Blastitude Number Seven
issue 10   october/november 2001
page 7


by Jared Stanley

THE AISLERS SET: Red Door 7" (Slumberland)
It's funny. Just as the once amazing San Francisco Indie-Pop scene dies, along comes the best single made in San Francisco since the whole thing started. The Aislers have always been the best band in town, and everybody knows it. This little record proves just how amazing and consistent they continue to be. Side A is a rerecorded version of the punker song from their latest album "The Last Match"-the vocals are much clearer, which makes the lyrics that much more endearing, sung as they are over careening crash pop instrumentation. But the real surprise here is "Summer's Reprise"-I can't really say enough about this song. The band has been spreading it wings on a slew of singles released since "The Last Match" (see the "Attraction Action Reaction" 7" on Suicide Squeeze), and this song is the latest exploration of pop form by a band that gets better by challenging itself. Imagine the Go-Go's and the Bangles if Rod Argent of the Zombies had been in one of those bandsÖIt has that '80's pop bounce, but Jen Cohen's organ keeps one foot firmly in the '60's. You know how the last song in a teen movie makes you choke up? It's that bittersweet beauty that makes this song such a treasure. There is such yearning in Amy's vocals-it makes it the best summer breakup song imaginable, even if it's not about breaking up. Finally, a really badly recorded live version of "Warm Girls" by the '80's group Girls At Our Best-it sounded great live, but here it just kinda reminds you how much of a genius Amy is in the studio.

HAPPY SUPPLY: Three Song 7" (Dutch Courage)
This is the third single by this campy (and I mean this in the best B-52ís sense) Chicago guy ní girl duo. The first song, "Theme Song" is heavily influenced by early period Orange Juice with its spazzy strumming, little Creedence-y guitar break, and awkward dood singer thing that Ed Collins did so well. Itís a pretty groovy and catchy thing. The next one, "Grinning Song" has a funny little double meaning "Iíd love to slit you from ear to earÖnow youíre grinning but not using your mouth" etc. about one way to solve a domestic quarrel. Extra points for groovy new wave Farfisa. The flip is quite a surprise, a disco (!) version of Flipperís "Ha Ha Ha" on which the female singer delivers a classic Deborah Iyall, jaded new waver impersonation. Does this sound insane? It is, and itís very nice that this band, which is pretty much the only underground pop group in Chicago, actually knows more than just its pop roots. Plus itís on banana colored vinyl.

I HEAR HISSING: John Cale's Helen of Troy LP

Just so you know, this article is not about those Cale/Lamont Young Sun Blindness Music collections Ė they were ok, but not really newsworthy (to me anyway). This is really just a little rambling note about the experience of listening to John Caleís 1975 record Helen of Troy, which Iím sure most of you have either heard or heard about (Iím not saying this last bit to be a snob, I just donít want you to think Iím talking down or something).
       IĎve been trying really hard not to be retro lately, but about a six months ago I just said fuck it and pretty much went back to Ď70ís AM radio stuff. I stopped listening to new stuff, especially any new independent pop. The trouble is, like every music scene that starts out being good, the independent pop scene has devolved into stupid factionalism and orthodoxy; there are exceptions of course. Anyway, itís time once again to retreat into the cozy confines of nostalgia.
       The reason I bring up all the factionalism stuff is not really because I care about scene politics or anything like that, it is just a way to put the genre bending of Helen of Troy into perspective. Now, most of the time, when stuff gets slapped with labels like genre bending, itís like John Zorn or something, musical extremism of one stripe or tíother. But with this Cale record, the challenging stuff is often right under your nose and you donít hear it tell your stuck in the middle of the tune, and by then your fucked.
       The thing is, when most critics talk about the trio of albums that this one completes (the other two are Fear and Slow Dazzle) they always emphasize that these records are "pre-punk," manic and raging and all of that. Iím not disputing that they are, but I think there should be at least some attention to the fact that these records are essentially pop records with a shovel full of self-loathing and ugly, Artaud-style gnarliness thrown at Ďem. But let me say it again, they are POP records. At the bottom most of these songs probably started off sounding like Sunflower-era Beach Boys. But the bad vibes of an ugly marriage and self-hate mitigate any California Dreaminí.
       Some quick notes on the songs: "My Maria." Chris Speddingís insane guitar licks and excellent solo, Enoís weird marimba thingy and the creepy operatic backing vocals make you feel like you're on the Altar of Sacrifice. "China Sea." This one and "I Keep a Close Watch" are amazing B. Wilson interpretations. The only craziness on these are the lyrics. On the tour he used a lot of fake blood and wore a Jason Voorhees hockey mask. Kind of a lo-tech, hi-concept Alice Cooper. "Save Us." After I heard this one I could never listen to the Birthday Party with a straight face. This completely anticipates Prayers on Fire minus the hair. After that, it turns into this epic, Rundgren-style pop tune. "Pablo Picasso." I think this was the first time this Modern Lovers song showed up on vinyl, and itís fucking awesome. Caleís tortured baritone captures the lyrics perfectly, and Speddingís guitars drop SCUDS. Do people still say killer? Itís k-I-l-l-e-r. "Leaving It Up To You." Well, with lyrics like "we could all feel safe like Sharon Tate" (he pushes the word Sharon through gritted teeth), and screams "Iíd do it NOW! RIGHT NOW YOU FASCIST!" the tortured element of Caleís lyrics take the forefront. Itís a compelling look into a fucked up psyche. Leaves me feeling scared and voyeuristic every time.
        But as I said before, itís still a pop album. The thing is, it expands what you can do with pop. There had been plenty of folks before him whoíd wedded crazy lyrics to pop songs, but with Cale, he rebuilds these songs from the ground up into incredibly weird and paranoid epics of personal instability. Verse-chorus-verse w/blood all over it.
        Itíd be nice if more pop musicians will have the depth and vision of Cale. We need more of the kind of tough listening that Helen of Troy provides, and it kind of sucks that I have to go back to the first year of my birth to get it. It doesnít really blow up in your face and announce itself as a Fucked Up Record (well, maybe the cover does) but it will bug your less obsessive friends when your on a road trip. Anyway, buy the fucker if youíre in a stable, happy relationship. Otherwise, donít go anywhere near it.





by Larry "Fuzz-O" Dolman

ADULT. : Rescusitation CD (ERSATZ AUDIO)
I'm still searching for that mystical electro experience. I now realize that Cybotron and Newcleus and Grandmaster Flash's "Scorpio" may have indeed been as good as it got. Adult. are well regarded in the scene but I can't discern what elevates this stuff beyond mere retro music status. There are memorable songs, the farts/
squiggles/wiggles are done correctly, the vocals and lyrics are dispassionate and dystopic..."Put on my pleasure suit/because it suits me/entertainment
...entertainment..." Still, it all seems slightly too dispassionate. Magas records for this label and uses a lot of the same sounds and vibes, but I betcha Magas's record will ROCK a little harder than this. (I've only seen him live.) A lot of the sounds and grooves on here also remind me of The Faint, who also ROCK harder and escape dispassion due to their emo roots. (Who'd have thunk emo roots would be good for anything?) (By the way, you're supposed to always put a period after their band name.)

ROYAL TRUX: Singles Live Unreleased 2CD (DRAG CITY)
"Irreverent, Sleazy, Snide, Menacing, Playful, Nihilistic, Malevolent, Provocative, Rowdy, Aggressive, Visceral, Cerebral, Rebellious." That's what says about Royal Trux, and it's pretty much alltrue. A lot of people wanna like 'em because they look like rock stars and their band name is very cool, but once people hear 'em they often can't stand how loose it all is. I can understand, the Trux often make quite a racket, but I always found consolation and aspiration in the way I could always tell they were doing it (italics, please) on purpose. A lot of cuts are just one-man harmolodic tape compositions, like this one track which is Neil Hagerty playing heavily effected and totally concréte "pots and pans," then doing a bass line on top of that which slowly searches around one long ominous melody while the pots and pans shimmer. Then, over those sounds, he reads some prose (don't be afraid), an early vignette starring Victory Chimp. When he's done, Jennifer comes in with a punk vocal, which also sounds read off the page but she's singing instead of speaking.
       Then there's the more overt rock side, as in "Gett Off", from 1992 (great title -- a Prince single of the same name and spelling was released a few months earlier) which is quite Stonesy, but still extremely loose. Rian Murphy does a good job keeping up on drums. "Teeth" is recorded live in Chicago (1993), and gives sudden insight to the Trux beast when it sounds just as busily and loosely overdubbed as the band does in the studio, thanks to a quintet with Mike Fellows (who was in the Rites of Spring and plays great synthesizer on here), one Mike Kaiser on guitar, and one Ian Willers (good name) on drums. "Cleveland" is amazing bombastic badly played boogie rock, from 1993, quite a while before Thank You. Trio with overdubs this time, Mike Fellows on drums. Hagerty continues his one-man loose-jam mission on voice, guitar, piano, organ, and midi! It's a strangely joyous din. And a din it is! Sounds like Beefheart, without being as composed; this is just vamps on blues boogie riffs with walls of bad soloing! I just call it "bad" soloing because that's what pop music buyers would call it -- of course I think it's pretty great, because I have (italics please) eclectic tastes.
       "Theme From M*A*S*H" is one of the greatest indie rock singles of the Nineties. (Also from 1993.) The band is relatively tight and Neil and Jennifer duet the original ("Suicide is Painless" lyrics by Robert Altman's son!) at their most soulful. "Strawberry Soda" is a song that appeared on the first Royal Trux album. That version was just a duo, or Neil multitracking himself, but this is like the full band version. Jennifer's haranguing vocal on "Love Is..." is the kind of thing that turns a lot of would-be Trux listeners off -- not to mention some of the die-hard supporters. I think it's a bit much myself -- but it's fine in the end, because the whole rant only takes at most 45 seconds before giving way to a harmolodic slowdown/freefall with the tried-and-true Hound Dog Taylor lineup (that's two guitars and a drumkit) augmented by Neil's synth and keyboard overdubs. On the slow dirge ballad "Ratcreeps," also live at the Lounge Ax but a year earlier than "Teeth," Jennifer comes on like a previous chanteuse who got a polarized reaction: Nico. "Signed, Confused" is a soul song, and Neil is a fine soul singer -- no matter how loose and mumbled his phrasing and lyrics are (he does admit that "I'm confused" in the chorus), his singing is great. The song ends with a mellow Hazel/Gottsching guitar solo while Jennifer (?) does mellow Sly Stone falsetto scowls. One of the very best Royal Trux songs I've heard. Miike Fellows is the drummer and also overdubs synthesizer (dig the Bob Nastanovich parallel). This double CD/triple LP retrospective box edition is almost as much a calling card for Fellows' career as it is for the Trux. Is that laptop folkie thing he's doing now any good?
       What else? Back on the first disc you've got stuff like "Spike Cyclone," which is "a love song to a certain something," not the only song description that is catty about the band's reputation. The songs themselves are catty too, like "June Night Afternoon" in which Jennifer sings about "when the poppies rise..." while Neil constructs a formidable nod-out wall of streaming harmolodic guitar, with a funny bubble-funk bass line. "Back To School" is possibly my favorite Royal Trux song; a laid-back gently striding soul ballad. As the liner notes say: "That autumn feeling." Pretty close to Sly Stone, in fact (you know which album), and Mike Fellows plays tight-ass drums in a Hi Records style. Nice post-Hazel guitar soloing throughout. (It's always throughout with Hagerty...and I like it that way.) The splendidly titled instrumental "Luminous Dolphin" is an ominous stomp for Sabbath guitar and a goofy moog call. The one-line description is splendid too: "Pink dolphins in the Hudson." That's like the Trux aesthetic right there: the natural world as colored by the chemical-laden debris from the Great American Techno-Capitalist Cultural/Political/Industrial Blowout (1945-present). "Vile Child" features a two-note riff that was also somewhere on Twin Infinitives and somewhere on several old funk records. Trux recast it as a naked, awkward gesture, a sign of life somewhere in a dim, harsh expanse. Jennifer's hypnotic "vile child...vile child...vile child....vile child..." vocal along with the two-note riff is one of the great moments in rock'n'roll darkness. Nico has been updated and then some. (Although I think I hear Jennifer giggle a little bit just before the three-minute mark of this otherwise quite ominous song.)
        I could describe more songs, but there's so much on here. The more you listen, the more you'll like. This quote by Jennifer Herrema, on where it's all coming from, is just as good of a summary: "Ever since I was 9, my dad had been taking me to see music, rock shows, everything. By the time I was sixteen I'd seen the Rolling Stones twice, I'd seen Rush, I'd seen the Kinks, I'd seen Metallica, I'd seen every hardcore band you could imagine cos the straight edge scene was going on in D.C. and the shows were all ages. I was also in school and all the older kids would have parties and they'd have the best acid, weed, and shrooms, so then it'd be a whole different thing. We'd be listening to Ozzy and Zeppelin and Yes and Jethro Tull, so it was a whole different thing." (read the rest)

photo by Catailna Leisenring

MILOVAN SRDENOVIC: Songs From West Of The Pelvic Girdle LP (FREEDOM FROM)
Haven't really been keying on the lyrics but I just heard him say "I'm an illegible bachelor" on one of the best songs on the album, a solo piano number called "Looking at the World Through the Bottom of a Glass." Oh, I guess that's the last song on the album. A nice, anthemic closing. I was just starting to get into the album; it's a real, ahem, 'grower.' Anyone with two or more Jandek records in their collection should hear this. At first I didn't know if it was gonna fly or not in that "how many dissonant/evil lo-fi underground singer-songwriters do we need anyway?" sense, but Srdenovic can actually play a pretty mean raw/roots guitar, and he also knows how to drop in overdubs here and there, just enough to vary things. (Milovan Srdenovic is Dave Walklett from Smell & Quim.) (Word to the wise: collect Freedom From records. Someday these are gonna be harder to find than ESP sides and Charalambides Union.)

GONG: Camembert Electrique LP (GET BACK!)
Originally released in 1973, this is practically the best Syd Barrett LP ever recorded. Singer/songwriter Daevid Allen magically picked up the mantle right where Syd dropped it after Piper at the Gates. This album is almost as good, and in some ways better -- Pip Pyle on "drumns & breakage" and Submarine Capt. Christian Tritsch on "aqualung bass" is a hotter rhythm section than Mason & Waters, for example, pushing things farther into prog territory, in a very slippy pothead pixie kind of way. I wrote about "You Tried So Hard" a few issues ago. Ms. Gille Smyth's 'space whisper' is bewitching throughout. (She's credited as Shakti Yoni on here.) If you feel you've exhausted Krautrock and don't have early Gong LPs, I suggest you take a listen...Angel's Egg is really good too...

By far the best album title this issue. Female Trouble sample before the second track! The entire lyrics to "Future Hotboy": "Go! Rob Halford/leather mayhem/sorry ladies, I've got to be up for a radio interview in the morning/sure, next time we're in town would be great/go talk to Glenn/hands off the leather, bitch!/hey what's your boyfriend's name?" Fucking right on, Jeff Slayers. The LP comes with a one-sheet color-copy 'band and friends and beer' photo collage, alone worth the $7 cover price. I like this album, it's a manifesto, really, about puking your guts out as a spiritual apotheosis because that's the ultimate end of any party. That's the sound, too, grindmetal blast after blast, each one working as a 'retch' or a 'heave.' Yes, it has been done before, but it's the vocals that make it. It's not the words, because even with the included lyric sheet, the only words I've made out halfway through the first side are "Eat! More! Shit!" and I think I got that wrong too. Jeff Slayers does the deep satanic Dr. Klaw low voice, and K. Cooter Chasek is actually taking the high screamy shit to the next level. Sounds literally like a 7 year old girl or a cat. I always thought the screamo/grind vocals were the most tired thing about the music, always one high guy and one low guy, but when Wasteoid do the high/low style it somehow makes it because I can actually hear these guys singing instead of just filling up space. Which is probably because I know these guys, my practice space was next door to theirs for about two years. My shit couldn't practice when they were practicing, it was too fucking loud. We'd be right in the loudest part of our song or jam and we could still hear Wasteoid puking their guts out in the next room. Another reason this record is really cool is that it's a 12-inch that plays at 45 RPM.

HEAD EAST: Never Been Any Reason LP (A&M)
I used to do a version of the title track in this two-man cover band I was in when I was fourteen. The only venue we ever played was Troy Van Horn's basement (Randolph, IA). Being a two-man cover band necessitated a lot of instrument switching -- our version of "Stairway to Heaven" was especially challenging. One day I went over to his house for 'practice,' and he informed me that, because his dad had bought an ARP Odyssey synthesizer for like fifty bucks the day before, he had figured out all the synthesizer solos to "Never Been Any Reason" by Head East. It was no problem for me to figure out the chords, so we jammed on it as a rhythm guitar/ARP Odyssey duo. To my astonishment, Van Horn had indeed figured out all THREE of the synth solos. Note for fucking note. I tried and kind of failed to be the lead singer, saved somewhat by Van Horn busting out the high falsetto harmonies on the "save my life from goin' down for the last time..." breakdown.
     That was literally seventeen years ago, but about seventeen days ago Mike Elsener bought this for $1.38 at a thrift store in the secret thrift capital of the USA, Lincoln, NE (fuckin' expensive, huh?), and I accidentally took it home with me (record bag mixup), which is why I'm throwing it on here. Also in the mixed-up record bag was an album called I Never Picked Cotton by Roy Clark, on the cover of which the beloved banjo man from Hee Haw is pictured wearing a suit and preparing for a champaign and cheese toast to the fact that he wasn't born an African slave, served on the hood of his mint condition Cadillac while a white girl in a bikini hangs on his shoulder. Man, Roy Clark? FUCK ROY CLARK! That shit ain't funny.
     But, as always, that's another essay. This one's about Head Fucking East, and the band they sound the most like is actually Grand Fucking Funk Railroad, especially on a cut like the side one closer "Fly By Night Lady." It remains true that any rock song from the 1970s with "Lady" in the title will be inherently better than its competition, and the song that Head East is imitating here is the greatest of them all, Grand Funk's "Aimless Lady." The Head East jam is definitely wack, but when the band stops and the falsetto twin vocal goes "Fly by night LAY-DEEEEE" and the band kicks right back in on the seriously dumb organ-rock main riff, there is certainly kitsch value. Throw it on during a DJ set for a little rush.
     The front cover is brilliant, an incredible photo of a pancake on a plate. I mean, it's fuckin' Duchamp. Best of all is the orange-and-blue border...this time it's low-budget hesh-rock Mondrian, a very early example of that Super Breakout vibe. On the back cover the band eats pancakes. Not all of them are into the photo idea, you can tell. Steven Huston ("Drums, Percussion, Vocals") might be, hamming it up John Belushi style. (This came out in 1975...the same year Saturday Night Live debuted with a sketch starring...John Belushi!!) This photo is why Stephen Malkmus is pictured eating pancakes on the back of the Wowee Zowee album. (C'mon, you saw it.) I once heard a girl ask ol' S.M. if he really liked Head East, and he just said he bought their albums because they were always 25 cents. I'll give themselves last word: "'Never Been Any Reason' has since become a staple of classic rock radio and is one of the most frequently played classic rock anthems in many parts of the country." See, everybody likes Head East!
     Side two kicks off with "Jefftown Creek," with the chorus "I knew that I had changed down in Jefftown Creek." This shit is terrible. "Never Been Any Reason" was a total fluke. Even it probably sucks and we just can't tell any more because we've all heard it over 1200 times and counting. Actually, "Jefftown Creek" does have some trippy mixing going on during a breakdown in the middle...that wasn't too bad..."Lovin' Me Along" has almost a new wave pulse...this song might be tolerable...oh man but the vocals are total cheese, even worse than what they're copying, which is Grand Funk's "Some Kind of Wonderful"....hmm, you know what, though, I'd venture to say this song doesn't suck quite as mightily as everything else on here...that new wave pulse somehow stays in there and sorta redeems it. Next song, "Ticket Back To Georgia"...fuck, these guys weren't from REO Speedwagon before them and Braid after, they formed at the University of Illinois in Champaign/Urbana. (Yes, I can see the pattern...) Like so many midwestern bands, they felt the need to relocate, which they St. Louis! Oh well, it got 'em signed to A&M. And geographic quibbles aside, this is one of the better songs on here, a reedy country-rock ballad with a string arrangement via the mellotron of Roger Boyd. Closer "Brother Jacob" starts with a downhome a capella intro a la "Delta Dawn" and sounds almost exactly like a bad Christian rock band from 1970s television, the closest a real band ever got to the Brady Bunch vocal group. Really though, I'd rather listen to the Brady Bunch vocal group (The Silver Platters) than Head East. Actually, I'd rather listen to neither....right, Johnny? Johnny Cage?

Listen carefully, and I'll explain to you what the hell is going on. This is a photo of Head East from the mid-80s. I bet this band was AMAZING (-ly terrible). From left to right: with the special 'keyboard player's suit' is Roger Boyd. Yep, that was him wailing on "Reason." 1 for 1 on original members so far. Next is, ahem, one J. Jaye Steele. 1 for 2 on original members. I have a feeling he was hired to relate to the Vince Neil fans. In the middle, Steve Huston, the original drummer! Sheez, I compare him to Belushi and then he goes and dresses up as a samurai! Can I judge 'em or what? They're two for three on original members, not a bad start! Uh oh, next is Matt Stewart. Two for four. I'm guessing he played guitar. Hired to relate to the Neal Schon fans. Woah, next is Kurt Hansen, looking kind of German New Romantic circa, well, the mid-80s. I assume he played bass. By far the most 'punk-looking' member of the quintet. (Kind of looks like that one dude who was in Mirrors.) Two for five.

"Sorry for the unsolicited submission," wrote Chris from the Curtains when he sent me an advance CD-R of the LP -- hey, no problem! In fact, it was solicited; right there on the first page of every issue of Blastitude it says "any music/tapes/books/artifacts/records/
documents for consideration should be mailed to Blastitude@blah-blah-address-blah-blah." So far this call to action has led to a constant snail-paced trickle of mail, slow enough that I'm still able to review every single record I get. Almost everything I have gotten has been surprisingly worthwhile...maybe it's been a trickle for a good reason....people either get it or they don't with Blastitude
....but inevitably, something wack is going to come in the mail, and I'm gonna have to write about it. The Curtains are not wack, but they might seem at first blush to play "the Chicago-style math rock," which I have to say out front I don't ever need to hear any more of. The good news is that they really aren't a Chicago-style math rock band, playing in a more subdued approach than those bands. Rather than hammering out some new po-mo kind of false metal, or just hitting minor chords really slowly while a drummer vamps in a way that's more Mogwai than Slint, they get into a territory that sounds like constantly unspooling variations on the instrumental coda/outro of "Veteran Day's Poppy." I'd say they're as good as the Polar Goldie Cats. Oh, and the last track on the album, "Middle World," has vocals (though not lyrics)...and they're by a girl! That must be Jamie Petersen. All-Time Rock Rule For Men #1: Having girls in your band always makes your band better.

I have no idea what this record is. It just came up in my changer, and now it's on track four and I still haven't figured it out. Whatever it is I can't remember putting it in. It's some weird-ass classic-era psychedelic rock, kind of cheesy, but a little too weird to be cheesy...and it's sung in a foreign tongue. Okay, writing that helped: it's Os Mutantes, what I think is their self-titled first album, which I just borrowed from Mike Elsener. (You know him, from the Head East review.) This is a pre-Johan Kugelberg CD edition. For all the weird production/songwriting 'mutation' going on, they really do sound like the Brasilian Kinks. And they're another brother band: instead of Ray and Dave Davies, it's Arnaldo and Sérgio Baptiste. But the Baptistes one-up the Davies with the addition of a third singer, Rita Lee. (See "All-Time Rock Rule For Men #1" in previous review.) Back cover features what is hands down the weirdest band photo ever taken, which appears below in case you don't believe me.

The Baptiste Bros. & Rita Lee


PORNADO: Virgins Every One CD-R
Lincoln, NE weirdness, Pornado is a two-man band featuring Ear Meat and Trout Blood (with Margaret Fish on space bassoon). This EP features these two taking a drum machine and their guitars and keyboards and using them to channel what may be, way down deep, a particularly ridiculous and creepy version of Depeche Mode. It works partly because people in Nebraska really just don't give a damn, and also because of Mr. Blood's Bowie-destroyed Robert Smith parody, and mainly because the duo does not skimp on the melody. There are nice/interesting melodies throughout all five songs.


More reviews, this time of an order from the
Slippytown Record Store, plus some by
new Blastitude staffer John Ruhter..