Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Nick Tosches at work

According to Publishers Lunch, Nick Tosches has just signed a deal for an "impressionistic history of the past half-century of rock 'n' roll, centering on the life of record producer Phil Spector." Look for it in 2008.

Monday, January 30, 2006

4 Unknown Boys From Nowhere Tracks Surface!

LITG Superspy Matthew Specktor has discovered a mysterious website which hosts five MP3s by eighties Ohio's masters of garage revivalism, the Boys From Nowhere. In addition to their celebrated namesake DMZ cover are fine takes on the Kinks, Wailers, Sparkles and Music Machine. Matthew called main Boy Mick Divvens to inquire as to the provenence of this goldmine, and learned that Mick doesn't even remember recording these songs, but reckons they must have been laid down circa "Beg." And "Beg," for them that don't know, is just about the rawest slice of teenpunk animosity ever captured... or why don't I just let Matthew tell you all about it, in his essay from Lost in the Grooves?

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)

One Kiss Can Lead To Another: Girls Group Sounds Lost & Found 4-CD box (Rhino)

Medium Image

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.

cult of the week - Ted Milton

artist: Ted Milton

title: Ode: O, to be seen through your eyes!

year: 1986

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

cotw say…

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

Sugarlumps: A Psychedelic Selection of Groovy Movers and Sweet Freakbeat (Hard Soul/Acid Jazz)

An unexpected but homogenous mix of new and vintage sounds from the guys who had those great shirts custom made in the first place, and the guys young enough to be their grandkids who paid too much for them in 2003. Highlights include Andys Lewis and Ellison’s sneery minimalist psych collaboration, a trashy Barry Tashian-produced frat raver by the Argonauts, Groovy Ruben’s shaggy hepcat tale and a lost and luscious proto-Faces jam. Pan-generational grooviness and a cool party disc.

Buy direct from the label (where you can sample tracks) or from Amazon.

1947project in the L.A. Times

When not chasing musical phantoms down rabbit holes, I blog historic L.A. true crime at 1947project. Earlier this month, my blog colleagues rented a couple of tour busses and took our readers out for a wild day's ramble over crime scenes notorious (SLA safe house, Dahlia dump site) and forgotten (Ghost in the Garret, The Fox). We had a ball!

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.

Two More Lost In The Groovers go 33 1/3!

First Andrew Hultkrans wrote the book of Love. Elisabeth Vincentelli gave ABBA the nod. Then I went to Athens and discovered what made Neutral Milk Hotel tick.

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

Neutral Milk Hotel reading, 2/8 in Los Angeles

I'd like to extend an invitation to SoCal readers to join me at Book Soup on the Sunset Strip on Weds., February 8, at 7pm for a reading, book signing and q&a for my 33 1/3 book "Neutral Milk Hotel's 'In The Aeroplane Over The Sea.'" If you have any questions about how the book was researched or organized, or would like to pick up an autographed copy for yourself or a friend, or would just like to meet fellow fans and visit a great indie bookstore with an excellent bargain room, I hope you'll stop by.

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

More info.


cult of the week - Whirlywirld

artist: Whirlywirld

title: Whirlywirld

year: 1980

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

cotw say…

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

Blowfly robbed!

What kind of idjit would steal equipment and costumes from a man/bug whose response is this?

"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

Interesting Radio Birdman video

Someone's compiled quite a stylish video for "Aloha Steve & Danno" using historic live footage, stills, text and in-jokes. Those kids dancing in sillhouette really capture the raw power of the band. This is kind of a test, to see if a YouTube video actually shows in Blogger. Click play and see...

Fan Tan by Marlon Brando and Donald Cammell

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)

Loud Family album/tour news

Sue Trowbridge, that dedicated label head who just won't let Scott Miller hide his genius, no matter how he tries, writes to announce the upcoming release of a NEW Loud Family disc, with a sample track online:

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!

A long interview about the Neutral Milk Hotel book

In yesterday's Athens Flagpole, Chris Hassiotis asked me a lot of good questions about how I happened to write a book about In The Aeroplane Over The Sea, and if it's a good or a bad thing that Jeff Mangum declined to be interviewed.

Steve Wynn memorializes Bryan Harvey and family

Sometimes being a true crime buff just breaks your heart. Among all the silly people who play rough and end up hurt, there are pointless, awful stories like the New Years Day slaughter of Bryan Harvey (late of House of Freaks and Gutterball), his cool kid's store owning wife Kathy and young daughters Stella and Ruby, apparently during a home invasion robbery. Longtime Scram pal Steve Wynn was a bandmate and friend to Bryan, and penned this poignant memorial for the Rhino website:

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

Owed T'Alex

R.I.P. Alex Snouffer - original Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band guitarist. Played on 'Diddy Wah Diddy' as well as 'Safe As Milk.'

Alex Snouffer from the cover of Safe As Milk
1941 - 2006

Monday, January 16, 2006

The Strawberry Alarm Clock - Wake Up… It’s Tomorrow CD (Collectors Choice)

This is my favorite Strawberry Alarm Clock album. My favorite song--everyone’s fave, “Incense and Peppermints”--is on their first album, I haven’t heard their third album and their fourth album is basic blues-rock instead of psychedelia. All of those qualifiers aside, though, this sophomoric effort is the ticket for me. It’s good enough that I will give their third album a listen at my earliest convenience to see how it stacks up. The music here is playful, upbeat, inventive and catchy. I saw the film Psych-Out recently and dug the scenes with these flower power poppers. Thankfully, this set has “Pretty Song from Psych-Out” on it, so I can revisit with my mind’s eye the image of a young Jack Nicholson clumsily trying to look like he knows which end of a guitar is which whenever I want. Surprisingly good musicianship from a group of teenagers and strong songs makes for an enjoyable trip back to the wild and wacky sixties. Love beads are optional. (Edwin Letcher)

The Strawberry Alarm Clock - Good Morning Starshine CD (Collectors Choice)

This was the band’s last effort at returning to the charts and it failed to yield any hits. The personnel had changed considerably and the new members helped bring about a shift to a hard-edged blues-rock sound. There are some trippy, almost psychedelic moments and the title track is just about as cutesy poppy as the version of this Hair staple that Oliver scored with, but the rest of the album sounds more like Iron Butterfly. For fans of late sixties/ early seventies, this set offers up some tight musicianship, especially that of founding member Mark Weitz on keyboards, and very manly vocals. (Edwin Letcher)

H.P. Lovecraft - Dreams in the Witch House CD (Rev-ola)

The subtitle of this disc is “The Complete Philips Recordings.” It is comprised of the albums H.P. Lovecraft and H.P. Lovecraft II, plus four songs taken from singles. I have owned the group’s second album since the mid-seventies. I picked it up during a frenzy of sixties music collecting, but it never grew on me like all the Chocolate Watch Band, Thirteenth Floor Elevators-type stuff I was so gaga over. For some reason it sounds a whole lot better now, and I quite enjoy the other material as well. Taking their name from the horror/fantasy author, the band blended elements of folk, rock and various other musical strains to come up with a sound that is moody and atmospheric without being macabre. The vocals shine brightly and the production is spot on. (Edwin Letcher)

The Everly Brothers - The New Album CD (Collectors’ Choice)

Collectors Choice has released a whole bunch of albums that this hit-making duo released after the majority of their audience had shifted their attentions to more modern acts. It’s a great thing that Don and Phil continued to record, because all of the albums I’ve heard so far--six I believe--are top notch. This one is a bit of a misnomer, because the music was not “new” when it was released in 1977; it had just never been made available yet. The recordings span the decade the brothers were at Warner Brothers, ’60 to ’70, and represent a solid peek at the changes music underwent during that turbulent time as filtered through a truly great folk, rock and pop act. Whether it’s Brill Building leftovers, a smattering of Everly originals or examples of songwriting by young upstarts the boys met through the years, all of the material here is first rate. (Edwin Letcher)

cult of the week - Social climbers

artist: Social Climbers

title: Social Climbers

year: 1980

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

cotw say…

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

Liverpool Echo or Rev-Ola is the new black

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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

cult of the week - The Walker Brothers

artist: The Walker Brothers

title: Nite Flites

year: 1978

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

cotw say…

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

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Barry Cowsill, R.I.P.

He disappeared in the chaos post-Katrina, and has finally been found. So sad.


Monday, January 02, 2006

Rock & Roll Archaeologist by Peter Blecha

Rock & Roll Archaeologist: How I Chased Down Kurt's Stratocaster, the "Layla" Guitar, and Janis's Boa by Peter Blecha (Sasquatch Books)… Seattle's best-known collector tells all in this entertaining memoir, which chronicles his journey from childish coin and postage-stamp collector up to the mega-bucks Experience Music Project's boss curator and primary purchaser of rock 'n' roll's high-priced esoterica. Early on, Blecha fell in love with the Northwest's rock music scene, and began amassing a personal collection of every record ever recorded in the region, as well as pertinent sheet music, posters, band photos, publications, interviews, and other mementos. The collection took over his life, as collections often do, and luckily he was in the right place at the right time when billionaire Paul Allen decided to honor Jimi Hendrix's memory by devoting a museum to housing the late guitar god's artifacts. Blecha was brought on board, and as the scope of the project expanded to include other aspects of rock music's history and accomplishments, he was there every step of the way, representing Allen at high-falutin' auctions, and seeking out obscure treasures all over the globe. This book covers the highlights of Blecha's odyssey, and it'll ring the chimes of any reader who has squirreled away life's musical reminders. For once, obsession was rewarded with completion! (Dennis P. Eichhorn)

Comet Gain - City Fallen Leaves CD (Kill Rock Stars)

So much of contemporary indie rock has the sound, but there’s no heart or thought inside. But Comet Gain always come across like smart, cool, complicated friends you can’t wait to meet again. Their marzipan harmonies feed lovely washes of organic chaos building off of fine melodies, and really, you’d have to be pretty greedy to ask for more.

Gary Higgins - Red Hash CD (Drag City)

This pastoral, hypnotic self-released stoner folk disk from ’73 gets the deluxe reish treatment with lyrics, photos, mastering from the original tapes and bonus tracks—but no liner notes. Still, the facts of the dope-related prison term Higgins served right after his album was released add and subtract little to the whole. He has a lovely, boyish voice, warm and whispery, complementing the low key arrangements swelling with cello, flute and mandolin. He also had a more aggressive and humorous side, as shown in the Beefheart-voxed “Down on the Farm.” The songs have that rare mix of quietness and great force that demand attention, and while they become a bit monochromatic over the course of the whole album, the best are simply much too good to stay lost.