They can't take that away from me
Standing in line with the other geeks to get my CD signed, I thought about what I would say to (artist). I wanted to tell (artist) how much her song meant to me. I also wanted to confirm what I thought her song was about. But what if I was wrong? That's what happened when I met (other artist). "No, that's not what I wrote my song about. But that's an interesting interpretation," he said politely. And the meaning of his song, once full of the personal significance that I had imagined for it, was suddenly and forever lost to me.
So I decided against asking (artist) whether her song was about (subject). That way the mystery, and the meaning, remain intact. Anyway, (subject) is so personal, and (artist) and I are strangers, though I feel I know her through her songs. Best not to spoil my own illusions.
Heatmiser: Antonio Carlos Jobim
Two Headed Cow! Two Headed Cow!
Don't forget to teeevo the Documentary Channel tonight for the Dexter Romweber/Flat Duo Jets documentary, Two-Headed Cow (you can see it on Dish Network; or on cable if you're in NYC, Nashville, or Denver). You can also download some of the channel's documentaries (which include features on the Clash, Bowie, and Bruce Haack) for $1 to $3 from Google Video.
My wife and I were watching Athens GA Inside/Out last week. Mrs. der Neathica saw the singer for Time Toy and said she remembered partying with that dude. Then she saw Dexter Romweber tearing it up with the Flat Duo Jets, and she said, "Somebody should do a 'Where are they now' thing on that guy.'" Somebody did, I replied.
Her comment should tell you two things: first, that my wife is a smart and perceptive individual. She harbors no illusions, and she's worldly-wise. Second, her comment tells you that she doesn't read my blog. Maybe that should tell me something.
The bands Time Toy and the Squalls (both featured in Athens GA Inside/Out) will be playing AthFest this summer (June 20 to 24).
Devine and Statton: Bizarre Love Triangle (1989)
Ludus: The Escape Artist (1982)
After the Young Marble Giants broke up, the Moxham brothers formed a band called the Gist, and YMG singer Alison Statton joined a hard-to-google group called Weekend. She also collaborated on two albums with Ian Devine, a fellow Cardiffian and former guitarist of the Manchester group Ludus.
Trouser Press pointed out that Devine and Statton reimagined "Bizarre Love Triangle" as an acoustic ballad four years before the Australian group Frente had an alt-rock hit with an identical arrangement of the New Order song.
Ludus seem to be forgotten by almost everyone except Morrissey and the fine folks at the LTM label, who have reissued some of the band's albums and compiled an excellent overview of their work called The Damage. Ludus singer Linder Sterling is better remembered as a visual artist (she created the collage on Buzzcocks' "Orgasm Addict" single). She has been a photographer and confidante of Morrissey for many years.
The music that Linder and Ian Devine made together was experimental and highly ambitious, straddling the genres of post-punk, pop and jazz, with a distinctly feminist lyrical perspective. I've chosen one of their more accessible tracks, simply because it is my favorite Ludus song; but be forewarned that the going gets weird. Read more about Ludus here. Buy Ludus music from Darla Records or on eMusic.
Young Marble Giants: Brand-New-Life
Young Marble Giants: Final Day
Among last week's list of my top 25 independent records was the Young Marble Giants' 1980 album, Colossal Youth. YMG will reunite for a single show in Wales later this month, and Domino Records is giving their music a deluxe three-disc reissue, which will include the Testcard EP, demos, and tracks recorded for a Peel Session. Tiny Mix Tapes has the track list. The release date is September 11. Oh, Domino.
If you've only ever heard YMG songs butchered by the likes of Hole ("Credit in the Straight World") or Belle & Sebastian ("Final Day"), the sound of the Welsh trio will be a revelation. The bright and clipped guitar and bass, backed by simple drum machine patterns, suggests New Wave, but only on paper. Alison Statton's emotive but mannered vocals and the band's unique lyrics and tunes set Young Marble Giants apart in a timeless world of their own.
More great reissue news: an expanded version of Pylon's 1980 debut album will be released on CD by DFA Records. Gyrate Plus has been in the works for two years, and no street date has been announced, but the project has found a home at the label of LCD Soundsystem. Pylon too employed bright and clipped guitar and bass tones, but Pylon's songs were purpose-built for the dancefloor. Their walloping drums and Vanessa's uninhibited vocals were about as far as you can get from Young Marble Giants. To hear Pylon's music, get thee hence to Southern Shelter, which features a live show from the reunited Pylon, now self-described as a cover band playing their own songs. Among the Athens bands featured in the film Athens GA Inside/Out, most of which were trying to make it in the wake of REM's success, the members of Pylon were refreshingly indifferent to the prospect of success in the music industry.
Coincidentally, both of today's bands (Young Marble Giants and Pylon) were filmed in performance at the NYC club Hurrah's. Last time I heard from Tom Branch (Atlanta filmmmaker and guitarist from the bands Insane Jane, the Pencil Dix, and Legend of the Giant Squid), he was working on a Pylon documentary.
Aunt Annie's Alligator
After my brilliant post last week on bands with two drummers (which apparently stunned my readership into silence), I remembered that there is a band which has taken the double-drum thang to another level. It's Aa (pronounced Big A, little a), a band with three drummers!
Aa recently released their first album, GAame, which includes a full length CD plus a DVD with live footage and videos for each of the songs. Visit the Aa website to check out their discography and gig flyers (which feature fantastic artwork from one of their drummers, Aron Wahl). Aa frontman John Atkinson (who plays synths and shouts through a megaphone) has a blog that I used to frequent back when he was posting songs from the Fall.
The music of Aa owes a little to the Fall, in its severity and mystery, but Aa dispenses entirely with guitars. Is Aa the Big Pig of the Naughties? Let your own ears decide. Listen to Flag Day. You can hear another Aa track, and buy the album GAame, at Insound.
Go Go Harlem Nocturnal Emission Test Dept
I've mentioned the Documentary Channel here before. The channel is available on Dish Network, and it broadcasts a number of interesting music documentaries. This month DOC will be showing Two-Headed Cow, the story of Dexter Romweber and his band, the Flat Duo Jets.
David Gayton first filmed the Flat Duo Jets in the late 1980's as part of his documentary, Athens GA Inside Out. He followed the Flat Duo Jets (a duo composed of singer/guitarist Romweber and drummer Crow) for four years, shooting in black & white, convinced that they were the greatest live band in America. The film project ran out of money, and was revived only recently, after Gayton had done a couple of Hollywood films. Gayton reconnected with Romweber and completed the film, which "intercuts vintage footage with recent interviews & performances in a compelling then-and-now portrait of roots rocker Dexter Romweber, whose original band the Flat Duo Jets was one of the most influential bands of the last two decades and has been an inspiration for many other musicians from Cat Power to the Rev. Horton Heat."
While Rev. Heat, Mojo Nixon, SCOTS, and the White Stripes clearly owe a huge debt to the Flat Duo Jets, Romweber's influence on Cat Power is less apparent; but Chan Marshall is a huge fan and appears in the film, as do Jack White, Mojo Nixon, Neko Case, and Exene Cervenka. Two-Headed Cow will be broadcast on May 22 at 9pm EST, and on May 23 at 1am. Gayton's first film, Athens GA Inside Out, will be shown on DOC at 12am EST on May 13th.
Dexter Romweber released a solo piano cd last year (produced by Chris Stamey). He has also been performing on guitar with drummer Sara Romweber (late of Let's Active and Snatches of Pink). The Dexter Romweber Duo is presently touring Europe with Cat Power.
Buy music from the Flat Duo Jets and Dexter Romweber on eMusic. Romweber's official website has a discography of his recordings with and without the Flat Duo Jets.
Dexter Romweber: Rockin' Dead Man (from 2004's Blues That Defy My Soul)
Zebra with a Booty Rash
What's black and white and red all over? The answer to this riddle is hidden somewhere in today's post! Hey, have you seen the Montana state quarter? It's so metal!
A little bit of virtual housekeeping: I'm moving mp3's yet again, this time to DivShare. (Tip of the hat to Neal at Blank Crisis.) You can download this week's songs, and I'm gradually moving older songs that I had on eSnips. But waiting for mp3's to upload is more boring than waiting for mp3's to download.
I watched American Hardcore. I would have preferred more performance footage, and less reminiscing. But I guess it's all on Youtube. Someone makes the point in American Hardcore that the first wave of punk bands were formed by people who already knew how to play, but the hardcore punks formed bands and then learned to play. While this is being said, we see photos of early LA bands such as the Screamers, the Weirdos, and the Germs. But is there a better example than the Germs of a band that learned to play after forming (or after "Forming")?
The Atlanta Rollergirls have a match this Sunday: the Denim Demons versus two time ARG champs the Sake Tuyas. I have a great fundraising idea for the Rollergirls (or for anyone in Atlanta who will listen): someone should start punk rock aerobics in the ATL. I don't aerobicize, but I probably would if they'd play something other than hair metal at my gym. I'm trying to exercise and, you know, watch the carbs.
Hot Snakes: Think about Carbs
"The 25 Best Indie Rock Albums Ever" have been voted on and tabulated by Ekko's ekkcellent blog, Berkeley Place. I was working on my own list to submit, but I didn't finish it in time. I was supposed to call the plumber last week, too. Things just got in the way. Sorry ma, forgot to take out the trash.
It's hard to list the 25 greatest albums without including anything by Wire or the Stooges, but you could only vote for albums issued on independent labels.
My main gripe with the list is that only two of the "best ever" albums were released before 1990 (Surfer Rosa and Double Nickels on the Dime). My own "best ever" list is biased toward the period of time when I first started buying records that weren't on major labels. I know there's nothing here from the current decade. I thought about including Turn on the Bright Lights and Mass Romantic, or something by Hot Snakes, but I'd only be fooling myself. Here are the 25 albums on independent labels that mean the most to me. They expanded my idea of what music could be; they enhanced my enjoyment of good times with friends; they made my scalp tingle, and left me with that minty fresh feeling.
Chrome: Half Machine Lip Moves
Pere Ubu: Terminal Tower
Big Star: Radio City
Modern Lovers: Modern Lovers
Stiff Little Fingers: Inflammable Material
Young Marble Giants: Colossal Youth
Clock DVA: Thirst
Fall: Early Years 1977-1979
Replacements: Let It Be
Flesh Eaters: A Minute to Pray, A Second to Die
Dream Syndicate: The Days of Wine and Roses
Gun Club: Fire of Love
Violent Femmes: Violent Femmes
Black Flag: The First Four Years
Bad Brains: Bad Brains
Die Kreuzen: Die Kreuzen
Mission of Burma: Signals, Calls and Marches
Minutemen: Double Nickels on the Dime
Meat Puppets: Up on the Sun
Pixies: Surfer Rosa
Figgs: Low Fi at Society High
Elliott Smith: Elliott Smith
Jets to Brazil: Orange Rhyming Dictionary
Buy them all.
Gobbing on Babylon
I just finished reading Clinton Heylin's newest book, Babylon's Burning: From Punk to Grunge. The cover depicts Johnny Rotten and Kurt Cobain, and the book ends with Cobain's suicide. (I didn't know he shot himself while listening to Automatic for the People. It's a weak record, but that's going a bit far...)
The book actually begins in the early 1970's (pre-Pistols) with Lester Bangs, Suicide, and Television. The twenty pages that Heylin devotes to Radio Birdman and the Saints are among the strongest in the book. Music fans raised on mp3's and the internet (that's code for "you goddamn kids") may find it hard to imagine people like Rob Younger and Glen Matlock looking at posters and rock magazine reviews of Television's first single and being deeply influenced just by imagining how the music sounded.
Heylin expertly draws his story arc from NYC and Detroit to Australia, then to London, Manchester, Cleveland, LA, and SF, demonstrating the cross-pollination of musical ideas and emphasizing the importance of bands like Dr. Feelgood, the Subway Sect, the Ruts, and the Only Ones. He attempts to encapsulate the years and scenes covered in his own book, From the Velvets to the Voidoids, plus Please Kill Me, Our Band Could Be Your Life, We Got the Neutron Bomb, and Rip It Up and Start Again. The latter seems to be a thorn in Heylin's side; he ridicules Simon Reynolds as "Mr. Post-Punk" and writes that Reynolds has distorted the term post-punk to include "All The Music I Liked When I Was Young".
Heylin claims to be more objective than Reynolds and other authors on punk. He says that "a significant number of books misrepresent the period". Heylin does a decent job covering the American indie scenes of the 1980's, but his prejudices are clear. He obviously doesn't like hardcore (for example, he unfairly equates Greg Ginn with Jimmy Pursey). One factual error I noted: Heylin states that Bruce Pavitt founded Sub Pop in 1983 "as the title of a column in The Rocket".
Babylon's Burning is weakest at its conclusion: we are to believe that Cobain killed himself because he lacked the artistic honesty to write a song as maudlin and simplistic as "Everybody Hurts". Thanks, but no. Self-loathing and self-pity may be two sides of the same coin, but at least anger is an energy. Johnny said so.
Alberto y lost Trios Paranoias: Kill
Alberto y lost Trios Paranoias: Gobbing on Life
Make Mine a Double
I read the hype now and then about the new bands; I hate to think I'm missing something good. I was briefly excited about a new band called Wolf & Cub. First, because they are from Australia, a continent that has produced some brilliant rock music. Second, because there are two drummers in Wolf & Cub.
It is a tenet of blog-law that every article about Wolf & Cub must state that they have two drummers. Also, the writer is required to make a snarky comment about too many bands with the word Wolf in their name. Sadly, the third requirement of writing about Wolf & Cub is to complain that you can't tell that there are two drummers when you listen to their music. This I found to be true, based on the few songs that I heard.
The two drummer lineup dates back to the Dreadful Dead and the Allman Brothers. In the 1980's and 1990's, there were several groups with two drummers: Adam and the Ants, the Butthole Surfers, Beachbuggy, the Black Eyed Snakes, and the mighty Fall. During the years that original Fall drummer Karl Burns was accompanied by Pete Hanley (on drums) and Pete's brother Steve Hanley (on bass), the Fall made two of their most brilliant records: Hex Enduction Hour and Perverted by Language.
According to Wikipedia, "double drumming" may involve two drummers playing the same rhythm in unison, or one of the two may play lead drums, adding fills and counterpoints to the other drummer's basic rhythms. The hypnotic power of double drumming is made clear in the live tracks on the Fall's video Perverted by Language: Bis. The period in 1983 after guitarist Marc Riley quit, but before Brix joined, is documented on one Peel Session (disc two of the box) and on the PBL:B video with live performances of "Smile" (at the Speed Trials concert), "Tempo House" (at the Peppermint Lounge), plus a teasing snippet of "Hexen Definitive: Strife Knot". Guitarist Craig Scanlon locks into punishing grooves with Karl Burns and the two Hanleys.
The Fall: Smile (Peel Session, 1983)
Beachbuggy: Quarter Mile Machine (from Unsafe...at Any Speed)
Butthole Surfers: Cherub(live 1992)
Here is a UK TV performance of "Smile" with the two drummers, two Hanleys, and the two Smiths.