Saturday, July 13, 2019

Pretty hefty batch of readin' we got here this week, even though I get the feelin' that you might just not snuggle up to it the way I sure wish you would! But man, I did have fun crankin' out this stream of unconsciousness which I'll hafta admit that I re-read and re re-read more'n usual (yeah---really!) in order to excise some of the more, uh, wordier passages that really woulda gotten my high stool English teacher runnin' outta red ink! Personally I think it coulda used some more tweekin' (not twerkin' you sicko you!) and perhaps a total scrapping for that matter but gee willikers, I only have a week to produce these things and I don't want any of you devout readers to have to go without eyeballing my superior than your average former newspaper rock critic now shining shoes for a living's personal opinions now! Let's face it, me at my blowhardiest is much more preferable'n whatever is left of the once promo-grubbing rockcrit field now reduced to finding new synonyms for "brave" and "daring" while relaying whatever positive attributes they find in Miley Cyrus' paens to modern slutdom.

It was a good week too what with the bevy of beauties that I found myself actually ENJOYING in a total, envelop yourself for the rest of your days sorta way. There may even be a classic or two in the batch---after all I find myself spinning the La Femme platter on a nightly basis and this 'un just might reach the same heights of BLOG TO COMM glory as all those other wonders that have thrilled me throughout the ages. The Shangs' latest effort is one that also tingles the nerve nodes, all of which makes me glad that I didn't chuck rock 'n roll fandom in after the final BLACK TO COMM print issue creaked off the presses back 2003 way like I originally planned. An' I get the strange sneakin' suspicion that there are more goodies comin' our way so whatever you do, don't forget making an appointment with the ear specialist in order to stave off deafness, even though he keeps yellin' at'cha for shovin' sharp pencils down your canal.
I know, I know, I KNOW...y'all wanna read my personal take and rheumy reminiscences regarding the recent passing of MAD magazine! Y'know, my impressions of this now virtually dead but once an up 'n bubblin' publication, now relegated to merely reprinting past glories (or something like that) packaged in brand-spanking new covers just like those early-seventies Marvel monster reprints that had Brad Kohler all hot set on what he thought was gonna be a fresh treat created in the then-current Marvel style (I ain't lettin' ya ferget that 'un, Brad!). Well gee, since I've pretty much grew up with MAD and at one time thought it was the bee's knees as far as funtime humor goes well, gosh, I am sure flattered that you'd ask me, of all people, to type out my feelings regarding the more or less death of this all-Amerigan "iconic" (as the snoots say) publication. And if you want my unvarnished, bared-wire intensity on what I think about the mag doin' a flopside like this I ain't gonna disappoint nohow!

Didja know that when I was still in the single digits I had the strange idea that MAD was some sorta comic strip that certainly was not appearing in my local paper? Chalk that 'un up to kiddie logic..y'see, many a time I would peruse the humor section of the local department stores' paperback section and espy the wide range of books that reprinted the antics of a variety of comic strip characters from PEANUTS and ANDY CAPP to DENNIS THE MENACE and if lucky BLONDIE and THE KATZENJAMMER KIDS. After awhile I saw these thicker paperbacks with these rather attractive painted covers featuring this weird-looking guy who looked like he would be a fun sorta fanabla to be with. I'd peek inside and see things like ad spoofs, funny pictures, articles etc...and since these things had comics in them and were in a paperback form and since PEANUTS and ANDY CAPP were comic strips that appeared in paperback form as well then gee, MAD just hadda've been a comic strip! It all logically worked out, at least in the mind of an seven-year-old suburban slob who was repeatedly being told that he wasn't working up to his full potential but was straining his brain seriously!

The strangest thing at the time was that I didn't understand the nature of the book's titles! To me "mad" meant "angry" and I had no idea that this world could also mean "insane", which was the (as I soon found out) obvious meaning of the title as in "tales calculated to drive you..."!  Who sez comics ain't educational!

I believe I was about nine when I happened by a newsstand and saw a magazine with the title MAD and that funny looking guy onna cover and, naturally, I just hadda peek in like I would with a NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC featuring shots of Tahiti, gals included. I dunno if this was the one with the "Odd Squad" cover story or not, but I remember seeing an ad for the then-current MAD SPECIAL of one of those giant-sized reprint anthologies with an ad where the same guy was selling "dirty" postcards that were enclosed with said issue...sheesh, this MAD thing wasn't a comic strip or a comic book in the trad sense for that matter, but a naughty subversive thingie meaning I JUST HADDA HAVE A COPY OR TWO!!!!

Later on in that equally dirty year of 1969 I was home sick and my mother, in order to help ease the pain of my clogged beyond belief sinus system, bought a few books for me to read while I was recovering from what later would be termed "Overt School Pressure Taking Its Toll On Innocent Stoops Like Me Disease". And well, whaddaya know but one of the paperbacks that she bought for me was THE MAD ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN KLUTZ, a totally unexpected move on mom's part but a good 'un in my behalf because, from that day forward, I became a pretty good fan of not only Don Martin's whacked out style and means of storytelling but the MAD empire itself, buying up then-affordable to me (fifty cents if you found the older editions) books that are still a major part of the BLOG TO COMM library because I knew better'n to sell these off at some flea market they were that fun to have.

My MAD mania spread as the years went on, perhaps even bolstered by the amount of space not only EC but MAD originator Harvey Kurtzman got in the classic Les Daniels COMIX history book which came and went damaged beyond repair at the local library. I got to read the thingie before it was totally destroyed and thankfully I learned more'n enough in my obsessive/compulsive comics quest to have craved issues of HELP! and HUMBUG for years on end given how that old MAD style had lived on in those rags. And with me snatching old issues from various garage sale stacks and picking 'em up fresh at the newsstand, let's just say that my pennies were put to a much better use 'n had I sent them over to help the starving kids in Coraopolis 'r sumpin' like that.

As I passed through the portals of maybe not-so-higher learning my taste for MAD began to draw to a close, not that I didn't sneak a peek when they would come up with a surprise like their collection of old comic strip spoofs (which is one thing that, in my thirties/forties/fifties obsessive for the old stuff mind, drew me to the mag inna first place). Otherwise it wasn't as snide or as funny as it might have been even a few years earlier. Spy Vs. Spy seemed to be falling into a rut, and Don Martin, once the master of gag, wasn't able to crank out the laffs the way he did with "National Gorilla Suit Day" and other by-now legendary cartoons that still resonate in my teenbo brain matter. The switch from satire to kid gross out might have kept the lunch money flowin' in, but for all intent purpose the sorta-glory days (the original glory days being the Kurtzman years as the hardcore fans kept tellin' us year after year) were coming to an end.

Most of my eyeballing of the mag throughout the eighties and nineties (dunno about beyond) proved that either I outgrew MAD or that MAD outgrew the market it was originally aimed at. Gone were those stories written by guys who grew up in the thirties and forties making fun of teenage culture in a way that perhaps reflected the foibles of it more'n the kid themselves ever could (remember that personal fave of mine, none other than HULLABADIG A GO GO???) only to be replaced by cheaper than usual shots and an upsurge in the preachy liberal homilies and sexual references that were not kept as much in check as they would have been back when Paul Krassner couldn't get his Olive Oyl tit jokes into the mag. Oh, I've been told that there might have been a spark here and there (Bill Shute mentioned one interesting article featuring pages from Mary Ann of GILLIGAN'S ISLAND's tell-all book!) but it wasn't anything that would have made me dish out the moolah the way I would for some of those nice EC horror and sci-fi reprints that were starting to make the rounds.

Well, it was fun while it was up and roarin' on all cylinders, but ya gotta admit that MAD died the same way that Elvis did when he joined the army or (tit for tat!) John Lennon did when he met Yoko Ono as that Gertz guy who put out that UGLY TRUTH mini-zine said a long time back. That is, it died when fifties satire was rendered meaningless and hadda be replaced by things that weren't really funny but filled with the same homilies the righteous have been preaching for ages plus the catch you off guard disgusting that never was as good as it was in NATIONAL LAMPOON! And by "disgusting" I mean you coulda thought up a better bad taste pun 'n that while telling dirty jokes in the boy's room!

Not that those old feelings don't still thicken on on a cold winter's Saturday night when I flash back to seeing that copy of LIKE MAD with the great Kelly Freas painting of Alfred E. as a beatnik onna cover thinkin' about that time on some equally cold evening when I was about eight lookin' through it at the old Treasure Island (now a crafts store) while really cozying up to that wild "Nansy" spoof thinkin' it was the most ridiculous and funniest thing I've seen in ages. Then I wish I had my copy too look at only to remember that its stuffed in a box stashed at my cyster's place and like well, at least I had that funtime memory of a maybe not-so-fun youth to think back upon for once. A time when maybe there was some true purpose and something to look forward to in a world that always seemed to bite your back when it was turned. Not that I mourn the passing of MAD, but I kinda mourn those old time happenings when even going to a department store and looking at MAD paperbacks was such an exhilarating experience.

Oh, 'n one closing thing. I always (or at least ever since first eyeballing the guy) thought that Alfred E. Neuman's voice would be kinda akin to that of Ringo Starr's, only with an Amerigan accent! Kinga flubbin' his speech in a mumble whilst talking in a near Marlon Brando mumble.
Not that much in the way of quantity, but I think the quality is there. Read up.

GOLDEN HITS OF THE SHANGS CD (Judi Gee Records, Canada)

Gawrsh, like who woulda expected that the ultimate bedroom band the Shangs'd actually release a new album here at the end of the 'teens anyway? It's been ages since these guys were written up in the pages of the old BLACK TO COMM and even then the Shangs seemed as if they were some final word on everything that was wonderful about the music scene 1964-1968...the brightness of sunshine pop with the dreariness of suicidal teen gal vocalese with a few Nuggets to chew on in-between. And like that even-then long gone 'n decayed era of pleasure I thought the Shangs were an effort that would never be permitted to show its true feelings in a musical scene that had ceased having any meaning at least forty years back, or whenever FM radio became the enemy and we hadda search harder for them kicks because it wasn't exactly as if they were being presented on a silver platter like they used to!

And yes, GOLDEN HITS OF THE SHANGS still delivers on the promise we were anxiously awaiting throughout all those other rock 'n roll resurrections o'er the years. The music continues to play upon the best efforts of boss pre-hippoid relevance that makes mel recall hot summer afternoons where I would look upon sunbathing gals playin' the top forty on their portable radios. David Nelson Byers still sounds like a teenage singing idol as he remakes/remodels a good portion of the Association/Turtles' beautifully stylized glop pop with a devious angle that might have even appealed to the stoned out Viet soldiers of the time who I hear weren't as all-Amerigan as my folks let on. Sound slush oozes over you like one of those lava lamps you kinda feel trapped in as the mood ebbs and flows about more'n even Julie London ever did.

It might sound so under-the-counterculture deviant at one point yet beggin' for inclusion on NUGGETS VOLUME TWO BILLION. The perfect pop you sure wish you coulda heard back then, yet perfect for that 1971 loudmouthed pseudo-intellectual gal who thought she was so special because she copped her dad's aviation shades so she could look like Gloria Steinem.

Sometimes it is good to settle back after giving Beefheart and Iggy much of your turntable time and this one does the job sans ricocheting across the inner reaches of the skull failing to settle at that perfect pleasure point. And the best thing about it is that the core Shangs duo of Byers and Ed O'Neill are joined by ex- and current Simply Saucer members Paul Colilli, Kevin Christoff and group leader Edgar Breau (on "prepared guitar"!) which almost makes this a lost Simply Saucer album! Do ya need any heartier recommendation than that???
The Taxidermists-TAX LP (Feeding Tube Records)

Coulda sworn I reviewed this one quite awhile back (too lazy to find out if I actually did), but since I just got a copy sent my way I figure that maybe this platter is new to my aural system and that I'm just confusing the Taxidermists with a few thou other free records that I have received o'er the past four decades. Whatever, if I did hear this before it's sure nice to get to hear the thing again, for TAX ain't that bad an effort, kinda reminding me of some of the late-eighties under-the-underground home-produced efforts that were comin' out faster'n you can say "fanabla". Neo-Beefheartian rhythms and temps sway in and out of that eighties-styled "emote" fashion that was popular at the time,  and when you're not expecting it something special drops into the mid, like an authentic mid-1960s garage band chord change that really put the thing all together! Even if I did hear this before well, it's still a snat effort!
La Femme-MYSTERE CD (Born Bad Records)

I've been wary re. a lotta these (to put it mildly) up 'n outta nowhere music "hypes" ever since my bank account pretty much plummeted during that search for the new Velvet Underground way back inna eighties. Not that there weren't a few acts that could live up to the total eruption of the seventies VU homages vying for your attention back then, but after awhile I could sure smell skunks as well as hyperbole to the point where I pretty much chucked the entire idea of anything re-capturing the gritty underbelly of 1964-1981 under-the-counterculture rock 'n roll the way it did back when iron-haired gals in their bedrooms would actually cry over things like Iggy.

But this La Femme band, suspiciously glowing reports 'n all, actually attempts to raise the spirits of that maddening drive that had me searching out the local shops and flea markets for anything that could take the sound destruction quotient of the originals and present it for a time and place that really couldn't care one whit. And considering that these guys (and gal) are up and alive here at the beginning of a new decade, they join a few sainted souls such as Fadensonnen and whatever ol' Stephen Painter is up to these days in the art of turning sound into something more than just backdrop. Not that La Femme is as atonally blessed as those two deep souls are, but they should be commended for keeping the TRUE BLUE nature of the music alive in a world that really doesn't deserve anything other'n "Mairzy Doats", which come to think of it in an age of Lady Caga (is she still around?) really might be way over the top 'r somethin' like that for most music aficionados of the newer form of goop.

And their sound actually might be easy enough to explain with mere words, but I doubt it. Imagine a mix of various mid-seventies electro/synth rock classics from COUNTRY LIFE to QUARK STRANGENESS AND CHARM with maybe a few sidesteps into Can all done up in a pre-feh punk-unto-punque way packaged as the new bright light hope to thousands of up-and-roarin' fans across the globe. Also, toss in some acoustic guitar French folk sounds that'll recall a whole load of chanteuses you've come across in your musical travels, only with a certain decadent flavor to it. Mighta been a 1980 Rough Trade contender the way the Metal Boys were with the same kinda continentalism that kinda made you wanna dress up like Alain Pacadis it's that European. Male/female vocals either on their lonesome or in interplay give even more dimension to the slick yet still driving enough treated rock instrumentation, and even when the sounds start conjurin' up musical images of bad eighties-era "gnu" wave the dance gunk-y feeling really doesn't last that long. Of course I dunno if La Femme will continue sounding this good before they begin to disappoint the way most of our seventies heroes did but hey, I might be sticking around to find out what does become of 'em because...why not?

Ignore the ugly hidden vulva cover which reminds me of that old MOM'S APPLE PIE platter and latch onto this deca-wonder. The front of their debut is also a gagger, but considerin' how most of the newer sounds passing for rock 'n roll have made me gag for years I'll pass these obvious faux passes up for once. And as far as "new" Velvet Undergrounds go, do we really need any considerin' just how ugly music has been since the death of the driving primal rock 'n roll spirit? Maybe not, but La Femme seem like a halfway decent contender and for that maybe we should give 'em a no prize or two.
Various Artists-THE VERY BEST OF SWINGIN' JIVE TRANSCRIPTIONS CD-r burn (originally on P-Vine Records, Japan)

(Here's another one I might have reviewed here before, but given just what an enjoyable spin it is do you think I'm gonna fre over such an obvious fox piss? no way sis-turd!)

These radio transcriptions might not really fit in with my current tastes in post-Velvet Underground sound-as-concrete aesthetics which I repeatedly find in a number of current faves, but as far as breezy music to make the summer afternoon hours go by smoothly well, they work their wonders. Sometimes I think that the only reason those highbrow music aficionado critic types (see opening paragraph) like this sort of music is to assuage their liberal guilt, but NORMAL PEOPLE LIKE US can enjoy these the way our pops and even great-great-maybe not-so-great grandpops did back when these toonz were broadcast in the thirties of forties. They're good on their own even without the pity heaped on 'em!

Some biggies here from Cab Calloway, Duke Ellington, Nat King Cole, Slim Gaillard and the Mills Brothers to the Ink Spots (who as a grade stooler I thought was some shuck 'n jive act because of their name!) and you can betcha it never does let down. Not only that but there's plenty of hotcha listening here from Timmie Rogers singing about getting drafted to the Mills Brothers' take on "Lulu's Back In Town" that won't remind you of the Muppets! And did you know that Gaillard's "Flat Foot Floogie" was the inspiration for the name of the Chinese boy who used to appear in the old NANCY comic strip, mainly "Floy Floy"?

Best of all you don't mind it one bit even if you do fear that dad'll walk into the room and start razzin' ya for likin' the kinda music he did 'n not that offal rock 'n roll you made your meat and potatoes all these years!
Various Artists-UNCOLA EXECUTION HAMHOCK CD-r burn (Bill Shute)

As you would expect, Bill courts the brilliant and the good with a few sidesteps into wha'? on this virtual somethingorother floor sweepings or whatever these internet rarities are now called. Much of it does affect me on contact such as this acoustic repeato riff track by a David Thomas Broughton who doesn't seem to recall any other handy musical points I can refer to offhand. The George Russell one was tingling enough in that quaint Lydian third stream sorta cultured way, while I can even get into the doo-wop of the Universals without thinking of that joke about Eyetalians kept outside all night long. The ads really hit the ol' O-Mind as well, and the rest, from the song poems to the James Brown imitation are...well good enough that you won't leave the room like I get the impression your dog would.
Are you upset that your collection of rock mags is jammed with articles that are little more than glorified hypesheets written by ineffectual hacks who know little or perhaps even nothing about the sounds and expression that they are supposed to relay to you as some sort of communication as to just how and what this music is to mean in your otherwise tired existence? If so then why not stock up on some back issues of BLACK TO COMM...then you'll really have something to complain about!

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