Tuesday, January 31, 2006
Monday, January 30, 2006
The Boys From Nowhere - The Young Lion 45s
The Highway to Hell is paved with bad imitations. Discarded tubes of lipstick and the sloughed-off leathers of Stooges-wannabes stand by to warn the hopefuls who stagger along the time-honored—and widely dishonored—passage. In the late eighties, the LIE and Mass Pike were crowded with bands who fancied themselves the new Stones, or Dolls (allegiance shifted around 1985 from Pebbles comps to MC5 reissues), but these outfits disappeared in the hair-apocalypse that was Guns N’ Roses. Which is a crooked way of approaching Boys From Nowhere, the greatest garage band you’ve never heard.
While Lyres and the Chesterfield Kings were trying to drag us back to sacred-mono, Mick Divvens was shaking his mane to Uriah Heep records. While Jeff Conolly was struggling to accept the world hadn’t ended in 1967, Mick was on about the merits of Ratt’s first 45. Yet brushing aside specious punk notions of purism, the fact remains that Divvens recorded some of the finest singles ever waxed by a guy named Mick. Vaulting over the usual obstacles— slack-jawed drummers with lucrative sidelines in armed-robbery, feckless sidemen too busy griping to show up for practice—Divvens did it the hard way, playing organ, guitar, duck-call and hair-on-fire screaming for a series of self-released singles that needed to be heard to be believed.
Combining the pant-pissing heaviness of the best Detroit thug-rock with prime sixties ‘tude, these were a far cry from the fey recidivism of bands I won’t name, unless I already have; “Beg,” “Jungle Boy,” and (especially) “I Don’t Bother” approach Stooges-like levels of intensity without sacrificing melodic interest, and—with that duck-call—nodding towards the retarded art-punk of fellow Ohioans Pere Ubu. These were subsequently reissued on a series of Spanish, German and Australian 12-inches that sounded as if they were mastered in a laughing-gas factory. Tinny, cruddy (the original pressings were both, in a good way) and sped-up, they led some to wonder what the fuss was about. An album on Skyclad followed. But the best are still those early singles, and it’s a crime against humanity Divvens still has boxes of ‘em in his garage. He ought to be sending children to college on their backs. Maybe then someone could come forward to show the Hives, White Stripes, etc. how it’s done. (Matthew Specktor)
Melodrama gets a bad rap, but there are few emotional experiences that are as pure, as enervating. American teens in 1963 didn’t have opera (light or otherwise), pulp horror magazines or the Grand Guignol, and they couldn’t have cared less about their mother’s soaps, but they did have the radio. And in two minute increments, the radio fed out miniature urban operas packed with enough misery, longing, pain and conflict to satisfy their every vicarious desire.
Revisionist pop memory sometimes obscures just how ubiquitous Girl Group music was in the early sixties—the Beatles were even star struck over Ronnie Spector--but since many of the groups were interchangeable puppets fronting for producers and songwriters, albums were a rarity, and women’s voices get short shrift on oldies radio, relatively few of the acts are remembered by non-collectors. But as One Kiss makes immediately and forcefully clear, there was much more to the GG sounds than the Ronettes, Shangs and Supremes.
And what One Kiss is mostly is thrilling, pushing track after marvelous track of unknown, impassioned, instant teen pop into ears that too rarely find such a concentrated bounty. I’m personally most pleased to see the Goodees, the exquisitely tasteless Southern-fried Shangri-La’s, find a wider audience with their “Leader of the Pack” cop “Condition Red”—especially when the record sounds so great—but there are dozens of acts that deserve spotlight treatment. Like the mysterious Bitter Sweets, turning in a clinically hysterical Shangs’ routine penned by Brute Force… or the very fine (and finally gaining notice) Reparata and the Delrons… the Lovelites, authors of the most agonized “somebody ple-eeease” ever laid on tape… Dawn’s relentless, paranoid “I’m Afraid They’re All Talking About Me”… Toni Basil’s washed up lament “I’m 28”… and teen guitar goddess Char Vinnedge, whose Luv’d Ones were riot grrrls in 1966. Then there’s “Peanut Duck,” an utterly mad, irresistible slice of Philly Soul recorded by a nameless singer, discovered on an unlabeled acetate, and subject of a growing cult.
The set’s greatest strength is its lack of orthodoxy, so rather than a tour of the Brill Building and Spectorland (Phil’s ouput is conspicuously absent), the Girl Group definition is expanded out in distant ripples, not just to Memphis’ Goodees but to England for Andrew Oldham discovery P.P. Arnold’s lovely early recording of “The First Cut is the Deepest,” into the rockabilly raunch of Wanda Jackson, from soul to surf to and all around the pop bubble.
This is a gorgeous box, a worthy tribute to the women who are on it. The package’s conceit is that it’s a black and white striped, velvet-lined hat box with a cord handle. Inside, each CD mimics a different vintage compact, complete with a mirror and photo-realistic pat of powder. Each CD is a powder puff. But that’s where the soft and floppy metaphor ends, because these dolls are tough and artful, and they come bearing great gifts to all who have ears to hear. Essential.
title: Ode: O, to be seen through your eyes!
label: Toeblock Records
personnel: Ted Milton (sax, vocals), Hermann Martin (synthesizers)
tracklisting: ode: o, to be seen through your eyes!, slies are bruised, the porcine colonel's left over women
Ted Milton, better known as the visionary, if inimitable, leader of Blurt, remains one of post-punk's forgotten heroes. Blurt's combination of squawking sax, angular guitars and funk-influenced drumming still draws immediate comparisons with James Chance, an unsatisfactory tag when you consider that Blurt swam in more original and avant-garde waters.
"Ode" is not only noteworthy because it saw Milton record under his own name, it also marked an interesting departure from Blurt, whose organic sound was temporarily replaced by Herman Martin's synths. the results are mixed. the title track comprises a Milton monologue over dated programmed drums, which detract slightly from the power of Milton's highly animated voice. 'Skies are Bruised' (great title) is much better. Martin's synth stabs and textures are suitably ominous and combine excellently with a superb sax riff that hints strongly at the Blurt classic 'Bullets for You'. undoubtedly the EP's standout. meanwhile, 'The porcine colonel's left-over women' buries Milton's rant and sax in the mix somewhat, giving the track a cool, meditative feel thanks to some sparse, repetitive synth programming.
not for the fainthearted, but who cares. let it blurt!
erik - http://www.cultwithnoname.com
Thursday, January 26, 2006
Buy direct from the label (where you can sample tracks) or from Amazon.
It was our pleasure to host the Times' intrepid Cindy Chang on our Dahlia Day Crime Bus tour to sites macabre and fascinating. Her story is a terrific snapshot of the mood of the tour and our aims in writing the blog and dragging folks around the city.
We were thrilled to discover we could sell out two full sized tour busses with only minimal publicity on this and other blogs, and in the L.A. Alternative, and are already planning future Crime Bus and Crime Walk outings to introduce more retro gore hounds to the forgotten weirdness of our city. So sign up for the mailing list* if you'd like to be informed when reservations open for the next tour, and check out this podcast, a sampling of the Dahlia Day route. But be warned: there's a lot of humor, but it is not for the squeamish.
yours in darkest noir (with a cherry on top),
*AOL's browser does not recognize the sign up page. Please use another browser to join.
And today, with David Barker's announcement of the next 21 books in the 33 1/3 series, two more Lost in the Grooves anthology contributors are slated to join the gang. Among them, my longtime editorial partner (and perhaps the most provocative pop thinker the series has yet to host) David Smay, with a book on Tom Waits' swordfishtrombones, and Hayden Childs diving into Richard and Linda Thompson's Shoot Out The Lights.
Congratulations to David and Hayden, and the other happy pitchers. And to the pop freaks who can look forward to books on Beefheart, Patti, Nick Drake, Television, the Minutemen, Throbbing Gristle and... well, visit the 33 1/3 blog for the full list.
Monday, January 23, 2006
WHAT: Kim Cooper reads from Neutral Milk Hotel band bio
WHERE: Book Soup, 8818 Sunset Blvd., WeHo CA 90069. Free lot parking.
WHEN: Weds., February 8, 2006, 7:00pm
label: Missing Link Records
personnel: Ian Olsen (vocals, tapes, piano, synthesizer), John Murphy (drums, electronics, kitchenware), Greg Sun (bass, percussion), Arnie Hanna (electric guitar)
tracklisting: big gun action, boys of the badlands, red river, win/lose
over to Melbourne this week for one of Australia's must legendary alternative synth bands, Whirlywirld. a band who somehow still manage to be overlooked by successive generations of music writers and record collectors.
lead by Ian 'Ollie' Olsen - who's eclectic career includes the Max Q collaboration with Michael Hutchene ('Win/Lose' was also reworked for the soundtrack to Dogs in Space) - and future Associates' member John Murphy, Whirlywirld were synthpunk perfection. 'Big Gun Action' sets the tone, with its barrage of shrill guitars, electronic effects and angst-ridden vocals. what remains particularly interesting is not only the breathtaking and relentless use of studio effects throughout the EP, but also John Murphy's subtle percussion work, which frequently leans in the direction of reggae and ska. nevertheless, Whirlywirld's nearest musical cousin is no doubt early (pre 'Half-Mute') Tuxedomoon, thanks to a fairly unpunky pace ('Red River', although an exception, even has a spot of saxophone) and the fact that Ollie Olsen's voice bears more than a passing resemblance to TM's Blaine L. Reininger in places. as if to prove a point, 'Win/Lose' closes the album in fine style, a straight, but no less engaging, dance track that remains one of synth's greatest lost anthems.
every loser wins.
erik - http://www.cultwithnoname.com
Sunday, January 22, 2006
"Hey freaks, our van got broken into last night in charlotte by pros with tools who took out the driver side lock. so if you live around there -- please keep an eye out for this shit. and if you have this stuff, motherfucker im putting a curse on your dick! until you return it, you wont be able to get hard unless you're looking at micheal jackson!"
Link from WFMU's Beware of the Blog (see also Mike Lucas' interview with the incomparable Mr. Fly in Scram #21.)
Friday, January 20, 2006
Fan-Tan by Marlon Brando and Donald Cammell (Alfred A. Knopf)… This fast-paced adventure takes place in 1927, and features bloodthirsty Asian pirates led by an inscrutable femme fatale, along with a seafaring anti-heroic protagonist who appears to be based on Marlon Brando as he appeared in Mutiny on the Bounty. Originally conceived by Brando and director Donald Cammell as a screenplay for the greatest (then) actor alive, it languished for a good twenty years before being resurrected and published as a novel. It has a pithy plot, replete with brutal homicides and methodical character development, and it reflects the authors' mutual infatuation with Asian women. The denoumental sex scene is surely one of the most unique in modern literature. And editor David Thompson, in an Afterword, has much to say about the mysterious Cammell (director of the drug-drenched film Performance, among other singularities), which adds greatly to the book's mystique. Good stuff, and here's hoping someone films it someday. (Dennis P.Eichhorn)
After many delays, the new album, "What If It Works?," *should* be out sometime in the spring of '06. Right now the big hold-up is the art. The album has been mastered. Once the graphic design is completed, it will be off to the manufacturer's. I'm planning to make copies available hot off the presses to the loyal subscribers of [the loudfans mailing] list, before they are for sale in record stores or online outlets, so stay tuned for pre-order info.
If you would like to hear a sample of the album, there's an MP3 of "Rocks Off" (yes, a cover of the Rolling Stones song) at the newly revamped 125 Records site. Click on Sounds. You can also click on News to read my blog, which I set up to document the day-to-day process of running the record company. I hope to get around to making some changes to the loudfamily.com site sometime in the next few months as well.
Tour news: I know Anton & Scott are hoping to do several dates on the West Coast... beyond that, I'm not sure, it probably depends on how well the album does!
Music, Friends, and Good Times
Remembering Bryan Harvey
by Steve Wynn
I first met Bryan Harvey when he and Johnny Hott moved to LA and played an amazing show at Raji's. They were amazing. I couldn't believe all of the sound and energy and fury that came from just two people. I was instantly a fan and would not have imagined that I would eventually be in a band with them.
I didn't really spend that much time with Bryan when he and Johnny lived in LA. Both of our bands toured all of the time and even though we had friends, a manager and a record label in common, we didn't have that much time to hang out.
But after Bryan moved back to Richmond, I went to a House Of Freaks show when they came through town on the "Cakewalk" tour. We ended up talking for a long time after the show and sharing stories and gripes, mostly about the frustrations of dealing with the music business and still keeping some kind of artistic integrity and sanity. He told me to come out to Richmond sometime so we could write some songs together.
I think I surprised him a few months later when I was in Nashville and asked if I could drop by, as though Nashville was just down the street rather than an 18-hour bus ride away. As always, he was gracious and generous with his time and told me to come on out.
I spent the next week, I stayed at Bryan and Kathy's house. We kept warm by a wood-burning stove, drank red wine, ate homemade pizzas, played with their cats, told stories and had a great time. Oh, and we wrote a bunch of songs and then impulsively rounded up the extended House Of Freaks lineup and in one night made what became the first Gutterball record.
That time that I spent with Bryan and Kathy was so enjoyable, so easy, so warm, and it reminded me that music is an extension of life. It is not a chore or a task or a burden but rather a reflection of good people, kindred spirits, conversation, good times and friendship. Bryan had gone back to Richmond and found these things and I was grateful to be able to be clued into the life they were living. It was invigorating and it led to three years of touring, another record and so many good times.
Bryan loved being in Gutterball and we had a lot of fun together but he also loved being home with Kathy in Richmond. "I've seen the most incredible cities and have had the most incredible experiences... with a bunch of guys," he would often say, and by 1996 it was apparent that the Gutterball experience was over. I would regularly call and write and nag and cajole, trying to get the band going again, but he was content and happy to be at home, off the road, and enjoying his life. He would always say, "Come on down, hang out with us, let's eat some good food and drink some wine. But I don't have time to make a record or go on the road." I wish I had gone down there more often.
Bryan was incredibly talented. He was a great singer, an unbelievable guitarist, and the best co-writer you could ever want. I loved being one of the "bunch of guys" who got to see the world with him, always through his perspective of the priority being the music and friends and good times, rather than the career aspect. Kathy was such a good friend and always loved to hear the songs we would write, and she created the World of Mirth store, a place that reflected her spirit of fun and community. Stella and Ruby were great kids, and I wish I had had more time to know them. This was a family that got it right, that knew how to live life. They were my friends. I miss them so much.
Thursday, January 19, 2006
Monday, January 16, 2006
title: Social Climbers
label: Hoboken Records
personnel: Jean Seton Shaw (bass, vocals), A. Leroy (farfisa organ, korg machine), Mark Bingham (guitar, vocals)
tracklisting: domestic, chicken 80, western world, chris & debbie, palm springs, that's why, ernie k, hello texas, taipei
Mark Bingham flirted with a number of projects prior to compiling the works of Social Climbers, including production work for MX-80 Sound and collaborations with New York's Glenn Branca. their only album was indeed a compilation of three excellent, but poorly pressed 7" flexis put out by the band.
armed with just a couple of guitars, a rhythm box and an organ, you'd be forgiven for thinking that this album may not offer anything special, or that Social Climbers would simply mirror the b-movie aspirations of their New York peers, Comateens (which they do here there, particularly on 'Western World'). however, Bingham & Co. conjure up a highly original mix of quietly neurotic post-punk restraint. both the organ and rhythm boxes are used highly effectively, thanks to subtle production trickery and clever programming, neatly offset by the geeky garageband vocals. tracks like 'Chicken 80', 'Chris & Debbie' and 'That's Why' are shining examples of the very best of post-punk DIY, thanks to both memorable tunes and a cool, if insular, atmosphere of moderate despair. as the album wanders comfortably over the stylistic map, each track in some way hits the spot, and most hit more than one.
every lo-fi collector should get to hear this. and what a tragedy that it was never followed up.
erik - http://www.cultwithnoname.com
Tuesday, January 10, 2006
Yesterday at work when I saw news of this reissue , I brightened up and got excited as hell, thinking, 'Wow, Rev-Ola delivering the goods, again - scratch another notch on their already battle-scarred bed-post!' But then I paused, re-thought, reflected: 'Jeez, when isn't Rev-Ola delivering!' Why they're busier than a free-clinic doctor in a developing country with an exploding birth-rate...to make a sloppy and boring analogy. And you know what's coming next! That's right, the predictable, facile segue about what's neither sloppy nor boring is this happy, hoppin' little disc that just begs to be your own! This album was made to order - why shouldn't my writing be likewise?
Actually, this record is much too good for such a phone-it-in review. For as far as 'Beatles-in-the-'70s' records go, the Liverpool Echo LP easily sits on par with the likes of Rockin' Horse, the Liverpool Express and Utopia's 'Deface The Music.' And unlike these LP's, whose main goals seemed to be to recreate the sonic verisimilitude of the early Beatles, the Liverpool Echo does this while simultaneously not skimping on the Cavern Club vigor and dynamism that made the pre-fame Fabs so compelling.
THE BACK STORY: Vet'rin psych rockers, Martin Briley and Brian Engel, late of Mandrake Paddle Steamer ('Strange Walking Man'), making ends meet in the early '70s with session work. Offer comes in from London to cut an entire album of rocking Mersey Pop Beatles-sound-a-likes of the sacred '63 vintage, to foist on the young-ins and make a little off the ten-year cycle of Liverpuddlian nostalgia. From such admittedly low expectations, the end-result could easily have been some rose-tinted horror worthy of starring David Essex or Alvin Stardust (or for that matter, Peter Frampton or Elton), with an authenticity factor just south of Flash Cadillac & The Continental Kids. Thankfully, and not a little miraculously, the Liverpool Echo players took obvious, loving care in crafting what was, for all intents and purposes, a cheap cash-in collection. Still, perhaps cognizant of the prevailing tat and pomp-rock winds and the little hope a Mersybeat sound stood in penetrating the carapace of a mass consciousness dominated by the colossi of Rod, Marc and Tull, the songs created by the Liverpool Echo were imbued with an intense personalism and lyrical directness, as if Briley, Engel and Co. were employing the disposable premise and intent of the album to document important events in their lives - writing as much for themselves as they were for an audience (now that's what I call a run-on sentence!).
...and you can pretty much write the coroner's report yourself - no autopsy required. A true lost treasure, plucked from the ash-can. Thanks, as usual to Rev-Ola. What can possibly be next in their great, lost '70s pop restoration campaign? Hackamore Brick? Sleepy Hollow? I, for one, can't wait to see and take great comfort that this album may finally reach the audience it so richly deserves.
Monday, January 09, 2006
title: Nite Flites
label: Epic Records
personnel: Scott Walker (vocals, bass, keyboards), John Walker (vocals), Gary Leeds (vocals, percussion), Les Davidson (guitar), Jim Sullivan (guitar), Peter van Hook (drums), Frank Gibson (druns), Dave Macrae (keyboards), Dill Katz (drums), Mo Foster (bass), Ronnie Ross (sax), Chris Mercer (sax), Joy Yates, (backging vocals), Katie Kissoon (backing vocals), Denis Weinreich (backing vocals), Morris Pert (percussion), Alan Skidmore (sax)
tracklisting: shutout, fat mama kick, nite flights, the electrician, death of romance, den haague, rhythms of vision, disciples of death, fury and the fire, child of flames
cult of the week kick off 2006 with something that could hardly be accused of being obscure. nevertheless, The Walker Brothers' bizarre swansong remains one of post-punk's most defining influences, cited by Bowie as the primary inspiration for 'Lodger' and standout 'The Electrician' revealed as the blueprint for Ultravox's 'Vienna' to highlight but two examples.
with songwriting duties split reasonably evenly between Scott Walker, JJ Maus (John Walker) and Gary Leeds, attention immediately focuses on Scott Walker's quartet of stunning, at times indescribable, suite of songs that open the album. 'Shutout' and 'Fat Mama Kick' reveal a kind of decidedly dark, fractured funk that sits somewhere between Gang of Four and Beefheart, with quite remarkable vocal production to boot. the gorgeous 'Nite Flights', with its swooping bass, strings and synths, was later covered but unmatached by Bowie and the soaring psychodrama of 'The Electrician' is perhaps best experienced first hand. suffice it to say, it hosts one of the greatest string arrangements of any contemporary song. unsurprisingly, these four cannot be matched. whilst John Walker's suite veers dangerously close to The Eagles (albeit a darker version), Gary Leeds' 'Den Haague' and 'Death of Romance' are engaging, if somewhat plodding, slices of pop noir. but neither singer's voice holds anywhere near the emotional gravitas of Scott Walker's unmistakable, despondent quiver.
nothing short of absolutely essential listening.
erik - http://www.cultwithnoname.com