional and therefore outside the ken of the "New Person"'s rather limited comprehensive skills. Really, some of the comics that Rawsthorne cranked out are worthy enough for me to paste to my cubicle so I can "say something" in the same manner-of-fashion that sniveling females would clip CATHY cartoons and Anna Quindlen columns out of the paper and tape 'em to their little workspaces to show their support with their suppressed gender or something like that. Unfortunately I don't even have a cubicle where I work so I can't show off my personal angst, but if I did boy, would the workplace be a way more fun and exciting place to be!

In case you're that interested there's even a DIVERSITY LANE collection out, one that I somehow have the feeling won't be easily found snuggled next to various DOONESBURY and FAR SIDE softcovers in flea market stalls and used book shops nationwide. Might be a nice Christmas Gift for the one you love, though frankly in these budget-conscious times I think it would be more prudent to just copy your favorite panels off the web for free, then paste 'em all up in a special edition book which should save you a pretty penny in the long run. And hey, your foreword might just be as good if not better'n the real one which I know will hit it off big with the dream girl or guy of your choice. Either that or it may be a good way to help worm yourself out of a relationship you certainly don't want to go any further than it already has.
While combing through the DIVERSITY LANE blog I came across a much better comic that I wasn't aware of before, a strip which also (though in a quite different manner) pokes fun at a subject matter that rarely if ever gets the comedy treatment given our highly moralistic, Aunt Polly-ish times. The strip's called JOHNNY OPTIMISM, and even with the standard clip art style and the very static look (reminds me of many of the "moderne" comics that came out in the wake of Tom Tomorrow) Johnny and his antics have me rolling in the aisles every time a new strip pops up. I guess that DIVERSITY creator Rawsthorne doesn't consider JOHNNY OPTIMISM to be a threat to his own niche, and for that I am eternally glad he pointed out this comic which sure ain't the typical "boy and his dog" strip we've seen for ages!

And hey, if you can't laugh at cripples, gimps, the chronically ill, incompetent doctors and the health system who can you laugh at? Yes, OPTIMISM creator Stilton Jarlsberg (!) really found his true calling in life with his li'l creation, and I gotta admit that as Lindsay Hutton once said I thought my pants would never dry given the truly guffaw-inducing comics the man has come up with, just a few of which are presented for your study and amusement below:

Funny enough for you? Thought so. Sheesh, the trouble I go through second-guessing you fickle BLOG TO COMM readers!!!
Like one or two of you fellow blogschpielers out there in "notice me" land I thought that maybe I should get my two shekels in regarding the very recent passing of violinist Billy Bang, a guy who along with Leroy Jenkins and Ornette Coleman helped further the instrument's use in the jazz avant garde to stunning and quite outside-the-box as they say effect. Funny thing, the first time I ever even heard of Bang was via an old VILLAGE VOICE listing of some early-eighties CBGB gig, and at the time I figured that Bang was probably one of those new and budding whiteguy punk rockers with a name like that! After all, there was a guy on the local scene with the moniker of Billy Balls, and really how much different was Bang's name especially when lined up against some of the nom-de-punques who were performing around the Tri-County Area at the time?

Of course a trek through a New Music Distribution Service catalog soon straightened me out, and with my cat-like curiosity getting the best of me I decided to actually dish out some hard-earned and see what this guy was offering us in the way of free-jazz violin that seemed like such a strange concept at least in the beginning. NEW YORK COLLAGE was a great place to start with its college radio recording aura and Bang not only playing exemplary but contributing some poetry regarding the late-seventies music scene which made me at least a "little" homesick for those bright seventies epiphanies. And although the other Bang platter I latched ontoat the time wasn't quite as adventurous (I forget the title, but it's the one with Frank Lowe and various string-scrapers helping out) at least I knew that Bang was a force to reckon with and that his sudden thrust to the front of the big press free jazz line was actually deserved 'stead of some affirmative action ploy for white jazz critics to look "cool" and feel good about themselves! (I'm just saying this to tweak some of you reader's already tweaked psyches...don't bother writing in to complain because I will ignore you!)

I was fortunate enough to catch Bang via the CBGB website when the now-deceased club was airing shows live from their various stages via cybercast throughout the first part of the previous decade. I remember writing about my disappointment at missing a performance of his VIETNAM album which was being performed at the CBGB 313 Gallery by "just that much" as Maxwell Smart would say (I did get to see the group tearing down their gear and the following performers, some watered down alternative/amerindie types, take to the stage much to my dismay) but at least some time later I did catch Bang working out pretty well in a trio setting during the days of Dee Pop's freestyle series at the Lounge downstairs, playing pretty hard and intense kinda like a more swinging Revolutionary Ensemble without the AACM-approved small instrument tinkling or African chants. Another show I also missed (other than the one when Bang sat in with the late lamented avant-jazz rock aggregate Noisetet) was a group setting featuring the Revolutionary Ensemble's Sirone and saxophonist/street preacher Charles Gayle that fortunately enough was released on the Silkheart label a few years back and has a rather nice swing to it if I do say so myself. I only hope that Pop recorded all of the gigs from the series if only for future study and most of all enjoyment on our sorry part.

Listen, I don't think that the life expectancy for jazzmen has ever been that long. I mean, look at all of the free jazz greats who are no longer with us like Phillip Wilson, Luther Thomas, Lester Bowie and Sonny Sharrock just to name four out of many off the top of my thinned-out bean. The ones who made it into their eighties like Ornette, Sam Rivers and Cecil Taylor have certainly bucked the trend, but otherwise it's like why should any of 'em bother taking out old age pensions, y'know? And hey, I guess we've gotta add Billy Bang to the list which of course makes it a sad day for all of us free jazz and punk funk fans who've been following him for almost three decades awlready! I guess the best thing we can do in his memory is play all of the spinners we have by him in our collection, and maybe I'd just better break down and buy his VIETNAM Cee-Dee (a concept album based on his real-life experiences which doesn't sound a dire as one might expect!) even though the prices on ebay have been prohibitive. I mean, if I died wouldn't you wanna scam all of the old issues of BLACK TO COMM that you can? Of course you would! And since I've been feeling a little woozy as of late, maybe you should start in the celebration like...right now?
Also should mention the passing of Wailers leader/screamer in his own right Kent Morrill, who is dead at the perhaps not-so-ripe age of seventy from causes that, as they say, will be brought up in future press releases and conversations nationwide. Really, for a guy who's been in the music business since 1958 I would have thought Morrill to have been much older but given that the Wailers really were one of the first truly teenage punk rock acts that set the pace for many a thumping, big beat group o'er the next decade or so we gotta remember that these were kids and not seasoned veterans who were making that trek via station wagon all the way from Takoma Washington to Philadelphia to perform on AMERICAN BANDSTAND way back in June 1959! Spiritual fathers to the likes of the Kingsmen and Paul Revere and the Raiders and template for the Sonics, the Wailers were the big guns on the Northwest Rock Scene for a good portion of the sixties and like, although he wasn't a household name Morrill was really responsible (via his influence) for quite a lotta the party music blasting forth from frat houses for a good many years. Let's just say this is yet another page being turned in the massive annals of high energy rockism as time wooshes on, and if you don't feel any older at least go look in the mirror for visual proof!
I have been keeping busy trying to pump this post up as you can see, and here are just a few of the items long-winded me has been spinning as of late that I kinda thought'd really wanna know about!

Fadensonnen-WHITE EP CD (Fadensonnen Music)

Gee, I didn't think that people (even myself) listened to WHITE LIGHT/WHITE HEAT anymore. Well, at least the first of the two numbers on this "EP CD" sounds as if the two participants (a PD and RD in case you're keeping score) had been spending the past two weeks playing one of those budget-pressed early-seventies ARCHETYPES versions of that longtime classic before sniffing up enough discarded Bic lighter fumes and recording this high-throb exercise right in the middle of the Gowanus Canal (and it sounds it!). The other track reminds me a bit of those late-eighties solo Sonny Sharrock excursions for some reason and is equally recommended especially if you, like me, looked so desperately hard for any life or excitement throughout that feelygood decade. Anyway, if you liked Fadensonnen's previous effort which I reviewed here and quite favorably at that you might like this one as well, and if life wasn't being kind enough to us all already there's even gonna be a third volume heading our way this coming summer! Can you wait? Well, at least I have something good to look forward to these upcoming months!
Gray-SHADES OF... CD (Plush Safe)

The lower Manhattan scene of the late-seventies was probably filled with more than enough high-energy and maddening rock music for at least a dozen or so scribes from NEW YORK magazine to rail against, but that doesn't mean all of it is exactly up to the usual BLOG TO COMM standards from which all decent musical aesthetics emerge. And really reallyREALLY I was hoping that Gray, a group that not only boasted future eighties upstart artiste Jean-Michel Basquiat but hobnobbed on the same under-the-underground circuit as the by-now legendary no wave groups would have had the same sense of end-of-decade APOCALYPSE as the Contortions or even Von Lmo. Too bad this collection of surviving work just doesn't live up to my expectations, sounding more 1984 post-Max's than 1978 atonal thrust. Sad to say, I found most of SHADES OF... perhaps too studious for my own tastes with various light industrial touches, some Manhattan chic and a few phone-call tracks that seem like lightly-fluffed out Jerky Boys attempts. Even when the sparks of genius do seem to snap they only tend to recall the general miasma that had settled over a good portion of the once-exciting underground around the time Max's closed up shop and Lester Bangs decided to do his own era's end in a particularly gruesome fashion.

The closest thing SHADES OF... reminds me of is that old Chinaboise CD which captured a pre-MX-80 Sound Rich Stim and company pretty much doing an early-eighties new wave pastiche of various ideas and sounds in 1975. Now that offering was more indicative of what the '79-'83 (more/less) cusp could have produced with regards to a new underground voice than the halfway-there approach and sounds found on this promising yet rather thin exhumation. I guess Basquiat was smart to stick to art and forget the musical portion of his existence the same way Dick Powell just decided to be an actor 'stead of torture us with his comparatively tiresome warbles!
Climax Chicago-RICH MAN LP (Harvest, England)

Here's a record that's probably more famous for its admittedly neat-o seventies-revisionist art deco cover than for the music which certainly has little if anything to do with a Chicago blues sound than some whitey kids' idea of what it's supposed to sound like. Or what it's supposed to be filtered through the minds of English progressive-rock bred types maybe. Or something like that. Or nothing. Really can't say much about this record other than I like the cover and it has at least an inkling of an early-seventies post-psych presence to it, but I know one gal who really must have loved this 'un and that's "Mary Atkins". Y'see, whoever this Mary is I now have her copy of this album which she must have cherished so much that she even wrote her name on it, not on the sleeve like most proud elpee owners would have done but on the label, and I mean carved right into side "a" with what must have been a wood-burning set if not an exacto-knife. Mary, if you want your album back you are most certainly welcome to it, though in all fairness you'll have to pay the postage and handling and insurance which I'm sure won't matter if this items is that dear to you.
The Black Artists Group-IN PARIS, ARIES 1973 LP (Rank and File)

Anybody with the good sense to tune into this blog w/o any malice already knows that the reissuing of rare, self-produced seventies-era avant garde jazz albums isn't happening as rapidly as we would like it to. Howevah, when some obscurity does get pressed up for us bums who were too poor or stupid to pick these platters up in the first place you can bet I'm gonna be one of the first to try getting a copy into my pulsating, greasy mitts! And this li'l beaut's one that was sooooo obscure in the first place that I can't recall hearing about the dad-blamed thing until coming across an original via an ebay auction a few years back. My bid of $164.39 got swiftly trounced natch, but at least now I can hear this slow-burn live set recorded by what essentially was the Human Arts Ensemble going under the name of their chartered organization back home in St. Louis trying to do to Paris what the similar-minded Art Ensemble of Chicago did a few years earlier, hopefully while not getting ripped off in the process.

And I really do mean "slow burn" for this platter does have the same quiet drive of a PEOPLE IN SORROW as the music flows and ebbs until finally ending in a drive blowout to rival the better seventies co-op acts from the AEC on down creating the next generation of fire music for a world that was still trying to puzzle out Ornette Coleman. Future jazz big names Oliver Lake and Joseph Bowie are front and center here along with BAG regulars Baikida Carroll and Floyd LeFlore all adding their BAG-ish mix of horns and "small instruments" backed up by Charles Bobo Shaw, who not only plays his standard drums and percussives but even handles a stylophone! Don't expect any Rolf Harris ditties though, for this is the real beyond games free jazz sound that had me scouring late-seventies NMDS catalogs and Cleveland Height used bins for the total high energy scronk of it all.

If it means anything to you there's this annoying click at the beginning of side one, but that's only because the Rank and File label hadda use an actual original vinyl copy for the masters since the original tapes are long gone. Frankly those old private pressings weren't exactly of the best quality as anyone who has been collecting these platters since 197X knows by now. Just a li'l warning to you tightass audiophile nut types who are concerned about such things...the rest of us who've endured everything from BYG pressings to the various atrocities committed by the old Moxie label will just be reminded of them good old days when things such as "audiophile recordings" seemed to be something that brainy guys who looked like Alan Ludden were more concerned about as opposed to hiss-loving, crackle-caring flea market scuffling people like ourselves who didn't care what it sounded like as long as you could hear the thing!
The Astronauts-PETER PAN HITS THE SUBURBS LP (La Vide Es Un Mus, England)

The early eighties anarchist punk scene over in England sure had a few surprises in store for us, but the best of 'em just hadda've been the groups who were doing a little something different than the same old wallow. Groups like the Apostles, the Mob, Zounds and these guys were amongst those who were not only different than the usual row goin' on (not that there was anything evil about the row that was!), but different enough in a way that reminded me more of what punk rock 1971 was rather than the early-eighties sound and style that was upsetting more'n a few cubes stuck smack dab inna middle of MASS ENFORCED SQUAREDOM back in the eighties. And of these groups the Astronauts were the most unique, not only with a name that they weren't aware was previously used by a sixties Colorado surf group but with a long-hair and jeans sway that looked more like early-seventies Ladbrook Grove layabouts cranking out a sound that you woulda thought only Mick Farren coulda loved!

Of course I am always rooting for the kinda group like this that goes against the grain of what is prim and proper even in a genre such as underground rock where ideas can go anywhere and reach stellar heights or plumb oceanic depths for that matter, and as far as straying from the supposed norm the Astronauts seemed to have done a pretty good job of it themselves. And this recent reissue of their debut LP PETER PAN HITS THE SUBURBS shows that the Astronauts actually had a grip on their instruments and could perform in a variety of styles in and outside of the patented BLOG TO COMM sphere-of-things making for a sound that I'm sure appealed to the leftover hippoid crown as well as the ever-growing anarcho-punk contingent over there, and if anything could get those two tribes together...

The music has this steady straight-on intensity to it yet the style can change from straight-ahead rock to post-psychedelic to garage-crank at seemingly the drop of a hat. However it retains itself as a cohesive whole, which I know is something that should appeal to all of you cohesive holes who tune into this blog. At no time do the specters of Crass (then #1 anarcho-swipe) rear their luddite heads...the sound actually owes more to the 197X Hawkwind/Gong stream of unconsciousness which I guess is why none other than Nik Turner can be found guesting on sax perhaps giving the Astronauts a tad bit of an Inner City Unit sound on the numbers where he does. And the overall performance is actually straightforwardly underground in a seventies sense that you would've expected that the Astronauts would have been given a rave of approval not only from PENETRATION magazine (if they were still extant at the time) but John Peel himself.

Yes, this reissue sure does come in handy, and for a guy who had pretty much thought the eighties a vast dump of watered down sixties/seventies ideals this only goes to prove that there was more in the underground swing going for it than I would have given credit. Of course you hadda dig deep for it like you have to do today, but it is there for the taking. And although some readers may harp about the technical proficiency and use of synthesizers and what they would consider "progressive" proclivities I'll still have to rate PETER PAN HITS THE SUBURBS as a surprise outta-nowhere strike from a band that I really never gave that much thought to in the past. Now if I can only find that ROCK AGAINST THE BOMB cassette in my collection that has been eluding me for more than a few months already!
ONE OTHER ITEM I GAVE A LISTEN TO BETWEEN LAST WEDNESDAY'S POST AND TODAY: Jimmy Page's soundtrack to Kenneth Anger's LUCIFER RISING, featured on the entire first side of the Led Zep SOLO PERFORMANCES bootleg LP. Well, it did turn up in the pile and I sure remember loving the dickens outta it back when I first bought the thing from one of those clandestine mid-South mailorder bootleg businesses back in 1984. What piqued my interest in giving this 'un a listen was not exactly the hubbub of what it sounded like (there was none, other than just about everybody who heard the thing HATED it), but the story behind it which was being played out in music magazines throughout the mid-seventies in sort of a mini-drama that was unfolding before our very eyes that was probably about as interesting if not more so than the actual film that did come out!

And for music that Kenneth Anger found unusable (even though he did utilize it for an early rough sketch of his final cut entitled LUCIFER RISING PART ONE which was shown in Los Angeles September 1976 from whence this recording came) I find the finished music quite...exciting, mesmerizing and everything that Led Zep under the sway of Page and his "romance with the White Lady" was anything but! The soundtrack begins with this droning sound which I think was made by Page bowing his guitar through an ARP synthesizer while an ominous melody perhaps made by a non-bowed guitar being played through the same synth appears. For some reason the mood and even the guitar reminds me of Nico and her singing on "It Was a Pleasure Then". Soon some rather eerie chanting voices show up as the guitar playing gets even more dramatic and rushes into total chaos before everything reverts back to the drone from whence it all came. Quite an experience, especially when one remembers just what a dull band Zep could have been when their more thuggish sides (most notably Bonham's!) got the best of them and their drug experiences pretty much took over the entire direction and downward spiral. Culminating in some rather eerie happenstance which I'm convinced helped bring the seventies to a rather bitter end (as if IN THROUGH THE OUT DOOR wasn't enough of a sad indication of "era's end" for a pretty sad era of horrid FM "rock" music that many STILL fondly remember!).
A FINAL NOTE OF EXPLANATION: Here I go, thinking that this April 15th (yesterday) was actually TAX DAY which is the obvious reason I posted the pertinent Beatles cartoon clip featuring George Harrison's on-target protest song "Taxman"! Well, as some of you probably already knew it turns out that for some strange reason pay-up time this year's not last Friday but this upcoming Monday which, shall I say, makes my posting of the aforementioned clip (and the rush to file my taxes) rather premature! Let's just say that this whole debacle does make me quite sore, not only because I posted the clip on the wrong (yet traditional) day, but because I forked over my hard earned to an evil, megalomaniac government that I more or less loathe three days before I actually HAD TO!!!! When I have to pay up the big bucks I like to hold onto my hard-begged as long as humanly possible, and although the Forces That Be got my moolah three days earlier than they shoulda well...just wait until next year!

As for the lack of readers writing in to chide me for my obvious faux pas all I'll have to say is yeah right, like you guys make enough money to pay taxes. What a bunch of freeloaders!

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