ISSUE 13    FALL 2002
page 7 of 16



I just got this CD in the mail today and I've already listened to it three times because I love it. Even if I listen to something twice in a week, it usually means I love it. Take the very first track, "Dream Tiger," a delicate little string band song, driven by tambura, sung by Erika Hoffman in a dreamy sweet voice, totally living up to its title until it ends aprubtly as the listener snaps to after two minutes and two seconds. Next song "Hob Goblin" is a little more minor-keyed, and a little spookier, being a completely kitsch-free monster story. Ms. Hoffman's voice can't help but sound sweet anyway, though guitarist/vocalist Cary Loren adds a second vocal that gives the song a creepy man-edge. Third song "The Dead Father" is creepier still, with a dark chorus sung by Loren about "dancing to death." Loren's post-Iggy singing style really comes into its own here (I didn't think it was quite there on the Michigan Floor LP), with a chorus that's actually a Stones rewrite, going "If you dance with me/You'll be dancing to death" to the same melody that Mick went "If you play with me/you'll play with fire" to.
 "Fantomas" is a monster ballad that rivals even "Nosferatu" by Blue Oyster Cult. "Lost Souls" is one of my favorite tracks. Even if you barely hear tracks two through nine because you're washing dishes or something, this is one that will bring you back into the room. "Their voice could see the ocean on the lips of all dead poets..." and more, intones Loren in a quasi-majestic talking-blues style over a beautiful drone, and if the phrase "beautiful drone" makes the jaded reader roll his/her eyes, believe me that a trio of Richard Youngs, Neil Campbell, and Makoto Kawabata themselves could not come close to what the duo of Matt Smith and Erika Hoffman do on "Lost Souls," via some combination of sitar, oud, chinese organ, violin, and/or harmonium. And speaking of lovely drony chords, I might be mistaken, but I think the last track, "Behold the Moon" is a reprise of the opener "Dream Tiger." The lyrics are different, but both texts mention "a dream [something]." Either it's the same song or they're just both equally successful forays by Monster Island into that rare and incredible String Band glow.
       (A note to the reader: there is still one more paragraph in this review, a potentially superfluous digression about His Name is Alive. The reader may use the previous paragraph as a closer if they do not wish to get on this bus, as it were.) Monster Island is a quartet of Loren, Smith, Hoffman, and drummer Warn Defever, who seems to be quasi-famous due to his other recording career as His Name Is Alive. I know that their fans call the band "HNIA," but I'm not even sure I've ever heard the music. Did they do that techno/pop Hank Williams cover album? Oh no, that was The The. (And this is the first time I've ever written or typed the band name The The, and it was kind of annoying.) Around the same time said The The record came out, I was working at a record store and this enigmatic skate-punker brought in a CD by His Name Is Alive and asked me to play it. I don't even think he wanted to sell it used, he just wanted me to play it over the store system while he browsed, which I did. On his way out, he asked for it back, and I never saw him again. I don't really remember what the music sounded like, but it did make a mild impression. End of digression. Dream Tiger is one of my Top 10 Albums for 2002.

This time Monster Island do four long free instrumental jams. Over the first, the voice of Prime Minister John Sinclair is transmolecularized, which just means he recorded his vocals later while listening to the instrumental jams on headphones. The vocals are a reading of a 1963 text, written while on peyote, about being on peyote. The music is appropriate and Sinclair's delivery is both fiery and playful as he delivers his visionary anti-sermon.
       As for the other three all-instrumental jams, its honestly some of the best free-jam music in the world these days. There are really only two other bands who readily pull the same kind of obvious jam-band mentality off: Laser Temple of Bon Matin and, of course, the No-Neck Blues Band. I have a feeling this style was arrived at by all three bands entirely independently, which is why these three wipe the floor with almost all of their inevitable competition. A good example of Monster Island's independence and maturity is the way (on track four of this disc) Matt Smith so eloquently plays Ra-styled free jazz piano, something that wouldn't pop up with NNCK. (Although with The LToBM you never know...)

I would have bought this at Weekend Records & Soap so I could 'keep it in the scene' and perpetuate the underground economy, but the last time I was there, they didn't have it. And why not buy it at the Virgin megastore? After all, Def Jam is now owned by Island which is now owned by Virgin which is now owned by MCA which is now owned by Time/Warner which lost 583 billion dollars last year, so they need the money, right? (Actually, I made all that up.)
      As for the music, the genre choice ("frat metal," as one wag put it) may actually have started as a feel-good joke of sorts, but my guess is that W.K. immediately started taking it very seriously when it became clear just how much heart was contained in the performance. Anyway, after reading the amazing interview W.K. did with The Onion, I no longer care if the music is a joke or not, because W.K. legitimately brings joy back into a youth culture whose music really desperately needs it, stuck as it is between bland grunge/emo, generic thug, alienating sophisticated cynical experimental noise, and even worse, alienating sophisticated cynical experimental indie-rock. I mean, poor; they actually complained because I Get Wet isn't ironic and cynical enough!
       Andrew W.K. may have gotten his start with the Cynical Noise Underground, in order to escape the Grunge Inch Nails conformity around him, but now his music is a glorious backlash against both. It's true, certain artists in the Cynical Noise Underground have been joking about bringing joy back into music, which is a fine start, but most such acts still aren't able to do it without a security blanket of cynicism. (I recently saw Canned Hamm open for Bobby Conn, and though it was a pretty good time, both acts were wrapped tightly in the security blanket.) Andrew W.K., on the other hand, has taken joking about joy farther than it's ever gone before, to where it actually stops being a mere joke and becomes joy itself.
      People often mention AC/DC as an influence, but AC/DC were really a stripped down heavy blooz band, and, especially pre-Brian Johnson, minimalist, where W.K. is maximalist. AC/DC were also a heavy booze band, where W.K., all his talk of partying notwithstanding, seems like a more moderate drinker. (He certainly seems to be in better shape than the average booze-rocker.) I think when people say AC/DC they're actually thinking of Slade. People who say The Ramones definitely have a point, and I'd also add Cheap Trick, or at least I think W.K. lifts a hook straight from "Clock Strikes Ten" right in the first song on the album. In fact, W.K. is like a 2000 version of Cheap Trick's 1970s model in which midwesterners acted like an arena rock band and then actually became an arena rock band, without losing their sense of humor and fun. And, both acts first found superstardom abroad, Trick in Japan and W.K. in England. It's also funny to note that W.K., a child of the 1980s, finds inspiration in Cheap Trick's transition into the 1980s, when all of that decade's gooey keyboard excess was grafted onto their songs. W.K. takes your basic Ramones chug, updates it with the extremity of Al Jourgensen's Ministry (Phat-Ass Aspengren's first reaction to W.K. was "Happy Ministry"), and then sweetens the mix with the sound of pure keyboard party metal at its 'side two of the soundtrack album to an 80s Hollywood movie about cocky soldiers/teen beer blasts/high school wrestling' best/worst.
        And finally, I can't help but note the extremely strong undercurrent of perhaps the first keyboard metal band of them all that didn't sound like Deep Purple: Sparks. A good 4 or 5 years before Cheap Trick even got signed, Sparks were recording keyboard metal epics for major labels; just listen to "This Town Ain't Big Enough For The Both Of Us," the bombastic opening of their masterpiece Kimono My House. Then, jump to W.K.'s incredible "Girls Own Love," and hear the way the new song has the same way of continually soaring higher and higher as distorted guitar, happy keyboard riffs, and ambitious vocal melodies wind in and out of each other like church spires.
       All of this just reinforces the point that, whether the artist is doing nu metal, or frat metal, or industrial metal, or punk rock, or free improv, or 12-bar blues, or summer blockbusters, or a recipe for hamburgers, he or she should always strive to transcend his or her material. The material -- songs, words, pictures, food -- are things that are more or less available for all of humanity to work with, and the goal of the true artist is to transcend this common material. That's all Ezra Pound meant by his advice to artists: "Make it new." The third or fourth time you hear Andrew W.K.'s music, and you've gotten used to your personal take on the whole irony issue, is when you start feeling what's NEW about it. Which is, more or less, the sound of triumph. Whenever he's singing/shouting lines like "I love New York City/oh yeah/New York City" ("I Love NYC"), or "When she comes she is a red hot set of lips" ("Girls Own Love"), or, my personal favorite, "We were nothin' but KIDS on top/Never gonna stop/Never let down/Gotta keep up" ("Got To Do It"), there is some serious transcending going on.
       And to keep talking about triumph, on the song "Ready to Die," W.K. presents a rather rigorous poetic metaphor for it: "killing." This is what people are saying when they are "blown away" by a work of art. W.K. is just portraying the other end of the equation: the artist, who shoots without a gun and cuts without a knife, instead making his mark through aesthetics. At the height of his powers, he is indeed "ready to die" because he knows he has already achieved his greatest potential. The whole metaphor was used earlier by Ed Wilcox, in the opening line of the opening song on the 1999 album Bullet Into Mesmer's Brain, by his band Laser Temple of Bon Matin, released on Bulb Records, in which he shouts through a space-rock fog the lyric "I can't wait to kill you!" And what label did Andrew W.K. start out on? Bulb Records. So, when you see W.K. spreading his huge message to love on MTV and to all the people at Ozzfest and at House of Blues chains nationwide, you're hearing the 's'tude of underground troopers like Ed Wilcox, being brought to the masses. The world really is slowly becoming a better place.

RESPONSE BY ROBERT DAYTON, aka L'il Hamm of Canned Hamm (the second m is for "magic"): Subject heading: "Security blankets or trampolines?" Hola! Friend just turned me on to your fine mag that I read until it gave me eyestrain. Wow! Dense! But I gotta comment on/take mild issue with a statement made about us wearing a "security blanket of cynicism." Hell hell, it isn't even about the cynicism part. I've even called myself a cynic, I don't feel closed off though. In fact, we just wrote a song "Uninhibited", dedicated to some of the great women I've met lately, where the first line is, "More cynical but less jaded, I saw you coming round the bend...ooh, how you bend." And I really feel that way as I get older. No, I take some issue with the security blanket part. I gotta tell ya, the first few times I was afraid to perform a few of our songs because they were either too emotionally personal (Platonic Friend, Kissed All The Girls) or dealt with personal vanity issues (High On Life, Hair Piece). And some of our songs are like dares-"it's too silly, we can't do this"-and we do.
      Our first priority is to entertain, that's what I wanna do with my life. You can take "We'll entertain You" as cynical if you like but it's our mandate. We really enjoy what we are doing. It's fun! And we love seeing people get excited! At the Andrew WK show Big Hamm said to me, "This is the most cynical thing I've ever seen" but told me last night that maybe he (Big Hamm) was in a cynical mood that night; it's all a matter of perspective. I really enjoyed the show even with seeing bitter, elitist, and arrogant record store employees leap into the moshpit because they think they are "in on the joke." No, it was a very varied and energized crowd who got wet. We got wet.
      Welll, thanks for your time! and keep up the good work with your mag, I really loved the bonusses of Ray Johnson, etc. TTFN, Robert Dayton AKA Lil' Hamm

Hey Robert, Thanks for writing. That "security blanket" line was me trying to express something that is definitely going on and that I definitely want to express, but perhaps it was unfair to use you as the example. You guys do entertain, and I can tell you're having a good time. Echoing Big Hamm's thoughts on W.K., maybe I was the one who was feeling cynical that night. Lord knows, in Chicago it's hard not to. Something in the water, I think, and DEFINITELY something in the water that the no wavers drink, where all music sucks unless it really does suck, either intentionally or unintentionally. (My wife put it like this: "If you like it, it's not No Wave.") Maybe it's impossible to have a good time in the 2002 rock-related scene without being cynical about it, or maybe acts like W.K. and Canned Hamm actually hold up a mirror to the audience -- if they bring joy, they'll see joy onstage, and if they bring cynicism, they'll see that. (What does cynicism mean, anyway? Haven't looked it up in years.) Also, when W.K. gets the bitter, arrogant people into the mosh pit, you could say it's because they're in on the joke, but I see it more like he's using the most unignorable techniques possible in order to save these bitter, arrogant souls before it's too late... You got it, everybody gets wet --it really is some of the most inclusive music I've heard in a long time. [...] Best, Larry "Fuzz-O" Dolman

[...] ya know, I couldn't think of a hard and fast def. [of cynical], either so I looked it up! And I'd say that I, personally, have fallen more into some of the categories but definitely not all. "Misanthrope, snarler who believes human conduct is directed wholly by self-interest." Ooh, the last part of that is a dangerous way to think! Also, "faultfinding" and "someone who is critical of the motives of others." Oh, and in the thesaurus it uses the words "seclusion" and "detractor." [...]

Yep, now that I'm looking at actual definitions, I think I meant a "security blanket of irony," as simple as that. The word irony gets so overused, I thought I'd be ironic and use a different word, like cynicism. And what does irony mean, anyway? Webster's, definition one: "A pretense of ignorance and of willingness to learn from another assumed in order to make the other's false conceptions conspicuous by adroit questioning." Actually, that says it all, right there. Sometimes I feel that when this whole genre wants to have fun, the best we can do is pretend we're having fun, which is our way of adroitly questioning the whole 'status quo' method of having fun, which deep down we fear might be more fun (in an 'ignorance is bliss' kind of way) than the oft-harshly ironic ways that we have fun. This is all getting kind of heavy (and potentially incoherent) so I think I'm just gonna stop now....although I will say that W.K. seems to be trying, valiantly, to eradicate all such lines of over-thinking. Now, back on that word cynicism, I'll leave you with this quote from the one-sheet for the hard-rocking and really not at all ironic 1938 album by 25 Suaves: "Our present world view has made all cynicism irrelevant. The Cynic is now simply the Realist." Best, L"F"D


You might remember Burning Star Core (from Blastitude 11) and the Thinwrist label (from Blastitude 12). Here's both at once (in Blastitude 13) with a pretty serious LP package. Thinwrist is a pretty serious label, which apparently only takes on a few projects in order to do them all well; they only have four edition-of-500 LP projects scheduled so far.
       Brighter Summer Day is their second of the four. It has a nice sturdy full-color jacket, printed on both sides, and comes with several inserts, all immaculately printed, apparently having never had to pass through a Kinko's once during their entire conception. There's even a sealed envelope, silkscreened with the "BXC" logo. You open it up, and there's a card inside that says "496/500" on one side with a little drawing of an eye and "fig. 43" on the other side, at which point you go, "Okay, maybe this packaging is getting slightly precious," but oh well, it's kinda fun too.
       The credits for the Side A track are a little odd: CS Yeh does "violin, electronics," and that makes sense because his portion is a high-volume Theater of Eternal Music throwdown. The thing that doesn't make sense is that Chris Rosing is credited with "additional climax electronics." Now Chris Rosing (I think it's actually spelled Roesing) is a very good drummer from Cincinnati, who plays with Yeh in the killer 'rock' band Death Beam. And on this track, Yeh's violin-drone throwdown is accompanied what sounds like a drummer going off. It doesn't sound like "additional electronics" because it sounds like real drums, played in what could pass for Roesing's style. Anyway, as minimalist jams go, this is as hard-rocking as anything I've heard so far on Alan Licht's list.
       Side two is Yeh solo on computer playing "sleep deprivation experiments conducted summer to winter 2000." I don't entirely understand computer music, but I recognize familiar ingredients in this piece: strange digital drones, lots of jump cuts, quiet humming parts. I really don't know if I can describe it further because of my lack of understanding about the entire computer music genre. It does make a nice mirror image to the killer jam on Side A. (A is 16:42 and B is 16:27. Recording artists should always consider the art of the flip-side, whether for 7-inches or 12-inches....or CDs, for that matter. Thanks to Yeh and Thinwrist, this handsome album is as much of a visual experience as it is audial.) (And I do like the computer music of Ilhan Mimaroglu quite a bit...)

BURNING STAR CORE: Revision CD-R (DRONEDISCO.COM) This is a nice little EP consisting of one 18-minute track. Though BXC can be anything from a quirky pop band to C.S. Yeh solo, this time it's an electro-acoustic trio, perhaps the same trio that I saw perform live in Southport, Kentucky last fall. The instruments are "violin, voice, computer, prepared guitar, percussion and objects" and the end result sounds like three guys tinkering with electronics and constructing loops in the middle of a closed runway that's being torn apart at a busy airport.

Previous album History of Ghost Dad had a few different approaches, such as wild improv jams, drum-machine grooves, and somewhat more traditional rock riffing. Blow Out Your Blood is both much crazier and more refined, into a steadily repeated style that can best be described as total full-on hell damage. It's a short album, with twelve songs that are just one blast from full-on country after another. Great vocals on track nine, like a young R. Hell inside an A-Bomb explosion. The overall sound here still doesn't strike me as what they do live, but even live recordings of the Hair Police don't sound like the Hair Police do live. Check the Fog People Vol. 1 comp on Animal Disguise for proof. It's because each time you hear it, it's just too insane to believe all over again. The Hair Police are the closest a band has gotten to sounding like To Live and Shave in L.A. They make Harry Pussy sound like Ravi Shankar, which I mean literally, not pejoratively. (I like both.)

All you 's'tude regulars (and who wouldn't wanna be?) know that I like that band from Cincinnasty called Death Beam. I've seen 'em live four times or so and each time they have literally flattened my ass. Around the same time as this ass-flattening, the infamous Suge Knight of underground no wave himself Mr. CEO Coke Limo made a bunch of "Freedom From releases" and dropped 'em off at WHPK radio. One of them was by Death Beam, with a great full-color cover. (Full-color because it's a page torn out of a woman's catalog folded and scotch-taped onto a CD sleeve.) I played a couple cuts from that disc on my radio show, and they sounded as good as the live show, though not so much ass-flatteners as suave little two-minute sandstorms of clatter. Still nothing to take home with me, until at a show singer/guitarist C. Spencer Yeh (also of Burning Star Core) handed me an actual Death Beam CD-R of my very own...and you know what? I don't even know if I can hang! This is some loud abrasive squall! It's like Death Beam are trying to keep up with Sightings! Ron Ostovich's d(r)iving electronics and Chris Roesing's rhythm investigations and Yeh's guitar all just rattle along in a way that would drive 99.98% of the population crazy. And Yeh's shrieked and barked vocals are all in the Russian language. On track two he sounds like one of the Monty Pythons in drag during the spam sketch. It's just plain wrong! But...just like the live set, it gains momentum as it goes.

Here's some whiteboy rap that achieves originality by being a bald-faced imitation of African-American thug rap. You might say that would be Eminem, but I really think Eminem is artistically above all race issues, doing some fantasy horrorcore confessional method-acting standup-comedy shit that is completely his own, where this is just white guys playing a fun prank trying to be DMX or Black Rob, complete with the histrionic R&B choruses. It's nothing like white 'cerebral' rappers (shall we call it IRM for Intelligent Rap Music?) (no, we shan't) like Doseone and cLOUDEAD, because Your Lord And The Infinite Soul Tribe are doing an actual thug rap put-on, right down to the "stupid bitches" and "cocaine." Sounds annoying for sure, but the effect is hilarious, or at least it was live. This disc, which I bought from 'em at the show, is disappointing; I think the production on the vocals kind of ruins the experience. The backing tracks sound fine, but the vocals are given some sort of studio-reverb sheen that actually accentuates the white-boy aspect, and it ends up sounding more like Ween than Wu. I wish I could remix this album, because it would take two seconds: I'd switch the "reverb" button on the vocals to "off." They were better live, where the vocals were gruff and raw and comin' through the P.A. loud. Also, I could understand all the lyrics live, where on The Cosmogony they just sort of get lost in the Ween-sheen. It's too bad because the shit is funny, like "Payday," which is a slow jam lamenting the "shit between the Crips and Bloods, it's craa-zay." There's actual skits between songs, which, just like on thug rap albums, aren't really that funny. They rap about "dead homiez" and they're probably joking, but when Your Lord (or whoever) says "I've got drugs comin' out of my ass" and "I'm from the south side/'bout to get high" he's just telling the truth, because he lives in the south Minneapolis student ghetto where all the twenty-somethings work part-time and do drugs. The guy who does a roll call of his stock portfolio ("I got 30% in mutual funds..." etc.) probably isn't joking either. But then, on another track where one character laments for the kid he just murdered in a gang-related shooting ("I feel so sorry for the kid/but I'd do it again") they're role-playing again, so you never know. But anyway, turn off the damn reverb, and the songs where they do all the lyrics through a vocoder are a disappointment too. Let's hear those lyrics, they're funny! I wish I'd brought my trusty GE dictaphone and made a simple live bootleg of these guys. That would sound awesome. I'll just have to catch up with all the internet chat rooms out there for Your Lord and the Infinite Soul Tribe tape traders.

Just bought a really beat-up copy of this that skips a lot for $4.99. Even with the skips, this is a truly adolescent rush for me to listen to, as I used to pump a cassette dub of this album non-stop when I was 15 (even though it came out when I was 8). (On the other side of the fabled Sony HF90: Kiss Music From 'The Elder'!) Hearing it now, I feel like I'm ready to go out for 8th grade football again as all the hooks keep comin' back. First, of course, is "Rip it out!/Take my heart!/You wanted it!/From the start!" Next is "Maybe I should turn around?/Maybe I should stop?/Maybe I should turn around!!/(drum fill)/Speedin' back to my baby!/And I don't mean maybe!" Also on side one is the sobering "I'm snowblind/I can't see a thing/I'm snowblind/I don't want to sing." And, of course, side one closes with the mighty prog-rock epic "Ozone": "I'm the kind of GUY!/Who likes feelin' HIGH!/Feelin' high and DRY!/And WOULD YOU LIKE TO TRY??!" Andrew W.K., read it and weep (tears of joy).
       "Ozone" is also notable for its rather lovely guitar solo break, which is like a candy-for-kids version of the Allman Bros., and proves that however wasted, Ace really could play well when he had a good engineer, and wasn't being chided by Gene and Paul for being drunk. (Unless of course that's session ace Bob Kulick playing all the guitar parts, like he apparently did on most Kiss albums.) The 'good engineer' in this case was Eddie Kramer, and in fact he's also the producer. (The credit reads "Produced by Eddie Kramer & Ace Frehley.") Ace plays everything but drums. (In other words, guitar, bass guitar, and vocals; this is a pretty no-frills album.) And who was the drummer? Anyone? Why it was Anton Fig, a few years before he achieved fame and fortune by joining Paul Shaffer's World's Most Dangerous Band. (Will Lee plays bass on 4 songs too -- must've been Lee that got Fig the Letterman gig.) I'm sure Fig and Lee split pretty early, after which it was just Eddie and Ace working long hours in the studio. Curious what other albums Kramer worked on? Oh, just some little ones here and there like Anthrax Among the Living, Frampton Comes Alive, merely the first three Jimi Hendrix Experience albums (he did Band of Gypsies too), eight different Kiss albums (Ace is the only one who used him for his solo album), Led Zeppelin's III and Physical Graffiti, several Traffic albums, "You're So Vain" by Carly Simon...he even worked with both Sir Lord Baltimore and the Spontaneous Music Ensemble! Not to mention Raven....
        But, back to perhaps Kramer's finest work of all: Ace Frehley by Ace Frehley. Side two opener "New York Groove" was an actual disco hit back in the day. What's more, it was the summer anthem of FM radio during that summer (of 1978). Again, I was seven years old, but I still remember how slammin' this song sounded when I was in the back seat of the family Buick, riding home from the swimming pool or the Pizza Hut. Mom and Dad liked it too. It didn't sound like Kiss, but it was too good for that to be a problem, and it's still funkier electro than what you get on 90% of the retro compilation CDs. "I'm In Need Of Love" is also disco-rock, with another sweet electro touch coming through a trippy delay pattern on the guitar. The chorus is totally hot: "Now I WANT some LOVE!!!/So give me some!!!....I'm in NEED OF LOVE/I'm in NEED OF LOVE/I'm in NEED OF LOVE/And I'm HOPIN' you're in NEED OF ME!" "Wiped-Out" starts out with a funny/evil phased-drum intro/Surfaris parody and then turns into a cool cocky stop-and-start rocker. Damn, it's got disco in it too, a chukka-chukka wah-wah line that I never really noticed before. And the 12/8 or whatever prechorus-into-chorus move is just HEAVY... seriously, folks, it still knocks me out each time. Next, the album closer, "Fractured Mirror," is a mellow instrumental! Being basically a two-chord song that lasts four minutes, it almost screams "filler," but that's fine with me -- I love short albums! The pretty two-chord pattern is repeated over and over, played on a 12-string guitar with overdubbed e-bows and understated heavy metal rhythm guitar. Seriously, next time you're hanging out with a krautrock expert, put this on, and when he or she asks who it is, say "Popol Vuh." Trust me, it'll be funny.
        Finally, Ace Frehley by Ace Frehley is historical for me because, like ELO's Out of the Blue, the subject of previous Blastitude columns, I tried and failed to buy it during the summer I stayed with my grandmother in Kansas and was using her very old (1940s?) record player. In fact, I tried two different copies from the Musicland at the Flinthills Mall in Emporia, but both of them skipped really bad. On my third try, somebody, maybe the clerk at the store or maybe my Mom or Grandma, might have suggested that I try a different solo album. Either way, my second choice was Gene Simmons, so I ended up with it, even if it did have a drop of blood on the cover which I didn't want my Grandma to see. I don't think it skipped very much at all, so I had to keep it, which always kind of bummed me out. I mean, Gene was doing "When You Wish Upon A Star"! And it wasn't good at all! Especially next to Ace. Even with Ace's record constantly skipping, I could tell that the first song, "Rip It Out," was incredible, truly "hotter than hell" rock and roll, the way comic books are supposed to sound. But the skipping was just too much! Finally defeated, I had to take it back, and didn't own it again until years later, my aforementioned junior high years, when Troy Van Horn made a tape of it for me. The dub got eaten, sun-warped, or lost, and now I've come full circle. Hallelujah.

TWINK: The Lost Experimental Recordings 1970 (GET BACK)
This is kind of not that great. I mean, it's definitely good, but I can't afford to buy the albums that are just good any more. From now on, they have to be great. This is notable in that Noise-rock and exp. underground albums are still coming out that follow this same template: 60-70% instrumental, short tracks preferred (though some get to around 6 or 7 minutes), an instrumental rhythm jam here, a short 'radio single' there, a short noise jam there, a short piece with spoken/recited vocals here. I like that form -- the Swell Maps compilation Train Out Of It comes to mind as a wonderful example -- but there has to be some mixing/sequencing/segueing mojo going on, and on this LP there doesn't seem to be too much. And, when Twink reads Tolkien prose aloud I'm just plain OUTTA THERE.

WHITEHOUSE: Psychopathia Sexualis [CD-R dub]
"The most extreme music ever made." Well, yeah, track two on this one is basically a really shrill car alarm going off for four minutes. This is the kind of thing that's literally room-clearing, as in people use sounds like this, performed by sirens, to clear rooms during warfare. I'm sure there are sounds on this record that, if the volume is loud enough, will also clear bowels. Elsewhere, the vocalist William Bennett seems to be portraying an entire lumpenprole Brit family, all with serious pathologies, having a vicious row over a blood-stained kitchen table. That's the stuff that wears out its welcome, as minor-genius rock-scribe Justin Farrar says in his Mammal press release: "Pioneers like the Gristle and Whitehouse began this work but quickly bogged their projects down with syrupy dreams of sociopolitical influence and reverberation." Indeed; the best Whitehouse album I've heard is the very first, where you can actually hear a band working together to create some trippy jams, and Bennett's rhetoric, having not yet 'evolved', is still the stuff of Judas Priest dreams. I will give Whitehouse this: after hearing a few of their albums, I realize that most of the bands I thought were aping To Live and Shave in L.A. were actually aping Whitehouse.

As recounted elsewhere this ish, The Lotus were named after a mispronouncing of The Locust, and they actually sound quite a bit like The Locust. Actually, I like The Lotus better, because instead of heavy guitar, the keyboards take precedence, and the vocals are much goofier than the one-note screaming of The Locust. It's short and sweet too. Bands of the world: MORE EP's!
      Sidenote on The Lotus live show at the Fireside: it sounded less Locusty-y than this record, and more computer-y, with Mat Rademan performing solo as a suave nightclub dweeb, doing a good job jumping through the crowd while shrieking, keeping the whole set well under 20 minutes, and closing with a dweebed cover of "Sex Bomb" that actually was kind of a sex bomb compared to your average no wave wank.

Man, you know what, I like The Lotus. This record is better than the self-titled CD-R above. Again, they play spazzy, yelping post-hardcore in what could be described as the OOPS! style, but there's something about it; it's just more rubbery, and slightly more playful. 25 songs on here, which go by real fast, and then at the end they actually throw down a long hard-electronic Moog-ish trance-jam instrumental, just to prove that they can do it.

In which Mat Rademan proudly displays his emo roots. He's not in the band, but it's on his label. This is a Southampton, PA late-90s hardcore band that does throw down some vicious grooves, but it never quite becomes something you couldn't hear from Drive Like Jehu or even Fugazi. No, actually, track 8 out of 9 "Grain Shaft" transcends its influences by being really super-fast, but the lyric still feels emo to me, right down to the typography and layout. ("we're packed so tight in here, and the tension runs so high. the harder if fight, the deeper i sink in. it feels like i'm going to suffocate. i'm lighting matches and letting them burn down, let it burn.")

GUNS, BOOKS & TOOLS: A Polite Pre-Recorded Voice CD (CO2 RECORDS)
Here's a band that has been together for years and whose name still hasn't really made it out of Los Angeles County. Well, that's just plain wrong. Their very good first CD from about three years ago was on SST Records, which would actually explain why no one's heard of them, as that once-great label now only puts out Greg Ginn side projects, and even those don't get promoted or distributed. This follow-up, which is now at least a year old itself, has been self-released by the band. Every time I listen to these guys, I have the same reaction: at first, I think Drew's vocals are going to be too indie-pop (or even grunge) for me, but then the band's trio playing just nullifies that, and pretty soon the vocals sound damn good, more like timeless crooning than genre-coattailing, with interesting, pretty melodies, and best of all, a very nice sense of sparsity. (i.e. the record seems about 60% instrumental.) The band plays a lot of styles, all tied together by the no-frills rock trio format: accomplished jazz trio instrumentals, tranced-out krautrock, unpredictable odd-pop songwriting, reflective Frisellian volume-swelled interludes, and quite a bit of a Noise influence, used sparingly and effectively. "Would You Rather?" is almost like a jazz-pop standard, partly because it's a Billie-esque crooner ballad, and also because the bass solo really is tasteful and moody and the fat distortion tone is so nicely applied that it does sound like a horn. So there ya go. Maybe these guys could be on a good label, or make it over the Rockies sometime to play a few shows.

Here's a band from Northampton, MA that you might've caught on their recent USA tour. Two girls on guitars and a guy on drums, and they play jammy space-rock that tunnels along without fear. Both of these tapes are short and could more or less add up to make one CD, because they sound pretty similar. The Beep Beep tape starts with the girls singing a nearly a capella version of Tommy James' & Tiffany's "I Think We're Alone Now," which is kinda cheesy but at the same time refreshing, because they're daring to be cheesy, and having fun to boot. After another jam ends one of the ladies says "We're the best band in the whole world!" and she's probably only half-joking. It's not like they're always goofing off, either; for most of both tapes, they get down to space-jam-tunneling business and create a pretty involved trance-racket, kind of like a stateside Mouth Crazy. And, the title track of Beep Beep sits nicely in the old-school No Wave chant tradition, featuring the lyrics "Beep Beep....Beep Beep...." Nice covers, too; the silver one (Beep Beep) is 'specially glam. One thing, though, and I don't say this too often, but I actually wish the fidelity on these was a little better. They're a good band and all kinds of heavy things could be done with creative recording and mixing.

Within the first few seconds, over a sunny/sad acoustic guitar vibe, he tells you, "My heart is sick of meaning," and believe me, it's HEAVY. I've never heard the Great Plains, and I only barely heard the one Thomas Jefferson Slave Apartments CD that was major-label affiliated (because someone I knew bought it for $2 in a cut-out bin), but I've always heard of the name Ron House, and with this album I can finally fully see why. Third song starts with a high-quality hook: "She's a foxy mother of one," and, of course, gets HEAVIER from there. Can you get to it? Or are you too sensitive? Or not sensitive enough? Ron House might be both; "Throw me a bone and I'll surely retreat," he says a little later. Of course the music isn't itself HEAVY -- again, it's just guy-with-an-acoustic guitar, backed with a nice rhythm/lead electric guitar and there's a bass in there too, seemingly not on every song but maybe. No drums -- kind of a Blood on the Tracks setup. It wouldn't fit on an OOPS! tour, which is why I could never get 100% behind the OOPS! aesthetic. This is more for the Nick Tosches readers. Anyway, I can really relate to this record because my old long-time haunt of Lincoln, Nebraska, like Ron House's long-time haunt of Columbus, Ohio, is one of those beer-drenched college towns that is just big enough that almost anything can occasionally happen and just small (and beer-drenched) enough that even when it does it's not necessarily exciting.

Phi-Phenomena is a contemporary underground music event in which a good 10 noise, experimental, and Gong Show-style comedy bands perform sets than can last no longer than 6 minutes, including set-up and tear-down. These nights are more like mini-festivals than rock shows. The first were in Minneapolis and Miami, and there has been a national Phi tour when 10 or so acts piled into Rat Bastard's RV and went from city to city, both coasts included. I've only been to one Phi-Phenomena show, in Minneapolis, and it was a friggin' blast, not necessarily because everyone was great (although most were very good), but just because it was such a bold shot of ADD medicine. Not a good habit to get into, but sometimes just what you need. Does this CD fulfill the same purpose?
        Well, it starts with a bang, with "Fancy & Stink" by U Can Unlearn Guitar, which is a guy named Andrew Alper playing a rhythm-box organ or something. Now, this rather gregarious ballad is a love story about two dogs, and even if you heard Irwin Chusid's NPR-approved Music by Grotesque Handicapped Persons compilation, and read all the smug essays that came with it, you still won't be prepared for the balls-to-the-wall weird-person soul singing Alper does here. It's a sound that drives both Wesley Willis and Bobby Conn straight to the wall of the Fireside Bowl and keeps them there with their hands up in surrender. It helps that his vocals are mixed a good 24 times louder than his backing track. But dig those drum machine patterns during the vocal dropout! I don't know, though, someone just started playing "Roundabout" by Yes outside my window, and I really think I should just listen to that if I'm going to have to hear it anyway. Oh, never mind, it was in a car and he drove away......Next: Spacey reed damage! (By Asthmatic.) You can hear the crowd in the background, which makes it more lively. Is someone in the group distantly screaming responses to the reed-damaged questions? Or is it someone in the audience? It's weird to hear the 5-minute limitation applied to improv. The free improv genre, now that it's 40 years old, has completely lost its claim on duration. The approach is so purist zen that it no longer matters if a track is 30 seconds or 30 minutes -- free improv is so liberated, you'll still hear 'everything' either way, and the 30 second stuff will take up much less of your precious time. Noise is a helluva sound, but it's also almost completely improvised, and still thus susceptible to Zen's limitations even though it's supposed to be, like, Fucking Hardcore. That's why the Phi approach is Noise's last hope. Market it to the short-attention spanned......Newton's set is good. Basic but good noise, good but basic noise. It's called "I'm Moving to Richmond" and I like the way he quietly announces the title before starting......those hippies in Pengo actually do a Tuvan throat singing performance. Actually, they're not hippies, which is why it's actually really damn good. Subtle is the key word. The cicadas outside are MUCH louder. Better go turn it up.....Ovo, whom I don't know ofo, do just 55 seconds of thrashing. Sounds kind of like a Gravity band that doesn't use distortion on any instruments and doesn't scream lyrics. I'm just now reading the liner notes, and this song was recorded by Emil Hagstrom in Geneva, Switzerland......Madame Chao do some streaming noise. Not bad, good stuff. Kind of slightly softer. That good medium-heat slow-fry. It helps to know it can't be any longer than 5 minutes, which is the appropriate maximum length for a noise track: just long enough to cook an egg......Doersam w/Jeff Rollason do a quiet duo of a robotic syllable loop and some other, slightly more acousmatic instrument. Again, I like the subdued stuff, but once again, it's an example of a band taking a perhaps too-brief improv sketch and playing it out for 5 minutes seemingly only because they can......the set by late (lower-case ell mandatory) starts with a chick MC who sounds like she's partying (I think I can hear actual on-mic joint-smoking). MSG (late is a one-man band) makes electronic buzz while the emcee keeps talking. "There's gonna be a bunch of people playing, back to back. You don't wanna miss it -- Oh shit, don't walk on that!" Then, MSG stops the buzz for a second to announce "This is dedicated to Gerald Klauder." MSG is an art fag after all! Actually Gerald Klauder is a guy in the noise scene, it's just that his name makes him sound like a painter and MSG like an art-fag for the dedication. Somebody's going "yo yo yo" I think and then doing a avant-garde whistling solo. It's pretty random -- although the second time I listen, I discover that there were lyrics before the "yo yo yo," MSG whispering "gerald, gerald, gerald, gerald..." like Jason's theme from Friday the 13th. Funny! .....Ortho perform one of the rowdiest sets of all, but I think it's almost entirely because it just happened to be the rowdiest audience, at some place called 12-turned-13 in New York. After a long, quiet heraldic intro like the "Close Encounters" theme, there's a Dada-length patch of silence. Maybe there's a costume change because an audience member yells "take it off." Then, Ortho simply presses "puree" and plays what sounds like a kitchen blender for 5 minutes, and then pushes "stop." And it's one of the 3 or 4 very best tracks on here......The Suck, which is a super-group, play a song called "Yank it Off and Kick You in the Eye," which is only 5 seconds long instead of 5 minutes (they misunderstood the rules)......Unconditional Loathing are a great quiet noise band. I've always liked their shit, and their track on here is one of the best I've heard yet. I'm always a sucker for music that uses Harsh Noise to make you feel like you're listening to far-away crickets. This one, "It's a Scream," gets that feeling by tweaking a sample of a terrified scream.....Malta weigh in with 38 seconds of blink-and-you-miss it acoustic-ish improv fit-the-bill is Rexor which a sound that just scream-streams at the loudest volume possible. I turn my CD down every time, no joke. I figured it was John Wiese, but Rexor is a different John: John Vance from up north in the Minneapple........The next track actually is by John Wiese, and it does in fact sound a little quieter than Rexor. The first time I've ever thought John Wiese sounded quieter than anything......Eloe Omoe are a bass/drums 'power rock duo' that can actually stand up with said genre's parents: Harry Pussy and Lightning Bolt. Their track here was recorded in 1998, before all these noise-rock duos really started multiplying. It's great at 5 minutes, but again, this music is inherently limiting, like could they make a full-length and have it stay interesting?......
Gang Wizard also play power rock, but they're more than a duo, and retain a more frenzied improvisational edge to their power-riffing......okay, QXW's low-tunneling noise piece is much quieter than the lawnmower that my neighbor just kicked on, but this is Chicago where no yard is very big so it shouldn't be on for very long....but then again, this is also Phi-Phenomena, where no performance is longer than 5 minutes, so who knows which will end first. Right now, both are still going, and QXW has switched to a more 'whittling' than 'streaming' approach that is even harder for me to hear over the lawn-mower, but the mower is getting to the other, farther away side of the yard so the CD is starting to get slightly louder again. Ah! He just turned off the mower, with just a couple seconds left in the track! Too funny. Chicago: home of the 4-minute lawn-mowing chore. Damn, it takes longer than that to get laundry out of the dryer.....I never liked the name -- it's almost like an annoying emo name -- but I had no idea what to expect from them, and this track is a doozy: just a scary solo female talk/sing performance, like a much calmer Diamanda or that scary shit by Diadal on the Color in Absence Sound comp........Hey, Newton has a second track on here (he and U Can Unlearn Guitar are the only acts with more than one), and it's pretty kickass! It's louder and more balls-out, and a couple times he even goes into a brief Iron Maiden/Cliff Burton/Lighting Bolt minor-triad riff with whatever noise instrument it is he's playing.....Cock E.S.P are next, complete with a polite spoken intro, and they raise hell as usual. It's been a while since I've listened to them, but it's good to have it all back. I'll admit that the main reason I like them is their innovation of brevity, but it's also because I think they're more Soul than they are Quirk.....Dixie Prix's track is interesting because it kind of sounds like the previous Cock E.S.P. shit cut up, played backwards, and remixed. It doesn't sound live, but....what the fuck??? It just went into a Bryan Ferry song, his terrible/great soul cover of "A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall Down," and it goes on for a good two minutes and then track's over! That's funny. Good work......Next are the patron saints of the whole Phi phenomenon: The Laundryroom Squelchers, with "We Don't Do Compilations," which is appropriately uncharacteristic, as it's a really just a woman singing instead of their usual all-out blare. (The blare eventually does sort of take over.)....and then the CD closes with another U Can Unlearn Guitar performance, which again conflates Solo Gospel with Standup Comedy and Avant-Garde Performance. He calls out Matt St. Germain in mid-song: "SLOPPY PANTS!!!" I won't reveal the punchline at the end of the piece.
       This is a quite listenable compilation, although the adrenaline is naturally more palpable in the flesh. I do like the layout with all kinds of party and performance pics. If you're not easily alienated by cynical noise antics, the Phi scene really is a good time. Man, what could be a better month's vacation than travelling all across the country from city to city on an RV with a bunch of interesting musicians? That's right, nerds, you should all have your own Rolling Thunder Revue. Dylan did it, he was a total nerd.

As lo-fi as a really good metal band ever got. Listening to this is really an unspeakable experience. Angelina can hang, but after the fifth track (in which right at the beginning, after a heavy-riff intro, the band stops and Ledney hisses "I VOMIT ON GOD'S CHILD!!!!") she always turns it off. Listen to the decay on the last vocal strains too -- it's Black Ark-worthy lo-fi post-production. Track 18 sounds like slow Big Black! Actually the last few tracks on here are all quite instrumental and experimental and, dare I say, dubwise. What's the deal with this Ledney guy anyway?



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