Albert E. Trapezoid

 

2013 List of Things: Nine Items Once Again!

As I noted last year I’m not a big fan of annual “best of” lists, but there seem to be more every year (note to self: maybe I should compile a best of list of best of lists?). And I caution you that these lists almost always seem to be released before the actual end of the year, usually leaving out a full month of time when potential list candidates could emerge. What is a trapezoid to do, I ask you?

My answer once again is somewhat go along with the crowd and to make a list of stuff. So here in no particular order, is my “Son Of A List Of Random Music Things Related To Most Of 2013!” Not a “best of,” but simply a selection of music related items for 2013 that I happen to like. Just like last year, but purely by coincidence, I have nine items.

And I must note again that I really hope nothing good happens the rest of December.

BEST 30TH ALBUM: Re-Mit  by The Fall

As John Peel once noted about The Fall: “Always different, always the same.” Oh sure, for this category some would take the safe way out and pick “The Next Day” by David Bowie (his 30th studio album) or “The Diving Board” by Elton John (his 30th solo studio album), but c’mon – The Fall! Who heard “Rebellious Jukebox” when it came out and predicted Mark E. Smith would still be going after all these years? There is always something good on a Fall album. I’m sure I’ll be looking forward to their 50th in a couple decades.

                             

TWO RECORDS I LIKED THAT YOU PROBABLY WON’T FIND ON ANY ‘BEST OF’ LISTS: Eels and Karl Bartos

Karl Bartos was part of Kraftwerk during the time they created and cemented their legend. Not a bad resume item. For his album “Off The Record” he used old tapes he had from those days as the basis for creating new songs. So you get electronic music from a master which sounds both new and, at times, familiar.

Eels (soon coming up on two decades into their/his career) continue to consistently put out quality music. 2013 saw the release of “Wonderful, Glorious” and it is just that. It’s a familiar Eels sound with occasional twists to keep it fresh.

BEST EP: “This Face” by Kinetic Ideals

I wrote about this one earlier this year, but I’m still digging it a lot. Kinetic Ideals last record released was in 1983, but they found this music in the vaults and surprised us with e new record. It was worth the 30 year wait, for sure.

BEST WALKING MUSIC: The Cramps

I’ve found myself taking more long walks lately. When you are going along for miles it’s nice to have the old ipod with many of my musical friends along for company. I have noticed that a lot of the Cramps songs seem to have a really good walking rhythm , and they occasionally offer helpful reminders like “Don’t Eat Stuff Off The Sidewalk.”

BEST KICKSTARTER REWARD I RECEIVED: Lady Blue

This a cappella group from Duke University sang a great rendition of Happy Birthday for Mama Trapezoid. Sweet. Oh, and they have a new CD out too. Double sweet!

BEST BAND I RECONNECTED WITH THIS YEAR: Killing Joke

We were close for a couple years in the early 80’s but just slowly drifted apart. It was nobody’s fault; it just happened. Oh sure, I kept their first two albums in rotation, but I had largely moved on. Well, earlier this year I bought a digital version of “Ha” (a live album that I had on 10” vinyl at one point). The digital version is expanded from the original and, you know, it really sounded great. And then I picked up a couple other albums I had discarded earlier, and then their 2010 album “Absolute Dissent,” and now we are close once again after all these years.

                             

BEST FREE (AND LEGAL!) DOWNLOAD: “0181” by Four Tet

Early this year Four Tet made this available for free download at Soundcloud. It’s a 38 minute compilation of earlier work presented as one long track; it plays like a nice mix tape made by a friend. I just checked and you can get it right now at Amazon for less than a dollar (unless you’re saving to buy a soda or something).

BEST RECORD STORE I VISITED THIS YEAR: Chaz’s Bull City Records

From the first time you walk in this Durham, NC store you are made to feel welcome. And Chaz didn’t even get mad the day I accidentally knocked the Celluloid Records collection behind one of the racks. There is always a great selection of new and used CD’s and vinyl in the bins. Even if you are not near The Bull City, he’s got an online store too. So now you have no excuses not to visit.

BEST RADIO STATION: 97.7 WEXT

People who live in beautiful Troy, NY, Albany, and surrounding areas are lucky to have WEXT on their radio dial. The station focuses on emerging artists, the sometimes overlooked, as well as local music. There should be a lot more radio like this but, well, you know how it is these days. Their love of what they do comes through your speakers. I listen to the great Chris Wienk often on weekdays. Even if you are nowhere near New York State, the wonder that is the internet brings WEXT right to you.

And here’s a preview of something to look forward to in 2014…I may make another list of stuff.

1983: Spear and Echo

Apropos of nothing, I somehow remember my favorite single and album from 1983. And since it’s the 30th anniversary of the end of 1983…I guess that’s reason enough to share. At the time, I was involved with certain activities that allowed me to hear everything, and I mean everything, that came out on vinyl. So these felt like good selections to me, coming from a solid base of information.

 

For best album, I picked “Grapes of Wrath” by Spear of Destiny. This was the debut album for the new band formed by Kirk Brandon and Stan Stammers, formerly of Theatre of Hate. This is a band that didn’t seem to get a lot of acclaim, and most don’t even consider this their best album, but I think this is something special.

The songs are anchored by throbbing bass and some big 80’s drum sound. Saxophone plays a key role in the band and the music is rounded out by Kirk, with his mix of psychedelic, jangly and echoing guitar as well as his voice. Kirk’s singing is a bit unusual; it has always struck me as somewhat haunting or ghostly, but in a way on this album his voice is almost like another sax – sometimes frail, sometimes aggressive, and occasionally squealing and screaming. The overall feel of the music to me is very drama filled and uplifting. It’s a bit of a mystery to me why they are not as well-known as, say, contemporaries Simple Minds or U2.

My choice for best single was “Never Stop” by Echo & The Bunnymen.  Echo was three albums into their career when this track was released as single (it was not originally part of an album); all of their strengths as a band came together perfectly on this song. Their slightly dark psychedelia embellished with orchestral strings and a dance beat made for an amazing song. Twice during the song the tension builds with the strings, and then explodes as the guitar and band kicks in. Arguably this is one of vocalist Ian McCulloch strongest performances on record.

The artists on both these releases seem to be reaching for something greater than simple pop tunes, and they definitely succeeded. Both of these records have stuck with me over the years and nothing has diminished their greatness in my eyes (ears?).

In closing let me wish a “Happy 30th Anniversary” to 1983; I hope you can make the reunion!

Diggin’ The New: 4Q13

 

Here’s a little round up of things I’m enjoying right now, all from artists and/or websites previously mentioned on this site. In the spirit of the season, let’s call all this a cornucopia of fresh music:

The Northerners , who made my famous almost-year-end “List of Things” in 2012, have released their first official single; it’s called “You” and it sounds really great. A catchy tune with a rolling, head-bobbing rhythm; fans of Alabama Shakes should definitely check this out. It’s available wherever fine digital music is sold.

 

Makunouchi Bento let one of their always excellent tunes be used to soundtrack a short film by Alexandra Girbea called “∞th floor" (that’s “infinityth” in plain English) [Disclaimer: that’s not really any English, let alone plain]. The music and visuals work well together, and it’s a fun, creative little piece. You can see it out here.

Dub-o-phonic is on fire. I spent a lot of this summer enjoying reggae, including lots of great tunes on this netlabel. As we move into cooler weather around the old Trapezoid homestead, I’m still enjoying the warm vibes from Cyprus.

First, we have Jennifer Paulos with “Revolution.” Jennifer hails from Spain and of her four songs, two are sung in English and two in Spanish. She includes a cover of (and names the album after) the Tappa Zukie track “Revolution.” Her version stamps her personality on the track, but also pays tribute by mixing in quite a few Tappa samples from original. All four songs are followed by dub versions. Second, “Ibel Meets Med Dred” features Jamaican singer, artist, poet and writer Ibel Campbell providing lyrics and vocals to music by Med Dred. Again, all tracks are followed by versions. I wrote about an earlier Med Dred EP which I enjoyed, and this music is every bit its equal. Respect.

                            

Daniel Barbiero has some new music out, this time in collaboration with electronic sound artist Steve Hilmy. Released on the Pan Y Rosas Discos netlabel “Take a Sound. Do Something to It. Do Something Else to It.” is three longer pieces, each with a slightly different feel. The title track is all over the place with sounds, sometimes gentle, sometimes harsh, always interesting. “A Multiplication of Voices” is sparser (with some moments that at times bring to mind flocks of birds, banshees, and/or aliens). The final track “Coda: Watching the Watchers” features a fair amount of cleaner plucked and bowed bass sound, mixed with the usual interesting effects.

So all this and I still have the Oxford American 15th annual music issue to look forward to in December; OA never disappoints. They say this year we can look forward to a magazine “featuring a double-CD and celebrating the musical legacy of Tennessee.” I can’t wait.

Films Are Music Too: Muscle Shoals

This is a wonderful documentary about Muscle Shoals, Alabama; more specifically, the magical “Muscle Shoals sound” that has been such a great influence on popular music over decades – home of hit records by Wilson Pickett, Etta James and Aretha, to name just a few.

The main storyline of the film involves Rick Hall, who founded FAME studios in the late 1950’s. He had a vision and drive that helped him push through some personal trials and tribulations that might have derailed another man, all of which are explored. But the story also weaves together some of the history of the area, the musicians who created the music, comments from others influenced by the music produced there, and of course the music itself. There are decades of history to cover, and it is done in an extremely compelling way.

Some specific things that particularly stood out to me include the cinematography; the wide-screen views of the natural environment of the area are really breathtaking. Film and pictures (old and new) are weaved together seamlessly (including a scene at the beginning where Rick walks into the studio and seemingly into a time machine). On the lighter side you get some interview excerpts with Keith Richards, who is entertaining these days just because he’s so…Keef! I also learned a few things, including that the great reggae singer Jimmy Cliff recorded there (how did I not know that?). The film also credits the beginnings of Southern Rock to Muscle Shoals; not my favorite genre, but a piece of the story. Dare I say “Sweet Home Alabama” actually sounds pretty good over the credits?

Muscle Shoals is located alongside the Tennessee River, known as “The Singing River” according to local Indian legend. You’ll hear about the woman who sings from the river, and if you pay close attention will see her thanked in the closing credits. Whether you know much (or anything, for that matter) about Muscle Shoals doesn’t matter. If you are any kind of a music fan you should get your popcorn and a ticket.

Fashion Statement: Badges By Any Other Name

The other day I was looking through some boxes in search of my magic beans when I ran across a few of my old pins.

Whether you called them pins, buttons or badges, they were an important fashion accessory back in the day. Pinned to your leather biker jacket, army surplus clothes, or thrift store suit jacket and/or tie, they were an important signal. They let people know what you were currently into, and often could be considered a little “test” to find out who was “in the know” (in the best tradition of, say, the Jack Black character in “High Fidelity”).  When you spotted something like my “FAD” button had I found a kindred soul with similar musical taste, or did you just find it somewhat baffling?

The one pictured above for The Clash is one of the ugliest band buttons ever produced; really awful pictures of the band. In fact, I’m still not convinced that is a picture of Paul Simonon on the right. It bears almost no resemblance and part of the hair looks clumsily edited out.

Of course, I wore it anyway.

And by the way, I never did find the beans…thanks for your concern.

Kinetic Ideals: This Face In Front Of Me

This “new” music from Kinetic Ideals is like hearing from a long-lost friend.

“This Face” is actually a recent release (September 2013) of 30-year-old music. Kinetic Ideals was a band from Mississauga, Ontario, Canada, active in the early 1980’s. They put out only a couple handfuls of songs as EPs and singles. I was a big fan back in the day (especially of their amazing “Reason” EP – but more on that another time). They made a bit of a buzz up in Canada, but never really took off in a big way, which is unfortunate. Their sound fit comfortably under the large “post-punk” umbrella; I always thought their music would have felt very at home on Factory Records.

The four tracks on this EP are a great addition to the Kinetic Ideals discography. If you liked their earlier output, you’ll definitely like this. If you don’t know this band, this music is full of dancey rhythm and great processed guitar. Fans of the aforementioned Factory Records and some of the 80’s highlights of The Damned will also enjoy this.

The story of this record apparently goes back to spring of 1984 in Toronto. The songs were recorded at that time but remained unreleased all these years. The band broke up around 1985. I’ve read a couple places where they say the band members reconnected several years ago through social media. One thing led to another and eventually to the discovery of this material in the vault.

There is a nice looking limited-edition clear vinyl version available from Dead Wax Records. You can also get this digitally from the usual suspects. Now if Kinetic Ideals would just rerelease their other music, maybe we could get everyone on the bandwagon.

The Clash: Rat Patrol from Fort Bragg

Did you know “Combat Rock” was originally intended to be a double LP called “Rat Patrol from Fort Bragg?” Many of my fellow Clash fanatics are likely aware that the original version was mixed by Clash guitarist Mick Jones. However the band was dealing with various internal tensions, and there was disagreement about the mix that Mick had done. As things turned out, Glyn Johns was brought in to remix the album; it became a single disc and went on to be their best-selling album.

For years I wondered what I was missing – Was this a great lost album? Was there more Clash music I hadn’t heard? The answers to those questions are “no” and “yes” respectively. It’s really great to hear Mick’s version, and there are some unreleased tracks, but it’s probably more of a curiosity to Clash completist than a band or record company blunder that it wasn’t released originally. Mick’s mix could almost be considered “Sandinista Jr.” His production and the sprawl of a double album are closer in spirit to that triple album. It’s good, although my guess is it would not have become nearly as popular as “Combat Rock” ultimately did.

Twelve songs from “Rat Patrol from Fort Bragg” made it on to “Combat Rock,” although most in different (and usually shorter) form. Bootlegs of this album are found in various versions; the version I…heard, and the one I see most often, has the following track list:

 1."The Beautiful People Are Ugly Too" – 3:45

2."Kill Time" – 4:58

3."Should I Stay or Should I Go" – 3:05 (with horns and extra Spanish)

4."Rock the Casbah" – 3:47 (with extra bongo action)

5."Know Your Rights" (extended version) – 5:04 (Vocals through a megaphone?)

6."Red Angel Dragnet" – 6:12

7."Ghetto Defendant" – 6:17 (with extra Allen Ginsberg and Joe Strummer vocals)

8."Sean Flynn" – 7:30

9."Car Jamming" – 3:53

10."Inoculated City" – 4:32

11."Death Is a Star" – 2:39

12."Walk Evil Talk" – 7:37

13."Atom Tan" – 2:45

14."Overpowered by Funk" (demo) – 1:59 (instrumental – no Futura 2000)

15."Inoculated City" (unedited version) – 2:30 (Probably would not have been duplicated on the album)

16."First Night Back in London" – 2:56

17."Cool Confusion" – 3:10

18."Straight to Hell" (extended version) – 6:56

So what do we find in this package? Well, most interesting to me are the three unreleased tracks - "The Beautiful People Are Ugly Too" and "Kill Time" are both funky, catchy tunes, although are somewhat marred by some cheap sounding keyboard. The third, and the longest song on the album, is "Walk Evil Talk." This is a sparse and jazzy instrumental with just piano and drum; it could almost be incidental music for a crime film. My guess is that this is a track written and performed by drummer Topper Headon, who came up with the piano riff in “Rock the Casbah.” Even though there is nothing stunning here in these three songs, I loved hearing “new” Clash music.

Two of the later tracks, "First Night Back in London" and "Cool Confusion" may be less familiar to some, although they were released as single B-sides.  I always thought these two were odd songs for The Clash, but they kind of make more sense in the context of this album. The version of “Straight to Hell” here was released on the box set “Clash on Broadway.” Of course some of my younger readers may recognize that song better as “Paper Planes” by M.I.A.

The other songs which made the cut differ from the familiar versions. Mick’s versions tend to have more production touches (and, as a result, are often more dense). Some have only minor differences but play like extended versions.  In most cases, the songs that made “Combat Rock” are shortened and cleaned up – basically given more focus and perhaps more emphasis to the guitars. Some of the changes are very minor, but “Should I Stay or Should I Go” and “Know Your Rights” probably benefitted most from the fine-tuning.

If you are curious there are other interesting things out there from the “Rat Patrol” sessions, including some interesting song versions with Ranking Roger from The (English) Beat on vocals. 

It is unfortunate “Rat Patrol” is not commercially available. Since CBS/Columbia seems to repackage Clash music on a pretty regular basis, perhaps they’ll include “Rat Patrol” on a reissue of “Combat Rock” someday so everyone can enjoy it.

Books Are Music Too: Giving Up The Ghost

I recently spotted “Giving Up the Ghost” by Eric Nuzum and on a whim I picked it up. I knew nothing about it so I’m not sure what attracted me. Was it the fact that it seemed to have the world’s longest book title? (The full title is: “Giving Up the Ghost: A Story About Friendship, 80s Rock, a Lost Scrap of Paper, and What It Means to Be Haunted.”) Actually, I’m sure it was the intriguing mix of topics in the subtitle, specifically 80’s rock.

This book follows several narrative threads. One main one is that the author is “haunted” by a vision of a little girl in a blue dress. This story line discusses the impact of this vision on him while growing up as well as his later adult investigations to try to determine if ghosts exist. While some of these adventures are interesting and help round out the overall story, I found a different thread of the book much more compelling. For it’s also a book about his young adulthood which involves Eric trying to find his place in the world, dealing with some drug and mental issues during that time, and most poignantly, about a female friend.

He does a great job expressing general teenage angst combined with his specific issues and experiences. But more importantly, he had a somewhat enigmatic friend named Laura who was there through good times and bad. Aspects of their relationship are a bit odd (he seems to know very little about her outside their direct relationship, he always waits in his car for her - never approaching her door, etc.), but such can be the relationships of teenagers. In the end this book is a beautiful tribute to Laura specifically and perhaps to friends we’ve all had at points in our lives that may have helped us through.

As for the music (I mean, after all, music is the entire reason for this website), it’s not the major story line but instead there is a strong vein related to music does run throughout, whether it’s the feeling he gets from a favorite record (by one Mr. Brian Eno), the sharing of music and cassettes among friends (Killing Joke, Talking Heads, Guadalcanal Diary…well, you know, good 80’s music), or starting his own band. Some of the smaller moments will bring back memories for “outsiders” who may have grown up around that time. And I don’t want to spoil it, but there is a scene with him DJ’ing at a college radio station that had me laughing out loud. It’s great when a book grabs you unexpectedly like this one did for me.

Bernie Worrell: How I Bought Bernie a Van

OK, I guess I need to admit up front it wasn’t just me. I recently became aware that Bernie Worrell had a Kickstarter campaign going. I’ve been a long-time fan of Bernie’s, going back to his days with Parliament/Funkadelic. He co-wrote many of their great songs and was a key performer and arranger for those group(s).  He’s also played with a Who’s Who list of well-known artists over the decades.

Some of Bernie’s friends started highlighting his Kickstarter campaign on Twitter, where he was trying to raise funds for a touring van for his current nine-piece orchestra. I thought since I had enjoyed so much of his music over the years, the least I could do was make a small contribution toward the cause. As you probably know, if a Kickstarter project meets its goal you get rewarded depending on your level of contribution. Well, this one met its goal and my rewards included an autographed photo…

 …as well as downloads of two of his albums – “Standards” and “Blacktronic Science.”

The “Standards” album (from 2011) is truth in advertising; an album of jazz standards, many with unique interpretations. Bernie, as you would guess, is featured on keyboards throughout. The mix of instrumentation runs from solo through to his full orchestra. Some highlights for me include a slower, solo piano version of “Take the ‘A’ Train.” It’s an unusual take compared to the more familiar big band version, but is beautiful. The full orchestra plays a funky version of “Watermelon Man.” That’s already a funky song, be they “up the ante” and the horns really add a nice dimension to the mix. I also like their spacey version of “Take 5,” but the whole album is recommended.

“Blacktronic Science” (from 1993) is another beast altogether. This album is a real mixed bag, from the orchestral opening track “Revelation in Black Light,” to the P-Funk of number like “Time Was” and “Dissinfordollars,” to the more jazzy “Blood Secrets” and “X-Factor.” It’s almost too eclectic at times to hold together well as an album, but P-Funk fans and Bernie fans will find things to like. And you can never go too wrong with the involvement of people like George Clinton, Bootsy Collins, Bill Laswell and Maceo Parker.

While I’m happy Bernie got his van, all in all I feel like I may have gotten the better end of the deal. Now if he'll just get that van with his band inside to my town…

XTC – Dreaming of a World…

Digging through my archives again and I found some fun XTC-related items I thought I would share.

 First up is the fantastic single “No Thugs in Our House” from XTC’s “English Settlement” album released in 1982. While I appreciate the convenience of digital music, this record reminds me why collecting vinyl could be such a blast. As you can see in the photos (and more here on my facebook page), some real thought and effort went into packaging this little 7” single. The cover says “XTC theatre” and the sleeve opens into a mini stage. In theory, you could act out the song with the enclosed sheet of paper puppets (*clears throat*…not that a mature person like myself would ever consider such a thing…). The back cover has the lyrics written out in the form of a play (scenes, acts, character lines, etc.). On top of all that, the B-Side has three more songs (“Chain of Command,” “Limelight” and “Over Rusty Water”), all for the price of a single. Money well spent, I say.

“Thugs” was and remains one of my all-time favorite XTC tunes. Aggressive, funny, troubling, clever, rockin’ and did I mention its impossibly catchy chorus? I can’t help but sing along whenever I hear it. There is a version of the song that is even a bit more raw and aggressive available in the “Transistor Blast” box set, which I highly recommend.

 Under the guise of The Three Wise Men, in 1983 XTC released a single with a holiday theme. “Thanks for Christmas” backed with “Countdown to Christmas Party Time.” Unless you knew, there was no way to know this was XTC. The sleeve indicates it was produced by “The Three Wise Men and The Good Lord.” Sticking with the theme, both tracks are credited to Kaspar/Melchior/Balthazar (of course, the names of the Biblical Magi). Not sure they released this as they did for any reason other than as a lark. You can now find these two songs on the “Rag ‘N” Bone Buffet” compilation; ditch your copy of "Wonderful Christmastime" and play these songs next holiday season instead.

The Dukes of Stratosphear was perhaps another lark, although a little more elaborate. The cassette pictured here is their only full length album “Psonic Psunspot.” XTC released this (and a prior EP) using the Dukes name and for a while would not admit it was actually them. Regardless, this is another joyous entry into the XTC discography. To my ears, it cheekily exaggerates many of their musical influences but not to the detriment of producing good songs. You can pick up all the Dukes songs on one handy disc entitled “Chips From the Chocolate Fireball.” All XTC fans should own this.

XTC has so many great and accessible songs; I’ve always felt in a more just world they would have been a much bigger commercial success, constantly filling the charts and our radios with hit songs. I guess I just have to be happy they have a place in my house.

Concert Notes: Tutus Andronicus/So So Glos/Pink Flag

On Friday, May 17, Anno Domini 2013, my son Rhombus and I ventured to Motorco Music Hall in Durham, NC for a show featuring the bands noted above. By the end of the night we felt lucky – we were 3 for 3 with good performances.

First up was local Durham band Pink Flag. According to information they have posted, they are named after the first Wire album. Lead singer Betsy Shane announced at the beginning of their set that they were going to entertain us for 36 minutes, and indeed they did. Actually I can’t vouch for the exact time, only for the entertainment.

While I felt I could hear some Pink Flag-era Wire influences – minimal solos, catchy tunes and songs that don’t overstay their welcome - I would not say they sounded like Wire. Pink Flag’s sound has a more upbeat and pop-influenced sound. The band seemed to be having lots of fun and that carried out into the audience.

Next up was Brooklyn’s So So Glos. I was excited to see them as they seem to have some national momentum building since the release of their recent record “Blowout,” including a Letterman appearance and even a good review on Pitchfork.

In any case, they were a blast of pure rock/punk energy. Lots of great songs with terrace chant choruses. And aside from the music they know how to put on a show (interacting with the crowd, changing hats…maybe you had to be there for the hats…) which made it even more entertaining. I had to laugh at one point as singer and bass player Alex Levine got the people up front who were jumping and dancing throughout their set organized into a nice big circling mosh pit for one song. Old school, baby!

Headliners were, of course, Titus Andronicus. They performed for over two hours and time just flew by. Overall it was a great show, although it was slightly marred by one incident.

Titus is a really solid band and worked through a lot of their catalogue. Lead singer Patrick Stickles does most of the talking on stage and is very compelling. He strikes me as someone who doesn’t hold back, whether it’s sharing whatever is on his mind between songs or totally immersing himself in the music. He’s one of those performers who seems like he’s existing in a slightly different dimension than the rest of us when he’s on stage. He is supported by a group of great musicians who really add a lot to the texture of the music. I can’t recommend enough that you should see them if you have the chance.

So what was the incident? Well, toward the end of the night Patrick went into the audience with his microphone during one of the songs. Afterwards, back on stage, he was clearly upset as apparently during the song someone had grabbed him in “the bathing suit area” (as he described it at one point). Not cool, to say the least. It’s a real shame that one idiot can impact the band and the show in such a negative way. (Patrick was still venting about it on Twitter after the show.) After discussing what happened and calling out the culprit, he left the stage. We weren’t sure what to expect, but he came back soon and the band soldiered on, performing a rousing rendition of “Titus Andronicus Forever.” While the incident was a bit of a buzz-kill for both the band and audience, this song seemed to get the show a bit back on track.

Titus (including a very thin Patrick in what I would describe as anti-Rollins mode, stripped down to just athletic shorts) was then joined on stage by So So Glos and they played several classics, including “I Love Rock N’ Roll,” “I Wanna Be Sedated,” and “No Sleep Till Brooklyn.” It felt like the show turned into a fun house party and was a good way to round out the evening.

Scraping Foetus Off The Wheel: Descent Into The Inferno

In the mid-80’s, JG Thirlwell (a/k/a Clint Ruin, a/k/a various band names including the word “Foetus,” a/k/a so many other names I’ll run out of space…) put out a couple albums under the name “Scraping Foetus Off The Wheel.” I believe those albums, “Hole” and “Nail,” were the only two full length LP’s under this particular moniker. If you are any kind of a fan of aggressive and dark music you need to seek these out.

What will you find if you do? Songs that are varied musically but lyrically are sick, depraved, abrasive, disturbing, sleazy…and very funny at times if your humor runs to dark. Perhaps you could have guessed all that from the band name.

First up was “Hole.” This album has many industrial elements – clanging percussion, driving guitars, screams, samples and lots of harsh noises. But labeling it purely as “industrial music” is selling it too short; listen closely because there is a lot more to it. There are great production touches and references to other musical styles and songs (check out the creepy organ on “Lust For Death” and the twist on the “Batman” theme song on “Sick Man”). Mr. Thirlwell also uses his voice as an instrument; from whispering to growling to straight out singing, he uses the different characters of his voice to fit the personalities of his songs.

Some of what you are in for: “I’ll Meet You In Poland Baby” seems to be a fever dream of Nazi Germany at the start of WWII. It’s chaotic and nightmarish.  “Hot Horse” full of sleazy come-ons and a voice that makes everything he says sounds dirty regardless. “Sick Man” may be the diary of the singer of “Hot Horse.”  Throughout this and many other songs there are lots of quick twists of a phrase (“I feel about as able as Cain”). And then there’s “Satan Place,” a hilarious SoCal beach music send up complete with Beach Boys-like backing vocals and Wipeout-grade guitar. Great, although I’m guessing you won’t find this on any feel-good surf music compilation.

While “Hole” at times has some slight orchestral touches in the production, “Nail” finds Foetus under the full influence of the Orchestral-Industrial complex. As a point of reference, at times it sound like Einsturzende Neubauten mixed with the London Philharmonic. It is tremendous.

“Nail” flows as one solid cinematic piece. It includes both a “Theme from…” and an “Overture from Pigdom Come.” It is practically bookended by two standouts. “Throne Of Agony” is the second track and is lyrically dense with both the agony of the narrator (“Stab another dagger in the back of me…”) and the aforementioned dark humor (“I’m the one who gave the sandwich to Mama Cass”).  “Agony” ends with a four second track called simply “!” and it is as perfect a musical exclamation point as I can imagine. The last track is “Anything (Viva!)” and it is an epic conclusion musically and lyrically. I can imagine the second half of the song with the recurring line “I can do any goddamned thing I want” will probably played at Rollerball matches in the future.

Admittedly it may be difficult to defend some of the lyrics and images taken out of context (or maybe even in context) because they can be troubling. Aside from the examples above, you also get a song like “Di-1-9026” which seems to be from the mind of Charles Manson. Not defending Manson, not criticizing Manson, just presenting what may be going on in his brain. So clearly not for everyone, but overall I think these are two really great and creative albums.

I went to see him at the late, great club Revival in Philadelphia, where he performed “Nail” in its entirety. Going in I had no idea what to expect. The room was somewhat small for live music and the stage was set up only about a foot above floor level and was completely empty. I managed to get right next to the stage on one side. The room went dark, a light started flashing and the intro “Theme” played. I suddenly noticed someone standing literally right next to me (!) in leather jacket, mirrored shades, holding a baseball bat, staring straight ahead and guzzling a bottle of beer. It was the man himself. “Theme” ended, bottle emptied, he jumped on stage with a dramatic “Helllloooo operator…” and we were off. It was just him (and his bat) singing to a taped musical backing. Very compelling.

I spotted Lydia Lunch at the front of the stage during the show. She has occasionally collaborated with JG, but was not involved with this particular show. She was just enjoying the spectacle with the rest of us.

Pixies: Planet Of Sound

I was living in Arizona many years ago and my good friend Biggles came for a visit. We were out and about, enjoying a cool beverage on a typical hot night on some restaurant patio, when B asked me if I had heard the new Pixies album yet. When I told him I hadn’t, he said “you’ve got to go get it.” “OK” I said; “NOW!” he insisted.

There happened to be a record store near us, so we popped in and bought a cassette of “Trompe Le Monde.” Back to the car, we loaded up the tape and hit the road. What I heard that evening driving around the desert was simply amazing. While I sometimes like music on first listen, more often than not it takes several passes for me to properly evaluate what I’m hearing. This was one of those instances where I knew immediately I was listening to genius.

In particular, what would have been side one of the cassette immediately blew me away. For those of you raised in the digital age, that would be tracks 1 (“Trompe Le Monde”) through 8 (“Letter to Memphis”). I’ll go so far as to say it may be the most perfect side of a record ever. And if it’s not, it’s certainly in the conversation. The flow of these eight songs is sublime, full of tension building and release, and there’s even a Jesus & Mary Chain cover. Lyrically they make some fun of punk (“The Sad Punk”) and college students (“U-Mass”), which I found amusing because I imagine that was a large part of the Pixies core audience (hey, wait…). It’s all over in less than twenty minutes, but it goes by in what seems like about five. To this day it gets my heart racing when I listen. It’s a pure blast of energy, so you can skip the coffee.

To me it also perfectly encapsulated all the strengths of the Pixies – great musicianship all around, loud distorted guitars, interesting and/or humorous lyrics, catchy hooks, and lots of change-ups within songs. The vocals range from sweet to screaming. While you really can’t go wrong with any of the Pixies records, or even the second half of this one (where they also have some fun with the goths on "Subbacultcha" – “I was all dressed in black, she was all dressed in black…”), for me this is the pinnacle. Simply amazing.

Flipper: Now It’s Your Turn

Flipper is one of my long-time favorites. They were an early West coast punk band, but they were a little different. They had the humor and politics of early punk, but their music set them apart. They played a bit slower than the fashion of the time, and their songs were usually driven by the rhythm section (including simple bouncy bass lines), with grinding and distorted guitar filling out the sound. They were hugely influential on other bands (one example you may have heard of: Nirvana).

Digging through the Trapezoid vault, I ran across the three Flipper singles I own. These were the only singles they released in the early 80’s and they were different. Not only musically as noted above, but these singles had a very DIY feel. They all had basic paper covers (including artwork from the band members).  The "Sex Bomb" single (I just rediscovered my copy is on red vinyl – woohoo!) featured individually hand-made covers with hand stamped Flipper logos. (You can see more photos here on my facebook page.)

 

So what do you get with these three singles?

Their first single “Love Canal” is definitively NOT the humorous song in this bunch; it’s a brutal commentary on the Love Canal disaster that emerged back in the 1970’s. The grinding music and vocal delivery perfectly deliver the message. The flip side “Ha Ha Ha,” on the other hand, does have humor, commenting on the banality of the predictable lives led by some, what with their shopping and cheating on their spouses.

Next up is the classic “Sex Bomb.” A repetitive lyric line (slight variations on the phrase “She’s a sex bomb, baby, yeah!”) and lots of yelps and yelling and other loud vocal gymnastics, the grinding guitar, and the simple but really catchy bass line. They add some sound effects, including the whistle of falling bombs, car crashes and other background effects to increase the chaos as the song goes on. Funny and great, and surprising cathartic if you want to sing along. The B-side is “Brainwash” a 25 second song that’s a got little faster beat than their other tunes. Did I say 25 seconds? Actually, it ends and, after a moment of silence, repeats exactly again…and again…and again…for about six and a half minutes. The run out grove on the single kept going, repeating “you wouldn’t understand anyway” until you turned the record off. Theoretically you could listen forever.

The third single in the group is “Get Away.” It maintains the same style of bouncy rhythm and grinding distorted guitar, with lyrics about friends who seem to be having a tough time. The traditional children’s song “The Old Lady Who Swallowed the Fly” is on the other side. It’s not only a test of your stamina, but brings out the absolute weirdness and sickness of the song. The vocalist, appropriately, gets more incredulous as song goes along. And one little unusual feature of this 7-inch record, “Lady” is 33rpm vs. the normal 45rpm. You can get all these songs (and more) on the compilation “Sex Bomb Baby.” That and “Album – Generic Flipper” would be the best places to start if you are new to this.

As a side note, before she became Mrs. Trapezoid, my talented then-girlfriend knew the way to a man’s heart was through his music. She made me the most excellent shirt you see above. The quote on the back was from something on the cover of their “Gone Fishin’” album: “Flipper suffered for their music, now it’s your turn.” Perfect.

Twitter Feeds - Volume 1: Of Demon Waffles and Atomic Skunks

One of the selfish benefits for me of starting this site and its associated Twitter and Facebook pages is that they have been nice avenues of music discovery for me. Whether it’s followers, subscribers, friends, or people reaching out to me with private messages, I’m getting exposed to all kinds of great stuff. I’ll take an occasional look and listen, and will share some of my favorites.

The two I want to highlight this time could probably not be farther apart on the musical spectrum.

First up is Demon Waffle. I’ll admit upfront that I am a sucker for a good ska band. Be it the first generation of Jamaican artists like Prince Buster, the original punk era revival of bands like The Specials (who really got me hooked), or many of the other groups that have come along over the years (like Fishbone) using strong ska elements.

Demon Waffle, hailing from that tropical hotbed Johnson City, Tennessee, just released their debut album “Eat Your Breakfast” in December 2012 and it’s a corker. It is definitively Ska (with a capital “S”) full of fun and energy, with lots of rock, funk and even occasional jazz flourishes mixed in. The whole band displays solid musical chops, but I have to give a special shout out to the great horn section – they really add that extra Something (there’s that big “S” again) to the mix. The songs are mostly originals, but they also feature a great cover of the classic Underdog by Sly Stone. The Dirtbombs used to do my favorite version of that song…now they’ve got some competition.

Catch Demon Waffle live if you can, and you can get their debut here.

And now for something completely (and I do mean completely) different, I give you Atomic Skunk. Specifically, I’ve been listening to Wintermuse, which Rich Brodsky (a/k/a Atomic Skunk) released in December 2011.

 Some of the descriptor tags for the music include the terms “ambient” and “new age,” but I don’t believe these really begin to capture what you’re in for with Wintermuse.  It is one 38 minute track and it takes you on an amazing journey. It starts off with quiet ambience but slowly builds with interesting electronic sounds and chiming percussion (Tibetan bells? Milk jugs?). The whole piece ebbs and flows throughout. Lots of other instruments and sounds add to the mix. It feels like a long night walk through the snow; sometimes you are trudging along quietly by yourself, then you come upon a small village and activity, before moving off again to the quiet sounds of nature (real or imagined).

 To give you one idea of the types of things you are in for, about 21 minutes in you hear what sound like actual footsteps in the snow. I have to admit I laughed the first time I heard it because I was thinking right before “I feel like I’m on a long walk in the snow.”  The walking sounds morph a little and build into a rhythm and then, suddenly we stop and wind a music box to hear a few moments of Silent Night. All this occurs over about 2-3 minutes. Trust me, you will not lose interest at any point.

Brodsky/Skunk hails from the San Francisco Bay area. You can find Wintermuse here, but he also has a great website with lots of information and other music he’s released. I also want to give special mention to some of the gorgeous artwork for his albums. Really stunning and creative.

Mugison: The Most Interesting Man in the World?

I realized recently that I had Mugiboogie by Mugison in heavy rotation, so I decided to reach out to the man himself through the magic of email and he graciously replied to some interview questions from his home in the West Fjords of Iceland.  Listening to his music and reading his responses to my questions has led me to one conclusion: with apologies to the Dos Equis Guy, I believe Mugison may be the Most Interesting Man in the World! Below I present my evidence.

1. The Mirstument!  I asked what he has been working on lately, and Mugison said “I´ve been working on this setup I call the Mirstument for the last 6 months. Me and my friend started this pet-project 3 years ago to make something out of all my controllers. Now it´s finally working (it was always blowing up… because we had no clue about electricity and stuff) - that might be something I´ll focus on for the next few months - not sure what will come out of it.”

2. Mugiboogie! Both the title track and the album are fantastic. The song Mugiboogie, which kicks off the album, is a rousing blues/soul stomp that would make Jack White jealous. Some songs that follow are full band rockers with distorted guitars and feedback while others are closer to the “the singer and his acoustic guitar” vibe, all with lots of interesting production details. Vocals range from straight ahead singing to growls to falsetto. It has diverse styles, but holds together as a whole; it’s a fun musical journey and you will never get bored.

3. He’s in another band…with his dad!  I noticed a reference to a “Papamug” on his website and asked if that was his father. He replied “Yes - he was called Muggi - now he´s Papmug. We´ve actually just started a band together called ‘papas and the papas.’ We mostly play Whitney Houston - I´m playing the Mirstument and he sings and does all solos on his Trombone.”

4. He helps run a music festival you’ll probably never get to see! I asked Mugison to tell me about the annual Aldrei Music Festival mentioned on his website. “It´s a silly festival that me and my father made 10 years ago with our friends. We wanted to do a festival that would be the opposite to most festivals…turn things up-side down. Everybody can only play for 20-25 min, there is no soundcheck, just one stage, and everybody had to just plug whatever in and start. There is no special logic how we do the lineup. It´s in a really remote town in the middle of the winter…we wanted to make it hard for people to come…only the ones that are willing to make a lot of effort to come…drive for 7-9 hours…there are very few hotel-rooms available so most people have to get to know someone in the village to make it work.” Check out this amazing photo from the festival website:

5. He’s no “one trick pony!” Mugison incorporates many influences and styles into his music. He sent me a list of favorites; the list was as diverse as his music. He named about 25, but finally said “…ahh the list could go on for ages…” He mentioned the well-known and long-serving like The Beatles and Tom Waits, the relatively more recent like Four Tet and Caribou, and the more under-the-radar like Bogdan Raczynski and Cornelius.

6. He got into music for… time travel!  Often you hear musicians got into music for fame, fortune, or girls. Not so for Mugison: “I got into music because of the time-travel, both when I´m listening to music and when I´m playing or making it. Something happens to how times passes that I really like. It´s always been like this for me, that´s what got me into it. It´s not like it´s a total happy place, or sad place, I just like the time-thing. “ Great description; I’m guessing anyone with a passion of their own can relate to his feelings.

7. Something he called “Mugimama, Is This Monkey Music?” won awards! It’s actually the album he released in 2004 and it won him his first Icelandic Music Awards. The music on this one sounds to me like a slightly more askew dEUS album produced by Portishead. Warm acoustic guitar and vocals mixed up with crazy production elements. It’s all over the place musically, in a good way! And the sweet closing track includes, apparently, some harmonica music by his grandfather.

8. He has the best-selling album in Icelandic history! According to his website, Haglél (which he released in late 2011) has sold over 30,000 copies. Certainly not “Thriller” numbers, but Iceland is fairly small, so this is a big accomplishment. It also won Mugison numerous awards at the 2012 Icelandic Music Awards. Step aside Björk and Sigur Rós! Haglél, by the way, is sung all in his native tongue. Some of the wilder production and more extreme edges of many of his earlier songs are toned down a bit, but it’s still Mugison and you’ll still enjoy it…even if you don’t speak Icelandic.

 So there you go. Interesting man, am I right? While we look forward to what may be next, you can listen to and buy (at very reasonable prices) any of his music at his website (here). He also told me he’ll be playing the Sonar Reykjavik in February and then touring with fellow Icelanders Of Monsters and Men through Europe, so catch him live if you can!

But, aside from the live shows, what IS next for Mugison? I asked if there would be new music forthcoming. He said “Not sure, I never know if it will take 1 year or 10 years. There are enough songs but I´m not sure what´s gonna happen next. I was hoping the Mirstument would take over - but now I´m kind of just learning how to play it, one button at a time. I hope there will be a new album this year.” Me too!

Horace Tapscott: Viva Las Vegas

Some of the specific trip details are a little fuzzy. I would say it was 1990, give or take a year or two. I found myself in Las Vegas with my family, including my mom and dad. Maybe it was when Mrs. T and I got married? I also seem to recall it was the middle of the afternoon and we were looking to relax for a bit. We came across a typical Vegas hotel lounge that was featuring jazz. My dad liked jazz, so in we went.

The lounge was basically empty except for the staff and the musicians. The hostess seated us about as far as she could from the band, at a table very close to the bar. The bartender came over to take our drink order and apologized for the music, muttering “they sound nothing like the tape they sent.” Odd, I thought, this preemptive apology.

As we settled in I began to focus on the band. They were a three-piece and the apparent leader was a thin black man seated at a grand piano, well-dressed and wearing sunglasses. As I listened I realized this was not standard Vegas lounge jazz fare (it was a bit avant garde), but that doesn’t mean it was no good! In fact, I started getting really into it but I was totally won over when the man at the piano introduced a song by calmly stating “The Dark Tree…The Dark Tree.” He then stood up, reached his arm into the open piano, and started plucking the strings. I just about fell out of my chair! I wanted to laugh because it was so unexpected and so great, but I also suddenly understood why someone like the bartender might not appreciate the fact that this sounded “nothing like the tape.”

So we enjoyed the band for a bit then went on our way. I had no idea who it was; it could have been some guys from down the street for all I knew. The thing that stayed with me was that voice saying “The Dark Tree…The Dark Tree.” It wasn’t until several years later I was able to discover that the band leader was Horace Tapscott. Horace, it turns out, was a pretty interesting guy.

 

He was apparently very active in helping his local community (Watts). Among other things he formed the Pan Afrikan Peoples Arkestra as an outlet for the performance of African-American music and as a tool to teach/help local youth. (I’m always a sucker for a good Arkestra; see “Ra, Sun.”) It sounds like life was not always easy, but Horace followed his musical vision and tried to make his community a better place; both laudable pursuits.  You can read more of his biography at the UCLA Archives or at this memorial site.

How Horace Tapscott ended up playing a lounge in Las Vegas that day I’ll never know. I was a bit sorry I didn’t know who he was at the time, but I am grateful I caught him and still smile at the memory of seeing him play. Had he sounded like “the tape,” he would probably have been forgotten.

Joy Division: Unknown Flexis

I was digging through the vast Trapezoid archives and came upon this little gem. This is a 7-inch flexi disc from Joy Division. I believe it was a giveaway in UK record stores originally. One note on the disc says “This soundsheet should not have cost you anything, wherever or however it was obtained.” And you know what? In my case it didn’t; one of my friends gave this to me, honoring that legally binding contractual requirement on the flexi disc.

 

Some of my younger readers may be asking “What are these flexi discs you speak of?” Well…Back in the “Plastiazoic Era” when vinyl records roamed and ruled the world, flexi discs were a “technology” that was sometimes used to share music (usually attached to a magazine). As you can see in my photo they were indeed flexible and lightweight, and would play on a normal turntable. Well, sometimes they needed help; they were so light and thin that sometimes the weight of the tone arm and needle would hold the disc in place so the turntable would spin but not the disc. One common home remedy to solve this problem was to put a coin in the center, giving the disc enough weight to spin under the needle, thereby playing the wonderful music contained in the grooves.

This particular disc was labeled FAC 28 (Factory Records fans will know that they used to label/number everything they issued – records, posters, etc.). Hard to say how rare this record is; I’ve seen estimates (on the low end) saying it was limited to 10,000 copies, I’ve seen it reported that 25,000 were pressed for the first run (were there more runs?), and I’ve seen it said at least 75,000 were issued. We may never know as I suspect detailed record keeping at Factory was not usually a priority.

In any case, the A side is “Komakino”, and the B side includes “Incubation” and “As You Said” (as an unlisted hidden track). These were recorded during the sessions for “Closer” in March 1980 but did not make that album. Aside from being issued on this flexi, I don’t believe these three songs were available until many years later when the Joy Division “Heart and Soul” box set was issued.

Some of the information on the disc is interesting and/or amusing. Aside from what I mentioned earlier, both sides say “A Fractured Music - A Factory Record.” Where the A side indicates this is FAC 28, the B side in the same place says “FAC Reject.” Finally, on a sadder note, the date shown on the disc (18/4/80) is coincidentally exactly one month before Ian Curtis committed suicide.

While I don’t play this flexi disc anymore, I still love the band’s music and this is a somewhat unique Joy Division keepsake for a fan.

2012 List of Things: Nine (count 'em, nine) Items!

Frankly, I’m not big on any year-in-review stories or, specifically, the annual “best” lists that rank music, mainly because it’s kind of arbitrary using a calendar year (especially when these lists always seem to be year-end reviews released before the year actually ends). But the world apparently demands them and I, your humble servant, have decided to comply (sort of). So here, in no particular order, is my “List Of Random Music Things Related To Most Of 2012!” (Following established media tradition, I am posting this before year end. I sure hope nothing really good happens before the end of December!)

BEST SINGLE: The Db’s - That Time Is Gone

Actually, do singles get released anymore? Regardless, this is a great rockin’ song. I’ve had it in heavy rotation for months and there are no signs I will get tired of it any time soon. That time may be gone, but the Db’s are back! Go get it now.

BEST UP-AND-COMING BAND I CAUGHT LIVE: The Northerners

They play mostly around Virginia and North Carolina, but I suspect that may change. They haven’t put out any studio recordings yet (yet!), but they have lots of strong original songs and sound great live. Look…that’s them on the horizon!

BEST COLLABORATION: Sun Araw/M. Geddes Gengras/The Congos – Icon Give Thank

Experiments like this could easily go wrong, but this one works magically. The reggae legends meet modern producers/musicians and all play to their strengths. While there are certainly reggae aspects to the end product, and it sounds like the spirit of Lee “Scratch” Perry could have been involved, the end result is (other)world music from deep in tropical jungle.

LEAST SEXY ALBUM COVER THAT IS SUPPOSED TO BE SEXY: Diana Krall - Glad Rag Doll

I like an attractive woman in lingerie as much as the next guy; in fact, I encourage the lovely Mrs. Trapezoid in that direction. But something about this cover seems sterile and clinical. Is it me, or does Diana look uncomfortable? It seems so out of character. Not sure if it’s marketing desperation or just a bad plan, but it just doesn’t work.

BEST RECORD STORE I VISITED: Frizb's CD Exchange

Lots of contenders here, but I’m going with Frizb's CD Exchange in Kenmore, NY.  Jeff Avery creates a friendly environment, selection is great and his prices are unbeatable. There was too much I wanted; I’m glad I don’t live there only because I would probably be broke! It’s exactly what a record store should be.

BEST RADIO SHOW: Down at Lulus with Cal Zone

It was one-day-only on WBNY on a Saturday afternoon in October. CZ was funny, played some great known and obscure music, was touching talking about radio, and generally blew away the competition, as always. Unfortunately, like Santa, he only comes around once a year. You can relive it here.

FAVORITE LIVE SHOW: Andrew Bird and Mavis Staples

Maybe it was sharing the evening with Mrs. T and a couple friends. Maybe it was Mavis belting out “Wade In The Water” as a rainstorm kicked up. Perhaps it was Andrew and band sounding so good. Or, it could have been just staying up late on a “school” night. In any case, despite the fact that we were soaked, it all worked.

BEST COVER SONG: For The Love Of Ivy - Japandroids

A great song by the late, great Gun Club. Japandroids scuzz it up…in a good way!

WORST MUSIC RESULTING FROM CORPORATE CROSS-PROMOTION: Pepsi NFL Anthems

I’m sure the term “synergy” was used often during the meetings to come up with this idea. Some conglomeration of Pepsi/ Walmart/National Football League hired seven artists to write “anthems” for specific NFL teams. Will we be singing these songs in the stadium? I’ll go out on a limb and say…”no.” Make that “absolutely no way.” The end results were by-the-numbers music by each artist with bland-to-awful lyrics. I listened to them all so you don’t have to; you can thank me later. Definite lump of coal for the NFL stocking this year.

So that’s it! Come back next year when I may make a list of more stuff!

Oxford American: Old Reliable

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Yes, the holidays, family, charity, good will toward men…all good. But I’m of course talking about the new issue of Oxford American magazine. OA puts out an annual music issue that includes a consistently great CD, which I eagerly anticipate every year. The magazine is also chock full o’ descriptions of the music and artists on the CD, as well as other music writings. It’s OK if you like that sort of thing…and I know you do!

The OA CD is always a great mix of roots, country, jazz, gospel, soul and other assorted oddities (which in the past have included anything from The Residents to Laurel & Hardy). They also do a good job of mixing well known artists with the truly obscure. The annual CD has introduced me to many artists I’ve explored further (hello Nellie Lutcher!).

Over the last few years OA decided to focus on the music of one state for each music issue. This year they chose Louisiana.

You would probably guess that a Louisiana-themed CD would include some zydeco, some creole French, and Dr. John…and you would be correct. You may know Professor Longhair and Kid Ory as well, who are also included, but will likely find some new favorites too. For me on this CD, it’s the rockin’ gospel of Rev. Utah Smith from the 50’s (seriously, this guy will blow you away), the funky Gaturs from the 70’s, and the song Hanging Johnny released in 2012 by The Valparaiso Men's Chorus, which I think I may want played at my New Orleans funeral!

Get it while you can. If not at your local magazine seller, try here. 

Bananamen: OK Bananamen, let’s go!

This little 7” record was a big hit amongst a small group of my friends when it came out back in the early ‘80’s. The performances are completely unhinged and the production values are low, but it is perfect - a wild, garage quality ride from beginning to end. Hearing the opening feedback often caused us to spontaneously push and shove…err…dance!

 

It claimed to have been originally released in the 60’s (on the Hava Banana label, no less) and hinted that The Cramps had “borrowed” a lot of their act from the Bananamen. It was obviously intended as a joke and homage, and we loved it. The record included three fairly well known garage rock songs: “The Crusher“, “Love Me” and “Surfin’ Bird.”

 (Larger photos can be found on my Facebook page.)

It took me years to discover who was behind the record (and let me just say “thank you again, internet!”); the band was called The Sting-Rays. They were apparently a rockabilly influenced punk group from Bristol, England. Adding to the confusion, there are several bands using the same name. I’ve looked up their music and am never sure I have the correct Sting-Rays… I’m not even positive the hyphen belongs in their name!

What I do know is these three tracks can now be found on their “From the Kitchen Sink” compilation. My heading for this entry references how the whole record kicks off. The lead singer, in kind of a nerdy sounding voice, says “OK Bananamen, let’s go,” and the mayhem ensues. For some reason this line is missing from the download I purchased (grrrr…). But you can hear it at the beginning of this YouTube clip.

Billy Childish: Punk Rock Ist Nicht Tot

He writes songs, forms bands, authors books, paints…to say Billy Childish is prolific seems like an extreme understatement. Looking just at his musical output, he has put out dozens of albums under his name and at least half a dozen other band configurations. It’s almost like he wakes up every morning, has something to say, and records a song.

With so much music out there he’s like the Sun Ra of punk – a seemingly endless bounty for fans, but where does the newcomer start? The answer, I believe, is easy: “Archive from 1959: The Billy Childish Story.”

 

This compilation was released a couple years ago. It has 51 slabs of (mostly) garage punk. It’s sometimes funny, sometimes angry, sometimes both. Many of Billy’s bands are represented (Thee Headcoats, The Buff Medways, Pop Rivets, and more). The songs are usually somewhat lo-fi production, and the lyrics and attitude are in the best early punk tradition. There is a wide range of topics covered, including perhaps better forgotten school days (“Archive From 1959”), culture (“Cowboys Are Square”, “We Hate The Fuckin’ NME”), and touching family relations (“The Day I Beat My Father Up”). There is even a Christmas song (“Christmas 1979”), but be forewarned, it’s not a happy Christmas song; I don’t think most families will be singing “Merry fucking Christmas to you all” around the holiday table! But I’ll give Billy this: I’m sure he’s in no danger of getting an ulcer; if something is bothering him he gets it off his chest.

Probably my favorite track is “Joe Strummer’s Grave.” I will admit I was a bit apprehensive when I first saw the song title, but once I heard the state-of-the-nation vitriol I felt Joe would be proud. When I see live versions of the song, Billy often starts off with a little “London’s Burning” reference, but the guitar riff reminds me more of the Clash song “1977”. Regardless, it’s amazing. 

With this compilation you get a lot for your money. It’s a fantastic collection and will likely motivate you to seek out more Childish music. And if you need any evidence that punk is not dead, this is it.

London Calling: AET in the UK

I had the opportunity to take a short trip to London in October and want to share three music-related experiences from my trip.

Mike Kelly’s Channel One Channel Two and Channel Three at the Tate Modern

When I reached the second floor of Tate Modern I could hear loud hum off in the distance. I instinctively followed the sound and it led me to this room:

I found this piece very compelling. There were simple drone noises being played. Some would call it noise, but it was music to my ears. The long “boxes” you see converged around a point where you could stand, listen, and (of you were willing to bend and contort a bit) look into the end of each “channel,” where there were colored lights. I enjoyed participating with this work myself, and also watching others take it in.  I was so pulled I had to make a second stop here before leaving.

I didn’t know anything about Mike Kelley until I got home. I have since discovered that, among many other endeavors, he was a musician (including as a member of Destroy All Monsters) and Sonic Youth used his art for the cover of “Dirty.”

Rough Trade West

I had to get to Rough Trade Shop! I went to the “old” store off Portobello Road. It was everything I could have hoped. The staff were friendly and helpful, there was interesting music discussion, and those walls! (See my facebook page for some detailed photos.) I picked up a few CD’s – some of those fantastic Rough Trade compilations, of course! They also helped me figure out how to get to my next desired destination. Not only did they explain which tube station to start and end, I was given important information that helped me find the…

Joe Strummer Subway

It was a very good tip that a subway in the US is not the same as a subway in the UK. A UK subway is an underground walkway. This information helped me locate the Subway dedicated to Joe Strummer.  According to the Strummerville website, this is the subway where Joe used to busk (near Edgware Road and Harrow Road). There was supposed to be a Subway Gallery down the stairs. I saw the structure for this gallery, but it was closed up. Not sure if it’s not currently in use or was just closed that day. Regardless, I’m a huge Clash fan and a huge Joe Strummer fan, so I was still excited to see this place in particular and to absorb some of area.

The Normal: Letting the Signal Run Through My Veins

The Normal only put out one 7” single, but what a single! I was in high school when it came out. Musically, things were “in the air,” but it was tough to fully understand from my suburban Buffalo home. At the risk of coming across like a cranky old man (“why, back in my day…”), when I was young we had no internet, no easy access to information. That’s neither good nor bad; it’s just the way it was but it sometimes took time to figure out what was going on. Many of us were piecing things together clue by clue, slowly discovering the punk/post-punk landscape.  For me, The Normal was a huge piece of the puzzle.

In my high school filmmaking class, one of the class groups made a short film soundtracked by the song “TVOD.” One of the guys involved with that film group had a musician older brother, who probably filtered the song down to him. When they showed their video to the class I was immediately awed; not by the images, but by the “weird” music. It was one of the strangest things I had ever heard, but it somehow spoke to me. After class I asked what it was. Clued in, I headed to the record store at my first chance and picked up my own copy.

“TVOD” is a mix of electronic sounds and spoken lyrics about, perhaps predictably based on the title, overdosing on television. The song is driven by a primitive repetitive electronic beat. There are several short but upbeat electronic melody lines woven throughout, contrasted by the vocals which are deadpan but also somewhat defiant sounding. It also includes a couple breaks where everything drops out except that relentless rhythm, replaced by sampled “channel surfing.” The song ends with a long test pattern tone…or is that a heart monitor indicating no more beat?

The flip side, “Warm Leatherette,” was even stranger sounding to my inexperienced ears. A driving electronic beat, very similar to the “TVOD” rhythm, carries the song; repetitive bursts of industrial electronic sounds repeat throughout. It’s relentless and machine-like. I later figured out the lyrics were inspired by J.G. Ballard’s novel “Crash.” At the time, I had no idea; I just knew they were violent and somehow sexual and disturbing. "Hear the crushing steel, feel the steering wheel." It was like music from another planet.

You may know that Daniel Miller, who was The Normal, also formed Mute Records (which, as an aside, has one of the all-time great label logos) and released many things through that label that became personal favorites (Fad Gadget, D.A.F., Nick Cave, and a little band called Depeche Mode, among others). With my ears properly awakened, I went on to explore many new things like Cabaret Voltaire, Throbbing Gristle and OMD. That moment in school was a memorable and formative event in my life. Glad I didn’t skip class that day!

Girl Talk: Fun with Illegal Art

The reference in my title above is to the name of the label that released Girl Talk’s “All Day” album in late 2010. But it could also have been phrased as a question – is this illegal art? It’s a question because “All Day” is an hour-plus music mix that includes samples of hundreds of songs by other artists. There continues to be some controversy whether this is “legal.” There are some very interesting articles out there arguing both sides if you feel like searching and reading a bit. My intention today is not to discuss those arguments, but to talk about the music. I’ll leave it to the lawyers and music industry to sort out; “All Day” is still available almost two years after its release, so for my purposes I’m assuming it’s legal.

What I do know definitively about “All Day” is that it is an absolute blast to listen to, especially for my fellow music geeks (and you know who you are!). It reminds me of the old radio station slogan: “We play the best music of the seventies, eighties, nineties and today.” But, in fact, there are samples going back to the fifties and traveling right through to the release date; the music styles and types of artists represented are extensive, to say the least.. The whole thing kicks off with a Black Sabbath riff and a then strong dance beat, and you are off! There are usually two or three samples going at any one time, and they often would not seem to “match” if you saw the names on paper (for just one example, Fugazi’s “Waiting Room” and Rihanna’s “Rude Boy”). But they do match here.

I see on the Illegal Art site that you can download this as one long piece of music, or they have it broken up into a number of tracks. The best way to listen, though, is definitely as one track. I love picking out the individual songs and artists, but ultimately get lost in the music itself. It brings a smile to my face whenever I get the chance to listen to it, and I still laugh at some of the juxtapositions. It would probably also work as a good name-that-tune game with your friends.  It’s so well done that even songs I don’t necessarily like are enjoyable in this mix (Cyndi Lauper and A Flock of Seagulls – I’m looking at you!). There are lists out there of all the samples, but what’s the fun of looking that up? Just let it spill out of your speakers.

One other way it usually impacts me is it “re-raises” my interest in some of the artists sampled. Why just the other day that Depeche Mode sample motivated me to go pull out “Speak & Spell.” Maybe it will send you looking for something in your music collection that you’ve overlooked for awhile, or out to buy something new.  Anyway, “All Day” is FREE so check it out and see what it does for you! See my Links and Bargain Bin pages to find it, but below is the “first track” to give you a taste:

The Flying Lizards: How Lo-Fi Can You Go?

If you know the The Flying Lizards, you likely first became aware of them from their cover version of “Money (That’s What I Want),” a wonderfully deconstructed take on the original. Their self-titled first album includes this “hit” but is also a wonderful venture into lo-fi recording.

 

Aside from the “Money” there are two other covers included. The album kicks off with a, let’s call it, “spirited” version of “Mandalay Song” by Bertolt Brecht. That’s an unusual choice to open an album to be sure, unless it’s some sort of Brecht-themed album which this is definitively not. And then there is Eddie Cochran’s “Summertime Blues,” with deadpan vocals and sparse instrumentation that seems to be barely able to keep up with the beat. The song doesn’t end so much as fall apart.

The original songs tend to be more low-key and less focused than the covers but include some nice bass (a couple times moving clearly into dub territory), spare drums, and a female vocalist who often sounds like she’s afraid of the microphone. Overall it gives the impression of someone who listened to a Lee “Scratch” Perry production once and decided to give it a go. As an added bonus, after several songs end there are slight sounds of movement and extraneous noise (voices, doors). Hey, someone forgot to turn off the tape!

Does all this sound like a disaster? For me it’s quite the opposite. It’s certainly off the beaten path, but it’s funky, dubby, disjointed, weird and wonderful!

Prince: He Rocks, Therefore He Is

It can be difficult to keep up with an artist as prolific as Prince. He was particularly busy releasing material in the mid-late 90’s (including “Emancipation” - a triple album, and “Crystal Ball” – a four or five disc set, depending on which version you picked up). There is one album from that time that I believe may have gotten a bit lost in the shuffle but is worth tracking down: “Chaos and Disorder.”

At some point the relationship was in trouble. Who knows why? Both sides have their reasons. But by the mid-90’s Prince wanted out. I’m talking, of course, about Prince’s relationship with his record label. They worked out a separation and Prince had to deliver one more album; “Chaos & Disorder” was the result. With that background you might not expect much – he probably could have phoned one in, but I think it’s one of the most fun albums in Prince’s lengthy discography.

It features songs that, while not necessarily breaking new territory, show off Prince’s many strengths. Songs about girls and sex? Check. Spirituality and faith? Check. Lots of guitar rockin’ and funkin’? Check. There are several “kiss off” tracks too, perhaps directed at someone he knows…perhaps a certain label?

Some of the highlights include opener “Chaos and Disorder”; a rocker with some state-of-the-nation lyrics, smoking guitar, and an infectious organ groove in the background. “Right the Wrong” gets a little goofy – Prince faking sort of a country accent at the beginning. It makes me laugh every time hearing Prince sound so loose. “Zannalee” is an energetic song about a sexy girl (I know…surprise, right?); it’s another suggestive/sleazy song as only Prince can do. Here he throws in a little Minnesota accent at the end for good measure. “Dig U Better Dead” and “Had U” are the two main goodbye-with-venom tracks that round things out.

I would suggest that if you are a fan of “Sign ‘O’ the Times” (and really, why wouldn’t you be?), you will really enjoy this record. If this one passed you by, I highly recommend seeking it out.

Julian Cope: A tale of two cities.

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…okay, that’s overstating it. I was fortunate to see Julian Cope live twice in 1987 when he was touring his “Saint Julian” album. (As an aside, this is a fantastic album which is almost impossible to find. Why is it not available?!?) I had followed him with The Teardrop Explodes and loved the three solo albums he had released to this point.

The first show was at the Felt Forum in NYC where he and his band opened for Siouxsie and the Banshees. The crowd was somewhat indifferent to his performance, as crowds often are to opening acts. The band pushed through in workman like fashion. Near the end of the set he played his song “World Shut Your Mouth” which was certainly his best known song in the US at the time. A friend I was with said he thought most of the crowd didn’t know who Julian was, but when “World” started there was a rise of recognition. Regardless, the consensus of the crowd seemed to be “bring on Siouxsie.” I was happy to see JC, but was somewhat uninspired under the circumstances.

About a week later I saw he was headlining a show at a club in Philadelphia; I was hoping Julian would be “recalled to life.” (Keeping with my vague theme, that one was for you English majors out there!) I thought this would be a better situation – the club would be more intimate than the Felt Forum, I’d likely see an unabridged set, and, as the headliner, there would likely be a more appreciative crowd. This did, in fact, turn out to be the case, although the evening got off to an odd start.

When we arrived at the venue and the club was filled with middle-aged people wearing 50’s clothing (poodle skirts, etc.). They were dancing to oldies music that was apparently being broadcast live from the club on a local radio station. I thought I was in the wrong place or was there on the wrong night. The doorman confirmed we were in the right place. He said this was a weekly event and that the oldies crowd would clear out as soon as the broadcast was over. He was right; they moved out quickly and the Cope fans moved in.

It was a relatively small crowd (maybe 100 people) but it was fantastic from a fan’s perspective – up close and personal.  Julian and band did a full and energetic set; they fed off the crowd and we fed off them.  I most strongly recall a powerful version of “Reynard the Fox,” but it was a fantastic show from beginning to end. Afterwards, the band (sans Julian) wandered out for drinks and mingled with the crowd. They were great guys and seemed appreciative that we were there.

One odd fact about this tour was that Julian had an unusual microphone stand built. It had “steps” and allowed him to climb and twist and writhe throughout the set. It was kind of mesmerizing. You can get a taste of it in this video:

And if you haven’t followed Julian’s career since the 80’s (or didn’t know of him before now!), I’m happy to report he has continued to put out interesting music and had pursued other artistic and intellectual endeavors. His website is a fun and interesting place to spend some time.

Bo Ningen: Intense psychedelic spectacle.

On their website, Bo Ningen describe themselves as “Enlightenment activists from far east psychedelic underground.” Later they say “Being ‘psychedelic’ means to us that stand quietly/loudly in the middle of interzone and stare at both sides at once.” Got it?

For a perhaps more pedestrian description, I would describe them as heavy, psychedelic, noise, Yoko, Pixies, Sabbath and Sonic Youth stirred together and heated in a wok. The four band members all hail from Japan but apparently met in and are based in London.  Although it’s a few years old, their debut EP “Koroshitai Kimochi” would be a good place to start if you’re interested in a first taste of this band; it’s an intense trip.

 

The four tracks have lots of loud/quiet dynamics. Lyrics are (I think!) all in Japanese, but understanding them is not essential to enjoying the music.  “Koroshitai Kimochi” comes on like Sabbath but quickly moves into more intense territory. “Psychedelic Misemono Goya” adds some spacy guitar. The third (and longest) track, “Atami,” is a ride. It starts more slowly and atmospheric with gentle echoing guitar. The sound builds slowly and kicks up about half way in to more of a guitar freak out, then for the last couple minutes things suddenly go quiet again. Finally, on “Maguro,” the feedback starts and we’re back to the heavy intense guitar. This one is almost punk at times. Overall, lots of great sounds and elements throughout.

Visually when they are performing they are also very captivating …check them out!

  

Do you remember your first?

When I look at my extensive music collection, which has evolved over decades and incorporates everything from vinyl and cassettes to cds and mp3s, I’m sometimes amazed how often I can recall something about the circumstances when I acquired a particular item. Some things I’m not surprised I remember  -  I mentioned my interest in the Dischord box set and my generous friend Dean sent me his copy - my friend Tom got Nick Cave to autograph “Henry’s Dream” and sent it to me. Of course I would remember those things! But why would I remember buying that Minutemen record at Tower Records in NYC, or that I picked up “Give ‘Em Enough Rope” used at Home of the Hits in Buffalo, both over 25 years ago? I’ve made no effort to retain this information, but it’s there somehow - more often than not.

I’m not sure where first record purchases should fall on the memory spectrum, but I distinctly remember the first three records I bought. I don’t recall the exact order, but I’m positive these were the first:

J. Geils Band - “Live Full House”

This is still one of my favorite live albums, full of energy and fun. The highlight for me is “Whammer Jammer”, a crazy harmonica jam, but it’s full of great rock and blues tunes. While this is advertised as a live album, and the performance certainly is live, I’ve always wondered why they put the word “Live” in quotes by itself on the cover. The crowd noises do sound to me a little bit edited in at times. I guess it doesn’t matter, but why is that queen on the cover winking at me?

Edgar Winter Group - “They Only Come Out At Night”

A great collection of rock songs and ballads, but also a little funk and country thrown in, capped off by the full version of “Frankenstein.” It’s a somewhat strange mix of styles, but it works. And speaking of album covers, I always found the cover photo a little creepy. But maybe that’s just me.

Chicago - “V”

I love early Chicago. They started their recording career with three double albums and then a four disc live album. Who does that? But they had a great mix of pop, jazz, funk, avant garde and other interesting influences too numerous to mention. They wrote political songs, rock guitar freak outs, and top 40 hits. This, obviously their fifth, was a great distillation of all their interests. It was a single LP which probably forced them to harness things in a bit, which resulted in a strong collection of songs. If there is anyone who doesn’t know Chicago (although that’s hard to imagine), this is where I would recommend they start.

What I did not recall until I looked it up is that all three of these records were released in 1972. I bought them when they came out, which dates me a bit. But all three were good purchases – I still listen to them! Of course, I now have all three in mp3 form, as part of my ongoing vinyl replacement project, but that’s another story.

So what were your first(s), or what stories do you remember?

Makunouchi Bento – Let’s go for a Swimé.

Makunouchi Bento is Felix Petrescu (a/k/a Waka X) and Valentin Toma (a/k/a Qewza). I’ve seen this Romanian duo’s music described (by themselves and/or others) as experimental, electronica, soundscapes, ambient, IDM, and/or cinematic. Pick your favorite; I’ll just describe it as excellent! Specifically today I want to talk about “Swimé.”

I first heard of this band when they were tipped by on the emusers site (see Links page) in early 2011.  “Swimé” was something MB released in 2010 and it’s one of the most interesting things I’ve heard over the last couple years. Believe it or not, the cover art does a fairly good job of describing the music:

But I can’t let it go at that! The sound is a dense mix of natural and electronic sounds. At various times you hear many things including water, percussion, accordion, piano, and electronics. But there is much more to it than individual instruments and noises. To me it overall feels like what it might be like taking a boat trip through a swampy forest, almost as pictured on the cover art. While sometimes it’s somewhat ominous sounding or otherworldly, there is also subtle humor sprinkled in; from some of the song titles (“Cruise for a Corpse” or “Languid Fogfish”) to some of the sounds (Was that a cuckoo clock? Was that a cat?).

So overall it’s a challenging and fun musical collage but, importantly, it’s not so abstract that it cannot be easily enjoyed. Take the plunge, give it a listen, and see where it takes you.

You can download Swimé at this link. I also have a link to the band website on my Links page. Most of the Makunouchi Bento music out there (and there is a lot of it to explore) is free, although they have recently set up a “pay what you want” model. I encourage you to send something their way so they can keep releasing great music!

James: Young boys melt into men.

The fresh energy of the “Village Fire” EP by James jumps out of speakers. You likely know James more polished and, at times, commercial sound (“Laid”, “Sit Down”, “Born of Frustration”), but this EP (which simply collected their first two single releases) catches them in their early days bursting with ideas.

These five songs always provide an exciting ride. While you would probably say it is folk-influenced at its core, the bouncy bass lines and bright ringing guitars take the music elsewhere. These tracks don’t have any real sing-along choruses, but there is lots of clever word play and humor throughout. (One favorite from “Folklore”- which seems to mostly be from the perspective of a boy absorbing advice and observations and trying to make sense of growing up - “…and women are a plaything that are just made for men, to treat how the boss he respect treats him…”) . A couple times (especially on the final song “Hymn From A Village”) singer Tim Booth sounds like he’s on the verge of becoming unhinged, but he hangs on and the tracks end before anyone gets hurt.

The whole EP is over in less than 13 minutes, but it’s a breath of fresh air. I’ve added this EP to the Mission to Mars list, but here’s one of the tracks if you would like a sample:

 

The Replacements: Hootenanny, but not a hootenanny.

The Replacements came to Buffalo on a cold night in 1984 during the tour for their album "Let It Be." But the flyers played off their last album and said “It's a Hootenanny with The Replacements.” The show was sponsored by the mighty record store Home of the Hits (RIP!). I knew the owner, and my roommate also worked there at the time. They asked me to handle two jobs that night – deliver food to the band and work the door. Not usual work for me but, sure, why not?

For the band dinner, subs and chicken wings were the fancy plan. The venue was in a club – not a huge place – and I found the band sitting at the bar (big surprise for everyone reading this, I’m sure). I delivered their meal and noticed the boys were all dragging and looked really worn down. I was not left with high hopes for much of a show.

 

A bit later I manned my place at the door. This was the first and only time I worked a door for a concert. I am proud to report I did not let this lofty position go to my head. Everyone was treated fairly and, more importantly, I didn’t need to rough anyone up! (Not that I could have manhandled people anyway, but still…) In addition, the room configuration was such that my view of the band from the door was really good.

When the ‘Mats took the stage, they had much more energy than I would have expected after seeing them a few hours earlier. This was one of those (good) legendary shows you hear about The Replacements. They were fun and raucous and sloppy and, aside from playing their own stuff, got into things like TV theme songs (Green Acres, for example) along with other silliness. All in all it was a great show.

But there was one incident that only I witnessed since I was still technically working. Once the show had started, traffic at the door had dwindled as you would expect; most everyone who wanted to see the show was already there. About half way through a single guy shows up with a banjo case. He stands in the door for a few minutes watching the band, looking perplexed.  He finally comes up to me and says “I thought there was a hootenanny here tonight.” I explained that the band had an album called “Hootenanny” and his face just dropped. He walked off quietly into the crisp, dark night. In retrospect, had banjo man stuck around, I wouldn’t have been shocked to see The Replacements invite him up on stage at some point as the evening devolved.

Spoons: This nova won’t burn out.

I first became familiar with Spoons because, although I lived in the US, I often listened to the great radio station CFNY out of Toronto in the early 80’s. There are probably two main reasons why that led to my exposure to Spoons. First - there were “Canadian content” rules for the broadcasters to our north which required a certain amount of music be played by Canadian artists. Second - this Burlington, Ontario band produced a lot of good music that deserved to be heard! But, by far, my favorite record of theirs was their 12” disc of their popular song “Nova Heart.” The B-side was “Symmetry” and it’s similar high quality to the A-side.

 

“Nova Heart” to me expresses awe at some of the things man has created in this world, but ultimately takes comfort in the embrace of the universe. The instruments are a mix of electronic (drum machine, synths) and standard bass, guitar and drums. They build the danceable drama and maintain the appropriate feel throughout to perfectly complement the lyrics.

“Symmetry,” gives “Nova Heart” a run for its money. It’s perhaps a little more pop sounding and a little more musically upbeat, but definitely in the same vein. The lyrics offer encouragement that although things may go bad at times they will ultimately turn around for you. Both songs leave me with feelings of hope and comfort every time I hear them. So do yourself a favor - go to your favorite music site and spend two dollars to download these two tracks.

I should also mention that Spoons are very much a going concern. They have a nice website which includes lots of band history, news, and some free downloads of live shows. My Links page will get you there.

Carbon/Silicon: That Mick Jones sure stays busy.

Since his time playing in THE greatest band of all time early in his career, guitarist Mick Jones has stayed very busy with many varied music activities over the years – from leading Big Audio Dynamite right after leaving the Clash to producing to, more recently, playing with Gorillaz. But do you know about Carbon/Silicon? It’s a band he put together with Tony James (formerly of Generation X and Sigue Sigue Sputnik) shortly after the turn of the century.

As their website says, they “see the internet as the saviour of creativity – not its downfall.”  Embracing the digital world, C/S has offered much of their music free through their website (at least for a time when it’s first created). They have also released physicals CD’s and most of their output is currently available for download from the usual suspects.

I’m happy to report that Mick can still write a catchy tune, seemingly effortlessly. While Mick and Tony are the primary creative force behind the band, it’s recorded as a basic four-piece rock combo. I have some very minor quibbles that a good producer might fix (tighten up a lyric here and there, and perhaps shorten a few tunes), but overall Mick still has a lot to say and their music is a lot of fun.

They have released a fair amount of music and gigged over the years, although no specific plans are currently reported on their website. I’m not sure what their future holds; maybe they don’t know either:  “Who knows what the future holds for us?… Stay in the Game, learn the new rules and be ready for tomorrow…” Sounds like a good plan for all of us.

Homage to Pillows & Prayers

The cover of the Matador sampler on the left appears to be a nice little homage to the famous Pillows & Prayers compilation on the right (issued 30 years ago by Cherry Red Records). No Atilla the Stockbroker on the Matador sampler, but there is some good stuff nonetheless. Nice job Matador! (See my the Cut Out Bin page for the Matador link - as I write this the Matador sampler is free at Amazon.)

 

Jim Carroll: “All my friends are dead dead dead!”

A few years ago (OK…quite a few years ago) I was visiting NYC. It was a beautiful and sunny Spring Monday and I wandered around town with no particular place to go. At some point I came across a small city park. I picked up a can of cold Foster’s Lager at a bodega across the street. The large Fosters can fit perfectly into a small paper bag they gave me at the shop, which apparently made it legal to drink on the street. (No one could possibly guess that I had alcohol in this plain brown wrapper, right?) There may have been a pretzel from a street vendor involved as well, but don’t quote me on that.

There was an old, ornate fountain in the middle of this park so I sat on the edge to enjoy my refreshment and people-watch for a bit. In what is probably an “only in New York” moment, a photographer wanders into the park with a beautiful model, a young female assistant, and a young guy to carry some equipment and (most importantly) handle a big reflector to help direct appropriate light when the model was being photographed. The set up was to have the model walk along the fountain ledge I was sitting on while being photographed. I offered to move but the photographer said “no, you’re fine,” so I stayed put and watched the proceedings up close.

They were ready to go fairly quickly and Reflector Guy got to work, standing in front of me directing the sunlight. People walking by started gathering on the perimeter to watch the proceedings. Suddenly I noticed Jim Carroll and his girlfriend walk up and join the crowd of other watchers. Reflector Guy noticed him at about the same time I did. He says to the photographer and the model “Look, it’s…it’s…” but he could not come up with the name. The photographer and model either didn’t know or didn’t care who Jim Carroll was, so Reflector Guy turns to the female assistant and says “You know him, right?” Her response was a blank stare, which I took to be a “no.” “You know” says Reflector Guy, more urgently, “all my friends are dead dead dead…all my friends are dead dead dead!” More blank stares from his whole group now. But in a moment of clarity he turns to me and says “What’s his name?” He must have sensed I would have the answer. “Jim Carroll” I stated calmly. 

“Yeah, Jim Carroll! All my friends are dead dead dead. He’s a big hero of mine!”

I’ll take him at his word on that, despite the fact that he couldn’t name his “big hero” and that he repeatedly misquoted his only well-known song, “People Who Died.”