Thursday, June 29, 2006

The Feeling's Right

When Elliott Smith was alive, I used to wish that he would do a version of this Moon Martin song. In the late 1970's, Moon Martin was marketed as an American answer to Elvis Costello (the same thing the record companies did to John Hiatt). Check the bespectacled stalker look on the cover of his album Escape from Domination. A Rolling Stone writer called Moon Martin "a Woody Allen version of Warren Zevon". Moon's lyrics weren't as densely packed with wordplay as Elvis Costello's, but he shared Costello's air of nerdy menace.

John "Moon" Martin started his musical career in an Oklahoma rockabilly band. He moved to LA and was rumored to have been in an early lineup of the band that became the Eagles, but he wisely escaped that fate. His 1978 debut album, Shots from a Cold Nightmare, included the original version of "Bad Case of Loving You", which became a Top 10 hit for Robert Palmer. Moon himself had a Top 30 hit with "Rolene" in 1979.

If you can get past the double-tracked guitars and other 70's signifiers on "The Feeling's Right", you will find the heart of darkness in this song. The sound may smack of laid-back California country rock, but a sense of unease taints the sweetness of this forlorn ballad. The feeling clearly is NOT right, despite Moon's pleas for reassurance to the object of his affection (obsession?) I could easily imagine Elliott Smith's voice on lines like "How much do I pay to make it go away?"

Moon Martin: The Feeling's Right

Sunday, June 25, 2006

They're Just Jealous of My Ascertaination.

The Rival Schools album is kicking my ass. Aggressive, melodic, smart, innovative -- what more could I ask for? I totally missed out on the whole Gorilla Biscuits - CIV - Quicksand - Rival Schools axis. Coincidentally, the original Gorilla Biscuits lineup will be in Atlanta on July 29 (at Vinyl).

I like to pretend that the Rival Schools song "High Acetate" is called "I Ascertain", and that it's a song about the Kids in the Hall sketch where Bruce is fixated on a (s)certain word.

I hate to see an independent record store close, but that is the plan at Murmur (located in Norcross at the corner of Peachtree Parkway and Spalding Drive). They have marked all their new CD's and music DVD's way down, and they have hundreds of used CD's at $4 and $2. Right now they plan to stay open until the end of July, and their hours are noon to 8pm Tuesday through Saturday. Don't look for Rival Schools United by Fate, cuz I totally bought it already.

- Three posts with no mp3's to download?
- Aw, Mom, I'll post some mp3's tomorrow.
- You'll never grow to be a bigger blogger that way. All the big blogs post mp3's, but not MY son. He thinks people actually READ his blog (sigh of weary resignation).
- Aw, MOM!

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Wayne County Ramblin'

Today marks the DVD release of the film Wayne County Ramblin'. The cast includes many musicians: Iggy Pop, Mick Collins (Dirtbombs, Gories), Tav Falco (Panther Burns), Jeff "Monoman" Connolly (DMZ/Lyres), Cub Koda (Brownsville Station), Otha Turner, and Cordell Jackson. Nathaniel Mayer narrates. A soundtrack album featuring these artists and more is planned to follow the DVD.

Here are two interesting interviews with the director (Dan Rose) which describe the film and its inspirations. More information is available at the official website for the film.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Spaceseed and the Cocktail Girlz

Well, sweet honey iced tea! I just discovered that the seminal (geddit?) Atlanta band Spaceseed is still together, and will be headlining some type of prog-rock festival here in July at Eyedrum. I had no idea Spaceseed was still kicking out the, uh, space jams. They actually toured and recorded with their hero Nik Turner and another Hawkwind member.

I have vague memories of Spaceseed from almost 20 years ago. Lead guitarist John Pack used to front the Cocktail Girlz, and it seems like I saw a show at the White Dot where the Cocktail Girlz played first and were followed by Spaceseed. The Cocktail Girlz were like Atlanta's version of the (early) Red Hot Chili Peppers, but not entirely derivative of RHCP. They were a fun live band, and their shows attracted lots of women and lots of drag queens. Drag queens know good music, and they know where the party's at. The Cocktail Girlz' bassist went on to join Follow for Now (a/k/a Shoulda Been Huge).

I was also surprised to discover that Funtone has kept the Cocktail Girlz vinyl EP available, and there's a Cocktail Girlz video (plus some Spaceseed footage) online.

Thinking about my recent post on the Atlanta band Marcy, I began to wonder: did every major city have its own Pixies? Did each scene have its own Red Hot Chili Peppers? (I once saw Tim Kerr's band Bad Mutha Goose and the Bros. Grimm, or at least I think I did.) And does every city have its own band of Hawkwind devotees?

I also had a GREAT idea to capitalize on Pixies nostalgia and the wave of country and bluegrass remakes of rock songs: Pickin' on the Pixies! I better call a copyright lawyer. ("Sittin' here a-wishin' on a cee-ment floor, just a-wishin' that I had a little sumthin' you wore...")

ADDENDUM: The mp3 blog Something Old, Something New has serendipitously posted Hawkwind's version of "Motorhead".

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

I Bet You Look Like a Hood on the Dancefloor

At the request of nobody, I have a few more songs by the Dancing Hoods. I wrote about them here once before, noting that they were the first band of Mark Linkous (a/k/a Sparklehorse). Twenty years later, I still carry a torch for the Hoods, who combined lyrical smarts with trashy rock (e.g., NY Dolls) and power pop. "Freddy Mark" Linkous can really play guitar when he wants to.

Pleasure has a classic riff and some great lyrics, such as:

You're the not so obscure object of my desire
You're not the reason I dance, it's just my pants on fire

Impossible Years has some clever lines too:

Hit me with a flower, kiss me with a brick
Throw me up against a wall and see if I stick

Linkous wrote and sang the song Bye Bye Jim. I like this couplet:

I remember someone said to me,
To be a girl you gotta be a man.

The first three songs are from the 1985 album 12 Jealous Roses. The next two are from the Dancing Hoods' first record, a 1984 EP that was produced by Glenn Morrow. I like Mark's "Thunderous" solo at the end of Graveyard Shift. In my mind I can hear David Johansen singing along, "I need a fix and a KISS!"

I also dig Mark's lightning-fast rhythm playing on Not the Only One.


Tuesday, June 20, 2006

75 Dollars, 2 Dogs and a 4 Year Old

The Atlanta Rollergirls bout that I attended was amazing. I couldn't believe how many people came out on a Sunday night to suburban Stone Mountain to watch the Apocalypstix beat the Toxic Shocks. There were at least 500 adults and children there. The announcers are funny, the skaters have great stage names, and the $10 ticket gets you live music too! Those Rollergirls are fearless, and they have tremendous physical endurance. There is a women's roller derby team forming now in Athens. I'll be at the next Atlanta match, on July 9, when the Apocalypstix take on the Denim Demons. GO STIX!!!

I've been thinking about tough women. Not just physically tough, but tough in spirit. Thalia Zedek is tough. Before she joined Live Skull, she briefly led a band called Uzi. They had a member who manipulated tapes (Phil Milstein), just like Mission of Burma. "Ha Ha Ha" comes from the 1986 Uzi EP, Sleep Asylum, which came out after the band broke up. It's a gloriously noisy song, and it's great to play LOUD. "I left my KEYS in my PANTS, yeah!"

Marcy was an Atlanta band from the mid-90's. "Charlotte" was the b-side of their 1994 single. The a-side, "Pilot", also appeared on their self-titled 1997 album. After Marcy disbanded, lead guitarist Calvin Florian played in the bands Sugarsmack and Dropsonic. Singer-guitarist Lisa Fletcher briefly played bass with the Silent Kids. Drummer Brian Fletcher (Lisa's husband or brother?) is now in the wonderful Atlanta band Luigi. Luigi's bassist was also in the Silent Kids. And the music goes round and round...

Yes, I know Marcy sounds like the Pixies. In 1994, EVERYTHING sounded like the Pixies. Weezer and Spoon sounded like the Pixies. The Toadies' hit song "Possum Kingdom" sounded like the Pixies. Yer man from DFA was in a band called Pony that sounded like the Pixies. Even the country music on the radio sounded like the Pixies in 1994. Get over it. Marcy, take us downtown.


Friday, June 09, 2006

Separated at Musical Birth?

I was listening to some more old Figgs songs, and this one (a Young Fresh Fellows cover) reminded me of a character from another song. "She came down from the Ozarks, to the big city Memphis world." Is the "Hillbilly Drummer Girl" related somehow to the "Arse Kicking Lady from the Northwest" who came down from Kentucky with "a fresh pack of Luckies and a Bowie compilation tape", as described by the Australian band You Am I? The Ozark Mountains aren't in Kentucky, I know.

Is anyone in the Atlanta area going to the Atlanta Rollergirls bout this Sunday night? It will be my first time. The Toxic Shocks will battle the Apocalypstix, and Atlanta band the Swear will provide the halftime entertainment.

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Tuesday, June 06, 2006

More Documentary Rock

The Atlanta Film Festival starts this week. They will be screening a Ramones documentary called Too Tough To Die; plus documentaries on small town underground music scenes (Rural Rock and Roll), the Holy Modal Rounders, and Oscar Brown, Jr. And lots of features, shorts, animation, and documentaries unrelated to music.

I added a new blog to my blogroll called The Daily Reckless, which provides a song-by-song history of the Fall. So far they've posted tracks from the Short Circuit: Live at the Electric Circus compilation album, plus live and studio versions of "Dresden Dolls", "Industrial Estate", "Psycho Mafia" and "Bingo Master's Breakout". The person who is writing the blog seems to be a Mancunian who was there from the beginning. Great stuff for Fall fanatics!

Radio Birdman reunites, tours Australia and North America

The legendary Aussie punk band Radio Birdman has reunited and made a new record, Zeno Beach. They are presently touring their home continent with the BellRays, and will arrive in North America for a limited tour in August. The new album will be released here by Yep Roc on August 22.

Founding guitarist Deniz Tek is joined by singer Rob Younger and original Birdmen Pip Hoyle, Chris Masuak and Jim Dickson, plus Russell Hopkinson from You Am I on drums. I would love to be there to hear Rusty beating the tom-tom rolls on "Descent into the Maelstrom"!

The band plays LA 8/30 and SF 8/31. Then on to Seattle, Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland, DC, NYC, Cambridge MA, and Montreal. These will be Radio Birdman's first shows in North America. When the band first formed (over 30 years ago), Deniz Tek (a Detroit native) found like-minded Australian musicians who were into American pre-punk bands like the Stooges, the MC5, and Blue Oyster Cult. Sub Pop's anthology The Essential Radio Birdman is truly essential listening.

Here's a song from the 1987 vinyl release on Sire Records that didn't make it to the CD anthology. "Hit Them Again" was co-written by Deniz Tek and Ron Asheton of the Stooges. The fidelity of this track is not perfect, but if you've never heard the band it will give you an idea of their manic precision.

Friday, June 02, 2006

When Your Favorite Band Doesn't Break Up

More than any other band together today, I love the Figgs. I own everything I have been able to get my hands on by the band. I have seen them three times, including the show at the Point in Atlanta when they met Graham Parker, and a later show at the EARL where I stood in the audience between David Cross and a dwarf. No, I was sober.

There was a time when it seemed like the Figgs were going to conquer the world. After their phenomenal 1994 debut LP, Low Fi at Society High, they moved to Capitol Records for Banda Macho in 1996. The single “Girl Kill Your Boyfriend” didn’t sell, and they got dropped. On their next single, J Card, Mike Gent complained about a movie soundtrack deal that fell through and sang, “Do you ever think that we should pack it in?” No, please no! Don’t pack it in, I thought to myself.

Instead, the Figgs served as the backing band for Graham Parker on his “Last Rock and Roll Tour”, and performed new and old GP songs across the US. This tour was documented on a wonderful live CD released in 1997. They also started playing in other bands: Mike Gent in the Gentlemen; bassist Pete Donnelly with Mike Viola and the Candy Butchers; and drummer Pete Hayes with Steve Shiffman and the Land of Nod.

The Figgs Couldn’t Get High came out in 1998. It turned out to be a farewell for lead guitarist Guy Lyons. Once again, I hoped the band wouldn’t give it up. The Figgs were now a trio, and released For EP Fans Only in 1999, and really hit their stride with the full length Sucking in Stereo in 2000. Another full length called Slow Charm followed in 2002, and a two CD set called Palais in 2004.

The Figgs backed Tommy Stinson for a live tour in support of his Village Gorilla Head album, and they backed Graham Parker again for his 2005 Bloodshot Records release, Songs of No Consequence. Pete Donnelly also produced and played numerous instruments on the Death Vessel album (hello, hipsters!).

If you see a copy of Low Fi at Society High in a discount bin, pick it up. You will hear some great songs and manic playing in the vein of This Year’s Model and Joe Jackson’s first two albums. Guy Lyons was an incredibly reckless guitarist, influenced by Greg Ginn and Sonny Sharrock.

After Guy’s departure, the Figgs inevitably had to simplify. Mike can make a mighty noise on his Gibson SG (raise your hand if you’ve heard one of his freakouts on “Shut” or “Chevy Nova” at a Figgs gigg). But the songwriting and musicianship became more direct in their emotional impact. Sucking in Stereo is a terrific collection influenced by the white R & B and garage rock of the 1960's, especially the early Kinks. (The Figgs have covered both “Johnny Thunder” and “Village Green”.) The Figgs continue to make solid records, and they put on tremendous live shows. Two live shows are available at eMusic, as well as the double CD Palais. Their latest live release, Continue to Enjoy the Figgs, is available here.

Here are a few rare Figgs songs. Go Before proves that Pete Hayes is an awesome rock drummer. The flip side of this 1993 single, Let's Get Arrested, appears on many of my mixtapes alongside Devo's "Uncontrollable Urge".

Sully was apparently a reject from the Low Fi sessions. Pete Donnelly knows how to write some unusual melodies, and Guy Lyons follows his bassline note-for-note on this song before taking off for uncharted waters. This Phaser Sounds Divine was part of a split single with the band Prisonshake. I love Mike Gent's lyrics. The song is a vignette about buying an effects pedal, with a passing reference to Hendrix bassist Noel Redding, and for "a middle rhyme" Gent grabs "Pink Flamingos with Divine".

Let me know if you like these songs. I've got LOTS more, and I'd love to hear from Figgs fans.