Thursday, May 28, 2009

Aaah... the well has never truly run dry. This is the only footage I've ever seen of the Screamers live at the Masque in '77, and whilst it's a little rough, it's also well worth a viewing if you're a fan, as the band blazes their way through a few of their best songs. On a bit of an LA punk kick (yeah, again...) as I've just viewed a pretty great Zeros DVD I got as a freebie today, which also has some fantastic footage of them on morning TV in '77, as well as a recent interview w/ the Phast Freddie (who comes across really well, kinda like an elder statesmen rock 'n' roll beatnik with a clue. By golly, I hope I can make it into my 50s with that much dignity intact).

FLIPPER - Love/Fight 2CD
I kinda have a vested interest in this, since the company I work for has just licensed the two brand new Flipper albums - the studio disc, Love, and the live disc, Fight - due to my pestering, and put them together as a 2CD set to mark their debut Australian tour starting next week. Best of all, the albums are GREAT. You didn't think American Grafishy was any good? Did you even listen to it? I thought not. I can't wait to see 'em. I feel like I'm 15 again. Actually, I screenprinted my own Flipper t-shirt when I was 15, so I might dig it out for the occasion and use it as a hanky. Hope to see you at the shows!

Monday, May 18, 2009

This blog shall forever remain an empty vessel until every nth-rate SST band has been tackled, and on that note, let's discuss NYC's Das Damen. And the first thing I'd like to say is that the band known as Das Damen, one whom I recall being mercilessly derided by the likes of Steve Albini at the time (nice one, Steve, but I tried re-listening to Big Black a few years back and it merely sounded like a NIN/Marilyn Manson tribute act. Sorry), were not an nth-rate act. Certainly not A-grade, for sure, but one I can still listen to in '09, a good 21 years after I first bought the records of theirs I own, 1987's Jupiter Eye and '88's Triskaidekaphobe, and that's gotta be sayin' somethin'.
The band started out in NY in '84 and pretty soon caught the ears of one Thurston Moore, who released their debut, self-titled 12" EP on his own Ecstatic Peace label. It was later reissued by SST label once they signed the band in '87 and released their debut full-lengther, Jupiter Eye. Although criticised for its poor production and likely selling next to zip, you could do a whole lot worse than pick it up if you ever catch a glimpse of it in a bargain bin (which is likely where you'll find it). And the same could be said for the follow-up, '88's Triskaidekaphobe. The former's got a major Sonic Youth fixation thing a-happenin': think Bad Moon Rising/Evol w/ a heavier, metallic glow not unlike Dinosaur Jr.'s stoner-boogie that was taking the u/ground by storm at the time. Fact is, there's some really great songs here: the two that close out side one, "Where They All Want" and "Name Your Poison", are terrific slabs of late '80s US u/ground rock which, whilst not re-writing the songbook of rock 'n' roll (DD were, as said, totally in the ballpark of post-hardcore SST grunge-rock), warrant repeat listens and have the hooks and songwriting skills to leave you wanting more. And as for the supposedly poor production: sounds fine to me. Maybe Jim Steinman was on holidays or something.
Triskaidekaphobe has cleaner production and steers a little from the SY-style NYC art-fuzz of the debut and delves heavier into a kinda psych-glam mode, sounding a lot like a Dinosaur Jr./Redd Kross hybrid. Hey, it was 1988, so think Neurotica/You're Living All Over Me, 'k? The first three numbers slay me: "Spiderbirds", "Reverse Into Tomorrow" and "Pendant". Primo punk/metal/psych/glam with a wall of distortion and the right riffage to deliver the goods.
Which leaves me wondering: have Sonic Youth, Dinosaur Jr. or Redd Kross written and recorded songs as great as these in the last 15 years? I only say this because I have never in my life met anyone who's cared one iota for this band. NOT IN THE LEAST. Even in this one-horse town, I have met folks who have - completely independent of me and my rantings over the years - bowed down to such esoteric entities often praised by moi such as Dawson, Pell Mell and Slovenly... but never, EVER Das Damen. Let's get the facts straight: DD aren't the kind of band people should get crazy about - I merely believe they remain a decent but forgotten band who released at least two fine albums in their time (their follow-up, on Twin/Tone, after being booted off SST for a lawsuit involving Michael Jackson's lawyers [Google it if you care], is supposedly a turkey, and I remember it clogging up bargain bins in a major way at the dawn of the '90s) and since said albums will cost you next to nothing (I know coz I checked ebay this afternoon), then I'm recommending the plunge be taken. There were lots of flat-out "bad" underground rock albums released in the US in the late '80s, and neither of these fit that category. Not even close. Had the band released these albums 5 years later, when the general marketplace was a little more open to all things loud, fuzzy, distorted and long-haired, they might've even sold a few records.
The things you find when you're aimlessly browsing the 'net whilst trying to stay sane hanging around the house for 3 weeks w/ a 2 y/o and new-born in tow. The above is one. That's AZALIA SNAIL. You mighta heard of her. She was based in NYC for many years, though she now lives in California and has been releasing records for two decades. I interviewed her for my fanzine back in '94/'95 coz I was convinced her two albums from the early '90s - 1992's Burnt Sienna and 1994's Fumarole Rising - were some of the finest records of their era. They were. Ms. Snail was the queen of the lush psych sound, all strummed 'n' echoed acoustic guitars, layered vocals, wigged-out keyboards and the kinda songs - hooks 'n' all - which made you want to spin her records for days. I'm having a hard time thinking of anyone I could compare her to. She remains in a league of her own, so I won't pull the usual B-grade rock crit move and simply list a whole buncha other artists. Or perhaps I will. Her "contemporaries" were the likes of Supreme Dicks, (early) Sebadoh, Trumans Water and the New Zealand school of drone-pop, so maybe that'll give you a ballpark to play in. I basically lost interest in contemporary music from 1996 to 2000 and concentrated on back-catalogue shenanigans instead (and don't accuse me of being a burnout: just the last week I've been a-floggin' Eddy Current Suppression Ring, The Necks, Zombi, Sunn O))) and David S. Ware: ALL MUSIC OF THESE TIMES, thank you), and some artists I'd been tracking heavily for the first half of the '90s I let go, never picking up the pieces of their "career" in the meantime. Azalia Snail was one of them. For now I'll stick w/ the well-worn classics, though there's a smorgasboard of post-'94 goodies I might need to jump into one of these days. The lady's a goddamn original and deserves yer time.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

YAWNING SONS - Ceremony to the Sunset CD
This will finally be out on Lexicon Devil mid June! YAWNING SONS = Gary Arce from YAWNING MAN playing, writing and recording in collaboration with UK instrumental riff-laden cosmic rockers SONS OF ALPHA CENTAURI. Add in some vocals from Wendy Rae Fowler (Earthlings?/Mark Lanegan Band), Scott Reeder (Obsessed/Goatsnake/Kyuss) and Mario Lalli (Ten East/Fatso Jetson) and you've got a superb mix of sounds which, to these ears, brings to mind Can, early Sonic Youth, Pink Floyd, Meat Puppets, My Bloody Valentine and a buncha other stuff. You like.

Monday, May 04, 2009

You may've seen this one before, but I'm posting it if only to remind everyone just what a band the Screamers were: one of the best. Ever. I'm on a Screamers kick again. For one, I found an old cassette buried in a box in the closet which was made for me over 10 years ago by my buddy Richard Mason from the UK. The tape in question has a slew of Screamers demo tracks, live cuts and some real obscurities not found on some of the more common boots floating around from the band (actually, on closer inspection, the tape also has a buncha stuff from Scritti Politti, Desperate Bicycles and The Homosexuals on the B-side... what a couple of art-fags!), and it's been a constant companion on the road of late. Their combination of punk aggression, over-the-top theatrics and European-style avant-electronics - equal parts Neu! and Goblin - has me thinking what mighta happened had they "made it" and recorded that album Eno was rumoured to be interested in producing...
On a related note, I watched another punk rock movie the other night, and I'm pleased to say that it was a more affable experience than when I recently sat through the godawful What We Do Is Secret (see below). The movie is entitled Population: 1, and whilst I'm not saying I'll be revisiting the thing a whole lot for repeat viewings, if you're a total dork for classic American punk rock and all of the ephemera surrounding it (and if you read this blog, you probably are), then I'd say that this one's worth the investment, since it's finally been issued on DVD w/ a bonus disc featuring lots of hot stuff you might dig, even if the movie doesn't flip yer wig. The film in question was directed by LA-via-Holland transplant Rene Daalder, an interesting character who was originally asked by Malcom McLaren to help script the film project he envisioned making in the late '70s w/ Russ Meyer (the Sex Pistols biopic which was quickly canned when everyone decided that Meyer was just a tits-loving redneck w/ zero sympathy for the 'Pistols' brand of anarchic noise... what did they expect??). Daalder became tight w/ Tomata and the Screamers after catching them in a club show in the late '70s, and he and Tomata worked on this film for a number of years in the early '80s, before it finally saw (very) limited release in 1986 and then disappeared. It's been described as a "punk rock opera detailing the life and times of the 20th century as seen through the eyes of Tomata", and a cross between Zappa's 200 Motels and Heironymous Bosch, and whilst neither description sounds like a blast of a time, there's something to recommend here. For one, there's the abundance of cheesy visual effects throughout - effects which were totally cutting edge at the time (and in the bonus features, Daalder seems kinda miffed that he "pioneered" this music-video look which was then pinched by MTV and a thousand others a few years later), Tomata singing, dancing and telling his story for 70 minutes (something which is much better than it sounds) and guest appearances by Penelope Houston from the Avengers (always one of punk's sexiest ladies, but by golly, that New Wave track she mimes is a turkey!), the Mentors' El Duce (before his biker/scumbag/GG Allin makeover; he looks like a dork), Fluxus artist Al Henson (a buddy of both Tomata and Daalder) and his young nephew, Beck (yep, that guy), as well as other folks from LA's fertile post-punk scene of the time. Like I said, if you've got zip interest in CLASSIC LA PUNK, I'd say you'll last about a minute. Others should apply. What's certainly worth a look is the bonus footage of the Screamers playing at the Whiskey in '79, footage I've never seen anywhere else, a surprising fact when you consider what's managed to make its way onto Youtube the last few years. I give it a week before the concert in question is posted up there (or perhaps it already is). There's also lots of interviews, outtakes, clips etc. to keep you busy. My verdict is that Population: 1 is worth the time and money, though you are aware of my bias' here...
No time for much else writin' 'round here. The addition to the household is keeping us all much busier than expected, which means that perhaps one day I'll talk about some discs by the likes of William Parker (his latest, Double Sunrise Over Neptune, is an excellent foray into Alice Coltrane/Don Cherry/Pharoah Sanders spiritual/ethno-jazz and you should get it), the UK's Honey Ride Me A Goat (excellent Beefheart/Minutemen/Sharrock power-trio racket), Suicide's 2nd album (a timely revisit has me now pondering just how great it really is), Psychic TV's debut effort (another good follow-up) and the new Dr. Boogie comp' on Sub Rosa: 26 Deranged and Smokin' Cool Cats, an ace collection of ultra-rare rockabilly from 1954-'59 which has me thinking how many unbelievably great similar discs there must be in Lux and Ivy's collection... and how much I'd love to hear it all. Stay tuned!