Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Some random nonsense...

I heard the song below, The Animals' 'Outcast', recently in a film I watched. For the life of me, I cannot recall what the film was. It was a couple of months ago, and obviously not memorable. But the song in question was. I found myself freeze-framing the credits at the end so I could find out who sang the track in question. Like many of the 'original' Animals' singles (before the band lost half its membership and split for California in '66), it's a cover of a soul/R & B tune, this one penned by Eddie and Ernie, a duo I must claim ignorance of. Anyway, the sheer psychedelic soul-power of Eric Burdon and co.'s rendition, with that wicked fuzzed guitar, is the sound that puts a skip in one's step. It's one of the best things I've heard this year.

And in regards to some belated SST worship - it's been a week or two - there's this footage of Saccharine Trust and Minutemen at the Anti-Club in '82. Oh yeah, there's Turds In Space thrown in the mix, too, which is some Spot avant project I kinda skipped through. But the 'Trust and the 'Men - oooooh, boy! - at this stage of the game they were writing a new rule book to tear up. It's interesting seeing just how low-key this whole mythical scene was back in its earlier days. Word is - according to someone, maybe Watt or Carducci - that the Minutemen never really got themselves an audience outside of their immediate peers, friends and gushing critics until Double Nickels was released and won them a wider audience. That may indeed be true. The 'Trust have never won themselves a wide audience, but you can't blame me for trying.

Lastly, there's Frank Zappa and his band of longhairs circa 1973. I noted a few posts ago that early '70s Zappa - which I had previously poo-poo'd - has been quite an obsession of mine the past 12 months, and it hasn't abated yet. This is a pretty excellent example of the freak show he and his band were at the time, and gathering by the number of Zappa-influenced bands who came out of Europe in the early '70s (I am fond of saying - oh, so fond of saying - that 70% of the Nurse With Wound list is merely made up of European art-rock gimps trying to copy Zappa and Soft Machine), I can only assume he made quite an impact. Enjoy. You've earned it.

Thursday, November 24, 2016


The two albums released by the band known as LATIN PLAYBOYS in 1994 and 1999 - that's Latin Playboys and Dose, respectively - are worth considering and hearing. I recall them being played a lot here on community radio at the time, winning huge critical praise (Album Of The Years from various places), and yet I'm willing to bet that they didn't actually sell a whole lot and seem to be scarcely even remembered at this point in history. Latin Playboys were essentially a studio project for David Hidalgo and Louie Perez, both well know for their longtime work with Los Lobos, and their producer/muso friends, Mitchell Froom and Tchad Blake. Los Lobos, as I hope you know, add up to a whole lot more than that band who did the La Bamba soundtrack (which was fucking ubiquitous back here in the day, and probably ruined the band for an eternity for many). Some interesting points to note: the band has been around since 1974, formed by a group of young Latino Americans with a fondness for traditional Mexican music, Ry Cooder and Richard Thompson (not the staple music diet of a typical teen at the time); they released an independent LP way back in 1978 (a record, I have just discovered, which fetches stupid money on Discogs); they made their first real splash on the LA punk scene, supporting Public Image's first show in LA in 1980; their longtime brass/wind man is Steve Berlin, he of the Flesh Eaters/Blasters; and their 1992 LP, Kiko, one often described as their 'experimental' album, is totally fucking magnificent, and a real fave of mine - it as a beautiful sparseness to it, with sweet harmonies and off-kilter percussion. And there are other albums in their vast discography to consider, too (their first 'proper' LP, 1984's How Will The Wolf Survive?, is also tops), but let's speak of Latin Playboys.

This band I speak of were put together by Hidalgo and Perez after their experience recording Kiko and a desire to get deeper with their musical experimentation. In essence, let's cut the horseshit and call 'em what they were: an experimental side project. The band took the Latin/roots approach of their more famous other group and melded it into an avant-garde take thereof, with scratchy guitars, feedback, noisy electronics, tinny percussion and songs which appear to be on the verge of falling apart. Roll it all together into a recording approach which basically sounds like a rough demo - which is how the band came to be in the first place - and that's Latin Playboys. If I was to compare it to anything - and of course I must - the closest approximation would be Tom Waits' more 'out' recordings, such as Bone Machine, Swordfishtrombones and the Black Rider score, although Latin Playboys' approach is more haphazard, bringing to mind the way someone like, oh dear god, Guided By Voices put albums together circa 1990 - 1993 (please note: Latin Playboys and GBV sound absolutely nothing like each other; I am merely pointing out the 'sketch'-like approach to song craft both bands had at one point). Here's a bunch of killer tracks which give you an overview of their oeuvre: 'Viva La Raza', 'New Zandu', 'Same Brown Earth', 'Crayon Sun', 'Fiesta Erotica', 'Locoman' and 'Paula Y Fred'. What's interesting, too, is that, despite being recorded and released 5 years apart, the albums sound like they could've sprung from the same recording session. There is little differentiating the two in regards to quality and style. Both were released on Slash at the time, who were probably riding high on the success of drek like Faith No More and L7 at the time (as well as the general boost the whole biz had in the '90s), and since that day will never likely come again, you can probably forget about a semi-major recording company indulging their talent to this extent once more. Whatever. Here's the good news: Latin Playboys, and the two terrific albums they released in the '90s, are largely forgotten these days, and you can probably pick up the CDs for a buck or two a piece from a charity store with ease, as I did. For totally deconstructed and reconstructed Latin rock & roll, they're hard to beat.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Random groovy tunes...

No rhyme, no reason, a sample of some cuts getting a spin...

The name RUN WESTY RUN will garner a variety of reactions from dear readers. I can only gather that the majority one will be a befuddled WHO? Others will wonder why on earth I'm scraping the bottom of the SST barrel by giving them any coverage whatsoever. And there will be a few true believers who will acknowledge that their self-titled debut LP from 1988 - whilst no classic in this or any alternate universe - can at least boast a couple of pretty bumper tunes in a kinda forgettable late-'80s college-rock vein. Yes, I'm damning it with some faint praise there, but praise it still is. There's this cut, 'Curled Ending', which for me is the highlight of the disc in question, always the track I go for when I pull the LP off the shelf for its annual spin, and since it's on YouTube, I probably don't even need to go to that much effort anymore. I read somewhere that Grant Hart recommended the band to Ginn/Dukowski and co., the band being Minneapolis natives who were mining a kind of late-period Replacements/Huskers vein (certainly not the most inspiring period for either band, but whatever), and of course it's easy to dismiss their two LPs on SST as an excercise in pure pointlessness when the label was throwing piles of shit against the wall, I bear them no grudge for their efforts. They released two full-lengthers on the label before switching to their hometown imprint, Twin/Tone, in 1990 for one more exercise in recorded nothingness and disappeared thereafter. For someone somewhere I'm sure they're a musical big deal, and I do not mean to shit on your parade. I think they had one or two bright, shining moments, and the rest of their oeuvre belongs in the bargain bin, where it likely resides today. Still, those few shining moments were pretty damn great. For the record, I bought my beat-up cut-out copy of this LP about two decades ago; the version I heard and played in my younger days was my brother's which he received in a 3PBS radio competition in early 1999, in which he won an "SST prize pack' containing RWR, SWA's Winter LP and something else I forget. Score!

Let's quickly ponder LA's X, not the Australian one, who have pondered here before. They are or at least were an obvious entry point for many into the world of west coast punk back in the day, although for many I can only assume they were considered too much of a musical half-measure to be that inspiring, or maybe it was their descent into fairly mundane college-rock which has spoilt their musical legacy for many. They're not a band who ever got my blood running in a major way, although I always liked their interviews and live footage from the original Decline... film, and always had a soft spot for the John Doe/Exene musical partnership and their various musical endeavours (their roots band, The Knitters, who also featured Blasters folks, put out a great album in '85; and let's not forget John Doe's guest appearance on Tom Troccoli's sole LP on SST - I know you've been trying, but I thought I'd remind you). So, it comes to be that now, in my mid 40s, I have been greatly enjoying their first two LPs a whole lot. I bought 'em both about 20 years back for about a ha'penny a piece, and it's not like I've never not enjoyed them, but lately their rotation has been 'heavy', as opposed to an annual pity-spin. Although X were first-gen LA punker, they never really had the wild musical bent nor nihilism of many of their pears, whether they be other first-gen punkers (Weirdos/Screamers/Germs) or suburban HC slammers (Black Flag/Adolescents/Circle Jerks/Fear), but that doesn't mean their more polished and mature 'rock' sound is something to dismiss. It does, after all, 'rock'. For my money, their second effort, 1981's Wild Gift, is a better musical proposition than the debut, 1980's Los Angeles. Both were produced by Ray Manzarek (a man who staked his claim in life as 'an ex-member of The Doors'), though from all reports, Ray was a genuine fan of this crazy new music scene and wanted to do it justice in the studio. I think he succeeded moreso with his second effort. Song-wise, both LPs are stylistically similar - a Ramones-damaged mid-tempo punk rock approach with Billy Zoom's rockabilly inflections scattered throughout - but that claustrophobic, tight-assed sound Manzarek got on the debut is unleashed on Wild Gift, and it sounds like it's got some air to breathe. It sounds like a real punk rock recording, whereas the debut sounds like someone sucked the rock out of it. Got me? Good. Both albums have their fair share of boss cuts familiar to all and sundry, but Wild Gift has 'We're Desperate', 'I'm Coming Over' and 'In This House That I Call Home', and you need all of the above. I'd rate both as quite mandatory, should you be attempting to get your head around US punk rock of the past 40 years. The critics loved 'em, of coirse, but don't hate 'em because of it.

And onto something completely different. I've been heavily absorbing the, err, heavy sounds of Wales' BUDGIE the past 12 months. So much so, I have actually splurged on physical copies (their essential albums from the 1970s have been granted rather swish vinyl reissues) to show my fandom, or something or other. I was made aware of their catalogue at two previous places of work, one in the latter half of the '90s, and one this century. In both workplaces I was situated within spitting distance of a vocal fan, and I came to appreciate the crunching, boogified nature of their power-trio ways. For the record, Budgie's first four albums from 1971 - '75, at the very least, I would rate as essential stabs of pre-punk hard rock a smidgen under the A-level sludge of Black Sabbath: that's Budgie, Squawk, Never Turn Your Back On A Friend and In For The Kill. Yes, there's a picture of a fucking budgie on every single album cover, with said picture often used as a pun in connection with the album title. Why the name Budgie? No idea, though I'm sure there's a ripper of a story behind it. Led by bassist/voclaist, Burke Shelley (and guitarist Tony Bourge was there for their best years, too), and formed in 1967, the obvious comparisons for their sonics would be Black Sabbath, Led Zep and Rush, although one should probably clarify a few things: Budgie never contained the monumental bong-rattling heaviness of 'Sabbath, the musical eclecticsm of Zep nor the technical wizardry/tedium or Rush. They occupied their own space somewhere between all three, and a nice space it be. In the realms of pre-Ramonic hard rock - that certain brand of guitar-heavy boogified no-brains-necessary realm of guitar/bass/drums aktion where frankly rather unattractive men in horrible clothes made beautiful noise - I would give them a ticket to sainthood. Like many of their hard-rock brethren, things started going pear-shaped by the time punk hit. It's not that punk wiped the floor with them and the old guard just shut up shop: much of the old guard, or at least those who made great music between the years 1970 - 1975, were simply running on empty by 1976. Inspiration only lasts so long. For many of the first-wave punkers, they were lucky to make it past 1979 without humiliating themselves in the process, so let's not say I'm being unkind here. Hard to pick a fave between the four because they're all good and all follow a similar path: cowbell, rifferama both slow and fast, an occasional acoiustic track and Shelley's squeezed-testicles vocals telling a story of a devil woman or thereabouts. Great song titles, too: any band who can sing a song entitled 'Hot As A Docker's Armpit' deserves your undying love. Many bands you know and love, and some you probably don't, have a great fondness for Budgie, which, by the natural laws of physics, means you should give them a listen.

Friday, November 04, 2016

Theme From An Imaginary Western

I've written about the band DC3 a few times before on this blog. It's not like I really have a whole lot more to add to the story, and it's not like the band - that's Dez Cadena's post-Black Flag outfit who featured a coupla Stains and a Paul Roessler (Kira's bro, ex-Screamers/Twisted Roots bearer of dreadlocks) in the mix - were exactly a top-tier musical outfit worthy of pages of ink in their praise. After 3 or 4 years of punk rock shenanigans, DC3 were Dez's back-to-basics return to his pre-punk roots: Budgie, Deep Purple, Mountain, Hawkwind. Back in the mid '80s, all this kinda get-up was about as fashionable as last year's milk, and I'd bet a penny or two they never shifted too many units in their lifetime nor the afterlife, but that doesn't mean there's nothing to recommend in their catalogue. I have noted before that the debut, This Is The Dream, has a fairly cool Saint Vitus-style sludge to it, and their live LP from '88, Vida, is probably even better, but in between it's pretty slim pickings. You're Only As Blind As Your Mind Can Be from 1986, which I have owned since, what, 1989?, is a record I have tried so many times with, but I always come up empty. The record itself comes up empty. Dez was always one of my fave Flaggers, but it is simply a rather terrible rock album which offers the listener little, and I can't for the life of me figure out what it was they were trying to achieve with the recording. It doesn't sound 'heavy', nor '70s' nor 'psychedelic', and therein lies a recording we will discuss no more.

The absolute best thing they ever did, was in fact their cover of Jack Bruce's 'Theme From An Imaginary Western', a track made semi-famous by Mountain's version on their excellent debut LP from 1970, Climbing. DC3's version remains the best there ever was, a truly magical slice of baroque hard rock with incredible dexterity and musicianship which possesses a precision neither other semi-famous version possesses. In fact, it remains one of my all-time fave SST jams ever. Dez's version was only ever available on the second Blasting Concept album from '86, and some fine citizen has finally placed it on Youtube for all to enjoy. Let's line 'em up and see how they go...