Sunday, April 22, 2007

Singles Column Volume Nine with Special Beehive Records Evaluation...

Cheap Time "Spoiled Brat" Sweet Rot Records
I think these Nashville teens have finally found the outlet for their Redd Kross obsession. What was initially an attempt at a Brentwoods rip-off band now has Nathan from Be Your Own Pet on drums. The excitable Jeffrey Novak has put out more at his age than Paris Hilton…from his one man band to the Rat Traps and now this he's got to be over 10+ releases, all of it pretty damn reliable. The churning West Coast-lite punk here is easily digestible. More please.

Ghosting/Robedoor split single Not Not Fun Records
Does this spin at 33rpm? Plucky string stumbles over a droning, atmospheric bed give Ghotsing's "Rivermouth" an interesting beginning that goes nowhere very slowly. Unfortunately, listening to it at 45rpm doesn't change a thing. There's a bit of feedback, but in my opinion it is far too quiet and far too buried to be enjoyed. Run-out groove reads "PDX GHOSTS".

Robedoor's "Roving Shaman" starts very similar to "Rivermouth" but slowly, almost unnoticeably, builds volume only to pull back to a dull din. This reminds me of the Songs of the Humpback Whale LP I've been so into lately. Total whale ballads dude. Robedoor wins…by reason of volume change and locked groove. Run-out groove reads "LA ROBES" and "Cut By:…" followed by some Japanese symbols. I should know who that is by now. Limited edition of 325.

Spider and the Webs "Frozen Roses" K Records
I thought this was supposed to be straight-up garage? "Frozen Roses" leans a little bit twee-er than I remember. While "It's Lovely Weather For Ducks" is a charming title, it's almost British in sound. "Mister Hypnotist" is a smoking hot mover with snappy drums and reverbed guitar that gets it right. I've been hip-mo-tized! Misto-hypno is far and away the best thing on this record. No moody, glum Norwest soundtrack to rain…the undeniable awesomeness of "Mister Hypnotist" (with writing credit to Satan (?) and Al Larsen (Some Velvet Sidewalk)) makes up for the complete let-down of the other two songs

Hatebeak/Birdflesh split single, Relapse Records
Hatebeak has a parrot as their lead singer. Death metal in the form of Dethklok is fine and dandy as long as it's a joke, right? Even so, if you've got a parrot singing, fucking milk that shit dry? I counted three parrot sounds TOPS in these two songs. What gives? Get that tastes-like-chicken punk off Captain Jack's shoulder and lock him in the vocal booth until he produces. Jeez, it's like I gotta do everything around here.

Birdflesh is much more brutal. Like, totally brutal. I just can't tell if they're serious or not. Birdflesh wins.

Brimstone Howl "Heat of the Beat" Speed! Nebraska Records
I get a Stooges with Scott Thurston feel on "Heat of the Beat"…the electric piano coupled with equally chugging and burning guitar (a la James Williamson) deserves a shitty Bowie mix and a Mick Rock photo to make it just perfect. The lyrics/vocals are Ramones-like in their dumb simplicity.

Flip of "Six and Seven" is trad country/gospel progression that could pass for a Greg Cartwright song if you squint your ears just right. And the organ sounds from Dave Goldbergensteinblum equally recall Quintron's more soulful moments. And they're from Nebraska? Good onya. Recommended. Though I've got one small complaint…the screen-printed paper sleeves have left an impression on the vinyl that reads "rimston howl". Not cool…let that shit dry in the future.

Black Hollies/Dansettes split single, Ernest Jenning Record Co.
A-side has the Hollies doing "Hush" and while most people know it by Deep Purple (and really, that's not a bad thing) it's written by Joe South. Appearances by JB Flatt of the Dansettes on groovy organ stabs and the actual Dansettes on backing vox flesh out the arrangement. But if they're serious in their claim to be "in the vein of the Yardbirds, the Pretty Things, the Who, the Pink Floyd Sound, The Cream, The spirit of Stax…" they are clearly failing. This recalls none of the spark or energy or excitement on even the most flaccid of recordings from any of those bands. I mean, come on, you're four white guys from Jersey who used to be (still are?) in Rye Coalition, you can't just put on a velvet jacket and automatically think you've got people fooled.

The Dansettes "Forty Days" is so close to nailing the vintage mid-Sixties Motown sound that I wish it came with company letterhead ready for a staff meeting evaluation and that Smokey was locked outside the boardroom begging to be let in. Ah…other people's memories. While I wouldn't choose this over a hot dog if I was starving hungry and down to my last dollar, I would consider it. The bassline is just close enough to the Four Tops "Bernadette" without sounding like a straight rip-off and while I'm not in love with Jaime Kozyra's vocal phrasing and delivery it still appears to work. When the "You Keep Me Hanging On" telegraph-sounding. Robert White imitation guitar licking sneaks its way in the backdoor towards the end the feeling is pretty blissful. Well done. The Dansettes blow the Black Hollies out of the water.

Baby Gecko/Soft Shoulder split, Gilgongo
Three of the four BG songs sound entirely/only influenced by the Butthole Surfers' "Who Was In My Room Last Night?" and that is just about the highest compliment I can give. Have you not heard that song, do yourself a favor and find it and proceed to have your brain eviscerated by point-by-point perfect rock and roll.

It's almost like Soft Shoulder didn't have a chance…but the drop-tuned guitar, sax and clarinet work together in a wildly original manner. I wanna say a bit no wave but this seems to hold a particular ferocity that the No New York bands oftentimes lacked. And with the clari, I'm thinking more of the JSBX version of the Chain Gang's "Son of Sam". And I just happened to have that in my head all day. Crazy weird.

Despite having the Buttholes on their side, Soft Shoulder wins this one by the nose of a clarinet.

Cuckold "Blood on My Hands" Beehive Recording Company
Don't be confused…this is a digital-only single. Just before midnight last night (April 21st) the fine feathered folks behind Beehive launched their digital storefront and this is the debut string of one and zeros.

"Blood on My Hands" recalls Mudhoney's self-titled album with a twist of hi-hat skedaddle that, for better or worse, you don't tend to hear from Dan Peters. I was not expecting to like this and I'm slightly impressed. The, uh, flip (?) "Bad Reputation" is a Bo Diddley-beat verse coupled with a Stooge "1969"-like guitar ramble. Then the chorus gets all Mule and they lose me. Oh well, one for two leaves them batting .500 and still makes them way better than Willie Mays ever was.

You tell me…will people get excited and interested in Mp3's of bands not known outside of Detroit? One of the selling points is supposed to be the artwork, but as you can see on the Cuckold cover, it's very underwhelming. And the space between the bottom of the "K" and the "O"…is it really supposed to look like that? I know it's the first release and there's still a lot of kinks to be worked out, but I'm overly-critical because I honestly want to see this label thrive.
In my opinion, the Beehive approach is somewhat backward. For a label that believes in and has been enthralled by the allure of the 7" single, selling downloads to facilitate proposed "eventual" seven-inch pressings is not the way to go about things. There's no need to embrace the digital download medium just because that's where it seems the business is heading (the fact that these bands and this town are so far away from what's actually the "biz" needs to be accounted for too). The industry has been far too wrong far too often for us to blindly follow its lead. Example: Anyone own any commercially released Minidiscs? If you believe in a format like the 7" single, USE IT! Don't plan on using it later.

Knowing that a chunk of change has been sunk into the Beehive's start-up is disconcerting. Granted a lot of the costs have gone toward establishing the studio end of the deal, but on the other end, pressing a 7" single is not cost prohibitive. Here's a slight twist that I think the Beehive will (sooner rather than later) have to embrace to become viable.

Start by pressing the 7". For $510 you can press 200 copies of a seven-inch right here in beautiful Detroit. Don't worry about picture sleeves because most of the best singles never came with those anyway. And the label only needs to have one color because we're just worried about the music, right? Hell, I volunteer to rubber stamp all those singles by hand to save you the $90 printed labels run. With those 200 singles, give a batch to the band. I usually would say 10%, but because that's barely anything, go with 20%. That leaves you with 160 copies of the record. If you're into promo, you can give some copies away, toss 'em all on your bedroom floor, go skeet shooting with them, whatever. If that takes up more than 60 copies (which, I can say, is A LOT of records to give away) you're still left with 100 copies to sell. $5 a pop, on your website direct to the consumer. Don't fuck around with middlemen because if the Internet has proven anything it's the demise of the big distro. If the songs are as good and moving as they should be, getting rid of 100 copies is NOTHING. That's a week, easy. And if you can ONLY sell 100 copies, you're only out ten bucks. If you can sell 102 copies…BAM! You broke even.

And the 7" is something that has already solidly proven its allure and collectibility. A lot of people will buy a single who don't own record players, don't care about the band or are just looking for an "investment". I can give a shit as to what people after they buy something from me as a record sold is always a record sold.

So when you're immediately sold out of this single and everyone's hoarding copies like they're the antidote to stupidity, you pop out your sleek website and say "hey, the seven-inch may be sold out, but if you want to hear the songs, you can download them here." Hell, include a bonus track too if you're savvy and you got one. This isn't rocket science. This can work.

If you can't sell 100 copies of a 7" are you really going to be able to sell more than 100 downloads of the same thing? I don't know the answer to that but I have my doubts.
That being said, these two songs are the first music downloads I have ever paid for. I thought the download/Paypal process could've been streamlined, but then I also don't know how it works with the iTunes store. The whole thing leaves me excited, concerned, cautious and optimistic all at the same time. In world where most music fails to elicit ANY reaction from me, that's quite a thing to be said. Godspeed Beehive.


Christopher Chouinard said...

I absolutely agree with the mindset here. I am one of those people. I have an Ipod sure, I downloaded both The Fags and High Strung off there. When I saw the bands live, I bought the Cd, and in HS case - everything, First album, send, third, third on Vinyl. I have a record player, and yes, I use it . I need a new one in fact. What I love about this site it that I learn NEW things about smaller, indie bands . I will pay for a copy, I do listen to it. I "put value" on nothing anymore, collectibles I paid hundreds for PRE EBAY made me learn I can find em on Vinyl now for 3.00 ( from Australia) . Yeah, Mark Lindsey *Paul Revere and the Raiders) score to SHOGUN ASSASSIN fan I'm talking to you.
On another note- BEEHIVE party - L.J.'s this WED. Dress up.

stephen said...

Howdy Once Again Ben! I feel like I may have to clarify my reasons for taking on this endeavor.

Simply put, I believe in the music of Detroit. It has nothing to do with vinyl vs mp3, or what the music industry says.
My question for you is, tell me where I can go to find Detroit music? Sure I can go to the shows and hope the acts remember to bring a merch guy with them. Maybe I can find some vinyl at local record stores hidden behind a Britney Spears display, but only if the bands are persistent enough to keep up on replenishing their stock. And of course I can go to Cass Records or Bellyache and find some quality tunes. But outside these resources, there is nothing but truly talented individuals with no way of getting their music heard. The Beehive will put an end to that. And the best part is, all the music is already in your house, always in stock, and ready to go.

Will the rest of the world listen? Don't know. My concerns are based upon the world around me, my reality, and by that I mean, Detroit, MI. Over the years I've become bored with the notion that in order to do something of value, it has to be validated by some asshole in New York or Los Angeles or be acknowledged by the global economy. This label is for the people of Detroit and it is important for everyone to know that.

I know this is a radical idea that many of us, including myself, are just getting used to. There's nothing to hold, nothing to grab onto, only the music. However, I believe this is the future of the music industry and I'm doing what I believe is right, which is to adjust. Change is normally awkward at first and it truly means a lot to me, that a Beehive single, by a band your not especially into, was your first music download. And the fact that you were even slightly impressed, pleases me.

As for vinyl, I agree with you. I can't wait to start putting out 45's and I believe this will be happening in the near future. However, being the son of two artists, I don't think I could sacrifice a picture sleeve.

Hopefully, you'll enjoy next weeks artwork for The Expatriates. Considering, we'll be releasing a single a week, I'm sure eventually, we might even be able to get you to feel moderately impressed.

Congratulations on The Go record; it is truly a great record and the artwork is beautiful.

Cheers! I'm looking forward to sitting down with you and sharing some ideas.
Stephen P. Nawara

Anonymous said...

That's a great response Steve, I have been intrigued by this idea since I heard about it and thanks for clarifying your position in an eloquent, professional way, lots of other fellow Detroiters don't have that capability yet. That said, I believe your concept can work and the only way to find out is to try it and give the idea and everyone involved an honest chance. No telling which way it will go like you said but this is how bigger things can take shape and benefit the music community. Im curious to hear what some of the other labels in Detroit think of this too, it can only be a positive for them too as time goes on. Good luck to all of you.

Michael said...

Ben, it seems as though you really have a problem with Mule, your last review of us mentioned it and this one seems to reveal your feelings a bit more clearly. They are indeed an influence, as well as Jake having been in the band and myself spending time playing with P.W. Long. So, sorry, our roots are showing.
That, though isn't my main concern. What excites me about Beehive and working with them is the possibility of getting our music (as well as the music of other truly great talent in Detroit) all around the world, in an instant. I love the 45 format. I have hundreds of them, many by your own band. I would like to press lathe cut vinyl in the shapes of saw blades. Sometimes, it is (at least initially) cost prohibitive. As soon as we see some returns, we hope to have cases of 45s sitting around our house, at the ready, for your pleasure. Until then, I'm glad and a bit touched that you would spend your 2.50 on our, your first, music download.

-Mike Walker

Amy Abbott said...

Touching indeed, that Cuckold broke your "pay to download cherry".
That being said...
There are 25 guys in every music scene that will agree with you, and 25,000 in the outlying areas that are looking for convenience, mp3s and the fast track to new music. While mp3s may or may not be the medium of the future, 7" singles are primarily for collectors, scenesters and people in the know. Offices are filled with people who make too much money and spend their day surfing the internet on company time looking for something new to add to their IPod playlist. Don't fear progress, fear Prog Rock.
And so what if Cuckold is influenced by Mule? Mule kicked ass.

Amy "That's right..I don't own a turntable but I do have an 8-track, let's start making those" Abbott

DR. DETROIT said...

A gramophone record (also phonograph record, or simply record) is an analogue sound recording medium consisting of a flat disc with an inscribed modulated spiral groove starting near the periphery and ending near the center of the disc. Gramophone records were the primary medium used for commercial music reproduction for most of the 20th century. They replaced the phonograph cylinder in the 1900s, and although they were supplanted in popularity in the late 1980s by digital media, they continue to be manufactured and sold as of 2007. Gramophone records remain the medium of choice for many audiophiles and music aficionados.

The terms LP record (LP, 33, or 33-1/3 rpm record), EP, 16-2/3 rpm record (16), 45 rpm record (45), and 78 rpm record (78) each refer to specific types of gramophone records. Except for the LP and EP (which are contractions of Long Play and Extended Play respectively), these type designations refer to their rotational speeds in revolutions per minute (RPM). LPs, 45s, and 16s are usually made of polyvinyl chloride (PVC), and hence may be referred to as vinyl records or simply vinyl.


Anonymous said...

It's a *preference*, not cancer.

Amy Abbott for Queen!

-Eve Doster

P.S. Sycophants hurt.

stephen said...

You know what? I've seen the light. After reading the definitions of 45's, 33's, and 78's, I've come to an epiphany. After listening to Robert Johnson on Mp3, he kinda sounds like a loser. But when I hear him on a 78, he sounds like the King Of the Blues! I used to like The Beatles, but now, after listening to them as an mp3, they kinda sound like The Monkees. Thank you for clarifying that the format is more important than the content!
The Beehive Recording Company

dr detroit said...

no not a comment on the quality of music of the beatles , robt. johnson , the beehive label , or any other music. a response to the idea that 45's and lp's are an outdated fromat for music consumption. while it's true that mp3's are a quick and convienent format for music(and sometimes great tool for obtaining hard to find music) , it's an opinion of mine that vinyl has outlived the other formats (and will out live cd's) , because it has been proven to the superior format .artistically and sonically.

so i ask you , the people of earth.
would you rather own a warhol screen print or a digital printout of a warhol ? would you rather see citizen cane in the theater or on youtube? would you rather read a book or have it implanted in your head via micro-chip? rather play a vintage les paul thru a marshall cabinent or a line six guitar and amp from guitar center.
and finally would you prefer to listen to cuckold on a 45 or an mp3 ?
- dr . detroit

Big Tim said...

I would rather listen to
Cuckold on:
[ ]45
[ ]mp3
[x]Loads of blow