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.