Dec 30, 2011

V/A. Garden Party. Alienor Records.

1 Blurt

Some lovely stuff here, particularly the gorgeous Bedflowers who sound like Opal if Amelia Fletcher had joined up after Kendra Smith left. Also, is it just me or does Bulldozer Crash's Changing sound a whole heck of a lot like Just Like Heaven?

Side A

1. Des Garçons Ordinaires - Summer Games
2. Bulldozer Crash - Changing
3. The Spinning Wheels - Don't Get Me Wrong
4. Meek - Beautiful Day
5. The Straw Dogs - My Cherished Lonelyness
6. La Sintesis - September
7. The Bedflowers - My Ex-Lover's Adress
8. Antiseptic Beauty - Shoegaze
9. Les Daffodils - So Easy As You Lie
10. Flame Up - Let The World Smother You
11. Charming Boys - Rain

Side B

1. The Little Rabbits - The Boy Who Never Saw The Light (live)
2. Penelope Trip - Inside The Taxi
3. The Gravy Train - Happy Again
4. Les Chaplinn's - Sunny Day
5. The Prayers - Sister Goodbye
6. The Lovelies - Stupid Habit
7. Kaleidoscope - Dream 2
8. Koma Kino - Weaky Town
9. The Penelopes - A Place Called Home
10. Alival Tiosihteeri - Nasta Kaupunki
11. Mosaic Eyes - Klaus' Eyes
12. Die Time Twisters, Verdammt! - Denn Jetzt Bist Du Da

Garden Party

Best of 2011.

0 Blurts

Best Albums

24. Speed the Plough - Shine
23. The Feelies - Here Before
22. Smith Westerns - Dye It Blonde
21. Dignan Porch – Deluded
20. Seapony - Go With Me
19. U.S. Girls - U.S. Girls on KRAAK
18. Craft Spells - Idle Labor
17. The Bats - Free All The Monsters
16. Blasted Canyons - Blasted Canyons
15. Terror Bird - Human Culture
14. Amen Dunes - Through Donkey Jaw
13. EMA - Past Life Martyred Saints
12. Wax Idols - No Future
11. Xray Eyeballs - Not Nothing
10. The Cars - Move Like This
9. Wild Flag - Wild Flag
8. Tom Waits - Bad As Me
7. Beastie Boys - Hot Sauce Committee Part Two
6. Veronica Falls - Veronica Falls
5. Dum Dum Girls - Only in Dreams
4. Blouse - Blouse
3. Royal Headache - Royal Headache
2. Men - Talk About Body
1. Shannon and the Clams - Sleep Talk

Best singles

Bake Sale - Bake Sale
Beach Fossils / Wild Nothing - Gruesome Flowers: A Tribute to The Wake
Blouse - Into Black
Catwalk - One by Words
Head On Electric - Ghost Hunter
Terry Malts - Something About You
Midnite Snaxxx - A Guy Like That / Jackie
Pope Anything - Witch Tits
Vein Cranes - True Believer
Wax Idols - All Too Human / William Says
Xray Eyeballs - Crystal

Best Reissues

Chalk Circle – Reflection
Various Artists - The Hidden Tapes: A Compilation of Minimal Wave From Around the World '79-'85
Various Artists - Those Shocking Shaking Days: Indonesia Hard, Psychedelic, Progressive Rock and Funk 1970-1978

Sep 10, 2011

James Dean Driving Experience. Complete Recordings.

1 Blurt

These songs are like snapshots; the wet, chemical alchemy of real-life emotions frozen and blurred, crystalized and captured in velvet-grained silver gelatin. That's not a knock. Good pop distills the messy ambiguity of life and rearranges it into perfectly balanced nuggets of time and sound, allowing us to romanticize our pain, or even see it as heroic. (Those old vinyl 45s are legendarily fetishistic, and by their very nature as self-contained physical objects allow us to externalize, manipulate, and catalog our emotions from a safe distance. It's not for nothing that these sleeves all feature the detached, isolated, context-free iconography of romantic cinema. Starlets looking as cool, cold and untouchable as actual stars, and yet here you are turning them over in your hands.)

My experience with so much of C-86 is about what it's like to feel a feeling instead of being the direct embodiment of feeling itself, which is why so much of it evokes things safe and wistful. It's instant nostalgia (I miss the comfort of being sad, indeed) ionically charged with the symbolism of things acutely felt, existing in the infra-thin moment between loss and possibility.

That tart crispness becomes a roundabout way of eroticizing isolation—the tingling sensation of being wrapped in a warm sweater on a cold day and getting goosebumps anyway. While rock and roll of the past aimed directly at the groin (and what it might be doing in the vicinity of someone else's), C-86 is a generation or more removed from the 60's pop it reveres and acknowledges that temporal distance by underpinning the physical and emotional distance between the singer and subject, and between the song and its listener. To make up for the carnal absence it prefers to idealize loss itself the same way it idealizes the white pop and girl group sounds of the 60's. Everything is perfect in memory. Your skin can feel just as electric as your ears when being touched by invisible waves.

I think this is why the majority of C-86 and twee bands of the 80's existed primarily on singles. The songs on albums have to relate to each other, but singles come to you as individuals. You can have private relationships with them. They're meant to be handled. Singles are flirts, constantly demanding your attention to flip them on your record player, or pore over their enigmatic sleeves. Albums belong to the world, but singles are yours, no matter how many other people have one.

But, whatevs. The James Dean Driving Experience are actually pretty upbeat (and as evidenced by their name, a bit cheeky), but mostly dreamy. It's perfectly realized jangle-pop in the vein of the Sea Urchins, Remember Fun, or Hey Paulette. The download includes the singles and eps for World Weary & Wise, Lonely Hearts XI Versus The Rest Of The World, Dean's Eleventh Dream, Clearlake Revisited, and Sean Connery.

Jul 13, 2011

Oppenheimer Analysis. New Mexico.

0 Blurts

Achingly beautiful cold-wave fluttering between melancholic minimalism and elegant, fizzy electro-pop from way back in 1982. Andy Oppenheimer has the most gorgeously androgynous voice, perfectly suited for his songs about cold-war paranoia and detachment. The coming atomic Armageddon and technological dystopia were perennial themes of 80's new wave, made all the more poignant here, as Andy was apparently an actual science writer and nuclear expert. I had the same thought upon hearing it as I did when I discovered Eleven Pond—this has got to be one of the most sublime albums released that decade and somehow no one has ever heard of it. You need this now.

New Mexico

Jul 8, 2011

Alex Bleeker & the Freaks. Alex Bleeker & the Freaks.

0 Blurts

Somebody reshuffled Real Estate’s cards, and instead of turning over Woods or Beach Fossils, they cut deep into the middle of the deck and came up with Neil Young. This side project from bassist Alex Bleeker features most of the Real Estate crew, along with Julian Lynch on guitar, and sounds for all the world like an unsung Laurel Canyon band coming down with the last good buzz of the 70’s. Wistful and meandering with undercurrents of real power, it rolls down the highway like a Studebaker into the evening’s twilight. Cozy and easy going with tidal rhythms spiked by Lynch’s loose and ragged soloing, it’s classic rock for the “let’s rock the beach” set.


Jun 25, 2011

Another Sunny Day. You Should All Be Murdered.

0 Blurts

Sarah 22
Released: November 1989
01: You Should All Be Murdered
02: Horseriding
03: Green


Jun 21, 2011

14 Iced Bears. In the Beginning.

0 Blurts

Finally, an album that won’t make you want to have sex with your mother!

Tired of music that does nothing but feed your unholy Oedipal desires? Weary of bands whose idea of a MILF is waaay too narrow? Who isn’t? Let’s face it, popular music today is a minefield of pants-tightening paeans to the insatiable itch to put the “mother” in “motherfucker”. Gaga’s miming it on stage, fifteen years ago the Dave Matthews Band devoted a double concept album to it, and back in the 80’s you couldn’t get Phil Collins to shut up about it.

Well, worry no more! The 14 Iced Bears special blend of jangle-pop and psychedelic-punk is 100% guaranteed to take your mind off boning the baby cannon that brung you into this world, or your money back.


Jun 10, 2011

V/A. Positively Teenage!!?.

2 Blurts

1. The Love Parade - Dave Clark 5
2. The Gravy Train - Devil In Your Shoe
3. Lavender Faction - In My Mind
4. The Sunflowers - Sunflower Babies
5. St.James Infirmary - The Sun Don't Shine
6. The Mayfields - Out To Sea
7. Penny Candles - Memory Box
8. Regulators - Southside Johnny
9. Remember Fun - P.S. Elaine
10. Church Grims - Plaster Saint
11. Marc - Clearer, Brighter, Sharper
12. Felicity's - Why Don't You Come Round
13. Crimson Mints - Makes Me Want To
14. Mousefolk - Wishing The Summer Away
15. The Fat Tulips - All That Matters
16. The Love Parade – Eternally
17. The Gravy Train - All Fall Down
18. The Sunflowers - Sunflowers Mum
19. Perfect Kiss - So Many Alike
20. Church Grims - Seen It All
21. Panda Pops – Submarine
22. The Williams - Still Keep Coming
23. St.Christopher – Charmelle
24. The Driscolls - It's Your Daughter
25. The Sohfas – Thorns
26. The Spinning Jenny's - Gardeners Weakly
27. Bulldozer Clarts - Walks Away
28. Librarians - Stripping In The Cemetry
29. Strawberry Story - For The Love Of Billy
30. Hellfire Sermons - Down All The Days
31. Patrick Skelly & The Prescriptions - Land Of Tears

Positively Teenage

Jun 2, 2011

V/A. Ideal Guest House.

0 Blurts

Songs introduced by Ted Chippington
1. Big Flame - Man Of Few Syllables
2. The Wedding Present - You Should Always Keep In Touch With Your Friends (Version)
3. The Soup Dragons - Fair's Fair
4. The Creepers - Sharper And Wider
5. The Shop Assistants - Home Again (Live)
6. The June Brides - This Town (Acoustic)
7. Rob Grant with Yeah Yeah Noh - Mr. Hammond Has Breakfast In Bed
8. Stump - Kitchen Table
9. The Legend - Everything's Coming Up Roses
10. Pigbros - Barren Land
11. Stitched Back Foot Airman - The Deadly Spore
12. BMX Bandits - Sad
13. Bogshed - Jobless Youngsters
14. Chumbawamba - Kinnochio


May 20, 2011

The Jags. Evening Standards.

0 Blurts

I have this fantasy that the sleeve for this album got made first and then handed to the band with instructions to make an album that would fit inside it. Because nothing else could have produced the synesthetic mesh of image and sound found here. It may not be an unjustly overlooked classic of new wave power-pop, but it may have unintentionally created its iconic apotheosis. Four nattily dressed lads stand looking studiedly aloof in front of the clean lines of a bauhausian office building beneath a romantically airbrushed turquoise sky. Sort of a cross between The Cars portraits on the back of Candy O and The Feelies Crazy Rhythms. The Jags themselves sound (a lot) like early Elvis Costello, and were in fact dismissed by critics as unworthy imitators when this was released in 1980. I was actually never a big fan of Costello, so this doesn't bother me, as I don't consider him terribly sacred. Their song Back of My Hand made the Top 40 and is occasionally resurrected on power-pop comps, but they never quite equaled it or scored another trip to the mainstream. It is undoubtedly the catchiest song on the album, but the rest of the songs are strong, punchy bundles of crisp, nervous energy, and to the people who encountered them, they're very fondly remembered.

Here's the problem, though. Either someone in the Jags had very recently been dumped, or they were just generally misogynist pricks (could be both/and). It seems like eighty percent of the songs on here are about how women are this stupid, sadistic alien species with the single-minded goal of breaking men's hearts, fucking with their lives, trapping them into bourgeois marriages and—of course—doing all this with men who aren't them. I know, I know...these sort of attitudes towards women are so common in popular music that if I had to edit out all the bands that weren't perfectly feminist, there would be precious little left to listen to. I'm hoping to get a copy of Out of the Vinyl Deeps: Ellen Willis on Rock Music for my birthday. Writing of the Sex Pistols' Bodies she said
It was an outrageous song, yet I could not simply dismiss it with outrage. The extremity of its disgust forced me to admit that I was no stranger to such feelings---though unlike Johnny Rotten I recognized that disgust, not the body, was the enemy. And there lay the paradox: music that boldly and aggressively laid out what the singer wanted, love, hated---as good rock and roll did---challenged me to do the same, and so, even when the content was antiwoman, antisexual, in a sense antihuman, the form encouraged my struggle for liberation. Similarly, timid music made me feel timid, whatever its ostensible politics.

They Jags may not be political in their stance, but the feathery-haired guy who sort of looks like Bruce Campbell on the cover is a pretty sharp songwriter and clearly has a vision he wants to communicate. It's the typical vision of nice guys turned bad boys due to not being given the pussy they so clearly deserve, but at least he owns it heart and soul. If guys start bands to be more attractive to women, I will never understand why they then go on to write songs insulting women and generally calling them heartless sluts for dating guys who weren't them before they had their own stage. Especially when you consider that (at least in the 80's) women were the primary audience for and consumers of new wave and power-pop music. Who did The Jags think their audience was? Who were they writing to?

Their saving grace is that the music is really catchy and choosing pleasure is its own kind of rebellion. Also, without the lyrics sheet I rarely know what the singer is singing about. It's just that...when you do read them—jeebus they can be pretty bad. Woman's World outright states in the chorus that It's a woman's world we live in / And a woman don't think straight, handily pointing out the confusing, oppressive, and flighty pussyarchy white male rock stars are forced to live under.

Then there's their one hit, Back of My Hand. Pandagon was talking about giving out fake phone numbers to get creepy guys to leave you alone at bars, and how women aren't entitled to the space to just be out with their friends. It was in response to this post at The Hairpin about how stalkery guys can be in those situations, and it made me think of this song, which sounds at first to be about getting a woman's phone number, but is actually full of thinly veiled threats of violence. With the double meanings of "I've got your number" (I have your phone number / I know what kind of person you areand what sort of sneaky thing you're up to) adding "written on the back of my hand" makes it pretty clear that he's threatening to hit the woman in question for the sin of not calling him for dates. Savor this run of lyrics and see what you think:

You only call me if you're feeling blue
You tell me I don't pay attention to you
But if you only knew just what I'm going through
You wouldn't phone those guys who mess around with you girl
You're not unreadable, you're not unbeatable
I know just what you are, don't push your luck too far
You're not untouchable, not just another girl
I get in touch with you, I only wish you knew...
I got your number written on the back of my hand
I got your number...

The weird thing is that I remember there being a lot of masculine gender panic over insufficiently manly new wave acts in the 80's, which was coupled with anxiety/resentment that this style was supposedly being driven by sexual young women having the hots for this new, androgynous version of the male. So to find this kind of sexual push back—a warning to women to know their place—in the songs that helped inspire that panic is odd to say the least. It seems like for every gain women achieve in regards to freedom and pleasure, there's a backlash—even within the cultural items that women's choices have helped make successful.

Evening Standards

May 14, 2011

The Wake. Crush the Flowers.

0 Blurts

Sarah 21
Released: October 1989
01: Crush The Flowers
02: Carbrain

Crush the Flowers

May 6, 2011

Double Negative. Black Time.

0 Blurts

Another band that learned all it ever wanted to know about rock and roll from Dave Davies’ razor slashed guitar amp. Fully deserving of the In The Red stamp of approval, they may be the loudest goddamn band I own, other than Guitar Wolf. It’s magnificently lo-fi, too, like it was recorded in a closet of an abandoned hammer factory built inside a cave. They claim to be proponents of the “heavy vampire sound”, whatever that means (they are neither goth nor sparkly, though they do carry on a long British tradition of spookifying their garage rock; cf. When the Clock Strikes Twelve and Scary People).

It’s all raw-screaming-noisy-punk-garage-rockabilly-distorition-blues-raw-raw-rawr with a heart of 60’s pop confection that gets torn out from under your feet and shredded amid ear stabbing primitiveness every time you think you’ve got a hold of it. The standout—sounding all the sweeter for being nestled in so much bone chafing distortion--being the indie-crushed I’m Gonna Haunt You When I’m Gone (sung by Janie Too Bad) which could be a psychic-historical pre-echo of Beat Happening caught on the only known acetate of a 1960’s regional girl band trying their hand at one of those MY Boyfriend’s Back/My Girlfriend’s Dead songs that used to be so popular.

The All Music Guide describes it as being "performed and recorded with a technical finesse that makes Billy Childish sound like David Gilmour", which may be the best blurb ever.

Black Time

Apr 29, 2011

Dan Melchior. Bitterness, Spite, Rage and Scorn.

0 Blurts

Like some rare, unexpectedly righteous blues rock platter dug out of a garage sale, Bitterness, Spite, Rage and Scorn is an homage, an elation, a junkyard cathedral to the Savage Chord. Its grooves were carved by hand with a pair of rusty knives.

With a voice like a smashed window and a devotion to pile-driving minimalism, Dan Melchior plays fuzzed out swamp rock (swamped out fuzz rock? rocked out swamp fuzz?) like John Lee Hooker and Mark E. Smith’s love child. He has a long pedigree with Holly Golightly and Billy Childish, so you know what you’re getting into.


Apr 15, 2011

Cave Weddings. Bring Your Love / Let’s Drive.

0 Blurts

Eric La Grange is in too many bands for me to keep track of. I know about Eric & The Happy Thoughts and The Romance Novels, and….okay, three. I guess he has three bands. But I am here today to tell you about The Cave Weddings and this one perfect single—exquisite, impeccable guitar pop in the mold of countless 60’s summer bands. Bring Your Love (tart and tight like The Archies, only without sucking) kicks off like a racehorse with a driving, perfectly chosen guitar line and drums galloping like a hormone rush. Let’s Drive is as jangly and rollicking as Buddy Holly’s jalopy. It’s all there: tambourine rhythms, sparkling, clearly drawn melodies, harmonized “ba-ba-ba’s”, and occasional bouts of frothy, frenetic, shredding guitar. I wanna lick it and see what it tastes like.

Cave Weddings

Apr 12, 2011

Boomgates. Bright Idea / Cameo.

0 Blurts

Eddy Current Suppression Ring put on the best punk show I’ve ever seen. And I don’t mean punk as a style of music, but whatever it was about the original incarnation, whatever DIY exuberance, whatever magic connection it had to its audience, a true you/me/us, Eddie Current has it in spades. It was jaw dropping. There were maybe only twenty or so of us in the club, but they performed like their life depended on it.

Lead singer Brendan Suppression was a nervous bundle of energy who seemed to find his peace while performing, despite the fact that he was stalking back and forth on the stage like a slightly less manic Cornholio. It was the release of being truly yourself, even if that self is a bit twitchy and tightly wound. During instrumental portions he would lean wearily on his bandmates and hold his mic to their chests, like some sort of autistic attempt to plug directly in to their heartbeats, which seemed profoundly sweet. Towards the end of the show, after climbing all over the stage and merchandise table, he cautiously staggered into the audience while the band strummed and thumped and riffed furiously as if they could conjure up a secular rock n’ roll rapture right then and there. Drenched in sweat, Brendan repeated his mic gesture, touching each of us in turn as a sort of punk rock communion, sharing with us their energy and adding the sound of our bodies to their mix. A fan held a cold can of beer to the back of his neck to cool him off, and then it was over.

I’ve loved and thrived off music for ages, but that night was an epiphany. Fuck the hippies, this was the real thing. In that moment I felt like we all—all of us in the club, everybody on stage—loved one another; like we’d all just shared a communal vision of something rare and astonishing and perfect and beautiful. No church revival could ever compare.

Boomgates is (so far) a one off featuring Brendan and friends (Trial Kennedy, Teen Archer, The Twerps, Dick Diver), and it has a definite ECSR vibe, but softened by the addition of Stephanie Hughes’ dulcet voice. It’s a looser, poppier affair that just wants to hang out with you and settle comfortably onto your heart. The summery Bright Idea trundles along on a strolling, rubbery bass that falls somewhere between a relaxed ECSR and the Go-Betweens, and the interplay of Brandon’s vocals and Steph’s backing whoah-o-ohs make me think of old C-86 tunes or Slumberland releases. The guitars are still nice and trashy, though. B-side, Cameo, lets Steph take lead on the vocals before Brendan comes in with an homage to Lou Reed’s talking songs, only with an Australian accent and having to do with relating some weird dream he had. It alternates between the story and the sharply jangly chorus where they all erupt, singing “you’re just a cameo in my dreams”.

In short, they are expectedly awesome, and “for your information, this is all you need to know”.

P.S.: They have a new single coming out on April 18th on Smart Guy Records.


Apr 1, 2011

The Snivelling Shits. I Can't Come.

1 Blurt

I feel like I should just be able to point out that these guys named themselves The Snivelling Shits and that their signature song spends six minutes detailing all the many ways in which their lead singer can’t achieve an orgasm, and leave it at that. But that would mean leaving out mention of Crossraods, wherein they take the piss out of Lou Reed by turning Waiting for the Man into a Bowie-esque vamp about impatiently waiting for their favorite British soap opera to start. Or bludgeon the French language to death. Or lament their inability to become samurai, question god’s gender and daily grooming rituals, and write a song for The Damned.

Anyway, as Maximumrocknroll once said, this album is "essential for music lovers and music haters alike". Formed as a bit of a lark in 1977 by music journalists Giovanni Dadamo and Dave Fudger (Zig Zag, Sounds, and The Face), they recorded Terminal Stupid (backed with the aforementioned I Can’t Come) and sent it anonymously to their rivals at NME, who made it single of the week. With a lineup rounded out by members of Eddie & the Hotrods and eventually legendary producer Steve Lillywhite, the Shits recorded a total of nine songs that, through utter devotion to being as magnificently stupid as possible, manage to be as good as or better than most of the bands they were supposedly mocking.

If you can dig a viciously unholy smash-up of the Velvets, The Damned, Bowie, and the Sex Pistols, then this is a criminally forgotten classic of punk-as-fuck snots who couldn’t even take themselves seriously (thank god).


Mar 18, 2011

V/A. Grimsby Fishmarket 4 Norrkoeping 0.

0 Blurts

This ridiculously hard to find compilation was originally issued by Swedish pop fanzine Grimsby Fishmarket (I think in 1991). The Orchids track was an exclusive to the tape and never appeared anywhere else. Quite a few bands I'd never heard before, too.

1. Eusebio - Louis Philippe
2. Song About Girls - Bummer Twins
3. Walking Back To You - The Cherry Orchard
4. This Friendship Of Ours - This Perfect Day
5. Chick House - Roof
6. Barriers Of Mine - Are You Mr Riley
7. Silent Sigh City - Happydeadmen
8. Shaunty - Joe Clack
9. She Fakes Apples - My Finest Hour
10. I Fell In Love Last Night - Cerise
11. Kymri - The Apple Moths
12. Jennifer Anywhere - The Kitchen Cynics
13. Room - Bridge
14. Turn Over - Momus
15. Into The Morgue - Mary-Go-Round
16. Next Summer - Brighter
17. New World - Venus Peter
18. Chelsea Guitar - Blueboy
19. Not Unusual - BJ Eagle
20. The Light That Will Cease To Fail - Stereolab
21. High Rise - The Cherry Orchard
22. Windmills And Milestones - Bummer Twins
23. Wood Dust - Joe Clack
24. Ralph De Bricassart - Happydeadmen
25. Time Will Pass - The Rileys
26. And When I Wake Up - The Orchids
27. Birds Of Prey - Marble Hammock


Mar 15, 2011

The Lumerians. Burning Mirrors / Chevaux Fous.

0 Blurts

I got sucked in by the trippy cover art smiling enigmatically at me from the shelf of 45s in my local record shop. A gnomic, three-eyed, golden mystic looking out underneath a field of eyes (leaves? paramecium?) that transform into a convulsive wave of moire dots. Also, I'd just finished reading Invented Knowledge, all about fake histories and pseudosciences, and it had a chapter on Lemuria—a "lost" continent supposedly located between India and Australia—so it seemed fortuitous. I'm perfectly OK picking up an album based on its cover, and this one matched perfectly.

Burning Mirrors erupts in a spasm of pummeling drums and bass driving a deeply grooved krautrock beat, like the Silver Apples crossed with Hawkwind. It’s a whirlwind swirl of noise rock and psychedelica that builds up towering layers of whooping incantations, howling organ, and fuzzed-out guitars that quickly saturate all the available psychic space in the room. It’s a total brain melter. They’re getting comparisons to the Black Angels, and although they definitely build analog altars of throbbing reverb, it feels less retro. They’re looser, wilder, more exploratory and way more likely to just start going wiggy all over the place.

The b-side, Chevaux Fous, translates the Osmond’s Crazy Horses into a grinding echo-chamber of siren noise and triple-bad-acid occult freak-outs. They’ve got a full length out now on Knitting Factory Records that you should definitely pick up.


Mar 12, 2011

St. Christopher. All of a Tremble.

0 Blurts

Sarah 20
Released: August 1989
01: All Of A Tremble
02: My Fortune
03: The Hummingbird


Mar 9, 2011

The Wild Tchoupitoulas. The Wild Tchoupitoulas.

1 Blurt

Today is the day I traditionally spend biting off the impulse to tell people they have schmutz on their forehead, which means that once again Mardi Gras has come and gone and I missed the opportunity to post this album.

I’ve never enjoyed the various pleasures of Mardi Gras, nor even visited New Orleans, although I did once attend Key West’s Halloween celebration, Fantasy Fest. I imagine they’re somewhat similar, although Fantasy Fest (when I attended in ’94 at least) was primarily being enjoyed by droves of middle-aged naked people in body paint. I do recall one delightful couple who had dressed from head to toe in vintage ‘50s duds and were wheeling around an old fashioned baby stroller. When people leaned in to see the “baby”, a little person dressed in leather bondage gear would leap out making boogada-boogada-boogada noises. So I guess what I’m saying is that if you’re looking for a getaway built around heavy drinking and nudity, Key West is probably the more family oriented destination. Although New Orleans’ celebration lasts all week and they could probably use the money more. As I’m sure you’re aware, New Orleans has not exactly been suffering from a surfeit of good fortune lately. The way things have been going, we all know it’s only a matter of time before Ben Stiller unleashes Fuck the Meters (“the hilarious and heartwarming tale of one man’s struggle to overcome dyslexia and join a New-Orlean’s funk band”1) upon the already punch-drunk metropolis.

Speaking of the Meters, they, along with several of the Neville brothers, can be found on this non-stop rump-shaker from the heyday of New Orleans funk. Despite the pedigree, the stars of the show are the Wild Tchoupitoulas themselves, a tribe founded by George Landry (better known as Big Chief Jolly) in the early 70’s. It’s a swampy stew of New Orleans jazz, R&B, and blues, with an emphasis on appropriately dirty funk. The songs are built around traditional call-and-response chants, with niceley rough and raw vocals from Big Chief Jolly and the rest of his tribe. If you’re a fan of Professor Longhair, or early Dr John, grab this now.

The word fonktaculastic gets bandied about a lot in favor of bands who would barely be in danger of catching gonorrhea if it were actually spread by rhythmic clapping. But the Tchoupitoulas are the real deal. They're more than infectious. They'll leave rabid hoodoo brand upon your brain.

1. Script available upon request. You may also be interested in my original screenplays Forrest Gump II: The Gumpening and Abel Gance’s Napoleon Dynamite.

Wild Tchoupitoulas

Feb 24, 2011

Henry's Dress. Bust 'Em Green.

0 Blurts

One of Slumberland’s best noisepop releases. The band has swept up the shrapnel from their debut into bristling piles of jagged, brightly colored confetti. Their shoegaze excesses have been condensed into blasts of garage punk mauling 60’s mod rock. You can see the genesis of the Aisler’s Set, but it’s a much, much louder, fuzzed-out version of what’s to come. When they’re going full tilt, they have a way of pummeling through a song with delirious abandon, which just digs the hooks in deeper. You may not notice them the first time, but soon you won’t be able to get Hey Allison, All This Time for Nothing, and Self Starter out of your head. It hurtles by in just under half an hour, so I’ve appended the songs from their 1620 single as a bonus.


Feb 22, 2011

Schatzi and Hazeltine. Happy Birthday Baby / When Yr Alone.

1 Blurt

The first couple of times I listened to this, I was sure some part of it had been recorded on the wrong speed. The vocals are so damnably cute and coy—a winking come-on from a couple of Ronettes obsessed teenage garage punks hiding switchblades in the pockets of their leather jackets. But now it all falls together. All the great 60's girl-group pop was about love and obsession, so it makes sense that Schatzi and Hazeltine have built their own musical shrine to the sultry sound of tuff-girls and the menacing vulnerability of teen love. You can feel the sway of her hips in the swagger of her voice. They're lipstick killers—gang debs demanding kisses in exchange for the pleasure of their songs.

The hand-made, low-budget wall of sound is exceptionally well crafted and layered, much more so than you'd expect for a couple of songs that were probably dreamed up and tossed off in one exuberant afternoon. It's a total blast. Plus hand-claps! Glockenspiel! That moist, swollen-lipped, tiger-kitteny growl they stole from Ronnie Specter for the "oh-oh bay-a-buh's"! Crush worthy.

Video for When Yr Alone

Happy Birthday Baby

Buy it from Insound (US) or Bachelor (Europe)

Feb 18, 2011

Butterglory. Downed.

0 Blurts

Still feelin’ kinda 90s, so here’s some slackeriffic evanescent psychic pezz drops from Lawrence, KS duo Butterglory. I’ve seen numerous comparisons to Pavement (who, honestly, I never cared for) and Archers of Loaf (who I’m not all that familiar with), but to me they sound like a crackling, ragged wire version of Yo La Tengo’s Genius + Love. They were contemporaries of all those bands, so it’s not like they were trying to recreate that sound, it was apparently just some lo-fi virus going around at the time. Indie mono, in more ways than one.

Despite the comparatively lackadaisical attitude emanating from Matt Suggs and Debby Vander Wall’s vocals (I imagine this being recorded when neither member felt like getting off the couch), the songs are endearing, hooky, and melodic in a skewed, left-handed fashion where you’re never quite sure which way they’re going to swerve next. The melodies easily win out over the noisy, ramshackle trappings, and part of the magic is the way they paste together all the unpredictable, unpolished bits of buzzing guitar feedback, perky trap drumming, and cool boy/girl vocals into two minutes of hummable chaos.


Feb 12, 2011

Brighter. Around the World in Eighty Days.

0 Blurts

Sarah 19
Released: August 1989
01: Inside Out
02: Tinsel Heart
03: Around The World In Eighty Days
04: Things Will Get Better

Around the World

Feb 4, 2011

Susan Voelz. Summer Crashing.

0 Blurts

Getting back to my nostalgic lamentations for the 90s1, I’d like to mourn the passing of feminism and pro-choice activism as a mainstream phenomenon2. I got spoiled, coming of age at a time when women had taken their rightful place on the stage (partially by force, mostly by being more awesome than everyone else) and feminist and pro-choice concerns were front and center in the culture. It seemed that we had finally broken through; that there would be no turning back the clock. I realize that I was still living in an insulated “alternative” bubble, and that large portions of America didn’t share my convictions3, but it was thrilling to see the challenge being made (besides, who was going to mess with Kim Gordon, PJ Harvey, Kathleen Hannah, Kim Deal, or any of the numerous other women kicking ass across the country?). We had L7’s Rock 4 Choice4 and Riot Grrl, and even the boys were in tune—I seem to remember Eddie Vedder scrawling “choice” on his arms when Pearl Jam played SNL, and Curt Kobain made a habit of puncturing traditional male rock-star machismo by getting photographed wearing a lot of cardigans while holding cats (things usually coded as female) and appearing in his pajamas on the cover of Out Magazine.

Unfortunately, we finished out the decade with a president who largely backed off on his pro-choice promises, with both NOW and NARAL asking the street-level movements to tone down the demonstrations for fear of alienating an administration they thought was tenuously still on their side. By the turn of the millennium, fully in the sway of “finding common ground” with anti-choicers5, abortion rights had been chipped away to such an extent that it was more difficult to obtain one than it had been under Reagan and Bush6. And now we’ve arrived at the point where a Republican Congress can shamelessly introduce a bill that would not only prohibit abortion coverage through private insurance, but that attempts to define rape out of existence for the majority of women who have been sexually assaulted. They’ve since backed down and removed the “forcible rape” language (proving that street-level feminist activism still has power, and is needed more than ever), but they’re still going ahead with the bill. If you live in the U.S., write to your representative, and if you’d like to do something more directly positive, donate to the National Network of Abortion Funds, which helps fight these measures and helps pay for women who can’t afford abortions on their own.

I was thinking of all this when I recently revisited an album that had been a favorite of mine back in ’95, but had fallen off my radar in the ensuing years. Susan Voelz is probably best known for playing violin in Poi Dog Pondering (and has contributed to albums by John Mellencamp, Alejandro Escovedo, and Ronnie Lane). Much of Poi’s work is characterized by the use of relentless optimism as a weapon against the inevitability of death, but Susan’s solo work finds her examining more ambiguous territory. Recorded after surviving a horrific car crash, she starts to question the ability to connect or take action within this brief existence, asking, "When we die, will we think this was anything?".

That emotionally abstract, quizzical tone flows through the album. The instrumental Mystic River Bridge refers to a real-life suicide while Susan wonders if the jumper chose the location for its name. The poppy Happy can be read as a manifesto for allowing yourself to be who you are (“Just for an hour I'm going to be happy/Just for a day I'm going to let dumb things happen/I don't care how I look 'cause I look good-enough/I don't care what I think 'cause I'm not thinkin' much”) and as a caustic take on happiness as a goal instead of a state of being (“I don't wanna feel bad/So I stop feelin' anything”). Later on, William, about a man hospitalized for manic happiness, expands the idea further. In the liner notes, Voelz writes of Step Off the Roof, “There was a news story of protesters blocking entrance to a clinic, forcing girls to climb a ladder to enter through a second floor window. What if she skipped the procedure and turned and induced her abortion by jumping off the roof onto the protesters below?”.

She can be solemn, but none of it feels depressing or dour. It’s actually breathtakingly beautiful—somewhat like Mazzy Star’s languid sensualtiy crossed with Andrew Bird’s spritely, tight-rope dancing virtuosity. Dreamy—like so many things back then tended to be. The arrangement and production for such a small album are spectacular. Seductive, swooning melodies (rich and velvety with deep purple hues) are cloaked in mesmerizing, atmospheric guitar drones that swarm around the more distinct core of Susan’s breezy voice and the bright solar flare of her violin. She has a way of pinning a hook to your eardrum (especially in Taka Looka Round and Step Off the Roof) and the rare ability to sing about discrete, concrete things in a tender, personal way while at the same time holding them just far enough out of reach to analyze it like a butterfly impaled on a needle.

1. I have a theory (which is mine), which is that “The 90s” actually comprised a period from about 1988 (the year of the first Pixies’ album) to about 1994 (around the time Curt Kobain killed himself. Not that Curt “owned” the 90’s or that his death caused its downfall or anything, but it’s as good a date as any, and my memory of the period is of things going downhill fast after that). At least, this was the in-between time period for the cultural highlights of my in-between generation. Yes, other stuff (soul-deadening effluvia) happened in the 90s “the decade”—boy bands, nu-metal, rap-rock—but those things didn’t belong to “The 90s”.

2. No, I’m not saying that feminism is dead, just that the media has wholly fallen for the backlash.

3. In fact, a lot of activism was in response to the wave of home-grown, Christian terrorism directed at abortion clinics in the late 80s and early 90s.

4. Doing some research online4a, I notice that Gillian Anderson emceed in 2001. *nerdgasm*

4a. I also see that Stone Temple Pilots once played Rock 4 Choice, despite having recorded Sex Type Thing, which was totally rape-y. I know Scott Wieland later claimed it was an anti-rape song, but I find it nearly impossible to get over the first person perspective and the fact that there’s nothing in the song to undercut his point of view. There’s probably a whole other post that could be done just on the subject of male bands writing what they think of as anti-rape songs that identify with the rapist instead of the victim. Just off the top of my head, there’s NIN’s Big Man with a Gun, and Nirvana’s Polly and, of course, Rape Me. Polly at least, puts the creepiness of the narrator front and center (whereas Sex Type Thing just makes STP sound creepy), and could be read (if you were thinking of writing a term paper on it) as alluding to the inability to have true sexual equality in a patriarchal society. Rape Me, on the other hand, with its cop from the Teen Spirit riff, just seemed to be Curt going off on his hatred of fame and what mass media did to his art, which is pretty trivializing of actual rape victims.

5. There is none. When one side believes women have the right to make their own decisions about their health, their lives, and their bodies—and the other side thinks of women as less human than a clump of cells, as people who deserve to be punished for their sexuality, and who have no interest in the needs of children once they’re born—I can’t imagine what we could possibly have in common. There is no compromise to be made on women’s rights. You either believe they have them or they don’t, and the anti-choice crowd is not going to stop until they’ve overturned Roe v. Wade. And after they’ve accomplished that, they’re going after Griswold v. Connecticut, so stock up on birth control now.

6. There’s an excellent article on the history of Rock 4 Choice, its place in the 90s alternative culture, and the withering of mainstream feminist activism here.

I still wonder why everyone stopped wearing Doc Martens.


Jan 28, 2011

Girls at Our Best. Pleasure.

0 Blurts

Teen sexual health and information website Scarleteen is starting a new project to help young people find or recommend quality doctors. It’s called Find-A-Doc. Scarleteen founder Heather Corrina explains:

We all know one of the best ways to find quality sexual healthcare and other in-person care services is by asking people we know and trust for a recommendation. But that can be difficult, especially for young people: so many are either ashamed about sexual healthcare and other related services, or are afraid that disclosing they’ve had care will result in a breach of their privacy. Many young people don’t even get care they need in the first place, so don’t know anyone to refer someone else to, especially in areas where services are limited or where seeking out services presents a profound personal risk.

We know you can’t always get a good recommendation in-person, so we’re aiming to build the next best thing

Readers can use our new online tool to find out who Scarleteen users around the world have gotten great care from that they’d personally recommend, and see listings of care services our staff, volunteers and allies know to be bonafide. Or, you can enter your own review to help others find services they need from providers you know are great, or add your review of a provider or service to an existing listing. If you’re a service provider, you can enter information about your clinic, center or practice and it will be published for review. Any of the above can be done anonymously, so no one has to worry about privacy.

The project covers doctors and health facilities that provide sexual and reproductive healthcare, STI/STD testing and treatment, birth control and emergency contraception, pregnancy testing and all-options counseling, abortion services, pre-natal care, obstetrics and midwife services, counseling, therapy and support groups, trans gender and gender-variant services, LGBTQ services, teen specific services, rape/abuse crisis services, and shelters and crisis housing. You can also target your search for non-English speakers, disability access, and cost. The plan is to make this worldwide, so if you need a doctor or have one to recommend, head on over there.

And now on to the album at hand.

An unjustly forgotten classic, Girls at Our Best’s sole album falls somewhere between post-punk, twee pop, and new wave—combining elements from Siouxsie-style artiness to Gang of Four’s punk-funk to general power pop, with the occasional nod to disco, music-hall, and surf rock thrown in to boot. It’s a delightfully fun romp from a period when young bands were willing to try on whatever random sound struck their fancy.

Formed in Leeds in 1979, the band (actually featuring only one girl) played the scene without much success and were about to break up when they saw an ad for a recording studio offering half-off rates. Their resulting single was released on Rough Trade and managed to go to the top of the indie charts, as did their follow up. In 1981, the singles and b-sides were collected together as an album (reissued here with some additional tracks, and available again as an expanded album from Cherry Red) after which the band wandered off, never to be heard from again.

It’s punk/new wave with a light touch. Their sunny exuberance and choir-girl falsetto clearly set the tone for later C-86 bands like Talulah Gosh, Flatmates, and the Siddeleys. Like the Au Pairs, a lot of their songs can be read as humorous, somewhat feminist critiques of politics, pop culture, and capitalism, but they don’t have as coherent a philosophy and they’re putting more of their energy into writing pogo-riffic melodies.

Just a note of warning: The lead single, Getting Nowhere Fast is intentionally cut off before the end of the song. It kinds of bugs me when bands do that, but whatever.


Jan 19, 2011

Can. Ogam Ogat.

0 Blurts

It rolls up joints,
It won’t disappoint,
It’s rockin’ the back of your van.

It’s a hot messy funk,
Smells better than skunks,
It’s big, it’s heavy, it’s Can.


Jan 13, 2011

Seefeel. Quique (Redux).

0 Blurts

In 1916, Russian Futurist painter Vladimir Rossiné invented the Optophonic Piano, an electronic instrument that created sounds and projected colors and patterns through a series of painted glass discs. Most likely, it sounded like shit. But if you could do such a thing correctly, and had someone like, say, Helen Frankenthaler or Agnes Martin or Bryce Marden been responsible for the layers of plates, then you might have gotten something quite beautiful. Something like Seefeel.

Formed in the early 90’s as dream pop was just beginning to discover electronics and samples, Seefeel melded My Bloody Valentine’s lush fuzz with Aphex Twin’s serenity into a mesmerizing pulsar of languidly revolving beats, rubbery bass lines, and looped guitars. Approaching the idea of techno from the standpoint of a rock band, and using its instruments to replicate and interpret that sound, they stretched dream pop out like ribbons of taffy, endlessly folding it over and over on itself until it became a moebius strip of glassy-skinned candy.

Like looking through a glass clockworks, their compositions reveal themselves by adding and subtracting layers of sound, with different elements rising to the surface or slinking off into darker depths, with only the slightest of glows to remind you of their presence. Chord and tempo changes are kept to a minimum, so the songs float along as the textural, ambient equivalents of Op Art. It’s better than sonic wallpaper though—it’s more like the dizzy buzz of butterflies in your stomach, or the blissful space between orgasms and sleep.

I seem to remember referencing the Cocteau Twins ambient experiments before and I was planning on doing so again here, when I noticed that Seefeel member Mark Clifford produced those remixes (on the Otherness ep), which is probably why this album feels so familiar. The second disc includes remixes and alternate takes that push the songs further into pillowy, endorphin-flushed, Terry Riley territory.

CD 1
CD 2

Jan 11, 2011

My Favorite. The Happiest Days of Our Lives.

1 Blurt

The ghosts of dead teenagers sing to me while I am dancing.

Speaking of nostalgia, I was a total classic rock snob in high school. If the band hadn’t existed prior to 1970, I wasn’t interested. There were occasional cracks—an REM tape inherited from a friend, an abiding love for The Cars (who I still think were highly underrated, despite being popular)—but for the most part, I listened to The Beatles, Pink Floyd, Simon & Garfunkel, and Buddy Holly. I considered dance music the bane of my existence. Groove Is In the Heart was wildly popular during my senior year, and I wanted to stab it in its shiny, happy face. As a teenager with insufferable hippie pretensions, there was nothing I hated more than mindless happiness. I reveled in miserabilism and wanted my music to do the same. If it wasn’t whiny, depressive navel-gazing then it wasn’t about anything, maannnn. So fuck you guys coping through communal ritual and physical ecstasy, because I’m going to my room where I am a rock, I am an island. (I’m reminded of Robyn Hitchcock’s line that “It’s the privilege of youth and beauty to hate themselves”).

Thankfully, Fuchsia introduced me to all sorts of 80’s alternative, goth, and college rock, and eventually the power of a good beat was more than I could resist. It was a revelation—I could dance and be depressed! Now, of course, all the best dance music carries sadness in its heart, even at its most escapist. My Favorite understood this dichotomy perfectly and crafted an elegiac love letter to those intense days when it felt like everything in the world could break your heart, but you still really wanted to dance and get laid. So now I’m nostalgic for a band creating meta nostalgia for a scene that I had no interest in when I was actually living through it.

Michael Grace lives in a scintillating twilight world of gray New Order melodies and Andrea Vaughn has the sort of cool, clear, schoolgirl voice you used to find on Sarah Records releases. They understood the comfort of being sad, but they also found the humor in it. Their lyrics are positively littered with throwaway couplets of bitter wit: Loneliness is pornography to them but to us it is an art. They won’t read your biography , these men, they will only break your heartYour darkness is brighter than all the lights in the disco tonightThe streets were crawling with vampires, because after your shelf life expires you’re not a kid, you’re a monsterI spent five years in the infirmary but he never sent me letters. He only sent me dirty polaroidsI wear her dreams like a badge, pinned upon the wrong uniform...

The standout is the devastating Homeless Club Kids (especially the Future Bible Heroes remix on the second disc). Over a beautifully melancholy melody, Andrea eulogizes the lost kids trying to escape the daytime world through a new type of family on the dancefloor. The kids see themselves as “indivisible”, but Vaughn can see their eventual doom (whether through actual death or the eventual death of all youthful dreams). Like a less jaded version of Pulp’s Sorted for E’s and Wizz, Homeless Club Kids can’t help but wonder: Are you a shimmering, transcendent beast moving as one organism, or just a bunch of awkward kids in a warehouse basement? Well, both probably, just as Vaughn both mourns their loss while wishing she were one of them. As the song fades out, she’s walking home with their voices still in her ears, “and they’ll be sad and young forever, and I cry until I throw up.”

CD 1
CD 2 (remixes)

Jan 7, 2011

Tearist. CDR.

1 Blurt

A man's work is nothing but this slow trek to rediscover, through the detours of art, those two or three great and simple images in whose presence his heart first opened. ~Albert Camus

Holy fucking fuck. This.

A Siouxsie-Salem-Suicide goth freak-scene making out with the memory of the Cocteau Twins, trying to find out what really made Elizabeth Fraser’s voice quaver so ecstatically. Yasmine Kittle (really) bleats round, aching, bruise-black moans and screams over sticky-fingered synth fugues and clittery-clacking subway-track beats. It’s dark and powerful and flushed with sex.

I keep thinking, goddamn, why doesn’t anybody make music like this anymore? Not “like this” in the sense of sounding like the bands I think they sound like—although that counts, too—but “this” in the sense of a band that arrived just for you, that says here I am, singing in your voice, even if you cannot make these sounds. Something that can infuse you and take over your DNA. I can barely remember the last time I fell fucking hardcore for a band. Maybe it’s my age; maybe I listen to too much music to be intimate with any one album anymore, but this makes me want to string up Christmas lights over our bed and commence with the gettin’ it on.

Digging for music is looking to find your true heart. Or to rediscover it, to bare your chest to a melody’s dart, slipped like a needle through your red heart and suturing you with long, swooping silver threads, a riotous fray of impossible roller-coaster loops and knots strung like telegraph wires to passing clouds and buzzsaws and dizzy helicopter-seedlings and fractured cups of papershell eggs and fingernail clippings and nothing at all and nothing more so than (and above all) Fuchsia.

Memory is a graveyard of carefully stowed cardboard boxes and index cards; things you’ve snipped off with shears hoping to preserve. But I still want them in me. I stop the world. I melt with her. I pull out my web of veins and peel them back like I’m unrolling an elegant glove, until it hangs like a mirror from my fingertips, and press the tips and tracery into the ground, or into the mossy, crushed-velvet cave between her legs,

(legs, hips and arms smooth and taut as a sapling, her gamine body, the pearlescent skin of a crepe-myrtle draped around a tangle of antlers, her scapula and pelvis revealing themselves in subcutaneous parabolic swells like waves in the ocean, and at the apex of her inner thighs, two creamy divots like the first scoop from a clean spoon through a freshly opened box of vanilla ice cream)

but every pulse and fluid surge between us ticks off another perfect sphere of unrecoverable time—glass candle grenades strung like morse-code crystals on chandelier strands stretching back into the inky black nebula of a startled squid’s ejaculate—time making its slipstream getaway the moment it’s been noticed.

I worry that I am succumbing to nostalgia. Things used to be different and I was used to that. But it’s still the same (and new) every time.

I need to hit play again.