Wednesday, February 22, 2023

Wolf Eyes "Difficult Messages" And How Favors Turn Into Obligations In The Best Way

Wolf Eyes played the Blue Room in Nashville a few months back. Was a good time catching up with the band, show was solid, vibes for days. 

Shortly thereafter, John Olson reached out and asked me if I'd do a write up for their new record. I happily agreed. From there on out delay after sickness after whatever other roadblock just blew up every damn deadline I was given.

By the time I finally tackled it, I maybe spent a half-hour on the write-up. I didn't even know what I was saying. I told John, upon delivering the document, that I wasn't even sure what the intended use was for the write-up. 

Ultimately, I thought I blew it and was just experiencing the quintessential polite Midwestern good graces from the Wolfs.

So imagine my shock when a rep from Wolf Eyes' label reached out to me saying that he'd pitched the piece to Talkhouse ("Talkhouse is writing and conversations about music and film, from the people who make them").

I'd admired the website from afar for some time, primarily inspired by Lou Reed's review of Kanye West's Yeezus. This was not expected. Furthermore, as my draft was only 300 some words, they were hoping that I could expand on it to get to their desired 800 word count.

And they'd pay me $150 for the privilege.

I was more than happy to finesse the piece even more, draw a lot more of my personality and real life into it, and ultimately, hope that I shine the light on Wolf Eyes in a manner that makes other folks wanna take a listen. Dig it.

Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Spin Art Pizza

Yesterday I was at a party that had an assortment of pizzas as food for guests. Each one in a delivery box, the pizzas were labeled as one would expect…cheese, pepperoni, mushroom, vegan, etc. 

The box that really caught my eye said “spin art.”

I was immediately compelled by the genius (yet simple) idea. 

Take some flattened pizza dough, affix it to a sort of turntable with the ability to rotate at what I’d peg to be ~78rpm speed. Then much in the manner of the mid-20th century carnival art style (later appropriated and upsold by Damien Hirst in the 1990’s) apply different cheeses or toppings or dressings or sauces that without much effort will radiate out in a visually pleasing manner.

Dare I say it felt deceptively revolutionary and I was kicking myself for not having landed on the idea on my own.

I opened the box to lay eyes on the masterpiece and was immediately hit with the realization “Oh shit. It’s just spinach and artichoke.”

So…patent pending.

Saturday, December 31, 2022

The White Stripes Live at the Ritz, Raleigh, NC 9-26-99

Listen Here

Direct quote from the tour diary "The 'Ritz' is anything but, although it holds about 2400 people + gave us a $10 buyout. The backstage was spacious + clean + for some reason Jack was fascinated w/ the ceiling tiles...Stripes made $70+ in merch and the show was more tempo consistent but there were some more mistakes than last night." 

Apparently we lied to the front desk of the Comfort Inn on this evening and said that only two people would be staying in the room that night. It was actually four of us in there. The next day we went to five different places in town looking for an A/C adapter (I think for Jack's Whammy pedal) and in the process drove the rented green minivan 20 miles the wrong way. Jack's post-song banter regarding "Wasting My Time" and his dedication of "The Big Three Killed My Baby" to Preston Tucker are both innocently charming here.  The impromptu cover of Earl King's "Trick Bag" via the Gories version of the same song is full of swagger and would be one of only two times the Stripes were captured doing the song. I dig it.

This combination of songs, the manner in which they're played, the overall vibe of the whole is all entirely unique to the three shows that the White Stripes played opening for Pavement in September 1999. The Stripes never really held this vibe previously and would never land on it again. I guess it's a matter of opinion whether or not that's a good thing or a bad thing.  The fact it was their first-ever time playing three shows in three days feels significant and as the first bout of anything that could even in the loosest sense of the term be called a "tour" should make us all glad that there would be more of such endeavors. I guess there's probably an alternate reality where these gigs are pure disasters and it scares off Jack and Meg from putting themselves out there, maybe they don't hop in the van a year later when Sleater-Kinney asks 'em to open. The entirety of the White Stripes career is a collection of fortunate opportunities leading to even more fortunate and opportune possibilities. In the end, optimism and positivity tends to win out.

I was seventeen years old at the time of this show. Looking back over twenty years later my inclusion in the reindeer games seems and feels kind of unnecessary, yet I am insanely grateful I was there. Most importantly, I convinced the sound guy to record the show on a cassette and now we can all enjoy and dissect what went down in that half-empty room so many moons ago.

Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Beat Happening "Our Secret" b/w "What's Important"

Beat Happening

Our Secret b/w What's Important

scum stats: could it be more than 1000 copies? hard to imagine

As gentle an atomic blast as you could ever imagine. The debut vinyl outing from these godheads, it's just SO perfect, from the hand-coloring on the picture sleeve to the "aw shucks" vibe apparent on both sides. The sound that launched a thousand imitators? Possibly.

Years ago a buddy of mine said, in regards to Beat Happening, "Man....don't you just wish you heard this when you were fifteen years old? Like it'd give you permission (encouragement?) to just go out there and be amateur and unprofessional and out of tune's all ok."

While I wholeheartedly agree with all that sentiment, the fact of the matter is that I DID hear this stuff when I was 15 years old and it absolutely inspired me in all of those ways, providing a north star always able to refer to even as I crest into my forties.

I bought a sleeveless copy of this record in a bulk lot of 7"s on eBay back in 2000 or so. I sent an email to Calvin Johnson of the band/K Records and asked if there were any random sleeves that might just be kicking around. In all honesty he said he'd take a look and although he didn't turn up any, the fact that he'd give some punk teenager the time of day (over email) to go and try to scrounge a picture sleeve for a record from SIXTEEN YEARS earlier tells you all you need to know about the magic of taking time, of listening, of not being dismissive of the younger generation that lets this band maintain its relevance nearly forty years after their inception.

"...I had dinner with her family" as the final line of the a-side is just...carries the weight of a thousand suns both in its intonation and the meaning behind it.

All the Beat Happening LP's are newly repressed for like the thousandth time and please do buy any/all of them as you cannot go wrong anywhere in their catalog. An American band as equally as important as the Grateful Dead. Go ahead...fight me. 

Monday, October 31, 2022

Masalla "Burnin' Feeling" b/w "Simple Words"


Burnin' Feeling b/w Simple Words

scum stats: 100 copies splatter vinyl with screen printed mailer and inserts, 400 copies on black vinyl. mine is black vinyl with the mailer and inserts, go figure

If you like Brown Acid obscuro 70's hard rock, this Masalla single is your shit. I first became aware of it back in 2014 when I saw a copy for sale on a Frank Merrill mail order auction list (so archaic) described as "midtempo crude garage, flip VERY heavy guitar, rock psych." Minimum bid was $30. I had NO idea what it was and bid just north of $200. The eventual winner bid well over $400. I have no regrets.

"Burnin' Feeling" is everything you could ever hope for. Starting off with an audio snippet warning against the negative effects of drug use (hahahaha....clearly they're joking) the thunderous riff driven vibes just SLAY. Raspy overblown vocals and ripping guitar solo's like you can still SMELL these guys 52 years later. Apparently the original was pressed in an edition of 100 copies in Miami in 1970. If this was a Michigan record...I'd probably piss my pants.

The packaging here is exquisite, the Ancient Grease approach with the blind embossed paper sleeve and liner notes booklet and reproduced photo of a pet monkey and the facsimile newspaper clipping glued into the rubber stamped is an overall impressive experience. Definitely worth your time checking out anything (everything?) they put out.

Friday, September 30, 2022

Cake "Fashion Nugget"


Fashion Nugget

scums stats: recent 180-gram black vinyl version...but I would happily trade something of appropriate worth for an original '96 pressing

Man, isn't it crazy what was allowed to become a hit back in the mid-Nineties? I've got the framework of an essay percolating in my head about the insanities of true, top of the chart hits from the era. It's all mind blowing. "The Distance" is such a weird song from a weird band that should have NEVER had a chance in the record business world as I understand it. So obviously, I relish in its existence. 

But it's so damn good. Freshman year of high school me bought the CD stat. And honestly, I've probably grown to the point that "The Distance" is pretty forgettable for me now. I mean, it's alright...but have you listened to "Frank Sinatra"?

Damn. For at least 12 years after this came out I would scribble teenaged sounding "poetry" or "lyrics" that was entirely cribbed from the meter and scheme of "Frank Sinatra." To this day, every time I hear it, I still smile and perk up. The muted, understated organ intro...just stellar in every way. 

Beyond that, my teenaged guitar/drums duo recorded a version of "I Will Survive" in the attic at 1203 Ferdinand back in '97 and just flipping through all these songs, they are all just so solid, timeless really...I mean, is there any other album out there that has covers of Gloria Gaynor and Willie Nelson on it? I don't think so.

Whirlwind Heat told me that they decided to record their "Types of Wood" album at Paradise Studios because that's where Cake recorded Fashion Nugget and is claimed to have the best drum sound in all of the studios in America. On top of that, Greg Brown's guitar tone and playing here just stands alone in regards to what was available and accessible to a young kid like me at the time. It a guitar should sound

I've never bought any other Cake records (never even seen any of the 7"s culled from this all have just been added to my Discogs wantlist) and despite the 8xLP boxset going for A THOUSAND DOLLARS on the secondhand market, I think I'm perfectly content just spending my time with this one. Fashion Nugget has yet to bore me or do me wrong.

Wednesday, August 31, 2022

Calling Out To Ghosts That Are No Longer There: The White Stripes at Sloss Furnaces

    The fact that the word “penultimate” exists exclusively as an adjective for next-to-last situations

feels almost egregious. I mean, did we really need an eleven letter word to describe this

scenario when a three-word combination totaling ten letters does the job just perfectly?

    Because let’s face it…second-to-last things are kinda just whatever. All the penumbra and

history and tall tales sprout effortlessly from every last whisper about the LAST of something,

the finality, the never-again crushing darkness of an abyss of nothingness for the rest of


    So for me to roll in and tell you just how good the White Stripes were in their penultimate live

show…I understand the urge to call bullshit. But honestly, truthfully, with all personal bias

removed from shading of opinion here…this show is phenomenal.

    Visits to an Original House of Pancakes, a record store and some antique shops all replay as

relatively ordinary for daytime activities. If anything, my memory of the day sticks out as being

oppressively hot. With afternoon highs in the 90s, temps at Sloss Furnaces - the supposedly

haunted turn-of-the-century pig iron producing blast furnace turned concert venue - would hover

into the 80s well into the Stripes performance that night. Factor in the crush of 2400 bodies

crammed into the rudimentary shed-like structure with unforgiving open air walls and my recall

of the event is overwhelmingly punctuated by the feel, smell and general annoyance of sweat.

    Add in the decrepit, rusted, tetanus-y surroundings of the rest of the campus and the knowledge

that the number of workers who died there was rumored to be in the hundreds, their falling or

being pushed into the red hot fires of the furnaces only to be instantly incinerated and the

unshakable pall that casts on a spot even some five decades after the last flames there were

extinguished…needless to say it didn’t feel like an ordinary show by any means.

    Opener Dan Sartain would play in front of the biggest hometown crowd of his career and the

highlight for me (playing drums for him on this leg) was his inquiry to the crowd “So…how many

genuine Alabama rednecks we got here tonight?” After a strong response from the crowd, Dan

replied “Well, you made my life a living hell for 26 years. Thank you.”

    Just…perfect in every way.

    The show kicks off with “Dead Leaves And The Dirty Ground” and finds Jack taking liberties (for

the better) in a song where he usually did not. The particularly gnarly first note of feedback

curves into some choice guitar syncopations. As the most-frequent set opener across the

band’s career, it feels odd that this would be the last time the Stripes ever started a show with

“Dead Leaves” as their final gig would begin with a cover “Stop Breaking Down.”

    “Icky Thump” rolls into the fray wildly. To hear the assembled crowd, without prompting,

perfectly nail the patter of twelve “la’s” sung in rapid succession at the end of the second verse,

all mere weeks after the song’s release…it is a great reminder as to how WIDE this record

reached so quickly upon deployment.

    Leading into “When I Hear My Name” Jack, particularly chatty this evening, says “Meg and I

knew we was Alabama bound!” and despite any hammy undertones, it ultimately comes off as

sincere and heartfelt. Leading out from there, “Hotel Yorba” hits as particularly vivacious, Meg’s

accompanying vocals both vivid and spot-on.

    Jack’s unusual beginning to “The Denial Twist” and the improvised divergent lyrics in the

second verse, which seem to say “It’s the way you rock and roll!” leave the Stripes’ final

performance of this song as striking.

    While the extended, elegiac intro to “Death Letter” stands strongly as a haunting slice of slide

guitar, Jack’s improvised lyrics on the third verse delight. Similar to his moves earlier in “Dead

Leaves”, taking a specific part of a song that, to my memory, was seldom if ever switched up,

and reworking it on the spot, it all feels significant. Especially in light of the fact that the song

would essentially run out of its evolutionary runway in another 24 hours. So for him to sing…

It looked like ten thousand

Women around my front porch

Didn’t know if I’d listen to ‘em

Or keep on lookin’ north

I’m just reminded of the fact that no song should ever be considered complete or finished or

beyond reinterpretation.

    Acolytes of St. Francis of Assisi may be surprised to catch Jack’s in-the-moment name drop of

Brother Sun, Sister Moon in the midst of an extended rant toward the end of “Do.” Though it

may bear repeating that “Little Bird” and its “I wanna preach to birds” lyric is explicitly inspired by

the 13th century saint, it should require no leap of faith to imagine the 1972 Franco Zeffirreli film

depicting the life and times of Francis being viewed by Jack as a prepubescent altar boy.

    Eschewing his wealthy upbringing for a life of piety and monasticism, Francis would become

patron saint of Italy, the first documented stigmatic and the creator of the first live nativity scene.

If there’s a Catholic Hall of Fame, St. Francis of Assisi is definitely a first-ballot shoe-in.

    Nuggets like Jack’s borderline goofy drunk introduction of Meg for “In The Cold, Cold Night” with

“Miss Meg White takes center stage!” belies a truly stellar performance while brief, blink-and-

you-missed-it riff inversions on both “Astro” and “Little Cream Soda” are delicious little surprises

to revel in. And I’ll be damned if the organ-driven take on “I Want To Be The Boy To Warm Your

Mother’s Heart” is a welcome reminder that every last live version of this song is worth a listen. It never

fails or disappoints. It always satisfies.

    But the juiciest plum in this set is the unexpected, abrupt abandonment of “Seven Nation Army”

a mere ninety seconds into the song. When Jack says “I don’t know if we should play this song

in America anymore…I guess it doesn’t translate well…lost something in the translation” he

says so without knowing it’d be the last time that he and Meg ever played the song together.

    I remember this happening that night, but at the time I never mentioned it or thought to bring it


    But 15 years later I had to.

    So in an email with the subject line “dumb white stripes question” I reached out to Jack for

clarity on the situation. His response…

oh i think i was just joking because it had become such a soccer chant at the time and that

europeans loved it “more” than americans for a minute there

and they weren’t singing any english lyrics just saying “po po po po” in Italy, so i was joking that

americans didn’t understand the “foreign language” of “po po po po po po po"

    That reads nicely.

    But I cannot help being reminded that in 2007 George W. Bush was still in office and folks were

still wildly pissed about his mere existence AND the ongoing overseas US military boondoggles.

That year would see a total of 904 American armed forces casualties in Iraq alone, the single

highest yearly total in the entirety of said occupation.

    So in Alabama, I dunno…a bunch of self-identifying, sweat-soaked rednecks chanting along…it

had just the faintest twinge of jingoistic misappropriation originating from the crowd…that basso

ostinato chopping along with the sinister Dorian mode overtone. It sounds ominous. “Army” is in

the title. I mean, it’s not a stretch.

    At the time I remember just having half the half-second thought along these confused political

lines and then literally have not thought about it since. The only contemporaneous review I can

find of the show, written by Andy Smith, attributes the scuttled “Seven Nation Army” as an effort

to prevent “the righteous and violent rigor of the lyrics (to) be misinterpreted as condoning an

unrighteous war.”

    So even if we do take Jack at his word here (which I think we should), what he says his intention

was, it’s worth noting that the perceived notion in the air that night, at least to some, was of an

entirely different tone. These are the shortcomings of interpretation. They will never rectify


    So for Jack to switch the opening “Ball and Biscuit” lyrics to be…

Yes I am the Third Man, woman

But I am also the seventh son

…to me it reads as almost stentorian “LET ME SPELL IT OUT FOR YOU”-level of painting a

picture just perfectly clear in light of the supposed confusion or misinterpretation of anything

earlier in the set. With gusto.

    Yet the impromptu lyrics on “300 MPH Torrential Outpour Blues” are deadly…

There’s all kinds of emotions that a phone call ain’t gonna fix

You took me to the brink woman, took me everywhere I didn’t want to go but I went anyway

I never want you to question where I was headed, yes that’s where my head is nowadays

The complexity and grasp of human condition displayed in an off-the-top-of-the-head

exclamation, deftly cramming all those syllables into precise meter and landing on the rhyming

couplet, all while giving off the impression that the severity and pathos contained therein surely

must’ve been labored over intensely for hours, days, weeks even…well, isn’t that just the way to

knock us all over?

    Ending with “Boll Weevil” just a short trip up I-65 from the actual boll weevil monument in

Enterprise, Alabama, and some on-mic praise of Sartain is a perfect way to put that specific,

local, “we know exactly where we are” stamp on the entire evening. When Jack implores the

crowd to not go looking for any ghosts on the property after the show, you have half a mind to

respect those wishes.

    We in the touring party would not respect those wishes. After the show, a bunch of us (including

Meg, but not Jack) climbed the stairs, single-file, to a precarious perch overlooking the vast,

murky stretches of the complex. From above the entirely insufficient artificial light dappled the

tiniest spots and failed to make a dent in the existentially overpowering void.

    Even more dread-inducing was the spectre of a pitch-black decommissioned railroad tunnel.

From entry to exit, the path we were led to couldn’t have been more than 200 yards at most. But

I do not exaggerate when I say there was a complete absence of any outside illumination in this

stretch. Pure, unadulterated emptiness. Cannot see your own hand in front of your face insanity.

The shit that so many horror film plots are predicated on and has kept the night light business

booming since the passing of the torch from candle to light bulb.

    We got our hands on a single, meager flashlight, yet between the 8 of us (or so) that were on

the endeavor…it felt wildly inadequate to the point of palpable, impending fear.

    But there’s a funny little thing that happened within this little group of friends upon venturing into

the ghastly, haunted space. We were all still buzzy from the after effects of such a stunning live

concert in such unconventional environs. Simply put…we laughed our fucking asses off.

Hysterically. The entire time. What took us maybe five minutes to traverse passed in seemingly

five seconds. No one seemed like they could even be bothered with being scared. In the face of

the uncertain, of the overwhelming chasm…one light and each other was all we needed to lead

the way. To illuminate. To get us to the desired destination.

    In the end, we’re just calling out to ghosts, listening closely for any sign of a response.