Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Help Me, I Think I'm Tripping

For the next 5 days, no postings, thanks to yet another trip, this time to the Telluride Film Festival. After this is over, a stronger promise could not be made: no more trips for at least 4 more months. Check back on Tuesday night for a strong return to form.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

The Shock Of The New (Wave)

Back in mid-June, music blog kingpin Fluxblog surprised me by posting a track from the 80's New Wave act Squeeze. The jolt wasn't because the posting was unusual for the website's tastes (in fact, Fluxblog tends to post a wider variety of music genres than any other blog). No, the shock was that anybody even cared about Squeeze anymore at all--their music is hopelessly out of vogue, at least at the present moment. They're a guilty pleasure band for me, and it was lovely to see a much-visited blogger give them a mention. It was fate, then, that helped me find a new import copy of their masterpiece East Side Story, remastered with 2 bonus tracks (The Axe Has Now Fallen and Looking For A Love) at a Virgin Megastore in Glasgow. Because I didn't even know it existed, I never saw it listed in such mainstream music spots as Amazon (which has the song order inexplicably mixed up), and HMV (not to mention, of course, Virgin Megastore). I simply must spend more time web surfing. To these ears, it was smart for the band (and Nick Lowe, who produced the second track listed here) to leave these tunes off the finished album--they're much weaker than the rest of the album. Still, it's nice to hear these songs for the first time and remember why I used to listen to Squeeze in the first place.

Father's Place Knows Best

Some years back, Rhino Handmade caused great celebration among Captain Beefheart aficionados by releasing the rare live recording Live At My Father's Place (top left), by Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band. Because I'm lazy and forgetful and lazy as all get out, I never got around to buying it, and as you might know, Rhino Handmade cds are all limited edition, and every copy eventually sold out (you'd have to mortgage your house to afford a used one now). Imagine my surprise when, in a local Glasgow chain store, I stumble upon a European release of this same live show (bottom left) on Masterplan Records. Granted, it doesn't have the attention to detail (live photos, liner notes, etc) that make Rhino Records the Criterion Collection of music reissues, and the track listing is shorter (3 songs are missing from this version), but egads, what a pleasure it is to finally own this and play the wild and wooly performance of Old Fart At Play that graces this album. Surprisingly, the cd is relatively easy to find on-line: the Polish store Tanie Plyty has made it available (with the price in US dollars, no less), and depending on how well you translate French into English, FNAC also has it for sale. Good luck.

Song Of Pain

The German record label Trikont continues to release quality music currently unavailable in the US, most of which can only be located in Europe (although, apparently, Other Music is starting to rectify that). A local Glasgow record store chain happened to have Why Me? by Austin naive-art practitioner Daniel Johnston, a live recording of 22 songs performed in Berlin in early June 1999 (the packaging is nice, loaded with notes--albeit with sometimes clunky translations--photos and drawings by the indie mental patient himself). I'm picking Tuesday Waltz simply because it sounds new to me--I can't reference which cd or homemade cassette carries the original studio recording. If anyone knows, feel free to write.  I am a sad and lonely man.

Sleep Is For The Wicked

Just returned from Glasgow, Scotland last night after nearly 17 hours spent in airports and airplanes. Sleep was near impossible on the final flight because the creepy Harry Potter-obsessed Mormon dork beside me kept trying to strike up conversation. Hence, You Made Me Forget My Dreams, taken from Our Favourite Party Songs, one of the better-made (and better sounding) Belle & Sebastian live bootlegs I've encountered over the years. Recorded in Vredenburg, Utrecht, the Netherlands on March 31, 2004, the band appears to be taking their job a little more seriously during this tour and the between-song awkwardness normally plaguing their live shows is completely absent. Although their are no liner notes to speak of, it appears to be a soundboard mix, with a nice blend of audience volume thrown in as well. I was lucky enough to find it in a tucked away record store by a Glasgow train station, but if you're wanting to find more of this recording, Revolution In The Head has some of it available on its website.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Random thoughts: Glasgow, Scotland has some of the best hairdos I've ever witnessed, most of them mullets worn without irony. Everyone is very nice to visiting Americans, even though it would be completely understandable if they wanted to string us up for having the biggest dickhead president ever invented. No good record shops found yet but the music nut bartender in the hotel bar has recommended three local shops he swears by, which I plan on checking out soon. I saw political filmmaker Michael Moore walking to his gate in the Chicago airport. I spoke with him briefly and made him laugh (without once bringing up the dickhead president). I wonder if Glasgow residents have as much trouble understanding my accent as I have understanding theirs? Still experiencing massive jet lag--will try jogging 4 miles tonight in an effort to tire myself out before attempting sleep.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

International Record Hunt

Technically, for the next 5 days, I'll be in Glasgow, Scotland for a work-related excursion. But we all know the real reason to travel the globe: record shopping. Check back after August 26th for all kinds of new musical experiences discovered wherever I can find them. For anyone who lives in--or has been to--Glasgow, feel free to post whatever record shop recommendations you want. I'll need them.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Cosmetic Man vs. Consumer Man

Same song performed (and titled) two different ways: I Am 'Cosmetic Man' is from the poppy/sloppy lo-fi punk album Night Club (top left), which I stumbled upon used at a local record store, took a blind chance on, and was hooked. I Am 'Consumer Man' is from Kinky Cinema (bottom right), a collection of early singles, b-sides and unreleased recordings (holding 60 songs, most of them under 2 minutes long). Both tracks are from the long-gone-and-almost-forgotten Glasgow band The Yummy Fur. This might change should the fans of Franz Ferdinand discover that one of its members was once a Fur. Their records are nearly impossible to find in the US but the usual outlets can sometimes get one in for you.

The Perfect Storms

It's hard to imagine anyone tackling a song by The Carter Family and ruining it. It's especially difficult to imagine a talented musician such as Bryan Sutton ruining it. He arranges The Storms Are On The Ocean with a subtle approach, letting the main melody carry everything along and filling in tastefully when the occasion calls for it. This track is taken from a very nice album entitled, appropriately enough, Bluegrass Guitar. You can buy it at Sugar Hill Records.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Do The Ostrich

Light postings today, mainly because I've got my head in the sand, avoiding packing for an upcoming 5-day visit to Glasgow, Scotland. This is an appropriate track, then: The Ostrich, written and recorded by Lou Reed back when he was a Pickwick songwriting hack, long before he met John Cale and formed The Velvet Underground. I love how it's a mixture of Doo Wop and teen dance hit novelty yet mixed with an I-don't-give-a-fuck stoner's sensibility. It's available on the bootleg LP, Etc. Your hometown probably has a record store specializing in rarities and illegal pressings which has an expensive copy stashed in its dusty shelves, or you can find an expensive copy stashed in the dusty cyber shelves of Gemm.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Tubular Moonlight

The dense lo-fi sounds of San Francisco's Kelley Stoltz have a playful homemade quality which runs the gamut from pop to rock to folk to blues, starting over at pop again. You would think this diversified output would lead to a widespread audience hungry for all the musical styles he taps into but that hasn't yet been the case. However, I predict fame (and, perhaps, fortune) will finally rear its puffy little head when his newest CD comes out on Sub Pop in January 2006. Until then, here is Tubes In The Moonlight, a track from Antique Glow, which came out in 2003 and is available for purchase at Inertia (where it comes with a completely different cover, oddly enough). You can also now purchase his song-for-song remake of Crocodiles, the classic album by Echo & The Bunnymen, which can be found at Darla.

Monday, August 15, 2005

You Are Bumming Me Out, Asshole!

Sandra, you are so right: we do live in such reactionary times. Sadly, not much has changed since this track, Apocalyptic White Trash, was first released in 1989. We're still a country overrun by paranoid Right-Wing fear-mongers, but now Madonna is married to a UK film director, practices Jewish mysticism and writes children's books. This hilarious CD is long out of print, but you can find expensive copies at Amazon. If you really want to splurge, head over to Bernhard's website where you can buy a limited-edition reissue of the original which includes an extra disc of outtakes. Anyone trying to think of what to buy me for X-mas need look no further.

This Space Available

It's taking a little too long for the follow-up release from Miighty Flashlight (the self-titled debut hit stores way back in 2002). This folk-pop side-project of Mike Fellows (of indie-faves The Getaway Car and Rites Of Spring) was recorded inbetween his hired-hand studio stints with Smog, Will Oldham, Royal Trux...pretty much anyone on the Drag City roster. The album as a whole is as hazy and relaxed as the vintage poolside scene on the cover. As such, it's a CD you listen to the same way you lounge outside during a warm summer evening. Until the sequel arrives (I'm talking to you, Mike), I thought it would be nice to revisit Forget This Space in the meantime. You can buy the entire CD at Kill Rock Stars.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Parlez-Vous Francais, Mr. Peecat?

The stylish retro pop look of Katerine has changed somewhat since his initial albums. Nowadays, he's more content to slump over naked (as on Les Creatures, top left) or cavort freely with chesty models in a futuristic leotard drag (as he does on his latest CD, Robots Apres Tout, bottom left). Laziness/lack of cash flow has prevented me from purchasing the latter, so here's a track from the former: Je Vous Emmerde, a jaunty little number which, according to my laughable knowledge of French, translates to "I, You Emmerde". Huh?? Perhaps a reader possessed of more intimate knowledge of the French language can write and let us all know what he's singing about. You can order either cd from the always-reliable Music Stack.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Hear Ye, Hear Ye! One and All!

Credit must go where credit is due: this track was discovered via Cake And Polka Parade. The album it's taken from, Mostly Ghostly, is one of the countless cheapo Halloween cash-in sound effects records which have been released ad nauseum since LPs became the staple of households around America. Per usual, it contains the standard bargain-basement actors attempting to stir up goosebumps with poorly-rendered screams and moans. The clincher, however, is Goblin Ball, an utterly bizarre yet spellbinding production which, on the surface, initially makes perfect sense but upon repeat listens reveals an overwhelming musical chaos. It's not just the quasi-R&B vocals, it's not just the organist attempting to play every single chord ever invented before the song ends. The moment that sends it into MSR Song-Poem territory is when the producers suddenly decide to add a rather arbitrary goblin shreik, shifting the entire song to the right speaker to accommodate it. What a better world it would be if more recordings were approached with such illogical abandon. As for tips on purchasing this gem, the web has turned up zilch. Perhaps a dusty record store in your neighborhood will have it lurking in the cut-out bin. Happy hunting.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Books: Frank Zappa: The Negative Dialecticts of Poodle Play. A dense read but even a non-Zappaphile would find its takes on politics, feminism, avant-garde history and rock conformism satisfying.

Ads: Those creepy (local?) ads for Bedmart. The spokeswoman inviting me to a good night's sleep while inducing nightmares with her uber-plastic delivery gives irony a bad name.

Food: Portabello mushrooms with goat cheese and roasted bell peppers. The answer to all life's problems.

TV: Martha Stewart's The Apprentice. Will she make contestants run over baby chicks as one of her tasks?

Film: Nine Lives, forthcoming film from Rodrigo Garcia. A slightly flawed work but loaded with many emotionally charged moments and more than a few brilliant performances.

Toys: Mac The Ripper. Enriching my life, one burn at a time.

Life: America's ignorant backward slide towards Intelligent Design. Devo, come home. All if forgiven.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

While My Sitar Gently Weeps

What is it about sitars that can set one's heart aflutter (well, my heart, at least)? This odd little track, I Give You Johnee by The Saddhu Brand (yes, "Brand"--it's not a typo) rises above the usual consciousness-expanding foray into sitar noodling if only because the clunky start/stop rhythm gives it a more naive, primitive sound. The closest one could compare it to would be if The Shaggs attempted to faithfully perform a song from a Bollywood soundtrack. This track is available on Volume 7 of the Electric Psychedelic Sitar Headswirlers series and it's available at the UK internet store The Freak Emporium.

The Balls Of A Cupid

Johnny Nash (of I Can See Clearly Now fame) is nowhere near the equal of Sam Cooke. This is a given. Yet somehow, Nash's version of Cupid has the same soulful passion to it that almost mirrors Cooke's rendition while giving it a new twist of its own. Perhaps it's not as smooth an approach as the original, but the groove is a bit more forceful. Considering Cooke's enormous stature as a singer, you have to give Nash credit for having the balls to even give it a try. This track is taken from the Johnny Nash: The Reggae Collection and Amazon has it in abundance.

Dance, You Rusty Robot, Dance!

The title is slightly misleading: most of the tracks lean towards funky, not fuzzy, but when you're talking about such groove-laden songs as Sanjina (by Ochestre Regional de Kayes), any caveat is a moot point. The way the backing band gently swoops and glides over the oddly delicate melody could even make a rusty robot bump and grind. Even label honcho David Byrne would find his booty grooving smoothly to this slithery slab of beat.  You can buy this superb album at Insound.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Are You One Of Them?

It's common to hold a morbid fascination about serial killers. Ultimately, however, there is nothing to celebrate or hold up with glee. Sure, the twisted obsessions of Murder Can Be Fun are worth their chuckles, but think of how horrible it would be if it was your loved one who had been viciously tortured and senslessly killed. It's this very reaction which drives the power of the track John Wayne Gacy from the latest effort by Sufjan Stevens, Illinois. It begins with a somewhat neutral reporting of the facts surrounding Gacy's upbringing but by the time Stevens reaches the inevitable moment of describing the unfortunate victims and the innocence of their youth, he cries out "Oh my god...", as if the enormity of the grisly murders are more than he can stand. It's probably the only reaction anyone could muster in the face of such bloodshed, the first reaction of a family member who finds out why their teenager has been missing for so many months. It's a genuinely moving moment in an album packed with them. For anyone wondering why they're reading a post about an album already written up everywhere on the internets when it came out almost 2 months ago: the one big chain store in my vicinity, which shall go unnamed (**cough!** Zia Records!) never ordered any copies and I had to wait for a trip to LA to track it down (with the image of Superman still intact, thank you very much).

Attack Of The Hog People

Everyone knows the hits of The Coasters (Charlie Brown, Poison Ivy, etc), but their less-popular tracks are just as compelling. Witness the band attacking their one-note guitar solo on I'm A Hog For You, taken from the now out-of-print 50 Coastin' Classics: Anthology on Rhino Records. Somehow, I got away with only paying around $20 for my barely-used copy. Here's hoping you have as much luck as I did and don't pay what Amazon vendors are selling it for.

Monday, August 08, 2005

If Defintion Of Customer Relationship Management Feels Good, Do It

I wonder if I'm the only blog getting spam comments such as this: "Cool. Good stuff. Its boring, but definition of customer relationship management is what I'm into." Forgive me but I don't even know what "definition of customer relationship management" is. I mean, I've met a lot of people over the years into some pretty kinky stuff, but if definition of customer relationship management is what gets you off, more power to you, I guess. I'm not even going to mention the spam comment I received linking me to a myriad of cheesecake recipes. Hey, whatever floats your boat.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Be Careful What Your Heart Desires

It's a damp, cloudy and humid morning, which really pisses me off. Why can't it just be bright sunny weather all year round? Who the hell dictated that the earth had to be such a little busybody and rotate around the sun? Why can't scientists figure out how to prevent this damn planet from having such a wobbly axis? I least I don't live in the rain capital of the southern hemisphere, New Zealand, where the movie Rain was filmed. The setting is mopey enough but then the director goes and gives the soundtrack duties to Neil Finn (of Crowded House). It's no wonder he came back with a song as dour and depressing as Orange And Blue. I doubt if you can rent this film in the States, but the DVD and CD soundtrack are both available from various NZ stores peddling their wares at Gemm.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Exquisite Corpse

Incessant as a buzzing headache but a lot more fun, Rancid Hell Spawn (named after a Pussy Galore track) have been darting under the pop/punk radar since 1988, making records (as their website puts it) "packed with catchy, heavily distorted one-minute punk burnouts for the truly twisted, with record sleeves to match". As far as I can tell, the entire "band" is one Charlie Chainsaw (I've never seen them live--the one time they ventured to play in my vicinity, I was unable to attend the show), former editor of the underground fanzine Chainsaw. I've discovered that Mr. Chainsaw is also singer/bassist in another in-your-face band the Sexual Abominations, whose debut single "Rock'n'roll Meat Hook", is also on Wrench Records. My hope is that the Sexual Abominations aren't keeping Charlie from his Hell Spawn day job and he's able to juggle the two superstar stadium outfits simultaneously. I'd hate to live in a world without Rancid Hell Spawn. My Pet Corpse is taken from the Masochist Chainsaw LP (above left), but the entire album was recently compiled on the Scalpel Party CD (above right) along with a myriad of other "best of" tracks. Of course, when your music is about eating human testicles, getting drunk on Listerine and extolls the virtues of cholesterol, "best of" becomes a relative term. Update: It looks like Rancid Hell Spawn's entire output is now available via iTunes. Praise be!

Life Is What You Do While You're Waiting To Die

Because it was the fault of a room that prevented me from posting anything for so long, it only seems fitting to present Zorba The Greek by Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass. Why, you may ask? Well, shut up and I'll tell you: In our childhood days, my older sister and I used to skip around the living room to this song, increasing our mobility as the tempo builds, collapsing in a triumphant heap at the song's end. I haven't seen the movie this theme song was taken from (titled Zorba The Greek, of course, and starring Anthony Quinn) in years (nor have I seen a staged production of the Broadway musical based on the movie, entitled Zorba). As a child, this film used to fascinate me endlessly. Watching it as an adult, I have a feeling its tale of a simple Greek peasant teaching the depressed city man how to enjoy life will now come off as forced and overwrought. Sometimes I wonder if I created a connection to this movie as a child simply because it was released the year of my birth. Shout! Factory has been reissuing all of Herb Alpert's classic '60's albums for the last so many months and doing a fine job it: mastered from the original studio tapes, well-annotated liner notes, original artwork intact. A class act all the way. We should all make an effort to buy each and every one of them so they'll keep up the good work.

Friday, August 05, 2005

A Room As Big As My Heart For You, The Readers

Mea culpa, my half-dozen devoted readers, mea fucking maxima culpa. The reason I have not posted in almost two months is the very room you see before you. To complete this home improvement project involved scrubbing the walls with TSP solvent, applying compound, sanding every surface to a smooth finish, painting a prime coat followed by a latex coat, then laying the floor brick by brick. Such are the vexations of owning a home. It felt like it was going to take forever, and it took up nearly every ounce of free time I have, but it's finally done. My only regret is that the blogging suffered as a result. From here on in, I promise you this: I will devote all my waking time and energy to this blog and posting music for you, The Common Folk, the little people I love so much. In this I will never again waiver (except when I'm in Glasgow in two weeks, and then off to Telluride, Colorado after that, and also during Christmas vacation). Check back soon for some wonderful mp3 posts.