The Nads "Saigon Hooker" +2 45 (Gearhead)
Danny Nad’s strangled vocals lend an air of desperation to this
crunchy set of Dead Boys-styled throb, on plummy purple wax.
The Nectarine No. 9 received transgressed &transmitted
CD (Beggars Banquet) Brainy, hypnotic Scottish anti-pop with Fire
Engines and Pop Group connections. Thick spread with Joseph Beuys
references, found snippets and gnawing melody lines that pull
the whole thing taut yet let it throb. Pretty interesting.
Neu 2 CD (Astralwerks) I tried Krautrock in my brief
"I dig everything" phase, but picked up a lousy later
Can album that soured me on the genre. Too bad I didn’t start
with one of these hypnotic, rhythmic, wonderfully organic Neu
records. It’s the sound of Neolithic robots preening themselves
on an alpine lakeshore, while comets stripe the sky. Completely
European, and always surprising, you’ll hear bits of garagey proto-punk,
academic electronica, chants, elevator music, and a library of
found sounds flowing together into a nutty, gooey slab that will
make you think hard about how music works. Revelatory.
New Town Animals Is your Radio Active? CD (Mint)Spastic
early UK type punk about important things like girls, sex and
punk rock. The kind of music that makes everything you play for
the next couple of hours seem morbid, dull and boring. Opens
with a very amusing "radio track" that includes Vapors,
Buzzcocks and Generation X clips. I only wish that were the real
state of radio. By the way, they apparently wear uniforms on the
cover. Very good. Vancouver wins again. (Margaret Griffis)
NRA New Recovery CD (Gearhead) Popular Dutch punk vaguely
reminiscent of Les Thugs on a SoCal / emocore bender. Takes a
couple of listens before songs start to distinguish themselves,
but otherwise a very strong release. (Margaret Griffis)
Orpheus The Very Best of CD (Varèse Sarabande)
From the mini-series of "Boston Sound" compilations,
this one highlights the 1968-71 output of the soulful pop vocal
act that did the other, other version of "Walk Away Renée."
Highly professional, with a slick Association-esque veneer and
complicated string and brass arrangements. Classy without being
particularly exciting, the sleepy vocals keep the early material
from ever taking real flight; a late Bell 45 with second vocalist
Steve Martin shows them stretching out into an intriguing heavy
Parker and Lily Hello Halo CD (Orange) Sleepily western
soundtracky pop shot through with mild bits of electronica, whispers
and chimes. Pretty.
The Pattern Immediately CD (Lookout) Bay Area punk’s
new hope, all yeah-yeah, woo-woo, snot-nosed swagger. Six-song
sampler is sufficient to get your blood pumping and suggest that
the whole thing would sound even better with sweat, beer, kids
in the mix.
Armando Piazza (featuring Shawn Phillips) Suan / Naus
double CD (Akarma) Two albums of heavy, yet subtle, folky Italian
psych with oddly inflected vocals and some deliciously crunchy
guitar. Originally released on the Beautiful Black Butterfly label
in the early ’70s.
The Pinkos S/T CD (eMpTy) The ’78 Clash color scheme
of the sleeve alerts you that you’re in for a politicized punk
outing from this prickly duo. Themes include feminism, hypocrisy
and personal responsibility, and while there are moments of shrillness,
Vanessa Vaselka’s sultry vocals and the group’s obvious sincerity
make it worth a listen.
The Pinkz "Something About You" b/w "Be
Mine" 45 (Gearhead) On hot-chacha pink vinyl comes this debut
from Nikki Corvette’s sometime backing band, turning out their
own sweet and sassy pop punk originals, seasoned with jungle drums
and buzzsaw guitar.
Poison Control Center The Go-Go Music Show CD (Bi-Fi)
Delirious high-concept package with the least convincing British
accents this side of Bangers & Mash introducing PCC’s thrashily
inventive bubblegum-pop. The eleven-piece band makes sure you
get all the basic indie pop food groups, enhanced by electronic
trickery, cooing girls, string and horn section, and, of course,
Pram Somniloquy CD (Merge) These remixes from the Museum
of Imaginary Animals album yield jazzy constructivist dream pop
with appropriately sleepy femme vocals. Think Nico doing the incidental
music for some arty kid’s TV show. Nice.
The Push Kings Feel No Fade CD (Le Grand Magistery)
Evolving over the course of two LPs from a stiff but agreeable
Rubinoos-esque indie pop outfit to soulful mixmasters of modern
pop stylings, this Boston-now-in-LA band is just too good to be
ignored any longer. Imagine if the Backstreet Boys dropped Diane
Warren from the payroll, and got some real, instead of suburban
mall, soul. Imagine a modern power pop band not stuck in 1966
(or ’72, or ’79). Imagine great pop melodies spiced up with splashes
of doo-wop, trip-hop, funk and metal. "The Minute,"
with its sweet harmonies and thundering guitars, sounds like the
Osmonds rockin’ the Warped Tour (if that sounds good to you, you’ll
love this band). "Summer Trippin’" should’ve been the
hot weather anthem of 2001 (well maybe next year). Pick this up
and help AM radio pop bloom again in the 21st Century. (Keith
Question Mark & the Mysterians 96 Tears: The Very
Best of CD (Varèse Sarabande) Don’t be misled by the title:
this is not a legit reissue of the long-lost Cameo/Parkway albums.
But it is a perfectly entertaining mix of recent rerecordings,
plus a song from their live set at the first Cavestomp fest, and
two newly unearthed 1966 demos. Since the Mysterians are still
a delight, I ain’t complaining.
Radio Birdman The Essential Radio Birdman (1974-1978)
CD (Sub Pop) Radio Birdman is my favorite band. That their recordings
have been unavailable in the US for twenty years is one of those
ridiculous obscenities that first grates, and ultimately seems
"normal." The release of this intelligent and loving
compilation reopens the wound, and I’m suddenly just as pissed
as I was when, as a kid writing my first fanzine article, I railed
against the unjust world that slammed the door on Tek, Younger
& co. This ain’t the place to catalog their accomplishments
and tragedies-Vivien Johnson’s fantastic book does that at length,
and David Fricke’s liner notes in brief. All you need to know
is that they took a highly refined set of influences (Detroit
’68, Jan & Dean, BÖC’s metallic lyricism) and adapted
them into a sound uniquely theirs, a sound which transformed Australian
rocknroll and by rights should have changed the world. (I’m not
exaggerating.) The power and beauty of this music is undeniable,
as is its wit and playful intelligence. Sub Pop’s comp mixes up
tracks from the early EP, both versions of the Sire debut, and
their moody second album, plus a couple of live tracks, including
the awesome "Dark Surprise." It’s a fine introduction
to the group. If you’ve never heard them and you love rocknroll,
you owe it to yourself to pick this up. And heck, we’re giving
away free copies to new subscribers, so what’s your excuse?
Ramonetures Johnny Walk Don’t Run Pauline CD (Blood
Red) Mile high concept: X hits played Ventures-style, and with
Billy Zoom and DJ Bonebrake enlisted for maximum whaaaa?? effect.
Blame Phantom Surfer guitarist Mel Bergman, who previously filtered
the Ramones through the same flaming V-shaped prism with equally
nifty results. Less formulaic than you think: check out the exotica
version of "The Unheard Music" with DJ going ape on
the vibes, and Billy’s flute solo on "Adult Books."
Red Planet Let’s Degenerate CD (Gearhead) Eclectic sophomore
effort from the lively Bay Area popsters throws some T. Rex, thrash
and even britpop into the eau d’78 atmosphere but at the heart
they still wanna be Van Halen, with a smidgen of new wave street
cred. Featuring live faves like "Continental Divide"
and "You Knock Me Out," and more calls to teenies to
drop their pants than on the Raspberries’ Greatest Hits.
The Resineators Don’t ___ With the Fantasy CD (Siltbreeze)
I wouldn’t have thought it possible for these two stoners to sound
more obnoxious, and yet they’ve utterly surpassed themselves on
this latest platter. Pick "hit": "Underage Girl
Rocket 455 Go To Hell CD (Get Hip) Detroit style rock
that isn’t very inspired. Probably much better to see ’em live
than listen to ’em in this posthumous release, but I won’t be
afforded that opportunity. Actually, half the alternative music
released since 1970 can trace it’s roots, attitude or poverty
to the Stooges and MC5, but most of it at least tried to hide
their debt (at least till everyone moved to Seattle) instead of
flaunting it. I suppose it’s better to have an actual Detroit
band mimic their history, but it’s still a bit tiring. (Margaret
The Royal Guardsmen Snoopy Vs. the Red Baron/ Snoopy
and his Friends CD (Collectables) Twofer comp of the Florida teen
band’s first two Schulz-damaged Laurie LPs. Vs. salts a single
Snoopy adventure among a standard set of frat rock covers, delivered
with enthusiasm if not much distinction. The Friends on disk two
are a bunch of unconvincing WWI foreign correspondents, narrating
the action betwixt multiple barnstorming dog vs. baron scenarios.
A couple of neat little love songs somehow sneak in too. It’s
all completely ridiculous, yet somehow endearing.
The Royal Guardsmen The Return of the Red Baron/ Snoopy
for President CD (Collectables) By album #3, the Guardsmen were
clearly taking their pop pills and experiencing some consciousness
expansion, though they’re still game to tackle "I’m a Man"
and "Gimme Some Lovin’" in raunchy style. The steel
drum instrumental take on "So You Want To Be A Rock ‘N Roll
Star" is a gem. "Snoopy for President" wraps up
the Red Baron franchise by having the final wining vote for the
doggy leader being cast by his one-time nemesis (apparently granted
U.S. citizenship in one of those sleazy post-war rocket research
deals). This is the disk to pick up if you need to hear the Guardsmen’s
bubblegum, Bobby Goldsboro, Box Tops and Every Mother’s Son covers.
The Satelliters Sexplosive! CD (Dionysus) 100 years
ago Darmstadt, Germany was a center for cutting edge decorative
arts; today it’s home to the Satelliters, whose work is less original,
but by no means unsatisfying. Their rearrangement of all the iconic
elements of 1966 garage rock is tasteful and swinging, resulting
in a sound you’d be happy to stumble upon in a basement dive in
this or any decade.
The Saturn V featuring Orbit "LCB" 7"
EP (Teen Sound) Surfy San Francisco combo weigh in with four tunes
for teenaged twisters. Fake Merseybeat collectors will want to
tune in for their version of mocktop classic "Mersey Mercy"
(aka "You’ve Got Me Bugged’).
Adam Schmitt Demolition CD (Parasol) Apparently this
fellow was one of those early ’90s pop’s new hope types with a
couple of records on Reprise. Having spent the last decade producing
a host of Parasol acts and recording secret demos, here’s ten
crunchy, catchy new songs sure to please the heart on sleeve brigade.
Nice melodies, ringing guitars, and plenty of energy. Less predictable
than many power pop records: there’s even some hard rock crossover
The Screws Shake Your Monkey CD (In the Red) Mick Collins
and his latest combo trot out a raft of unexpected covers moving
from garage (p)funk to blues to avant-shriek trippiness, with
Terri Wahl’s crazy whine amping the tension whenever it appears.
Post-everything sonics for the end times.
The Sewergrooves "The Race is Over " b/w "Slave
to the Sound of the Mellow Blues " 45 (Gearhead) Adding some
unexpected twists to the Norskpunk formula, "Race" is
exciting and over just fast enough to leave you entirely satisfied.
The flip’s got some moody Sonic’s Rendezvous things happening
and a great sloppy break. Fun!
The Shams Take Off CD (Orange) These young Cincinnatans
could almost pass for a Back from the Grave band, with their savage,
swaggering (mostly original) nuggets and Jagger vox. The garage
geeks are gonna cream all over this. A couple of Greenhornes guest.
Sick On The Bus Set Fire To Someone In Authority CD
(Go Kart) British Thrashcore with excessively paranoid lyrics.
Naw, it’s not about how the First and Second World are fucking
it up for the Third World, it’s all about how everyone else is
an asshole not to be trusted. In fact, they printed explanations
of their lyrics in case you didn’t pick up on the obvious messages.
Even department stores can’t be trusted. They’ve put up cameras
so you can’t steal anymore. And women. God forbid, you should
involve yourself with a woman unless it’s for anonymous and brief
sex. Now that we’ve determined how mindless everybody else is,
the music is pretty good, cranked-up Motorhead, as indebted to
metal as it is to punk rock. The British were always better at
enjoying both genres combined than us colonials, which is maybe
why the band felt they had to remaster and remix this American
release from the debut album years after the fact. Nevertheless,
it’s still hopping. (Margaret Griffis)
Simon & Garfunkel Bookends CD (Columbia/Legacy)
Released in spring 1968, this ambitious self-produced set is a
fascinating blend of sonic weirdness, indulgence (2:07 of old
people talking?), art pop and the ace folk-rock of "Mrs.
Robinson" and "Hazy Shade of Winter." As an album
it’s as chaotic and unfocussed as the year that spawned it, and
about as intriguing. "Fakin’ It" could almost be a lost
Chad & Jeremy track.
Simon & Garfunkel Bridge Over Troubled Water CD
(Columbia/Legacy) When I was three, I thought the title track
was the greatest song ever, even better than "Octopus’ Garden."
None of the worldly sentiments meant a thing to me, but it could
put me to sleep when nothing else could. Sounds kinda sappy now.
Fortunately the album includes a few of their contrived rockers,
but despite its popularity, there’s just not much here that’ll
make your grown up jaw gape.
Simon & Garfunkel Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme
CD (Columbia/Legacy) Mid-period S&G romantica with some prime
pretties and politics, but you’re gonna really flip for the faux
Dylan goofiness of "A Simple Desultory Philippic (Or How
I Was Robert McNamara’d Into Submission)," which abstracts
the entirety of spring 1966 culture into a lean 2:19. Place it
beside the version of "Silent Night" that’s accompanied
by an increasingly terrifying newsread and understand that whatever
the sixties were, "groovy" was the least of it.
Simon & Garfunkel Wednesday Morning, 3AM CD (Columbia/Legacy)
Their first, and their folkiest. Dylan cover, Christian imagery
(what’s up w/that?), a mawkish song for a fallen Freedom Rider,
Simon’s original bit of bird-lore "Sparrow" showing
what a wicked hand he already had with a melody, and those two
voices working their Everlys-cum-Greenwich-Village magic. Juvenilia
ain’t a bad thing.
Skooshny Water CD (Minus Zero) Skooshny is an L.A. band
that’s been (very) quietly plying their trade since 1971. If more
folks knew about them, they could probably draw a tidy crowd,
but of course they don’t play live. Now a collectable record shop
in London has seen fit to release several disks of their subdued,
Byrds-inflected wanderings. This is the latest, and shows Mark
Breyer & Co. continuing their gentle explorations in sonic
layering and occasional flashes of jingly menace.
Slim Cessna’s Auto Club Always Say Please and Thank
You CD (Alternative Tentacles) Unironic C&W complete with
slide guitars, yodeling and Jesus. At least, I think it’s unironic.
You never know with hipsters. But even if they think they’re being
ironic, deep down inside they’re playing it closer to the heart.
Mysteriously, or maybe not, as Nashville turned country music
into just pop sung with a hick accent, hipsters (Dwight Yoakum
and Palace for instance) managed to hang on to the flourishes
that separate country from Top 40 schlock. And you knew the Rolling
Stones were still cool as long as they partied south of the Mason-Dixon
line. So it should come as no surprise that Alternative Tentacles
has put out one of the best country music releases in years. Beholden
to the Dead Kennedys and Nick Cave as much as they are to any
old hillybilly, these guys know how to shake the cowshit off your
britches. And don’t forget that even in the olden days of Hank
Williams and Bill Monroe they knew how to drop a funny lyric here
and there. In a just world, they’d be the house band on Hee-Haw.
The Spits S/T CD (Nickel & Dime) Wow! I’m having
some kind of flashback. These guys sound exactly like some nowheresville
hardcore band from way back in the early ’80s, the kind you’d
find stuck towards the end of a Flipside compilation. So many
questions. Did they record this on a boombox? Is that an organ?
Is this a re-release? And their look! You have to see the cover.
What’s up with those moustaches? Are they cops? Are they nazis?
Are they dweebs? Are they capable of creating bombs and drugs
in a lab? Do they really skate? I’m completely hypnotized by this.
They seem to be inspired by both DEVO and GG Allin. Very weird
in its uncoolness. I like it! (Margaret Griffis)
Stoneground The Last Dance, Recorded Live January 6,
1973 CD (DIG) After the Beau Brummels split up for the first time,
Sal Valentino took his velvet pipes home to San Francisco to front
this 11-person boogie band manufactured by DJ Tom Donahue for
the Medicine Ball Caravan film. Not quite the Monkees, Stroneground’s
soulful groove made them a prime live attraction during their
brief existence. This clean-sounding disk documents their final
appearance before a sold-out Sacramento house, and suggests that
there was still plenty of life in them. There’s a bit too much
choogling in spots, but when Sal lets loose on a Hardin/Dylan
medley, mmmm it’s sweet.
The Strokes Is This It CD (RCA) Cripes, what’s the fuss?
Lively, nervous post-punk with New Values-era Iggy vox. It sounds
like real rock and roll, and kids are buying it. This is not a
bad thing, so quit yer bellyachin’.
Syphlloids Finger Check CD (Etiquette) Good band with
purposefully silly/bad lead singer. Infantile sensibilities-porno
starlets, girls too pretty to pay them mind and girls who won’t
screw them-like a third rate SoCal punk band from the mid-’80s.
Two Man Advantage Don’t Label Us CD (Go-Kart) Fun hardcore
from a band that, well, has a fascination for hockey that hasn’t
been seen since the Hanson Brothers. They even have team jackets!
Precious. But don’t be distracted, this is some rocking stuff.
The Tyme Society "Leaves Are Turnin’ Brown "
b/w "Wonderin’ Why" 45 (Psych-Out) Fronted by Misty
Lane magazine honcho Mass, these five Italian psych fiends offer
sensitive original organ-fueled folk punkers that make up in gloom
what they lack in the letter "G."
Ultimate Spinach The Very Best of CD (Varèse
Sarabande) Selections from the Boston psych band’s three MGM albums
and an atypically punky late 45 cover of "Just Like Romeo
and Juliet." The albums were classically tinged weirdness
with theremin, sitar and not enough of Barbara Hudson’s spaced-out
acid goddess vocals. Leader Ian Bruce-Douglas was pushed out of
the band within a year, yielding a second incarnation featuring
Jeff "Skunk" Baxter and other members of Chameleon Church,
but no songs. Self-indulgent, but entertainingly trippy in spots.
V/A The Best of the Boston Sound CD (Varèse Sarabande)
Long before Seattle was invaded by carpetbagger A&R execs
in crisp new flannels, Boston swarmed with their headbanded antecedents.
The kids weren’t buying in 1968, either. Compiling tracks by 18
of the Boston-area bands that were either part of MGM’s Boston
Sound promotion or signed in its aftermath, this collection offers
an archeological overview of a scene that wasn’t. There’s not
much connection beyond the regional between Orpheus’ soft soul-pop
and the cantankerous thud of Phluph, Beacon Street Union’s loony
Wes Farrell-produced bubbleart and Earth Opera’s expansive Americana.
Not fitting thematically, but nice to have, are Bead Game’s hard-to-find
"Sweet Medusa" from the soundtrack to The People Next
Door, and the Rockin’ Ramrods’ classic 1966 single "Bright
Lit Blue Skies."
V/A Better Than The Beatles: A Tribute To The Shaggs
CD (Animal World) Some bands lend themselves easily to tribute
albums-and surprisingly enough, the Shaggs are among them. The
thirteen acts involved, including the Thinking Fellers, Danielson
Familie and Optiganally Yours, transform their obvious affection
for Dorothy Wiggins’ loopy originality into a different kind of
folk art, more knowing but still steeped in charm. Bauer’s "We
Have A Savior" is a mini-symphony, Deerhoof’s "My Pal
Foot Foot" is deliriously robotic, while Danielson’s "Who
Are Parents" goes completely over the top with the baby talk.
V/A Chinese Checkers: A Tribute to Memphis Soul Instrumentals
CD (Wildebeest) Instro outfits from at least a couple of continents
join together to praise the MGs & associates in this affectionate
tribute. More surf than soul, with contributors including the
Tikitones, Waistcoats and Sir Finks.
V/A Give the People What We Want: Songs of the Kinks
CD (SubPop) And who doesn’t love the Kinks? A who’s who of Northwest
bands tackles faves mostly from the Davies’ first decade, some
playing it straight, others deconstructing things neatly. Highlights
include Mark Lanegan’s drowsy "Nothin’ In the World Can Stop
Me Worryin’ Bout That Girl," the Fallouts’ trad take on "This
Man He Weeps Tonight," and Heather Duby’s cooing "The
Way Love Used to Be." Plus: the Fastbacks, Mudhoney, Young
Fresh Fellows, Minus 5.
V/A Gulliver’s Travels featuring Mike D’Abo CD (Instant)
This messy Immediate LP from February 1969 is a patchwork of stolen
sound (including excerpts from Zodiac Cosmic Sounds!), swirling
synths, drunken mockery of the Small Faces, and somewhere in the
mix a few flecks of narrative from Swift. Stoned and silly, it’s
not particularly musical, but there’s definitely historic value
in the prototypical sampling. The project originated in a stage
play the previous year, and the poppiest thing here is its failed
single, quickly withdrawn when Manfred Mann sent his solicitors
around. (D’Abo was still with the Manfreds at the time.)
V/A Halleluja: Gospel & Prayers 1926-1946 CD (Trikont)
If you’re not squeamish about Christian themes, the powerful voices
and rock’n’roll energy on this fifth volume of Trikont’s ever-interesting
Flashbacks series will give you the chills. Featuring Bessie Smith,
Sister Rosetta Tharpe and a bunch of true believers.
V/A Have Narghile: Turkish Rock Music 1966 to 1975 CD
(Bacchus Archives) Weird and rather wonderful compilation of Turkish
bands and solo performers who mixed traditional rhythms and melodies
with Western pop influences. There’s some wild psych here-check
out the vicious guitar on Erkin Koray & Ter’s sole 1972 single-among
many moments of crossover oddness. Apparently mastered from less-than-pristine
vinyl, but where else are you gonna find this stuff?
V/A Les Chansons des Perverts CD (Crippled Dick) Offbeat
mix of historic and contemporary recordings occupying the sleazy
side of the street. Panting Mystic Moods rub up against Tony Bruno
motorcycle operas, Earl Wilson’s Let My People Come musical makes
friends with Seksu Roba. Libidinous, yet goofy, just like you.
V/A Nuggets II: Original Artyfacts from the British
Empire and Beyond, 1964-1969 4-CD boxset (Rhino) In a break from
the Americana bent of the first Nuggets box, this time the focus
is on UK freakbeat, the Continent and beyond far beyond. I don’t
care what anyone says, "Tokyo’s" Mops are obviously
from Mars. The four disks are crammed with prime obscurities and
a few stray hits from a United Nations of moptops. From Black
Beauty-scented rave-ups to acid-drenched dreams, there’s probably
a dozen things here you’ve never heard and will flip over. Other
stuff you already have, but in much lower fidelity on dodgy comps.
And if the sequencing isn’t always of optimum mix-tape quality,
you can always burn your own version. Comes with a gorgeous, full-color
100 page book filled with rare band pix, record sleeves, Mike
Stax’ track notes and useful introductions from Greg Shaw, and
fellow compilers Alec Palao and Gary Stewart.
V/A Poet: a tribute to Townes Van Zandt CD (FreeFalls)
Townes was a songwriter’s songwriter, and the respectful group
who fête him here seem disinclined to deviate much from
his arrangements. So what you get are those marvelous songs, the
sad ones rather than the silly, sung by some of the finest singer-songwriters
around. Lucinda Williams’ beautifully hopeless take on "Nothin’"
is the standout. Son John T. Van Zandt closes the proceedings
sounding eerily like his dad. In between Steve Earle and the Dukes
rip up "Two Girls," the reformed Flatlanders offer a
lovely "Blue Wind Blew," Nanci Griffith’s "Tower
Song" is icily moving, and Willie Nelson turns to "Marie,"
Townes’ best late song, the one that used to make people cry and
give money to beggars on their way out of the show. A classy,
respectful release with uniformly fine performances. My friend
Lisa let me help her with her Grammy votes, so we cast one for
V/A Popshopping 2: More Music from German Commercials
1962-1977 CD (Crippled Dick) Wonderfully bats reclaimed advertmusik
teeming with joyous choruses, fake funk, fuzz guitars, lonesome
strings and the occasional mysterious exclamation of delight.
I dunno what these cats were selling, but gimme one of each.
V/A Where the Girls Are Volume 4 CD (Ace) Ace digs still
deeper into the vaults for this latest installment of their girl
group rarities comp. Drawing on the Atlantic/Atco singles catalog
(including French and UK releases), WTGA4 draws a swinging portrait
of the teenage heart circa 1962-66 with the enthusiastic aid of
assorted Cookies, Gingerbreads, Bobbettes and Bluebelles.
Varuckers How Do You Sleep? CD (Go-Kart) The Varuckers
have been around for close to forever but are still almost unknown
in the US, where the trickle of imports are quickly snatched up
by their crusty fans. I believe this is their first product released
in Amerikkka, which is a shame because it’s a pretty good CD.
It’s Metallish punk with great lyrics accurately parodying the
usual Anarcho-communist topics like begging not to be forced into
doing anything for the corporations and forcing the corporations
to do everything for them. (Margaret Griffis)
Loudon Wainwright III Last Man on Earth CD (Red House)
He’s been around for decades, a singer-songwriter with one novelty
hit ("Dead Skunk") and a minor reputation as a darkly
wacky "new Dylan" who hasn’t had an American major label
deal for years. He has been married, divorced, had kids who he
doesn’t see much anymore, both parents dead, facing life after
50 with doubtful accomplishments to look back on and thickening
darkness ahead. With a bravery that’s sometimes startling, he’s
spun pure gold out of this coal-lump of a situation on his new
album, a beautifully constructed and throat-tighteningly sad meditation
on what it’s like to be that 53-year-old man. He doesn’t let up
one bit-every little detail of being alone and lonely and haunted
by ghosts is laid on the table. Even the obligatory "life
goes on" chins-up he indulges in on occasion are transparently
phony and ineffectual, a writer not fooling himself, much less
his audience. The melodies are strong, the musical backing refined
and right, the words smart, apt, detailed, and completely dispiriting.
It’s a folk-rock opera of late middle-aged bourgeois disaffection,
about missing your mom, feuds with your dad, the uncertainty of
friendship and the depressing and empty residue of past romances.
This is first unstintingly truthful assessment of life past 50
by a pop songwriter yet. Given demographic realities, maybe it’ll
presage a trend. Fuck Jethro Tull, this is the sad truth about
being too old to rock n’ roll, too young to die. (Brian Doherty)
The Wanna-Bes ST CD (Panic Button) Very, very heavy
Ramones / Bad Religion rotation on the Wanna-Bes’ turntables-to
a distracting degree, actually. Play the guitar tracks alone and
I don’t think Johnny Ramone could tell they weren’t his. I guess
if you grew up with that Seattle sound, you’d do anything to sound
different. I don’t blame ’em. I’m tired of grunge too, but the
Wanna-Bes are a little too much. So this begs the question: if
the Ramones aren’t around anymore, are you better off buying their
old records or supporting the current scene? It’s tough because
you might miss out on some of the best records of all time in
either case. But the Ramones are about as timely today as the
Stooges were in 1991. And it ain’t a scene if you’re shut inside
your time capsule, which is where we find the Wanna-Bes. They
wanna be back in 1976, but it’s 25 years later and the Ramones
are in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, not in the new bins. Their
CD isn’t as good as just about all of the Ramones’ catalog, but
to dismiss them outright seems equally shameful. There’s talent
here, you can hear it clearly in the power pop singles, but it’s
misdirected. (Margaret Griffis)
The Warlocks Rise and Fall CD (Bomp) Loud, often rough
and VU-inspired, on record this stuff actually has the head-butt
intensity their proponents claim for them. Completely reductive,
but in a good way, with moments of real ice queen prettiness.
Peter Warren & Matt Samolis Bowed Metal Music CD
(innova) This is one of those one of those times that I wish that
I had heard Metal Machine Music, so that I might here make a sly
comparison. However, I’m pretty sure that if you dig MMM, you’ll
dig this as well. The title pretty much tells you what you need
to know: it’s music produced by vibrating metal plates and cymbals
with bows. It’s a beautiful sound if you’re into that sort of
thing, and the performance here has a sort of trajectory to it.
Quite the religious experience, actually, if approached with the
proper frame of mind. (Phil Curtis)
The Weird Lovemakers Live: Bigger Than A Cookie, Better
Than A Cake CD (eMpTy) Tight and crunchy, totally great band from
another planet named Albuquerque, NM. You can tell that not much
goes on in ‘querque ’cause these guys obviously have plenty of
time to spend crafting their tunes. The results are kickass. Supposedly,
this is a live show, but it barely sounds as if they have the
"live filter" turned on, let alone are playing in front
of people. Unless no one was there. Like all good punk, lyrics
are barely understandable, but you kinda sense they might be good.
Music is pinched-nerve, head-shakin’ good as well. Hell, if they
sound this good playing in front of nobody, they should come to
LA where they can play in front of lot of nobodies and me. (Margaret
Wendy & Bonnie Genesis CD (Sundazed) This is one
of those things so perfectly matched to a certain geekoid demographic
that it’s tough to believe it’s real. Two nubile San Francisco
sisters, circa 1968, unleashed an album of shimmery Brazilian-inflected
soft pop originals for the jazzy Skye label. The label went under,
and the record was barely heard. Revived with bonus tracks, Genesis
is a charming, surprisingly mature confection, studded with tasteful
session work and the girls’ own prodigious playing. While not
as amazing as some reviewers would have you believe, it’s a very
pleasant and surprising record, sure to appeal to sixties pop
The West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band Vol. 2 CD (Sundazed)
This is the first of their records I heard, via a 25-cent German
copy scored when the Rhino parking lot sale still yielded such
treats, and it’s still my fave. A blackly glowing concept album
about the Vietnam War and sex with underaged Sunset Strip habitués,
it also features "Smell of Incense," the loveliest thing
they ever put to wax.
The West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band Vol. 3: A Child’s
Guide to Good & Evil CD (Sundazed) The stripped-down WCPAEB
trio of Shaun Harris, Ron Morgan and weirdo Bob Markley deliver
their final Reprise album, a freaked out blend of psychedelic
prettiness, antiwar cries, and interband conflict manifested as
cynical riffs on the hippie ethic. Obnoxious as Markley undoubtedly
was, he could come up with some pretty wild lyrics: "A vampire
bat will suck blood from our hands/ A dog with rabies will bite
us/ Rats will run up your legs/ But nothing will matter."
Fascinating and creepy.
The Witches Universal Mall CD (Fall of Rome) Interesting
Detroit combo who keep you guessing with their garage-pop-psychedelic
stew, held loosely in check by producer Jim Diamond. Undisciplined,
The Woggles Live! At the Star Bar CD (Blood Red) Hometown
gig from September 2000 shows the perpetual party band in high,
sweat-soaked dudgeon as they crank through two dozen good excuses
to order another beer.
Steve Wynn Here Come the Miracles double CD (Innerstate)
Heading out to the desert with Chris Cacavas was an inspired move
for Wynn. Not since first-wave Dream Syndicate has he sounded
so in love with his band, the emotional environment he apparently
needs to tap into magic places. Miracles is two disks of tough,
moody rockers seeped in West Coast mythology and a strong shot
of heartbreak. Track 3 ("Sustain") is about as close
to perfection as a pop song needs to be these days, but the record’s
strong throughout. Recommended, and even better live.
Yesterday’s Kids Everything Used To Be Better CD (Panic
Button) The songs are well written pop. The music’s well played
if a bit derivative. Lots of potential "hit" singles
here. My main complaint here is the vocal stylings. I don’t know
why, but altogether too many punk singers nowadays have that same
deadpan delivery. You know it when you hear it. Like an uncynical
10-year-old kid, who is trying to pretend he’s not singing. Where
the hell did that originate? Gilman Street? Which is a shame,
’cause otherwise I’d like this a lot. (Margaret Griffis)
Zakary Thaks Form the Habit CD (Sundazed) One of the
finest regional garage bands of the sixties, Corpus Christi’s
Thaks could write their own rave ups or make a Kinks cover their
own. Best known for tough stuff like "Bad Girl" and
"Face to Face," they also played nice and dished out
the harmonies when inclined. This crisp-sounding disk compiles
their J-Beck, Thak and Cee-Bee singles with several previously
unreleased cuts. Check out the patricidal "Can You Hear Your
Daddy’s Footsteps"-yow, nuts!