June 2004 Archives
Some days you get the long song, some days you get the short song. This is one of the short-song days. Lil Bunnies' "Bunny Hop" (removed) is a brief but mighty representative of one of the greatest high-concept bands ever: a full-throttle hardcore band whose songs were ALL about being, well, cute little bunnies. Other song titles included "Carrot Belly Bunny Rock" and "Hop, Fight & Fuck." This was from their first, self-titled 7" EP, on Moo-La-La Records; there were subsequently a couple of other EPs, Unabunnie (cover image: you-know-who with rabbit ears) and Bunnie Hole, and an LP. Thanks to Scott S. for permission to post this.
Oh, and what's going on with me? When I figure it out, I'll let you know.
(And once again: please comment! If you can't figure out the comment system, drop me a line! We love feedback!)
Just spent the weekend at the MoCCA festival--a relatively enormous small-press comics gathering that occupied the ground floor of the Puck Building and some of the second. Lots of old friends in the comics community, and a few interesting new faces; there was a lot of nice stuff being said about Alexa Kitchen, a cartoonist who's six years old, and... awfully good at this stuff for a six-year-old. I mean, she's six: she has a six-year-old's thematic concerns, and her stuff looks like what one expects of a kid's drawings. But she's got a nicely developed sense of composition and humor, and she's picking up lots of style. It's not what she can do now so much as what she will someday be able to do if she keeps at this... her parents were selling a couple of thick spiral-bound books of her stuff (from ages 5 and 6, respectively): "The Early Years," Vol. 1 and 2.
And spent this evening at Andrea Moed and Jay Smith's lovely wedding at the Brooklyn Society for Ethical Culture, with a bunch of people I hadn't seen in way too long. Very nice.
Today's song is Third Eye Foundation's "Universal Cooler" (removed). They, or rather he, had already put out an album or two when this appeared, I believe, but this single was the thing that really knocked me sideways. As Mike from Drop Beat pointed out in an interview I once saw, one of the signature stylistic gestures of great drum 'n' bass is that it sounds slow and fast at the same time, and I don't know of another record that pulls that off as effectively as this one, which actually sounds like the fast part and the slow part that are simultaneous are pushing in opposite directions; the undertow is something else. Thanks to Matt Elliott for permission to post this.
Running late with today's entry, obviously (was out very late last night seeing practically the entire casts of "Law & Order" and "CSI" doing "Much Ado About Nothing" in Central Park), so today's song will have to be a short one. (Yes, I know that doesn't logically follow. Work with me here.)
Stretchheads' "New Thing in Egypt" (removed) originally appeared in 1989 on a 7" EP called Eyeball Origami Aftermath Wit Vegetarian Leg, all of which also appears on the British CD version of Stretchheads' second and final album Pish in Your Sleazebag. Pretty much all of their stuff is this frantic--it always suggests something very concentrated and gritty and sparkly abruptly breaking open something that was supposed to contain it. That goes about triple for singer P6, whose repertoire of larynx-demons is only matched by maybe Yamantaka Eye and Jaap Blonk. He and Richie (the drummer, later of Dawson) currently play in DeSalvo, who are touring in the U.K. in July; he's also been working with Black Sun. Thanks to P6 and Paul Smith for permission to post this.
In NYC now, running on fumes, sleep-wise. (You know: sleep fumes.) Since my attention span is about 90 seconds at the moment and the whole world seems creepy and hazy, here's a song that fits that description too: Jupiteria's "Burlap Bag" (removed). Jupiteria was the duo of Alyssa Isenstein (who also did the 'zine Second Skin) and Brendan from Bügsküll; all they ever released, I believe, was the four-song EP this comes from. (They also recorded a song for, you guessed it, the ill-fated Fall tribute: an absolutely gorgeous version of "Edinburgh Man.") This is one of the scariest songs I've ever heard: a murder ballad in most of its particulars, except for an element of consensuality and inevitability that makes it even creepier, and the way Alyssa sings it is pretty unnerving in its own right.
Alyssa now lives in Portland, is a regular at Tuesday-night trivia, and is one of the organizers of the legendary Lecture Series; thanks to her for permission to post this.
More house-hunting today--unfortunately, I'd stayed up until 7 AM or so to make a deadline (I have to stop doing that), and was almost fully catatonic. One incident that pretty much summarizes the house-hunting process, though: we went to a decently-priced Victorian in a very, very nice neighborhood that was described as "a fixer-upper." Well, okay. You had to climb a flight of stairs to get to the entrance, but fine; once you got there it had a beautiful huge picture window looking out onto a leafy-green street. The doorbell had been more or less ripped out of the door frame, and the (two-car) garage door was missing a few panels, but nothing that a little elbow grease couldn't deal with. Fabulous living room with hardwood floors, kitchen with an awful electric stove, but the house had gas heat, so it wouldn't have been an issue to just rip out the whole kitchen and put in something with a good gas range. Nice back yard with a concrete patio, some flowerbeds, room for the wild English garden Lisa wants to establish. Pleasant arrangement, hardwoods all over the ground floor, nice-sized rooms, one staircase that led up to nothing, but whatev. Basement had a couple of good rooms too.
And then we went upstairs, followed by our agent. "Check out the comedy upstairs!" I said. There were a handful of rooms that would've maybe made nice offices/kids' bedrooms (aside from the fact that they were broiling in the heat, but one can always put in some kind of A/C), and a sink clogged with ancient standing water and some kind of large dead insect, but one can always fix the plumbing... and ceilings that were 5'9" at their highest, and (in the side rooms) generally shorter. I'm 5'8", and Lisa's 5'5" (a little more with her hair), and I could get around in a sort of Lateral Alice Moore way, but it would be nice if my six-foot-plus father could visit someday without stooping. Or if I could be anywhere upstairs without paralyzing claustrophobia. "Do you have any clients who are Munchkins?" we asked our agent. "This could be perfect for them."
The music for today is the Nightblooms' "Crystal Eyes" (removed). They were a Dutch band in the late '80s and early '90s (I think they only toured the U.S. once--I remember a spectacular show at Brownies in NYC). This was their second single; I've never heard their first, and have always wanted to. (Here's a history of the band.) The Nightblooms went on to make a really lovely self-titled album that's much more reserved than this ("reserved" in the sense of "we have the power, and we might or might not bulldoze you with it, so you'd better keep a very close eye on us"), another very good album called "24 Days at Catastrofe Café" on which they went all crunchy and glam, and a final single I've only heard once, I think. Singer Esther Sprikkelman and guitarist Harry Otten now have a band called Safe Home.
When this single came out, Everett True memorably compared it to a "kitten trapped in a bucket full of razor blades." That might be even truer of its B-side, "Never Dream at All," but I love the effect here of Sprikkelman's voice singing something very quiet and sweet, drifting in from far away, while the rest of the band rains down flaming debris--Otten's wah-freakout solo is phenomenal, especially that ferocious slide up at the end. Thanks to Steve Gregory for permission to post this.
(Might not be music tomorrow, depending on how crunched I am. If there's not, well, just play "Crystal Eyes" again. Very, very loudly.)
Big MP3 treat for you today, folks. Airlines' "Test" (removed) was the first single by one of the great not-as-remembered-as-they-should-be bands of the late '80s and early '90s. They were originally a spinoff of the Ex-Lion Tamers--the infamous Wire tribute band (including John Tanzer and Jim DeRogatis) that opened for Wire's reunion tour, playing Pink Flag note for note. When they became Airlines (initially Burning Airlines, long before that other band took the name!), John Neilson joined; Neilson and Tanzer still play together in the Wharton Tiers Ensemble. Airlines were a terrific guitar-friction band--really conscious of their specific instrument tones and the way they interacted--and this song generates a lot of heat. (A later lineup recorded a couple of songs for Dark Beloved Cloud: a version of "Point That Thing Somewhere Else," loosely inspired by the arrangement of Joy Division's "Transmission," for Cleaned Out!, and "Leave the Capitol" for that ill-fated Fall tribute album...)
Neilson's Airlines page includes RealAudio files of all of the songs from their first two singles, including their fantastic transformation of Nick Drake's "Road." This page at Quixotic has MP3s of their later singles and some stuff from their album. Thanks to John Tanzer, John Neilson and Jim DeRogatis for permission to post this.
Little of immediate note going on, but I wanted to give everyone some music for the weekend. Amoebic Ensemble's "Headless Emcee" (removed) appeared on the B-side of the first single by the mid-'90s Providence, RI band led by Alec K. Redfearn, now of the Eyesores and Barnacled (thanks to him for permission to post this). They made a wonderful, lurching racket, usually led by Redfearn's accordion and supported by a pots-and-cans percussion ensemble. with hurdy-gurdy, trumpet and electric violin in there, too. This is like a rarebit-fiend nightmare of Weimar cabaret music--a song to tango to with lead weights strapped onto one side of your body. (And if you ever see a copy of the Amoebic Ensemble's album Limbic Rage, snap it up.)
Things that make me proud of my adoptive city, yet also make my life slightly more difficult: If you want to find a 12-inch single by Steinski or the Rapture or the Cold Crush Brothers or Kid606 in downtown Portland, no problem. If you want to find a 12-inch that's actually at the top of the club charts, you're going to have to haul yourself way to the edge of the east side of town to the one store that might, might have it in stock.
Was up until 6:30 AM working on a piece that will probably appear Monday, and that some of you may enjoy. But I'm pretty wiped out right now: hence no MP3s last night. Couldn't let the day pass without giving you something small and lovely, though. So here's Smack Dab's "Lucky" (removed), a lapidary little song about the greenness of the grass on the other side. Linda Hagood was the prime force behind the band (thanks to her for permission to post this song)--a remarkable guitar player with a voice like no other I've ever encountered. (Wm. Berger from Uncle Wiggly and Alec Stephens from Railroad Jerk were also in the band at one time or another.) They recorded two albums, Queen Crab and Majestic Root, as well as a wonderful version of "I Am Damo Suzuki" for the ill-fated Fall tribute album; Hagood later played and sang with the Double U when she lived in the Bay Area for a while.
Doing interviews can be--well, not exactly tough work, but challenging, when it comes time to extract quotes. Most people don't exactly talk in complete sentences, or sort of gesture at their ideas for a while without stating them concisely. Some interviewees are wary of giving away too much, or not good at addressing the question you're asking, or simply won't stop talking to no particular end. And then, every once in a while, I get to interview somebody who gives me something so good, clear, fully formed and entertaining that I can pretty much hit command-A, command-C and command-V, and my work is all but done. The current "Thank You For Making My Job Much, Much Easier" award goes to Cherie Currie, of the fabulous Runaways. (Previous winners include Robert Wyatt, Yoko Ono, Green Gartside and Sheila Chandra.)
Today's MP3 was a single that mystified me the first few times I heard it, back in 1990 or so, because I couldn't figure out what speed I was supposed to play it at. (You'll see why.) I figured it out eventually. Screeming Custard!'s "Tracy" (removed) was a single on the beautifully named Paul's Mum's Front Room Records--a wonderful little only-slightly-sarcastic celebration of self-absorbed teenhood. Best line: "She knows her life's not great/It's full of boys called Dave/And it's not always easy/Being just another Tracy." And those squeaks at the end: awesome. Screeming Custard! only otherwise released one 12-inch and a split flexi. The latter is still available (and that page also includes an MP3 of a rather silly New Order cover). Thanks to Pat Bristow from the band for permission to post this.
Happy 100th anniversary of Bloomsday, everyone. 17 years ago, when I first read Ulysses (thank you, Prof. Frances Restuccia), I thought: "On June 16, 2004, I must be in Dublin!" And then I figured that 1) every hotel in the city would be booked up for months in advance, 2) there would be tens of thousands of people trying to follow Bloom's peregrination, 2a) woe betide anybody walking barefoot on Sandymount Strand after 9 PM or so, and 2b) while all the Bloomlets were out eating their mashed potatoes and liver gravy, "Blazes" Boylan would be making time with their spouses. As it turns out, a friend of mine is in Dublin right now on her honeymoon, but I'm here on my couch, listening to Edie go "Mkgnao!"
The closest I'm getting is the British Isles writ large--but hey, Manchester's just like Dublin, except without the Liffey and with a big "North-West Gas" sign.* Tools You Can Trust"s "Messy Body Thrust" (removed) was the B-side of the second single by this Manchester band--there's a good early article about them here. They were originally a duo (as I think they are here), and later went on to accumulate a few other members, and make at least one album and a videotape called "The Tools for Better Labour." This song's clangorous and wild-eyed, the sound of a couple of people freaking out in a room full of sheet metal. It was released in 1983, and in some ways it's definitely post-Flowers of Romance, but it's also got that '80-'81 D.I.Y. attitude I love so much, and the vibe of the early bands that came out of the Manchester Musicians Collective (the Diagram Brothers, the Mud Hutters... perhaps we'll hear some of them here at some point). Thanks to Ben Stedman for permission to post this. (And can I encourage people who are enjoying the MP3s to comment, please?)
*This is totally not true.
More house-hunting today--mostly in the Northeast. We looked at one house that seemed like a good deal for its specifications: an enormous old Victorian with a zillion bedrooms and a price tag considerably smaller than one might expect. It had been converted into a duplex at some point, and then re-converted into a single-family building; it had gotten some citations in the past few years for having too many people living there, and for having an open garage. The garage was gone now--ripped off its foundation, rather crudely (there were still parts of a few beams clinging to it). And the house seemed at first like the kind of place where Mountain Goats songs happen, and (once I looked a little closer) like the kind of place where Hold Steady songs happen. Lots of peculiar little rooms with truly alarming carpeting. The attic's walls had been written on; so had some of the upstairs floor's doors. (One had had a semi-obscene message scrawled on it in Magic Marker, which had then been altered to make it slightly more househunter-friendly--"asshole" had been corrected to "asshotel," for instance.) Ordinarily, it'd be the sort of place I'd be excited about: something Lisa & I could fix up/remodel/turn into something weird and personal. But something felt wildly uncertain about the whole building: I just had a bone-marrow feeling that its structure was not to be trusted.
Today's MP3 is a neat little multiple-sax instrumental: Bob Starker's "Thug Parade" (removed), from a self-titled seven-track EP, recorded while he was "between bands," he says. The disc has a bunch of fun, very nicely executed stuff--multi-tracked solo recordings, made with what the liner notes describe as "one beaten & abused '81 Selmer tenor sax (stolen in May '93, good riddance)." Thanks to Bob for permission to post it.
Took a trip up to Olympia yesterday for my friend Lois's housewarming party. Every time I walk into someone's house these days I start appraising it--a bad habit. But hers is beautiful, and was full of several generations of family and friends. Lots of old-time Oly punXors with small children, or forthcoming children. Al Larsen from Some Velvet Sidewalk mistook me for one of my old doppelgängers--first time that's happened in a while. Somebody brought a chocolate pudding pie topped with wonderful seasonal strawberries; I should have cooked! (Partly to expiate my mild guilt over not having cooked for the party, I ended up making curry-stuffed eggplant tonight. Came out decently.)
We drove back to Portland, where we went to a show at Disjecta--how did it take me so long to go there? what a great space! The Evaporators went on shortly after we got there. They're Nardwuar the Human Serviette's band. If you haven't experienced Nardwuar before, it's hard to know how to explain him--Lisa & I decided that he's basically the devil spawn of Iggy Pop and Richard Simmons. There were multiple costume changes (including the entire band changing costumes DURING the last song), Canadian history lessons, Nardwuarian invasions of the audience (one song involved N. being held aloft by audience members while playing an organ that was also being held aloft), etc. And the bass player is also in the New Pornographers, which boggles the mind a little. They were followed by Double Dutchess, the indie-rock double dutch performance art group... who came on in walkers and old-lady polyester outfits, to the tune of "Thank You For Being A Friend," and then did about 15 minutes of what would've been even more kickass jumprope routines if they'd gotten through more than half of them all the way. Plenty entertaining anyway...
So today's MP3 is one of the glories of tweedom. Another Sunny Day was the band-pseudonym of Harvey Williams, who later played with the Field Mice, Blueboy and Trembling Blue Stars, among others. (ASD was one of the flagship acts of Sarah Records, which had the surest grasp on a particular aesthetic of any indie-pop label I can think of.) A lot of Williams' songs have a real reserve and gentleness about them, but part of what I love about Another Sunny Day's "You Should All Be Murdered" (removed) is its suggestion that there's something much darker beneath that reserve. Most of what I love about it, though, is that astounding lead guitar part in the second half of the song. Thanks to Harvey Williams for letting me post this.
Some of my favorite records are by bands whose imagination is way ahead of what they're physically able to execute yet. Skinned Teen's "Karate Hairdresser" (removed) is a great example of that: a VERY young band, one of whom could play one-finger guitar and another of whom could play one-finger bass and maybe a xylophone, but pretty awesome songwriters under the circumstances. This is from their one and only single, preceded by a little anthem/chant that appeared at the beginning of all their releases. They also contributed a side to the "Some Hearts Paid to Lie" double-7" compilation (including "Secrets," which God Is My Co-Pilot later covered), and had an excellent split LP with Raooul (another super-young group who are probably best known now as the pre-Out Hud band). Layla Gibbon from Skinned Teen went on to play in Petty Crime; thanks to her for permission to post this.
Unrelatedly: really good to see Maya Gurantz last night. We all went to see Thinking Fellers Union Local 282's first show in three years--they were a little rusty at first, but warmed up in a hurry. Larry Crane, the Tape Op guy (who was in Vomit Launch ages ago), was there with an enormous grin on his face. Which I had too, especially when they played "Socket" and "More Glee."
Okay, it's the long-promised debut of the lacunae audioblog. (Title pending, but as long as it's just among all the other entries here, the title's not that much of an issue, is it?)
Here are the rules:
1) All MP3s I'm posting here appear with the explicit permission of the original artist.
2) They all originally appeared on seven-inch singles released in the '80s or '90s on independent labels; none of them are currently available on an American CD.
3) They are not going to be around long. Two weeks max. If you like something, please leave a comment.
I'll try to post one every day or two; no guarantees.
All that said, here's the first one, The Shams' "Only a Dream" (removed). The Shams were a trio of Amy Rigby, Sue Garner and Amanda Uprichard; this was their first single. They had some of the most amazing harmonies it's ever been my pleasure to hear live (I have vivid memories of seeing them do an in-store performance at the old Kim's Underground in 1992, and being absolutely dumbfounded at how good their voices sounded together). After this single, they made an album, Quilt, that had a bunch of guests playing on it (including the late, great Robert Quine)--there's a remake of "Only a Dream" on there, I believe, as well as an impossibly good song called "Watching the Grass Grow"--and an EP, Sedusia, with some songs I liked better when they played them live. But this song is the perfect beginning to this project, as far as I'm concerned: two and a half minutes of wonderfulness that could only have appeared at that particular historical moment, as a little record with a half-hand-drawn picture sleeve. I love the music of the past and the music of the present and the music of the future, but I really miss the days when there were new singles that could fill me with joy every time I went to the record store. And sometimes I wonder: was it only a dream?
Thanks to Amy Rigby and Sue Garner for letting me post this.
Lisa had a dream last night: a new section in Craigslist called "Ptolemy Rejects," for listings of people who'd applied to ancient Egyptian civilization and been rejected.
I also had a dream last night: Lisa and I were playing Scrabble, but the rules were that whoever makes six words first wins. She had five, looked at her tiles, and cleared the board. I said "wait, what was your word?" She said "conniputation."
Feeling everything in my body other than my head and my fingertips atrophying, and wanting to distract myself from a couple of pieces that should be a lot more done than they are, I went out and bought myself a bike today. Fortunately, Alberta St. has a used-bicycle store with kindly clerks. It went something like this:
D: Hi. I know I want a bicycle, but I otherwise have absolutely no idea what I want.
Kindly Clerk: You'll be wanting this one, then. Take it for a spin. Would you like a surprisingly cheap but sturdy-looking helmet with that?
D: Thank you!
And when I came home, another kind soul had sent me a CD-R of 21 songs by the Bedflowers--see last week for my hopeless adoration of them. Given that they only ever actually released one song, this feels like some kind of benediction. Also, one of those songs is an alternate version of "My Ex-Lover's Address," on which the ex-lover is a she rather than a he.
Audioblog delayed a few days while I figure out the intricacies of iDisk--anybody know offhand how to make an MP3 show up in a public folder with an .mp3 or .mp3-link.mp3 extension rather than .mp3-binhex.hqx ?
Got back from Book Expo America very, very late last night, then stayed up later finishing up a couple of projects, and my brain still feels like it's slowly dripping out through my elbows. A couple of highlights, though:
Best celebrity sighting: Dr. Ruth, who is very, very short, and was scampering through the hallways. A friend mentioned that at her signing she was sitting on two copies of her book.
Best promo item: Verso's new edition of Valerie Solanis' "SCUM Manifesto" was being promoted with SCUM box-cutters. Nice.
Most ornate promotion: A self-published-I-think novel called "Wild Animus," which was being handed out along with pretty spectacular shoulder bags: multiple compartments filled with notebooks, pens, bottles of water, Red Hots, survival gear, and (depending on your answers to an "are you predator or prey?" quizlet) a little stuffed wolf or sheep. Plus they'd hired a couple of "protesters" to picket the book downstairs.
Best unpublished book: Sean Stewart, the genius behind the AI game, showed me a mockup of a book he's put together, a Dennis Wheatley-style diary-with-packet-of-evidence mystery that looks like it'll be hugely fun, and possibly rather difficult to find a publisher for. I hope he does.
And, to top off the weekend, waiting for me in the mail this afternoon: the advance proof of Live at the Apollo. My eyes will be drooping today, but I will be smiling.
House-hunting is deep and mysterious. It would be a classic supply-and-demand exercise--nothing impulse-buy about it, consideration less aesthetic than practical ("can we live with this element?" "how much of a hassle would it be to change it?"--except that no two houses on the market are identical, and there are so many factors affecting the desirability of each one that there's no easy way to judge how much any given house is worth. The nicest house we looked at today was priced at 10% more than the worst, and it was much more than 10% nicer, objectively. House-hunting does make driving around much more vigorous exercise--all that head-craning every time one passes a for-sale sign. Plus, whimpering at the realization that one could never afford the instantly attractive houses. Whimpering is aerobic!
Summer resolutions (June, July, August): vitamins and yoga every day, buy no pre-packaged foods with partially hydrogenated oils or high-fructose corn syrup.
Audioblog almost all-systems-go; got the thumbs up from some very wonderful artists, and tracked down email addresses for others I've just written to. And, along the way, stumbled onto the information that there exist more Bedflowers songs than I've heard. I don't know anything about the Bedflowers other than their name and "My Ex-Lover's Address," but... well, the guy who used to run the Waaaaah! label has made the compilation album I listened to for months on end in 1992 available as MP3s, bless him. So go listen to that song, and understand why I'm so excited.
Oh right: Sasquatch! We drove (well, Lisa drove) 4 1/2 hours each way up to the Gorge, in George, WA, to see five bands play in front of a gorgeous massive canyon--the crowd and general vibe seemed like the more civilized version of Coachella (i.e. not so damn hot, you could bring in a water bottle and refill it for free, nice grassy places to sit, etc.). I'd never seen the Decemberists before, and enjoyed them more than I'd enjoyed their records, which I now want to go back to. Highlight, though, was the end of Cat Power's set: Chan by herself, skipping around the stage, lip-synching to a song called "Rad" that Chelsey informed me was by Smoosh, who were born after I stopped listening to The Waaaaah! CD all the time...