Sunday, November 30, 2008

Perfect Sound Forever- Dec 08/Jan 09 issue

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

Cinematic electronic music
"Kevin Bartlett's been in the music business for more than forty years and he's still as excited about creating music as he was when he first began as a kid in Albany, New York. It's not an easy life – Bartlett's lush, cinematic electronic music and sinuous guitar defies genres, and that means that it's hard to market."

American X factors
"It's tough to adequately describe the journey Black Rebel Motorcycle Club has taken me on. You know how the story goes... you check out a band that just released their debut album, you dig that album, follow their career with great interest, observe them being exposed to the masses, and then just as you think they are truly hitting their stride, what happens? They come to the public, and the public spits on them."

Highbrow/lowbrow culture
"In fact, I have courageously risked both my reputation as a mature adult and my continuously developing aura of gravitas by taking on the topic of this article. Even so, today's ethics of musicology and scholarship also require that provocative topics not be diluted by timidity, social norms, or censorship. The fact is, three famous composers much admired for their musicality, innovation, and flare for style deliberately depicted flatulence in their music."

From punk to ancient China
"This article is from my lecture I gave at the Primavera Sound Festival in Barcelona about my self built musical instruments. I explained what kind of instruments I make, why I make them and for which bands. I showed the audience my own copies and played a little on those instruments. After finishing an instrument called the Moodswinger I rediscovered that it was not only a musical instrument, but also a educational measurement instrument which shows a universal system of consonant values based on simple physical laws."

The rasta communicator
"Keith Hudson was born in Kingston in 1946, and, after studying dentistry, went into record production in the late 1960s, enjoying success with Ken Boothe's "Old Fashioned Way" and Delroy Wilson's "Run Run". However it was with deejays that Hudson really made his mark as a producer and he was instrumental in launching the career of one of the most innovative 1970's deejays: Big Youth."

Rap's message or money
"Real name Felipe Coronel, Technique was born in Peru but relocated to Harlem at the age of ten. Half black, half Latino, maybe it was this experience of the external world of global politics that helps to give him his edge in his music. ... Why write about Technique? For one thing, to make more people aware of him. Turning someone on to Technique can be like a religious conversion, especially for those who are perhaps slightly removed from the hip-hop underground, as I was when I first heard him."

Singing docs & friendly bombs
"There was obviously a gap in my music-related experiences that needed filling, and that was easily filled by a single "multi-purpose" record store, bar, and event space called EnBan, just next to the Japan Rail train tracks in Tokyo's lively Koenji district."

The call of Texas rock
"I first heard of Lift to Experience from a friend of mine who worked at CD Warehouse. I remember him mentioning something about 'this band out of Denton that was supposedly started by some ranch hand outta the wilderness playing songs about Jesus coming back to Texas... how the USA was the center of Jerusalem... some crazy Christian cult idea with distortion.'"

Individualized shoegaze
"Medicine always conveyed a sense of individualism and stubbornly uncompromising attitude about their sound that can be traced back to Brad Laner's roots. Growing up in California, he ingratiated himself with underground music of the '80's, playing in the experimental-noise band Debt of Nature and later on, as a drummer for noise rockers Savage Republic until their demise."

A Tribute
"Hendrix was the total package--singer, song writer, visionary, guitar wizard--and he would be heard. A key element to the explosiveness of the mix was John "Mitch" Mitchell, former child virtuoso, former Georgie Fame drummer, and winner of the coin toss in which Hendrix was deciding between him and Aynsley Dunbar."

Avant diva
"Annette Peacock has sought to express herself via her art, as have many other artists. Unfortunately, she has consistently fallen foul of unwritten laws. Inasmuch as she writes and sings her own material, she could be conveniently classified as a female singer-songwriter. The commercial potential (or lack of it) of her material notwithstanding, she might have attracted some critical attention via this contextual niche in the marketplace."

Girl group heaven
"In light of how quickly American culture turns songs of the past into nostalgic oldies it is important to give the Shirelles their due not as caricatured images of past, but as actual women who thrived under some of the 'crassest conditions the recording industry has been able to contrive.'"

RIP another Gotham club
"In the spring of 1979, Hilary Jaeger was working at a TriBeCa restaurant called Tier 3; a few months later, she began booking live bands in the 300-capacity space. Hilary's efforts were bolstered by the punk and new wave enthusiasts previously associated with Stinky's, a nightspot that was New York's first 'punk disco.' Tier 3 lasted only until December 1980, but it was a vital and influential venue in which the new music cross-bred with the experimental art and film scenes of Downtown. "

2008: Year of Settling In
"Here's the Tenth Annual Vinyl Anachronist Awards for Analog Excellence. This year's winners reflect that fact that vinyl is becoming more and more mainstream, and that there's less and less to bitch about this time around. An unfortunate by-product of this stability, however, is the relative lack of exciting new products since manufacturers are settling in for the night as well, and collecting those checks. "

Balancing madness & art
"From 1999 to 2007, Jeff Tweedy, Wilco's singer/leader/writer, went from a depressed drug addict, working with a guitarist he could not stand to a clean, responsible father with a comfortable band. Along the way, his music got worse."

We're always looking for good writers and/or ideas so let us know if you have anything to share.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Tommy James and Shondells- crimson, clover and hanky panky

When you think of 60's pop, you usually think of cheesy music, go-go dancing and mini-skirts. It wasn't all that bad really though...

A prime example is Tommy James and the Shondells who have just put out a double CD collection, 40th Anniversary Singles Collection (Collector's Choice). How can you not love dance party classics like "Hanky Panky" or "Mony Mony"? And what about a heart-throb song like "I Think We're Alone Now"? (love Lene Lovich's version too) And there's also the gentle psychedelica of "Crimson and Clover" (which Joan Jett loved enough to cover). And then there's my own personal favorite, the sweet "Crystal Blue Persuasion" (love that title too). For their early years, even the non-hits sound like fun and they don't break the momentum at all. Because it is a 2 CD set and they include his late 70's and 80's offerings... well, they do reflect their time (hard rock and new wave respectively) but it's not that bad actually. In any case, you can live a happy and fulfilled life by concentrating on the hits of the first disc.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

NODZZZ- no it's not no-doze

As the Other Music newsletter notes, 10 songs in 16 minutes is what you have here- almost reminds me of the Ramones. But this San Fran crew will remind you of classic New Zealand indie rock that Flying Nun used to put out (think simple, drone rock with flat vocals) and the slacker-rock that Pavement once made. Nodzzz isn't the most catchy name but their songs do stick as if they remembered that the great garage songs of the 60's also had good tunes attached to them. It'll be interesting to see if they progress (or regress) but for now, they're the nice, messy fun that we all need sometimes.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Chuck Berry does Zep?

A club that's known not only for booking good oldie acts but also for booking cover bands evidently mixed up the two for this ad. You have to admit though, it would be kind of interesting to hear Chuck cover Zep. Anyone going to the show shouldn't expect that of course- after all, CB doesn't need to cover anyone else's songs since he's got such an amazing batch himself. Maybe Robert Plant will return to Zep to cover Chuck's song though...

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Klaus Schulze- an uberfan's perspective

If I was going to write a book about a certain krautrock artist who's made captivating music for decades , it would probably look something like Greg Allen's new tome Klaus Schuze- Electronic Music Legend. The book culls numerous interviews including some that Allen's done with KS himself (and one I did with him too) as well as his knowledgable long time manager Klaus D. Mueller and former associates plus reviews of KS's many albums, numerous reviews, website research and a nice batch of photos. You can call it a bit amateurish but I say it's a captivating book written by a fan for other KS fans and it does the subject proud with its attention to detail and care. I would have liked to see a few essays or think pieces about KS but otherwise, you'll be hard pressed to find a more complete look at his career. Personal favorite: an exhaustive dig through his equipment and synths that he's deplored.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Howlin' Wolf live

In many ways, Chester Burnett was a blues giant. Not just in status but in girth- 300 lbs. of joy indeed. In 1962, Chess records put out his classic self-titled album (aka the Rocking Chair album) and two years later, a live show in Germany took place when Wolf was in his mid-50's. This show is now out on Acrobat Records as Howlin' Wolf's Rockin' the Blues: Live In Germany 1964 This was done as part of his label's Euro-tour to promote its roster as... folk artists? Well, you gotta remember that at the time, along with the Fabs taking over the pop world, folkies were also a music craze that the label was trying to milk (even if it was one that would soon be overshadowed).

Featured in the band is his ever-faithful side-kick Hubert Sumlin on guitar plus bassist Willie Dixon (one of the greatest songwriters of the 20th century too, by the way) alongside pianist Sunnyland Slim and drummer Clifton James. Wolf is in good howl (sorry, couldn't resist), Sumlin deals out some tasty guitar licks and Slim adds some rollicking keyboard playing. While you don't get the full greatest hits package (no "Smokestack Lightin'" or "Spoonful" or "Evil"), you do get a romping take on "Shake It For Me," a slow-burning "Love Me," a drum-heavy version of "Dust My Broom" that doesn't make you miss Elmore James' original and my personal favorite of Wolf's catalog, "Going Down Slow" (with Dixon's speech intact here though it's done by Wolf this time). Also, compared to the shortened versions on his singles and albums, Wolf and the band stretch four of the nine tracks past the five minute mark.

A fine addition to the man's catalog but please make sure you get that Rocking Chair album if you don't have it already. It's even paired with another classic, Moanin' in the Moonlight, on CD.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Blue Ash- no less than great power pop

Even in the age of reissues, Midwest power poppers from the Me Decade, Blue Ash still suffer. After Not Lame Records put out Around...Again: A Collection of Rarities from the Vault 1972-79 a mere four years ago, the fine 2-CD set's already gone outta print, fetching at least 40 bucks used at Amazon. And then there was another CD's worth of material that their manager sent me years ago which didn't make it on that the Not Lame collection or anywhere else for that matter- "Elementary Dr. Watson" needs to be heard and released some day (it's that damn good).

But at least now the world gets to hear again Blue Ash's debut No More, No Less thanks to Collector's Choice. Even though they cover the Beatles ("Anytime At All"), they're obviously Who fans and not just because they have a song called "Smash My Guitar"- the high-pitched harmonies, power chords and round-house drumming all add up to a nice fixation. You might say that they have some Cheap Trick in them took but they came before those fellow mid-westerners. You might have also heard "Abracadabra" as the Records later covered it and it sure beats the hell out of the Steve Miller song with the same name.

Sadly, after one more album in 1977, the band was no more though they reformed in the 90's and supposedly are working on a new record. See their blog for details about their latest capers.

Maybe Not Lame will be inspired to reissue their own archive material of Blue Ash and the other unreleased goodies that should see the light of day.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Birdsongs of the Mesozoic- prehistorical music from the 80's

From the ashes of Mission of Burma came a prog band but not just any prog band. Unlike many of the successful English variety in the 70's, this Beantown combo had a sense of humor to go along with their sense of history. Maybe it was just because he was concerned about his hearing (as the story goes) but maybe on some level, MOB guitarist/songwriter Roger Miller also wanted to delve more into chamber music than rock without giving up on the later. And oh yeah, keeping that sense of humor.

Miller and fellow MOB-er Martin Swope co-founded Birdsongs of The Mesozoic in the early 80's, staying with the local Ace of Hearts label. Unfortunately, their first few records remained E-Bay fodder though the band has still carried on since then, even with the loss of both Miller and Swope. A sterling, detailed account of their history is at PSF.

Luckily, Cuneiform Records, purveyor of fine archival prog (Soft Machine, Richard Pinhas, Univers Zero) are coming to the rescue by reissuing all of the early BOTM catalog including 2 EP's, their debut LP and extra, unreleased live material on the 2-CD set Dawn of the Cycads. Marvel not only at their knowledge of prehistoric nomenclature but also their covers of Stravinsky and theme from the Rocky & Bullwinkle cartoon. That's not even mentioning the Cluster-meets-Zappa-meets-Terry Riley sound of their original self-titled EP from '83 or the magnificent Reich-gone-metal riffing on "Shiny Golden Snakes from their first album, Magnetic Flip ('84). Not many prog ensembles have the breadth to cover those kind of wide bases but BOTM did, and still does actually.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Screaming Females

Part Riot Grrl, part post-punk, DIY and the pride of Brunswick, NJ... Screaming Females are all of those things as you can see in this YouTube video which tells their story, including being part of sucky band beforehand and the singer shredded his digits on her guitar.

Thanks to Joe Gross from the Austin Chronicle for tipping me off to them.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Congrats to Obama and America

Please rise for the National Anthem!

I'm going to love saying the phrase "President Obama."

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Holy Modal Rounders- Bound too Loose?

In the world of 60's folk, two of the biggest outsiders and jokers were a pair of guys who were considering names like Total Quintessence Stomach Pumpers, the Temporal Worth High Steppers and The Motherfucker Creek Babyrapers before settling on the Holy Modal Rounders. What set them apart in the scene was their indomitable sense of fun and craziness. No doubt that caught the attention of the Fugs, who soon hired them as a band. HMR would also find their way on the Laugh-In TV show and the Easy Rider soundtrack. Though they did find a place in Dr. Demento's playlist (which is where I first heard them), they never broke into mainstream consciousness. Too loose? Too wacky? Maybe but you wouldn't want them any other way.

Bound To Lose is a loving bio-pic from last year featuring extensive interviews with the band's two principles, Peter Stampfel and Steve Weber, as well as thoughts from associates and fans like playwright Sam Shepard (who was once the band's drummer), Dennis Hopper (who including them on the Rider soundtrack), the Monkee's Peter Tork, activist/comic Wavy Gravy, Yo La Tengo's Ira Kaplan and others. Along with the interviews is even some rare archival footage of the band and their attempted reunions that have been doing on since the 9o's- truth be known, the group had been working on and off for decades.

Weber finally packed it in recently and decided that he was wasn't interested in music anymore, bringing a end seemingly to the band. It wasn't too surprising, given the chaotic nature of his appearances with the group. At several reunion gigs I saw, he'd show up late, blow off the set lists and play whatever he wanted and generally sabatoge the flow of a show. Not so different than accounts of his unreliable nature back in the day. Make no mistake, the guy's a great songwriter and performer when he wants to be but, as the film shows, not the best musician to count on. Stampfel is a constrast as he restlessly works on several new projects at once (including his fabled 100-year song project).

See/enjoy/buy the flick at the DVD homepage.