Tuesday, October 20, 2009



OVER-REACTION OF THE WEEK...


THIS (from the I-94 Bar blog):

"We'll get to reviewing the "1971" Stooges disc set on Easy Action in a week or so but here's some blather from Blog To Comm."

RESULTED IN THIS (from you-know-who):

"TWO WEEK LATER POSTSCRIPT THAT I KNOW ALL OF YOU BLOG TO COMM FANS WOULD WANT TO GET IN ON THE KNOW ABOUT: Some of you may have arrived at this post via a link up via a blog called THE BARMAN'S RANT which for all practical purposes is an offshoot of the long-running "I-94" website which features a variety of rock-related items mostly of a Detroit high energy rock or Australian derivation thereof. Anyhow, for some maybe not-so-occult reason the purveyor of this particular blog, a gent whose name escapes me at this moment, decided to link the above Stooges review up on his blog which on the surface sounded just swimmingly well, at least until the point where he decides to use the not-so-descriptive adjective "blather" in order to attempt drilling another asshole into my well-protected hiney. It makes me wonder why he decided to link my piece up in the first place (other than he, a friend and follower of noted backstabber Ken Shimamoto, undoubtedly wanted to join in on the BTC bashing that has been so in vogue these past few decades), and worse yet, the entire drama makes me ponder the purpose of this particular piece of humanity wanting to become a follower of BLOG TO COMM other than to somehow provoke a confrontation between us, which if in fact he wants one is something he no doubt will be getting much to his chagrin.

Needless to say I've tried (unsuccessfully) to remove "the Barman" from the above list of "followers", and yeah if the guy is pushing buttons and wants to tangle for whatever socially/politically conscious reason he may I'm more than willing to chop off his head for my eye. Remember, this button pushes back, and if in fact you do want to start something with me I'm not going to back off any. Y'see, I always did like sending ineffectual effetes to their doom y'know..."

***************

POSTSCRIPT:

Go here for the most laughably self-serving repudiation from Mr. Stigliano (especially the second paragraph; apparently it was Craig being the over-reacting paranoiac, not Chris) to this whole embarrassment. It should've been headlined, "Aaaww, Mom, he MADE me do it!".

Saturday, October 17, 2009

You're probably thinking I must be really struggling if I'm going to bother penning ink, so to speak, on an honest-to-God INDIE-ROCK album like Sebadoh's third outing, correct? Really, isn't that the kinda recording folks waste their lives reading the whitebread outpourings of collegiate shmucks at Pitchfork for? Well, you're way off the mark. I'd love to spill the beans on some kick-arse jazz I've been devouring lately - everything from David S. Ware to semi-legit Don Cherry discs to the pensive clink of early Bill Evans - or the scorch of early jump-blues party starters such as Louis Jordan and Rosco Gordon (that's the goods!) or even to waste your time on all manner of ethno nonsense which has taken my fancy the last 24 months, most notably everything by Ali Farka Toure and a few smatterings of sound c/o Malian kora player, Toumani Diabate... but I won't!! Nope, I'm going to talk about III instead, for one simple reason: it's brilliant.
I bought the original Homestead CD in '92 and played it into the dirt back in the day, then promptly felt my heart sink as I saw the band turn to mush within a mere 12 months with the release of their Sub Pop debut. For myself, they simply lost the magic of what made them so unique, special and fucking weird. Their first three albums were most definitely not the spewings of your average rock band, but instead contained the rage and ill-humour of a thousand hardcore flunkies rolled into one and the musical inventiveness of their compadres of the day: everything from Jandek to Royal Trux to the Dead C, not to mention a heavy dose of SST damage (most notably the Minutemen, and that's not just coz they cover "Sickles & Hammers"). By the time they were shifting 100s of 1,000s of units with Bakesale, I could care less. I sold the Homestead CD in The Great Cull of '99 and, just last week, feeling in a nostalgic mood and spotting the Domino 2CD reissue from a few years back in a bargain bin for a mere $14.99, I took the gamble, hoping to rekindle the magic. It's still there.
III is a masterpiece, an amazing, scattershot selection of post-HC/SST undie rock which still stands out as one of the finest records of its day, seriously. What made Sebadoh work - and that includes their first two albums, The Freed Man and Weed Forestin' (when "they" were essentially a no-fi folk duo) - was the incredible sarcasm and bitterness of the lyrics, most of it by Lou Barlow and aimed squarely at J. Mascis, but much of it also detailing the awkwardness of being a natural-born fuck-up, as well as the combination of folk harmonies on the more stripped-down songs and killer (and totally non-generic) hooks and twisted guitar lines on the rockier numbers. The opener, "The Freed Pig", a barbed, spiteful attack on J. Mascis (they've obviously made up or realised that recording and touring as a reformed Dinosaur Jr. for the rest of their lives sure beats working for a living), possesses the kinda smart-alec lines I'll remember for future arguments w/ folks who are spoilin' for a fight: "So self-righteous, yet never right; so laid back, yet so uptight". Zapping my self back in time, I can see why this album hit so hard when it did: I was the most wound-up, misanthropic, insufferable a-hole one would ever come across, and III is the soundtrack to such a state of mind. It's 17 years later and, whilst most folks who know me would still say I've got a permanent bug up my butt about somethin', I'm not entirely dissatisfied with my lot in life. Somewhere along the way, I've found a niche, a hole, maybe a rut, which I can call my own... and yet III, in its own beautiful way, still reminds me of what it's like to feel like a natural-born fuck-up, wear it as a badge of honour and bask in it. Huh. I never even mentioned the term "slacker". Within a few years this whole routine became such a cliche I disowned it for a decade or so, but the best music always rises above whatever shitty context may drown it out for a few years and give you a clip over the ears many years later and make you realise why you dug it so much in the first place. III has so many great songs - and there's 23 of them with all the peaks and valleys a great double LP should bring forth: short songs, long songs, quiet songs, loud songs - that I needn't mention them. Spinning this incessantly the last week, I can state that by halfway through, every single time it's played, I'm in awe of how every song - words and music - nails it. They sound like they could barely even care, yet somehow every song, even the half-baked ones, sound like mini-masterpieces. You probably heard it here last: Sebadoh's III is an essential set of music. I surprise myself by saying that, but I'll swear by it.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

R.I.P. Brendan Mullen
Definitely one of the good guys involved in this corrupt showcase we call "the music biz" has just left this mortal coil, age 60. In starting the legendary Masque venue in 1977, he was chief instigator, host and patron to some of the greatest goddamn noise this planet has ever heard. He's also co-responsible for two of the great books documenting classic LA punk: We Got The Neutron Bomb and Lexicon Devil (the Darby Crash oral history which should be required reading for anyone who claims an interest in punk rock or LA social history). Life, music and the universe as we know it would be a whole lot less interesting if it wasn't for Mullen and the great contributions he made.
THE NECKS - Silverwater CD (Fish Of Milk/2009)
At this point in my life, there are few artists on earth whom I genuinely get excited about when I hear they have a new album coming out. As in eagerly await its release like a teenager, wondering which new and exciting musical direction they've ventured into, knowing that I'll be getting something not just different from the last release, but something which feels like a natural progression along an artistic path whose future steps are out of my grasp. Well, you know where this is heading: The Necks are one of those bands. 20 years later and umpteen records behind 'em and they still boggle my mind. When they first caught my ear in the mid '90s they were a largely acoustic-based trio whose music sounded both live and on record like a mixture of Bill Evans and Terry Riley. It was most definitely based in the "jazz" idiom, but the lengths of the songs and the ability of the group to make its music drone made them one of a kind. Things changed by 1999 w/ Hanging Gardens. The band brought in more and more electronics to the mix, near "rock" beats to give it a pulse and things got a whole lot more "cosmic". In essence they got better. And better. The studio albums released since then: Aether, Drive-By, Mosquito/See Through and 2006's The Chemist - not mentioning the also-fantastic live albums - have been some of the greatest continuous run of releases by any recent and/or contemporary band I can think of. Lately I've become yet again re-obsessed w/ Pharoah Sanders' and Don Cherry's work from the mid '60s to the mid '70s, and I sit in awe of album upon album of greatness: Tauhid/Karma/Deaf, Dumb & Blind/Jewels Of Thought/ Black Unity/Thembi/Village Of The Pharoahs/Wisdom Through Music/Live At The East/Elevation, etc. And Cherry? Start w/ the Blue Note LPs, head on through the BYG albums, the Penderecki collaboration, the mindblowing psychedelic ethno-epics he recorded and released in Sweden and finish it up w/ Brown Rice from '75 (or the Codona LPs on ECM). The point? That's a whole lot of great music, a body of work to sink yer teeth into, and The Necks are in the same basket. Always moving forward, following their own muse and never repeating themselves. Silverwater is one 67-minute track. Unlike Aether or Drive-By or Hanging Gardens, it doesn't simply follow the same motif throughout, but twists and turns, giving you a bit of everything. In essence, it sounds like 5 different songs tacked onto each other, though it's undoubtedly one epic opus and not a pastiche of smaller ideas. The band still sound like an uncategorizable combination of Bitches Brew, Can and Steve Reich, and its their unique synthesis of these sounds which makes them so special. Think Pharoah 'n' Don ca. '65-'75, or Miles ca. '69-'75: great musical leaps into the abyss, great chunks of documented sound which still sound brilliant 30-40 years later. If you heard Jewels Of Thought or Orient or Big Fun on their own, you might be scrabbling for context, wondering what the music is trying to do: also a whole lot of fun. Throw them in w/ the dozen surrounding records and it makes perfect sense. The Necks sound a little like all of the above themselves, and similarly their albums work perfectly - one after the other - as if they're part of a bigger picture. 30-40 years time you'll be saying the same thing: what a body of work.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

PUNK ROCK NOSTALGIA-FEST '09
It wasn't official, but such an event, for all intents and purposes, existed this weekend just gone in ol' Melbourne town. In one single evening, at three separate venues, played thus: The Hard-Ons (playing a 25th-anniversary bonanza) at the Corner Hotel; UK Subs (with a 65-year-old Charlie Harper up front, no less!) at a ridiculously under-promoted show at the Arthouse (and I really dig their early records and actually would've opted for their show if there wasn't such heavy competition); and old-school Adelaide noiseniks Grong Grong at the Tote. I opted for the latter. There was also Japan's Melt Banana at the Forum Theatre, which I'd bought pre-paid tickets for a month ago, not knowing the competition at the time, but like I said to my friend whom I piked out on to see GG instead: Melt Banana - they're OK 'n' all, but on an emotional level they mean zip to me. If I miss 'em, big deal. GG were a band firmly ingrained in my mind as a band who meant a whole lot in the Lang household growing up - more so for my brother than myself - but nevertheless, they remain a defining band for a certain era. They hadn't toured for 25 years, and I was not going to miss it. It's called nostalgia.

For foreigners and other folks w/ strange accents, GG may register a blip in the memory for two things: they released a posthumous LP on Alternative Tentacles in the mid '80s (they supported the Dead Kennedys - a big-deal tour back in the day - on their Adelaide show back in '83 and apparently flipped Jello's brain), and guitarist Charlie Tolnay, one of the unsung guitar heroes of Australian post-punk, went on to form King Snake Roost in the latter half of the '80s, released a few discs on AmRep for their troubles and even toured the US at one point. I've got a bunch of those KSR rekkids buried under piles of shit somewhere in the "music room", and once I'm finished w/ typing out this nonsense, I'm gonna give 'em a spin. Here's hoping they still move the loins.

I can tells ya, back in, say, '86-'89, GG were all the rage in North Balwyn, or at least a certain pocket of that dull-beyond-words burg. That pocket was my brother's bedroom. He flogged it day and night. Grong Grong, that is. Whether I cared for the band or not - and I did - I knew their sole recording back to front. Their sound was an ultra-grimey mix of Stooges psychosis, low-end Birthday Party rumble, scratchy, jazz-tinged, note-twisting guitar squall - part Gang of Four and part Greg Ginn - and the kind of anti-social aura perfected by Flipper in the day. The only band from the era I can truly compare them to and not feel like a total numbnut scrounging for comparisons would be Scratch Acid. That's just a ballpark, not a note-for-note facsimile by any means. It was the '80s, man.

So... 1983 became 1984 and things went pear-shaped. Singer Michael Farkas OD'd and went into a 9-month coma, never fully recovering from his folly, and the band fell apart. The outfit known as Grong Grong simply existed in people's memories as, well, one of those bands. Brilliant, lost to time, you had to be there. I wasn't. But I'm glad I took the time second go 'round.

The Tote was about 2/3rds full - lots of competition there, folks - and what a leathery old mob we were. The diehards took the time and trouble and were heartily rewarded. GG are a band with a visual presence, and not in any showbiz sense of the word. I mean the kind of presence people talk about when they speak of seeing bands like the Birthday Party at their terrifying best, or Black Flag when they looked like a bunch of unshaved Manson Family beachbums (as a friend who saw them in London ca. 1984 described them). No need for any real tricks, the members in and of themselves create the atmosphere. Not that there's anything really menacing about GG, and I'm too old and jaded to be thrilled by people with music instruments trying to menace me; GG are simply a great band to watch.

Tolnay still has the fag hanging out his mouth at most hours of the day, but looks like he's taking day leave from a bikie gang; fill-in bass dude Nathan (ex-Hack, another Adelaide mob who made the Alt. Tentacles roster back in the day) has dreadlocks which just about scrape the floor; drummer George Klestinis still looks like he belongs in a rockabilly revival act and leans over his kit like it's taking his breath away (which it was); and front man and survivor Michael Farkas, essentially a paraplegic (brought on by the coma) sits on a seat centre stage, decked out in a black mesh top and leather rapist mask and barks out the brilliantly rudimentary lines known as GG lyrics, interspersed with the odd sax wailing.

The hits were there: "Louie The Fly", "Japanese Tram Driver", "Meat Axe", "Grong Grong", as well as covers of the Meteors' "The Hills Have Eyes", a nearly unrecognisable take on the MC5's "Lookin' At You" and more. The bass anchored the band, the drums played scattershot, losing their place on occasion but always (eventually) coming back to the beat, Tolnay wailed out an unholy mess of wirey guitar noise and Farkas screamed and yelled. A well-oiled supertight rock 'n' roll show with a sense of stop-on-a-dime discipline it certainly wasn't, but I didn't want that. I got a bunch of crazy old dudes on stage, a smoke machine and a band who still sound like no other.

I can see now why Jello must've hit the roof back in the day when he caught them play back in '83. Adelaide's still basically a one-horse-town in '09; back then it probably came across like the middle of nowhere for someone used to basking in the bohemian confines of urbane San Fran. And Grong Grong likely looked and sounded like they just arrived from another planet altogether. No pretenses, just flat-out fucking strange in the most beautiful way. I hope and suspect they'll be back sooner rather than later. Deluxe CD/DVD out soon on Memorandum/Fuse in a few weeks, too, ya know...

Monday, October 05, 2009

BoldSLUB - Barracuda 7" (Death Valley/1995)
The band known as Slub were quite the big deal in the "underground" down here (and elsewhere) at some point in the late '80s/early '90s. They put out an ace cassette in 1987 through Au-go-go (not officially an Au-go-go release, I think, but released through their channels somehow) which showcased a lo-tech grime-rock which, whilst not far from the '80s pack of noise-rakers popular at the time (Big Black, Buttholes, Flipper, Scratch Acid et al) in approach, also lent a heavy debt to a vast array of '70s rockers (from Hawkwind to Pere Ubu to Can to the riff-rock of 'Sabbath and Zep') and post-industrial units such as Nurse With Wound, Coil and all those Limey self-mutilators. It was quite the brew, and they fitted in snugly w/ fellow compadres of the time such as King Snake Roost, Thug, Venom P. Stinger and co. (all heavily touted by the great B-Side 'zine: the essential 'Strine rag for the latter half of the '80s). Dr. Jim - the man who released their debut LP in 1990, Roottmann - and I have often thrown around the idea of putting our collective skulls together and releasing a Completely Discography CD pack of Slub's wares: the cassette, LP, comp' tracks, Sympathy 7"s, etc., and whilst we're both convinced that such a nice public service would give us a free pass in the next life, there's also the fear that such a grand folly would only help empty out our bank accounts and contribute to the landfill known as the current CD-buying climate. Thoughts?
Anyway, the band went through a zillion line-up changes in their life (approx. 1985-'95) - for many years they included celebrity multi-instrumentalist, comedian and man-of-a-thousand-bands, John Murphy, and apparently even featured the Dirty 3's Warren Ellis in their ranks for a period - but somehow managed to be never anything less than pretty darn good in their recorded output. Slub aren't the kinda band you're gonna put on at your next barn dance; Vikki Riley's screeching howl assures that. The thick coats of guitar squall, electronic FX and pounding drum beats also likely don't contribute to most humans' idea of a "good time". But there's this one exception in their catalogue: their rendition of Heart's '70s megahit, "Barracuda". It's surprisingly faithful to the original, not a butchering by any means. Whilst not possessing the massive FM-radio production of the original, it still crunches with a BIG sound: the chugga-chugga guitar riffs, Riley's awesome note-perfect wailing and a sense of momentum which never lets up. You could play this at yer next Blue Light disco and likely walk out w/ all bodily parts intact. There's no getting 'round it: it's an excellent interpretation. The B-side tracks are from '89 w/ a different line-up; "Blind Owl" is the kinda bruised guitar dirge they perfected at the time, and "White Panda" (a traditional Chinese folk tune, sez the liners) is a more experimental piece and churns like a Current 93 track before Tibet went off w/ the faeries (fitting, since John Murphy was in an early line-up of the C93). Only 300 of these were ever made, then they're gone forever... worth all the pennies.

Saturday, October 03, 2009


MX-80 SOUND ca. 1981!!