Saturday, July 30, 2011

Well. don't expect much here. In fact, don't expect much for the next few weekends or maybe even months because frankly, 2011's turning into one of the more coma-esque years on record and in an eon of rather dud-like spells in high energy sounds that's really sayin' somethin'! It is a situation that I must say has really worn this tired example of a rock 'n' roll blogger down to a frazzle 'n yeah, I do know that I have a good 35+ years of musical backlog in my collection which is helping me through this particular drought but the lack of 1) moolah and 2) hotcha new archival or fresh new items is keeping this man in a deep dark funk these past few months. Well, not exactly in the deeper realms of depression mind you, but sheesh, I sure could use some high-energy resensification to charge my batteries to their fullest extent and if people are willing to keep their vaults locked tighter'n an Italian chastity belt there's just no way that all of those sixties/seventies rarities I so crave will ever make their way into my eternal psyche, and that's a pretty bad forever to look forward to!

Well, at least the guy at IT'S ALL THE STREETS YOU'VE CROSSED NOT SO LONG AGO (see link at left) is helping to keep me amused as he continues in his quest to bring the best of seventies rock club ads to my screen and yours with his latest posts, mainly those featuring the going ons at the En Why rock clubs of 1976. Interesting even if incomplete, but now I do know for sure that such acts as the Dixie Dregs and Fox (fronted by the guy who used to be the original lead in GREASE..golly!) played CB's which really isn't anything earth-shattering, but it sure is nice to have such rock history available at your fingertips just in case you want to know who was booked at the old 82 Club some soggy Saturday in May of '76. But as usual, such revelations seem to dredge up more questions like, is that "Earth Opera" who opened for Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers 12/76 thee same Boss Town-era bunch  who released two albums for Elektra in the late-sixties? Can't find any info regarding their re-grouping (or if one of the ex-members copped the moniker for a revitalized group) so let's just say that I'm really stymied over this one!

One gulcheral occurrence of some relevant significance which might or might not interest you has been the appearance of the "original" cut of Kenneth Anger's LUCIFER RISING on youtube, not the 1967 version which was allegedly buried in the desert by Bobby Beausoliel but the 1975 "edition" which uses that Jimmy Page soundtrack that Anger thought was so worthless that he pur a curse on the guy because of it (and you all know what happened to Led Zep after that!). Well, that's how the rumor goes but anyway, I guess that this "collection of rushes and outtakes" going under the title of LUCIFER RISING PART ONE as one Anger booklet described it was made utilizing the Page soundtrack, and according to the liner notes of the SOLO PERFORMANCES bootleg it was publicly shown at least once in Los Angeles back in 1976. Obviously, this one's survived even if on shaky videotape which is a real surprise considering how all of these Anger projects and original films seemed to have been lost over the years making some skeptics doubt if any of 'em were even made in the first place (like, whatever became of SENATORS IN BONDAGE?).

I gotta say that I like this particular take not only for Page's drone-on music (which I find preferable to the legit Beausoliel one which sounds too much like bad Pink Floyd) but for the spectacular shots of Egyptian landscape as well as a few interesting visuals I can't recall seeing in the "official" version. Even a clip of that prehistoric pagan earth carving or whatever it's called of that monster wielding two long, hard clubs (if you know what I mean!) pops up here, and somehow I can now easily see how this was intended as being Anger's answer to INTOLERANCE or maybe even QUE VIVA MEXICO, or something to that artistic vision-y effect which is bound to get all of you film snobs all moist and watery. Worth the 24-minute viewing it will take you to sit through, dismal videotape transfer and all.

Well, enough stalling. Here's what's been gracing my ears as of late. Not much, but I know that you'll devour every morsel of it or else why would you have tuned in inna first place?
The Raunch Hands-PAYDAY LP (Crypt)

I dunno what got me thinkin' 'bout it, but as of the past twenty or so years I've really been ignoring the long line of recordings that this once-popular En Why See rockaroll group had unleashed o'er the better portion of the mid-to-late eighties. Something which is rather strange, since I can remember back in the mid-eighties just drooling over everything from the Hands' debut spinner as well as these Crypt Records wonders, and for the life of me I wonder why I just shrugged these all off once the nineties and its own waft of miasmaism just overcame us all. Well, the eighties were know for its own brand of wet towel damperisms, but anyway that's no excuse for me just forgetting all about these guys probably because they were "modern" and thus didn't relate to my sainted past cultural experiences involving penny candy and vertical holds going kablooey. As you all know, I do get that way sometimes.

But anyway this one is a killer, not as good as I remember their debut waxing of Ray Charles' "I Got a Woman" to be, but rather magnifico in itself the way Chandler, Maraconda and company just tear their way into a whole slew of raving post-rockabilly roundups kinda sounding like the Ramones if they didn't believe everything their press agents were tellin' 'em. My own personal fave's the barnstomin' cover of the Sunrays "I Live For The Sun" which is so forthcoming in its attack and approach that I wouldn't be surprised if it coulda made Murry Wilson's glass eyeball pop out on its own! One of those platters that goes to show me that the eighties weren't as squeaky-clean nor as hardcore introspective as I sometimes remember them to be.
Tina Harvey-"I'm Waiting For The Man"/"Baby Let Me Follow You Down" 45 rpm single (UK, UK)

Here's yet another one of those outta nowhere singles that for the life of me I've never seen mentioned ANYWHERE! Perhaps a quick thumbing through an old NME would shed light on this single which was recorded for the definitely non-prog UK label, but since I don't have any access to the mag's crucial years at hand I'm afraid that finding out anything concrete about this un's outta the question. I do know that Miss Harvey had a number of other releases for UK (including a cover of "Working My Way Back To You") as well as an album, but other'n that I guess I'd have to buy the BUBBLE POP collection of English pop weirdities to get at least a smidgie bit more of knowledge regarding the lass than what already resides in my overly junk-filled mind.

But for what it is, it is, to use that overused word, a wowzer worthy of the PUREPOP blog or perhaps one of those English glam/punk cusp collections that have been opening my eyes to a genre that hasn't quite been explored over these past few eons. Harvey's take on the Velvet Underground classic is better than I would have expected given how some of these covers can pretty much rot on the vine of good intentions, with a pounding instrumental backing that sounds as if the Spiders From Mars or maybe the Stranglers for all I know used the original as a boss template. I'll bet all of those bands who were playing this song throughout Ladbroke Grove sounded like this. Harvey's voice is suitable for this 'un since it ain't Olivia Newton-John drooly yet not Janis Joplin wail. Kinda tough in its own way and straightforward, extremely suitable for this version.

Flipster "Baby"'s the Dylan track and it's sure nice hearing a seventies Dylan cover that doesn't reek whole wheat smirk or seventies SoCal turquoise cocaine karma. Let's just say it's lucky that Peter Asher wasn't around to produce this 'un given its simple approach and Harvey's slight growl are enough to save this from being yet another schlock popster to toss on the heap of El Lay showbiz smarm!
Nurse With Wound-AUTOMATING VOL. 2 LP (United Dairies, England)

Here's another one I can't play without thinking of ol' Imants Krumins, a guy who was bragging about Nurse With Wound's prowess around the same time most denizens of this thing we call the "underground" were more interested in blabbing about whatever new down the line hype was being pushed on them by the powerbrokers that made up eighties rock fandom. Y'know, the ones who kept them freebie records and tapes comin' in just as long as the magazines kept droolin' and spillin' seed all over 'em. Yeah, I was part of that evil crew lining up for the goodies at well, but at least I was twice as duplicitous about it as the rest of you were, so that's gotta count for something!

But hey, I can always go for a nice noisy romp and this one's about as noisy as anyone can get these days (never mind that this dates back to the fact I procured my very own copy at the Record Revolution in Cle Hts. which means that there is the slight chance that my copy might have been fingered by someone important on the local underground scene o' the day!). Imagine the Joe Jones Tone Deaf Music Company letting their self-playing instruments loose while some low IQ man randomly plays various Julie Andrews soundtracks and John Cage records while listening to a man and lady discuss the proper ways one should use their pet's body parts to their fullest extent. Then imagine that the past thirty years of your life were just one big long, disgusting illusion and you'll get an idea of how you will feel once the tone arm lifts off side two. Kinda make me wish I was listening to one of Mr. Krumins' Nurse With Wound radio blocks while sitting on a pointy sno cone.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011


Good ol' Bill Shute! Bless his peen-pickin' heart for sending me a buncha DVD-R burns to help brighten up my otherwise miserable existence. And he really sent a good selection too, the first of 'em to be glommed by mine eyes being this late-sixties surprise outta nowhere starring a post-STONEY BURKE/pre-HAWAII FIVE-O Jack Lord as a wanderin' Hungarian who gets picked up by a kinda/sorta sexy Susan Strasberg and taken to the run down filling station in the middle of the desert where she, her freaked-out sisters and portly mother eke out a living. And if you think that you live in a dysfunctional fambly you should see this get up...the older sister's a bitter harridan and the mother's a strange pudge of a biddy herself. Not forgetting Strasberg, who's a pillow plunger of the highest order. Of course little sis takes the cake the way she keeps getting expelled from school for setting cats on fire! Of course she has her good side...she's a big fan of the Electric Prunes!

You could say that this 'un's too much of a post-WHATEVER HAPPENED TO SWEET CHARLOTTE after-the-fact cash-in and maybe you'd be right, but it's still a hotcha thriller. Yeah, perhaps a li'l slow here and there but it made for excellent Sunday PM viewing the same way it might have for you on via your local UHF station on some hot and muggy July day. Lord plays it good enough even if that accent he affects does get in the way (at least his hair stays in place!), while Strasberg does her best as the chippie trying to get outta the dying atmosphere surrounding her and head to San Francisco, which undoubtedly another dying atmosphere by the time this movie was released! And the entire atmosphere from the rattlesnakes and tarantulas on down is enough to give you some late-night creeps, that is unless your own family makes this 'un look like the Humbards!

Once you get in through your nervous system it's a classic, and one that I'm sure popped up on more'n a few "Creature Feature" packages throughout the final days of leftover tee-vee trash gulch hitting the sanctity of your own personal cathode. If you missed it the first, second or nth go 'round it's still not too late to give it a whirl via DVD...I understand that a legit reissue has made it out and who knows, maybe this'll pop up on your local low-budget outlet soon which would be good especially if it was intermingled with the proper roll-a-sage chair and George Foreman Grill ads giving it that special suburban  doof feeling you just can't get anymore!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Not much to report on really...things 'round here are pretty Quinlanesque deep in the middle of these hot dog days of summer. Typical kick up your feet jagoff aura which I gotta say reminds me a whole lot of those funtime vacations I used to enjoy free of school worries or cares. But as far as music as your way of life goes well, if you were expecting to see any vestige of energy in these parts or elsewhere over the past say...twenty to thirty years then you're only deluding yourself and deluding yourself pretty snattily if I do say so myself. Not that there ain't anything nerve-end snapping that's going on out there in what's left of rock et roll land, but for the most part whatever there is out there that's just beggin' to be the music of my life just ain't making that eternal connection with my ethereal being. Considering the utter lack of aural or visual stimulation to get my mind off the drudgery of life I might as well be spending all of my free time in a black box without any contact with the outside world in a total abyss of sensory deprivation and general brain death beckoning. From the way things are now, it would be an improvement.

Fortunately (for the sake of my mere survival),  I did get the opportunity to start on the batch of P.D. Fadensonnen-related Cee-Dee burns along with the debut solo Fadensonnen disque which is reviewed below, and if I didn't admit that I thought they were a good selection of noise-inducing scrank I surely would be lying through my butthole. The pre-Fadensonnen King Crab recording from '08 is an interesting affair that shows just what the guy was up to before he began releasing those pretty feral in themselves CD-R's I've been mentioning all year. This gtr/drms/moog trio really knew how to make an even more atonal, free sound noise to the point where I actually thought these were some late-nineties Faust recordings that somehow didn't make it onto disque. Also in the batch was a burn of an album by the group called International Hello whom P.D. says are the latest incarnation of Monoshock, an act that I will admit I have not listened to in about seven years for reasons that may seem more obvious to me than to you. International Hello certainly do sound a whole lot like what one would imagine Monoshock to come off as in 2011 with the swirls of analog-styled synthesizer and heavy guitar chording, and even though for some perhaps not-so-strange reason I feel like hating this on principle alone I can't find nary a fault with it. If you're interested in a flesh and blood copy of their self-titled debut for yourself it's on the Holy Mountain label and I assume the usual suspects carry it.

Lessee...what else is there to froth on about? Not much really, though you might want to know that I have been spending my ever-dwindling free time collecting and studying old New York club listings either off the web (IT'S ALL THE STREETS YOU CROSSED NOT SO LONG AGO, linked up on the left, have been a tremendous help) or via some ebay wins. I do have some pretty strange, long-lasting obsessions of mine that I still need to sate, and learning more and more about even the strangest, most attention-slipping oddity that transpired in the New York of the high energy days (and before, and beyond) does at least help connect me with a past that maybe wasn't all that much it was cracked up to be in the first place. But hey, it gives me something to do and helps enrich my overall rock et roll knowledge even if I do feel about as stodgy as some of those creepy Revolutionary War historians that you come across once in awhile. But hey, finding out that Rula Lenska played CBGB in the eighties well, it does SOMETHING to me right here (now, visualize me lightly punching my midsection with a weak fist, complete with a pained look of ennui riddling my face) which if anything goes to show you what a desperate person I have become. And hey, I LIKE ROCK FOLLIES!!!.

Now for the typical weekend writeups. Not that much has been gracing my stirrups as of late, and except for a few expected ebay wins and perhaps some left-field wonders that I lost in the collection popping up I don't think the situation's gonna change. Still waiting for that big surge of 60s/70s archival wonderment to finally make its way outta the collections and into the online catalogs, but right now I have the feeling that such a torrent will never happen even if there is somewhat of an interest in obscure and undocumented garage/punk/underground music wallowing out there in the great World Memory Bank we call the internet. I mean, sometimes I get the feeling that hearing a say, collection of David Roter solo recordings or Brian Sands rarities rates the same chance as me flicking on the television set and seeing an episode of NAKED CITY, and that's something I still have a hard time swallowing...the lump in my throat, that is!

OK---enough self-pity, which I find perfectly acceptable as long as I'M doing the woe is me bit!
Fadensonnen-PD1 CD-R (Fadensonnen, see link at left for purchasing information)

Who'd've thunk a brand-new Fadensoonnen-related release would've made its way to my door this soon? But this just ain't any ol' Fadensonnen release, but one featuring the man in a solo setting handling all of the instruments (which include, besides the featured Amphetamine Lead/Feedbacker/Drone/Anvil Rhythm/Black Hole Lighter Slide Guitar...drums, percussion, tape manipulation, AM/FM clock radio and toy saxophone!), and it all sounds pretty disturbing, but in a great, life-reaffirming kind of disturbing way! Thirty-four minutes of total high-energy rock abandon which has me thinking a whole lot of the infamous Doug Snyder/Bob Thompson DAILY DANCE album which should be so ingrained and embedded into your psyche that I won't even bother hitching up a link to one of the many on-line reviews of it I have written o'er the years. Let's just say that if you like hard distorted acid guitar wailing and manic percussive scrunch being played over what sounds like one of those old John Cale tape experiments that were released a good decade or so back then this is the one for you! Cee-Dee closer "Uno Lapis" earns points for exceptional tape-loop drone repeato riffdom unheard since the days of at least READ ONLY MEMORY.
Nate Wooley, Scott R. Looney, Damon Smith, Weasel Walter-SCOWL CD (ugEXPLODE)

The latest in a (hopefully) long line of freedom-oriented wares on the ugEXPLODE label, this 'un's got label head Weasel Walter working out with some more of those obscure free jazz players I certainly never head about before. However, after giving this 'un a spin you'll probably muse to yourself just why are these guys nth rung on the jazz ladder while comparatively subpar sputum like Kenny G (wait, is he still relevant?) are considered Public Exhibit #1. Playing variates from free bleat to quiet undertow that recalls everything from prime Art Ensemble of Chicago to recent post-loft endeavors, and if you think that I don't think that this one doesn't measure up to whatever expectations I think I may have for jazz after a good 110+ years of existence then well, I just can't fathom what you're thinking! Dunno if anything along the lines of this or any of the other ugEXPLODE offerings make for current jazz press fodder in DOWN BEAT or whatever print or online jazz journals there may be, but if this remains obscure while jazz becomes smoother and smoother as time goes on well, I would believe that was par for the course!
JING LP (Three Cherries)

I certainly do remember giving this '88 release a duff write-up back when it arrived during a period in rock et roll music which hadda've been one of the most sterile, annoying times for fresh and exciting sounds to burst their way forth from the poopcrust that made up the surface of then-moderne pop/rock ideals. Pretty much like our times, only back then I actually believed that there was hope for various sixties/seventies hard-gnarl rock stylings to make a comeback which probably shows my naiveity more than my altruism! Well, at least I thought that before rock as a mode for youth creativity and general upsettingness kinda vanished off into a mellow wall of eternal giddy bliss. Naturally, I was a much younger and more rabid town crier for the high energy lifestyle which got me roundly condemned from all quarters, but if I hadda do it all again maybe I would come off even more offensive and generally rude towards everything and anything that stood in the way of the success of pure, unadulterated high energy rockism...sure it wouldn't have done any good, but at least I'd feel a lot better about myself for at least trying.

After giving those two Jing tracks on the CBGB RECORDED LIVE OFF THE BOARD sampler a spin and coming to the conclusion that perhaps this particular late-eighties aggregation wasn't so bad at least as far as eighties post-new wave went I figured well, I wasn't doing anything else this weekend so why not give this 'un another go 'round! And for a buncha survivors (made up of ex-LIVE AT CBGB'S alumnus...Shirts and Laughing Dogs members to be precise) the music can get more late-eighties synthpop as opposed to mid-seventies garage thud. Oddly enough, nowadays I can't find anything here to get offended about which perhaps shows a maturing on my part, or perhaps early signs of Alzheimer's for all I know.

Leader Artie Jing Lamonica has somewhat of a pop-rock sense to his compositions, while his slightly toughguy voice does suit the material in perhaps the best way possible. And although the performance does have a slight tinge of eighties ginch to it at least it doesn't irritate the same way other eighties gnu wave practitioners who mixed their punkisms with Madonna sure got my goat. Yeah, I know that in '88 I wanted to see the entire group's 'nads hung on my mantelpiece but now it seems almost like a quaint reminder of the entire worthlessness of the eighties filtered through the remnants of seventies achievement. And if you can make sense of that maybe you are more of a typical BLOG TO COMM reader'n I ever would have given you credit for!
ANOTHER ROCK 'N' ROLL-RELATED DREAM THAT I THOUGHT I'D RELAY TO YOU BEFORE I FORGET IT TOTALLY DEPT.: this was a long and drawn-out one I had Tuesday night that oddly enough took place in Los Angeles and involved amongst other things going into what looked like a run down bar and ordering a Guinness because the owners frowned upon loiterers and were giving me evil eyes! However, the bartender didn't have any although he told me that he had something of equal value in an already half-opened bottle which he had to chill (after waiting awhile the drink that I did get consisted of a brand of alcohol-laden Cola called "Local Cola" [written in Coca-Cola-styled script in numerous places across the can!] mixed with a very heavy cream making the concoction of an almost espresso consistency). Afterwords, I somehow met up with the early-mid-sixties versions of Paul McCartney and George Harrison who were lugging around boxes of John Lennon memorabilia which I was trying to get a peek at considering their rare nature. (Don't worry, I'll spare you the part about how I remarked to someone that I was once called "the Jewish Mike Bloomfield"! Yeah, I don't understand that one either!!!) Anyway, throughout this dream I was carrying a rather large stack of albums that I had recently procured at a local record shop, some of which were Mothers of Invention platters that were legit though consisted of rare recordings by the late-sixties version of the band that one would more or less associate with bootlegs. The sleeves were very colorful though, almost in the same style as that one cheap-o Mothers collection that came out on Verve in the late-sixties with the little gumball machine charms. Other records that were obtained included FUGS 4 ROUNDERS SCORE (which might have had the snap from the first Fugs album on the cover 'stead of the chimpanzee-rendered abstract painting!) and LIFE WITH THE LIONS. Tim Buckley's LORCA was also in the pile as were a few more familiars whose titles will probably come to me as the day progresses. If anything, this 'un proves just how much I miss the era of vinyl shopping and pouring through piles of platters just drooling to get the stuff home and onto the turntable, and dem wuz da dayze! Really!!!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

John's Children-BLACK AND WHITE CD (Acid-Jazz Records, UK...probably available for download somewhere out there)

Hmmmm...gotta package from Bill Shute today which was filled with a number of burnt DVD offerings that'll probably have to wait until I can get enough free time in front of the machine as well as this particular release.  I'm talking the "new" (actually recorded in 2003) John's Children album which has been making a few waves in the same circles that you'd expect such an album to make a few waves in. I will admit that I did harbor a little bit of curiosity regarding this album, especially after reading some particularly powerful remarks from some of Bill's real-life friends who made their opinions known via Facebook. But it wasn't like I was going to rush out and buy a copy for myself. Too cheap y'know. And besides, that's what we have Bill Shute for!

Well, let's just say that this is one album that will prove to at least myself that 2011 wasn't exactly a totally dog year with regards to rock 'n roll releases, even if this alb's technically eight years old. It's a pretty fantastic release if I do say so myself, with not only original Children Andy Ellison and Chris Townson on voice box and drums respectively in tow, but Sparks/Jet guy Martin Gordon shows up on bass while some relative newie goin' by the name of Boz Boorer plays some convincing enough guitar here to make you think that maybe Marc Bolan didn't die that fateful day! This Boorer guy is a relative mystery, though I discovered that he had played in some aggregation called the Polecats as well as backed up a certain fellow called Morrissey, who if I'm not mistaken is that guy who used to direct Andy Warhol movies. Whatever, he's a pretty good substitute, though once you get down to the bare nitty gritty could anybody really replace Bolan???

But like, who cares because this one sounds like the Great Lost John's Children Album which is convincing enough to make you think it actually was recorded in 1966 even if the sound quality and instrumental gear is definitely STEREO REVIEW fresh stock. Really, Ellison's voice sounds just as teenage as it did back in the sixties, and whether he's driving his way through a fresh composition or even hotcha John's Children re-recording your mind just doesn't conjure up shriveled like it does with many a sixties comeback custom made for the wheel chair ramp.

Total excitement here not only with the familiar re-dos (besides "Sara", "It's Been a Long Time" and "The Perfumed Garden of Gulliver Smith" which are obviously good choices if I do say so myself) but the new 'uns which do have a good 14 Hour Tech. Dream lilt to 'em. Amongst 'em are "I Got The Buzz" and "This is Your Wife" which are hot enough to make me think they were leftover tracks from the old days despite their structural freshness which at least updates 'em to the late-seventies power-pop upheaval. The xerox sleeve I have gives no credit but if in fact these are recent compositions, but I gotta give credit to the group for capturing the decadent appeal of late-sixties England and presenting it during a time which makes those days seem totally Victorian in comparison.

Boss choice of covers too. Now, "Love is All Around" at first glance might not seem like the perfect number for the group but if Talking Heads couldn't ruin in could John's Children have? The idea of covering the Small Faces' "Lazy Sunday Afternoon" was a brilliant one which the group pulls off spiffingly, but what's even more surprising is the Cee-Dee closer "Eleanor Rigby", especially since for the life of me I thought I'd never want to hear another Beatles cover ever again (the Pink Fairies' "Tomorrow Never Knows" excepted)! But if you thought Ellison's rendition of "Help" oh so long ago was a real winner you're sure to like this punky take which is raw enough to make you forget just how much the Beatle brand had become synonymous with peace and love sterility for forty years counting!

Great 'un here, 'specially for a buncha oldsters who should be checking their post boxes for their mail order Depends. But hey, considering that nobody but these old timers are cooking up the high energy froth 'n that the "younger generation"'s muses like Lady Caga are nothing but Barbara Streisand with designer tattoos why should that bother anyone? John's Children may have an average age that points towards mandatory retirement but that don't mean they're about to be put out to pasture, which is where all of those musical asses we've been putting up with as of late should be herded into after a quick and hopefully painful neutering!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Y'know, I really wish that I could enjoy these summertimes the way that I did when I was a kid, but for the life of me I can't. Of course I don't have those three months of unbridled ecstatic vacation time to look forward to like I once did, nor could I parade about a swimming pool without somebody pointing out my stretchmarks as well as those li'l blibby things that dot my torso, but sheesh I'd even like it if I could ride a bike, go down to a corner grocery store and buy some hotcha junk food 'n comic books to take back to the abode and enjoy while either the radio or a tee-vee airing some class early-sixties vintage program is wailing about. Even if I could ride down to the river and throw rocks in it to see how big a splash I can make would I feel like a more complete human being. Eh, but those days are long gone, and even if I were a twelve-year-old this very day I would just shudder at the lack of mental stimuli there is out there to absorb. At least when I was a kid there were Fugs albums.

One thing that has been providin' a li'l back brain stimulation as of late's been a recent order from Ken Pierce Books from whence I've received the 1963-64 collected works of PEANUTS as well as the 1957-1962 collection of DENNIS THE MENACE dailies. Thankfully these volumes have been not only helping me kick up the feet during the evening hours but have been making me flash back to my just-into-the-double-digits-days when things such as PEANUTS and DENNIS THE MENACE paperbacks were what I pretty much based my entire existence on! And true, I have most if not all of these comics somewhere in my vast paperback collection (mostly stored in boxes amidst years of old MAD collections and various other comic strip flotsam) but it was sure nice flashing back to them times when things such as comic strips were definitely something to get obsessed over especially if you were a fat slob like me who was bored with sports and needed to do some real vicarious living through some medium that certainly was not under the strict confines and rules of the local Blue Pencil board.

Nice reading here too...especially heart-warming to glance at things such as the 11/22/63 PEANUTS strip if only because that one perhaps not so obviously sticks out in my mind. Not because I remember having it read to me or anything along those lines that fateful day but when I was like nine or so I was pouring through the batches of old newspapers saved o'er the years and of course I scoured through the entire Kennedy assassination edition totally in awe, as if this then not-so-recent happening was of World War II vintage! (Which wasn't so strange in itself considering how my parents and relatives were still talking about the war as if it had ended only yesterday!) Well, to a kid like myself it might as well have been an era as far off as the Big One, but somehow reading the comics and television listings for that day o' infamy was a strange flashback to a totally different in many ways world that was only a good six or so years after the fact! But for years that particular strip about Snoopy taking Charlie Brown's poncho so he could sleep on his doghouse in the rain really does something to me, not to mention that one NANCY where Sluggo does a little cross-dressin' in order to sneak in free on "Ladies Day" at the football stadium!

As far as the DENNIS THE MENACE "panels" I've been reading go well, these also sure brought back the memories, this time of my age eleven obsession with this comic when not only was I reading these late-fifties vintage DENNIS's with relish (and perhaps a li'l mustard and ketchup...gotta sneak my li'l cornball joke in there!) but frequently eyeballing the infamous tee-vee series then running heavily in syndication at the time.. I will admit that by the late-fifties the comic was starting to tone down in the violence department, but I can still get some good belly laughs outta the thing esp. when Dennis and his friends walk in on mom taking a bath or some strange gag is made about the fact that Dennis' younger pal Joey's so confused about his sexuality which does seem rather timely if you ask me. (Always liked the one where Dennis asks his mother to explain to Joey why boys don't play with dolls because Dennis forgets!) Sheesh, if Joey were around these days (wait, he still is, isn't he?) I'm sure his parents would be helping to nurture his feminine side and shower him with all of the dolls and other female accessories he so desires. Kinda like that kid up in Toronto whose parents are keeping its sex secret from the world so he/she can decide its own gender as if something like that can be discerned other'n by the proof being in the pudding, or the sausage for that matter! Something which is making me want to take up a pool to see who can come closest to the actual date and time when this kid commits suicide (I say its late-teens...maybe early twenties).

Also helping me to make it through the night's a recent package sent forth by none other than P. D. Fadensonnen. Seems like the fellow has yet another release out which he would like me to write up, or dissect if you will for this particular blog (which will occur in the nearer than you think future!) as well as some Cee-Dee-Ares that he thought I would get a kick outta of which I am of course appreciative. Amongst these particular goodies are a Les Rallizes Denudes burn of a live '73 show which I think I don't even have (or at least have in part on one of those 10-CD sets I purchased a good five years back), an early Fadensonnen-related group called King Crab as well as a new version of Monoshock going under the name International Hello which I must say I do have some strange trepidations about but of course will play 'n flay when the time arrives. A big hearty thanks to thee P. D., and the rest of you keep those cards and letters comin' in!

Yeah, I know, cut the chin chow and let's get to the reviews! Well, you know you could have scrolled down if you're that impatient...I mean, what's stoppin' ya!
La Ligne Claire-CHERI LP (Bruit Direct Discs, France)

Once in awhile some generous soul out there in internetland other than Fadensonnen will zip over to me their self-produced wares for, shall we say,  "reviewing purposes". Sometimes these outta-left-field items are the armpits (hairy at that!), but more often than not I do receive some rather life-reaffirming records, tapes, Cee-Dees and whatnot  that still seems to stand the test of time. This outta-nowhere album is but one of 'em, a 12-inch mini-LP (or perhaps maxi-EP?) from a new French aggregation that calls themselves  La Ligne Claire. And if you're still of the mindset that the French couldn't rock et roll to save their Gallic behinds all I got to say to you is "fie on thee!!!"

La Ligne Claire's sound could be called "no wave" in the broadest of senses considering that no wave in the purest of senses was New York City-oriented and lasted a mere two years best, but in other ways these Francoids are part of a retro-seventies noise-clank era that gave us the likes of the Magick Markers as well as this all-gal Eyetalian band called Allun who released a number of pretty good primitive recordings that Eddie Flowers and Eddie Flowers only seemed to acknowledge even existed. La Ligne Claire follow in the footsteps of these two aggregates with CHERI, a pretty good encapsulation of the mad guttural growl that was late-seventies underground rock, or at least until the major labels and Anastasia Pantsios spit polished their favorite (and easily molded) ultra-commercial and downright precocious ideals of this growing concerned and re-packaged it all as "new wave". Y'know, that major Cleveland "underground rock" putsch where Insanity and the Killers as well as those wowzers the Adults replaced the Styrene Money Band and Pagans as the growing trend in upwardly-looking youth market statistics but I digress...this group filled with actual YOUNG   PEOPLE is mighty good, even better'n the Sediment Club who had a great EP just last year and are probably better'n even what the Markers and various other similar-minded types might be cranking out at this very minute!

If I hadda do any strong comparisons I could dish out names like Theoretical Girls and maybe even those hoary old Godz, but La Ligne Clare are different. There does seem to be the spark of innocence and youth that will probably get wooshed away as the hard slam o' reality finally sinks in, but the spazz joy and Velvet-y drive is enough to have one thinking Jonathan Richman '72 meets Arto Lindsay '77, and that's a pretty heady equation in itself!

You can probably latch onto a copy easily enough if you scour the internet (can't find the address or price fact I couldn't even decipher either the printed enclosure nor the personal letter that was enclosed with this particular platter. Guy, if you're reading this, howz'bout cluing us in as to how interested parties can obtain copies for our very own???
Various Artists-A BUNCH OF STIFF RECORDS LP aka A BUNCH OF STIFFS (Stiff, Germany)

Got this 'un if only for the inclusion of a Magic Michael track, but if you ask me this longplayer's a pretty good deal in itself and would have been even if the Magic One had been unceremoniously left off. Michael does swell with his "Little By Little", singing in that faux operatic voice that you woulda thunk'd kept him in the ranks of Can longer than he was, but the rest certainly does more'n "hold its own". Sometimes it is hard to remember that the likes of Nick Lowe and even Elvis Costello sure had their listenable and perhaps even culturally significant moments early on whilst they were still under the spell of the English underground-cum-pub attitude, and the likes of Dave Edmunds doing "Jo Jo Gunne" and Graham Parker (uncredited) sure bring back memories of '76 rock mag scouring when certain pundits actually thought that these geezers along with Dr. Feelgood and the Flamin' Groovies were gonna be some brand new vanguard to take us into the latter portion of that decade and rescue us from the evil clutches of Emerson Lake and Palmer! And come to think of it, I do remember how it was music like this which really upset the "classic rock" dolts I hadda put up with in the late-seventies who thought that the likes of Lowe and Costello were beyond the pale when it came to the likes of those abhorrent punk rock types! Well, you can't argue with a Boston fan or a spiritual sphincter I always say!

Jill Read does early-sixties gal emote fine with "Maybe" while Larry Wallis and the Takeaways do fair Dylan (though not enough that Mouse'll lose any sleep) on "Food". And hey, even Motorhead do their best in their attempt to move heavy metal into its second generation on "White Line Fever". I also better mention Wreckless Eric's "Whole Wild World" because if I don't Lindsay Hutton'll put the Old Grimper Moor Curse on me (that's where everything ya eat tastes like British cooking!). In all, this kinda reminds me of what an interesting label Stiff was before they decided to cash in all their chips on the more gnu wave-y stylings of Lene Lovich and whoever they were signing in order to fill the gap left by the defection of Costello, failing miserably in their desperate attempts to regain lost lucre and credibility for that matter!

Can-RITE TIME CD (Spoon/Mute EEC)

Yeah, yeah...sure I had my innate fears about getting hold of this 'un after hearing all of the horrific naysaying that was goin' on 'bout this '86 Can reunion Cee-Dee. Funny 'nough, it wasn't until this oft-maligned disque was long o.p. that I finally worked up the courage to discover for myself whether or not the original Can line up with the legendary Malcolm Mooney front and center would cut it in the giddy eighties, and by then I was constantly being outbid on the scant few original copies that were being offered up on ebay!

That must prove that this album's legend was perhaps a whole lot more positive than I had been led to believe all these years, but in the meanwhile the Can people themselves got hold of the rights and have issued it on their own thus making the thing available in the here and now and at rather inexpensive prices at that. So after a good quarter-century of wonderin',  what do I have to say about RITE I gonna follow the hoards of disappointed Can-lovers who felt an incredible letdown after giving this one a spin or will I buck the trend and tell everyone just how much I love it, only to put my neck on the chopping block once again?

Well actually the answer to that is "all of the above" for RITE TIME is a mixed gaggle of surprises of both a positive and feh manner. Yeah, I will admit that band plays well enough albeit with too much of an eighties frame-of-mind in tow, but at times that works as an asset at least when the group gets into one of those mid-seventies electronic grooves that always seemed to have a nice, relaxing effect on me. Mooney's vocals actually carry the disque  like you knew they would, sounding just as forceful as they did on MONSTER MOVIE and are a definitely positive force on the entire session even when he's singing gunk like "Hoolah Hoolah" which really needs something to save it! At times it reminds me of those mid-seventies outtakes that made it on to (UN)LIMITED EDITION if Mooney still happened to have been in the group, and frankly this ain't that bad, at compared to some of the other post-krautrock atrocities I'm sure you've all felt the necessity to sit through! A downright keeper, though like a good portion of the group's mid-seventies output not exactly the best place to start.
Frank Zappa and Captain Beefheart-AN EVENING WITH... CD (Head bootleg)
Another oldie from the archives and a good 'un too featuring that 1975 WLIR-FM radio broadcast hosted by Frank Zappa and Captain Beefheart, ostensibly to promote their upcoming BONGO FURY album. Best known for being the source of many a once-rare Zappa bootleg track, the various archival digs which appear here had over the years been picked apart and re-pasted with other rarities but it's sure grand to give this 'un a listen to as it was originally aired. But no matter how you get hold of it, it's sure interesting hearing what Zappa and Beefheart were up to back in the early-sixties, and between this and WE ARE THE MOTHERS AND THIS IS WHAT WE SOUND LIKE we can easily see the genesis of the entire Zappa oeuvre from back in the days when having a high freak quotient wasn't exactly the way to go about doing business with the local record industry.

Besides these early tracks (many that, like "Status Back Baby" and "Toads of the Short Forest", eventually appeared re-recorded on official Mothers albums) come a few other surprises like an in-studio version of "Orange Claw Hammer" as well as this bizarroid offereing by a femme aggregate called the Smegmates who perform a particularly Zappy track called "Will You Drink My Water".  And Zappa does make for a good host here, knowing how to get the old stories outta an otherwise incoherent Beefheart who I gotta admit at times sounds as if he'd rather be out painting in the desert.

Not only that, but the "official" tracks taken from BONGO FURY serve to remind you of just what a good album that 'un was, especially since for the most part Zappa was pretty washed up at the time coasting on his "great googity moogity" image which I guess still appealed to the hippies who were buying his albums up with even more veracity! Well, with Captain Beefheart in tow how could the guy go wrong? Gonna hafta search out my tape of that 'un, but until then at least I have this particular offering to rely on. One that I'm sure can easily be found, purchased or perhaps even downloaded this late in the evolutionary scale of rock decadence.
A BOOK I WOULD SURE AS SHOOTIN' WANNA READ (IF SOMEONE'D ONLY GET IT TOGETHER!): a collection of every Lenny Kaye music column that he wrote for CAVALIER, even the ones where he writes positively about James Taylor and the Grateful Dead (well, wouldn't you???).
AND IN CLOSING, here's a link up to an article from TAKI'S TOP DRAWER that I thought was funny, even if perhaps it wasn't "quite" as accurate as author Gavin McInnes, a man I seem to agree with perhaps 60% of the time even  if he is a high-larious writer, would like us to believe. (I mean, if McInnes thinks that only liberals are closed-minded temper-tantrum-throwing venom-spewing ideologues then he's never been locked in a room with rabid pentecostals or hard-shell neoconservatives! But frankly, considering some of the flack I've hadda put up with from supposedly open-minded individuals I can empathize with the author 100%!)  However, the thread in the comment section dealing with the DC punk rock scene of the eighties was pretty interesting, even if we all coulda predicted what these punks would eventually have become well in advance!
And on that note I bid you a fond adieu, at least until I can think of something a little more wittier'n the above mess I've presented to you as carefully thought out, pertinent opinions!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

BOOK REVIEW: STRIP FOR MURDER by Max Allan Collins (The Berkeley Publishing Group, 2008)

Yeah, I know that it's more than peculiar that I, a novel-hating and a downright anti-innerlektual one at that (especially when there are no pictures in da book), actually spent a good portion of my evening hours pouring through guess what but a dog-gone MURDER MYSTERY! OK, this 'un is illustrated albeit sparsely at that, but yes indeed I did devote a good amt. of my ever-dwindling free time reading a blasted whodunit which is a surprise considering how I could have been using the same time reading old DENNIS THE MENACE comics! Kinda makes me feel like one of those balding paunchy guys with horn-rimmed glasses that I used to see throughout my childhood who were meek accountants or draftsmen by day but lived for Murder Mysteries and PERRY MASON during their evening hours...y'know, the kinda guys who still wore bowties well into the eighties and seemed to spend their two weeks of vacation hanging around the stock exchange!

But I "personally" never went in for fiction of this sort since most of it reminds me of something I would have had to absorb for a school project and not for pleasure. You know, "For Christmas Vacation, I want you to read TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MESS and have a ten-page book report ready for it when you come back January 2nd". Stuff that was supposed to inspire and motivate but only turned me off just as bad as having classical as well as Big Band music pumped into my brain as a perhaps not-so-impressionable age which only made me eventually loathe it all with a passion!

The actual reason I plunked down what could be considered a pittance (using today's standards) for this novel was because of the subject matter, considering that STRIP FOR MURDER was "based" (and perhaps/perhaps not as loosely as former DICK TRACY scribe Max Allan Collins would like us to believe) on the infamous and at-times extremely caustic feud that transpired between comic strip artists and celebrities in their own right Ham Fisher and Al Capp. And, in case you weren't exactly aware of the feud, let me tell you that it was an extremely intense and mutual loathing that lasted all the way from the thirties well into the mid-fifties and in the process caused quite a lot of gum flapping in and out of the comics world. As a child, I used to read about this "rivalry" in a variety of strip histories without paying too much attention, but the various spoofs of these strips in the pages of MAD's sister publication PANIC made such good use of said hatred for mildly amusing comic effect. Let's just say that as time rolled on I sure wanted to know about the details behind this hate-filled joust than was being presented anywhere! And true, STRIP FOR MURDER undoubtedly has about as much to do with the actual doings as HENRY, PORTRAIT OF A SERIAL KILLER had with the real Henry Lee Lucas, but at least I thought I'd latch onto a little more info than the pittance that's floating around even in this internet-saturated world of ours where everybody's dark secret and hidden being can be posted for all to see!

From what I can gather, the feud twixt these two greats began after Alfred Caplin, soon to be Al Capp and assistant/ghost artist for Ham Fisher's then-popular JOE PALOOKA (and up until then fairly successful cartoonist in his own right with his MAJOR HOOPLE swipe COLONEL GILFEATHER), left the popular boxing strip and started up LI'L ABNER which became an overnight sensation and one of if not "thee" top strip in the United States. Perhaps (or perhaps not so) surprisingly enough, this particular action resulted in some rather strident cries of plagiarism from ex-boss Fisher based solely on the fact that his own strip once featured a hillbilly boxer going by the name Big Leviticus, and even though hillbillies were pretty hotcha items in thirties entertainment and there was hardly any real resemblance between Abner and Leviticus other than they were both hillbillies (and don't forget the fact that Capp himself had allegedly created the Leviticus character for the strip while Fisher was taking one of his extended vacations or perhaps even on one of his extended benders), PALOOKA's pop was more'n adamant that ABNER was an out 'n out swipe of the rather brutish Leviticus. Oddly enough, Leviticus wasn't even that BIG a player in the PALOOKA universe the way that say, the sickening cute mute kid Li'l Max or the pudgy Humphrey were, but when he did pop back up into the storyline you could bet that Fisher would point out that his hillbillies were the ORIGINAL comic strip hillbillies and whatever you do, don't accept IMITATIONS!!!      

For his part  Capp, who by the forties had become the newly crowned king of social and political satire, played it cool perhaps because ABNER was the new hip comic strip to read and was running rings around PALOOKA popularity-wise so like...why bother, but after enough became enough the man did do a li'l retaliatin' of his own with an article for THE ATLANTIC MONTHLY sporting the beautifully pithy title "I Remember Monster".  This particular piece pretty much summed up Capp's opinions regarding his former boss even if Fisher wasn't exactly mentioned by name, but everybody who read the thing sure got it hint hint nudge nudge along with an ABNER storyline involving the star character getting a job working for a famed cartoonist where he toiled in a cramped closet and was rewarded for his efforts with a new light bulb!  (And how could we forget the racehorse that Capp snuck into one storyline going by the name "Ham's Nose Bob",  a li'l dig at Fisher's recent proboscis reconstruction!)

Soon public meetings between the two at popular watering holes became the stuff that comic strip gossip was made of, with more than enough venom to use as anti-coagulant medication being spewed from both sides. Then things began getting even weirder...Fisher began accusing Capp of sneaking suggestive drawings into ABNER in the same fashion that Fredric Wertham saw pudenda in a comic book character's shoulder, with phallic symbols appearing in mushroom patches, hidden pornography in the backgrounds and of course the snickering use of the number "69" whenever possible being pointed out as signs of Capp's terminal deviancy.*  When Capp merely showed the original and clearly non-pornographic comic stats (and when people realized that maybe too much was being read into those mushrooms and "69")  it became obvious that Fisher was actually fudging with the art adding a line here and shading there, but he wasn't done yet. Right around the time Capp was applying for a television broadcasting license to the FCC in 1955, the airwave watchdog group received a package of drawings showing various ABNER characters gettin' it on in the most explicit ways possible. Turns out these drawings were created and mailed in by Fisher, but the ensuing scandal over 'em was enough to make Capp withdraw his license request thus forgoing any future in the lucrative field of broadcasting.

Fisher might have "won" that round, but he lost big when, because of his conduct unbecoming of a respected syndicated cartoonist, he became the first man to be expelled from the National Cartoonists Society of which Fisher was a founding member. Shortly thereafter, a few days after Christmas in fact, Fisher went up to assistant Moe Leff's studio, had a chat on the phone with his mother, then downed a bottle of prescription medicine. He had been complaining about ill health, but the real reason behind his suicide was undoubtedly his all-consuming bitterness over everything that had transpired between him and his former assistant, a man whom Fisher thought he had treated fairly even if Capp seemed to not quite agree on that particular point. Not surprisingly, when Capp heard about Fisher's deep-sixing he cheerfully remarked that the man did the noblest thing that he could.

As for STRIP FOR MURDER, the names have been changed, the situations twisto-changeo'd and I still couldn't get any real hard data that I thought "might" have been uncovered after years of painful suppression. Despite all that it was a nice read. In fact, after the first seventy or so pages kinda limped about  I actually was immersed. Max Allan Collins might not exactly be one of my favorites in the field of comics  (still get these "bad vibes" from those late-seventies DICK TRACY strips he wrote which weren't that titillating even if those latterday Chester Gould ones weren't that potent to begin with) but his writing is fluid and grabbing enough as he tells the tale about a certain Jack Starr (!), comic syndicate troubleshooter who has to solve the mystery of the supposed suicide of  MUG O'MALLEY creator Sam Fizer. Fizer had it in bad for his former assistant and now arch-rival Hal Rapp whose hillbilly comic TALL PAUL is about to become the subject of a major Broadway musical. Starr's syndicate has a lot at stake, especially since they're anglin' to handle Rapp's new strip and with all of the evidence pointing to Rapp as being the actual trigger-puller on what looks like a suspicious self-croak well... Let's just say that Starr'd better do a li'l detective work of his own to get to the bottom 'n find out exactly what's going on before everything goes to comic strip hell.

Along the way we get to meet up with a number of thinly-disguised facsimiles of various fifties faces, from Ernie Kovacs and Edie Adams to FLASH GORDON creator Alex Raymond as well as the refurbished Ham Fisher and Al Capp themselves, whom Collins makes sympathetic and loathsome in their own peculiar if not unique ways. And it reads like a good cheap detective novel too which is why I kinda go for this even when it seems to go slightly astray with strange sidesteps into irrelevant terrain. But hey, considering that I'm not exactly a murder mystery aficionado the fact that this didn't get chucked out the window is saying something, and I even nixed the real stuff because I thought it was duller'n a butter knife! So my liking this book is like...really saying somethin'!

The only thing about STRIP FOR MURDER that really made me feel uncomfortable was the obligatory for a modern novel set in the fifties limelight anti-anti-communist stance. Y'know the typical and unnecessary to the plot trouncing of "McCarthyism"  (frankly, I'm way more concerned with "Murrowism" myself!) and how hey, the communists might have been "bad", but those people who go after 'em are somehow way worse! Ideas which I guess only makes sense if you use postmodern, judgmental in ways that suit forward-thinking peoples' logic but hey, that all seems to come in the package these days! Reminds me of a conversation I had recently with a fellow whom I thought knew better who believed that I was way off kilter saying that the communists as a whole were way worse than the Nazis, who according to my own personal p.o.v. were merely evil. (Thus the communists were trying for an even darker place in world-wide historical regurgitation...beyond evil if your public school-bred mind can fathom that!) The guy just couldn't comprehend that the Soviet Union, China and all points east were a beyond vile aggregate even though the combined communist death toll makes the Nazis look like rank amateurs! Nor could he digest the fact that the communists had a world-wide bastion of political cronies who were willing to support some rather barbaric actions in their march towards creating the "New Man". Well, I guess that these li'l anti-anti-communist lectures on the part of the enlightened minds of our generation in order to remind us lumpen proles to the dangers of ruining the lives of intellectual demi-Marxists are par for the course, though when are we going to get told about the dangers of calling every person of an opposing political or social credo Nazis while attempting to ruin their lives for daring to stand up for everything from Christendom to individualism? As Jim Goad, a guy who I seem to agree with more and more as time rolls on once said, if you wanna count the bodies that are piled up and the lives that are ruined, at least count 'em equally.

Back to Fisher. It was too bad that he decided to "take the easy way out" like he did. Sure he would have been even more fed up seeing Capp's notoriety grow even more once he began taking on the hippie generation (student demonstrators, Joan Baez and of course John and Yoko) and the soft-on-crime crowd thus earning the ire of many of the wine and cheese intelligentsia who had made up a nice bulk of Capp's more fervent supporters (although they seemingly ignored his sarcastic slams at Big Business via General Bullmoose as well as his various satires of Spiro Agnew which certainly did fit in with the "old Capp" they knew and loved), but a couple of sex scandals on college campuses during Capp's frequent speaking engagements helped knock his standing in the comic strip community down a few notches. Yeah, I think they were frame ups too, but it seemed that everybody out there knew that Capp was a pretty horny guy just ripe for the picking which is exactly what happened to this prime target of the Youth Revolt. The quality of the strip, which had remained pretty high throughout the sixties, eventually began to falter resulting in papers dropping it en masse. Amongst these papers was the local SHARON HERALD where I had known of strip ever since I could remember. I would occasionally sneak a peek of it in the YOUNGSTOWN VINDICATOR especially after I heard that the strip's days were numbered back '77 way, shuddering at the obvious loss of quality and how it was being milked with single panel strips drawn with little of the Capp spark taking up weeks of continuity running nowhere in one of the saddest displays of a once-talent going out the hard way. Soon ABNER was no more, and eventually the same went for Capp who outlived his strip by about two years, presumably quite a broken guy who probably wished he kept his pants up a lot more than he evidently did.

On the other hand JOE PALOOKA,  or at least what had become of the strip in the wake of Fisher's death...well, it didn't have that much of a meaning (if any) to the average comic strip peruser what with the old time sports/adventure continuity comics slowly dying out in the seventies. However, it outlived ABNER a good seven years until November of 1984 when its long-time star finally quit the racket undefeated and retired to Wilkes-Barre Pennsylvania, not surprisingly the birthplace of its creator. So hey, maybe Ham Fisher did get the last laugh after all, even if it was in the most bizarre after-the-fact way possible!
*Strangely enough Capp, in order to do a li'l flirting with the women who worked in the mail room at United Features Syndicate, would ink some particularly explicit drawing on the back of his artwork to the point where the gals would refuse to open any of his parcels fearing what vulgar display would be found this time. This was surely one fact that I guess was kept from Fisher lest he at least have some particularly potent ammo to help ruin his ultimate rival!

Saturday, July 09, 2011

Hi! Got a few good 'uns for you this time including the Josef Vondruska double disc whammy I promised I'd get to you eventually, so without any further pissing and moaning about this miserable life of mine...

Josef Vondruska/the Dom/Umela Hmota III-ROCK 'N' ROLLOVY MILACEK 2-CD SET (Guerilla, Rybalkova 1140, 440-01 Louny, Czech Republic)

Better late than never comes this review of a double-whammy archival dig courtesy of none other than noted Prague man-about-the-underground and punk rock hero in his own right Josef Vondruska. Although the name will probably mean squat unless you were one to endlessly troll not only this blog but my own BLACK TO COMM fanzine, Vondruska was (and perhaps remains) an important figure in the growth and development of Czech underground/proto-punk rock, first as the co-leader of Umela Hmota, a loose aggregate consisting of various Plastic People of the Universe acolytes and Wild Man Fisher aficionados and later as the head of Umela Hmota 3, the group that Vondruska formed after he and fellow member Alfred came to loggerheads over some pro-heroin ditties Vondruska wanted to introduce into the UH canon*. (A rift between Vondruska and lead singer Dino developed about the same time causing  the group to fracture with the other guys becoming Umela Hmota 2 and Vondruska and his new group going under the nom de Umela Hmota 3, I guess because it was all coming from the same lineage.)

Umela Hmota 2 were eventually honored with their own double-CD set a few years back and thankfully now it's Vondruska's turn, a momentous event in the realm of rockism considering that his very existence on the Prague underground scene was roughly equivalent to what such minds as David Roter and Tuli Kupferberg (to use two recently over-used examples) had done in New York City back in the sixties. A rock poet and associate of Plastic People lyricist and noted figure in his own right Egon Bondy, Vondruska was a seventies visionary individual whose ideas and boffo rock influences (Velvets, Detroit, El Lay '67...) figure heavily into the Umela Hmota 3 sound and overall sense of anarchic beauty.

If you can, dig into your BTC back issues and spin the compact disque that came with #22...besides finding one Umela Hmota 2 track that was passing as an example of the original melange (who were a pretty messy, Godz-primitive group at that) there are two Umela Hmota 3 inclusions (as well as a couple by Vondruska's later Dom who we'll discuss further down the road)  that should whet your appetite for his 'un. In fact, they're all included in the collection and in much better sound quality considering Guerilla didn't have to rely on low-grade TDK cassettes with third-generation dubs for their masters.

If you enjoyed the UH 2 release you'll definitely get a big bang outta this. Although similar in many ways to Vondruska's brother-band in their love of various US sixties watermarks of the o-mind UH 3 were a much harder, driving aggregate that I believe could have held their own stacked up against most of the mid-seventies Amerigan underground attacks of the day. And although both acts shared the same proclivities for bashing out primitive rock on shoddy iron curtain gear UH 3 seem to have their controls set on an even heavier, more electrically-defined late-sixties punk path than Dino and his bunch.

If you ignore the thick Czech accents, both of the Hmotas could have easily passed for an obscure 1970 Detroit/Ann Arbor MC5 spawn, but UH 3 sounds even closer to the John Sinclair-honed  taproot to the point where you'd at least would've expected 'em to have gotten an opening slot at the Grande. UH 2 well, they'd just have to settle for the junior high circuit of which there certainly is nothing wrong---look at it as UH 2 and 3 being the same concept yet tackled with different modes of how to express the same primal proto-punk urge that overtook quite a few many bored youth back in those best/worst of times days.

The tracks that appear were taken from two shows, the first batch from a Decemeber 1975 at an underground club called the Labyrinth from whence those BTC tracks came,  while the rest came from a '76 appearance at this gathering of the New Czech Generation festival at Bojanovice. As for the Labyrinth show two of the tracks here had originally appeared on the Cee-Dee that came with issue #22, albeit in lesser fidelity. In fact, you may remember the wild proto-punk FUNHOUSE funk of "Demon Alkohol" not to mention "Konec Sveta" ("The End of the World"), a ditty which sounds particularly 1977 English punk rock in its spit-out-the-vocals hard glory, at least until the end part where, after Petr Ragan's violin solo (!) the group breaks into this classical coda straight out of Frank Zappa! Talk about a time warp in musical influences!!!

Of course you have, if you in fact are a tried and true believer, already heard those via the aforementioned BTC disque and probably cherished them to high heaven if you're an even truer believer! But you sure as shootin' ain't heard such classics as "Negistoty" ("Apostles") which was sung by none other than guest vocalist Egon Bondy himself bedecked in a monk's robe moaning the lyrics to this Aktuel (Czech Fluxus spinoff whose own reissue on Guerilla remains unheard by this reviewer) number which comes complete with a '69-era flute solo that would have sounded more in place on some Harvest records sampler. "Zase na Ceste" (no, I don't know what that means) will make your ears do a double take, a song that surprisingly sounds (melodically and structurally) a lot like the Stooges' "I Got Nothing" if Jack Benny sat in on violin. I must admit that Petr Ragan really knows how to utilize his instrument of choice in surprising ways, whether it be as a scratchy noise-maker on "Konec Sveta" or theremin-esque wails and whoops on "Nemoce", and despite, lack of finesse with the violin his performance compliments the UH 3 sound rather swimmingly if I do say so myself.

For me the biggest surprise was the disque-closer "Radsi Bycli Byl z Kanene"  ("I'd Rather Be Made Out of Stone"), a number I've been wanting to hear ever since I read about the group's Bojanovice appearance in the booklet that accompanied the Plastic People of the Universe's EGON BONDY album way back '79 way. The description of this outright show-stopper made mention of how much it was influenced by the Detroit high energy style (I must say that I really gotta wonder about how anybody behind the iron curtain would have even known about this movement unless a certain January '69 issue of TIME somehow got smuggled in!) and in many ways the song could have made it as a set closer for the Stooges with its total hard crunch flop and Jirka Mares' pseudo-Ron Asheton lines. Kinda wonder how the audience, who might have turned up for folk singer Charlie Soukoup for all I know, took to this one. Well,  they did seem rather appreciative! Kinda makes me wish that CREEM had a correspondent stationed in Prague.

By the late-seventies Vondruska was heading up the Dom, a group that although also having Ragan as a member bore little resemblance to UH 3's midwest punk ravings. This new grouping was more attuned to the then-current English-inspired punk mode with a look to match even if some of the members were still stubborn enough to keep their long hair and grubby flared jean attire. The music had more of an experimental tinge to it, Cramps-y in some ways and perhaps the perfect fodder for the Rough Trade label during their early creative peak if this had only leaked out of Czechoslovakia somehow. And with Vondruska's deep and thickly accented vocals the results can be akin to listening to Bela Lugosi (OK he's Hungarian, but us Amerigan slobs can't tell the difference!) singing with the Raincoats!

A peck of demos pop up here (some which also appeared on the BTC Cee-Dee which I'm afraid has become obsolete given how most of its contents have been reissued in its wake) as do highlights from some live shows including one at a punk rock festival in '79 which makes me wonder what other similarly-attuned aggregates were playing around Prague at the time! And yes, there actually is a tune called "Brown Sugar" on here but it ain't the Rolling Stones "chestnut" as they say but a totally different cranker that ends with that particular phrase perhaps in reference to the original...I dunno but it's still a real ear-opener!

Some notes about the packaging...the enclosed booklet is once again (as with the UH 2 and DG-307 releases) printed on cheap and flimsy if slick color magazine stock, though unlike the other Guerilla releases there ain't the bevy of rare snaps like the kind that showed Dino and some friend in Soccer gear with the friend sporting a home made Fugs t-shirt. Just lots of collages, lyrics and a few snaps of Vondruska in UH 3 kinda looking like Ron Asheton in aviator shades as well as one from Dom when he clipped his hair in order to be "with it". The real offense however is the cheap double jewel-case which has a spindle hole so small that unless you open the thing very carefully the disque will fly outta the case and perhaps get scratched in the process. Sheesh, and I thought that production quality was gonna go up once the commies got kicked outta the burgh, but given some of those cheap-o cars they still crank out I guess things are as broken down over there as they ever were!
Andreas Brandal-DISTURBING THE DUST CD-R (Kendra Steiner Editions)

This Brandal feller's a Norwegian composer who, like just about every other act to pop up on the Kendra Steiner label, dabbles in experimental soundscapading utilizing a mix of both natural and electronically-created sources. I guess his work is well-known, enough that there must be a plethora of releases under his name on a wide range of labels that cater to the new avant garde so even if you don't know who he or or that he never even recorded for the Columbia grey label Brandal is a name that just ain't gonna go away any day soon. Anyhow this KSE release is a decent enough sampling of his work...dunno how he exactly creates this melange of drones and clanks but it is inspiring in its own way. Reminds me of some of those late-seventies experiments I used to hear about where natural music was in fact created from various forms of modern sculpture being exposed to the elements, or at least what I envisioned the resultant music to sound like. May be too heady for you but it's there for the taking (or at least buying).

A certain figure on the late-seventies Cleveland underground "scene" summarily dismissed some lukewarm interest I had in Pearls Before Swine after reading a positive aside regarding a then-recent Eyetalian reish which appeared in the pages of OP. That's probably the only reason I steered clear of the 'un until a good three decades later because...nowadays things are so threadbare in this once-heavily rock and roll world of ours that I pretty much AM grasping at straws for a new high energy fix, ifyaknowaddamean...

Not that Pearls Before Swine weren't a high energy rock act...far from it...but I figure if I'm going to have to sit through a platter of some disaffected college boy's hipster mewlings maybe the old stuff is way more digestible than the new breed of instant altruism that's been packaged to us as "independent music" for way too long a time. And besides, sometimes these old ESP folk romps could have more of a bared-wire intensity to 'em when done in the proper fashion and the introspection didn't quite get in the way. A good thing because when it did all we ended up with were a whole lotta James Taylors and Joan Baezes who gave forth with enough introspection to put the entire pharmaceutical industry out of business.

But really, I found little to get hopped up about here. Mostly the tracks that make up the group's entire ESP output are of the inward-looking folk rock variety, nothing rotten mind you but still rather slow and trodding. One could only wish that singer/songwriter Tom Rapp and company could have whipped up some really hard rock scrunchers and scattered this material amidst a good twelve or so albums, for they are decent enough. But two albums of this complete with the typical avant garde archival recordings,  tape squeals and other bits of whimsy that got stuck in really didn't make for that enjoyable of a sit-down even if I will admit that Rapp's neo-Dylanesque singing and songwriting skills are whatcha'd call above average.

Nothing wrong with it, but Pearls Before Swine just stayed in first gear for the duration. A few more spins might get the message across but (**yawn**) I do feel kind of sleepy right now. Maybe a few bars of RAW POWER'll get me back in the swing of things...

*This is something that for the life surprises me, because in no way shape or form did I think anything along the line of any narcotics let alone heroin could even make its way into an iron curtain country! Goes to show you the all-pervasive powers of the free market, and I do mean it!

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

UGLY THINGS #31 (more than just a fanzine, a way of life!)

Shee-yucks, like what took so long getting the latest ish of UT to my door anyway? I feel the same way I did when I was a budding youth being the last kid on the block to get my Disneykins, and as you know I have earned the PRIVILEGE (being a longstanding front and follower of the no-holds-barred fanzine club!) of getting my copy before everybody else on the UT freebie issue gravy train! And the worst thing is...I wasn't even ON the said train and actually hadda go and dish out my own moolah to obtain a copy! What an indignation!!! I mean, how would it look if I were to get out-scooped on this issue by David Fricke anyway?

Y'know, there was a time when I used to shudder at the thought of getting the latest issue of UGLY THINGS. Well, not exactly shudder, but darn it sometimes I'd get really down-and-out depressed reading the thing because I knew that no matter how many bucks I had or advertising space (hah!) I could sell I never could come up with an issue of my own fishwrap that would be as clear, concise, snazzy and downright enjoyable as Mike Stax's sainted creation. Really, Stax is on the ball when it comes to putting out a high quality magazine that's filled with info on groups that I for one would love to read about, and given his contacts, friends, scoops, charm and talent what hope did a crudzine publisher whose coffers were mostly filled by cashing in aluminum cans really have? Thankfully I've gotten over my rather infantile bouts of jealousy, but then again I do wonder what BLACK TO COMM could have achieved if only my bank account were a little plumper and my IQ notched up at least a good twenny-five points where I could at least compete with that one out of an infinite number of chimpanzees clanking away on typewriters who came up with something akin to Anastasia Pantsios' infamous article on soul music which even a dildo like Dave Marsh thought was the most retarded thing he's ever read.

Anyway, what else superlative-wise could I say about UGLY THINGS that hasn't been said about previous issues, and by other commentators for that matter? This latest endeavor is certainly a cover-to-cover messterpiece, and although I certainly have not been able to digest this effort in its entirety I sure got enough of a dose to keep me outta rock et roll withdrawal for a least a good six months (by which time the next issue will arrive...hopefully on time!). Gotta admit that I kinda zoomed through the Them article (saving it for one of those rainy days that seem to pop up a whole lot more frequently than others) but the Norton Records "celebration" was far more'n exciting for a guy who, like most of you reg'lar readers I presume, used to wait with baited breath for fanzines such as KICKS and Bomp mailorder catalogs during those disgustingly dog days we used to call the eighties, looking for signs of life in a world that has only gotten worse in that big trek planet earth is taking towards the ultimate oblivion. Lotsa heretofore unknown facts are spewed out in this 'un, the most shocking of 'em being that none other than Mrs. Norton herself Miriam Linna, along with older sister and noted Stooges photo snapper Helen actually sat down for some tea 'n crumpets with none other than one Mr. Jones himself, otherwise known to the world as David Bowie! She even tosses in a comment about the rock 'n roll healing powers of Mr. Bowie's group the Spiders from Mars which is something I woulda sworn woulda made for good grounds in a divorce proceeding twixt her and hubby (and downright belter in his own right...vocal-wise, that is!) Billy Miller if one would ever dare proceed!  Sheesh, I never woulda figured Miriam out to be a fag hag!

The Pleasure Seekers piece was a real wowzer as well even if 1) I never considered their "What a Way to Die" to be whatcha'd call a top ranking sixties garage band classic and 2) the seventies Suzi Quatro cult was one that never really attached its claws into my psychic rockist being unlike it did with a number of fellow rock fans including Solomon Gruberger. But still, I gotta give 'em props for being a late-sixties Detroit aggregation no matter how loosely they may have been connected to the whole high energy happening. Still working my way through the Hendrix and Stash de Rola pieces (the former being quite informative while the subject matter of the latter seems like a real piece himself), but the article on Stooge James Williamson's prep school band the Coba Seas as well as the one on the infamous (if only due to their luckily being billed atop the Velvet Underground) Forty Fingers were whatcha'd call moisture-inducing!  Really was surprised to find out that the Fingers were in fact the first rock group to play at Max's Kansas City during their opening day celebration, which only makes me want to know more about the musical goings on there in the era before Max's began posting regular gig come-ons in the back pages of THE VILLAGE VOICE back in the early-seventies.

Of course I could go on about the other features on the likes of the Sentinels and John Berberian amongst other (the Masters Apprentices) but I'll refrain. The wide array of reviews are also helpful, and although I really am trying to hang onto as much moolah as I can here in these recessionary times I did find a few items which are on my ever evolving want list that I hope I can obtain at least before the sands o' time turn me into an even bigger babbling example of a "functioning autistic" than I already am. An order to Norton should be in the cards hopefully once I get a li'l financial security into my life, and although the Hampton Grease Band DVD which is supposed to be available through guitarist Glenn Phillips' website isn't it ain't like I'm gonna throw a hissyfit and stop looking for the thing.  Who knows, mebbee some of you out there in pixelland have an idea of where a spanking brand new copy of this 'un can be obtained and at good ol' budget prices t'boot!

(Before I sign this review off I gotta ponder a whole lot about one li'l thing, and that is just how did reviewer Zak Boerger get the idea that the "Les Rallizes Denudes" moniker translates into none other than..."The Naked Larrys"! That's a really new 'un on me, especially since from all sources available the name either means [in bastardized French no less] "The Naked Roots" or "The Empty Valises" with no Larrys to be seen for miles around. Just seems too screwed to be true or perhaps an out and out prefabrication, a nice way of saying that this writer sure knows how to pull things right outta thin air! If you've any information to the contrary, please lemme know.)

Well, another top-notch issue ya got there Mike...hope they sell faster than Kaopectate in Tijuana, or at least faster'n my own monstrosity had which is why nobody's ever gonna be celebrating the thirtieth anniversary of BLACK TO COMM...hee!  
JUST ONE SMALL, RATHER INSIGNIFICANT POSTSCRIPT TO THIS MESS FOR YOU READERS TO DIGEST IN ANY WAY YOU FEEL FIT TO!: some of you who have already read and thoroughly scrutinized this particular issue of UGLY THINGS might have noticed that, although my brief praise for the Jack Starr BORN PETRIFIED album in the Norton section was duly printed the review of the Josef Vondruska/Umela Hmota 3/Dom 2-CD set that I had repeatedly told you was going to appear well...didn't make the grade. Oddly enough, I was totally under the impression that my review was accepted and was going to be published presumably without the standard proofreading that always plagues my submissions for various print and on-line endeavors but sadly this was not to be the case. I was really hoping that Mr. Stax, or at least review editor David Biasotti would have notified me if this review was rejected so's I could have published it online, but for some reason they forgot to which I will admit doesn't bug me in the least. But sheesh I thought that Mr. Vondruska, who right now is suffering through not only the loss of a wife but various mental and physical problems, could have used the li'l prop up that a review in a prestigious magazine like UGLY THINGS would have given him, but sadly enough this was not to be the case. 

Now, I don't fault anybody at the mag for not printing this or even getting back to me considering how they're top guns in the rock fandom publishing world and I'm on the end of the totem pole that the dog always tinkles on. However, in order to let you readers know about this particular set, which was in fact one of my fave rave spins on the year '10, I will crank out a hopefully decent enough review for my traditional weekend post. Until then, keep in tune, and  if I don't catch you reading UGLY THINGS, then I'll probably catch you reading an old issue of SWELLSVILLE and that ain't good!