Friday, November 10, 2006

Listening to Pylon Trying to Figure Out This Shit...

No big windbagging from me here. I guess I only started this because Creem stopped posting my updates. So this is the first thing Creem didn't run...volume two of my singles review column. More to come.

The Come Ons “Lullabye” Red Lounge Records

Import single with a remix as the A-side. Guitar rocks on a solid Paul Maroon of the Walkmen swath of reverb as the drums lock on the Bonham specter. Vocals kinda put you to sleep, but then again, maybe that’s the point? The flip is a cover of the VU’s “Who Loves the Sun” using only voice and bass. The close-mic placement for the vocals lets you hear all the saliva rolling around in the back of Deanne Iovan’s throat. I’d be lying if I said that wasn’t hot. Actually, I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t hott because that deservers two t’s.

the Carbonas “Lost Cause” Rob’s House Records

I’ve still never really loved any Carbonas records and still keep buying everything they put out. So who’s the fool? Uptempo Atlanta punk as a much better version of the Dangerhouse stuff re: X or the Avengers. I think I saw them open for the Black Lips once, but I probably don’t remember them because they played with the Black Lips (they’ll make you forget your own damn name they’re so good). Recorded live and you can actually hear everything. Still, my response is “Eh.”

Om / Six Organs of Admittance, Holy Mountain Records

Ben Chasny, the brainpower behind SOoA, is what I imagine Fonzie would be like in real life. So badass that he not only haunts you with mind-melting black folk burnings with Six Organs, but also slays dragons with Comets on Fire. Juxtaposition of smooth harmonic voice over seriously twisted geetar freakout is much-appreciated. All that aside Om still totally skullfucks the shit out of this single. Holy hell…all kinds of heavy bass groove like when the Melvins still had Shirley Temple’s daughter in the band. Me likee Om…are all their jams this tight?

Submarine Races “Talking Loud” Shit Sandwich Records

Ian Adams was infallible with Happy Supply and played the sideman position perfectly in the Ponys. The Races don’t really sound like either of those bands. It’s definitely the least fey I’ve ever heard Ian…which different people will take different ways. Best song on the single is the cover of the Minutemen’s “Party With Me Punker” as the two originals just seem to be missing something I can’t put a finger on. Typical sixties-type song structures with little bits of tangential junk tossed in to spice it up? Do I need to hear their album to understand it better? I’m left scratching my head. Please give me more time.

Black Time “Girls in the Garage” Bancroft Records

First thing they’ve done that I’ve actually played more than once. Their other stuff feels a tad bit more touched with effort while this rocks without pretension. “Girls in the Garage” not only oozes with hand-clappy goodness, but is also the title of a top series of garage compilations. “Link Wray” is raw enough to make you think the song’s namesake actually wrote it. Rumble on you UK roughnecks.

Justice Yeldham and the Dynamic Ribbon Device: Live in Beirut, Chondritic Sound

Even if you don’t like pure noise you should still keep reading. Whoever this is (I don’t really care to read-up) has managed to amplify a jagged piece of glass, grease it up with some KY and “play” it with his face. Much respect. Sounds like the stomach gurgling of pre-historic beasts whose diet of dirt and fear cannot be explained to those alive in this eon. Apparently side-b features Justice cutting hisself with the glass and creating an unholy goo of blood and lube. Still not sure IF I believe that it was recorded live in Beirut (as I would imagine such a thing being shut down in even the most liberal of places, let alone Iran) but I definitely WANT to believe it. Just make sure you have the band-aids ready…and some KY too.

The Touch-Me-Nots “Hey, Television” Roach and Squirrel Records

Two-piece Oakland punk-blues. I hope they’re kids because any adult doing this stuff nowadays would be sad (Don Howland excluded, who should demand royalties for these songs). Go buy a Bassholes record instead.

The Makeout Party “Wreckless Epic” Kapow Records

Unsolicited singles package from Kapow Records arrived at the Heavenly Joy headquarters and I think it’s safe to say I’ll review any 7” sent my way. A-side is a cool VU mix-up of equal dollops of “Sweet Jane” and “Waiting for the Man”. And I can’t ignore the silver-foil stamp of a jalapeno on the sleeve in the same fashion/angle as the peelable banana on a record y’all are familiar with. B-side “It’s All Right” more like Big Star? Definitely poppier and the kind of thing you’d put on a mix-tape for your ladyfriends. Big up’s.

Almighty Do Me a Favor “Won’t Be None” Kapow Records

This is a curiously-named one-man-band. Can’t say I’m a fan of the genre, but this manages to keep my interest. The artwork makes it look like a Billy Childish release…complete with band logo and woodcuts (or what appears to be) depicted in brown. And it sounds like Billy’s solo stuff too. Not terribly bad, but also nothing to lose your dong over.

The Dansettes “Oh My!” Les Disques Cosmic Groove

I was impressed with the ‘settes opening set for the Dirtbombs in Hoboken. Bought the single for $6. I understand it’s an import, but there’s no reason to charge import prices at a band’s merch table, especially when you’re getting one song with an instrumental version of the song as the flip. So I just paid $6 for one song? Come on.

Anyturd, they were pretty smoking live. Three cute mod-looking girls singing soul with four nerdy guys backing them up. I started to think about all the bands with a similar foundation…the Headcoatees, the Detroit Cobras, the Pipettes, Sharon Jones/Dap Kings, the Fondas, the Bellrays, etc. It bummed me out. Beautiful women with these amazing voices backed by record collecting dudes who look like it. I built up some kind of manifesto in my head…I think I just wanted these women to write their own songs, to play an instrument more substantial than the tambourine, to just take more charge. Seeing this dedicated subservience, under the guise of “fronting” the band was just kinda sad. Maybe this is just my problem. Maybe no one else sees this as weird or wrong or anything. I could totally be over-analyzing this. And I may be totally wrong about some of those bands…I just know most of the women in those acts weren’t writing the tunes.

And to make good use of my American Studies class at Wayne State over three years ago, I referred to my copy of John Berger’s “Ways of Seeing”, particularly all of his #3 essay. Some selections:

“To be born a woman has been to be born, within an allotted and confined space, into the keeping of men.”

“Men survey women before treating them. Consequently how a woman appears to a man can determine how she will be treated. To acquire some control over this process, women must contain it and interiorize it.”

“One might simplify this by saying: men act and women appear. Men look at women. Women watch themselves being looked at. This determines not only most relations between men and women but also the relation of women to themselves. The surveyor of women in herself is male: the surveyed female. Thus she turns herself into an object – and most particularly an object of vision: a sight.”

Those few selections, more than anything else, seem to convey my whole hang-up with bands like the Dansettes. Berger makes it clear: men act, women appear. It’s the entire basis of this band’s existence. No one would give two shits about the Dansettes if the three singers looked just like the backing band. In that, we not only find the crux of the band’s composition, but also the crowd and its perception thereof.

Beyond that, they seem to be over-playing the whole retro angle. The write-up on the back cover of the single just reads so terribly and seemed to echo how the keyboardist spieled onstage…lots unnecessary verbiage. I think my tastes would appreciate this band being much more understated and low-key. In the end, “Oh My!” was nowhere near the best of their songs and the production feels stilted on the “vintage sixties” angle. I’d still buy a new single of theirs if I saw one.


JPD said...

To make good use of my lit class of four years ago, I seem to recall
that Berger (and I did think the book was pretty good in spots) was a
dyed-in-the-wool Marxist, a philosophical framework that has never
been all that friendly to art or creative expression (pull out the
ouija board and ask Isaac Babel). Frameworks as such, and manifestoes
as well, remind me of that Japanese pachinko game: once that ball
falls into a certain slot, it's going along one single path, without
any chance of a detour. A detour, for example, like finding some
excitement and resonance and satisfaction in "beautiful women with
amazing voices" whether or not the backing band may or may not look
like one's ideal of what a backing band should look like. Why put a
straightjacket on any experience? Who cares what anyone looks like, as
long as they can sing or play? Its disheartening to think that art can
still be thought of in terms of economics and consumption/production,
and male dominance/gaze. Subservient? I imagine that would come as
quite an affront to any one of the three women pouring their hearts
into their performance. When I get that hair-on-end feeling along my
arms and neck, I don't think it has much to do with socio-political
categories and gender roles. Or whether a back-up musician is wearing

JP Dixon

cassdetroit said...

hey jpd,
you make some good points, but i think you focus too much on my comments about how the band members look. if there wasn't such a coordination of a "look" whether it's the musicians all wearing suits and the singers with coordinated mini-dresses, maybe people won't talk about it. but once you make it a conscious effort (hell, once you just walk onstage), it's open season for critique. and believe me, i've been on the receiving end of similar critiques many a times (take notice of the last dirtbombs album title). all that aside, my hang-up is the fake-empowerment bands like the dansettes give their singers. i want to see these women write songs, play instruments...and until they do that, they remain subservient. they're still looking to you...i'm sorry, their "band" for the songs and lyrics. jennie, jaime and leah remain a voice looking for someone to tell them what to say. for a band so entrenched in a bygone era of sound, it's really, really an uphill battle. you've limited yourself to the point that it borders on schtick. but i also understand the crux...the musicians need the vocalists and vice versa. they're reliant upon each other. i guess in the end, whether i like it or not, that's what a band is all about.