Monday, October 30, 2006

PORTER WAGONER - The Rubber Room CD (Omni Recording Corporation)
A couple of things you should know here... Firstly, I wrote a few paragraphs the other day reappraising the recorded works of Slint, saved it and have now abandoned it for the time being. Who gives a fuck about Slint in this day and age? You only need to know this: their first album was an OK-ish work-in-progress effort which, in hindsight, sounds like a zillion other records from the era; their Spiderland LP and posthumous self-titled EP still sound fantastic and like no other band before or since; they inspired a gazillion douchebags to pick up instruments and imitate their moves with a slow/loud/quiet schtick and none of them quite matched it. Australia had a glut of such bands throughout the mid '90s, as I'm guessing your country/city/town did, too, and thankfully not too many of them are still actively recording. Case closed.

Secondly, I'd like to urge you to check out this Porter Wagoner CD. I'll come clean about this CD, since I've recently been informed that I do indeed have an Australian readership (for whatever reason I figured no-one from this great land even knew about this blog). The confession: it is my day job to sell this CD to stores. That is what I do for a living, and the company I work for pays me well. There, it's been said. I have, over the last 3 or more years, written about many such releases on labels like Smithsonian Folkways, Yazoo, Revenant, Trojan, Water, etc. Never take such reviews as being part of a press junket. I simply write about the music which engages me, excites me and makes me want to tell the world about them. Fact is, 95% of the music I'm exposed to is the stuff I have to sell; there's only so much room in this head of mine to absorb this thing called music, and it's mostly used up by the time I consider actively going to record stores to search out something new. Glad that's out the way...

Omni is a terrific new-ish label owned and operated by local electronic/experimental/soundtrack dude of some repute, David Thrussell. It's a new imprint designed for him to indulge his love of weird and/or forgotten country/singer-songwriter music of yesteryear and give it the deluxe reissue treatment. So far his roster has been so spot on I'm tempted to name it as one of my favourite new labels of the last 12 months. Only 6 releases thus far, but they're all worth your time and trouble: Henson Cargill, Jimmy Driftwood, Jack Blanchard & Misty Morgan, Bobby Bare, John D. Loudermilk and Mr. Wagoner.

The cover and title is a good indication of the musical direction of the CD: anxious, eccentric, surreal, corny, earnest and perhaps affected by too much booze and drugs. Wagoner was big news in country music in the '50s and '60s. He had a few huge hits in the '50s w/ his tunes - a strange mix of "authentic" Hank-derived boogie and showbiz-tinted dross - though it was his TV music-variety show in the '60s which really made him a star. Later on he boosted Dolly Parton's career into the lofty heights which it still enjoys and even appeared in Clint Eastwood's 1981 flick, Honkytonk Man, though to cut a long story short, he's essentially been missing in action for a good 30 years now.

The Rubber Room curates his best material from 1966-'77 and, whilst it took a few listens to sink in, is now flying high as one of my favourite reissue releases of 2006. If you're a country purist (do you know any?) who simply wants the grit w/out the glamour, then look elsewhere. His best material here, such as the truly demented title track (w/ reverbed vocals as he hollers "the rubber-r-r-r room-m-m"), "George Leroy Chickashea" (the story of a man, part white, part black, part Indian, hence the make-up of his name), "Shopworn" (a great metaphor for enroaching middle age) and "Out Of The Silence (Came A Song)" (more loneliness and despair) possess a piercing honesty which, though at first they may make you chuckle w/ their cornball kitschiness, repeated listens bring to light the absolute gut-level honesty and sense of personal expression these songs possess. I won't attempt the longest bow-draw in written history and hail this as street-level proto-punk, though I will state that, beneath the bad jumpsuits and hilarious album covers (featured in the booklet), Porter Wagoner was a pretty right-on confessional singer-songwriter w/ a bizarre and brilliant lyrical cache, and with no bow being drawn whatsoever, if you're as terminally obsessed w/ Scott Walker's first four LPs as I am (the closest musical/lyrical comparison I can orbit here), then The Rubber Room may just prove to be the musical revelation of 2006.


1) THURSTON MOORE IS OK BY ME. Why? Because he's personally picked the roster for what may just prove to be the music festival of the goddamn century. Dig the line-up for the Nightmare Before Christmas here. Stooges, MC5 (OK, possibly not so exciting in the year 2006), Sun City Girls, Negative Approach(!!!), Melvins, Nurse With Wound, Flipper, Dead C., The Haters (sheez, I used to love those guys) and much more. If you can book a ticket, do it now.
2) ARIA AWARDS. If you speak in a funny accent you may not know what the ARIA Awards are. They are, in essence, the Australian Grammys. Yeah, that good. One piece of good news came in last night, drowning in a sea of misery: The Necks won Best Jazz Album of 2006 for their Chemist CD. Hooray for them, seriously.
3) R.I.P. IAN RILEN. X front dude and all-round rock good-guy, Ian Rilen, passed away this morning from cancer. It was a long time coming and not exactly a shock since it was widely known, due to various recent benefits, that his health was in dire straits, though his musical output, if only for the first two X LPs (and the Live At The Civic release on Dropkick - well worth getting), is well worth paying tribute to. It's a shameful confession, but in all the years I loved X - and that's 20 - I only ever saw them once. That was January 1999 at the Greyhound Hotel when they played a headline extravaganza on a stinking hot night. The crowd was so drunk, so raucous, so hot and so pumped up for the headline act - and you can put me under all 3 banners, too - that the entire venue completely erupted when they crashed into their set of classic, older songs. It still stands as the only gig I have ever attended where I actually, literally, swung from the rafters of the venue. A-fuckin'-men to that!


1) X - X-Aspirations LP
2) George Harrison - Wonderwall Music CD
3) Yoko Ono - Fly 2CD
4) Charles Mingus - Live in Antibes CD
5) Fairport Convention - Unhalfbricking LP
6) Flamin' Groovies - Shake Some Action CD
7) Nurse With Wound - Spiral Insana CD
8) Junior Kimbrough - All Night Long LP
9) Melvins - Bullhead LP
10) David S. Ware Quartet - Wisdom of Uncertainty CD

Thursday, October 19, 2006

2006 is nearly over - musically, at least. Nothing of any note ever gets released in December, so that leaves us w/ just over a month of goodies (and otherwise) to peruse. I'm in the queue for a ltd., deluxe version of that Boris/SunnO))) CD when it hits town next week, and I'm expecting it to slay (either that or I'm just wasting my time and money), and there's still the soon-to-be-released Eddy Current Suppression Ring full-length LP/CD (I heard an unmastered version months back - being down w/ the fucking kids as I am - though I'll give it the full spiel upon release... needless to say, it'll be in this list by year's end, 'k?) and Ornette disc I'll have next week, but other than that I think the bulk of my faves for the year are already set. Then again I'm drawing a blank and my memory is getting faulty these days. Let's see if this list changes and/or expands...

VARIOUS ARTISTS - The Stuff That Dreams Are Made Of 2CD (Yazoo)
Super-rare country/blues/roots for the geeks, as collected by the good people at Yazoo
THE NECKS - The Chemist CD (Fish Of Milk)
Not the best from this Australian trio, but still miles ahead of the pack
WILLIAM PARKER - Long Hidden: The Olmec Series CD (Aum Fidelity)
See below
SCOTT WALKER - The Drift (4AD)
Triumphant return from this Yankee-turned-limey elder statesman. Best disc from him since Scott 4, says I
BRIAN TAIRAKU RITCHIE - Ryoanji CD (Thylacine)
Here's one waaay out of left field: a solo (or trio, perhaps) album from the bass player of the Violent Femmes. Am I kidding? Nope. Never been a fan of the 'Femmes, even as a young man, but this is a simply incredible album, self-released by the man. The set-up: Ritchie on shakuhachi (a 2-foot-long Japanese flute, if you will) w/ acoustic bass and drums playing otherwordly "jazz" w/ a heavy Far Eastern bent. Throw in some unexpected covers of both Steve Lacy and John Cage and you've got a hidden gem. I'm beginning to sound like a broken record, but if you're partial to the sounds of Eno, Don Cherry, Alice Coltrane, etc., don't be afraid to take the trip.
TENGIR-TOO - Music of Central Asia Vol. 1: Mountain Music of Kyrgyzstan CD/DVD (Folkways)
I don't mean to be so esoteric, it's just that sometimes it comes out that way. Throw into the blender a steady mix of Jew's harp, village chants, loopy percussion and various stringed instruments I'll never be able to pronounce correctly, wrap it in a package to rival Revenant in its beauty and - hey, what the hell - throw in a bonus DVD disc giving the viewer the history of the given music, and that's this release in a long, convoluted sentence. There's 3 in the series and you need them all.
MOONDOG - The Viking of Sixth Avenue CD (Honest Jon's Records)
Excellent overview detailing the long and eccentric career of NYC's greatest and only Viking poet-musician. A fair bit of this is culled from other, readily available releases, though there's still a good dozen tracks never before encountered, and the sequencing and all-round attention to detail make this a 2006 winner.

Now, tell me: was there any good rock 'n' roll released in 2006? Of course there was... it just didn't manage to reach these ears. I'll update this on December 31st at 11:59, that I promise! Until then, this is a forum, so remind and/or inform me of all the great fucking music I'm blissfully ignoring.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

I've been on vacation for the last 3 or more weeks. Not a real vacation, just a vacation from the 'net, blogs, etc. Also, my computer has been rooted and I'm in dire need of upgrading my account, since it's obvious now that w/ a heavy schedule of YouTube viewing being par for the course, I'll need to get more bandwidth post haste.

An absolutely stupid pile of stuff has landed on my doorstep of late. Maybe one day I'll get around to doing them some real justice. In the meantime, I'm going to breezily skip over a couple of them in brief summaries.

DINOSAUR JR. - You're Living All Over Me/Bug CDs (Merge)
Time to feel like I'm 16/17 all over again. I foolishly sold my LP copies of these years back, after being so disheartened by the sad (and fairly quick) decline of the band and figuring I'd never want to hear even their good, earlier albums ever again. All is forgiven. When was the last time I heard these? '94? '95? I only received these in the mail 24 hours ago and I'm reconverted all over again. Powerhouse hardcore/psych/metal/goth/sludge rock which, so far as that genre goes, has never been surpassed. And for the record, I think Bug is the better of the two, no matter what lame crap I may've spouted in that goddamn SST article years back, one which will haunt me 'til the day I die. Yes, Ginn did write to me to call me an asshole. True story.

ARTHUR RUSSELL - World Of Echo CD (Audika)
Blow me the fuck down. This one has sent me in a tailspin. Arthur Russell is a name I've been hearing a lot over the last few years, especially since the good people at Soul Jazz released a comp' of his works a year or two back. When he was summed up as being a now-deceased gay avant-garde musician from '80s NY who dabbled in performance music and disco, I was prepared for the worst. What would I get? Kid Creole and the Coconuts meets Laurie Anderson w/ perhaps a smidgen of Quentin Crisp? His music is, from all reports, a schizophrenic mixed bag, though the bag featured here is one I'll be keeping. This does not sound like it emanates from '80s chi-chi post-No Wave downtown NY. In fact, it doesn't sound even remotely American or '80s. World Of Echo concentrates on Russell's avant-pop, accompanied mostly by only a cello and a bevy of effects pedals. I'm reminded vocally and stylistically of both John Martyn and Nick Drake, with the instrumentation sounding like it could've been handpicked from an old '60s Euro avant platter likely residing in Stephen Stapleton's vast collection. More to the point, the tunes are achingly beautiful, catchy and awesomely stark. His output may be infuriatingly eclectic, and I won't give a verdict on his other records, but this one gets a definite thumbs up.

WILLIAM PARKER - Long Hidden: The Olmec Series CD (Aum Fidelity)
Jazz album of the year! Mr. Parker keeps everyone guessing and no-one gets the question right. This time around he's pulled together a totally unexpected mix: solo bass, both plucked and scraped, and a series of pieces played w/ the Olmec Group, a combo of musicians who... ugh, well, if you want the whole story, read here, as on that very page you will read the whole story: musical and cultural barriers being crossed and melded, the great civilisations of Western African and the Mayan people and much more. It's a nice story, but more to the point, there's this CD and the music contained within. It is, if anything, a musical update on the ethno-jazz Don Cherry was pioneering in the late '60s/early '70s (the Mu/Orient/Eternal Rhythms/Blue Lake/Organic Music Society group of albums I've attempted to champion throughout the last 18 months), in which Parker mixes up avant-jazz w/ traditional African and Olmec (re: native Central American) instrumentation. Therefore, all you need to know is this: if you ever popped a cork to this aforementioned Cherry discs, or a good half-a-dozen titles from the Ethiopiques series, then you may wanna make the purchase. I haven't heard too much jazz actually released in the year 2006, but if there's a better one than this, I'd like to hear it.

GUN CLUB - The Las Vegas Story/Mother Juno CDs (both Sympathy)
I attempted to court controversy a few months back when I hailed the Gun Club's Miami as infinitely superior to their widely-hailed debut, Fire Of Love. Due to the total lack of outrage amongst the general populace, I can only assume that A) everyone agrees or B) no-one cares or C) no-one read it. But anyway, now we head on to the band's 3rd and 4th albums, from 1984 and 1987, respectively.
The Las Vegas Story is the pick of the two. Musically it's not too dissimilar from Miami, except to say that the guitars are a bit "heavier" (possibly due to the fact that Chris Stein didn't produce this, a man who was supposedly averse to "hard rock") and the songwriting perhaps one tenth of a notch down the totem pole of its predecessor. Which of course is not insinuating this to be a dud by any stretch. It features some first-rate material: the upbeat slide-guitar romps of "Eternity Is Here" and "My Dreams", the uber-'80s Big Chorus yelp on "The Stranger In Our Town" and the mid-tempo piercing guitar screeches on "Bad America"(best track here). There's also a kinda mediocre take on Gershwin's "My Man's Gone Now" and a not-entirely-successful attempt to convert Pharoah Sanders' masterful "The Creator Has A Master Plan" epic into a 2-minute rock song, but I admire the courage and the fact that they even bothered (Pharoah being covered in 1984 by a Rock Band?! I thought it couldn't be done). Hate to get all Christgau on you, but I'm giving this an A-.
I remember there being a whole lotta hoopla over Mother Juno back in '87 when it first came out. I was but a 15-year-old putz, but I heard it plastered all over 3RRR in ol' Melbourne town at the time, dutifully wore the needle out on my collection of fist-shaking hardcore instead and happily ignored the buzz. Those Cramps wannabes are still around?! Hmmph... who cares? Apparently a lot of people did. This was considered a "return to form", after all. Huh? Like there was something wrong w/ the previous two albums? I think not. This is pretty OK, helped along by a couple of outstanding tracks early in the piece, though also weighed down by a bit of light-weight foppery in the middle. First thing you need to know: Robin Guthrie of the Cocteau Twins produced this, and his nancy-boy hands are printed all over it. This is especially so in "The Breaking Hands", a track which caused my workmate to turn to me as it played and utter with a sarcastic grin, "This must've been the period when Jeffrey Lee Pierce discovered the majesty of Morrissey". Yeah, it's got that icky, thin-as-a-rake '80s schtick happening w/ the guitars and I don't like it one bit. It's only one track, but if I was Long Gone John I would've released this - sans that number - and marketed it as a "Special Edition" or some such nonsense. Would've made for a more pleasant listen. But in fairness, I absolutely love the first three tracks, "Bill Bailey", "Thunderhead" (15 years after the fact, I finally realise that The Onyas didn't write this song) and "Lupita Screams" (JLP trying to cop a Hendrix groove, and it's pulled off nicely), and things pick up again near the end. Not essential, but if you want to be a completist for the '80s stuff, this is worth the gamble. That's a B from me, thanks.