Sunday, December 31, 2006

I Don't Ever Want to Change

So what'dya get for Christmas? I got some nice gifts, but I didn't get any music. My family members refuse to buy me any CD's. They suffer from the strange delusion that I have enough music already.

So I've been listening to Nina Nastasia a lot this past week, and an Australian band called the Drones. These artists had new albums in 2006, both of which I overlooked. Who are the Drones? Perhaps they are the true heirs to the madness and malice of the Birthday Party. Sometimes I think they are what McLusky might have been if they had chosen to emulate the Gun Club rather than the Jesus Lizard. The Drones also remind me of the band Thin White Rope: brilliant and corrosive electric guitar work, with a singer whose eccentricities are an acquired taste.

The Drones' website has 20 (twenty) mp3's available for download, and I have listened to every goddam one of them. There are some live tracks, some rare stuff, samples of their albums, plus majestically unhinged covers of "Cortez the Killer", "Manic Depression" and "Who Do You Love".

I have no resolution for the new year. It's not because there's nothing I would change about myself; I guess I have no faith in my ability to sustain a significant change in behavior for a full year.

The Drones: I Don't Ever Want to Change

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Figgy Pudding

Dashing to the store, in search of triple A's
I hope they're open Christmas Eve, or my kids cannot play

Buying everything to make their Christmas right
I overspent, forgot the rent; next month will be tight

Oh, triple A's, double A's, nine volts, C's and D's,
Everything I bought this year requires batteries

Oh, MP3, DVD, HDTV too
I couldn't find a PS3, so I got a PS2

No Nintendo Wii, no PSP, XBox 360 too
Elmo's gone from Amazon; I can't even find a Zune!

Figgs: Christmas Shake

Figgs: Merry Christmas Girl


Friday, December 22, 2006

Look on up at the Bottom

Set your teeevo for Saturday night (12/23) at 10:50pm, when IFC will be showing Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, a classic rock/sexploitation film directed by Russ Meyers and written by Roger Ebert. "It's my happening, and it freaks me out!"

Next Friday (12/29) Turner Classic Movies will broadcast some great rock and cult films. The fun starts at 8pm with Bill Haley in Rock around the Clock, followed by It's Trad, Dad! (a Richard Lester comedy), and Don't Knock the Twist (with Chubby Checker). At 12:15am, TCM will show the Ramones in Rock and Roll High School, followed by Russ Meyers' Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill! , Ed Wood's classically inept Plan 9 from Outer Space, and two Vincent Price horror films: Madhouse and The Last Man on Earth. Showtimes and details are available here.

Tonight at 2am, TCM is showing Dementia 13, a film that Francis Ford Coppola made for b-movie producer Roger Corman in 1963. Visit for more information.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Records I Bought and Liked This Year

By no means an exhaustive list of the best of '06. In reverse alpha vision!

You Am I - Convicts (soon to be released domestically by Yep Roc)

Paul Westerberg - Open Season (Underneathica loves ten inch records)

Alan Vega, Alex Chilton and Ben Vaughn - Cubist Blues Redux
(10th anniversary reissue of this unlikely trio's 1996 collaboration, with a bonus disc of live recordings)

Uzeda - Stella (I didn't write about this Italian band, but they rocked me)

Triffids - Born Sandy Devotional (another nice reissue)

Sparklehorse - Dreamt in the Belly of the Man on the Silver Mountain

Radio Birdman - Zeno Beach (classic Aussie surf punks return)

Pernice Brothers - Live a Little (the demo disc was a nice gift to fans)

Pere Ubu - Why I Hate Women (David Thomas brings back the rock)

Mission of Burma - The Obliterati (wayWAYway better than onOFFon)

Anne McCue - Koala Motel ("Sweet Burden of Youth" was the best song title of '06)

Marked Men - Fix My Brain (I can't get these songs out of my head)

Hold Steady - Boys and Girls in America (you don't like it? I don't care)

Figgs - Follow Jean through the Sea (they're jumping again!)

Duke Spirit - Cuts across the Land (I know it came out last year in the UK)

dEUS - Pocket Revolution (another unexpected return)

Buzzcocks - Flat-Pack Philosophy (same as above)

Richard Buckner - Meadow (oh so sadly beautiful)


Wednesday, December 20, 2006

It's the Most Wunderneathical Time of the Year

Is the "War on Christmas" over? And if so, which side won? Christians scored a few points on the retail battlefront: Walmart greeters say "Merry Christmas", and the Salvation Army returned to Target. But it's truly a war of attrition, and Xmas will continue to become more secularized in the years to come. While watching "A Charlie Brown Christmas" with my kids today, I realized that its explicitly Biblical message probably wouldn't be broadcast by the major networks if it were made today. You might see it on a cable channel like Pax, between reruns of "Davey and Goliath".

Which is fine by me. In the words of the late Jeffery Lee Pierce, I've never been no Christian. In my home, Xmas means time off from school and work, decorating, cooking, eating, and gift-giving. Oh, and Christmas music. I have more than a dozen Christmas albums, two of which top my playlist each year: Sounds of Christmas by the Ramsey Lewis Trio (and its sequel, More Sounds of Christmas); and Mel Torme's Christmas Songs.

I grew up with the Sounds of Christmas. Ramsey Lewis' acoustic piano, backed with a swinging standup bass and drums, is all I need to lift my mood at this time of year. Even godless heathens find the crass commercialism of the season a bit overwhelming at times, and Jebus knows we're the types that see the glass as half-empty. My wife (no non-believer, she) grew up with Elvis Presley's It's Christmas Time as the soundtrack to her family's winter holiday. Our common ground is Mel Torme: it's jazzy enough for my tastes, and he's a consummate crooner as well. Of course, Torme co-authored the classic "Christmas Song" ("Chestnuts roasting on an open fire...") He is a master of the medley: there are three of them on Christmas Songs. And he makes a few bold choices: Mel adds holiday lyrics to Johnny Mercer's "Glow Worm", and his scatting on "Good King Wenceslas" must be heard to be appreciated.

I encourage you to pick up Christmas Songs and Sounds of Christmas for yourself, or as a gift. My Xmas gift to you is two songs. The Cadillacs' doo-wop version of "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" was my son's favorite when he was four. I like my Xmas songs to swing, and the Cadillacs clearly had a sense of humor. My other selection today is from a compilation of Atlanta and Athens bands released in 1991 on the Sister Ruby label, which was run by Cliff from Eat More Records. The band Uncle Green (who changed their name to 3lb Thrill before they broke up) performs "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas", and a familiar chord change in that song leads them into a snippet of David Bowie's "Space Oddity". I mentioned "mental mashups" yesterday: whenever John Lennon's "Happy Xmas (War Is Over)", plays in my mind, the song segues into an old TV commercial that goes, "Come back to Jamaica (war is over), what's old is what's new (if you want it)." I didn't say I liked it. I just can't help it.

The Cadillacs: Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer
Uncle Green: Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Beautiful Things Are Waiting for Me

In my mind, this song and "Up on the Sun" by the Meat Puppets are conjoined: one song segues into the other in the mashup of my mixed-up memories.

I think of the two songs as twins separated at birth. The boy was raised among the tumbling tumbleweeds of the arid American Southwest, by wild-eyed peyote-gobbling free spirits. The girl was spirited away to the verdant island nation of New Zealand, a Pacific paradise.

When the boy and girl first meet, as adults, there is a shock of recognition: though raised apart, each ignorant of the other's existence, somehow they knew there was another part of them somewhere, and that neither of them could ever feel complete without the other. Like peanut butter and jelly, or beer and pizza.

Beautiful Things by the 3D's.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Down Underneathica

I've been listening obsessively to Monsters of Australian Rock, a 23-track compilation CD that comes with the latest issue of Carbon 14. If you are unfamiliar with Carbon 14, it is a magazine that covers rock, rasslin', and raunch (porn, drugs, tattoo artists, underground film, etc.) Issue #28 has a lengthy interview with Steven McDonald of Redd Kross (reunited and back in the studio!), plus a poignant feature on Cynthia Plaster Caster, and a survey of the films of Herschell Gordon Lewis. You get 120 glossy pages for $6 (or you can get a four issue subscription to Carbon 14 for $20).

Plus you get the aforementioned CD: twenty-three variations on the theme of amped-up, raw-throated, buzzsaw ramalama that never gets old (not to this listener, at least). I've never heard of most of these bands, but almost all the songs are great. Listening to this wealth of musical talent, I envision Australia as a punk paradise where the national anthem is "TV Eye", the coins are inscribed "LAMF", and the faces of Johnny Thunders, Stiv Bators, Johnny Ramone and Fred "Sonic" Smith are carved into the side of Ayers Rock.

To give you just a taste of Monsters of Australian Rock, here are the Pink Fits performing their dystopian dancefloor smash, 100 Robots. It sounds like Mark E. Smith fronting the Rezillos! Brilliant, mate.

From an earlier Australian compilation that was included with the magazine Off the Hip, here are the regrettably named Hymies performing the unforgettable I'm Stressed.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Slits Full of Grits

The Slits' live show in Atlanta last month was fantastic. Ari Up is an energetic performer, with exuberant charm and humor. She was a teenager when the Slits began (and Johnny Rotten was living with her mom!), so she must be only in her mid-forties now. She announced onstage that the band had enjoyed a Southern breakfast that morning: "The Slits are full of grits!"

Ari and (original Slits bassist) Tessa clearly enjoyed playing their old songs. They did a number of songs from Cut, including "Newtown", "Shoplifting", and "Instant Hit", as well as "Kill Them with Love" from this year's new EP. The new band members sounded good, and I got an instant crush on Adele.

Ari and Tessa deserve to be proud of their music. I was struck that night by how successfully their songs blend punk and reggae. While other bands of the era (like the Clash and Stiff Little Fingers) performed punk versions of reggae songs, they never loosened up on the strict 4/4 beat, except to hit the chords on the 2 and 4. The Slits actually adopted the looser feel and loping rhythms of Jamaican music, and created a more organic fusion of punk, reggae, and their own inventive chants. I think the Slits influenced both PiL and Malcolm McLaren (from Bow Wow Wow to "Buffalo Gals").

Here is an excellent remix of Heard It through the Grapevine that I found while searching through a series of tubes for the Slits' version of Man Next Door (which I later realized I already owned, since it was included in Rough Trade's classic compilation album Wanna Buy a Bridge.)

Buy Revenge of the Killer Slits and more from Midheaven.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Underneathica's Guide to Atlanta Record Stores, part 4

I can't conclude this series without mentioning my favorite haunt, Eat More Records, though it is a bit of a drive from Atlanta. Countless musicians, gypsies, tramps and thieves have made the trek from Atlanta to Athens, and Eat More Records is midway along that route. If you are traveling north from Atlanta on I-85, and you bear right onto Highway 316 (to go east toward Athens), take the first exit (Sugarloaf Parkway) and turn right. You will pass a Publix shopping center, and then another Publix shopping center (both on the right). Eat More Records is adjacent to the second Publix (in a strippe mall called the Village Shoppes).

Eat More first opened in Norcross in 1979, and they moved to Lawrenceville about three years ago. They sell new and used CD's and movies, but the glory of the store is its wealth of 12", 10", and 7" vinyl. Craig (the owner) loves Dylan and the blues; Cliff is the expert on power pop and synth-pop; and Jeremy is the go-to guy for all things REM-related. 3370 Sugarloaf Parkway, Suite G-3, Lawrenceville (678-442-9530). Hours: Mon-Thurs 11am to 8pm; Fri-Sat 11am to 9pm; Sundays 12noon to 7pm.

While you're in the area, there are a couple more places to find good music. From Eat More Records, head back toward 316 on Sugarloaf Parkway, but turn left onto Lawrenceville Highway 29. Go about 7 miles south, and you will see Book Nook II on your left. This is a spin-off of the Book Nook in Atlanta, and I think there's more vinyl here than at the Atlanta location (plus CD's, books, movies and comics). 4664 Lawrenceville Highway, Lilburn (770-564-9462). Hours: Mon-Sat 10am to 8pm, Sundays 12noon to 8pm.

From Book Nook, continue southwest on Lawrenceville Highway to the first light, and turn left on Indian Trail Road. Go a little over a mile, and on your left (just past the Burns Road intersection) is another goddam strip mall. There you will find Audio Alternative, a retailer of high-end audio equipment with a modest but intriguing selection of vinyl and SA-CD's. Try not to drool on the vacuum tube amplifiers. 895 Indian Trail Road, Suite 15, Lilburn (770-931-0606). Hours: Tues-Fri 11am to 7pm, Saturdays 10am to 6pm.

Longtime WREK DJ Jon Kincaid recently reminisced about Atlanta record stores that have closed their doors in his "Personality Crisis" blog. He mentioned Rowan's in Marietta as a good place where you can still buy records. There is also a Book Nook in Marietta. I haven't been to either of these stores.

The growth of online CD sales, as well as legal and illegal download sites, has contributed to the decline of the independent music retailer. Atlanta has its own online CD store, Joe Rockhead. I'm not saying Joe Rockhead is causing record stores to close. It's a great site for independent music that features a lot of Athens and Atlanta bands, plus some of the hard to find titles from (Joe Rockhead owner) Steve Pilon's label, Long Play Records. If you're going to shop online, you can still buy from an independent local retailer. Thanks for shopping Atlanta's record stores with me. Now go buy some music!


Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Underneathica's Guide to Atlanta Record Stores, part 3

Atlanta has an interstate called I-285 that circles its perimeter (wouldn't that make it an intrastate?) If we look at I-285 as the face of a clock, today we're covering the area between twelve and two o'clock.

Fantasyland Records has been open in Buckhead (Atlanta's uptown shopping district) for almost thirty years. They stock new and used CD's and vinyl, plus cassettes and VHS tapes, old rock posters and t-shirts, music mags and porn. Randy Johnson (the Big Unit) has been spotted buying records here. 2839 Peachtree Road (404-237-3193). Hours: Mon-Sat 11am to 7pm.

When I planned this article, you could go from Fantasyland to Tower Records by traveling north from Peachtree to Roswell Road, and Town Cryer Records was about a mile north of that. But Town Cryer closed this year, and Tower is on its way out. Instead, drive north on Peachtree Road from Fantasyland, bear right at the "Buckhead split" and go past Lenox Mall and Phipps Plaza. Peachtree Road eventually becomes Peachtree Industrial Boulevard. When you are within spitting distance of I-285, turn left on New Peachtree Road (at the CVS on your left). Low Yo Yo Stuff is just past Brown & Brown's junkyard on the left.

Low Yo Yo Stuff's owner, Todd Ploharski, moved his store from Athens to Atlanta last year. He bought another record store here, brought in his inventory from Athens, and he's been trying to sort it all out ever since. He's got twice the space that he had in Athens, and he's trying to get even more space from another tenant in the building who is being slow to move out. Low Yo Yo Stuff has an incredible selection of CD's and vinyl, but it's so disorganized that it's best to either give yourself lots of time to browse, or call ahead to ask Todd if he can put his hands on something specific that you're looking for. I've tried e-mailing him with a want list, but he seems to be computer-phobic. 3854 North Peachtree Road. 706-207-7014 (cell) Hours: 12noon to 6pm, Fridays and Saturdays.

From Low Yo Yo Stuff, get back on Peachtree Industrial heading north, and take I-285 West past I-85 to the Chamblee-Tucker Road exit. You will find Circle Sky Records in the Embry Village Shopping Center (facing the Goodyear store). Circle Sky opened four years ago, and they carry new and used CD's, plus a healthy selection of new and used 12" and 7" vinyl. They have some music DVD's; VHS, cassettes, and 8-tracks; magazines, t-shirts, and other memorabilia. If you are a fan of the music on labels like Sundazed, Norton, and Bomp, you will find a lot to like at Circle Sky. 3633-E Chamblee Tucker Road (770-491-2100). Hours: 11am to 7pm Mon-Sat, 12noon to 6pm Sundays. In our next (and final) installment, we'll venture into the suburbs!