Monday, May 30, 2005

1,702 American Invitees Dead So Far

Ah, Memorial Day. Another pointless exercise in honoring those fighting in a trumped-up war we never should have started in the first place, unless, like White House spokesman Scott McClellan, you believe the US was invited (which also means victims of rape were asking for it). Is the purpose of this war to defend the freedoms of misguided, religion-baiting assholes like this? Because the amount of patriotism I feel today could fit in a thimble, I have decided to offer a track whose lyrics make inadvertent ironic commentary on the current state of the twisted American mind: Jesus Is The First Line Of Defence by The Pilgrim Travellers. You can find this track on Like An Atom Bomb: Apocalyptic Songs From The Cold War Era, released by Buzzola Records in 2004. Their other excellent collections include Reefer Madness (vintage drug songs), Sugar In My Bowl (sex songs circa 1923 - 1952), and You Done Me Wrong (old-time country cheating songs). You can find them all at Amazon.

Thank You For Not Smokin'

Another find during my recent record store jaunts in San Diego. When I was in the 4th grade, I considered the album Do It ('Til You're Satisfied) by B.T. Express to be da bomb, except it was 1974 and this term had not yet come into use. Also, I was an awkward non-funky white boy and never would have spoken such slang had it even been in vogue (my exact recollection is that I found the album to be "neat"). The title track was the big hit but I always leaned towards the album's closer, This House Is Smokin', which I had always assumed to be a live track due to the cavernous ambience of the recording and what sounded like cheering after the first line (I now realize it's supposed to be the sound of crackling flames--apparently, I was so cracker I didn't even get the congruous analogy of blazing heat and hot funk). The vinyl copy purchased upon its initial release is still in my music collection but it's so scratched and unplayable that I was delighted to find it anew in digital form. Edsel Records reissued it earlier this year, tacking on the 1977 album Function At The Junction (which, due to its disco string arrangements on nearly every track, is more Fire Island than fire-on-the-dancefloor). You can purchase this cd at Dusty Groove.

Friday, May 27, 2005

Freestyle Grumbling

Sure, the latest Stereolab compilation, Oscillons From the Anti-Sun (top left) featuring rare tracks and B-sides is a real humdinger of a bargain (not just one, not just two but three CDs of music plus a DVD of music videos and TV appearances all for $25???). My only grumpy old man grumbling is that anyone outside of Japan and the UK will still have to pay big prices to own the pro-Atheism, grunge-tastic, riff-eriffic Freestyle Dumpling, which came inside initial Japanese editions of Aluminum Tunes (middle left) and, thereafter, was also featured on the UK-only Rough Trade comp Electronic 01 (bottom left). I had to pony up I'm-not-going-to-tell-you-how-much to own a copy of the coveted Japanese single (minus the Aluminum), but in the spirit of blog camaraderie, I'm going to share my well-worn 7-inches with you now. The all-inclusive has both the Japanese single and the UK Rough Trade comp but if I were you, I'd wait to see if this track ends up on their next rarities comp. Considering the frequency of the 'Lab's output, it should be released sometime next week.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

It's The Fall, Damnit

Conventional wisdom dictates that The Fall made some rather spotty albums after the departure of Brix Smith. Although this rings true on some levels, I continue to buy the seemingly thousands of albums released during the post-Brix period because...well, because it's The Fall, damnit. But mostly because every album has at least one track worth hearing. For my money, on 2000's The Unutterable, it's Hands Up Billy, a tidy little rave-up that is probably a hoot to hear live. You can order it from DooYoo Records in the UK.  Let the full-on spastic rave-up pogo dancing commence.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Mr. Keith Goes To Washington

It took me almost 10 years to buy I Died Today, the Rodd Keith collection on Tzadik Records, which came out in 1996. At this rate, you can expect me to offer mp3's from Ecstacy to Frenzy (Tzadik's follow-up collection of Keith oddities) in the year 2013 (it was released in January 2004). Most of you are probably well aware of Keith's surreal genius (if not, check out this all-inclusive WFMU article, or buy the only song/poem collection currently in print, on Bar/None Records). Anything in the American Song/Poem canon is a must-hear, but the songs of Rodd Keith somehow outshine them all. Our Senators isn't the best track on this collection (that honor would go to Do The Pig), but in light of the recent behavior in Washington DC, this track somehow seemed more fitting for today. You can buy this cd direct from the label or from such fine stores as Tone Vendor.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Half The Bonanza At Half The Price

Unlike most Jamaican ska songs from the 1960's, Don Cosmic (by Don Drummond And His Group) has a gentle downhearted quality to it that always gets to me, especially that last held note, sounding like a question mark at the end of a musical sentence. Heartbeat Records has released this song on two similar collections, pictured above: Ska Bonanza! and Streets Of Ska. The former is a 2-disc, 48-track collection (top-notch from beginning to end) and the latter is nothing more than Disc One of the former. Why they would release one half of a 2-disc set is beyond me. Don't make the same mistake I did: splurge for the 2-cd set from the get-go. You can order it directly from the label or from Reggae CD.

Foxy (Disembodied Vocal) Lady

This song doesn't make any sense at all, even coming from the off-center mind of Neil Michael Hagerty. The rhythm stumbles along, as if recovering from each herky-jerky beat as it propels itself forward. The disembodied female vocals singing each non sequitur are so wrapped in layers of echo, so distanced from the action up front, that they almost come off as paranormal. Like the best songs of Captain Beefheart (or even The Shaggs), it contains its own inner logic. After Royal Trux dissipated, it didn't seem certain that Hagerty would be able to recoup his losses and regain what had been lost. With All-Night Fox, the latest cd by his new outfit, The Howling Hex, his fans can rest easy. Every track on this album is killer, and although Instilled With Mem'ry is arguably the least accessible song on the new cd, you still might find yourself banging your head (as best you can) as it grooves down its own crooked lane. You can purchase it at almost any record store you care to name (on-line or not) or get it direct from Drag City.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

This Band Goes To Eleven

The best feature of technology is when it somehow organically heals itself. For whatever reason, the strange noises emitted by my hard drive over the last week have suddenly stopped. That's good news for you, too: the download postings will be delayed no longer (or at least not until I pony up for a bigger GB drive). There are, however, strange noises in my ears at the moment--a long, high-pitched roar searing through my head ever since seeing Caribou last night. Louder than all get-out, there were particular parts of their set where I felt the ceiling was going to cave in as the massive din they stirred up rattled the rafters of the nightclub. If they come to your town, drop everything you're doing--school, work, sleep--and see them. Be sure to bring a tenner for the above untitled cd--sold only at the live shows--which I'm told is comprised of outtakes from The Milk Of Human Kindness. Better to own your own copy of The Snow Capes now rather than pay five times that amount later on eBay. It's worth it alone for the crazy 36-minute mix that starts the cd off with a bang--layers of old soul records, Bollywood funk-ups and bizarre foreign language pop songs. Very cool.

Friday, May 20, 2005

I Walked The Line With Johnny Cash

So much music to post and so many interruptions preventing me from doing so. First my birthday, and now this--my computer is making odd noises and needs to visit the Mac doc for a few days. Here, then, is an mp3 you'll have to make do with while my G4 is getting serviced, Man vs. The Empire Brain Building, featured on the Ze Records compilation cd Mutant Disco #3: Garage Sale (top left). This track originally came out on the Was (Not Was) album Born To Laugh At Tornadoes (bottom left) back in 1983, a favorite cd of mine which some asshole swiped from my collection during a raccous house party about 10 years ago. Until Ze Records reissues that wonderful album (which they have been promising to do for at least a year), this is all I have to tide me over. Although every track in the Mutant Disco series is worth owning, I've always had a fondness for the music of Was (Not Was), if only because they openly admit that every album they made was influenced by taking LSD. You can find this superb cd at Forced Exposure. I promise to include more tracks from this cd in the future, as soon as my Mac is up and running again.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

One Day I'll Grow Up And Be A Beautiful Girl

If there was ever an album deserving a "you either love it or hate it" tagline, I Am A Bird Now, by Antony And The Johnsons is it. The initial shock might be the melancholy cover photo of transexual heroine Candy Darling as she lounges in her hospital death bed. Or it might be the forceful, angelic vocals, which leap across any and all boundaries of gender. Perhaps the most surprising: a performer wielding such raw yet delicate emotional depths in a cultural climate overburdened with ironic satire. It's almost unsettling to hear such a personal work informed with unflinching sadness and pain. Every song on this album is weighted heavy with death and mourning, conversely seeking release in metaphoric flight from the darkness, finding its power through defiance against unseen odds. Don't feel bad if you find his work too painful to witness upon first listen--it's taken me almost four months to warm up to this most enlightening of albums. Antony almost dares you not to be affected when crooning the album's opening lines of Hope There's Someone. Press on, and you'll be rewarded. You can find this superb cd at most record stores, or buy it from the record label itself.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Stompin' All The Way Home

Because I was gone for several days, I feel I owe it to all my readers to make up for my absence with two songs instead of one. I do have readers, right? Hello? Is this thing on? I'm still in vacation mode so both song titles will make reference to this state of mind: Take A Trip (by Jimmy Vick and The Victors) and Come On Home (by Prince Charles), both tracks taken from Volume 3 of the (quasi-legal) 1950's/60's R&B series Stompin', which I found at the wonderful Lou's Records in Encinitas, CA (about 10 minutes outside of San Diego). This cd series is difficult to come by (I've only ever seen it on-line at such places as Roots And Rhythm). Remarkably, Lou's Records had nearly every cd in the entire series. How I wish I'd bought Volume 12, though, because I'm having the hardest time finding the cover for Volume 3 to post at the top of this paragraph. You'll have to trust me: they all look pretty much the same. I was genuinely shocked at some of the rare cds I found at Lou's (by such artists as Rodd Keith, Steve Nieve and The Band of Blacky Ranchette) but was also surprised at the cds I couldn't find (nothing by Annie, Vitalic or Circle). Still, their prices are quite cheap, and they were nice enough to find my cell phone when I thought I'd lost it. What more could you ask for?

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

I Got It All Wrong, Maybe. I'm Saying So Long, Baby

This Sunday, May 15th, is my birthday, and my traditional celebration involves a trip to a somewhat far off locale (this year: San Diego). Because you won't be hearing from me again until Wednesday, May 18th, my plan was to leave you with a song which, either in the title or theme, would reflect on birthdays or vacations. The two most obvious ideas--"Vacation" by The Go-Go's, and "Birthday" by The Beatles were quickly nixed (that overplayed Old Navy commercial has caused me to curse those L.A. femme-popsters in my sleep, and I am not wealthy enough to fight a copyright lawsuit by the Fab Four). After much thought, the decision was made to use So Long, Baby by The Wedding Present, for two good reasons: 1) the lyrics are concerned with the act of leaving (and being left behind), and 2) The Wedding Present are playing at a club down the street from me tonight. Sadly, I excel at procrastinating so instead of seeing them live, I'll be at home packing my suitcase. Offering this track (taken from Watusi), is my inadequate attempt at redemption. One more reason I'm staying home: the cover is $12 and I need every penny I own for spending in the record stores of San Diego. Who knows--maybe I'll find a used copy of Watusi for less than Amazon currently offers.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Chicken Del Sol

This new compilation album is getting lots of press, and it's easy to see why. Although Antena were ignored by both critics and record buyers when they began recording in 1982, their breezy tunes hit the current zeitgeist bullseye dead in the middle. With their softly-sung French lyrics, and cocktail party sound draped around a Kraftwerk-inspired tick-tock drum machine, you can't help but compare them to Stereolab (the boring current Stereolab, not the exciting Neu-influenced Stereolab of old), and The Boy From Ipanema, featured on Camino Del Sol, seems to be the track I hear everyone fawning over the most. Personally, I like the rest of the album much better, if only because the vocal effects on this track remind me of this absurdist commercial from Estonia (I've had more comforting images in my nightmares). You can find this album at the record label's website, or you can order a copy from Aquarius Records like I did.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Performance To Performance, Doing What You Want Me To

Of all the best qualities of early punk music, the most potent would be when dispossessed and bored rockers would throw the curtains back on the music machinery and expose it for the farce it really is: rebellious youth culture as just another form of drag. Late '70's punk was ready-made for this sentiment: if your band formed before even learning to play instruments, why pretend to invest on an emotional or intellectual level anyway? Going Through The Motions, taken from Amateur Wankers, a newly-released Acute Records compilation of everything by the 1976 working class British group The Prefects, distills this essence into a not-so-tidy nearly-5-minute rant, almost daring the audience to admit that they're as much a part of the sham as the band is. Although they toured with The Clash, The Jam and Buzzcocks, The Prefects as a whole never really fit into the standard punk mold and, unable to play the game the same way their peers did, quietly imploded soon after they'd formed. "Eventually," says vocalist/guitarist Alan Apperley in the liner notes, "We all got fed up and it fell apart. But that's how it should be, isn't it?" Purchase this essential cd at the on-line services of Carpark Records.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Your Love Made Me An Infidel

As Terri Ex (of politcal noise-niks The Ex and Terp Records) was recently assisting in the hunt of new material for the ongoing Ethiopiques series, the name Tsehaytu Beraki kept coming up during his musical hunt. After some investigating, it was determined she was an enormously popular performer who was forced to flee from the dangerous unrest of Eritrea, seeking asylum in Rotterdam, which is where she was eventually found living peacefully in exile. From there, an idea was hatched to release a cd of her songs but, sadly, very little of Beraki's music has actually been made available--despite decades of performing. So, recording time was booked, a few musical guests were hired to tastefully fill out the admittedly sparse sounds and the 2-cd set Selam was born. Beraki's weathered and soulful vocals glide over the rhythmic strumming of a krar (and occasionally a bass krar), a droning stringed instrument which looks like a harp but sounds somewhat like a zither. Many of the songs are centered on love, many more on loss and suffering. This is powerful stuff but not for the faint of heart--the average song clocks in at the 11-minute mark. In the interest of saving my server space, I'm offering Lale Bola, one of the few songs timed at 5 minutes (the headline above is a line translated from the lyrics). I bought my copy of this wonderful cd at the always-reliable Aquarius Records.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Playing With The Majors

What I am about to say will confound and amaze you: I actually enjoy it when major corporations use pop songs in their commercials. If a mainstream ad campaign helps bring more audiences to appreciate Nick Drake, Trio or The Caesars, isn't that a benefit to advancing great music? Sure, Carnival Cruise Line looks pretty stupid milking "Lust For Life", an ode to the joys of heroin addiction, to peddle their oceanic yuppie movers, but I'd rather hear Karen O singing on the Spike Jonze Nike commercial than...well, I don't know exactly how to finish that sentence. I mention all this simply because I finally found a used copy of Street Mix: Music From Volkswagen Commercials (Volume 1), which, I'm ashamed to say, took me so long to find that Volume 2 came out in the interim (lacking, for some reason, Ariel Ramierez by Richard Buckner). Volume 1 contains a lot of tracks we all own already (Pink Moon, Da Da Da, etc), but it has one track that seems to be available only on this cd: Jung At Heart by Master Cylinder. This was the song used in the ad where almost everyone on the street--a boy dribbling a ball, a man sweeping the sidwalk--are all moving to the same funky drummer. Try to forgive the gawd-awful pun of the track's title, and good luck finding this cd for sale anywhere on the web. Every copy seems to have disappeared, and I have no intention of selling mine.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

The Place That Makes Managing Your Money As Easy As Spending It

Some of you may already know this song, some of you might not. If you've seen that TV commercial for Citibank, the one with the moody shots of kites and cloudy skies or whatever, here is a free download of the song the commercial uses. It's called Slow Down and it's by The Feelies, taken from their 1986 masterpiece The Good Earth (produced by Peter Buck of R.E.M.). I've often wondered if it was Buck or the band who decided to record the entire album with the vocals buried deep in the mix. It gives the entire disc a subdued feeling, even when songs such as Slipping (Into Something) are almost bursting with unchecked energy. Sadly, this album has been out of print for years, and I'm shocked--shocked!--that Rhino Records has not seen fit to reissue it in some deluxe 2-CD edition (they've rereleased albums by the truly wretched Firefall, for gawd's sake). I command you to send them an e-mail and complain. Be sure to use plenty of big words.

Monday, May 02, 2005

Woodpeckers Are In The House

Today's post is dedicated to the Ivory-Billed Woodpecker--a rare and beautiful bird thought to be extinct for the last 60 years--which was sighted in the Big Woods of eastern Arkansas, a large acreage of bottomland swamp forest. Bird enthusiasts and experts in the natural science world are bugging out, yo. There aren't many songs about woodpeckers, and if there are, I don't own them, so Woodpecker Rock by Nat Couty & The Braves will have to do for now. The 50's kitsch of this track doesn't do justice to such an important environmental discovery, but I doubt my man Woody will mind. This track is from Volume 4 of Born Bad: Songs The Cramps Taught Us, and because it's a bootleg series, it's not always easy to find. I suggest you try ordering it from Roots and Rhythm.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Blessed Are The Noise Makers

If there is a God, does he (or she?) permit us free will? If so, this would be the only proof we have that God begat freeform jazz. Well, make that freeform jazz and Soul Junk, because the two are so very similar in their means and in their ends. Much like their hero Jesus, Soul Junk are aggressively preaching their sermon on the mount to those who might not believe or understand, but unlike our Lord, lead yelper Glen Galaxy is using turntables, samplers and the noise of belching sax squanks. Yes, Soul Junk are Christians, but more than that, they're rappers, but much more than that, they create the most wigged-out, original and uncompromising hip hop this side of Infinite Livez. You actually have to admire a band that forges ahead year after year, despite being too pious for an indie rock audience and too bipolar for a holy audience. Can you imagine how Pat Robertson would react to Ruby Doomsday? My guess is he'd hire an exorcist to rid the recording of its demons (even though this is actually one of the least angular tracks off 1957). If you're itching to step into Galaxy's unique view of heaven and hell--and I highly recommend you do--you might begin your first purchase with the relatively-mellow 1956 and then stab at random from there.