Saturday, April 30, 2005
If one really was able to employ a time machine to visit historical eras and witness events taking place which changed the course of history, why would you want to see the signing of the Declaration of Independence? Who would really want to observe first-hand the debut performance of Hamlet? My choice would be to transport to the year when
New Dance In France was being recorded and ask its creators, "Why??" Why introduce Arkansas non-entity Bobby Lee Trammell as "...the very first American Beatle"? Why drop in fake applause every other verse? Why the ridiculous attempt at French lyrics? You can find this track on Wildsville, a collection of obscure 1950's/1960's no-hit-wonders a la Wavy Gravy and Las Vegas Grind. I myself found this cd used at Amoeba Records (along with a companion in the series, from which I might be posting later, entitled Weirdsville) but finding a place to order it on the web is proving difficult. You can try some stores in Australia or Germany, or you can write to the nice people at Midnight Records and see what they can do.
Tuesday, April 26, 2005
Hands up: who remembers New Wave? Not today's neo-New Wave but the original stuff from the late '70's? One of the most ridiculous New Wave albums ever released (in a good way) is the self-titled debut of the Suburban Lawns, five arty post-punk goofballs from Long Beach, CA. Most of the songs (on what turned out to be their only album) are the usual smug attacks on what we would now call "family values" (exemplified by the hi-energy white kid ska of "Mom And Dad And God"). When the band sidesteps this stance is when they really chose the route less travelled. Take one listen to
Janitor to see what I mean. The chorus ("I'm a janitor/Oh my genitals") was created around a misheard statement by one band member to another. Lead vocalist Su Tissue couldn't sound more deadpan, even outdoing the bored delivery of Deborah Evans from the dearly-missed Flying Lizards. I see this album used now and then at various vinyl shops specializing in the castoffs of music fads from the past. If you're looking for the easy way in, always start with the good folks at Gemm. If you're interested in knowing more about the band, there isn't much out there, except here and here.
Monday, April 25, 2005
No sooner had I written the last post blaming Blogger.com for all the world's ills (i.e., fucking up the comment links on my postings, ruining my life, global warming, having a hand in nominating an even-more-homophobic-pope-with-a-Nazi-past, etc, etc), when I realized it was my fault postings did not show the comment links. I'd send Blogger a personal apology but then I wouldn't have time to post the latest track, now would I? And speaking of the latest track: it's by the incomparable Gabby Pahinui, the reigning King of the Slack Key Hawaiian Guitar. I know next to nothing about Hawaiian music, but I know what I like, and I really like
Hi'Ilawe. It's taken from The Legends of Waikiki on the Hanaola Records/Cord International labels.
For some reason, my recent posts do not have the ability to allow comments from my thousands of readers. I'm not sure what I've done wrong to upset the Blogger God but He/She/It must be angry with me for not posting anything last night. I'll be posting some new tunes very soon (provided there is nothing good on TV tonight), so anything short of sacrificing virgins (I don't know any), I'm not sure what else I can do to appease Blog Lord-Bot Almighty. If you have any comments to send, you can always send me an e-mail at peecat [at] mac.com until fixes are made. Might I suggest you send Blogger a nasty e-mail, full of threats and swearing? I hear they get off on that sort of thing.
Saturday, April 23, 2005
As a kid growing up in the bland, stripmall hell of the Southwest during the '70's, my first impressions of rap were mixed. My oldest sister was my first big musical influence--whatever she listened to, I listened to. Her tastes ran from the pedestrian (The Beatles, The Turtles, Crosby Stills Nash & Young, Carly Simon, etc) to the more esoteric artists that were staples of the freeform FM radio waves at that time: Frank Zappa, Randy Newman and so on. This might explain why, when I began formulating my own tastes in my teens, I leaned towards the obvious (Queen, Styx, Heart, ELO) and the fringe (Kraftwerk, more Randy Newman). During this time, rap did not enter the equation. So you can imagine why my early opinions of rap were stunted by this myopic viewpoint. Nobody at my school was playing it--the only person I knew actively collecting it was a cousin of mine, but even then I just didn't get it. The shortsighted opinions I had about rap at the time are the same opinions I hear some rap-haters using today: "That's not singing! Where's the melody? Those are just nursery school rhymes set to music!" Anyone born during the 1980's probably never knew of a time when there wasn't rap, but when it emerged during my youth, this just wasn't the case. It was too new, too urban and too outside of our cultural signposts to make any sense. That's why it's such a pleasure to be older and wiser, because now I'm able to dig deep back into the origins of hip hop and discover all these gems I left behind during my formative years. Case in point:
Get Up (And Go To School) by Pookey Blow. By today's ears, it's such a cute little record (even Kris Kross wouldn't have attempted something like this), but it also shows how the early leanings of rap were perhaps more wide open than today's standards. I couldn't imagine any of today's rap stars attempting a song about waking up to face the school day. You can find this on the wonderful The Third Unheard: Connecticut Hip Hop, 1979-1983, which is chock full of tracks like this. I suggest you buy it here.
Friday, April 22, 2005
Any song that actually encourages and celebrates the art of stealing is always going to be a gold record on my hit parade. Punk aficionados, start your engines: I give you a brand new recording of
Shoplifting by The Slits. Hearing this insanely raw live version--taken from the overly-expensive import-only release Live At The Gibus Club--is quite a jolt, especially when compared to the relatively slicker studio effort released about one year later on Cut. For my money, there isn't a band on the planet that has ever sounded like these punk goddesses. They may have influenced a wide swatch of bands (Hole, Bikini Girl, Frightwig, The Butchies, etc) but they've always been in a league all their own. My hope is that this 1978 concert recording sells like mad, which will then bring about more Slits performances seeing the light of day. An odd sidenote: there appears to be censored edits during the second and final verses of this track (you can't miss them--listen for the ring of a cash register), yet the lines preceding them, "We paid fuck all!", remains. Odder still: another track, the previously unreleased "Enemy Numero Uno" has numerous expletives directed at an unruly audience member, with no bleeping inserted whatsoever. Am I the only one who finds it weird that the label (or the band?) wanted a "clean" version of a Slits song? Is there a Slits fan in existence who would care about the excessive cussing? I fucking doubt it.
Almost anything released by Romulan Records is worth hearing. They're one of the more prolific compilation labels seeking out vintage oddball recordings from the 1950's and '60's. Because this quasi-fake label keeps its identity hidden (for legal reasons--none of its copyrights are cleared), it's not always easy to find their records (except by mail order), so if you see one, my advice is to snatch it up immediately. This is what I did during my recent trip to LA when I found Girls In The Garage (Oriental Edition) in the used racks. I own a few of Romulan's cds in this Girls series but I'd never heard of this particular release, which focuses on Asian recordings. It's packed full of jaw-dropping versions of popular American/UK tunes of the day, of course, which almost makes me weep with glee. Does that make me a racist, just because I find pleasure in hearing foreign cultures attempting to perform music outside their borders? Am I a bad person for wanting to share
Come Back When You Grow Up by Nancy Sit with the world? Is this just the She Bangs of its day? Perhaps I've been rationalizing my love of this tune for a different reason: when the title is being sung during the chorus, it sounds as if she's singing "Come back/When you grow old", which is a unique sentiment you don't hear very often. How many of us would love to be told by a potential mate that they'd rather be dating us when we're in our 60's or 70's instead of when we're young?
Amoeba Records on Sunset Blvd. in LA. I say physical because their website offers no on-line sales and bites ass--ASS!--but entering the store itself is like you've died and gone to music collector heaven. My one complaint of Amoeba Records (the physical store) is that you can't have the staff open used cds for in-store play. I'm not sure why they've never offered this service--don't tell me it's a security issue because I've been to plenty of stores around the world that have set up used cd listening stations with affordable security measures in place. The closest Amoeba Records comes to allowing cds to be opened and played is a listening station with a 10,000 cd database, the type where you can scan the barcode to hear the album tracks. Sadly, most of the cds entered into the database are well-known artists such as Beck, The Decemberists or Iron & Wine--artists whose albums are easy to hear everywhere else (for instance, as streaming audio on their websites). Considering the millions of cds Amoeba has for sale, plugging them into the database would take years of non-stop effort, but shouldn't that be more of a reason to allow the customer to open and play used cds in-store? Why, oh why won't Amoeba Records listen to my precious feelings? Why won't they take my rants into consideration? Sigh...anyway, please check back in a few hours for the latest downloads I'll be offering.
Thursday, April 14, 2005
I die of a massive coronary, and in a dreadfully ironic twist, it turns out for this hardcore atheist there actually is a hell. While it's true the temperatures are extemely hot, I was born and raised in Phoenix, AZ so I'm pretty good at dealing with the heat. Of course, being Hades, there is not much to do except writhe in agony and suffer in all eternity for my sins (oh, so many sins) committed while alive here on Earth. The good news is that Satan has found it in his dirty black little heart to provide his minions with entertainment. The bad news is that there are only two choices: 1) non-stop, back-to-back 24-hour performances of Movin' Out, and 2) an endless loop of this music video (if I ever decide to direct a biopic of the band Journey, I'm casting this guy as Steve Perry). I hope those of you reading this will heed my words and turn your lives around now, while you still have the chance. I wouldn't wish this fate on even my worst enemies (well, perhaps just on Billy Joel).
Wednesday, April 13, 2005
Tinariwen are another band that, if they bother to tour the US at all, would most likely only hit major cities such as New York or Chicago. Because I'm late in the game of discovering them, I'm only now beginning to gain an understanding of what gives their music such power: they're a Touareg group from the southern Sahara whose music is similar to that of Ali Farka Toure. The band's name means "empty places" which certainly reflects the condition of their homeland, both geographically (vast deserts) and politically (they were fighters in the Touareg insurgency against the Malian government). The band formed in 1982 in Colonel Ghadaffi's rebel camps, emotionally driven by the war and drought to express their plight in musical terms, invented a new style of music known as Tishoumaren in the process. They have combined traditional musical forms with a modern rock sensibility -- traditional instruments such as the teherdent lute and shepherd flute were discarded in favor of the electric guitar, electric bass and drums. Their music is loosely based on traditional Touareg music and the harsh melodies of the one-stringed Touareg violin, but also incorporate other western and middle eastern influences, which managed to penetrate that far into the desert. But enough talk--listen to
Anassakoul N Tenere to hear why this band has gained a worldwide following. You can hear the centuries of struggle in the lead singer's raspy vocals, which are then lifted by the call-and-response motifs the rest of the band offers. It's not too far off the mark, I believe, to hear similarities in Tinariwen to that of the American Civil Rights-era blues and gospel music.
When I was much younger, my family lived across the street from this crazy alcoholic neighbor woman who used to walk into our house unannouced every morning to visit with my mother (this was back when people didn't lock doors). My siblings and I used to find this action quite rude (I don't remember my mother's feelings on the matter), and one day, as this neighborhood looney entered our house, my brother shouted out to her in a loud sing-song voice: "Ding, dong! We have a doorbell!" All of us kids had a good laugh over my brother's outburst, although I seem to recall he probably received a whipping from my mother for his behavior. I relive this memory whenever I pass the wide selection of doorbells in certain well-known, unnamed home improvement chain stores (they don't need any free advertising from me), usually trying out every one of the doorbells on display just to hear the different sounds. Sometimes I will compose little on-the-spot melodies by alternating the different tones and timbres of each doorbell, making crude attempts at creating an instrumental chorus or verse by repeating certain doorbell figures over and over. My guess is that this track,
No One At Home, by Doktor Kosmos could have been composed by this same method. This amusing ditty is available on the Pop Tics compilation, released by the wonderful Bungalow label in Germany. I bought mine (used) at Amazon. If you yourself should ever decide to compose doorbell melodies in certain well-known, unnamed home improvement chain stores, be on the lookout for employees coming to scold you, because they have to hear these doorbells being rung all day long and the last thing they want is a pop obsessive attempting to write a Top 40 hit song in their department.
Sunday, April 10, 2005
Guess who's back in the studio? The world's best German gangsta rap puppet act, Puppetmastaz (not that there are all that many gangsta rap puppet acts out there to begin with, at least not outside of Germany). For a sneak preview of their latest studio antics, check out their website to see for yourself. Is it just me or does the drummer sound more and more like Snoop Dogg with every release? What with Cookie Monster making exercise videos, it's good to see there are still some puppets out there willing to corrupt the world's youth. I doubt if they'd ever tour the US, but I would drive for days to see them if they did. The new album won't hit stores until August or September 2005, so this little snippet of video hijinx will have to hold me until then. If you're unfamiliar with their flow (however much a puppet can be said to have a flow), you can find all their releases (including some great remix singles) at Gemm.com.
From the environs of Toronto (the city featured in almost every recent US movie set in NYC, Detroit or Chicago) comes the slap-happy sounds of this multi-gender pop/rock/noise foursome. For my money,
Danes In Peril is their best song (taken from the oddly-titled Ackrill/Venning '91, and if you want to disagree with me on that, we can step outside and hash it out. Be warned: it is the loudest song you will ever hear in your life, especially if you play it extra loud like I do. I recommend everything in their discography, which you can find on iTunes here and here.
My ultimate wish would be to see Vitalic perform live. Until then, I have to make do with this. You'll come for the cheesecake but you'll stay for the air drums.