Friday, February 08, 2008

RANDOM RAMBLINGS...

Watched the new EX DVD last night: Building A Broken Moustrap: Live in NYC 2004 (Touch & Go). Well, I say it's "new", which it is, but I'm also pretty sure it's their first foray into live DVD documents. Directed by Jem Cohen and Matt Boyd, who were also behind that Fugazi film, Instrument (which I still haven't seen), it's essentially a live concert film of the band playing at the Knitting Factory on September the 11th, 2004, with cutaway footage of NYC street scenes between songs. Which I guess makes it a "film". I wish it could've been much longer, with at least an interview or two from the band, though the live footage kept me transifixed for the 62-minute duration time, which is quite a feat, since live-footage DVDs even from bands I love tend to bore me after normally 15 minutes. The Ex have been around since 1979, which means: A) their musicianship is second-to-none and prone to stop-on-a-dime stops and starts which would make James Brown proud; and B) they look like a bunch of middle-aged Dutch social workers cutting loose for the night. I am now in total awe of the drumming prowess of Katherina Ex, as she barely breaks a sweat throughout, and if you're a keen observer, you'll see none other than Melbourne's two finest drummers - Evelyn (AKA Pikelet, Baseball, True Radical Miracle) and Max (Agents Of Abhorrence and a zillion other outfits) - in the audience ogling her multi-limbed antics. One for the fans and another goddamn music DVD to throw on the shelf. Catching this has once again had me digging through my CD rack to pull out a well-worn copy of The Ex and Tom Cora's Scrabbling At The Lock, a BIG fave of mine from '92-'95, and hail it as one of the finest albums of the '90s, and one I probably shoulda thrown into that Top 100 Albums Of All Time nonsense I published on this very screen about a year back.... There's a fellow on 3RRR, an elder statesman of Melbourne radio prone to waffling and rants about head-trips, peeling yourself off the ceiling, mind-fucks and all varieties of old-school hippie vernacular when describing some of the music he plays and loves. Sometimes he even gets it right. Lately, he's been playing tracks from STARS OF THE LID's newest effort, a double CD by the name of And Their Refinement Of The Decline on the Kranky label. He'd play a couple of long tracks in a row, and after I'd peeled myself from the celing and dusted myself off, I realised he may be onto a good thing. 's kinda funny I should be talking about this; SOTL and their hombres on the Kranky label have usually been the objects of my derision the last decade, and I can't for the life of me figure out why, since I bought the label's debut release, Labradford's Prazision CD, when it first came out and raved about it to anyone within earshot for a good few years. Then the gimmick wore off and I dismissed the label's entire roster as a bunch of indie-ambient dorks best left for the cardigan set, and dutifully ignored everything they did. In hindsight, that was probably pretty fucking stupid, and all too typical of my blanket dismissal of various schools of sound I've barely bothered to even lend an ear to (see, at least I admit it!). Much like that debut Labradford platter - which still sounds great, by the way - SOTL, a Texan electronic duo, take the basic template of Eno's barely-shifting sheets of sound from the '70s/'80s (both Discreet Music and Music For Airports will do) and drag it out over two discs. Actually, if you include their entire catalogue, it's a lot more than that. I've heard the SOTL name bandied about for years, but have only now taken the plunge. I'm glad I did. There's not a whole lot happening here; waves of sound drone in and out, but like Eno's finest works back in the heyday, there appears to be a purpose to each note, and none of it ever gets washed out into New Age sepiatone. Pretty OK stuff by me, that's for sure... Whenever there's a new issue of UGLY THINGS mag on the racks, it's time to celebrate. I was accused of damning Mike Stax and his beloved creation with faint praise some 6 months ago when I announced my great love of the mag, yet gave a faltering recommendation based on the belief that Stax's (over-)extended coverage of various acts was undermining an otherwise fine publication. Well, that may've been the case, but for me, the latest issue has amended that situation a bit and stands as possibly the best issue I've ever read (which is seriously only about half-a-dozen or so, and the one w/ the unbelievably foul and hilarious interview w/ Kim Fowley from the early '00s is still my fave). The balance is perfect: an excellent, and previously unpublished, interview w/ the MC5's Rob Tyner, in which he comes across as a whole lot more intelligent and likeable than that fuggin' egomaniac dimwit, Wayne Kramer; an article/interview w/ famed '60s/'70s Brit folk-rock outfit, Trees (whose albums you should own and enjoy... actually, I don't own them, but have always enjoyed them when they've been played to me); the complete story of Billy Childish's late '70s band, The Pop Rivets; '60s garage obscurities are taken care of w/ The Sons Of Adam, The Floggs and a look at the early Norwegian rock/beat scene (inc. cheezewiz ECM guitarist, Terje Rypdal, back in his psych days!), and a goddamn mountain of CD, DVD and book reviews. Hey, you even get an article from my pal Chris Stigliano on Jap psych-wonder, Les Ralliez Denudes, and he goes to prove he can certainly pen a very decent article on music when not cluttering up every second sentence on how gays/feminists/hippies/liberals/Family Ties/Nirvana/Ed Asner have ruined Western civilisation as we know it, and how we'd have a much better society if we all just recognised the genius humour of Gomer Pyle and Gilligan's Island. Damn! The centrepiece for moi was the article penned by everybody's favourite nerdbag record-hoarder/braggart, Johan Kugelberg, in which he nonsensically tries to explain the unsung precedents to the punk rock explosion of '76. It runs the gamut of everything from the Electric Eels to the Count Bishops to the Coloured Balls to Hawkwind, and certainly brought up a few pertinent points, such as: A) What's the beef he has w/ Sonic Youth?! He seems intent on running their names into the dirt at every given opportunity like a jilted lover. Wouldn't Thurston sell him his "Little Johnny Jewel" test pressing or something?; B) Johan's had a sudden hard-on for mid-'70s UK pub rock, so much so I was almost excited to hear all those Ducks Deluxe, Kilburn and the Highroads and Dr. Feelgood records he speaks of... then I remembered the "other" Dave Laing trying to sell me on that shit a few years back; I tried some of it out and very quickly realised that most of it blew like the wind. Maybe those live bootlegs have something the studio efforts are missing; C) Boasting that you'd gladly pay US$1,500.00 for a Japanese 7" in a magazine only makes you sound like you've got too much $ and not enough sense (but that's just me...); and D) How the fuck does seeing the Sex Pistols play in the year 2003 amount to a "proto-punk" experience??!! The article kinda sinks under the weight of its own BS by the time it concludes, though I kinda get the feeling that was the point. Whatever the case, for me it was the highlight of the issue, and for all Johan's obscene obnoxiousness, I always like to read what's on his mind and turntable. Ugly Things is now out bi-annually and it's nice to see that Stax can scrape a living out of his passion. It's 226 pages jampacked w/ info w/ nary a mean streak in sight. It's about drooling fandom, excitement and a love of music, and coming from a bunch of old geezers -and if you look at the line-up of contributors I think it's safe to say it is almost strictly the domain of old geezers - that's extremely impressive. In the age of fly-by-night blogging, a publication like Ugly Things makes me ashamed of being merely a member of the digitally-based "zine scene"...

No comments: