February 2005 Archives

I was pleased to get the word today from Dave Abel that the Fly Ashtray site now has an expanded selection of MP3s, including (I think) all of their never-released 1995 EP Stop the Zockos. As usual, the overall quality of their song titles (and, um, web design, not that I'm one to talk) is inversely proportional to the overall quality of their songs (hint: I like the songs a lot); if you're new to them, start with "Soft Pack" (Chris Thomas's big juicy gristly pop song from their first album) and "Cow Pods" (a wonderful, gnarled little James Kavoussi rifflet). And I believe "Drainage (Burial)/There," which first appeared on a compilation I put out a long time ago, is one of Glen Luttman's few songwriting contributions to the band--it's actually sort of a sequel to his other two songs, "Ditch" and "Ditch (Drainage)."

Also, although I'm not going to SXSW this year for obvious imminent-baby-related-reasons, I've been tipped off that this site has MP3s by almost every band playing the festival. I like Be Your Own Pet's Yeah Yeah Yeahs-wannabe outburst "Damn Damn Leash" and Mary Lou Lord's Bevis Frond cover "The Wind Blew All Around Me," I know already, and I'm going to have to explore some more.

kat diffikulties

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Most people who know me know of my moony-eyed love for George Herriman's 1915-1944 comic strip Krazy Kat. I adore it, to the point where I have a tattoo (my only one) of a very small image of the brick that's its main prop.

So it's strange that I've been sitting on the newest Krazy Kat book, a collection of the 1933-34 strips called Necromancy by the Blue Bean Bush, for a couple of months now, without having read it. That's partly because I always need to take a while to slide into Herriman-reading mode--it resists my eyes for a while, and I have to reacclimate myself to his phonetic dialogue. Most cartoonists, even very early strip cartoonists? No problem. Herriman? I have to get on his particular track, or I am lost.

I think the real problem, though, is that I'm afraid on some not-quite-surface level that this volume's not going to be very good. I loved the last one, and from all the evidence I have, Herriman got progressively funnier and better over time. But that's what I know in my brain; I'm reacting to what my eyes are seeing on the page when I flip through the book, which is a mess. Not the editors' fault, and probably not even Herriman's. It turns out that a lot of these strips were probably never even printed in the full-page format Herriman drew them in, and had to be reconstructed from microfilm (oof) of somebody else's half-butchered reformatting (double-oof). And then, midway through 1934, it just stops, abruptly--there are apparently no full-page Krazy strips from then until mid-1935, when it started to appear in color.

[For years, I thought I remembered reading somewhere that William Randolph Hearst (a big fan of Herriman's) couldn't find any papers that were willing to carry it any more, but continued to commission Herriman to draw a Krazy Kat Sunday strip every week for his own personal entertainment, until he convinced papers to carry it again. But I can't find documentation of that story anywhere, and it's probably too good a story to be anything but apocryphal.]

Fuzzy, out-of-focus, grainy, reconstructed, salvaged from the brink of being totally lost: I love music that works like that. How can I train my eyes to work the same way as my ears?

My friend Amie Strong once quoted me, from memory, a Krazy strip I've been trying to locate ever since (and will probably misquote badly here): someone asks Krazy "why don't you call yourself Mrs.?" "Ain't got no husband." "So why don't you call yourself Mr.?" "Ain't got no wife." "When are you going to make up your mind, then? "When I's wed."


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the listening blue is listing you

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I know next to nothing about the band, but Bagpipe Operation's "Molten Boy" (MP3) was the first song on their first of two EPs, both of which had simple silkscreened line-art sleeves and hulkingly distorted recordings of neat weedy little la-la pop tunes. This one (in which I detect a hint of Slay Tracks' arrangements/recording style) came out in 1992 on their own Secret Center label; there was another one a little later on Harriet. The only other things I can tell you is that they were from Sacramento, and that the band's Scott Miller was kind enough to get in touch and give me permission to post this song. Thank you, Scott!

(Not that Scott Miller, but if by chance you're not familiar with that one's awesome power-pop band(s) Game Theory/The Loud Family, do go to that link and help yourself to "Jimmy Still Comes Around" for starters.)

Otherwise: working on a huge reading and listening assignment right now (56 discs, something like 4000 pages), so there's little to report here. Except some stuff about my new neighborhood karaoke joint, but that's over in the other blog.

hewing it toward the lids

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Paula Frazer's "Is She Lonesome Now" (MP3) originally appeared on a 7-inch noise compilation on Trackshun, Optional Ingredients From a Vile Recipe, Volume 2 (yes, there is also a Volume 1). Not at all like the other stuff on the single, but a wonderful contrast. A full-band version appears on her band Tarnation's album Mirador, but I'm really fond of this one--the best detail of many is that high aaaaah in the "Ghost Riders in the Sky" vein that becomes a harmony to Frazer's main vocal, and then zooms off into singing-saw territory again.

Thanks to Paula Frazer for permission to post this song. She now has a site here, and recently released A Place Where I Know, a collection of her home 4-track recordings.

In the dept. of follow-ups: the excellent Ulric Kennedy of the Golden Dawn (whose "Let's Build a Dyson Sphere" appeared here some months ago) writes that he's got a new site, Spirophone, which has lots of information on all the bands he's been in, as well as MP3s, photos, etc. He also points out that he was in the Mixers, Ochre 5 and Jenny & the Cat Club/the Fauves with Grant Morrison back in the day--there are MP3s of all of those bands on the site.

This year's Wyncote Records Memorial Award for dubiously helpful liner notes has a strong contender already in the annotations for Lee "Scratch" Perry's generally excellent I Am the Upsetter box, and specifically the note for the Stingers' "Preacher Man": "One of a handful of tunes the Stingers cut for Perry. The observation that many men of the cloth could actually be 'evil' has been given resonance in recent discovers within the Catholic Church of child abuse and other such ativities." Sic, several times over.

any fifth number

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After I made my big does-anybody-know-any-members-of request a while back, Stephen Maughan of Bulldozer Crash very kindly left a comment inviting me to post one of his old band's songs, which I'm pleased to do. Bulldozer Crash's "Today Will Be Yesterday So Soon" (MP3) was a single on Heaven Records back in 1993. (They also put out some singles on the similar American label Sunday.) Heaven openly idolized the Sarah Records aesthetic (and Bulldozer Crash's first single was called "Sarah Said"), but there's something not quite in the manner of that scene in this single--a little extra elbow grease, or some kind of a come-on. It actually reminds me a little of Dinosaur Jr.'s version of the Byrds' "Feel a Whole Lot Better" (without the silly voices): a certain amount of the distance between this and McGuinn-channels-Dylan is the guitar and vocal tone.

Finally saw the Metallica movie on DVD. I'm a sucker for movies about the creative process, and if this one's not quite as beautiful as Topsy-Turvy, it's more explicit about the state of being stuck--I wonder if the filmmakers actually picked out all the most papercut-like emotional moments, or if this was toned down from some even more agonizing potential version. The setup is that Metallica are trying to record a new album, and they're totally drained; they have no bass player, they have no songs, they have no lyrics, they have no sense of what they want it to sound like, they've got a full-time therapist who's starting to act like he's in the band, Lars Ulrich and James Hetfield are finding it almost impossible to bear working with each other, Kirk Hammett is just sitting there trying to crush his own ego so things don't get even worse, and Bob Rock is being supernaturally calm... and they hammer away at it for almost two years, and finally come up with something. Not something all that great, but something.

Pretty amazing that any band would have the guts to endorse a documentary about themselves as merciless as this one is--I really admire that, actually. Also, the scenes with Lars' ancient-elf-looking father (watch Lars' spirit crumple as dad tells him the new songs are awful) and Dave Mustaine (near tears as he tells Lars how much getting kicked out of Metallica 20 years ago hurt) are as amazing as everyone told me they were.

100 things I love about comics

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I'm not too big on list-memes, usually, but Fred Hembeck started this one, a whole lot of other people are doing it too (scroll down to the Feb. 15 entry), and I'm really enjoying what's come out of it so far. (Plus I still owe Fred a CD from like a year ago.) It's the "100 Things I Love About Comics" list, and mine looks like this:

1. Jim Starlin's run on Warlock
2. The sound effect/dialogue of Rorschach eating beans
3. Finder
4. The glossy-paper reprints of Steve Ditko's Dr. Strange run in Strange Tales, especially those insane closeups of Dormammu
5. Alison Bechdel's extended narratives at the end of the last few Dykes to Watch Out For paperbacks
6. The free-form, interconnected short stories in the first few issues of Yummy Fur
7. Sound effects in American Flagg!
8. Paul Gambi, the "crime tailor"
9. The "wuffa wuffa wuffa" issue of Cerebus
10. The brief period in Thor when Stan Lee decided it would be more dramatic to end every word balloon without punctuation, and was correct
11. The unnerving "Petrified Forest" section of The Ballad of Halo Jones
12. Alan Brennert's half-dozen Batman stories
13. Don Rosa's Uncle Scrooge, especially the first few stories where he's trying so hard to prove himself
14. The fake ending to Grant Morrison's run on Doom Patrol, followed by the real ending
15. The low-key desperation that sets into DP7 after the first few issues
16. Air Wave
17. The early Atomic Knights stories...
18. ...and the issue of DC Comics Presents that wraps up the series in a totally dramatically satisfying way
19. The last few issues of The Invisibles, as chaotic and messed-up as they are
20. The party scenes at the beginning of "Wigwam Bam"
21. The conclusion of "Love & Rockets X," with the one-panel cuts piling up one after another for pages
22. Don Newton and Dan Adkins
23. The personalities of the protagonists of We3
24. The conceptual perfection of Mister O
25. That Deadpool issue where he invades an early issue of Amazing Spider-Man
26. Mort Weisinger-era Jimmy Olsen covers
27. The brick from "Krazy Kat"
28. Abbott and Costello Meet the Bride of Hembeck
29. Gene Day's artwork on Master of Kung Fu
30. Mark Millar's run on The Authority
31. "The Oxygen Board"
32. Seven Soldiers, not that I've even seen any of it yet
33. Every parody R. Sikoryak has ever done, but especially "Good Ol' Gregor Brown"
34. Roy Thomas's insistence on shoehorning Hawkman into every issue of All-Star Squadron
35. Matter-Eater Lad
36. David Heatley's "My Sexual History (Slightly Abridged Version)"
37. The opening scene of Lost Girls, with the five-kinds-of-creepy action in the mirror
38. Oracle
39. The 3-D edition of Destroy!!
40. The Lesser Book of the Vishanti, by cat yronwode
41. The Silver Twist
42. Walt Feinberg's career in art
43. Spider-Man lifting that giant piece of Ditkotech, and every homage to it
44. Atari Force
45. "Li'l Octagon"
46. The first Gregory book
47. Quantum and Woody
48. "Frank in the River"
49. The existence of Psychoanalysis
50. Robert Loren Fleming and Trevor von Eeden's run on Thriller
51. The original Dishman minis
52. Kevin Huizenga's "Fight or Run" pieces
53. Jessica Jones's relationship with Luke Cage
54. Eddie Campbell's After the Snooter
55. The original Birdland miniseries, and its characters reappearing as the parents of Venus in Measles
56. The Beanworld ads that used to run in the Buyer's Guide
57. Sidney Mellon
58. Amy Unbounded
59. Characters greeting each other with "What it is!" in Nexus
60. Sgt. Fury and his Howling Defenders in the indicia
61. The Ray hooking up with Black Canary
62. Speculation about when the next D'arc Tangent is coming out
63. Speculation about when the 1963 Annual is coming out
64. All "jam" comics
65. Jules Feiffer's New Year's "fill-in" on The Spirit
66. Roy G. Bivolo
67. The digest incarnation of Adventure Comics being baited with new stuff to get people to buy the early Legion stories, or maybe vice versa
68. "68 Pages, No Ads from Cover to Cover!"
69. Diesel Sweeties
70. Anders Nilsen's bird-in-hand T-shirt
71. The tiny Quimby the Mouse images on the cover of his issue of Acme Novelty Library
72. Age of Bronze's explanations of divine visitations
73. "Mysticism and the Sublime in Aotearoa"
74. Vanessa Davis's story about the geese
75. The first year of "Five Years Later"-model Legion of Super-Heroes
76. "I don't even know what a ninja is!"
77. Amanda Waller vs. Batman
78. Gary Panter's sense of panel composition
79. The alien demanding that P.S. teach him English in the very last panel of the very last original Spirit story
80. The all-star minicomic tribute to Ivan Brunetti
81. The existence of Marvel's Essential line
82. Translating the Rannian dialogue in Swamp Thing into English
83. Paul O'Brien eviscerating terrible comics in "The X-Axis"
84. Astoria
85. Black-and-white British reprints of Steve Engelhart's Avengers, a few pages at a time
86. The entire multiple-Earths scheme of pre-Crisis continuity
87. Editor's notes, especially when the editor is obviously growing tireder and tireder of explaining things over the course of an issue
88. Stories that get abruptly cut off by the cancellation of a series, with editor's notes explaining that sorry, that's all we've got time for, perhaps it'll return someday
89. Jeff Nicholson's "Through the Habitrails"
90. Carmine Infantino captions with little pointing hands
91. Boom Tubes
92. The explanation of Phoenix in the X-Men FAQ
93. J.H. Williams III and Mick Gray, as a team
94. Murphy Anderson's inks on Curt Swan
95. "Bamf"
96. Mike W. Barr's obsession with Ellery Queen
97. The Journal of MODOK Studies
98. The Legion of Substitute Heroes
99. The original "Sinister Six" annual
100. Ch'p

reversible corners and cans

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About damn time I put another song up here. Death of Samantha's "Rosenberg Summer" (MP3) was one of the glories of a pretty glorious band, whose entire catalogue is now out of print, partly because singer/guitarist John Petkovic "felt weird about those records even existing and wanted them to just disappear." (Thanks to him for permission to post this song.) It was originally a Homestead Records single in 1990 or '91--there's a grand sourness to the arrangement and Petkovic's delivery that I love. (Also, Alex asked for this one last year. I live to serve, very slowly.)

Death of Samantha were named after a great Yoko Ono song, which Sean Lennon calls "Cool Chick Baby." And I'm pretty sure "Rosenberg Summer" is about this incident. John Petkovic is now the singer/guitarist of Cobra Verde, who are putting out an album of covers and another of original songs this year; he also reports that he may be reissuing the DoS stuff shortly.

Unrelatedly: I've been seeking out anything with the motorik beat for the last few days, for a code-blue-secrecy project. ("Motorik"? The beat most associated with the early-'70s German band Neu!--in the link above, a couple of people define it neatly as hi-hat eighth notes, snares on 2 and 4, bass drum on all other eighth notes. To which I'd add: roughly 100 BPM.) A lot of examples have been cited, and all the ones that fit the definition in my head (Stereolab's "Jenny Ondioline," Can's "Mother Sky," Boredoms' "Super Roots 7," etc.) are songs I pretty much venerate. If I can't think of any counterexamples soon, I may have to start a band based around that beat.

flickering like a remote gate

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Naturally, just as a couple of my favorite sites link lacunae, I disappear. House-and-imminent-baby-related stuff has been requiring a lot more time than I thought it would; sorry. Ordinary MP3-related service will resume in a week or so. In the meantime, why not treat yourself to the soothing sounds of the greatest high-concept tribute band of all time? (If you don't know what they're parodying... well, count your blessings. In any case, if there is a more appropriate name for this band's drummer than Heeb Who Cannot Be Named... no, no, I can't complete that thought, there couldn't be.)

My small musical joy of the moment is Millie's Time Will Tell--an expanded reissue of a circa-1969 album by the woman who recorded "My Boy Lollipop." Cover art: Millie wearing only a pair of silver-and-blue panties, sitting on a gigantic blue-and-yellow model of a banana, holding something that looks like a wooden bong, looking back and smiling broadly at a point about six feet above the camera. Highlights of the album on a first listen: "White Boys," about her adoration of same, "Enoch Power," about racist politician Enoch Powell, and a cover of Nick Drake's "Mayfair," which seems to have gotten credited to producer Eddie Wolfram for some reason. Best song title: "Mixed Up, Fickle, Lonely, Self-Centered, Spoiled Kind of Boy," which should really have been a split single with the Supremes' "A Breath Taking, First Sight Soul Shaking, One Night Love Making, Next Day Heart Breaking Guy." She seems to have recorded a ska version of "Bloodshot Eyes," too. I must hear this.

Also: there is a new web-only issue of Chickfactor up. A rather dear friend of mine is still writing for them. Ahem.

the coconuts shake and the wire trembles

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Andrea Moed sends word that she's got a new, very narrowly focused and very welcome site: Illo Watch, in which she critiques the Op-Ed illustrations from the Times.

Kent Burt of The Linger Effect/NaSoAlMo writes: "My two-year-old unreleased LP (Charmer) is going to be made available as a free download as MP3 & FLAC files on My Mean Magpie's Netlabels site on Feb 1st. As an added incentive for Lacunae readers and NaSoAlMo devotees, there will be a link from the download page to a site with a preview mp3 from my NaSoAlMo album."

(FYI: My Mean Magpie also hosts the "Teenbeat MP3 of the Week," and they will soon be putting out a Teenbeat tribute album which has a track that I um mighthavehadsomethingtodowith.)