Thursday, March 30, 2006

Documentary Rock

If you subscribe to Dish Network for satellite TV, you may have noticed the Documentary Channel. I recently discovered that a number of music-related documentaries are on their schedule. Among them are Gouge (the Pixies), Westway to the World (the Clash), Born 2 Boogie (Marc Bolan and T.Rex), The World from My Window (Ray Davies), I Promise to Remember (Frankie Lymon), and Brian Wilson on Tour.

You can also see Almost Elvis; Better Living through Circuitry; Bachata: Music of the People; Resistencia: Hip Hop in Colombia; and Girl Beat: Power of the Drum.

On the Documentary Channel website, a guy named Chris writes a blog. His favorite documentary films of 2005 included The Devil and Daniel Johnston, Punk: Attitude, We Jam Econo, and The Fearless Freaks. Maybe we can hope to see some of these films on the Documentary Channel this year. You can petition your cable provider to add the Documentary Channel from their website; and if you are a filmmaker, you can submit your own documentary.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Eating Dub for Breakfast

I got obsessive this week searching for cd's and mp3's from Adrian Sherwood's experimental dub label, On-U Sounds. A lot of the label's original releases are out of print, but there are numerous compilations out there, and some of the material was released on other labels (such as Cherry Red, Restless, and ROIR). What started me off was buying Creation Rebel's Threat to Creation from eMusic. It's an incredible amalgam of spacey dub and post-punk noise (courtesy of Keith Levene's guitar). There is a LOT of new and old dub on eMusic: look here.

Here is the On-U Sound/Pressure Sounds website. Here is a fan site with an extensive discography of On-U releases and Sherwood productions. Lots of mp3's from New Age Steppers, Mark Stewart and Maffia, and other rare On-U stuff is available here. A Radio 1 broadcast from 2002 in which Sherwood plays selections from new and old On-U projects is hosted here.

Several tracks from the Little Axe album Hard Grind are available at the Fat Possum site. Little Axe is the alias of Skip McDonald, who plays guitar with Tackhead and is featured on lots of On-U releases. The first Little Axe album, 1994's The Wolf That House Built, mixed atmospheric instrumentals with samples of old blues records five years before Moby's Play album. Adrian Sherwood has a few choice words about Moby in this interview. Other interesting Sherwood interviews are featured in XLR8R and at Uncarved. There will be new albums by Tackhead and Little Axe this year, and Mark Stewart and Maffia are playing European shows this month with Little Axe.

Strictly for My Homies in the ATL

Every city with a live music scene in every decade of the last half century has probably had at least one band whose records never captured the passion of their live shows. In Atlanta in the early 90's, Insane Jane was one such band. Even AllMusic can guess from their records that they were "one of those bands who excelled in their live shows, but... couldn't capture the essence of their live performances in the studio."

Atlanta had a hot scene at the time. Mary My Hope was getting press in England, and Follow for Now were on the verge of big things. Michelle Malone was on Arista, Seely was on Too Pure Records, and Toenut signed to Mute. Insane Jane released their two albums for local label Sky Records, but their live shows were the shit. If you saw Insane Jane at the Point (which is now a burger bar), or the White Dot (now a drycleaner), or the Center Stage (which still hosts shows as Earthlink Live), you could feel their fire. Tom and Yellow often looked like they were pissed off at each other, and they fed their passion and rage into their music.

So what happened? Yellow (the singer) married Josh Joplin. Drummer Tim Campion joined Smoke. Tom Branch still plays his Rickenbacker occasionally with the Pencil Dix. Dunno what happened to bassist Dave Roth, but he was a great singer in his own right. This song was part of a live broadcast on WREK. It's almost eight minutes long, and it's a medley that starts with Dave singing the 13th Floor Elevators classic "You're Gonna Miss Me" then segues into Insane Jane's own "Funtone", Patti Smith's "Rock and Roll Nigger", the MC5's "Kick Out the Jams", and another song I don't know the name of (maybe an Insane Jane original?)

I dedicate this post to Georgia bloggers Blank Crisis, Cable and Tweed, Confessions of a Music Addict, Drive a Faster Car, KISS Atlanta, Squirrel Food, What We All Want, and When Apes Rule the Earth; and the expatriate Georgians at An Aquarium Drunkard and More Sweet Soul. I bid farewell to Otherwise Unavailable, MonkeySARS, and Fat Asian Baby, all of whom have stopped blogging within the past week! Trees Lounge recently featured songs about Georgia.

Insane Jane: You're Gonna Miss Me

Thursday, March 23, 2006

No animals were harmed in the making of these jokes

If you don't read Warped Reality, you really should. It's more of an online music magazine than an mp3 blog, and Andrea posts new stuff as well as reprinting great interviews from her print magazine. This week, she posted a fantastic cover of the Fall's "Totally Wired", done in a dub reggae stylee. I can't stop listening to it.

Here's the joke that my brother keeps asking me to tell. He made it up.

Q. How do you turn a duck into a soul singer?
A. Cook it in the microwave until its bill withers.

Here's another one my brother made up:

Q. Who parted the Arctic Ocean?
A. Eskimoses.

And here's my favorite joke of all time:

Q. What happens when you forget to pay your exorcist?
A. You get repossessed.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Yacht Rock

I enjoy the music of the Futureheads and Maximo Park, and I generally agree with the influences that are cited in their reviews: XTC, the Jam, etc. But I was listening to an old Yachts record last week and started to wonder if the Futureheads and Maximo Park have heard the Yachts.

After their Stiff Records debut single, "Suffice to Say", the Yachts released two albums on Radar Records. Their self-titled 1979 LP, in particular, contains loads of catchy, energetic and clever pop songs. Singer and keyboard player Henry Priestman went on to the band It's Immaterial, briefly joined Wah! Heat, and finally found fame and fortune as a member of the Christians. Trouser Press calls his organ sound on the Yachts' records "cheesy". But listen to the vocal breakdown at 2:20 of "Love You Love You", and try not to think of the Futureheads. The chorus is brilliant:

I wouldn't climb any mountains for you
Ford any stream, that's a daft thing to do
Yes I'm cynical, cynical, cynical, cynical
Cynical, cynical, cynical through and through

The Yachts: Love You Love You

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Dirty Books and a Ford Cortina

Just got my copy of Simon Reynolds' excellent Rip It Up and Start Again, now in US paperback, which thoroughly examines the postpunk scene of 1978 through 1984. One surprise to me was Reynolds' description of the first Mekons album, The Quality of Mercy Is Not Strnen, as a failure that the band struggled to overcome. The album's production wasn't the greatest (the stereo panning of the drums is distracting), and the songs may have been less shambolic than the Mekons' early singles, but it's hardly a polished album. Reynolds may fault them for being untrue to their initial ideals, but the Mekons couldn't help but evolve into better musicians and songwriters. The album cover is a photo of a monkey at a typewriter (which helps to explain the title).

All I know is that I played the hell out of this record as a teenager. "Dan Dare" was right up there in my personal top ten with "Totally Wired" and "12XU". I loved Kevin Lycett's guitar, and the Mekons were clearly exploring the same sonic territory as the Gang of Four. Listening to the album again, I am struck by the personal stories the songs tell of infidelity and remorse ("Like Spoons No More", "Roseann"), social insecurity ("What" and "After 6"), and even eating disorders ("Beetroot"). The chapter in Rip It Up about the Leeds scene makes a great point of how bands like the Gang of Four and the Mekons saw the personal as political. I wish that the chapter contained more about the female-fronted bands on the scene (Ludus, Au Pairs, Essential Logic, and the Delta 5). Reynolds quotes Mekons singer Mark White as saying that he deliberately adopted a "wimpy" lyrical persona, a wonderful contrast to the macho bravado of bands like the Stranglers. Mark White's voice is part of what makes Mercy songs like "Roseann" and "Lonely and Wet" so moving.

Last year, the Mekons released an excellent 2cd career retrospective called Heaven and Hell. I was disappointed that The Quality of Mercy is not represented, especially when there are songs from such lesser albums as Devils Rats and Piggies and the Kathy Acker record. Maybe there were licensing issues. The Quality of Mercy was released on CD by Caroline (with six bonus tracks), but is now out of print. Here are two of the songs that moved me as a teenager. (If you left click on each file, it will download to your desktop.)

The Mekons: Trevira Trousers
The Mekons: Dan Dare

Monday, March 20, 2006

Exclusive Unreleased MP3!

The Oil Tasters are an Icelandic math folk collective led by identical twins who were discovered by their uncle, a traveling evangelist. Their subscription-only self-released CD is the first in a projected series of concept albums about painters. Pitchfork called it "post-rockist" (8.9), and their secret SXSW showcase was sold out. They will tour the states opening for the indie supergroup Clap Your Hands, I've Chosen Darkness.

In my last post on the Oil Tasters, I mistakenly identified them as a "Milwaukee trio" from an era known as "the 1980's" whose CD is available here . Sorry for the confusion. I assure you that this IS an exclusive mp3, unavailable elsewhere. I am using a new file hosting service, and if you left-click on the file name it will download.

The Oil Tasters: I'm Gonna Send You My Ear

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Dancing with the Architects

It's hard to write well about music. Translating into words what one senses with the ears is a task as elusive as "dancing about architecture", as Frank Zappa (NOT Elvis Costello) famously observed. When a good piece of music writing reaches the Underneathica HQ, deep within our prefabricated concrete coal bunker, we must take note; especially when the subject of said piece is a neglected band from decades past. Michael Keefe's article on the Sound, contemporaries of Joy Division and Echo and the Bunnymen, is well worth the visit to the online music zine PopMatters.

This week a jillion new bands will be blogged about from SXSW. I briefly considered attending, but who am I kidding? I guess I thought they might offer daycare. Among the many new groups are a few notable reunions, including Austin band Glass Eye (led by K. McCarty) and SF band Translator. I googled around and discovered that Steve Barton of Translator had a solo album last year that was well-reviewed. I also found out (through a customer review on Amazon) that Translator co-leader Robert Darlington is now a masseur in Baltimore. You can't make up stuff like that: you must trust in the truthiness of the internet. I was going to post some Translator mp3's, but my stereo and CD burner have me all frusticated. I'm sitting on a HOT SCOOP that I will share soon with you loyal readers (i.e., those of you who have read this far despite finding nothing to download). Sorry for the lack of posts lately; I've been working a lot of extra hours to save money for my trip next month to New Yawk. Plus my four year old has taken a sudden and passionate interest in playing computer games, so that ties up the home PC. I'll get back on track soon.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Do the Detroit Cobras Take Requests?

The Detroit Cobras are well known for performing covers of obscure rhythm and blues, garage rock, soul and girl group records from the 50's and 60's. I sometimes wonder if they have a dedicated musicologist on staff, or if they rely on record nerds and crate-diggers to suggest their material. Assuming the possibility of the latter, I would like to humbly submit a song for Rachel and Maribel to cover whenever they get around to making another record. It's not that obscure: "Hungry for Love" was originally performed by Johnny Kidd and the Pirates, but the version dear to my heart was recorded by the Revillos for their Rev Up album in 1980. I love the way Fay Fife tears into the chorus with her Scottish lilt, "WHAT's the use of WORRRRYIN', you don't care about the MOOOOOD I'm in". It's two minutes of pure pop bliss, and my mind's ear can easily imagine Rachel singing it Cobra-style. This isn't a purely hypothetical request; my best friend Chris says his bartender Pete knows people who know people in the Cobra braintrust, so I'm hoping that Chris can convince Pete that this song is worthy of their attention. While I'm at it, if anyone knows someone who knows Iggy Pop, can you ask him to cover Robyn Hitchcock's "America"? I think it would be a perfect song for Iggy's baritone.

Revillos: Hungry for Love

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Thelonious Monster Mash Note

Who drank so much that the Replacements avoided him? Who did so much smack that Shane McGowan thought he needed help? Who has completed a new solo CD that will hopefully see release this year? The answer to all of these questions is Bob Forrest, singer for Thelonious Monster and the Bicycle Thief.

There are good Thelonious Monster records and bad ones, and there seems to be an inverse ratio of quality to distribution. In other words, the major label Monster records are easier to find but not as good as 2004's California Clam Chowder or the first Thelonious Monster LP, Baby... You're Bumming My Life Out in a Supreme Fashion. I also recommend Bob's other band, the Bicycle Thief, which made one album, You Come and Go Like a Pop Song(which has been released twice, with different covers and tracks). Epitaph released Baby... on vinyl in 1986, and the Epitaph site says it is "coming soon" on CD (there are two mp3's available there). There was a Japanese CD, but it is out of print. Some of Bob's lyrics are extremely misogynistic and self-pitying, but he is also capable of painful honesty and self-deprecation.

"Try" is guaranteed to restore a smile to your face when you are bummed out in a supreme fashion. The lyrics are classic, and Dix Denney (ex-Weirdos) tears it up on the solo. KK Barrett from the Screamers also played guitar in this original lineup of Thelonious Monster. James Chance played on the album(and so did James White!) I used to try to sing like Bob Forrest in the car. I did a great cover of the Young Rascals' "Good Lovin'" in my Bob voice.

Thelonious Monster: Try from Baby... You're Bumming My Life Out in a Supreme Fashion

Thelonious Monster: Walk on Water from Next Saturday Afternoon

Bob's also done some spoken word and film stuff, which you can look at here. Bob's Myspace page features him singing an acoustic version of Guns & Roses' "Paradise City".

Friday, March 03, 2006

It's Yonki Time

This should be a big year for Tom Verlaine, with three albums planned for release, including a disc of new Television songs. When you think about Tom Verlaine (and you should), do you consider him an artist with a sense of humor? If you hesitate to answer, these tracks from his self-titled 1979 album should remove all doubt.

Today's post is dedicated to my in-laws, the Jahnkes. It has been said that it's always five o'clock somewhere. By the same token, I believe that somewhere, somehow, it's Jahnke Time.

Tom Verlaine: Mr. Bingo

Tom Verlaine: Yonki Time

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Evolution of a Grifters Song

I was late to discover the Grifters. In the process of acquiring records by the Grifters and Dave Shouse's subsequent bands, I found several versions of one of my favorite songs, "Spaced Out". The song first appeared on the final Grifters album, 1997's Full Blown Possession. Later I found a version on a Darla Records compilation that was credited to Those Bastard Souls, but which was in fact Dave Shouse singing and accompanying himself on electric guitar, which leads me to wonder if it may have been recorded as a demo prior to the Grifters album.

Those Bastard Souls: Spaced Out

Below is the version I heard first and still love best, from Full Blown Possession. There are a number of Grifters songs in 3/4 time (or maybe 6/8, I never understood the difference), which gives them a sort of old-timey feel (despite the druggy lyrics). In my mind, I can make a mashup of this song by grafting on the synth line from the Who's "Love, Reign O'er Me". Not that the song needs anything more.

The Grifters: Spaced Out

Those Bastard Souls was originally a vehicle for Dave Shouse's home recordings, as documented on the excellent album 20th Century Chemical (1996). Shouse recruited a band to tour and record with, and the results are documented on the second Those Bastard Souls album, Debt and Departure (1999). Shouse reworks several of the songs from 20th Century Chemical, and he revisits "Spaced Out" as a piano ballad, which opens up the rhythm but makes the song so somber as to become pretentious. Debt and Departure is a lot like the first few Paul Westerberg solo albums. (Don't turn up the volume, wait til the piano starts.)

Those Bastard Souls: Spaced Out

Dave Shouse now leads the synth-heavy Bloodthirsty Lovers. I respect the man's talents, and I love his voice. I'm not going to be one of those fans who whines about the Grifters breaking up, especially since I missed out on them when they were together. But I do wish he would step away from the keyboard and bring back the rock.