Strange time of year round these here parts. Everyone’s gone away, the shops are quiet, I’m desperately trying to get these Tar Babies and Oil Tasters CDs out before I reach retirement age, and now I plan on going to Vietnam for the bulk of the month of February. On top of that, my brother just left for 6 months of travel throughout Asia and dumped all his records at my parents’ place to store in their garage. My brother – two years older than myself – and I grew up listening to similar sorts of music, mainly rooted in punk fuckin’ rock. However, whilst I was more inclined towards obsessing over US hardcore (which he also liked, a lot), Andrew was more drawn towards the Australian side of things with bands like Feedtime, X, King Snake Roost, Lubricated Goat, etc. It made for a nice balance. On top of that, whilst I trailed off into the catalogues of Shimmy Disc, SST, Swans, Helios Creed, Sun City Girls, John Zorn, etc., from approximately 1988-1993 he amassed a huge collection of American u/ground rock on labels like Sub Pop, Am Rep, Touch & Go, Sympathy, et al. Since the mid ‘90s he’s bought few records of the underground variety and pays little attention to contemporary music of any stripe, instead indulging in the worlds of old country/blues, rockabilly, ‘60s garage rock, etc. In short, at the age of 35 he is now officially an old geezer.
What’s the point? No point, except that I went over to the folks’ place the other day to rummage through his collection and find a few discs to borrow. If I’m going to be traveling, I can’t afford to buy anything for a while, so I’ll get my kicks with a loan. Browsing through his records – and let it be known: he never sells his vinyl, no matter how lousy it might be – I had to laugh at some of the stuff he had: a Coffin Break CD, fer chrissakes!! Loads of dodgy Am Rep LPs, a bevy of justly forgotten Sub Pop bands (I do believe I spotted a Dickless 7”), why, there was even a SWA LP or two. I pulled out a few things I thought would tweak my interest and got outta there. Let’s see…
GIBSON BROS. – Big Pine Boogie LP
This is the one everyone raves about. I had their Man Who Loved Couch Dancing LP in the early ‘90s, thought it sucked and sold it. You know, it did suck. I also had a pile of ’68 Comeback LPs in the mid ‘90s and very foolishly sold them a few years ago. I get a feeling I’ll be buying them back before I drop dead. And then there’s Big Pine Boogie, their supposed meisterwerk. I’ve given it a good hiding and it holds up well. For myself, it’s no masterpiece or forgotten gem, nor would I swear by it in a blue fit, but I’ll always have a soft spot for Don Howland, a punk rock renaissance man, if ever there was, so I’ll probably tape this sucker before I give it back. If I ever do. The copy I have in my house has a very complicated history: it doesn’t belong to my brother. It’s actually Dave from the Sailors’ LP, my bro’s ex-housemate, who now lives in France. Dave, if you’re reading this, I have your Gibson Bros. album, come by any time and pick it up.
THE EX – Blueprints For A Blackout 2LP
I was surprised he even had this double set, since Dutch anarcho post-punk never seemed to be his strong suit. Still, it was there, I hadn’t heard it in a decade or more, so I thought I’d give it a new home for a month or two. Boy oh boy, did I ever used to love these troublemakers back in the dawn of the ‘90s. Their Scrabbling At The Lock LP w/ cellist Tom Cora was a firm fave at the time and at a certain stage I felt like the gods were smiling on me for bringing the world such bands as Dawson, Dog Faced Hermans, Badgewearer and… you got it: The Ex. I’ll still swear by Dawson and DFH any day of the week. You ask me the question, I’ll swear by it: great, GREAT bands. But The Ex? Feh. Much like Crass, their sleeves are far more interesting than their music, which I can only assume is the main reason why I sold my CD copy of this 10 years ago. Don’t get me wrong: The Ex are pretty OK, and there are some moments here that rub me the right way like I didn’t quite expect. But what rubs me the wrong way? The same feeling I get with Crass: the music is there as an aside to the political rants, and the in-your-face lecturing never lets up. Musically, I can give a good 50% of this a thumbs-up, but I’m way too old to be screamed at the way The Ex do.
JACK BREWER BAND – Rockin’ Ethereal LP
Ha! Had to grab this one. Just when I thought I hadn’t played this in a decade, I whack it on and it floods back like I heard it just yesterday. Perhaps I did listen to this a whole lot more in the early ‘90s than I recall. Mr. Brewer, as you may or may not know (or care) was/is the singer in Saccharine Trust. My bro went to the US throughout December 1990 and beyond for a 2-3 month journey with a friend. First stop was LA, and the first gig was the Jack Brewer Band at the Anti-Club. Drunk as only a young, annoying Australian backpacker can be, he approached Jack after the gig and proceeded to yell in his ear regarding what a fan he and especially his brother back in Melbourne were of his work in the ‘Trust. Jack, being the gent that he is, invited Andrew and his friend back to his place to crash at his pad for a few days whilst they were in LA. They did exactly that: sat around playing with his dogs, drinking beer and watching lots of music videos (like Kira and Mike Watt’s wedding). Before Andrew left, Jack handed him this, an autographed test pressing of his latest album. Now that probably means dick to just about anyone reading this, but I just about hit the freakin’ roof when he came home with this under his arm. Still, he wouldn’t give it to me, or even sell it to me, and still won’t. My compensation was an autographed copy of Pagan Icons and a Chris D. poetry book.
Rockin’ Ethereal made all the impact of a pin drop among the rock community upon release and has remained out of print for more than a decade. That’s understandable, though unfortunate: this is an excellent album. Released on New Alliance, Brewer’s band featured ‘Trust bassman Bob Fitzer and a few others whose names ring bells, but not enough to make a reference. The sound is way more straight ahead rock than the jazz swing of ST, a point which I recall earned it a slightly negative review in Forced Exposure at the time (the reviewer – probably Coley – missed the acidic freakouts of Joe Baiza). But whatever, this is kinda “rock”, but reminds me of Pagan Icons-era ST more than anything else, and that’s the kinda “rock” I can dig.
What the fuck, a HIGH FIVE…
1) ROXY MUSIC – For Your Pleasure LP
Funnily enough, one of the most-played discs in this household in 2004 was the Roxy Music First Kiss 2CD bootleg Jay Hinman burned for me mid-year. It reopened my eyes to the greatness of the band, and especially their official albums which had been happily lying dormant on my shelves for over half a decade. For the Roxy neophyte, I recommend jumping to side 2 and spinning it first. Three wigged-out space-rock tracks which sound like the missing link ‘twixt Hawkwind and Pere Ubu ca. 1980.
2) FEELIES – Only Life LP
The much-neglected bargain-bin-filler LP from 1988. The Feelies are apparently getting a deluxe CD reissue treatment in 2005, but if you can’t wait til then, search the secondhand bins and ye shall find. For a band with a next-to-zilch following Down Under, I sure have spotted a ton of these things 2nd-hand the last 10 years of my life. Does that mean people bought it en masse, thought it sucked and traded it in? I can only assume so. Fools, damn fools! This is more Velvetsy greatness from a “critic’s band” even non-critics should listen to.
3) PRIMITIVE CALCULATORS – s/t CD
Others have raved about this elsewhere, search it out. Anyway, back in print c/o the good folks at Chapter Music, the CD also features a stack of bonus material, a cool booklet and a video (which I haven’t watched… yet). There was a great launch for this at the Cherry Bar about a month back, which featured a slide show from the “little bands” scene; ace music from DJ Alan Bamford (who originally recorded this disc as the LP in 1979, and played nothing post-’79 on the night of the launch, to keep with the feel. That meant a tasty brew of Nuggets rock, Suicide, Television, etc.); a set from a Primitive Calculators “tribute” act featuring various scenesters whose name I forget, though they were good; and even a short set from young locals, Oh Belgium, whom I’d heard of for yonks but had always been put off from seeing them, figuring they’d be so tre hip I’d want to vomit. I’m happy to report that I did not throw up. Sure, they’re way too cool for school, though their No Wave-meets-Rough Trade ca. ’79 DIY racket is undoubtedly good, and I may just buy that 7“ they recently put out. What else? A speech from Guy of Chapter Music, and even a ‘Calculator or two. Add to that a sea of 40-something hepcats doing the rounds for probably the first time in a decade, and that’s a good night out. The CD? Primo Aussie electro-punk, caught somewhere between the Seeds, the Godz, and the “cold wave” of ‘Ubu and Suicide. Pretty furgin’ tasty brew, daddy.
4) BYRDS – 5th Dimension CD
Mr. Tambourine Man, Turn! Turn! Turn!, 5th Dimension, Younger Than Yesterday, Notorious Byrd Brothers, Sweetheart Of the Rodeo, Byrds Untitled. Now that is an awesome, unbroken line of killer releases, one after the other. That is what I call a BODY OF WORK matched only by a few: Minutemen 1980-’85, Miles 1960-’75 (really, you can start with Sketches of Spain and end with the Agharta/Pangaea albums if you want), The Fall ’77-’86 (after that things got seriously hit & miss), and… you get the point. Fuck the Beach Boys and their sycophants: the Byrds were the great Californian pop/rock outfit of the 1960s.
5) BRIAN ENO/HAROLD BUDD – The Plateaux of Mirror LP
Serious Desert Island Disc territory here, folks, so hang onto your seats!! OK, you can relax now. This 1980 collaboration between Eno and avant-piano maestro Budd (who actually started off as a jazz drummer w/ Ayler in the army, ya know) rates, alongside Apollo and Here Come the Warm Jets, as the pinnacle of Eno’s output. What is it? It’s ambient piano soundscapes. Now, before you decide to bring up your lunch into the nearest possible facility, you only need to know that this is Eno at the wheels, and not a New Age shuckster. ‘Nuff said? Thought so.