Thursday, November 30, 2006

Pussy Problems...

From over three years ago...Creem wouldn't run this for some reason or another. Reads a bit full of myself now as I look back on it, but the story is 100% true.

The Dirtbombs had played a benefit show with the Von Bondies for our friends the Mistreaters whose van, equipment, and lives had been swallowed by flames outside of Houston. I spent the night and most of the next day at my girlfriend’s, hounded by the cats her roommate was hoodwinked into taking. Leon Pickles and Porky Goldstein. Good names, evil cats. They claw at her bedroom door at terrible hours, try to snake food from your plate, and jump on records as they spin on the turntable.

As I arrive home, still un-showered, my mom unloads a bevy of tasks “Mow the lawn, put away the dishes, and…oh yeah I saw a little cat on the back porch, can you take care of that?” I, sizing up the easiest task, say, “I can do the dishes and take care of the cat, but I’m not mowing the lawn.”

A few minutes later I call the Michigan Humane Society. A baritone-throated man answers the phone, asks if the cat is injured, I say no, and tells me they don’t do nighttime (7:20 pm) pick-ups unless it’s an emergency. He said to call in the morning and that they would be able to pick it up then.

I managed to scare the cat out from under the couch on the back porch onto a stoop of a bookshelf. I wanted to offer the kitten some warm milk, but all I could scrounge up was some water. As I approached the bookshelf, the cat hissed at me. I needn’t be warned twice, so I kept my distance.

So I sit down, wasting time on the computer. I’d been feeling uninspired lately, useless, redundant. Like I wanted to stab my own eyeballs just to see what would happen. I put on side two of Spaceman 3’s “Sound of Confusion”. Their cover of the Stooges’ “Little Doll” is one of the most amazing and frightening things I can listen to. Feeling lost, I put on side two of the Velvet’s “White Light/White Heat”. I remember reading Bangs where he said most copies of “WL/WH” have a pristine, un-played side two, because no one could ever stomach all 17 minutes of “Sister Ray”. It seemed to be the only thing I could stomach at the time. Duck and Sally Ann, searching for mainlines, sucking on ding-dongs, it all seemed to make some kind of sense to me.

I sat with the empty Microsoft Word cursor blinking in front of me. I tried to eek out feeling, emotion, anything. I, for the life of me, could not muster one inspired word. So much for the journalism degree.

I followed the disappointment up with the un-edited version of the Rapture’s “House of Jealous Lovers” twelve-inch. It’s all in the cowbell. Next was a LP I had no information on called “Gunsight” by the band Gun. Sounded like Blue Cheer and Cream finger-picking some Spanish guitar. And it was released on Epic?

I ended the night with side 3 of the Blast First re-issue of Suicide’s debut album, the live at CBGB’s side. The songs were vacuous and so was I. This night I’d be an LP-only man, reveling in the fact that I could play them louder, that they crackled a little bit, that when you held them, it felt like you were holding a tresure. I was esoteric, obscure, and experimental. The whole time I’m listening to these records, the little kitten was annoyingly and obnoxiously purring, meowing, cawing. It was nerve racking. “It’ll all be taken care of in the morning,” I told myself.

I awoke at 9:15 this morning and called the number for the Michigan Humane Society that I so neatly scribbled down the night before. This time, a young woman answered the phone, again asked if the cat was injured, and then gave me another number to call. I dialed and received Detroit Animal Control, I told the woman my kitty situation and she connected me to the switchboard operator. I said “I’ve got a cat on my back porch.” and the grumpy man on the other side of the receiver said, “Well, if it’s not in a cage, we can’t pick it up.” Ok. “Lemme get this straight,” I braved, “this is animal control, but you can’t get a cat unless it’s in a cage?” He replied, as if he says it a thousand times a day “Sir, the city of Detroit doesn’t have any laws on stray cats,” implying that if this were a dog, he’d be over in two shakes of a cat’s tail.

So I re-call the Humane Society and plead as to why they can’t capture the cat. They plea short-staffed, non-injured cat, and again ask if I can bring the cat in. If I could bring it in, I wouldn’t be calling in the first place. I once again told them I could not bring in the cat. The lady on the other line said, “Hold on one sec, I’ll see what we can do.”

As I sat there on hold, I assessed the situation. Here was this tiny creature, confined to a 10’x 10’ space…I hung up the phone and decided to take on the challenge.

Armed with a box and lid, I creeped back onto the back porch. I had to scare the kitty out from under the couch again, it once again sneaking into the bookshelf. I had it cornered. I put the box flush up against the shelf, so there was no way out for the cat. It wouldn’t move. In an attempt to get a reaction, I shook the bowl of water from the night before, obviously getting the kitty wet. I got another hiss.

I took a break, sat on the computer for five minutes, then went back to the porch. As I peered at the bookshelf, there was no sign of the rascal. Fuck…it’d snuck out. As I moved the box, it rumbled and the rapscallion jumped out as I screamed. I want to say I screamed like a little girl, but even little girls aren’t scared of kittens.

So back under the couch, I managed to lift if from the side, trying to get the cat to jump out. Shake, shake, shake, shake, and shake leads to no kitten. I prop the edge of the couch on top of a chair, leaving it elevated at a 45-degree angle.

While still trying to decide an attack strategy, the little devil scooted out, knocked an extra glass panel not installed, and set off a chain reaction of events that knocked over a table and broke an already-annoying wind chime.

This was easily becoming more than I had bargained for. I re-positioned the disrupted objects and re-thought my strategy. It’d been too much, so I took a much-needed break.

As I sat in the midst of the break, and bigger and more cacophonous crash occurred. The cat had scuttled around again, this time knocking down the extra glass panel. It shattered into thousands of shiney slivers. What an asshole.

I’d quickly eliminated any isolated hiding spot the cat had and eventually cornered it. Not being too sure of myself, I slowly scooted it into the box using the lid, and nervously popped the top and sat the box outside as I searched for some tape to secure it.

I’d figured that the most of the process was over now. I hopped in my car and searched for an appropriate CD that’d put the cat at ease, cause I’m thinking, “this animal has never been in a car before, it has no idea what’s going on.”

I decide on Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks’ “Pig Lib”. This is such an amazing album that I can’t seem to remove from my car stereo. As the opening inklings of “Water and a Seat” came on, I imagined in my head the cat grooving around inside the box, totally digging Malk’s frenetic guitar skillz. I later realized the cat had been hiding under a seat, and been bothered by water. I skipped track two, the only dud on the album, and went straight to “(Do Not Feed The) Oyster”, the hit single that all the kids across the country SHOULD be singing on the beach, instead of whatever drivel J.Lo has out this week.

In the midst of “Oyster” I realized I was missing some amazing synchronicity and put on Cat Power’s “You Are Free”. What a sweet, somber, and chilling album. As the matter-of-fact piano danced in on the opening track “I Don’t Blame You” my eyes filled up. This was the cat speaking to me. It didn’t blame me, and as Chan Marshall put it “(I) Didn’t want to play.” All that in the back porch, it was a game to the kitten, but I couldn’t see the fun in it. As I approached the Humane Society , “Free” clicked on. It was hitting me harder. Was my taking this animal to the Humane Society, and possible impending death, freedom? Or was it the possibility of finding a family, of securing a secure lifestyle itself freedom? There was an empty lot next to the building with an obvious stray dog roaming around. What kind of operation was this where they couldn’t even catch (or contain) animals on their very block?

I went in, put the box on the counter, and almost felt like running out right then. I told Ahmed behind the counter that I’d caught the cat on my back porch, told him it was grey and white, cupped an invisible size in my hands gauging its size, and handed over my driver’s license for some unknown reason. A mom with too many kids walked out while her offspring were audibly dreaming of wanting to adopt every kitten in there. God damn if I didn’t almost start crying right there. Let alone the smell of an animal shelter, it smells desperate, it smells dirty, it smells like death.

What was I doing? I hadn’t even asked around the neighborhood to see if anyone was missing a cat. Ahmed gave me a printout, and I sheepishly asked if I could recommend a name for the cat. “Sure,” he said, “it makes it a lot easier on us actually.”

He handed me the forms and I boldly printed “C-H-A-N” on the blank provided. He unassumingly said “CH-AN” to sound like a Chinese surname, but I held my self from correcting him and saying “It’s pronounced ‘Shawn’”.

As I walked back to the parking lot, a huge sign posted on the building spoke to me. It read:

“Please do not give your animal to anyone who approaches you other than a Humane Society employee. The person who wants your pet may have

undisclosed motives such as research or religious practices or may not provide the best possible home for your companion animal.”

What kind of sick world is this where some creeps will hang out in a parking lot trying to steal animals from their loving owners for research? Or religious sacrifice? Who were these sickos? How often has this happened? Enough to warrant a sign?

Back in the car, “Good Woman” came on. Eddie Vedder’s haunting vocals lingered in the background as Marshall near whispered “I can’t see you no more” I remembered being perched on my knees, staring into the kittens eyes, wondering what it was thinking, wondering what it had experienced.

I didn’t want to worry if I’d done the right thing or not. I got back home and told my mom that I’d taken the cat to the Humane Society. “WHY’D YOU DO THAT?” she pled, with nigh-tears in her eyes. “WHY DIDN’T YOU CALL THE SHOPINSKI’S? (our neighbors) THEY’RE CAT PEOPLE.” My mom pointed out another, much larger cat and said “She’s looking for her baby.”

I felt helpless. I couldn’t go back and get the kitten (part of the agreement that Ahmed had me sign), the mother cat seemed to be a stray anyways, and I had already been through enough and it was only noon. I had planned to sleep in. I had planned to go to the bank. I had planned on getting lunch.

But I’d finally found my inspiration to write.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Unused Record Reviews...

All of these were intended for the Metro Times but left unused for reasons never really explained to me. I think they’re all awesome, even though comparing a Kills album to Hemingway is a pit pretentious.

The Kills “No Wow” Rough Trade

There is no single wow on the latest Kills record. An understated album, it lacks the brash attitude of their previous disc “Keep On Your Mean Side” and leans more subdued.
It reminds me of Hemingway’s “For Whom the Bell Tolls”. Upon the first few chapters, there’s anxiousness about the idea of blowing up a bridge. Seems like a great way to get the story going. After another twenty chapters, you slowly realize that blowing up the bridge is the entire book, that it is the climax. And listening to “No Wow”, I found myself with that same feeling. Kept waiting for the hit, for a song to blow me away, for the moment. Then the realization, “Maybe this is it? Maybe there is no explosion?” Bummer.
There are inspired moments, but more often than not the reader/listener is preparing for a letdown. While a song like “The Good Ones” brings to mind a mess of pill poppers crowding over a pile from the latest pharmacy knocked over, “I Hate the Way You Love” gives the feeling that such a guitar sound should be placed in a museum, because its tone is so rare, exotic and beautiful. A handful of slow Velvets-y ballads help end the album on a contrasting note.
“No Wow” will cause either inspiration or abhorrence, much like “…Tolls”. After blowing the bridge, protagonist Robert Jordan finds himself badly injured, guerrillas approaching and machine-gun in hand. That’s where it ends. Infer what you wish, but I felt a glimmer of hope. And in that way too, I feel hope with the Kills. The lack of one single explosion on “No Wow” makes the entire thing so explosive, almost decidedly so. There is no letdown. Realize that “No Wow” is one catastrophic, protracted explosion with ebbs and crests. Do not ask for whom the Kills wow, they wow for thee.

Queens of the Stone Age “Lullabies to Paralyze” Interscope

Why does giving a Queens of the Stone Age album a good review feel like rooting for the jocks in a 1980’s teen movie? Because it’s dude rock…the brand of band that’s usually described as “Dude! They rock!” With an album title like “Lullabies to Paralyze”, you can easily imagine that phrase lovingly etched on the cover of a spiral-bound notebook as those same jocks marvel at how “deep” it is.
With “Lullabies” the Queens dish out the same riff-fueled rock that’s become almost irrelevant with their previous three albums. The oft-repeated tidbit that bassist Nick Oliveri has left the band makes absolutely no change in the band’s sound. The contributions of razor boycotter Billy Gibbons gives a juicy nugget that looks good on liner notes, but does not add anything that’s lacking on any previous Queens record. The fact that Dave Grohl has left the Queens’ drum throne has failed to evolve the band, but it does make me feel uneasy. The world just seems a better place when Grohl is on drums.
So does that mean that Queens of the Stone Age is pretty much all the effort of lead singer/guitarist Josh Homme? For the most part, yes. The only thing that keeps this record a step away from turning into a flashback of getting shaken down for lunch money and shoved into a locker are the heartfelt skeletal vocals added by Mark Lanegan. The former Screaming Trees front man could make a statue cry and by lending his talents he also lends the album the only shred of respectability that “Lullabies” can muster.
Somewhere, John Hughes is writing a scene where a nerdy kid with glasses gets a swirlie from a guy like Josh Homme. “Lullabies” will be the album playing in the background.

Autolux “Future Perfect” DMZ/Red Ink

“Future Perfect” starts strongly with drummer Carla Azar’s to-the-T Mitch Mitchell homage of stuttered hi-hat/snare/bass drum brilliance. Soon guitarist Eugene Goreshter’s vocals appear, crisp yet wispy. Slowly, slyly, Greg Edward’s bass slips in behind your back before you know what bit you. Suddenly, it all breaks down for a precious call to “…shake the clouds now,” And with that, Autolux catches everyone off guard when the bass catches on an undeniable synth-y hook and just starts lurching. Damn.
This is it. No questions asked…Autolux nail the target and nail it hard. It sounds like I’d always thought My Bloody Valentine was supposed to sound like. But MBV always came off as too wimpy, too fey, lacking that wallop they’d been described as having and over-reliant upon now-dated production values. In the end, My Bloody Valentine was just too British.
With that, Autolux are far from big burly and manly or British. Their depth lies in their simple, breathy vocal melodies. Soft and foggy, they wrap the listener long enough to disorient them. And then…the payoff.
The bass-drum-guitar triad slays. They’re beyond being on the same page, they’re detailed and in-synch to last little note that squawks out the amplifiers. And amidst the brief bursts of calculated, harmonic noise, Autolux intersperses perfectly punctuated pauses. It’s almost as if the song is the equivalent of pushing someone’s head in the toilet and the majestic, fragile pauses are saying “I’m not gonna stop, but I’ll let you breathe for a second.”
When rumbling at full tilt, they sound heavy and full of tension. The safe distortions of bass and guitar are pleasing. Goreshter’s lyrics specifically lack pretension. Curiously, he sings, “you know lately I’ve been worrying that everything might be okay.” If Autolux can keep their magic working, there will certainly be nothing to worry about and it will all surpass being “okay”. It will be grand.

Friday, November 24, 2006

The Alabama Wildman...Dan Sartain

With the way records and tapes and CD’s pile up in my universe it’s a blessing any of it gets filed away. Standard operating procedure goes something like this:

-tape/CD/record arrives
-is put in one of three separate “To Listen To” boxes
-once listened-to, is filed away in the permanent collection

The sad thing is that the To Listen To boxes are grossly overflowing. Ideally I would not purchase any new music until all previous purchases have been heard. But that would never work. There’s so much stuff you buy as soon as it comes out not to mention records that somehow just magically appear in my mailbox without ever asking for or expecting them.

So it is with great praise that I tell you that “Join Dan Sartain” has been consistently spinning in my car stereo for the past month. That means a lot to me. I have some singles that I bought back in 2003 that I’ve still yet to hear. For me to not be able to abandon this record truly speaks something I cannot.

My introduction to Dan was forgettable. Issue #1 of “Careless Talk Costs Lives” (which if you remember class was a UK publication that counted down its issues and thus was the final issue) had a ¾ page review/interview of “Dan Sartain vs. the Serpientes” when it was still only available as an import (and wouldn’t be domestically released there for quite some time).

My interest was heightened mostly because of his age. I assume that this proclivity will wane as I get older, but at that time, reading about someone else doing what read to be interesting music who’s also the same age as me (21 years old) was exciting. It grabbed me. (This may also have nothing to do with my age at the time, but more of my fascination with current younger musicians…the Muldoons, Rachel Trachtenburg and on a much smaller level, Smoosh).

No store in town had “…Serpientes” so I had to special order it. All this solely based on Everett True’s word. The man did not let me down as “Serpientes” is rampant braggadocio interspersed with pure vulnerability and a failsafe way to nail the inner mind of a 21-year-old.

The songs were from a hodgepodge of places…I found out Dan had self-released two albums “Crimson Guard” and “Romance in Stereo” and the greats had been cherry-picked from those. From there, a session or two with Rocket From the Crypt front man John Reis yielded yummies with Beehive and the Barracudas as the backing band.

To this day, the only copy of either of these records I’ve seen is one leftover of the “Crimson Guard” LP that Dan graciously mailed me after months of my begging. It comes with 3-D glasses, over-utilizes the power of the rubber stamp is probably more limited than I care to know. Conversations with Dan have proved difficult in discerning how and in exactly what format “Romance in Stereo” exists. Any leads on whereabouts will be given the maximum utmost in trade bait from the cavernous recesses of my lair.

Dan would open for the Hot Snakes at the Magic Bag in Ferndale in November 2004. I left straight from my grandpa’s funeral for the rock show. I was still dressed in my suit. I can’t recall too many other people watching him. I was enraptured though…through and through an unparalleled songwriter and performer who looks like the dude they wouldn’t cast in “The Wild One” if only because he would’ve beat the shit out of Marlon Brando.

Dan’s girlfriend (now wife) was selling merch and commented how she liked my suit. I bought two copies of a CD-r called “Sartain Family Legacy” that collects all the songs from “Crimson Guard” and “Romance in Stereo” not included on the “Serpientes” disc. All hand-constructed, the cover art was a cut-out photocopy of one of various pix of Dan from a photobooth. If I was gay I’d have been in love.

I finally got to talking and Dan scribbled his info on the back of one of the CD’s. He was easy to laugh and enjoying himself. I wanted to put out a single with him and he was into it.

A few months later Dan had an idea to do a goth covers single. He wanted to do some Bauhaus song and some other tune I’ve since forgotten. When I passed on the offer, he emailed me back “Fine, but know that you just made these kids really mad” with a photo of two quintessential sullen eyeliner’d teens attached. Maybe you had to see it but it was still hilarious.

And to not seem like I’m shilling Cass product, I’ll be concise here and say that when I got three finished tracks from Dan for his single I was ecstatic. Formatting the artwork was a bit of a pain, but the final product is still aces with me.

So when Ben Swank arrived in Detroit last year for a Soledad Brothers video shoot, he casually passed me a CD-r of Sartain rough mixes. I still can’t believe that disc didn’t burn up from how often I played it. Done in Dan’s garage (or so I’d been told) it brimmed with everything I loved about his first album and then some.

Saw Dan unexpectedly in Amsterdam. Live he had a proper band, Raj on drums and a dude with a Jesus-beard rattling the bass. It was sick dude. Far beyond my wildest expectations. A power-trio in only the Nirvana-ist usage of the term.

“Join Dan Sartain” leans away from the sensitivity displayed on “Serpientes” and instead teaches us some lessons. From “Flight of the Finch” I finally know who is truly weakest of the birds…

“The flight of the finch it can be lonely
I don’t expect for you to understand
He’s got no use for words, he’s the weakest of the birds
And when he spreads his wings you’ll watch him span”

Or how about life truths kept hidden by the adult illuminati…

“They never say the game is rigged
just the world is so small and you’re so big
you go and get a job and you break your back
and you wish that they’d told you that…
but they’re never gonna tell you from the start
that the world is gonna break your little heart”

“Join” also reprises two of the tracks from his Cass single, but in my mind, they’re inferior versions. Both “Gun vs. Knife” and “Leeches 2” are re-arranged to start with a drum intro. I don’t think it works. The 7” versions are a bit more raw. But I could also see people being way more into the album versions. You gotta love variety.

There are also some inherent problems with “Join Dan Sartain.” I really get the feeling that Dan’s UK label, One Little Indian, is totally clueless as to how to market this guy. Their big acts are Bjork and, uh, Jesse Malin? I’m not quite sure…you heard of Rairbirds? Monsta? Mighty Roars? Dan sticks out like a sore thumb. As Devil’s Advocate though, he’s received laudatory NME and MOJO coverage with the label’s hard work (they honestly do push him hard to the press) and I think that’s slowly translated to US coverage in Rolling Stone and (I think) Spin.

But back to bashing One Little Indian…the first single is “Replacement Man” and not only is it one of Dan’s mere passable songs, but the sleeve art is atrocious…straight from those ads for fake Warhol silk-screens of your own photo that you find the back of Rolling Stone. Maybe Dan actually chose the song as a single but I doubt it. I know he didn’t choose the artwork (the image done up Warhol style is just the album cover…albeit a dazzling self-portrait Dan made of blowing his brains out). “Thought it Over” or “Drama Queens” or even “Totem Pole” all seem more likely to get radio play (and more so, seem more accessible to a wider audience) than the clunky “Replacement Man.”

And the winsome lullaby “The World is Going to Break Your Little Heart” should really be the last song on the album, not the forgettable instrumental “Love is Black.” I know, I’m nitpicking, but I think I’ve listened to this record enough that I just want it to tell other people…armchair label boss (not a bad videogame idea). Scraping most of the Alabama sessions (ie, the rough mixes CD from Swank) and re-recording with Reis and Liam Watson (Toe Rag Studios, London) were savvy calls that were clearly for the better. The earlier versions of the jams will make for an interesting lathe-cut LP if I ever get off my ass and send some money down to New Zealand.

Meanwhile, the US label Swami Records seems to know what’s up. With head-honcho John Reis again at the production helm, he made the genius call for the Mariachi Real de San Diego to add accompaniment on “Flight of the Finch” and Dan’s cover of the old standard “Besa Me Mucho.” Where’d they come from? The San Diego Yellow Pages. What they add is an underlying melody in both songs that conquerors. Authentic, vintage, Mexicano aye-aye-aye-aye-aye firing pistols into the air with cahones.

The overall vibe is very Flat Duo Jets twangy dexterity combed with Johnny Cash dawdling you on his knee, feeding you story after intriguing story. Mixing it up are tracks like “I Wanted it So” which proves “In Utero” appreciation is pretty inescapable for those of a certain age. Coupled with a cover of Alice Cooper’s “Second Coming” and they clearly hold their weight as rock ballast.

So I’m kinda at a loss for a conclusion. All I can say is that I give everything Dan Sartain has ever recorded my highest level of approval and recommendation. It is music that I can connect with on the deepest level of my being. The rest of the world needs to meet Dan Sartain.

Dan Sartain Discography

“Crimson Guard” LP, 2001 (self-released)
“Romance in Stereo” LP? CD? 2002 (self-released)
“Dan Sartain Vs the Serpientes” CD 2003 (Swami…and One Little Indian in 2005)
Swami Records Collectors 7” 2004 (swank silk-screened package…features Dan Sartain and the Leather Scorpion doing “Lose Yer Boi”)
“Sartain Family Legacy” CD-R, 2004 (Skybucket Records)
“Who’s Sorry Now?” b/w “This is How They Beat You Down” 2004 (Bent Rail Foundation)
“Trying to Say” CD and 7” 2005 (One Little Indian)
“Walk Among the Cobras Pt. 1” CD and 7” 2006 (One Little Indian)
“Gun Vs. Knife” & “Leeches 2” b/w “When You See Me Coming” 7” 2006 (Cass Records)
“Replacement Man” CD and 7” 2006 (One Little Indian)
“Join Dan Sartain” CD/LP, 2006 (Swami/One Little Indian)
“Thought It Over” CD single, Europe only? (One Little Indian)


Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Slightly Mean Reviews...

These started off as random extra things I had lying around, but now it just seems to be me pissed. Oh well.


Witchi Tai To b/w Over & Out

12” single

Sea Records

“Witchi Tai To” starts off like I remember them live, a Pixies bassline with nice vocals. But then it descends into blah British nothingness. They all wore headbands onstage…is that good? “Over & Out” begins like a throwaway, dialogue samples, goofing off, but from nowhere turns out a brickheavy Buttholes/Black Sabbath riff that purely decimates. If it had some lyrics it would be all the better. Still though…that riff! I shan’t be forgetting this soon

I’m From Barcelona

“We’re From Barcelona” b/w “Glasses”


There’s twenty-four Swedish hipsters on the cover here. Listening to the songs, it’s hard to imagine what exactly nineteen of them are doing on the recording. Seriously, when you employ a comically large band of nitwits (a la Polyphonic Spree) you should make it count. Bring in the damn sousaphone. Have someone playing garbage cans like in Slipknot. Seriously, do I have to spell it out for you? Go whole hog. This band was somewhat “next-big-shit” when I was in the UK in October, but I really don’t see it going anywhere special. I can imagine more time being spent coordinating their photoshoots and typing out all those names with umlauts and the null-set symbol (which I can’t even find on my keyboard). And upon closer inspection, there’s five dudes missing from the photo? What’s up with that? You’re a band, but not everyone makes it in the photo? What is this, the Dirtbombs on the “Cedar Point ‘76” or “Brucia I Cavi” sleeves? My favorite part of this single is the locked run-out groove that endlessly reaps on a deep demonic terror. I will listen to that far longer than either of these songs.

Sapat “Tongue Tied and Staid” (I’d be damned if I could find a label name)

I bet these guys get super-bummed when everyone and their Milk Duds can really only say they sound like Captain Beefheart. Like “Aw man, not again! Come on…we listen to Zappa too!” Almost a perfect recreation of the Beef’s tin guitar tone, honky horn screech and nippy drum bits. Still not sure if this is 33 or 45 rpm. 78 you say? 16 even? Sure, why the hell not? No one’s listening anyway. “Halcyon Nights” is the title of a long-forgotten Tad song, so a Sapat song called “Halcyon Daze” will certainly be just as unpopular. “Krackhausblooze” finds a vein of meaty mid-eighties acid-burned freakout before snapping into more Van Vliet cribbing. And the lyrics try so hard to be Dada but they just ain’t. Eh.

Robedoor “Unsummoning” CD-r (Not Not Fun)

Packaging trumps the music.

Wolf Eyes

The Driller b/w Psychogeist

12” single

Sub Pop

The crystal-clear tones and production really bring out the fluidity of the string section. Kudos to these clean-cut fellas and their tunes about girls. The whole thing just makes you feel good inside. With a winning attitude and loads of spunk, it doesn’t take a genius to see these guys will make millions. Lookout MTV…here comes Wolf Eyes!


How Many More Times?

split 10”


Honestly the last Zep song I’d guess this bunch of dudes to cover. I could totally see Angus getting super-into “Carouselambra” and turning that shit on its head. But after a while it feels like Liars are totally in line to take the piss. Still, could you ever get sick of that riff? Didn’t think so. Toss in a bunch of water-drippy noises and other production suggestions straight from the barrel of a bong and you’ll understand why the record is limited to 500 copies and why it’s non-existent in US shops (I found mine on eBay). And a locked grooveStill waiting for Hand Held Heart to release the Liars/Blood Brothers split where Liars cover some Doors song. It has to be as good as this at least. Flip by Gerry Mitchell and Little Sparta “Feasting On My Heart” is BORING. Seriously…add some drippy water noises and smoke some of the gange already. Jeez.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Major Label B-sides...the Secret Jams

The 7” single (and it’s red-headed stepchild the CD-single) is fairly obsolete when released by a huge corporation. I mean, they’re really only for a singles chart, right? You take one of the so-deigned “hits” toss some garbage on the flip for the completists and hope to God the thing sells the couple thousand copies in a single week to put it on the charts and then…you can say it charted or something. And I’m speaking just for Britain, as I cannot discern whether Billboard’s “singles” chart has anything to do with actual sales and the mere fact that NO ONE in this country makes vinyl singles, let alone buy them.

But amidst all the mess, they sometimes manage to almost get it right. The awesome b-side…we’ve all found them and wondered “What the hell? THIS is the jam? Why is it hidden on the b-side of an import-only seven-inch? Who makes these decisions anyway?”

So here I am letting y’all in on a few of my favorite secret-hit b-sides, restricted only to major label releases, because picking on indie 7”s is like shooting water in a barrel.

  1. Foo Fighters “The Colour and The Shape”

(B-Side to “Monkey Wrench)

I literally sat wide-eyed when I first heard “TCATS”. It was utterly baffling why such a bombastic juggernaut of rock nougat that shared the title of the album could be ultimately left-off it. As my introduction to this track was a tacked-on extra at the end of a live Foo’s tape I’d traded through an online messageboard around the age of 14, one of my first eBay purchases (after the first Dwarves Sub Pop single and the Nirvana/Melvins split) was a proper 7” jukebox copy of this single. As I put it on now, I am still blown away. The beginning with static-heightened feedback bowling on to one of the gnarliest guitar riffs my brain has ever had the privilege of melting at. And the title “The Colour and the Shape” just sounds so badass and rockstar pretentious that I adored it then and still do now. And the strange wah-wah breakdown at the middle…classic. This is the closest to Nirvana that the Foo Fighters ever got, all the while not sounding intentional. I can’t say for certain that it’s Grohl on the drums (original drummer William Goldsmith left during the recording of the album with Grohl playing the traps on a majority of the songs) but I’d wager it was. And if I won that wager, I’d tell you it’s a solid number two behind “Radio Friendly Unit-Shifter” and ahead of “No One Knows” on a list of his best drumming coups.

“The Colour and the Shape” as an album ultimately gets unfairly panned. With the inclusion of “The Colour and the Shape” as a song, it would become a certifiable gem.

  1. Queens of the Stone Age “Ode to Clarissa”

(B-side to “The Lost Art of Keeping a Secret”)

I’m still not sure if this song is based on the Nickelodeon pre-skankhood Melissa Joan Hart vehicle “Clarissa Explains it All.” I’d like to think so, as I enjoyed that program many a times and one show even found her trying to go to a Nirvana concert (oh so hip!) From the introductory drumming to the so-dumb-it’s-perfect guitar slick, the entire song just oozes this captivating bounce. “I’m the one your momma told you ‘bout” is such a prime chorus to be followed by a group vocal of “Yeah, yeah, yeah” that you can’t help but just know that these are definitely the dudes your momma warned you about. I believe “Ode…” was a bonus track on the UK version of the “R” album, but that still leaves us American fiends scrapping and searching.

  1. Yeah Yeah Yeahs “Countdown”

(B-side to “Maps”)

I believe I’d heard this song live at least once before being befuddled as it came over the sound system at the 9:30 Club in DC. When the album omits a jam with which you’re already familiar, you’re almost certain to forget it. And that’s what had happened to me. I ran over to the DJ booth to try and find out what song this was that sounded uncannily like the Yeah Yeah Yeahs but yet I had never heard on record. A perfect trick to play on mixtapes and the like, as people will immediately feel somewhat familiar to Karen O’s inimitable howl and Nick Zinner’s processed geetar heaves, yet question the unfamiliarity of it all. “I’m the son of a crowded bed” could be KO delving into a bevy of Freudian proclivities or just a lyric that sounds cool. I side with the latter.

  1. The Hives “Uptight”

(bonus single included with LP copies of “Tyrannosaurus Hives”)

First some history on the song: Credited to “C. Olsson” the track was originally performed by the Swedish band Paper. It was never released and quite possibly never recorded. C. Olsson is a friend to the Hives dudes and they banged this out just goofin’ in the studio. I think Pelle actually plays the guitar and Arson is on bass or some other instrument switching confusion. The drums motor on the same cadence the entire song…really admirable in their unrelentingness. The hook, oh it is so glorious…you wanna bop around the room and do the pogo to this one. Two measures towards the end where overpowering guitar overdrive and pulverizing pummeling on the drums really elevate this above and beyond the call of bonus single.

I hummed this to myself backstage while the Dirtbombs were opening for the Hives in Milwaukee and the drummer Chris came up to me concerned, almost confused and asked “How do you know that song?” It seems he probably didn’t even know it’d been released. If the band can’t even remember that stuff, how are die-hards who know a jam when they hear one supposed to stay on top of these things? I played this every morning on my portable turntable on the D-bombs 2004 Euro tour and surprisingly Pantano never seemed to be annoyed by it. Another song also used as import bait as a UK CD bonus track.

  1. Pavement “Westie Can Drum”

(B-side to “Stereo” CD-single)

So I start to break my own rules here a bit as “Westie Can Drum” does not actually appear on a 7” single. The geniuses at Domino chose “Birds in the Majic Industry” for that illustrious spot while “Westie…” and “Winner of the” were graced with the disgrace of CD single extras. How gauche. (And we can also ignore the Capital/Matador Jukebox Only b-side of “Embassy Row”) The further I go writing this, I realize I’m revealing a lot of my mix tape secrets, not necessarily form per se, but actual songs I’ve been known to rock on a blank Maxell. I guess I can view it as a public service for the betterment of mixes everywhere. You can thank me later.

Anyway, “Westie Can Drum” is quintessential Malkmus off-the-cuff. I think only a character like him could get away with saying “Westie, he cannot drum” (a crystal clear dis on Pave skinsman Steve West) title the song “Westie Can Drum” and ping-pong nonsense malarkey like “Portraits on the coinages and Lincoln’s beard and why’s he got a horses’ body?” while name-dropping Dixiecrats and still have the whole thing be genuine and seemingly focused. Steve West’s roll at 2:27 is the inspiration for some of my finer moments behind Mick Collins. Nothing flashy or fancy, just quick and a little sloppy.

6. Weezer “Jamie”
(B-side to “Buddy Holly”)

I could just as easily have picked “Susanne” as the b-side to “Undone – The Sweater Song” or even “Mykel and Carli”…Weezer’s early oeuvre is pretty cherry in my book. And now I’ve just gone and put a bid on a 7” copy of “Undone” on eBay. Thanks a lot.

It wouldn’t be hard to sway me to believe that “Jamie” is truly no better than any of the songs on “The Blue Album.” I think what gets me is the sincerity of the lyrics. Rivers Cuomo wrote an honest, almost childlike ballad of confidence and security to the band’s lawyer. The line “You’ve got the Beach Boys, your firm’s got the Stones” holds sheer bewilderment in Cuomo’s voice as to why such a legal behemoth would be so helpful and concerned. “Who’s dialing your carphone?” is just so innocent, I can’t help but have my heart aflutter every time I hear it.

And this one was done the right way…recorded live with no overdubs by a friend of the band. Quite possibly the pinnacle of mid-nineties fuzz tone, on par with Veruca Salt’s “#1 Blind” and anything else on DGC. And it’s all pretty much two chords and a little staccato’d little lick. Simplicity is best. The fact that this was relegated to the “DGC Rarities” comp in the US, while a huge seller including Nirvana and Hole, is still a grave oversight in mine eyes.

7. Rage Against the Machine “Hadda Be Playing on the Jukebox”

(B-side to “Bulls on Parade”)

Is this where I come out? Had I kept it a secret? I wholeheartedly love Rage Against the Machine. They were the third band I ever saw live (after Foo Fighters and the Melvins) and the band I would see the most in the arena setting (three times total, each one a near-riot). We all know how groundbreaking Tom Morello’s guitar effects piggybacking has become, so no need to nerd and repeat it. What we have here is based on a poem by Allen Ginsberg.

The track starts with Zack de la Rocha almost confrontationally saying “Looking like a bunch of frat boys at summer camp and shit” to a round of cheers live at the Milan Dragway in Michigan. What slowly erupts afterwards is Rage at the height of their politicism, while I guess Ginsberg is owed some credit as well. We’re walked through a synopsis of CIA and Mafia in cahoots as dope pushers all over a syrupy bass line and cascading guitar screech and laid-back drum groove. It’s a poem chock fulla memorable lines like “Hadda turn up the volume…in university ballrooms” and “comedians stop dead in the middle of a joke in Las Vegas” and the scream of “THEY WANTED ATTICA!” And this thing is LOOOONG, a vinyl mastering feat of endurance fitting 8:03 of vitriol on a 7” at 33rpm. I understand that a cover is almost always relegated to b-side status, but one of my other possible Rage choices, a chilling cover of Springsteen’s “The Ghost of Tom Joad” later was reprised for the “Renegades of Funk” covers album, so the fact this was ignored for the same album is kind frustrating. The fact that the song ends with uproarious cheer from the assembled fratitude makes you think the band actually pulled one over on these sheep and won them over or that they’re just drunk enough to cheer anything.

  1. Brendan Benson “Left and Right”

(B-side to “Spit it Out”)

Brendan seems to go through a phase during recording his albums where he doesn’t know what he wants. He recorded his debut “One Mississippi” three separate times, and one of those versions is completely MIA. The idea behind “Left and Right” comes from a standard system calibration CD blasted at sound checks, with “This is coming from the left” and “this is coming from the right” as a vocal guide to let you know just what should be where and to keep everything in phase. Brendan takes an otherwise forgettable phrase and crafts it into a poppy wallop that recalls that dog’s finer times on “Retreat From the Sun.” The female voice starts repeating the title in foreign languages and it feels oh-so chic. There’s quirky whammy bar/keyboard modulation (one or the other? both? alternating? me don’t know) that rolls across so juicy. BB’s added dialogue about “When your bed is made, toast and marmalade” is cheeky enough where I can see him casting it off as a b-side, but “Alternative to Love” could have been a tad awesomer with the inclusion of “Left and Right.”

  1. Nirvana “Moist Vagina”

(B-side to “All Apologies”)

Stoner croak madness. When the glottal roar of “MARAJUANA” shakes the speakers, you know you’re truly beholden to a moment. Another two chord wonder. Imagine my fear as a 12-year-old at Musicland in the Pointe Plaza shopping center using a gift certificate to buy this Nirvana CD-single and trying to explain non-album b-sides to my mother. Once that point is vaguely made, she grabs to see the song title and gives me a “pfft.” That was as close as I got to parental music backlash, thank God. The entire lyrics run

“She had a moist vagina

I particularly enjoyed her circumfrence

The perceptive walls of her anus


I agree with Thurston Moore in his liners to the Nirvana “With The Lights Out…” boxset that said track should’ve been included on “In Utero.” I however am not so deluded as he to think the track should open the record. That’s just redonculous. Nut-rageous even. I saw teen rock geniuses Mad Cow riff this during soundcheck at the Wired Frog in ’97 or so and it felt like I was actually in on a secret, the dudes who not only knew Nirvana b-sides (me and them), but the dudes who could actually play them (sadly just them). More rocktacular jive from Grohl on the boom-booms, Noveselic does himself well and stays lean on the two-note bass line and Kurt just does his thing. While “In Utero” is in constant battle with “Funhouse” as my favorite album of all-time, I cannot pick a song for “Moist Vagina” (or as it’s abbreviated in some formats, “MV”) to replace. Rather, its mere addition to the album (as well as any other leftovers from the sessions a la “I Hate Myself and Want to Die” or “Verse Chorus Verse”) could very easily trump Osterberg and the boys effort.

  1. The White Stripes “Though I Hear You Calling, I Will Not Answer”

(B-side to “Blue Orchid” CD-single)

Far be it for me to critique “Get Behind Me, Satan.” I wholly believe it’s the best White Stripes album. I also understand that there were a lot of songs kicking around during the tumultuous sessions. The “album” as it were really seemed to just be whatever songs were finished first. And that’s brilliant. But when I first bought the CD single of “Blue Orchid” somewhere in Germany, I was captivated by the surprise of “TIHYC”. What a treat on a trying European jaunt, a new White Stripes song!

Beginning with tape fragments of the Stripes singing “Silent Night” and a barely noticeable blip of Detroit newscaster Mort Crim, “Though I Hear You Calling…” is Jack all by his lonesome, experimenting with tape speeds, hammering on the marimba like it done him wrong and torturing sheer agony out of his acoustic. The combination of those two sole instruments (and a bit of tambourine) is terrifyingly wonderful. This is the pinnacle of modern Delta blues. Son and Charley and all them would be all over this. If you don’t believe this, you’re a liar to yourself. And yet, I can only imagine that it was recorded specifically as a b-side, a hurry-up not far behind on the heels of “Blue Orchid” which was released mere weeks after its writing. Is Jack on about phones again, like he was all over “De Stijl”? Or is this the follow-up story to “My Doorbell”? The title can easily be interpreted a myriad of ways. Maybe that’s why I love it? While I understand the significance of “Little Ghost” keeping the tradition of every Stripes’ album having a song with “little” in the title, I would have much preferred “Though I Hear You…” in it’s place and disseminated as wide as “…Satan” was. Again, this failed to appear on vinyl, but who cares? Ending with a radio commercial tape fragment, we’re left with an appropriate unidentified quote concerning singles and b-sides:
”That’s an extra! Because it’s extra convenient! For just three dollars!”

Amen sister.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Singles Column Volume Four...

Black Time “Message From Control Tower” Rehab Records

Keeps getting better. Glad I didn’t give up on this band with the first few releases (“I Spit on Your Lifestyle” and “Beat of the Traps” singles) as they all felt limp. The four songs on this single are strong-armed serrated rock. I dig “Sirens” with drum machinations and Suicide repetitive bassiness all whipped into a frenzy with sweet’n’sour feedback drenched geetar howling. These actually feel like written songs where the earlier stuff felt like exercises in making noise.

Black Time “Fever” Trakmarx

Now in mono! How many singles can they release before turning into a self-repeating mess? Lots more we hope. Still indebted to the swag brought to the table by Link Wray hisself, it’s all a mess of magnificent midrange madness. Lemme guess…all first takes, right? Please, keep it that way. Insert that lets you meet the band and know their favorite foods and smells and books and all that dorky stuff from the backs of Brit Invasion records. Limited to 250 copies and it was a bitch to get (label was only excepting bank drafts in UK pounds and no PayPal…who’s the genius behind that?) Had to trade a Muldoons X-mas single for this and the first two Fitzrovian singles. Beginning to think I pulled one over on that dude who works at Rough Trade.

Dan Melchior and Das Menace “Your Lousy Floor” Bug House

Figured I’d counter some of the semi-dated content of this here fiasco by reviewing some records that aren’t even out yet. Nabbed one of these visiting the record pressing plant. Title track git/tambourine combo sounds like Danny boy is a little tired of the DIY touring. I don’t want to sleep on any floors either Dan. Hurts your back and they always have cats, don’t they? First three tracks are fairly average Delta-blues brought without much new added to the mix. Dan’s voice is a curveball that adds intrigue where it would otherwise be fairly middling. Final track (and man, this single feels like it lasts forever…I’m against 33rpm singles in case my biographer calls) is uptempo fuzz punk instrumental that rewards you for making it through the three tracks packed full of forgettable. Why not more of this? Not my bag, but wouldn’t necessarily tell you folks to ignore it. Just see if you can, you know, get a free copy from the pressing plant.

Figures of Light “It’s Lame” Norton

Reissue of hyper-limited New Jersey single from ’72. I’d lump this in with cats like Simply Saucer, George Brigman and all those who dug the Stooges and Velvets but didn’t really manage (or want to) turn it into late 70’s punk. A simpler, more innocent time where two chords and “lame” were being really out there and sticking it to the man. Would not sound out of place on a “Back From the Grave” comp and “It’s Lame” more than reminds of Mogen David and the Grapes of Wrath “Don’t Want Ya No More” also conveniently reissued on 7” by Norton. “I Jes Wanna Go To Bed” is tremelo’d Diddley shuffle with loser lyrics like “I don’t wanna be well fed/I don’t wanna be well read/I don’t wanna wind up dead/I jes wanna go to bed.” Truer words have never been spoken. Oh to have seen them live, watch them destroy television sets onstage (in 1970! take that Wendy O), I’m sure they were flush with all kindsa ladies. Campus geniuses who stopped way to early. Recommended for anyone who has a clue.

Tall Birds “Internalize” Sub Pop

Oh a new Sub Pop single…what an amazing way to be introduced to a band. It’s the way I fell in love with Beachwood Sparks, Hazel, the Fastbacks, the Headcoats, the Gories and about every other sweet-tits band who iced a slab with SP. And you can now add Tall Birds to the list. I punked out and waited for a promo copy from the label in exchange for promo copies of Cass’ Go single. If I would’ve known, I honestly would’ve paid full market price. Are Tall Birds hipsters? Like Tapes’n’Tapes or Cold War Kids? Do I care? “Internalize” calls to mind a more syncopated, indie’d up Greg Cartwright jam like “Yer Love is a Fine Thing” with nutty guitar soloing throughout the whole damn thing. Back cover shows a guitar player wearing a Sonic Youth “Confusion is Sex” t-shirt and I can’t help but wonder if it is a conscious homage to the back cover of the self-titled Mudhoney album where Mr. Arm is wearing the same shirt and thusly ranking as supreme god of cool in my book for nigh on ten years. B-side “The Sky is Falling” is downtempo perfection (and the entire single would be too if some dill cheese didn’t give this thing a small center hole…come on Sub Pop, I can usually count on you). I can see Pitchfork getting really into this band and that’s disappointing, if only because approximately .45433 seconds after that happens they will become inescapable. Can you let us keep just this one Mr. Pitchforkman, please? Hurry and go buy this before you hate them without even hearing them.

Nothing People “Problems” S-S Records

This review will only be written in the time it takes to listen to both sides of the single, starting…NOW!
”Twinkie Defense” is chugging standard Berry/Dolls progression…back forth, back forth…ah there’s the bridge, there it is again, I’m really hoping for a solo soon. The phasing works well on these headphones (I feel like opening and closing my mouth to mimic the effect) AND THE SOLO! But for only about 2 seconds.

“4 Miles High” and the panning with the drums is beginning to wear on me. Noodling, noodling, a trumpet? Finally, a bassline takes control. Reminds me of Mr. Epp and the Calculations…specifically “Mohawk Man.” Should I be paying attention to the lyrics? “4 miles high but still not far enough away.” And fades out without ever establishing much.

“Systems Failure” sounds like more Mr. Epp. Is that too obscure a reference? Shouldn’t be…I love that record. I guess Nothing People are from the middle of nowhere California. They get points for being weirdos without the benefit of existing in a thriving metropolis where weird is commonplace.

“I Can’t Find a Monkey” is where it’s at. Best song on here by far. It’s full and throbbing on a punky little cramp. Comes with a free pack of matches. Be careful, with a scorcher like “…Monkey” and kindling like the other three tracks and there’s bound to be some combustion.

Vilently Ill “Where is the Next Wave?” Peer Pressure Zombie

I don’t even know where South Haven, Michigan is, but apparently it’s only 866 more higher than my zip code. South Haven is also where one Andrew Lersten, aka Vilently Ill, rents PO Box# 501. Quick pseudo-hardcore with drum machine with song titles like “D.U.I. Not D.I.Y.”, “Steal From Your Boss” and “Lame-Ass Poppunk Shit.” I think we’ve finally found Tesco Vee. Wait…he wasn’t missing? Is he dead? Do people still dress as him for Halloween in Lansing? I’m overwhelmed with a complete sense of “fun” from this single. 13 songs in all, condensed to the point of no repetition. I love it. I’m gonna send this guy some Mail Art. He’ll either totally love it or mail me back a box of turds. Either way, I’ll still be happy…probably even more with the turds.

The Strate Coats “Bummer Bitch” Hook or Crook

Purely average mid-nineties garage punk from a teenage Greg Ashley, later to be main man of the Gris Gris. Like the Donnas or any other Rip Off Records Cali stuff. There’s nothing overtly wrong with this release, but I can guarantee you that I will have no desire to ever spin this again. And that’s the bummer…singles like this probably occupy more of my collection than I’d care to admit. But I still feel like I need to hold on to them, you know…just in case. It’s the inner archivist inside me that sooner or later needs to be crushed by the dude inside who just wants to exist outside of the clutter. Can someone arrange a meeting between the two?

The Strokes “You Only Live Once” Rough Trade

The only reason to review a chart-reaching 7” release like this is for the non-album cut b-side. And here we have a cover of Marvin Gaye’s untouchable “Mercy, Mercy Me (The Ecology)” complete with Eddie Vedder and Josh Homme (Temple of the Dog and Kyuss, respectively) guesting. Um, waiter…check please. And still yet another example of the Strokes configuring some random vomit to a 7”x7” template and calling it a sleeve design. Puh-leeze.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Fitzrovian Phonographic 45's...

When everyone’s favorite Soledad Brother Ben Swank moved over to England what seems like ages ago, all I can remember is him bitching about how much he hated London…all the fashion victims and bullshit music and exorbitant prices, if it wasn’t for marrying a right on bird I’d question why he was even there.

But Ben’s being doing better lately. He’s introduced the Horrors to the world…a band who I’ve actually seen more photos of than music from and I’m still hesitating to first “hear” them over a broadband connection, instead hoping that their first two singles somehow magically appear in my mailbox.

So the Horrors are huge…all over the NME and playing garage music like it’s 2001 (so I’ve been told). But Ben’s also hipped me (and presumably others) to the blossoming beauty that is Fitzrovian Phonographic.

The first thing that hits you from these Fitzrovian releases is the utter delicacy and uniformity in packaging. Each single comes with some pins…usually one with the “Fitzrovian Phonographic” center label design and another specific to the artist. The front covers are all the same pen/ink interpretation of a long-locked, bearded man reaching towards the clouds with an assortment of eyeballs eyeballing him. There’s a top hat fallen off his head.

While the first two releases made good use of vellum printing, they seem to have steered away from that with their third single. Either way, these intricate bundles are all hand-numbered and limited to 250 copies.

And that’s just so damn endearing. This cannot be a money-making venture with such small production runs. A look at any of these singles and you’ll immediately recognize a labor of love. Here be my thoughts:

FITZ 001

Benjamin Prosser and the Tap Collective – “Killing Flaw”


Benjamin Prosser – “Below the Plough”

“Killing Flaw” may be the best A-side of the year. Percussive propulsion behind the angry depressed lyrics with a non-blues slide guitar and there’s still some kind of intangible I’m missing…a bit like “Tremble…”-era Jonathan Fire-Eater? Tap Collective is the backing band and if Prosser knows what’s good he’ll keep them around, as the solo acoustic flipside is moody and dark, Cave-ish murder-ballad style that truly does work, but me wants more of the “Killing Flaw” unhinged singe.

FITZ 002

Mr. David Viner

“Silence is Gonna Break”


“Love at First Sight Blues”

Viner has still yet to falter on record. His Hank Williams crafted storytelling with deft Fahey-like fretwork is all precisely perfect. The only thing you can fault him with is being too true to his throwback ways, but that’s being pickier than “Classical Gas.” Backing vocals on “Silence…” ties the song together in a way I’d like to see more of from Mr. David. “…Blues” is pretty down-homey in a way that you wish this 45 was a 78. In full disclosure, Viner has let me sleep in his bed before, but that’s hardly what makes this single so damned great.

FITZ 003

The Last Town Chorus



“Dear City”

The construction on “Caroline” is a marvel. The way certain instrumentation fades out only to slip back when you’re least expecting it keeps you guessing. A tad bit cheerier update on the Mazzy Star sound with vocals more akin to Khaela Maricich of the Blow. Would this fit in on a Lilith Tour? No. Will some other lazy journo inevitably compare it to that or Sarah McLachlan or similar turds? Yes. Why? I don’t know. Dudes will get into this somewhat while their girlfriends will (and should) totally dig it.

FITZ 004 is supposed to be a long-awaited solo release from ex-Greenhornes/Soledads Brian Olive. The stuff of his I’ve heard on CD-R has been smoking…like a New Orleans death parade with all kinds of ju-ju swirling round your head like the birdies on a Loony Tunes short. As of right now all but the Last Town Chorus record are sold out. Be sure to peep for all the gory details and DJ nights and future salvation.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Sonic Youth and the Two Year Plan...

Wait two years and Sonic Youth will have a new record. Most likely, in the summer. It’s a perfect formula that it almost feels like a rite of passage for the indie rock pure-of-heart. I can look back and relate what was going on in my life (and more importantly, my summer) based on the current Sonic Youth record.

1998 was the first time I’d see SY live and the first album of theirs that I awaited the release of. “A Thousand Leaves” would comfort me on a somewhat turbulent flight home from a family cruise in the Caribbean. I was certain we would crash…so much so that my thoughts had turned to what I would actually do when our plane hit the water (the majority of the flight pattern was along the Atlantic Coast and all the lights and pizzaz of the shoreline somberly ended with the stark emptiness of the blackened night sea). As I hypothetically waited for death to take my hand, I’d already planned to take my “A Thousand Leaves” jewel case and just toss the motherfucker as far as I could. My only hope was that some rescuer or crash scene investigator would find said CD case and just think “Man, this thing is really far away from the crash site. I wonder how that happened.” I was so caught up in planning to throw the CD case that I left in on that Spirit Airlines plane. In a way, I guess I did get the case as far as I could, I just refrained from actually throwing it.

(If you wanna know what they were like live in ’98, search out a copy of the Harper Woods Notre Dame school newspaper (the Shield) from September of ’99. I reviewed that shit. I always tried to do some sort of ‘Summer Concert Review.’ None of the other 400-some kids at the school seemed to care.)

Seeing as Notre Dame doesn’t exist anymore and I only have one copy of the paper, here’s the relevant info gleaned from memory as original computer files are lost:

Played most of “Thousand Leaves” leave stage, noise jam, into “Death Valley ‘69” I think I actually wrote that it was a million degrees inside the State Theater. My friend Trevor and I went together. I think we took “pep” pills we bought at the gas station, downed them with Faygo, probably parked where Comerica Park now stands.

The year 2000 delivered “NYC Ghosts and Flowers”. My main memory of this record is visiting my girlfriend Malissa as she house-sat for her friend Megan. I think Megan lived in Berkley, it was definitely some part of town I’d never really seen before or since. Either way, I’d just finished high school a week or two earlier and was getting ready to leave for tour with the White Stripes. Me and my friend Nick drove on down to Megan’s apartment where Nick fell asleep on the couch and Malissa and I fooled around for what felt like an eternity. It was a wonderful partially naked romp. We made-out so hard core, in the way you can only get away with when you’re still a teenager. Playing in the background, the entire time was “NYC Ghosts and Flowers”.

What bugs me is that people consistently bag on this record. I think MOJO said something along the lines that it sounds like each member is playing without listening to the rest of the band. First: isn’t that the point? This is Sonic Youth, not a damn symphony. Second: fuck MOJO. Keep in mind this record was recorded without the benefit of SY’s twenty-year-old guitar arsenal of fucked up and modified late model Fender’s and no-name pawn shop models. Like starting completely from scratch. That alone should command respect and intrigue.

Maybe I have a little bit of insight because my initial introduction to this record was an in-depth 3-hour listening session. But these songs, they way they wave and crest, slowly undulating and turning little repetitive guitar bits inside out over a span of seven minutes, it’s enthralling, it draws you in. It truly is an album as a whole, as no individual track seems to stand out. And kudos to Thurston for the line “blue jean fucking” which seems to pretty wholeheartedly capture my teenage years.

I didn’t get to see SY live this year because of said White Stripes tour. But they played the “Ghosts and Flowers” jams for what seems to be the first and last time. Bummer bitch. When push comes to shove, my list of favorite Sonic Youth albums still goes “Sister” closely followed by “Ghosts and Flowers”.

2002 delivered “Murray Street”. Released after the 9/11 attacks, some might consider it a love elegy for the city. Wasn’t there something about a New York trilogy of albums for Sonic Youth? Whatever happened to that? I remember some blab about a record that would only be available in NYC city limits. Or am I just imagining that?

“Murray Street” is easily my favorite SY album cover. It just looks so peaceful and serene, like what a little girl’s childhood should be…picking fruit under a net and wearing a pretty dress. The net part though, gotta admit I never fully understood it. Kinda feels a bit creepy, but I can look past it.

The jams on “Murray” are tight. “Empty Page” started as a Thurston poetry piece and feels as quintessential SY as “Teenage Riot.” But “Rain on Tin” trumps them all. From the opening burst of the bass-heavy guitar salvos to Thurston’s battle cry vocal, through the airy and bouncy guitar spindlings all the way to what I can catastrophically say is my favorite guitar part ever…the roaring build up to the simple punk sounding bar cords of “duh-duh-duh-duh-NUH-NUH-NUH-NUH-duh-duh-duh-duh-NUH-NUH-NUH-NUH.” To me, that holds more water than the purely Satanic riff of “Death Valley ’69.” It even made me cover the song with my band the Thread Counts, if only so I could revel in playing that awesome guitar part.

Live on the tour they crammed the Royal Oak Music Theater and I just remember it being hotter than balls. They played all the songs off the new record, something they’d never done before, and I kinda realized at that point that the fun thing with SY is seeing what old songs they’d play live. I think they did “Making the Nature Scene” that night which certainly made my trousers jump. They also had a little camera hooked up to one of the mic stands that was later beamed onto the back wall, creating a delayed pseudo-mirror image of the crowd that was outright dizzying.

In-between albums they opened for the Stooges at DTE Energy Theater in the off year of 2003. Thurston stuck the headstock of one of his guitars down his pants. They played “Mariah Carey and the Arthur Doyle Handcream” and I was a little bummed out that Kim needed the lyrics in front of her. In fact, it’s safe to say I really dislike most of the songs Kim sings. They’re just missing the meat, her throaty rasp never really doing it for me (except for “…Nature Scene”).

But pound for pound, Lee always does the best songs. Seeing as he usually only has one or two per album, his hit-to-miss ratio is pretty much perfect. Seriously. There’s yet to be a Lee song I’ve disliked. And Thurston is somewhere in the middle between the other two. The “Karen” trilogy, the track “NYC Ghosts and Flowers”, “Rats”, even b-sides like “Genetic” or “Lee#2” they’re all stone cold jams, never to disappoint.

In conjunction with “Murray Street” SY also released a French-only 10” called “Kali Yug Express” that had three songs left off the album (and I think later available on including what is my favorite SY song title ever “Coca Neon Kamera Sutra”. The songs themselves are nothing to bat an eyelash at and the fact that it’s limited to 500 copies and on blue vinyl is cool, but it left me a little bummed that I’d paid over $50 for the thing.

And whatever happened to the song “Sonic Youth Meets the Strokes”? I know for a fact that one was mentioned in Rolling Stone. And it was supposedly not about the Strokes? Was a headline in a magazine or something? Anyone?

I think “Sonic Nurse” was a bit of a let down. There were a few jams I could get into, but as a whole, it was a bit too meandering and seemed to lack the snarl. I first heard it in New Zealand when I did a guest DJ spot at BFM in Auckland. My buddy Troy’s girlfriend Anna worked at SY’s NZ label and had a preview CD-r available. I may have even been the first person to ever play it on the radio. Yipee!

They did a session on WDET for Martin Bandyke, the squarest person to ever get so close to SY. And when he called them “sculptors of sound” I nearly threw-up. Ugh. On Late Night with Jay Leno they did “Unmade Bed” and it was totally anti-climactic…the heavy noise distorto break towards the end was cool, but Thuston just seemed like he’d rather be reviewing lathe-cut piles of donkey shit done in editions of negative seven.

Live at the Majestic Theater (after a touring Lollapalooza was cancelled) had a beastly version of “Inhuman” with all the dudes from Wolf Eyes and Nautical Almanac jamming with them. But once again, it was hotter than two mice fucking in a sweatsock. And Jim O’Rourke on accordion does not look the slightest bit cool. I think I told someone that if they played “Death Valley ‘69” that I would break up with my girlfriend. I wasn’t at all serious, but they replied, totally having bought it, “Really?”

The back drop was just those fairly lame paintings of the Asian girls with the nurse masks on. Was that bird flu? Or SARS? Doesn’t 2004 seem forever ago? I went as far in my fandom to actually purchase the Japanese version of “Sonic Nurse” to obtain the highly unavailable anywhere else tracks “Kim Chords” and “Beautiful Plateau.” I can’t even remember what they sound like and am only slightly tempted to grab the CD and re-familiarize myself…

”Kim Chords” showcases yet another sparklingly crisp Steve Shelley beat (see also “Free City Rhymes” and “”Disconnection Notice”). The way he makes a hi-hat, snare and kick drum beat just so precise, so clean, and so original, it makes me jealous. After Mitch Mitchell and occasionally Patrick Keeler, Steve Shelley is one of only three living drummers whose skin I wish I could slip into and steal their skills. The song is basic SY instrumental fare…would fit in fairly well on one of the SYR releases. “Beautiful Plateau” is a bit more varied, some nice feedback and drone but both songs just really come off as jams the band got too lazy to add vocals to.

I was lucky to catch them between records in the off summer of 2005 in Barcelona. Watching from stage right with Lydia Lunch standing in front of me they were pretty-on impressing the festival crowd. And it wasn’t too hot. They even played “Catholic Block” and it looked like they hadn’t done so in ages…just the way they all kinda laughed when the chorus came back, like someone forgot or missed it, was one of those things you appreciate more when you’ve been in that exact same position yourself.

Pantano and I snuck backstage afterwards. Just wanted to talk to Thurston. He was mighty cool, really the only person in the band to pay us any attention. Trying to recall the conversation now…we were all geeked to see Gang of Four in a few minutes, chatted about Mail Art, his Bull Tongue column for Arthur and how he thought Jack White would be perfect to produce the upcoming Stooges album. And a bunch of other shit I’m forgetting.

Summer 2006 arrived with “Rather Ripped,” a title taken from the name of an old Bay Area record store. With the departure of Jim O’Rourke the songs took on a much more succinct edge. No Moore aimlessly wanking. These were quick, digestible pop songs with a bite. “Sleeping Around” rides like a lost Asheton classic while “Do You Believe in Rapture?” (originally slated to be the album title) is hauntingly austere in it’s Velvet Underground simplicity and tone. A lullaby the likes of which we’ve not heard from these folks since “The Diamond Sea.”

Driving back from Columbus after a Dirtbombs show I put the disc in. The entire band, a motley mob of miscreants who can never wholly agree on anything musical, all commented on how they liked the record. It was a pretty listen as the sun came up over the Midwestern amber waves of grain. Seriously, even Ko said she liked the record…and she hates all noise stuff with art leanings. If anything, that was a testament to the listener-friendly jams and overall digestibility of the record.

Live found them opening for the Flaming Lips at the State Theater. Mark Ibold (used to be in Pavement) took over the extra duties that O’Rourke abandoned. I was pretty caught up in what old jams they’d rock…as much as I truly loved “Rather Ripped” as a whole, I was a bit bummed when they played mostly tracks off it. Ended the set with “Expressway to Yr. Skull” and I was underwhelmed. Maybe I needed to see them headline? Yeah, that’s probably it.

I am somewhat tempted to put a value on the two-year interval between records. But I have none. Maybe it's just good marketing. Maybe it's just their pace. Maybe it's totally a damn coincidence. I really hope that it's something that no one outside the bandmembers themselves could ever understand. I already feel like I've cracked the plan..."one record, every two years, in the summer" and I almost feel bad about it. I don't need to know why it is...just merely knowing at all is enough for me.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Things on My Desk and/or Within Arm's Reach

yellow egg-shaped container of “Big Putty”, the oversized cousin to Silly

Les Georges Leningrad “Sangue Puro” CD (reviewed for Metro Times)

USSR military belt-buckle depicting hammer/sickle inside a star

unopened can of Cass beer, bottled in Korea, imported to Mongolia

gorilla head pencil sharpener

unopened 8-trak of the Stooges “Funhouse”

- blood capsules

membership card to “Alone, Together” the defunct Strokes fan club

Swingline stapler

Herf-Jones printed name cards for my high school graduation announcements

unopened package of P. Bagge “GRUNGE” pencils

unopened wheel of Black Cat firecrackers

dried-out container of Floam, pink

Michigan Panthers pennant

architectural layout/design of Lewis Cass’ grave

pre-Interstate highway map of Detroit

Mooney Suzuki foam finger

PXL-2000 Pixelvision camera (which I’ve used once)

graphing calculator

Polaroid picture of my brother and I with Kirk Gibson, Dan Petry, Dave Rozema and Dave Bergman

Self-inking rubber stamp that says “Fragile: Love Inside”

Clifford the Big Red Dog eraser top


Referral from Dr. Gary Mosio saying I need my three wisdom teeth removed

box of Cass Records business cards

White Stripes door placard from Late Night with Conan O’Brien

Sub Pop patch

“Join Me Be Drug Free” yo-yo

Cub Scouts neckerchief holding-together thingie

sheet of DC Comics superhero stamps


MC5 “Back in the USA” reel-to-reel tape

V.I. Lenin wall tapestry

$5 Staples Rewards rebate check

empty 17 ml HP tri-color print cartridge

unapplied Goner Records sticker

unidentified My Little Pony

orthodontic retainer from approximately 8 years ago

Vancouver Canucks patch (original black/orange/yellow logo with skate)

American Red Cross blood donor card

instant worms

picture of my girlfriend, Malissa

Animal from the Muppets bookmark

Stevie Wonder official fan club membership card

Monday, November 13, 2006

My Favorite Run-Out Groove Etchings...

Some call it a secret language by which only the dorky communicate. Others say it was passed down from Thomas Edison himself. Most people never even know they exist. Here's a quick (who am I's pretty long-winded) run down of my favorite run-out groove etchings. It's pretty limited to only ones i know/remember. Any greats I missed or that I should know about please send my way.

  1. Why don’t you trade those guitars for shovels?

Quite possibly the most famous run-out etching ever, this is on the A-side of Nirvana’s debut single “Love Buzz.” A phrase supposedly uttered by Krist Noveselic’s dad upon walking into a Nirvana rehearsal, it (like many other run-out etchings, but not EVERY run-out etching) can usually be used to tell an original, authentic press of the record from a bootleg.

  1. “E.S.Q.” from us to you

The Gories most plentiful single (4500 copies pressed) might also be their best. Covers of the songs “Give Me Some Money” originally by Spinal Tap (or if you want to be precise, the Thamesmen) and the (British) Birds arrangement of the Bo Diddley classic “You Don’t Love Me” (sometimes appended with the parenthetical of “You Don’t Care”) were, according to Mick, originally meant to be released as a single on Estrus, as they were “garage” tracks. Meanwhile, the Estrus-released “Baby Say Unh!!” b/w “Idol With the Golden Head” was slated for Sub Pop for its “grunginess.” While I initially took that with a grain of salt, there is a live Gories bootleg (which one, I can’t recall) that I seem to remember Mick supporting this claim.

The etching is particularly confusing as “E.S.Q.” is a reference to the gut-rot liquor Thunderbird ESQ, a spirit that inspired a Gories song of the same name. While regular Thunderbird is still readily available at party stores all across the metro Detroit area (and other locales I’m sure) the “ESQ” has been discontinued.

  1. Mark is a pet (b/w) Pet is a verb

From Green River’s debut single on Tasque Force (a company which was actually just Bruce Pavitt before he started releasing under the Sub Pop moniker), this green vinyl beauty gives production credit to “J. Perry” a joke that supposedly fooled many people into believing the Aerosmith shredder was actually producing these NorWest glam trash fools.

The label on the b-side of this record (there is no picture sleeve) is a photo of what appears to be Mark Arm and what is assumed to be some other member of Green River (wearing a badass “Sonic Life” t-shirt) at a rest stop in the middle of nowhere. If I had to guess, I’d say South Dakota. Anywho, said Sonic Lifer is standing with pants unzipped to re-appropriate the sign to his immediate right that reads “Pet Area” with an arrow. My explanation sucks. You just need to see it. Mark Arm’s sense of humor will never tire with me.

  1. Lafayette we have returned

Ok, this one might be cheating. The original test pressings of the White Stripes “Lafayette Blues” single contain this phrase in the run-out. But those tests were rejected and ultimately were re-cut with the message omitted.

The line is a quote usually attributed to US Gen. John Pershing upon his arrival on French shores during the First World War (some claim it was actually a lower-ranking officer who said it). Either way, the quote is a reference to French General Marquis de Lafayette and the enormous support he gave to the Continental forces during the American Revolution. As World War I dragged on, the call was adapted to “Lafayette we are still here!”

  1. Someone from Burning Brides phone number

Mind you the run-out groove did not say “someone from Burning Brides phone number.” No, it actually listed the phone number and possibly some other naughty message. All this could only be thought up by the brilliance behind Buddyhead, the label/messageboard/whatever the fuck it is that they do now conglomerate that released the Brides “Fall of the Plastic Empire” LP. I do not own a copy of this record and only know of the run-out groove because I was sitting with members of Burning Brides when they got one of these random phone calls. I liked the idea so much I stole it for the Dirtbombs/Adult. split single. The Dirtbombs side says “For free phone sex call…” and has Jim Diamond’s phone number listed.

  1. Looser

On Beck’s pre-“Loser” single “MTV Makes Me Wanna Smoke Crack.” What it a sign of prescience? Just some goof-off? All in all, it totally encapsulates everything a run-out groove should be…off-the-cuff, curious, clever and quick.

  1. This is our art (b/w) This is our fart

No doubt another one of Mark Arm’s gems, this one from the bonus 7” included with LP copies of Mudhoney’s “My Brother the Cow.” With songs titles like “Mudhoney Funky Butt” and “West Seattle Hardcore” I really have no idea what these songs were intended for…other than fluff to wraparound an amazing run-out groove message.

  1. SST’s gotta a lot of nerve (b/w) We love you Dinosaur

From the SST pressing of Sonic Youth’s self-titled EP. Did SST properly license the recordings from Neutral? Maybe, maybe not. Maybe that’s what the message refers to. We may never know. And the declared love of Dinosaur is probably just someone being geeked to be label-mates with J. Mascis’ wank band.

  1. Gawker Side (b/w) Stalker Side

You may not have noticed, but I’m just pulling these records out as I make this list, seeing what has run-outs I dig. The Hentchmen’s “Hentch-Forth” record (a mini-LP whose name I actually came up with when I was a tyke of 16 years old) is a cheeky reference to the side with the track “Gawker Delay,” an instrumental tune that is one of the most dynamic and uncharacteristic things the Hentchmen ever recorded. It rules. The flip has a song called “Big Screen Lover”…a song basically about a Hollywood stalker. That’s it…pretty simple.

  1. Nosferatu with a bowl cut (b/w) I’m not Pete Townsend

I put this in the run-out of the first record I released, a Mooney Suzuki single. I originally asked the band if they had any ideas for run-out grooves and they had nothing. A few weeks later, they asked me to put “If you don’t like this record, why don’t you roof it?” instead. I still don’t know what that means. I sent the new line forward, but in some confusion at the mastering lab, the “roof it” phrase got attached to the Cyril Lords single I was also having cut at that time. Meanwhile, my original genius phrase “Nosferatu with a bowl cut” (a line someone once used to describe the appearance of Moonies lead singer Sammy James Jr.) made it on the record. The flip, “I’m not Pete Townsend” was a quote from James taken from an interview he gave that was edited perfectly to cut back and forth between him repeatedly saying that line quickly followed by shots of him doing windmill guitar power chords a la Pete. You had to see it. Anyway, I delivered the test pressings to the Moonies at SXSW in 2003 and the first thing they did was check out the run-out grooves. I cannot tell you how disappointed they looked when they found no “roof-it” in their grooves. To this day, I have yet to fuck up another run-out groove message.