ROOM: The Garden CDR (KRKRKRK)
Room is a New Zealander named David Khan, mentioned in an
earlier issue when he was on some KRKRKRK compilation. That
was noise/experimental, so I wasn't prepared for the full-on
goth assault of "The Lie," the opening track here.
Moody keyboards, a pained Depeche Mode/Cure vocal, and then
it builds into a wall-of-noise-over-anti-disco-rhythms kind
of thing, and then back down to the moody keyboards. Weird!
I haven't heard music this overtly gothic since . . . well,
ever, really. I listened to other people's Cure albums a little
bit in college, but that's as far as I got, besides owning
Depeche Mode's Violator on cassette for awhile. I
actually kind of loved that album, but you're not supposed
to know that. And besides, Depeche Mode weren't really goth
anyway -- they didn't even wear makeup. That's what Drawing
Room is: goth without any makeup, which is kind of freaking
me out because I was expecting 'improv' or 'abstract electronics.'
This is therefore rather refreshing. Actually, I think a good
comparison is Eyeless in Gaza. I know, right?
COVER: Teats of Ewe CDR (MAKEOUT CARNAGE)
cover art. Loose trio noisy jamming. Guitar, boxy percussion,
etc. More or less all-thud approach, though the tinkering
above does get intricate at times. Prog-noise? No, no, it's
not Improv, it's Im-prog. Two of the guys are nephews
of Thurston Moore, but it's not like you can really tell which.
There is singing though, like on track four, a really good
short little no wave chanter. Most tracks are longer and looser/jammier.
Percussion isn't always there, sometimes its awkward and too
loud. Somewhere in around the four-minute mark of the first
track, the guitar builds to a shuddering peak but then drops
out right away when the drums enter with an almost embarrassing
'breakdown.' He's using those crochet needles on that apartment
radiator to play like John Bonham, and it doesn't quite work.
The best jam is the last one where it goes on for awhile and
then they post-produce the tape, slowing it down to a crawl,
and then jam some more over that. Hell, it's a great track,
doomy enough to overwhelm the percussion and make it play
right. You gotta do something anymore -- it's not always enough
to just jam. Hell, Miles Davis knew that back in 1968, when
his track "Pharaoh's Dance" was released with 18
tape-splice edits, and "Bitches Brew" with 15.
DYLAN WITH THE BAND: Planet Waves LP (ASYLUM)
This may not be on any ten-best lists, or probably even any
500 best, but if you know Fuzz-O you know I'm gonna end up
owning a copy of every single LP on which Dylan is backed
by The Band, all on vinyl, all for under $4, and this week
it just happened to be Planet Waves. (Next I've got
my sights on Before the Flood -- that one's a double
so it might be $8.) Musically, Planet Waves probably
isn't even as good as Cahoots, but the cover art
alone is worth the $3.50 price tag I just found it with. Printed
on that nice soft 70s album-cover paper is a rough black chalk
drawing of three men. The artist is clearly Bob Dylan, continuing
in his imitation-Picasso style as featured on the covers of
Self Portrait and Music From The Big Pink,
but the only thing resembling a credit is a single word scrawled
almost vertically at the bottom: "MOONGLOW." (The
helpful inscription "CAST-IRON SONGS & TORCH BALLADS"
also appears, in a smaller font.) Maybe Moonglow is the alias
under which Dylan is signing this painting, or maybe Moonglow
is the band name under which Dylan and The Band are signing
their recording. Either way the cover art is surprisingly
proto-Pettibon, and I also know where Drag City's getting
some of their beard-rock tricks.
On the back cover the hand-scrawl
continues, which is pretty notable considering that this is
American poet laureate Bob Dylan doing the scrawling, and
that 1/3 of the back cover is taken up by an original poem
(complete with copious cross-outs) that touches on "Furious
gals with garters & smeared lips on bar stools that stank
from sweating pussy"! Hell, this printed poem is worth
$3.50! I still haven't listened to the record.
Well, now I have listened
to it, and it's not terrible, but really not too good either.
The sleeve may be worth $3.50, but the record inside is only
worth a couple bucks, at most. Of course, substandard Dylan
and the Band is what really gives Drag City something to strive
for. I mean, not even Bill Callahan or David Berman is gonna
write something like "Visions of Johanna." (The
person who's gotten closer than either of them is Conor Oberst
but you're not supposed to know that.) Planet Waves
isn't so hard to pull off, especially in the age of irony.
Anyway, the ballads are the best songs on here, like "Going
Going Gone," and especially "Hazel," and of
course "Forever Young." But as far as Dylan and/or
Band LPs go, this is, let's see, about 34th best. So no hurry.
STRING QUINTET: On the Corner (Market and Sixth) CDR (PUBLIC
title made me think this would be a string quintet playing
outside at a busy San Francisco intersection. Doesn't sound
like it, though, sounds like they're in the same pristine
studio that the Kronos Quartet or whoever uses. Maybe they
played at 4AM when no one was around. Too bad it wasn't rush
hour so this could have some kind of element of field recording
surprise, or at least some heavy atmosphere, like that one
from Japan where they played cellos and violins under huge
Tokyo overpasses really late at night. (What was his name?
Kuwamaya?) So the recording quality is dry and clear instead
of grimy, so it hit me as played-out too-pristine Cadence-approvable
free jazz. Or is it? Track three's almost 17 minutes long
and it slowly makes its way through a slow shifting howl for
almost that entire time, so that by the time they build into
the de rigeuer tail-chase scratch-fight bow/pluck hoedown,
they've actually earned it!
FIRE: Songs From The Shining Temple CD (PERHAPS TRANSPARENT)
just came up on the changer and I'm not sure who it is. Snotty
rock, kind of in the Modern Lovers tradition but not as personal.
Also beset by a small but noticeable amount of 90s grunge
delivery and production. "Foreign car" keeps getting
repeated so that might the title. I think it's supposed to
be funny. Damn, I hope I don't have to like whatever album
this is because a friend of mine sent it to me . . . Oh shit!
It is some people I know, Patrick and Kate, a cute couple
from back in Lincoln. I knew of them more than I
actually knew them, and I'm not even sure they knew who I
was or that they were sending this CD to someone also from
Lincoln. They were impressive in Lincoln, acting like art
stars in a cowtown where no one ever, ever does. In Chicago
or New York it's pretty run-of-the-mill to act like art stars,
but in Lincoln it can be really refreshing. Patrick had a
non-band called American Goy who did this whole mock rockumentary
starring themselves on video that they showed once at a bar
in between bands, and I actually couldn't believe my eyes
that someone in Lincoln had done all this. I remember Kate
writing something good (was it poetry?) for a lit zine, and
now she works for Jane Magazine! Their ultimate achievement
was a performance they did on the Jerry Springer show, something
like "My Boyfriend Won't Quit His Religious Cult!",
and they played it to the hilt and even had the audience laughing
and cheering instead of the usual jeering.
Well, now they live in
New York and they play in a band together called Flaming Fire.
The costumes and dress are some of the best I've seen from
the new Costume Rock genre, and at least this
picture is totally like Edward Gorey meets Ken Russell.
But, so far I'm 0 for 2 in trying to appreciate their records
as much as the look. They sent me their debut CD too (this
is their second) and I listened to it once and it was like
this "foreign car" song, all perky and theatrical
with all kinds of sonic creativity, but it just kind of BUGGED
me. Too perky, too theatrical. I want to like it because they're
art stars but I just can't. Maybe the problem is that it was
all so "funny" without ever making me laugh.
Alright -- I do like
track 2! Small doses, you know. The vocals are just absurd
hollerage -- actually reminds me of the Butthole Surfers for
some reason. The music is a bit more refined, but for sheer
theatrical abandon they're somewhere in the same category
as the Surfers. (Do check out the band website at flamingfire.com
-- they are still art stars -- don't miss their extremely
ambitious Illustrated Bible project (if you can ever get it
to load) -- and chanteuse Lauren Weinstein does her own underground
comix such as Vinelandy.)
MATRIX: Stop The Technology Madness CD (SUPER ASBESTOS)
proggy grunge rock. More prog and less grunge would've helped.
Lardacious bass sound on track two, but that's kind of the
high point of the album. Judging from the power trio format
and the way the guitarist plays around with the delay pedal
and the way the vocals go back and forth from moody talk-singing
to aggro shouting, I have a feeling this band was started
because of Modest Mouse fandom. They do show some promise
by bringing in an electronic element -- track four "Argyle"
is an instrumental glitch piece -- but it's almost always
quickly overrun by more grunge balladry. You have to give
'em some credit because they're from Fargo, North Dakota,
and I do like the CD tray picture of them sitting in a kitchen
drinking Jim Beam.
FOREVER: Killball CD (LOAD)
to the Denver Broncos." Yep, this is an example of that
small sub-category of Neo No Wave called "sports rock."
Only other examples I can think of right now are the songs
"Shirts vs. Skins" and "Vocalist Dan Marino"
by Hair Police, and Turtleneck & the Sweats from Nashville.
This album also proves, unlike the van tours, that Friends
Forever can play instruments and actual songs! (Maybe they
drafted a bunch of session players.) Track one, "Carnisaur
vs. Unicorn," is a little silly, but it's really short,
and then track two is a killer instrumental rocker, and would
be a KILLER theme song for any half-cyborg NFL team of the
future to take the field too. Stadium would be ROCKIN', and
the song is called "Win," so fuck yeah. Next song
is called "Linebacker Blitz," and I'm thinking of
Queen! Because Queen might've single-handedly started No Wave
Sports Rock with that classic cut off the Flash Gordon
soundtrack, an instrumental synth jam called "Football
Fight" (composed by Freddie Mercury). But then again
the song itself makes me think of . . . Hawkwind??? Some kind
of tribal biker chant-jam anyway. "Stoned barbarian shit"??
YES. The song called "Elway" rocks hard too, in
a near-metal way. And the album is only 30 minutes long! This
album is a blast, and almost NOTHING like the van tour sound
you know them from.
HUSTLE: Dream Eagle 1 LP (31G)
issue I wrote about seeing this band live and thinking they
were great, and this issue I'm writing about this LP which
actually lives up to the live show and maybe even then some.
The recording actually sounds live and lo-fi, like someone
was running a hand-held while they played in their practice
space, but the more you listen to it you're not sure if it
even is lo-fi because it's imbued with this weird power, the
same power they had live. Seriously, folks, this band almost
makes me want to use the word "shamanistic." I'm
not going to, but it's that close. And just look
at the whole package, with that timelessly psychedelic cover.
This is a band that exists on their own terms, without feeling
the need to toe any hipster or even anti-hipster line. I still
can't get over the band name, and how much it sounds like
one more bored new wave electro act that screams too much,
and how much the actual music of the band is the antithesis
of that. Once again, this is nothing less than the deepest,
darkest soul music I've heard from the underground in what
seems to be years.
live shots of Get Hustle.
POLICE: Mortuary Servants 7-inch (GODS
ain't gonna lie, this rec clearly shows some Wolf Eyes influence.
RoboBooty is starting to twist out some brain-dive oscillators
in a way that is, it's fair to say, Olson-esque. And he's
doing it RIGHT. Then, when you add Trevor Tremaine's hardcore
drumming halfway through side one it becomes something else
totally, not sounding like Wolf Eyes, or even previous Hair
Police. They're a band on the move. Hell, the intro doesn't
sound like Wolf Eyes either, what am I talking about, even
though the oscillator mind-dives mix with what are probably
vocals to create a real horror-show sheet of sound. Heavy
shit! Side two doesn't really have drums or vocals, just creepy
(mortuary?) sounds, and it's over before you know it, after
a few attempted lock grooves don't quite happen. Mastering
problem, or intentional art statement? Why not both?
FOURTH TOILET: Something For Everyone CD (PRO-AM ENTAINMENT
Hamm is involved, both Big and Li'l, along with several other
Vancouver, BC-based miscreants and ne'e'r-do-wells. If you're
really 'into the scene', you might remember some wacky live
footage by the July Fourth Toilet on that various artists
video comp called Ass High and Left of Center that
came out a few years back. But this isn't video, it's audio,
and what you hear when you put the disc in is: odd pop!! Wife
just asked if it was They Might Be Giants, which I'm guessing
they won't take as a compliment. I'd compare it more to the
heyday of The Greatest Record Label of All Time (Amarillo
Records), which I'm guessing they WILL take as a compliment.
The Amarillo influence is quite apparent, mainly in all the
funny singing voices, such as the nerdy falsetto voice, and
the tired yawning guy voice (as popularized by Mark Davies).
The latter features prominently in my favorite track, the
melancholy album-closing six-minute epic "One Day Is
Representative Of Our Time Together."
"No Joy (remix)" b/w "Dead" 12-inch (LOAD)
is my introduction to Khanate, but I've read that they're
real heavy and doomy. First track is slow and doomy, heavy
but also quite skeletal, almost like some Swans shit. This
casts the screamo vocals in a totally new light, and they
chill to the bone. Maybe it's the remixer's doing, but I have
a feeling it's the band's. This is one of the most melancholy,
reflective things Load has released. It really gets under
your skin as its 9 chilling and unhurried minutes play out.
Track two has a similar feel, just slow and skeletal doom
screams. No 'wall of noise.' So what Khanate should I get
ROCKS!: 3" CDR (DRONEDISCO)
man, Dronedisco just does something different every time with
the packaging. This time it's a 3" CDR. Who knew? I saw
Life Rocks! play a show a few months ago and they played what
might have been two jams and it lasted 3 minutes tops. This
disc has 6 jams at around 13 minutes so that's like 3 sets
worth. This is basically just all out drums and guitar abuse,
although distorto vocals creep in and there is more sonic
variety than I had time to process live. (For example, it
sounds like a cell phone is going off in the last jam.) The
drummer plays in a kind of blast beat style and the guitar
just makes a mess. Thumbs up. Funny, 4 or 5 years ago this
would have been 'marketed' as 'extreme guitar/drums duo improvisation',
like Ascension, now it's just 'neo no wave' or something.
BOLT: Wonderful Rainbow CD (LOAD)
For about ten minutes I actually thought the new Mindflayer
was better than the new Lightning Bolt. Then I realized I
was insane to think that. Wonderful Rainbow is even
better than Ride the Skies, let alone Take Your
Skin Off. It's also the first record that has made me
get up and dance around the house by myself since I played
that Grandmaster Flash CD like eight days ago. Actually, I
was already standing up and track two "Assassins"
(the real 'first song' on the album, because track one is
a really short 'tuning up' kind of jam) kicked in and I remembered
it from their last show, at which I was headbanging, and I
just couldn't help but start headbanging again, even though
I was just walking through the hallway of my apartment all
by myself. It gave me a chance to make up for my somewhat
disappointing headbanging at the show itself, because it was
so darn crowded there, and I couldn't get right up to the
band, and I let the Chicago uncomfortability get to me, darnit.
(People still mosh in Chicago, but they do it really self-consciously,
with lots of fake fists in the air, and one guy was doing
this solo shoulder-mosh thing where he'd roll one shoulder
and then the other, to the beat, and he was doing it on this
really fast song, so it looked like he was doing some weird
bicycle imitation with his shoulders. Put on a fast song from
this CD and try it at home -- it's actually decent exercise!)
Track three "Dracula
Mountain" crushes you for three minutes with absurd crazy-metered
brutal-prog fanfares, and then, after this introduction, it
gets on the fucking silver motorcycle for one of the most
memorable motorik heavy metal pop hooks they've ever written.
Track four "Two Towers" starts sort of as another
'tuning up' jam, but then kicks into this beyond-lardacious
two-note bass riff that Chippendale just, well, rides.
Possibly their best track yet. And it's called "Two Towers"
and it's coming out just after the Lord of the Rings
movie! Now that's the kind of promotional tie-in I'd like
Anyway, track five is
"On Fire," and it's the one I really remembered
from their live show, the 'hit' I couldn't wait to 'buy' on
the 'new album.' You can actually start to smell the Thin
Lizzy influence on this one, which only adds to the skullfuck/headrush/
whatever it is these days that they're calling music-induced
disorientation. The 'ballad' breakdown in the middle is just
plain ill, I remember it from the show because in the middle
of it I said to Mike Elsener "this is the most retarded
song I've ever heard." (I know, I know, I'm extra-pithy
at live shows.) But all hell still breaks loose and it's dirge
city, Brian Gibson's bass actually sounding exactly like Jon
Lord's organ (if you know what I mean). Next song shows off
Gibson's eight-finger tapping technique better than ever atop
a hideously regal stomp! Next song "Longstockings"
features an actual cowboy riff! The title track is next and
it's a minute-long post-Eno ambient thing, like an actual
Swell Maps interlude! This album really is just one hit after
another! Next song "30,000 Monkeys" is just total
insanity metal riffing. And it's all just based around like
two chords -- where is Gibson getting this shit? Last track
"Duel in the Deep" starts off kind of slow, like
maybe they should've just called it good at 35 minutes with
the incredible "30,000 Monkeys." But that's before
Chippendale enters and brings it up about nine notches. (Eight,
at least.) He's just a heavy drummer, I mean listen to the
Mindflayer, the guy's better than Bonham.
ROKAMBO: Maze CDR (PUBLIC EYESORE)
Yoneyama: tokai-talbo, toys, junk microphone, vo . . . Osama
Kato: jazzmaster, rapman, pcr, vo." I wasn't super-hep
on this duo's previous release in a previous ish; but I would
call Maze, their second release for the Public Eyesore
label, an improvement. I really like that guitar duo Delayed
Sleep from Northern California, and that's basically what
Luv Rokambo has grown into with their second release: a quasi-punk
ambient guitar duo. They're almost playing songs now, instead
of just 'ideas' or 'moods' (i.e. facile improvisations). Like
track 5 ("only shadow / without human (III)")
is really slow and stretched-out, with a very nebulous concept
of songwriting, but it does have singing, and hooks that you
actually realize you remember the second time you listen.
Then they do another version of it ("only shadow / without
a coupla tracks later that's like an outtake by The Led C.
(i.e. a Michael Morley/James Page hybrid) but you can still
tell it's the same song. Loren Connors influence is worn well
on the sleeve, which I've seen drag down a few bands/guitarists
in my time. It's a lot harder to do that kind of stuff than
it might sound (Mazzacane himself doesn't always pull it off),
and there’s a fine line between doing minimalism and
just not doing much of anything . . . but with Maze,
Luv Rokambo manage to do just enough. And on track nine, without
abandoning the ‘abstract dirge ballad’ template,
they certainly break some new ground as far as ‘piercingly
loud’ goes. (My cat wouldn't shut up and I had to turn
down the stereo.)
MARCOEUR: 4 albums on 2 bootleg CDRs (CHICAGO MEDICAL SOCIETY)
gonna say much, except that Mr. CMS was the first person I
ever heard mention this guy when he handed me these bootlegs,
and then just two weeks later I see the name again, mentioned
on pitchforkmedia.com, so I sense a real Hurricane Albert
brewing and you heard it here first (or second, third, fourth,
fifth, etc.). Marcoeur is a French bandleader who did most
of his work in the 1970s, and it's kind of a prog wonderland.
Playful and surprising, complicated but soulful. And "prog"
doesn't even do it justice -- there's more going on. Musique
concrete? Sound poetry? I think so. That's all I'm gonna say
for now -- like I said, this is just a quick note so I could
say "you heard it here first." (Or second, third,
fourth, or yes, even fifth would make me feel cutting edge!)
No Life Til Leather CDR (CHICAGO MEDICAL SOCIETY)
version of this legend -- the original Metallica release,
a demo cassette that circulated through tape trading only
-- and I'm not even sure it's the real thing, because it's
kinda terrible. I mean, this came from file-sharing, and anybody
could've been pranking and saved any old Metallica cover band's
MP3 as "Metallica _ No Life Til Leather." The band
itself I could believe as the real thing, but the singing
is absolutely freaky. If this is Hetfield, he just plain hadn't
figured out how to sing yet, as he would just a year or whatever
later when the real debut, Kill 'Em All, was released.
On here, as Mr. CMS pointed out, he's imitating early Vince
Neil way too much. After all, Mötley Crüe was Hetfield's
favorite band when he was growing up in the L.A. suburb of
Downey (that's where the Carpenters were from too), and on
here "Hit the Lights" actually sounds like a paler
version of "Live Wire." He also tries some weak-ass
Halfordisms, wavers all over the place, and just generally
sounds really green. I can hear the greatness start to come
through with Hetfield's chanting chorus to "Search and
Destroy," which is also one of the best early Metallica
riffs. And in a year's time, he had learned to almost completely
ditch the high Neil/Halford wails and concentrate on that
one chanting/barking register. And the rest is history.
St. Anger CD (ELEKTRA)
album has been hyped as a return to roots, and even has Pushead
cover art to prove it. Well, the songwriting is definitely
thrashier and rawer but unfortunately it's not good. For about
7 minutes I was like, "This might be okay," but
then the riffs just bogged down in the throes of one too many
over-repeated self-help catchphrases like "My lifestyle
determines my deathstyle! / My lifestyle determines my deathstyle!
/ etc." Good point, but not a good lyric. And Hetfield's
vocals have gone full circle to where they're almost as bad
as they were on No Life 'Til Leather. Except now
he's not imitating early Vince Neil, he's imitating nu-metal
singers, alternating between a lifeless croon and nu-metal
bark-rapping. Another big problem is that the production tries
to be 'raw' when the attitude is not, with the drums sounding
so wrong that I feel this album might become a cult favorite
among Neubauten heads. What's more, for the four tracks I
listened to, I heard NO Kirk Hammett guitar solos. What, is
that supposed to make it more "raw"? That just makes
it more boring.
Take Your Skin Off CD (BULB)
Supergroups usually have at least three or four members, but
Mindflayer is a superduo, consisting of Brian Chippendale
(of Lightning Bolt) and Mat Brinkman (of Meerk Puffy, Forcefield,
and most definitely et al).
The record starts with some
No Wave Pummel and I can't help but think okay, No Wave Pummel
is over. It's a done deal. Every I time I hear a band play
No Wave Pummel, even when it's good I just think, "Yeah,
it's been done, it's not really gonna surprise anyone anymore,
at least not me." It's like a knee jerk thing, but that's
because No Wave's goal is to jerk knees. And after all, what
genre is like 60% of this zine about? (No Wave Pummel.)
Sure 'nuff, by track
three I'm pretty much totally into it, like this is every
bit as heavy as Lightning Bolt but also somehow cleaner,
in a good way. Chippendale doesn't play with the same crazed
'cover every available space' style he uses in Lightning Bolt
-- this is actually more restrained and pulse-oriented, in
a good way. (Some reviews have even used the word "tribal"
. . . in a good way.) This might also be because M. Puffy's
electronics don't change chords and time signatures as frantically
as Brian Gibson's bass, although he more than competes with
Gibson when it comes to sheer sonic brouhaha. Track five,
for example, could probably pass for the new Lightning Bolt
album if you told someone who didn't know. Powerful recording
job by trash-gunk maven Velocity Hopkins at Bulb Clubhouse,
back when it was located in Rhode Island. Great track titles
too: "Drop Bass Not Bombs," "A Wind War,"
"Are You Fucked Up," "Gold Lake Spiller,"
and "Street Attack With Mongrels, Elephants, Glitter,
Etc." to name a few.
MOGLASS: Telegraph Poles Are Getting Smaller and Smaller as
the Distance Grows CD (NEXSOUND)
guys were one of the 'out of nowheres' for last ish, coming
straight outta the Ukraine with a disc that seemed like it
was going to be standard drony improvised space-rock, and
in fact even sounded like it was, but somehow
just sort of refused to be. I called it "space-ug"
and it was indeed this lost creepy kind of vibe that almost
reminded me of the Conet Project. Here's a followup that actually
is a little less creepy, and maybe even slightly new-agey,
but once again I just don't mind. The Moglass just know what
they're doing. This one, along with the RH Band LP on HP Cycle,
get the "Tangerine Dream" award for the issue.