Sunday, October 30, 2005

A Night In Catatonia

A Halloween hangover from last night's festivities has slightly damaged my mental facilities, so rather than fill out all the details of bizarro 1960's British guitarist/songwriter Big Boy Pete (known to his parents as Pete Miller), who has been writing and recording music for decades, I'd rather you just click here for his complete history (I think of the All-Music Guide as the Scrubbing Bubbles of music blogging: they work hard so I don't have to). The best part of performing archaelogical digs in the psychedelic era are the ridiculous lyrics, and there isn't a song on Homage To Catatonia that disappoints in this regard. Wrap your mind around such logic twisters as, "You candy-coated crimson flea/I know you spiked my cup of tea/You shot my bakelite toothbrush dead/And buried him inside my head..." (from Knit Me A Kiss), but what makes Big Boy Pete so much more interesting than most consciousness-expanding pop from the sixties is that his songs are so damn catchy. If you're not bobbing your head along to Captain Of My Toy Balloon or The Procession, perhaps it's time to turn in your Rock Lover Membership Card for a full refund. Open your doors of perception by purchasing this cd at Dionysus Records.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Radio On The TV

Because I must hit the pillow early each night in a somewhat fruitless attempt to arrive on time to work each morning, I tend to miss a lot of late night talk shows. The upside: I'm not forced to endure Jay Leno. The downside: I miss those rare opportunities to see a few of my current musical heros kicking out the jams (Mmmm...jam). Thanks to the web, this no longer has to be the case. A tip of the mouse to my savior Big Stereo who has posted both a Quicktime video and an audio mp3 of Antony & The Johnsons performing You Are My Sister on The David Letterman Show (and don't call Antony goth or I'll make you eat my clove cigarette). In the interest of Karma (which I don't even believe in), allow me to pay it forward: No sooner had I given you what I believed to be a live recording of "Huddle Formation" by The Go! Team performing live at the 2005 South By Southwest Festival in Austin, TX (which I'd found at NPR) when I discovered that this track was, in fact, not live but a remixed studio recording already offered on a number of the band's various singles and the recent US-only edition of their debut cd. For shame, NPR, for shame. You've made me into a fool in the eyes of the world. As a way of begging your forgiveness, dear readers, here is the truly live recording of the 'Team performing Huddle Formation on ABC-TV's The Jimmy Kimmel Show last Friday, October 21st. If you'd also like to see the streaming video of the performance, click here, but be warned: it's surrounded by an onslaught of beer ads and hemmed in by live clips on all sides from the likes of Shinedown, 3 Doors Down and other bands taking alt-rock liberties with the word down. If this is an indication of Kimmel's taste in music, can I ask why, exactly, Sarah Silverman is sleeping with him?

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Keep On The Sunny Side

Bob Dylan revisited is so two weeks ago: now I'm on a Carter Family kick, thanks to the PBS series The American Experience, which aired a documentary last night on the music group who is undoubtably the cornerstone of country music. Per usual with historical programs examining anything pre-mass media, there wasn't a lot of film footage to illustrate the proceedings, so we had to endure the standard goofy reenactments showing rehearsals and performances. And can anyone tell me why a documentary purporting to show the long-reaching impact of this iconic American musical group would barely mention one of their best known songs (Wildwood Flower)? Still, nobody can deny the power of the music played throughout the show, that lonesome, emotional and moving music. Forget that O Brother horseshit--The Carters are the real McCoys. Everyone has their favorites, but mine will always be Single Girl, Married Girl, Chewing Gum, I Never Will Marry, Hello Central, Give Me Heaven and There's No Hiding Place Down Here. Inexplicably, Rounder Records has chosen to delete the 9-CD series they released about 10 years back (two of which are shown above), collecting every recording the 'Family ever released on Victor Records (yet Rounder still rationalizes putting out dreck like The Best Of Jonathan Fucking Richman...wha...?). Your choices are to pay the slightly-increased used prices at Amazon, or if you're wealthy (and good for you if you are), simply shell out $200 to the German roots label Bear Family for their brain-boggling 12-cd set, which collects nearly everything the Carter Family ever laid on magnetic oxide and includes a 220-page hardcover book (which, when read alongside Will You Miss Me When I'm Gone?, the definitive biography on the Carters, will make you feel like you just received a PhD in early American folk music). You'll end up broke and unable to make your rent/mortgage, but what a way to keep yourself on the sunny side.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Damaged Goods readers will balk, and I've avoided bringing it up earlier so as not to exacerbate the quiet calm of the comments box, but here goes: my personal belief is that once a band splits up, it should stay split up. Nothing frustrates me more than when a band who has concluded its run decides to dig up the corpse of their legacy and drag it onto the stage once more. The reason I'm stirring up this volatile turd: my high school heroes Gang Of Four, after thoroughly pissing me off when reforming for a short tour earlier this year, have just issued a CD of their classic cuts recorded anew. Judging by the sound of things across Music Blog Land, I seem to be the only one crying foul, the only one who finds these reunions disappointing. They never capture the energy and excitement of the band's first incarnation so why would any band wander into such numbing territory? Money, that's why. In this case, the Gang are claiming this fresh take on their back catalog is to at last receive income on these songs (whose performance royalties go to the various labels which released them). Is this a strong enough rationale to sully those perfect recordings we all love so well? Download this 53-minute, live-in-the-studio performance at KCRW's Morning Becomes Eclectic and decide for yourself. Side note: Be sure to do a Google image search of the words "gang of four" sometime. You'll get all the usual pics of our post-punk and communist heros, but you'll also draw up tons of snapshots showing dorky personal posings of four random people and things: boring secretaries in oversized sweaters, gringo golf buddies posing before teeing off, bird embryos...

Precious Feelings Interrupted

The following plug is not standard practice for Disco:Very, where the usual focus is on me, me, me, me, me, me and my precious feelings about music, so sit tight a spell while I hawk the current reading tour of literary wunderkind (and my Close Personal Friend) Karl Soehnlein whose latest novel, entitled You Can Say You Knew Me When (published by Kensington Books), has just hit book shelves across the country. If you're in the Los Angeles area (I'm looking at you Eddie, Pat and Scott), make sure and drop by Book Soup (8818 Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood, 818.659.3684) on Tuesday, November 1st at 7pm to buy your own autographed copy and hear Mr. Soehnlein read. He's a wonderful writer whose stories are filled with shockingly perceptive passages about life, death and love. If you wish to buy the novel before the reading, the usual on-line outlets have it, as do the individual bookstores where he'll be reading. Be sure to check out his snazzy website for more book tour information.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Deaf Jam

WHAT DID YOU SAY?? HUH??? I DIDN'T HEAR WHAT YOU SAID!!! Sorry to be SCREAMING AT THE TOP OF MY LUNGS, but it's the natural reaction to having what's left of my hearing being taken away by The Go! Team performance I caught in Phoenix, AZ last night. My guess was that, on stage, the Jackson 5/cheerleading thing would move to the fore but I was wrong--instead, that vague Sonic Youth skrawl jam that is briefly referenced on their records was FULL-ON BLARING AT MY EARS AT TOP VOLUME ON ALMOST EVERY OTHER SONG!!! Even after enduring 15 years of playing in loud bands, blasting my stereo to its threshold and abusing the volume control on the ol' iPod, how was I to know I had even more hearing left to lose? Thanks to last night's show, a supersonic jet engine has taken up permanent residence inside my eardrums (it's almost 24 hours since their show and my head is still incessantly ringing, ringing, ringing). As for their performance, my one quibble is that lead gal Ninja should drop the audience pandering. We've already paid, we're already fans: no need to keep encouraging us to dance and shout out the choruses. The more you continue this route, you're just shy of becoming Huey Lewis And The News singing "Heart Of Rock and Roll". Otherwise, a dynamic, high-energy set (as this live recording of Huddle Formation taken from NPR can illustrate).

The Power of the Music Power

Most of you who don't harbor an aversion to all things David Byrne (you know who you are) may remember Japanese pop star Shoukichi Kina from the Luaka Bop compilation Asia Classics 2: Peppermint Tea House released in 1994. Or you might already know the song Haisai Ojisan from the one-off strange bedfellows collaboration of the French/Frith/Kaiser/Thompson CD Live, Love, Laff & Loaf which came out in 1996 (whoever borrowed my copy and never returned it, please give it back, no questions asked). Either way, you need to hear more of this music. Musicians in Okinawa spawned a unique rock/folk hybrid as a reaction to the US occupation of their islands during the Vietnam war, creating a raw, forceful fusing which sounded like nothing else before or since. Recorded live in 1977 (save for an extra studio track at the end), the performances on The Music Power From Okinawa range from measured urgency to full-out frantic freak-out, Japanese style (proof: Tokyo Sanbika). I'm no musical ethnologist, so I'm not sure if the sanshin being played is electric or fitted with pickups, but the sound overall is great. I bought my copy of this CD used at Amazon, so you should, too.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Harlem Nocturne

Nowhere in these two songs will you find the typical mode of attack usually employed by the Flat Duo Jets, but that's precisely what draws me to them. While the rest of the band's repertoire sought out all that was wild, boozy and untamed, Apple Blossom Time and Ask Me How I Live (both of which close 1991's Go Go Harlem Baby) took the road less travelled to traditional Southern entertainment, and it helps illustrate that they weren't as one-dimensional in their sound as their live shows would suggest. Sadly, this album is currently out of print: I suggest you mosey on over to Amazon for a used copy.  Don't bother to write Rhino Records to reissue it.  At best, they'll ignore you.  At worst, they'll...well, my lawyers have advised me not to talk about it until the court case is over.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Make With The Nice Nice

Besides pining for amorous adventures, The Spinto Band must spend a lot of time watching TV. Not in a who-gives-a-shit-about-the-outside-world, wasted pop-culture malaise, but more in a romantic sense, as if the fictional characters on The O.C. are going to jump out of the idiot box and deliver these guys from their empty, loveless lives. Several songs on Nice And Nicely Done (such as Late) casually mention hurrying home to catch a favorite boob tube program, and while the obvious musical references for this band might begin with mid-90's indie rawk (Sonic Youth, Pavement, etc), the more overt influence might just be TV Land. You can buy all things Spinto at Amazon.

In A Category With A Lot Of Funny People

Like the rest of the pop music world, I'm a little under the spell, at the moment, of early Bob Dylan. He was not an artist whose music I grew up hearing much (except for the hits played on FM radio between the usual tracks by Led Zeppelin and The Allman Brothers), so its as if I'm (re)discovering an old artist for the first time. On some level, I'm much more excited to hear interviews with Dylan than actually listen to some of his songs. It's fascinating to hear just how much the relatively new field of music journalism was struggling to keep up with the places to which his mind (and his music) was already racing. The lavishly illustrated new book, The Bob Dylan Scrapbook, 1956-1966 contains a large amount of insights we all witnessed in Martin Scorsese's No Way Home: Bob Dylan, but the audio disc enclosed within its pages contains a number of fascinating interviews that weren't included in the documentary. Sadly, none of them match the hilarious histrionics of the infamous 1967 press conference with Ralph Gleason (fragments of which were shown in Scorsese's film). So, this interview with Martin Bronstein for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, (held on February 20, 1966) will have to do. It may lack his obtuse wordplay but still shows how journalists were hanging on his every word, back when he was blowing people's minds with every album he released. You can buy this unsparing, overwhelming tome at Dylan's personal website.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Art: The dazzling graffitti stylings of Bansky are rude, shocking, whimsical and hilarious--exactly everything street art should be.

Books: There isn't a more comprehensive listing of gay/lesbian/transgender videos & movies than The Bent Lens. It can be poured through for months and you will have only barely skimmed the surface.

Film: The (finally) forthcoming DVD release of Killer Of Sheep makes a great Xmas gift. (Do I have to draw you a diagram?)

Blogs: The delightful technology blog We Make Money Not Art seeks out the most rewarding and curious inventions and art projects around the world. In the past couple of months alone, it has written up this Japanese door (to see it in action, check out this video) and a performance artist who combats cell phone abuse.

TV: Phew! So I'm not the only one who fucking despises Everybody Loves Raymond. I propose a total ban on the Emasculated Husband sitcom plotline.

Design: The witty designers of Suck.Uk must be music obsessives like the rest of us. Witness their CD shelf (which illuminates the cover spine), and CD dividers.

Consumption: Does anyone know where I can buy the cd reissue of The Return Of The Giant Slits (CBS 85269) which has, as an extra track, the rare 7" American Radio Interview (b/w "Face Dub")?

Music: All hail Stolen Recordings which, besides having the best rock graphics ever, has sloppy poppy music by the likes of Silk Hot Pockets, Wet Dog, Salt, Manic Cough and Snow White, who have a wonderful potential chart-topper called "I Really, Really Fucking Hate Led Zeppelin".

Marketplace: My current worth as of today: $321.59.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

The Thoughtful And The Thumping

If it sounds like sour grapes, it's not: I really was planning on posting some Volcano Suns this month but 'Buked and Scorned beat me to it, damnit all to hell. No matter--the web is big enough for two blogs to drool some praise over this sadly forgotten Boston outfit. Most lovers of this post-Mission Of Burma band savor the first album (The Bright Orange Years), but I seem to be the only fan who leans more towards the follow-up, All-Night Lotus Party, perhaps because it mixed the thoughtful (Room With A View and Sounds Like Bucks) with the thumping (Dot On The Map and Bonus Hidden Mystery Track). This is yet another in a long line of albums that, sadly, will probably never see a reissue on cd. If only I owned the Sony Corporation! Gemm has quite a few vinyl copies, if you're interested.  Boy Is My Face Red Update: The good decent people at Merge Records have seen fit to reissue this album with extra tracks.

The Current Punk/Scuzz Pop Roll Call

A friend recently turned me on to a host of punk/scuzz pop bands, perhaps payback time for turning him on to Sudden Ensemble last year. Hailing from Anaheim, CA (home of the evil ABC/Disney/Mickey Mouse World Dominition HQ), The Willowz (above, left) have released Talk In Circles (on Sympathy For The Record Industry, top left) mixing primitive garage fuzz with scruffy screaming scrawl (need proof? try Unveil), which the musically-clueless Rolling Stone magazine compared to the ilk of Brian Wilson and The Beach Boys--huh??? Meanwhile, Demon's Claws, Memphis-by-way-of-Montreal blues rawk takes the legacy of bands such as The Oblivions, The Gun Club and other booze-addled fuck-ups and pushes the envelope to its logical conclusion--in short, they're anything but Laid Back. (Buy it at Dead Canary Records.) Finally, we end with The Casual Dots, alum of such indie punk royalty as Slant 6, The Frumpies and the mighty mighty Bikini Kill. The 'Dots self-titled debut is all upbeat energy and high-spirited sloppiness, which is all well and good, but how can you not like a song called Mama's Gonna Make Us A Cake? (Purchase it at Kill Rock Stars.)

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Levitate Me

The world of adults, as seen through the mind of a child, can be abnormal, unfamiliar and just plain wacked out. If you're in need of a soundtrack to this kindergarten horror show we call Life, it's best to leave it to 1960's outsider artist Bruce Haack (and his sometimes dance/movement assistant Miss Nelson), whose slightly askew compositions about robots, spiders, motorcycle rides, rubber bands and poppies, help to explain the world as the beautiful, shocking and bizarre place it is. The very thought that little tykes might have been exposed to such tunes as African Lullaby, Saint Basil, First Lady, Mara's Moon, and Goodbye (all taken from Electronic Record For Children, top left) makes my heart levitate all the way up to my eyeballs. Seek out Haack's expensive Japanese-only releases wherever you can find them (Amoeba Records almost always has them in stock), after which you may want to indulge yourself with the Haack tribute album Dimension Mix, (normally I encourage readers to shy away from tribute discs, but this one raises funds for Autism research), featuring such luminaries as Beck, Eels, Apples In Stereo and Fantastic Plastic Machine, whose I'm Bruce removes all the surreal qualities of a Bruce Haack song and reduces it to a wink-wink pop diversion.