Tuesday, September 30, 2008

October/November issue of PSF is now online

In the latest issue of Perfect Sound Forever, you'll find (among other things):

Punk author & zinester
"... a musician, a photographer, a writer, a philosopher, a documenter, a muckraker, and an all around pioneer on so many levels. Sharon has worked with many talented people over the years. She made history in the first all-female DC punk band, Chalk Circle, and for confronting Maximum Rock ’n Roll Magazine for its sexist ways. Since 1989, she has been publishing her zine, Interrobang?! She also co-published the seminal punk book, Banned in DC. Since that time, she has continued to impress us with her unique artistic projects and collaborations"

Great DJ gone too soon
"With glassy eyes peering out from beneath a perpetually low fitted cap, James Yancey confined himself to his home studio, much as Da Vinci confined Mona Lisa within the murky mountain backdrop that frames her figure. Just what was going on behind those eyes, nobody will ever really know. Close friend and Slum Village emcee Elzhi cites Yancey's constant preoccupation with production as the force behind his hushed character."

Arty pop as freak folk
"If you've been living in a vacuum, you may not have heard of The Dodos (singer/songwriter/guitarist Meric Long, drummer Logan Kroeber, Joe Haener on xylophone), a powerhouse folk band out of San Francisco. The blissfully tipsy crowd eagerly anticipated The Dodos performance while the band was setting up on stage. The first vibrations of Kroeber’s pounding drum ignited the set that ended much too soon. Long skillfully strummed, plucked, and picked his guitar, bringing life to 'Fools,' followed by 'Ashley, Jodi, Red and Purple'... from the recently released second album Visiter."

Scouring for 78rpm treasures
"India is a sound enthusiast's heaven. On a recent trip to Tamil Nadu and Mumbai in Southern India, I recorded constantly, both maddened by and in love with the barrage of noise. Traffic sounds in Indian cities and towns reach near maddening decibel levels. Everyone drives with their horn... The sense of personal space (both physical and aural) is very different than what we are used to in the West. It is a very crowded country. Parades seem to explode in crowded alleyways with fireworks and drums and horns."

R&B piano by a Lit prof
"Tom Lucas carved out his small, vital, piece of music lore in the 1970's with the album Red Letter Day. Recorded in 1975 and released in a very limited run several years later, the record has become a coveted piece of cult ephemera, selling for an ungodly amount on eBay, and finally being reissued in 2004, without Lucas' knowledge or permission. Radioactive's unauthorized re-release might have been an injurious insult to Lucas' art and livelihood; instead it has become the catalyst for a revival of Lucas' career as a vital songwriter and musician."

Puerto Rican son of a drum
"A proper measure of a devout musician might be his influence and contribution to the growth and development of his national culture and musical heritage. If the influence of this musician went far beyond his native shores and had an international effect, and his contributions spawned a renaissance which revitalized an entire movement, this is the substance of legend. Such is the case of Puerto Rican master percussionist Angel 'Cachete' Maldonado."

Return of garage/surfs legends
"A prank effectively gutted Mike and the Ravens, the hottest rock n' roll dance band burning up the North Country circuit in '62. No big deal to the judge. The trio scored 48 hours in the hoosegow with a choice - military or school. That or serve out the rest of their 60 day sentence. So school it was, laying the foundation for law careers for Steven Blodgett, Peter Young, and Brian Lyford, all three determined to stay on the right side of the law, ya know, just in case they gotta sweeten the sounds in Vermont's Green Mountains one more time."

South African conceptual art
"The band often seems as much an idea, or even an ideal, as a band. How else do you explain the fact that the members still meet on an almost weekly basis, privately in what is termed 'rehearsal' by David Master (their vocalist and their elemental force) to make what is consistently among the most provocative, uncompromising and intriguing rock music in their country with almost no hope that it will be heard very much more widely than within the confines of that rehearsal room?"

Blissful Komische music
"Like Robert Fripp, the only stable member in every incarnation of King Crimson, Florian Fricke was the central and guiding figure of Popol Vuh for their entire recording career. Fricke started to make music when he was 11, and when he was 15, he went to the Frieburg Music College; studying grand piano, composition and conducting, but by 19, he was happy to be free of the constant practice that school demanded. In the interim, he worked as a film and music reviewer and a maker of short films. This is where he met director Werner Herzog. Fricke traveled extensively, with the encountering of other cultures and religions being very important to him, even though Fricke himself didn't claim to prefer any one religion over another."

Part of the neo-psych revolution
"Something has been going on for the past eight years. It is the musical revolution that the Brian Jonestown Massacre front man Anton Newcombe is famous for talking about. In 2000, a Neo-Psychedelic scene with half a dozen bands was birthed in Silverlake, California. The Quarter After was one of those pioneer bands that was turned on from the start and continues today to turn on others."

70 years of krautrock anarchism
"In the middle of the sixties, Conrad Schnitzler became something like the leading figure of experimental rock-music in West-Berlin. As a founding-member of both Kluster and Tangerine Dream, he was a maverick at breaking the traditions of Rock music. He calls himself an amateur who is basically an artist; someone who produces 'Sounds.'"

Soviet folk genius?
"Perhaps Regina's strange vocal style developed from this anxiety about 'crude' songwriting and from her love of sound and language. Regina 'stretches words... into epic solos, then crams long sentences into her mouth and spits them out in a few exuberant bars,' as Josh Tyrangiel described it. She also incorporates sounds, such as hiccups, hisses, pops, and gurgles. 'The hiccup sounds,' she says, 'were like discovering I had a tambourine in my throat.'"

70's jazz joint remembered
"In 1975, at 315 Bowery, Hilly Kristol was opening up C.B.G.B. to the advance guard of New York rock. But just up the street, Brooklyn native Paul Pines had been running a successful jazz club called The Tin Palace for five years, offering much-needed exposure to American artists ranging from bop vocalist Eddie Jefferson to AACM stalwarts Roscoe Mitchell and Kalaparusha Maurice McIntyre. An aspiring writer and poet as well as a jazz fan, Pines traveled to San Francisco to meet the Beats, then returned to New York to take up residence in the East Village."

The vinyl bangwagon arrives
"The headlines are coming fast and furious. Once upon a time, my editor would email these articles to me maybe two or three times a year. These days, it seems as if I get a link sent to me every few days. The difference is that these articles are no longer coming from local newspapers or obscure music magazines, but major players like the Los Angeles Times, Newsweek and the Wall Street Journal."

Monday, September 29, 2008

Love You More- Buzzcocks and teen love

Though her upcoming Lennon bio-pic is what most people know her for, Sam Taylor-Wood should also be known for her 15-minute short film Love You More (written by Patrick Marber, who also wrote the Joy Division bio-pic Control).

Plotted around the Buzzcocks single of the same name, it tells the story of a budding affair between two teens. They know each other from school but haven't connected until straight-laced Peter (Harry Treadaway, who appears as Steve Morris in Control) sees punk-styled Georgia (Andrea Riseborough) scribbling the band's name in her notebook. He goes searching for the single (which would date this in June '78) and runs into her at the record shop, where they silently decide to pinch the only copy from the jerky store owner, running past another customer (who happens to be Buzzcocks singer Peter Shelley).

He reluctantly goes back to her place to listen and at first, they sit around smoking and drinking silently but it's obvious that there is some kind of latent chemistry going on. The second time they listen to the song, she demands that he gobs in her face, which he reluctantly obliges. She does the same as they break out in laughter and spontenously molest each other. He's a neophyte but game and they go at it at least once more as the song plays again. Meanwhile, the song's lyrical confusion about love comes to the fore and lines like "I'm not a child" make all the more sense now. "I didn't know you loved me," he confesses. "I don't," she shrugs after sharing another cigarette.

They walk out on the street hand-in-hand and suddenly he seems transformed, a little cooler with a girl by his side and a pair of shades on. He uncomfortably says goodbye but then runs back for a smooch. He comes back to his balcony to see her sitting there, smoking again. "What about the B-side?" he yells down to her. She assures him that they'll listen to it tomorrow and then she walks away smiling. The film ends as we hear the B-side itself, "Noise Annoys."

All of which makes me look forward to that Lennon film...

Friday, September 26, 2008

Ian MacKaye and Sir Ben Kingsley- not seperated by mirth

Hopefully you've already seen the video of Sir Ben posing as the former Minor Threat frontman. If not, you should- it's a pretty insane, inspired idea. Blurt went one step further and asked MacKaye for his thoughts on the vid too, which you can see here (along with the original video).

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Teenage Jesus complete

When the hell am I gonna stop gabbing about Teenage Jesus? Apparently no time soon...

Along with their recent one-off reunion in NYC, Atavistic Records helps us remember the band once again. They gave us the Everything CD in 1995, which was literally all of the TJ material out there but unfortunately that went outta print. No need to worry though as they now offer up the collection Shut Up and Bleed, a sentiment that the voracious Lydia Lunch (TJ leader) would definitely approve of. Not only do get the whole TJ catalog but also some unreleased goodies, gathered up from long lost singles, EP's, compilations and of course the No New York collection, all lovingly compiled by Lunch herself.

If that ain't enough for you No Wave fanatics, you also get the full output of Lunch's next band, the short lived Beirut Slump, which lasted all of three gigs. Included here is the whole recorded output (one single) plus six other songs to go with it. All in all, a cornucopia of early Lunch.

And if you're wondering what Lunch is up to now, she's still very active in Europe, doing gigs and multi-media stage shows- if only some booker in the U.S. could get her over here to perform again...

She's also offering up a DVD collection of her work, including live shows of TJ and her later band 8 Eyed Spy plus collaborations with Birthday Party's Rowland S. Howard and Die Haut- it's called Video Hysterie, available from MVD. It's not quite the same as having her harangue you at one of her live shows but it's the closest you'll come otherwise.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Mofungo remembered

Once upon a time, there was a scraggly New York combo called Mofungo, named for a yummy Puerto Rican delicacy. Some of them were remnants of no-wave band Information and some of them were guitarist/composer Elliott Sharp (2nd from right). One of them would become the food critic for the Village Voice- then bassist Robert Sietsama (on the left).

They left behind a legacy of wonderfully skewed albums of screaming, passionate, political noise-rock that sadly out of circulation for the most part. One of their labels was Lost, run by pal and the Scene is Now member Phil Dray (also a former member of Information) who posted some unreleased Mofungo material on the Lost website. It's actually over a half-hour, which makes it almost enough to be their great 'lost' album, so to speak. They channel Beefheart boogie without being slavish about it and have still-topical material like "Petroleum Addict" and "Song About AIDS."

If you wanna know more about the band, you can read Robert's account of it at PSF.

More details... Information reunited to open for an also reunited Teenage Jesus & the Jerks at NYC's Knitting Factory this past June (I wrote about the TJ part for the Voice). Also, TSIN is having its catalog reissued later this year. Stay tuned for further details...

Friday, September 12, 2008

Patti Smith's Dream of Life and live

New York's Film Forum just finished a run of the Patti Smith documentary Dream of Life where director Steven Sebring followed Smith around for about 10 years, documentary her tours, personal life and influence (hopefully out on DVD soon). For the final evening (September 11th), Smith herself appeared at three screenings to answer questions. She also came equipped with a guitar to 'do a little number.' My friend Aaron Goldberg recorded about 3/4 of her song "Grateful" that you'll see in the video above.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

The Perils of Crate Digging

Pretty funny series of cartoons

Monday, September 08, 2008

Lowercase sound- the ultimate in ambient

I did a write up of the Lowercase collection (a compilation that's so quiet you'd need to strain to hear it) at the What Was It Anyway? blog run by the inimitable Mr. Dan Weiss. Check out the WWIA blog and my write-up.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Morgan Fisher/Hybrid Kids are killing the classic oldies

The whole idea of a covers album seems like a waste- it's lazy way for an artist to recycle old, familiar hits without having to come up with any new material of their own and rely on connections that an audience has already made to oldies. Plenty of artists have come up with their own acceptable cover versions but maintaining the concept over a whole album is a tricky prospect. Ray Charles did it with some audacity with his favorite country songs plus Bryan Ferry adding his own hilariously campy touch to 50's and 60's oldies on his first solo record. Hell, even the last Guns N' Roses record, "The Spaghetti Incident?" from '93, was a good one.

One of my all-time favorite cover albums is the Residents' The Third Reich N' Roll (reissued by Mute in 2005). What was so unique and audacious about the album was that the eyeball boys dealt with oldies as both serious music deserving scrutiny and at the same time, trashy music that was worthy of ridicule.

At around the same time that he did the wonderfully bonkers Miniatures compilation (one of my all-time faves), ex-Mott the Hoople keysman Morgan Fisher also put out an album called Hybrid Kids in 1979. Supposedly a bunch of bands from Peabody, Kansas were included there with names like Punky & Porky, U.S. Nerds, Malcolm Galaxy, British Standard Unit, R.W. Atom and the Incestors. If the names sound kind of Brit, they should- they were really all Mr. Fisher in various (dis)guises.

The end result was an obsessive, bizarre series of experiments that by all rights should have remained dusty old work tapes. But there's something beyond novelty about Fisher's work. It's such an extensive put-on and off-the-wall concept that it works in its own weird way as a fascinating reconfiguring of the material.

Fisher started with songs by Richard Harris ("MacArthur Park"), the Sex Pistols, Kate Bush, Perry Como, Peggy Lee, Brotherhood of Man, Rod Stewart, Sun Ra, the Beatles, the Stranglers, the Righteous Brothers and Squeeze (with Mott thrown in) and then covered respectively them in the styles of Two tone ska, the Chipmunks, Jah Wobble, the Pistols (not on their own song though), Lee (on her own song), Devo, techno, Ra (on his own song), Eno/Byrne, the Residents (appropriately enough), Suicide and early Pink Floyd. It doesn't always work in the funny way that it wants to but it does more often than not, in the mad way that Miniatures does. "D'Ya Think I'm Sexy" done by robots (and then answered by "NO!"), the Pistols as kiddie music, Como as 'speed punk,' "You've Lost that Loving Feeling" channeling a German officer and Tim Buckley as well as the influence of the Residents everywhere make it not just enjoyable but also the kind of covers album that both honors and dismantles the originals. Even when he gets a little too reverential (as on the Beatles' "Get Back"), he breaks it up with tapes and spacy interludes and alien transmissions to keep up the nutsy atmosphere.

Fisher likes to think of it as an early DIY mash-up and in a way it is but it's also its own unique creation. It's perfect for Dr. Demento but beyond a mere novelty, it's also a brilliant concept album. And funny as hell too.

Hybrid Kids was just reissued by Cherry Red in England, paired with the Hybrid Kids' 1980 album of Christmas tunes called Claws.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Magnificent Mobley

As summer winds down and a slow release week comes and goes, Blue Note Records makes due by reissuing a slew of classy oldies. There's Jimmy Smith paying tribute to Fats Waller, Jeremy Steig's soulful Howlin' For Judy (whose title track became a hook for the Beastie Boys' "Sure Shot"), Eddie Henderson's funky Miles-ish (appropriate since he's working with some of his sidemen) Heritage, the Three Sounds' sweet, joyful and appropriately titled Elegant Soul, Reuben Wilson's funky organ traipsing through late 60's/early 70's hits on Set Us Free and sax-man J.R. Montrose's self titled album featurfing Horace Silver and Philly Joe Jones.

My personal favorite from the latest batch is Hank Mobley Quintet featuring Silver once again along with trumpeter Art Farmer and drummer Art Blakey, which makes for quite a stellar line-up, not to mention the rhythm section for the original Jazz Messengers. This self-titled album comes from a March 1957 session. By that time, Mobley had been a protege of not just Silver and Blakey but also Dizzy Gillespie. Later on, he was haunted by drug problems and inferiority complexes, dying at age 55 in 1986 but along with a handful of later Blue Note records, this Quintet date is a great part of the hard bop pantheon. Though Mobley's flights of fancy are rightly the star of the show, a lot of credit must be given to Blakey too as his cymbal crashes set off the solos perfectly and to Silver as well who provided solid not-so-understated backing and nice solos himself throughout. And try as you might, you're not going to resist titles like "Wham and They're Off" (which could have been the title of a glam record too) and "Funk in a Deep Freeze" (which should give George Clinton the chills). Hear some samples of the album at Amazon too.