Sunday, April 29, 2007

Singles Column Volume Ten...

The Expatriates "Bedroom Games" Beehive
A-side recalls the twangy guitar runs found on the Sights self-titled album tracks "Everything" and "Backseat" and I'm not necessarily against this. The drum beat is almost identical to that of the verses of "Be(e?) Like Normal" from the Sights' Got What We Want album. Funny that the only guy in the Expatriates who wasn't in the Sights is the one who wrote "Bedroom Games". Osmosis? More like bros-mosis.

"The New Dylan" is a Baranek-penned tune that has potential, but ultimately the choruses run all over the place with unbalanced tempo changes and strained vocals. You feel a missed opportunity (or teasing perhaps) when Eddie throws the line "it ain't absolute like heroes and villains" and doesn't use it to rhyme with Dylan. Come on! It was sitting right there in front of you!

Also, it's Doug Coombe (not Coombes) for photo credit. Still waiting for the Beehive to deliver some sting.

Lee Marvin Computer Arm (no idea of the song titles) self-released
This band is relentless. Full-throttle all the time with no apologies. The thick cluster of guitar/bass/guitar is overpowering in the most delightful of ways. A-side label says "We C n fuck forever" while b-side says " ut you will never get my soul" and while a Gun Club reference from these guys is unexpected, I think it's pretty damn clever to signify the A and B designations by specifically NOT printing those letters.

When I think of a rock band in the old 1960's gang-mentality "us against the world" terms Lee Marvin Computer Arm totally harkens back to that feel. And I don't know why…maybe it's the shared blood running through their veins, maybe it's because they don't play ballads, maybe it's the freak on the trumpet blowing like crazy but whatever it is, they seem to contain a certain intangible that is wholly exhilarating and endearing and exciting all at the same time.

Limited release show sleeves limited to 40 copies (available on green or yellow paper) and 15 of those came with a hand-numbered CD-r containing the three songs from the 7" plus the five tracks from their self-titled CD. Oh yeah, I'm flattered to say this single might end up as a Cass release.

Titus Andronicus "s/t" Shake Appeal
For an act who've chosen Shakespeare's bloodiest play for their band name, there's hardly any gore involved in their tunes. Which is cool, you know, if you don't like Slayer. A-side is actually titled "Titus Andronicus" and feels elementary and British. Meanwhile, I'm hard pressed to think of another band who've named a song after themselves besides "Dead Moon Night". Correct me in the comments section. The flip of "Fear and Loathing in Mahwah, NJ" is splendidly epic with its overdriven bass, propelling drums and stately piano. At times the drums lose their place, but that merely establishes ponderable loose/structured juxtaposition. And when the Angus Young "weedly-weedly-weedly" guitar comes in you think it's gone delightfully over the top. That is until the martial drums come in with the horn section. Could very well act as the score to the final scene in a film. I'm imagining something a la the John Hughes oeuvre.

Honestly though, in researching the topic I've become caught up in the Shakespeare Authorship Question on Wikipedia. Both are terribly interesting and while I can't actually see myself reading Titus Andronicus I will most certainly buy more of their records. I recommend this simply for the weird and hard-to-pigeonhole aspect of it.

Old Time Relijun "Tightest Cage" K Records
I gave up on this band a long time ago. Seeing them live certainly helped. But the allure of a 7" single dragged me back into this mess. Lead singer Arrington de Dionyso is still giving his strange approximation of throat-singing on the A-side matched with ping-pongy guitar, bleating sax and womb-like upright bass. They've never been as good as when they had Phil Elvrum (now the brains behind Microphones) on drums. B-side is instrumental version of "The Indestructible Life" and I'm slowly beginning to see why Old Time Relijun and the Danielson Family were the only things I ever played in the White Stripes tour van that were unanimously overruled and had to be taken out of the CD player.

Neon Maniacs "Nothing's Safe" Puke'N'Vomit
Could this come from anywhere besides Southern California? Don't think so. From the Le Shok school of song titles and song length, it all recalls a younger, sped-up and less classic version of the early Damned. Tour edition limited to 300 copies.

Arctic Monkeys "Brianstorm" Domino
This is meant to be heard on the 10" format. Starting with a lush and intriguing string arrangement "If You Found This It's Probably Too Late" then erupts into fiery Arctic bashing groove that is from the same ilk as the title cut. And "Brianstorm" is essential Monkeys. Alex Turner's turn-of-phrase is as deft as ever and I'm not exaggerating when I say I get a faint resemblance to the Bard's iambic pentameter when I hear him spit. The delivery behind lyrics like "bless us with your effortlessness" is painfully dazzling. Matt Helders' hammering assault on his toms and distinct behind-the-beat accents throughout are the glue that holds this masterpiece together.

Flip it over and "Temptation Greets You Like A Naughty Friend" banks on an infectious downtempo groove that feels oh so fresh. Lyrically Turner fascinates with his comparison of sexual temptation to the bad influence of an old friend. The intertwined themes play off each other with adroit skill. Dizzee Rascal with his grimey flow would be ruinous in other theaters, but it comes off with precision and adds a necessary opposing voice.

If that all weren't enough to swallow, "What If You Were Right the First Time" recalls "Trompe Le Monde" Pixies with its spacey guitar amble before leaning on an enticing instrumental passage more Pixie-ish with "Velouria"-like atmospheres and a synth that's the crushed up crackers in your chicken noodle soup.

I've not heard a single that's hit me this hard in quite some time. All four songs are killing me. As I look through the 10" section of my record collection not one thing can hold a flame to this. A shame that three of these songs did not make the "Favourite Worst Nightmare" full-length, but a shame that's easily remedied by hearing these songs. ESSENTIAL.

The White Stripes "Icky Thump" Warner Brothers
Little Known Fact: This song can cure asthma.

The Tall Birds "Action" Shake Appeal
Well-read without being retread, melodic without being sugary and rough without being abrasive, the Tall Birds are, in two words, the shit. I can babble on here but it still won't do their righteousness justice. So just do yourself a favor and just get this single. The label touted this as smoking their single on Sub Pop and even though I fell in love with that one I think it's still a toss up.

I signed up for the Bug House singles club to support the entrepreneurial spirit. First single was a Dan Melchior one I reviewed a few columns back. All of them come in white paper sleeves hand-screened with a rubber-like ink. Some have etched b-sides. Most have rubber-stamped labels. They all reek of a homemade "so what if the ink smears?" abandon and that is to be commended. And who can argue 14 singles, a patch, a pin and other yet-to-be-announced goodies for the low, low price of $35. No matter how you size it up, that's a bargain. Here's quick words in order of release, omitting Melchior because I already did that one before I knew it'd be part of this…

The Burning Hatreds "Hit the Road"
Breakneck and abrasive and over before you know it, "Hit the Road" is like the Germs but with a way-more advanced use of feedback. "Black Dress" is kinda honky-tonk in that Black Lips way but bathed in reverb.

The Wire Hangers "Nocturnal Heart"
Depressing in a Mark Lanegan solo record kind of way, "Nocturnal Heart" plods on the same two chords for what feels like forever. When a previously-unheard chord change pops in toward the end, it totally makes the song. "Jawbone Jagged" is down-home front porch foot-tappin sip of lemonade bathed in sunshine delight. Wonderful.

Ape City R'n'B "45"
Ugh. "Girl you got me spinning like a 45" is the first lyric you're going to let this listener make a judgement on? Come on. Could've been on Crypt Records 15 years ago but today it just seems pathetic and embarrassing. There's a fine line between paying homage to a genre and time past and just raping a dead horse. This single is far worse than dead horse raping.

Lurch "Gonna Bawl"
Primitive drop-tuned slide blues slop. Not particularly inspiring or ire-inducing, it's just sort of there.

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.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Tragedy Befalls the Stooges at Fox Theater...

Sticking piously to the age-old dictum "revenge is a dish best served cold" the Scorpions biker gang showed up at the Fox Theater Friday night and unleashed a firestorm of verbal and physical abuse on the visibly flustered reunited rock band Iggy and the Stooges.

Still-seething after Iggy and company's inflammatory performance February 5, 1974 at the Rock and Roll Farm in Wayne, the Scorpions (despite much baiting on WABX from the Ig himself) chose to avoid the Stooges ersatz "final show" on February 9th and without the formidable foes Iggy floundered onstage through remedial renditions of "Louie, Louie" and other shit Metallic K.O. makes you wish you'd forgotten.

There was no question the Scorpions would avoid the August 25th Stooges reunion show in 2003 (a national CPA convention in Seattle found most of the gang pre-occupied) but showing up at the Fox was totally unexpected. They collectively unleashed a hail of beer bottles, rotten fruit, laptops, car batteries and the like. One particularly portly Scorpion, slightly resembling guru Rick Rubin, made his way onto the stage, commandeered the microphone and bellowed "Iggy and the fucking Stooges…YOU FUCKING DIE!" before tackling Iggy and beating him into a bloody ball of flesh.

But up until that point, the night was sublime.

I'd held off on fully forming an opinion of The Weirdness until experiencing the songs off it in the live arena. And as unused to them as I was, those songs held up. "Trollin'" was catchy and had me yelling its title later in the night in front of the abandoned United Artists theater. How come no one's brought up how "My Idea of Fun" is strongly reminiscent of Sonic Youth's "Sugar Kane"? Not only is that a great reference point, but the lyrics themselves are yet another in a long line of Iggy doublespeak. To me, it's unclear whether Iggy's idea of fun is, simply, killing everyone OR Iggy's idea of fun is something else (Quaaludes, hop-scotch, cliff-diving, ghost-riding, chainsaw juggling) and that activity in turn is killing everyone. Hearing "My Idea of Fun" on local modern rock radio feels like some strange victory…Scott's sweet pre-solo drum fill making way for Ron's searing licks along with Iggy barking "I hate mankind" in a wonderfully sophomoric Flipper sort of way on the airwaves alongside My Chemical Romance or Fall-Out Boy is all the proof you need for the clear lack of relevance of those bands.

First obligatory Matt Smith quote: "The Weirdness is not the follow-up to Funhouse. It's the follow-up to Metallic K.O." Whatever dude.

As much as I surprisingly dug the new jams, this oldies act would be nothing without their back catalog. Thing is, I've seen the reformed Stooges a bunch…the DTE Show in '03, Primavera Festival in Barcelona in '05 and all across Australia during the Big Day Out Festival in '06. The DTE show was instantly legendary while Spain was kind of a downer and Australia fluctuated (Hank Rollins at the side of the stage every night, nerding out like you wouldn't believe) with Melbourne (or Detroit South as it has been known) sticking out as the best of that bunch.

The songs off the self-titled album were good, but left me thinking something was missing. Did the juice in those songs lie in Ron's overdubbed solos which (with one guitar player) are difficult to replicate without losing the rhythm? I think so.

But saving the day was Steve Mackay. I think this guy is really the secret behind the success of these reunion gigs. He adds squawky balls where needed and frees up Ron to shred. Just like I remembered from Australia, Steve waltzes on-stage unannounced and COMPLETELY NAILS his first four notes on "1970 (I Feel Alright)" exactly as they sound on Funhouse. And everything else after that is like he's shooting smoke on his fingers. And with his full head of hair (opposed to his usually short locks) he looks just as bad ass as his photo in the deluxe Funhouse re-ish.

Second obligatory Matt Smith quote: "Sax was heavy."

Iggy's vocal take on "1970" was interesting…he tossed in some of his swaggering croon on the "burn my heart"/"fall apart" couplet and the inflection actually added an impressive new dynamic like that old dog lucked into some new tricks…like the bashing of his vocal mic into the main house speakers creating an exciting and thud that rang sonorous throughout the ornate cupola of the Fox.

I dug Mike Watt's amp hump in "LA Blues". His overall lack of tossing jazz into songs originally performed by a guy who continually managed to play the bass like he'd never picked one up before was appreciated.

The lack of "Little Doll" in the setlist didn't bum me out as much as I thought it would. But I would really like to see them tackle "Ann" and toss on the frenetic "Dance of Romance" ending as featured on the deluxe double disc edition of the first album. But that's me just being fanboy. Though I still think "We Will Fall" could really bring down the house.

The Stooges are the last band of their kind. As has been noted before, in their day they attracted a degenerate crowd of convicts, junkies, bikers and overall deviants as if they were the only game in town for them weirdos. The thing is, I don't think any band this day and age would be able to recreate that kind of following with the Stooges kind of sound. There's just too much oddball stuff out there nowadays that's easily accessible…bands like Lightning Bolt and Wolf Eyes get written up in Spin and all the real nut-cases are currently into black metal and drone. But the Stooges still attract a majority of their old crowd. Sans the Scorpions there were a bevy of hard ass take-no-shit motherfuckers in the room. I was honestly a bit on edge and scared knowing that just about anything could happen yet not knowing what exactly would happen.

But that's one of the base principles of rock and roll. There should be an unexpected element. Surprise even. Add to that a feeling of fear…remember, this was a music that originally scared people and it's always important to keep a dose of that in the mix.

You could smell it in the air, you knew shit was going to go down. That it would come in the form of an Altamont-worthy beating delivered by one of the Scorpions on Iggy was unexpected. While their DTE show is arguably the best live music performance I have ever witnessed, the Fox Theater was a stellar example for everyone in attendance on how to do it right.

Side note: Anyone else hear the story of how ? and the Mysterians were supposed to open this show? (First off…would that not have been badass? Both bands together only missing one original member? On Woodward Avenue in downtown Detroit? Excuse me while I climb into my time machine. I think Powertrane is unexciting and tired while Scott Morgan should stick to singing soul in the Solution.)
Anyturd, word on the street was that the Stooges offered the slot to ? and company and whoever was negotiating for the Mysterians (manager? Booking agent? I don't know) accepted with the caveat that their teenaged niece could come out and perform a song with the Stooges. Needless to say, the Stooges respectfully(?) declined and ? and the Mysterians missed out on a prime chance to play in front of a big crowd and possibly make some dough in the process. Please, someone tell me this is just a cruel rumour.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

WDET: This is Not a Eulogy

(two of these people used to have WDET shows. One of these people still has a satellite radio show. And one of these people will always have pit stains)

With the departure of new music programming on Detroit’s WDET radio, the area is left devoid of a proper broadcast outlet for independent music. Wah-wah boo-hoo, I know. Perhaps this is the siren song we all need to hear…reach out to satellite, hi-def or podcasts. It’s only a matter of time. I’m sure network television initially thought no one in their right mind would PAY for TV…and now, do we have the Nielsen ratings for the Sopranos premier?

My first memory of WDET was sitting in the passenger seat of my mother’s Pontiac 6000 and her saying “That’s my cousin” as she flipped through the dial and Martin Bandyke’s voice came across.

I remember wondering why we didn’t listen to him more. I (with my mother) would never hear him in her car again. My thoughts were, if my cousin was on the radio, I would want to listen the them all the time. But I guess my mom wasn’t a big Los Lobos fan.

My first appointment listening to the station would be Wily Wilson’s Friday night-time show starting sometime in the late 90’s. He’d always start with Pookie McClain’s (right? Pookie McClain? I can’t find any verification on this) “Do the Uncle Willie” taken from some god-forsakenly scratched single. And occasionally he’d be brilliant…the Halloween show where he rocked Larry and the Blue Notes “Night of the Phantom” and his “Hey Joe-a-thon” where he played an impressive string of versions of “Hey Joe” (favorites being the Roks, a Michigan garage band from the ‘60s featuring actual gun shots on the recording and the Deep Purple long-as-hell version) were memorable.

Despite his unproven claim of being the first person to play the White Stripes on the radio, (I remember CJAM in Windsor being first) Wily was an ardent and early supporter of all things Detroit rock and roll. His show is easily where most of the rockers in this town first heard their own songs broadcast. I can’t remember where I first heard a Dirtbombs song I performed on over the radio, but have just come to assume that it was probably Wily who was responsible for the spin.

And although I’ve never heard the actual show, there was the legendary tale of Tom Potter being interviewed live on-air and drunk. The disastrous results almost cost Wily his job and found Potter writing a letter of apology to the station. If anyone has a copy of this, PLEASE, I would love to hear whether it was “salty meatstick” or “salty milkshake” which Tom asked whether or not he could say on-air.

While interviewing the Go in March of ’99 on the show, Dave Buick, the smart-ass he is, asked Wily “Can I say ‘Tom Potter’ on-air?”

Or Wily, introducing the individual Dirtbombs on his show in 2001, Potter’s response being “Hi, I’m not allowed to speak.”

I also remember a hazy, half-asleep night hearing 2 Star Tabernacle’s version of “Who’s to Say” (or possibly “Garbage Picker”) taken from a live recording at the Gold Dollar. That was pretty cool and weird and rare. I would oftentimes apologize to Wily for falling asleep during his show and it was always met with a laugh. I did all I could to stay up and would hope for a tune that could change my life’s trajectory.

The few times I actually visited the studio it was fun…whether it was Ed Love pitching a fit about the White Stripes recording full-blast while he’s trying to broadcast from the other room (thus leaving the band kicked out of the studio until the Dr. had finished his show), recording live with the Dirtbombs (with Wily in ’01 and Liz Copeland in ’04) the place was comfy and inviting. That being said, I could never get into the mixes of the live performances…both Dirtbombs spots, the Stripes, the Go were waaaay too vocal heavy with the guitars buried. But that’s really besides the point, the fact that someone was conscious enough to capture performances by these groups is the important part.

So as I listen to Mick Collins final edition of his Night Train radio show, I learn some things…

-the first song Mick ever heard on WDET was Devo’s “Gates of Steel” in 1980.

(the Dirtbombs would later cover the song live, way before I was in the band)

-the previous time Mick had a “last” radio show (while he was still in college, I believe) he ended with Jonathan Richman’s “This Kind of Music” and he would do so again on this occasion.

-his final show would be the only time I clearly remember Mick not fucking up…playing the wrong song or having to cut one off to make the on-the-hour news. It was as if only for this show, he had reached a level of professionalism.

But that is totally not the point. I loved the Night Train because Mick was the complete opposite of professional. For me, both radio and rock and roll, (to truly be meaningful) are best left to the characters who are original, uninhibited and unlearned. Someone like Electrifyin’ Mojo or Wolfman Jack transcended disc jockey malaise and made the in-between almost as memorable as the songs, in the same way that the Stooges or Bo Diddley could wrap Rush or Candlebox (great examples, surely) into the forgettable mess that they are.

Mick told personal stories on his show and that’s what the world needs. Personal stories in relation to music is really the entire purpose of this blog. No one’s opinion is worth a damn if they do not tell you how it makes them feel. So often on the Night Train Mick would say “I had to play this song because, for some reason, it reminds me of winter.” Those are the slices of life and experience that you cannot manufacture and remind the listener that they are alive.

The Night Train was cool for so many other reasons…an entire 2-hour show dedicated to the “Back From the Grave” series, actually playing Cass releases, giving personal shout-outs to friends who wanted to hear songs, hearing a true record collecting nerd spout about it on-air (like we had a man on the inside)…all that stuff will now sorely be lacking in my life and this town in the less because of it.

Mick’s first show on WDET had a half-hour segment on Fats Domino, explained as so…
There was a news story a few years back about a guy in Texas who threatened to bomb KMCM 96.3FM after three unsuccessful requests for Fats Domino’s “Ain’t That a Shame”. As has been retold dozens of times in the Dirtbombs’ van, we all could not understand why the guy was arrested and hauled away. Me, Pat, Mick, Ko and Troy all independently of each other, replied “Why didn’t they just play the song?”

So Mick said in his first show, “Ain’t no radio stations getting blown up on my watch.”

And it was fitting that Mick chose to play some Fats as part of his final set. The man had done all he could, but the station still bombed. The train had left the station and all that was left was the rumble of the tracks.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Can You Remember Greenhornes Covers?

The best part of any Greenhornes show is the unexpected covers they pull out. Below is an extensive (but by no means complete) list of covers they've been known to rock. Feel free to add to or question the list in the comments section or request other bands covers lists (I think a Gories or White Stripes list will be forthcoming). More real writing to come soon, I promise. And I needn't tell you...but all these songs are awesome. Not a dud in the bunch. Great taste those lads.

You Can't Judge a Book By Its Cover (Bo Diddley)
Crawdad (Bo Diddley)
When I Needed You (the Chain Reaction)
Interstellar Overdrive (Pink Floyd)
It's Off the Hook (Rolling Stones)
So Sad About Us (The Who)
Out in the Streets (the Who)
Shot Down (the Sonics)
I Can Only Give You Everything (T. Coulter)
Monkey Island (13th Floor Elevators)
Come on Back (Paul and Ritchie and the Crying Shames)
I'll Go Crazy (James Brown)
Can You See Me? (Jimi Hendrix)
You'll Never Do It Baby (the Pretty Things)
You Don't Believe Me (the Pretty Things)
Come See Me (the Pretty Things)
You're On My Mind (the Birds)
I Wanna Be Your Dog (the Stooges)
Communication Breakdown (Led Zeppelin)
Happenings Ten Years Time Ago (the Yardbirds)
Nobody But You (Little Walter)
Route 66 (Nat King Cole)
How Does it Feel to Feel? (the Creation)
My Baby Likes to Boogaloo (Don Gardner)
Sittin' on My Sofa (the Kinks)
Just Like Romeo and Juliet (the Reflections)
The Wizard (Black Sabbath)

Save My Soul (Wimple Wench)
You're Gonna Miss Me (13th Floor Elevators)

Goin' to the River (Bartholomew/Domino)
High Time Baby (Spencer Davis Group)
Lost Woman (the Yardbirds)
Gonna Get Me Someone (the Game)
It's My Soul (Clifton Chenier)
Let Me Be (Daniels)
Your Body Not Your Soul (Cuby and the Blizzards)
Mary Ann with the Shakey Hands (the Who)
Inside – Looking Out (the Animals)
Wake Me, Shake Me (Al Kooper)
Sad Day (Rolling Stones)

Sunday, April 01, 2007

The Ponys and the Black Lips and the Lightning Bolt Make Me Hate Standing Even More

Lightning Bolt was smartly playing early at the MOCAD. No tour-only vinyl at the merch table bummed me out, but there was a large selection of weirdo Wolf Eyes limited items. Tempting, but…

The show was everything I had expected. The duo set up on the floor with an impressive wall of amps and speakers behind them. They thrashed and the crowd frothed. There were no surprises. They did not play "Hello Morning" or "Assassins" the only two songs of theirs I would've recognized.

Should I have been in the pit with sweaty, stinky punks all rubbing up on me? Maybe that's the way to truly experience the Bolt. Nevertheless, I was completely satisfied with their performance without being overwhelmed. The show was impressive without being particularly noteworthy.

Meanwhile, back at the Magic Stick…

I didn't see enough of the Terrible Twos to say anything one way or another. I can say that I dig the band and that their "Plunderball" single is tits. They need more jams out soon.

The Black Lips were splendid. While "Oh Katrina" was sped-up to the point of losing its edge, the rest of their set was immaculate. New songs like "Bad Kids" and the one that re-appropriated the bass line of the Germs "Shut Down" were showing these good ole' boys know how to write 'em. They've yet to get worse and that's a lot less common than you'd think.

The biggest surprise for me was the crowd. Granted, I missed the last time the Lips played in town, but this crowd seemed almost the complete opposite of what I was used to seeing at their Detroit shows. There were a ton of young folks freaking out like it was the Beatles in '64. This is most likely due to their heightened visibility since inking with Vice, a questionable move at first that has found them followed by a New York Times film crew at SXSW and being interviewed for MTV News by John Norris.

So let it be said: The next Black Lips record (supposedly already recorded and set for a September release) will be huge. The current "live" album on Vice is a refresher course, a way to catch everyone up on the first 5 years of the band. Leaving "Katrina" off the disc is wise as it has the potential to be an explosive single. And with the Vice hype machine running at full-throttle, the Lips may soon all be wiping their butts with hundred dollar bills.

And did you see all the kids in striped t-shirts? Seriously there were like 15 kids running around in what seemed to be the same damn shirt. Is this the new fashion trend? Black Lips singer Cole was even wearing a surf-style breast-pocket striped tee (albeit backwards) and he said everyone is following their lead. I'm equally bummed and geeked because 1) I kinda don't want to wear my striped shirts now but 2) they still look badass and I'll probably wear 'em anyway.

I wasn't sure what to expect from the Ponys. Heard mixed opinions about their new disc Turn Out the Lights and was worried that while Brian Case's replacement of Ian Adams was smooth in the live forum, his work on tape would be too drastic a departure.

I was thoroughly wowed. While Adams pop-slant coloring made songs like "Shadowbox" and "I'm With You" smash hits in the Ponys pantheon, his exit has opened the gate for Case and Jered Gummere to volley riffery as Chicago's answer to Lee Ranaldo and Thurston Moore.

Asked to me during the Ponys' set: "Is this a Sonic Youth song? It really sounds like one." So while some may be bummed and others confused, the bend we find the Ponys on is an inspiring new direction. Big ups for taking the chance and big thanks for not fucking it up.

The Ponys are as great as they've ever been. Beginning the set with a chunk of songs all off the new record is a ballsy yet decisive move. Easy call would be to slip the unfamiliars here-and-there throughout the set and satiate the crowd with the oldies they know and want. What they did was force the crowd to absorb the new vibe right away and without relief. And when they did bring out the classics like "Let's Kill Ourselves" and the perfect encore of "I Wanna Fuck You" the crowd reaction was that much more explosive.

Am I the only one who's sick of standing up at shows? Maybe I don't wear the proper footwear, maybe the floor isn't professionally calibrated for minimal stress on the legs, but for some reason I always want to sit (or preferably, lay) down at shows and just be comfortable. I'm not sure if this is affecting my appreciation for the music or not. As uncool as it may seem, I don't give a shit. What's the point of being uncomfortable?