October 2004 Archives

round and round the roulette wheel

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Today's song is The Monochrome Set's "Ten Don'ts for Honeymooners" (MP3), a fine and odd 1981 single from a band I'm always amazed more people don't know. TMS formed in late 1977--their prehistory is tangled up with Adam and the Ants', curiously--and kept going, on and off, through the late '90s. There are a ton of compilations of their stuff, sometimes with baffling packaging (the American Best Of is actually just two of their studio albums stuck together); I highly recommend Volume, Contrast, Brilliance... as a starting point for the uninitiated, especially since it includes "He's Frank," one of the most formally perfect songs I know, and "The Jet Set Junta," which sort of has to be heard to be believed. I'm not alone in thinking that Franz Ferdinand owe them a considerable stylistic debt, especially w/r/t Alex Kapranos' vocal delivery (Kapranos has worked with their singer/guitarist/songwriter Bid on a couple of projects).

Here's the official Monochrome Set site; here's a good fan site, with lyrics (I really like their lyrics); here's the official site for Scarlet's Well, Bid's current band, which includes an interesting offer for anyone who wants to book a live appearance for them. (And thanks to Bid for permission to post this song.)

NaSoAlMo has a few more heroic participants:

Jodi Shapiro a.k.a. Burun
Martin Belam a.k.a. M-Orchestra
Maria Tessa Sciarrino
Philip Alderman
Charles Michelet

Tonight's your last chance to sign up in time to have the FULL MONTH OF NOVEMBER to make your solo album!

Otherwise: little to say. Election-related panic, which I'm attempting to dull with the aid of a bunch of reprints of old Avengers comics (and some phone-calling for MoveOn.org); success last night with Madhur Jaffrey's ultra-simple recipe for ginger-garlic tofu (cut up a pound of extra-firm tofu into 3/4-inch cubes, sauté over high heat until lightly browned all over, add a teaspoon each of ginger powder and garlic powder, turn the heat down a bit and stir for a minute, add two tablespoons of tamari, stir for a minute, add a tablespoon of nutritional yeast, turn the heat off, and eat). There's a pile of comics by the door for trick-or-treaters. I really hope we get some.

mp3bloggy plea

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Does anybody out there in readerland know how to get in touch with the members of Girls At Our Best!? Judy Evans, James Alan, Gerard Swift and Carl Harper. As of about ten years ago, Gerard was living in Leeds, James was living in London, and Judy was somewhere in Holland. I ask because I'm dying to post GAOB!'s "Politics" on Tuesday, and all conventional methods of reaching them have failed--even Vinyl Japan, which reissued their complete discography some years back (do yourself a favor and buy it if it comes your way), has lost touch with them. But by the magic of the Internet, somebody has to know...

NaSoAlMo, people, NaSoAlMo--you've only got two more days to sign up to take advantage of the full month to make your solo album! We've got a couple more fresh-faced inductees:

Colin Wambsgans
Ernest Paik

Look at these fine young specimens of humanity! Don't you want to join their ranks?

I've gotten to DJ a couple of times in the last week--once at Portland's Burning Man Decompression party, once at Anina and Paul's Halloween party last night--and am just starting to work out anew the science of what songs not only make everyone dance but keep people dancing for subsequent songs. "Milkshake" didn't fit that category last night; "I Feel Love" did. (Lisa and I, realizing at the last minute that we'd forgotten to arrange costumes, bought mirrors at Fred Meyer and hung them around our necks: "I'm you!" After a few hours, I wrote "THANKS FOR THE KIDNEY CALL 911" on mine in lipstick: "I'm an urban legend!")

poached rice

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Today's song is Chinas Comidas' "Lover/Lover" (MP3)--a blurty little single that came out on Exquisite Corpse records in 1978. Stylistically, it's kind of the missing link between the Mars/DNA side of No New York and Romeo Void. Chinas Comidas came from Seattle, and I don't know a whole lot about them that's not on the following pages--here's a page about the band from their keyboard player, Mark Wheaton, and here's a page about their singer, Cynthia Kraman, a.k.a. Cynthia Genser. (Thanks to Mark Wheaton and Rich Riggins for permission to post this track.)

The latest news on NaSoAlMo--we now have a penguintastic logo, courtesy of Lisa:

We have a bunch more people who've signed up, some of them under musical pseudonyms:

Cash Nexus
Lord Eric Haugen
Kevin Enos Deel

And Cash Nexus not only has set up a blog to keep track of his NaSoAlMo progress, he's offered to host a similar one for anyone else who wants to do the same.

I neglected to mention that the clinic where we went for the ultrasound had a big framed poster up on the wall with illuminated letters detailing their "VISSION STATEMENT." Sic. Despite my recent reading about how important it is for every employee of a company to be able to articulate the company's mission, I think I've only worked one place that actually codified it. That was the bookstore where I worked for years in my teens, whose constantly reiterated motto was: "it'll do for now."

accruing, wooing

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Holding Lisa's hand during her ultrasound today, watching the tiny arms and legs move around, I just kept thinking: it's a happy time! it's a happy time! It really is.

(In answer to the question everyone is asking, I am invariably answering: We don't know. We're not going to find out. We're going to wait until it's 10 and then let it decide for itself.)

NaSoAlMo continues to pick up stars. The latest participants:

Anthony Miccio
Dan Jircitano
Liz Bustamante
Lauren Kristen Mullen
Daphne Carr
Sam Amidon
Bradley Skaught

Heroes all! Join us!

"work is not life," said Henry Miller

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A song very close to my heart today: Azalia Snail's "Another Slave Labour Day" (MP3), the song that introduced me to her back in 1990. We played this amazing little piece of field-of-electric-foil-crickets psychedelia at WHRB until the needle practically wore through the vinyl; it subsequently ended up on her first album, Snailbait. (Yes, the lead instrument in the verses is a kalimba.) And, as anyone who's looked at the Dark Beloved Cloud site can tell you, I am a very big fan of Azalia's stuff, from the frantic velvet paisley jangle-drift of the early recordings to the lush '67-scrapbook grandeur of her newest songs. (Thanks to Azalia for permission to post this.)

In today's most exciting music-blog news: Sticker Shock is up at last--Sasha Frere-Jones, Dave Tompkins, Hua Hsu and Jeff Chang's collaborative blog. And Sasha's inaugurated it with Fairport Convention's "Tale in Hard Time." So good.

We've got a handful of people signed up for NaSoAlMo so far (and a few others who are hedging). So far, the lucky volunteers include:

Lisa Gidley
Lalitree Darnielle
K. Thor Jensen
Joel Huschle

Love them! Respect them! Join their illustrious ranks! See below for how...

announcing NaSoAlMo!

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Yes, it's time for NaSoAlMo: National Solo Album Month.

November is NaNoWriMo--National Novel Writing Month, an exercise in writing a 50,000-word novel in the space of a month. Some of you may remember that I did it in 2001, and had a great time. So this year, with apologies to Chris Baty, I'm declaring that November is also National Solo Album Month: those brave souls who are up for it will write and record an entire solo album in the course of its 30 days.

FAQ that nobody's actually asked yet:

Q. So, for the purposes of NaSoAlMo, what exactly is a solo album?

A. An album of music you have written, played and recorded entirely by yourself*. The shortest inarguably awesome album I can think of offhand that a lot of people have heard is the first Ramones album, which is 29:09 long, so your solo album must be at least that long. Beyond that, its form and content are up to you.

*Since Ramones includes a cover of "Let's Dance," your NaSoAlMo album may, if you wish, include one cover of somebody else's song.

Q. So is this a competition? Who's judging it? What do I win? What if it's not good enough? Do I have to send it in? Do I have to play it for anyone? Help!

A. No. This isn't a competition: this is a challenge. The winners are everyone who completes a solo album by November 30; what you will have won is that you will have made an album by yourself. You needn't play it for anyone else, and you certainly don't have to send it in--although I will listen to any you feel like sending me. It doesn't have to please anyone but yourself, if that; you are going for your own personal best here. The point is actually doing the work, starting and finishing the project. It's easy when you've got a deadline!

Q. Does it have to be professional-sounding?

A. Of course not. It doesn't have to be professional-anything: the point is the fun of making it. I encourage you to record with whatever you've got around the house--4-track, Audacity, boom-box, whatever.

Q. How do I sign up for NaSoAlMo? And then what do I do?

A. Sign up by the end of October (oh, after is fine, I suppose, but wouldn't you rather have the whole month to work on your solo album?) by sending an email to nasoalmo [at-sign] douglaswolk.com, to let me know that you're in. Unless you indicate otherwise, I'll post your name and (if you have one) web site here. At 12:01 November 1, as you're noshing your Halloween candy, you can start work on your solo album. If you've finished by the end of November--when you've finished, rather--let me know that you've won, and I'll post a winner's hall of fame here.

Q. How much, exactly, does this idea owe to Chris Baty and NaNoWriMo?

A. Everything. Thank you, Chris.

Spread the word, and let me know if you have any other questions!

hey bore hey (bore now bore)

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The new Boredoms--album, can one really call it? It would've been an album 20 years ago, when a 23-minute song and a 20-minute song could be an album--is the button I keep hitting for the pleasure pellet. When it's playing, every so often I realize that I need to listen to something else for work or whatever, but then I think: that would involve pausing or stopping the Boredoms CD. (It's called Seadrum/House of Sun.)

I've heard it said that Boredoms actually broke up in 1998, when they played a "perfect" show at the Fuji Rock festival and Yamamotor smashed his guitar, and that the current band is either called Vooredoms (with or without an infinity sign replacing the "oo") or 7V07. I don't care. This says "Boredoms" on the front, and it sounds like the quietest parts and the loudest parts of Vision Creation Newsun at the same time, or what Amon Düül dreamed about growing up to become, and as far as I'm concerned it's the return of a band that is almost impossibly dear to me. (It's hard for me to come up with a decent point of comparison for them. The day I bought it, somebody asked me what they were like, and I sputtered something about "like the most intense instrumental fragmentary cross-sections of your favorite pure-rock record pulled like bubbling elastic into endless glorious jamming," and she said "ew, that sounds like String Cheese Incident or something," and I was ashamed.)

Lisa's off in New York for a week or so; I'm still in Portland. Edie is deeply freaked out by this. She jumps into the bed and sniffs around for Lisa-scent. When I'm typing, she comes up to me and stares at me accusatorily: "WHERRRRE IS SHE? WHAT HAVE YOU DONE WITH HER, YOU BASTARD!!" Then she grooms herself until the fur stands up, wet, on her back, claws at the leg of my jeans, and stalks off.

Michele and I went to see David Thomas and two pale boys last night--one of the pale boys being, of course, Andy Diagram of the mighty Spaceheads. Really extraordinary: D.T. was in a very bad mood, as he seems to be often when I see him play, but a black cloud of charisma hovers over him when he's annoyed. As usual, he was playing his little accordion while wearing a huge red slick apron. Somebody yelled "What's with the apron?" Thomas fixed him with a Zero Mostel-type glare, and announced in the voice of a contemptuous schoolteacher: "The apron is a condom. A protective barrier... a prophylactic device... that protects the delicate workings of the accordion... from the PASSION THAT FLOWS OUT OF ME."

forklift interrogations and visions

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Continuing with our theme of squeako-sqweeko electropop that makes fun of one nationality or another, here's Caramel and "My Tailor Is Rich" (MP3), from a wonderful old Harriet Records single. It's a sort of Let's Parler Franglais! lesson--every time I hear it I remember a French class I once took where the first tape we listened to in the language lab was meant to teach us what a French accent sounded like, just in case we'd never heard one: a man reading "LeeSEN, ma cheelDREN, and you shall 'ear/Off ze meednaght hrrrahhd off Pole Hrrreveer." Worth puzzling out what he's singing in the chorus if it's not clear at first. Denis Pasero is the genius behind this particular song; he's now in a band called Megarider (formerly Majic). Thanks to him for permission to post this song!

Dept. of Extreme Genius: the forthcoming MF Doom album is called Mm... Food!.

Dept. of Really Weird Dreams: I don't often have the oh-no-I'm-back-in-college anxiety dream these days, but last night I had a dream that I was in college, came back to my dorm room, and was informed that one of my roommates had electrocuted himself... with an electric eyebrow pencil. Yes. He had apparently also been drawing something on his arm with it. Afterwards, since of course if one of your roommates dies in the course of a semester you get an automatic A for all your classes, my other roommate and I had to fill out the forms for our grade upgrades, which were long and complicated, and involved lots of descriptions of our emotional relationships to our late roommate. I think on one page we had to write sestinas about him (this may have been inspired by my attempt at the GLAT).

uptown mid-level ranking

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I first encountered the Teen Anthems with their first single "I Hate Oasis (And I Hate the Beatles)," sometime in the mid-'90s, but their real masterpiece is its follow-up: the ultra-chintz-tech, ultra-ridiculous "Welsh Bands Suck", released a few months later at the height of the "oo look at the scene in Wales!" thing, if I remember correctly (with the earlier single on the B-side). I mean, I saw Gorky's Zygotic Mynci back in those days, and I liked them, but, uh, I didn't really feel compelled to pay much attention to them after that. Plus, any time a band attacks their own scene? I'm there! And the Teen Anthems were indeed Welsh: they consisted of one guy, John William Davies, who's also recorded as Supercute and released a bunch of other stuff on his Sonic Art Union label. (There are a couple of other MP3s at that site; thanks to John for letting me post this one.)

Referencing Helen Love in a song, incidentally, has to be some kind of all-time record for pop-kid inbredness. (Which reminds me: if anybody happens to be in touch with the Helen Love people, this blog could seriously use an appearance by "Girl About Town"--hey, it could be a Ramones memorial posting! Well, virtually any Helen Love song could.)

This weekend has largely been spent tearing my hair out over househunting-related issues, and listening to Costello, Ayler, and virtually nothing else. Tensionmuzik! (Tried to get into the opening night of a new club, Doug Fir, where Quasi were playing, but it'd sold out.) My stress-reliever of choice has been going through some of the mainstream comics that had accumulated unread over the past few months, especially that giant "War Games" crossover with all the Batman titles. I am not a crossover fiend (loved DC One Million, have generally been iffy otherwise), but this one's got a really clever premise--although, with six or seven different people writing their respective chapters of the story, a few essential plot points have gotten buried. (Not forgotten: they just show up as recaps at some point that seems a little late. And, actually, one of the big dramatic revelations of the whole crossover--the person who was supposed to be at the gang meeting in "The 12-Cent Adventure" and wasn't--is not only bobbled, it'd be a lot more dramatically effective if we knew about it at the very beginning of the story.)

Lisa, we're told, needs more iron in her diet, so I've been cooking stuff with lentils, spinach, seaweed, etc.--last night was gingery spinach & lentils topped with yogurt & fried onions, tonight was a lentil/rice/pasta/tomato thing with mint-butter sauce. Mmm. Rich.

science is a rhythm, dude

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Okay okay! I'm back, already! I'm getting "are you all right? your mother and I are worried about you!" emails, some of them even from people I'm related to. Really, I just needed a little break: I've been traveling, and working way too hard, and when I finish my last deadline of the night (sometimes aided by one of those prepackaged guarana-and-soy shakes that can't make up their mind whether they want to soothe me with protein or pin my eyelids open) all I want to do is sink into the couch with a copy of Detective Comics and whimper quietly. But here's some updata--Oh, wait, you want a song to listen to while I'm babbling. Here you go: the Cannanes' "Simple Question" (MP3). The Cannanes are along-running, fairly casual, very wonderful Australian band with a sort of letters-from-a-friend aesthetic who grace us with their presence in the States every so often; this lovely, quietly upset song appeared on their self-titled 1996 album, but the single version here is significantly different (Frances Gibson sings the whole thing, for starters). Thanks to Frances for permission to post it.

Yes, the audioblog is back at last, although it may not appear every time I post something. (And many thanks to my server-space angels N. and L.) Yes, I understand audioblogs are very popular with the young people right now. I better not say anything or I'll sound more like Jackie Harvey than I already do. Except I should give a quick shout-out to Mackron, who just started an audioblog I think I'll be visiting a lot.

So what's been going on while I've been away? I wish I had espionage-type adventures to relate, but honestly there's not much that's been happening. I've listened to the entire ABBA discography, and the entire Elvis Costello discography, for a couple of assignments (my conclusion: Voulez-Vous = underrated), plus two other four-disc boxes and another twelve-disc series, and am now plowing through the Albert Ayler box; this has left me annoyingly little time to listen to actual new stuff (although Aqui seems really impressive on a hurried spin). I mean, when there's new DFA material that I haven't had time to listen to yet, there's clearly a problem.

I did get to spend a few days in Bethesda, MD, attending Small Press Expo (while Lisa traveled around her old haunts in the Washington, DC area). Pix to clik: Anders Nilsen (his one-shot Dogs and Water, from Drawn & Quarterly, is the creepiest thing I've read in a while), Hope Larson (who I hope will do a full-length comic sometime; here's a Flash version of her brilliant and not-suitable-for-work Sex Rainbow); and Kevin Huizenga (what is he going to do next?? what?? what??).

Bonus bit of music, if you've made it this far: go to the Blocks Recording Club site, scroll down to 004, and download the Barcelona Pavilion's "New Materiology" MP3. I have heard something like three songs by this band (thank you, Patti), and I already adore them. So Douglas-Rock!