#15    SUMMER LOVIN' 2003


Drawing Room is a New Zealander named David Khan, mentioned in an earlier issue when he was on some KRKRKRK compilation. That was noise/experimental, so I wasn't prepared for the full-on goth assault of "The Lie," the opening track here. Moody keyboards, a pained Depeche Mode/Cure vocal, and then it builds into a wall-of-noise-over-anti-disco-rhythms kind of thing, and then back down to the moody keyboards. Weird! I haven't heard music this overtly gothic since . . . well, ever, really. I listened to other people's Cure albums a little bit in college, but that's as far as I got, besides owning Depeche Mode's Violator on cassette for awhile. I actually kind of loved that album, but you're not supposed to know that. And besides, Depeche Mode weren't really goth anyway -- they didn't even wear makeup. That's what Drawing Room is: goth without any makeup, which is kind of freaking me out because I was expecting 'improv' or 'abstract electronics.' This is therefore rather refreshing. Actually, I think a good comparison is Eyeless in Gaza. I know, right?

Good cover art. Loose trio noisy jamming. Guitar, boxy percussion, etc. More or less all-thud approach, though the tinkering above does get intricate at times. Prog-noise? No, no, it's not Improv, it's Im-prog. Two of the guys are nephews of Thurston Moore, but it's not like you can really tell which. There is singing though, like on track four, a really good short little no wave chanter. Most tracks are longer and looser/jammier. Percussion isn't always there, sometimes its awkward and too loud. Somewhere in around the four-minute mark of the first track, the guitar builds to a shuddering peak but then drops out right away when the drums enter with an almost embarrassing 'breakdown.' He's using those crochet needles on that apartment radiator to play like John Bonham, and it doesn't quite work. The best jam is the last one where it goes on for awhile and then they post-produce the tape, slowing it down to a crawl, and then jam some more over that. Hell, it's a great track, doomy enough to overwhelm the percussion and make it play right. You gotta do something anymore -- it's not always enough to just jam. Hell, Miles Davis knew that back in 1968, when his track "Pharaoh's Dance" was released with 18 tape-splice edits, and "Bitches Brew" with 15.

This may not be on any ten-best lists, or probably even any 500 best, but if you know Fuzz-O you know I'm gonna end up owning a copy of every single LP on which Dylan is backed by The Band, all on vinyl, all for under $4, and this week it just happened to be Planet Waves. (Next I've got my sights on Before the Flood -- that one's a double so it might be $8.) Musically, Planet Waves probably isn't even as good as Cahoots, but the cover art alone is worth the $3.50 price tag I just found it with. Printed on that nice soft 70s album-cover paper is a rough black chalk drawing of three men. The artist is clearly Bob Dylan, continuing in his imitation-Picasso style as featured on the covers of Self Portrait and Music From The Big Pink, but the only thing resembling a credit is a single word scrawled almost vertically at the bottom: "MOONGLOW." (The helpful inscription "CAST-IRON SONGS & TORCH BALLADS" also appears, in a smaller font.) Maybe Moonglow is the alias under which Dylan is signing this painting, or maybe Moonglow is the band name under which Dylan and The Band are signing their recording. Either way the cover art is surprisingly proto-Pettibon, and I also know where Drag City's getting some of their beard-rock tricks.
      On the back cover the hand-scrawl continues, which is pretty notable considering that this is American poet laureate Bob Dylan doing the scrawling, and that 1/3 of the back cover is taken up by an original poem (complete with copious cross-outs) that touches on "Furious gals with garters & smeared lips on bar stools that stank from sweating pussy"! Hell, this printed poem is worth $3.50! I still haven't listened to the record.
      Well, now I have listened to it, and it's not terrible, but really not too good either. The sleeve may be worth $3.50, but the record inside is only worth a couple bucks, at most. Of course, substandard Dylan and the Band is what really gives Drag City something to strive for. I mean, not even Bill Callahan or David Berman is gonna write something like "Visions of Johanna." (The person who's gotten closer than either of them is Conor Oberst but you're not supposed to know that.) Planet Waves isn't so hard to pull off, especially in the age of irony. Anyway, the ballads are the best songs on here, like "Going Going Gone," and especially "Hazel," and of course "Forever Young." But as far as Dylan and/or Band LPs go, this is, let's see, about 34th best. So no hurry.

The title made me think this would be a string quintet playing outside at a busy San Francisco intersection. Doesn't sound like it, though, sounds like they're in the same pristine studio that the Kronos Quartet or whoever uses. Maybe they played at 4AM when no one was around. Too bad it wasn't rush hour so this could have some kind of element of field recording surprise, or at least some heavy atmosphere, like that one from Japan where they played cellos and violins under huge Tokyo overpasses really late at night. (What was his name? Kuwamaya?) So the recording quality is dry and clear instead of grimy, so it hit me as played-out too-pristine Cadence-approvable free jazz. Or is it? Track three's almost 17 minutes long and it slowly makes its way through a slow shifting howl for almost that entire time, so that by the time they build into the de rigeuer tail-chase scratch-fight bow/pluck hoedown, they've actually earned it!

Song just came up on the changer and I'm not sure who it is. Snotty rock, kind of in the Modern Lovers tradition but not as personal. Also beset by a small but noticeable amount of 90s grunge delivery and production. "Foreign car" keeps getting repeated so that might the title. I think it's supposed to be funny. Damn, I hope I don't have to like whatever album this is because a friend of mine sent it to me . . . Oh shit! It is some people I know, Patrick and Kate, a cute couple from back in Lincoln. I knew of them more than I actually knew them, and I'm not even sure they knew who I was or that they were sending this CD to someone also from Lincoln. They were impressive in Lincoln, acting like art stars in a cowtown where no one ever, ever does. In Chicago or New York it's pretty run-of-the-mill to act like art stars, but in Lincoln it can be really refreshing. Patrick had a non-band called American Goy who did this whole mock rockumentary starring themselves on video that they showed once at a bar in between bands, and I actually couldn't believe my eyes that someone in Lincoln had done all this. I remember Kate writing something good (was it poetry?) for a lit zine, and now she works for Jane Magazine! Their ultimate achievement was a performance they did on the Jerry Springer show, something like "My Boyfriend Won't Quit His Religious Cult!", and they played it to the hilt and even had the audience laughing and cheering instead of the usual jeering.
       Well, now they live in New York and they play in a band together called Flaming Fire. The costumes and dress are some of the best I've seen from the new Costume Rock genre, and at least this picture is totally like Edward Gorey meets Ken Russell. But, so far I'm 0 for 2 in trying to appreciate their records as much as the look. They sent me their debut CD too (this is their second) and I listened to it once and it was like this "foreign car" song, all perky and theatrical with all kinds of sonic creativity, but it just kind of BUGGED me. Too perky, too theatrical. I want to like it because they're art stars but I just can't. Maybe the problem is that it was all so "funny" without ever making me laugh.
       Alright -- I do like track 2! Small doses, you know. The vocals are just absurd hollerage -- actually reminds me of the Butthole Surfers for some reason. The music is a bit more refined, but for sheer theatrical abandon they're somewhere in the same category as the Surfers. (Do check out the band website at flamingfire.com -- they are still art stars -- don't miss their extremely ambitious Illustrated Bible project (if you can ever get it to load) -- and chanteuse Lauren Weinstein does her own underground comix such as Vinelandy.)

FLOID MATRIX: Stop The Technology Madness CD (SUPER ASBESTOS)
Mildly proggy grunge rock. More prog and less grunge would've helped. Lardacious bass sound on track two, but that's kind of the high point of the album. Judging from the power trio format and the way the guitarist plays around with the delay pedal and the way the vocals go back and forth from moody talk-singing to aggro shouting, I have a feeling this band was started because of Modest Mouse fandom. They do show some promise by bringing in an electronic element -- track four "Argyle" is an instrumental glitch piece -- but it's almost always quickly overrun by more grunge balladry. You have to give 'em some credit because they're from Fargo, North Dakota, and I do like the CD tray picture of them sitting in a kitchen drinking Jim Beam.

"Dedicated to the Denver Broncos." Yep, this is an example of that small sub-category of Neo No Wave called "sports rock." Only other examples I can think of right now are the songs "Shirts vs. Skins" and "Vocalist Dan Marino" by Hair Police, and Turtleneck & the Sweats from Nashville. This album also proves, unlike the van tours, that Friends Forever can play instruments and actual songs! (Maybe they drafted a bunch of session players.) Track one, "Carnisaur vs. Unicorn," is a little silly, but it's really short, and then track two is a killer instrumental rocker, and would be a KILLER theme song for any half-cyborg NFL team of the future to take the field too. Stadium would be ROCKIN', and the song is called "Win," so fuck yeah. Next song is called "Linebacker Blitz," and I'm thinking of Queen! Because Queen might've single-handedly started No Wave Sports Rock with that classic cut off the Flash Gordon soundtrack, an instrumental synth jam called "Football Fight" (composed by Freddie Mercury). But then again the song itself makes me think of . . . Hawkwind??? Some kind of tribal biker chant-jam anyway. "Stoned barbarian shit"?? YES. The song called "Elway" rocks hard too, in a near-metal way. And the album is only 30 minutes long! This album is a blast, and almost NOTHING like the van tour sound you know them from.

GET HUSTLE: Dream Eagle 1 LP (31G)
Last issue I wrote about seeing this band live and thinking they were great, and this issue I'm writing about this LP which actually lives up to the live show and maybe even then some. The recording actually sounds live and lo-fi, like someone was running a hand-held while they played in their practice space, but the more you listen to it you're not sure if it even is lo-fi because it's imbued with this weird power, the same power they had live. Seriously, folks, this band almost makes me want to use the word "shamanistic." I'm not going to, but it's that close. And just look at the whole package, with that timelessly psychedelic cover. This is a band that exists on their own terms, without feeling the need to toe any hipster or even anti-hipster line. I still can't get over the band name, and how much it sounds like one more bored new wave electro act that screams too much, and how much the actual music of the band is the antithesis of that. Once again, this is nothing less than the deepest, darkest soul music I've heard from the underground in what seems to be years.

Two live shots of Get Hustle.       

HAIR POLICE: Mortuary Servants 7-inch (GODS OF TUNDRA/
I ain't gonna lie, this rec clearly shows some Wolf Eyes influence. RoboBooty is starting to twist out some brain-dive oscillators in a way that is, it's fair to say, Olson-esque. And he's doing it RIGHT. Then, when you add Trevor Tremaine's hardcore drumming halfway through side one it becomes something else totally, not sounding like Wolf Eyes, or even previous Hair Police. They're a band on the move. Hell, the intro doesn't sound like Wolf Eyes either, what am I talking about, even though the oscillator mind-dives mix with what are probably vocals to create a real horror-show sheet of sound. Heavy shit! Side two doesn't really have drums or vocals, just creepy (mortuary?) sounds, and it's over before you know it, after a few attempted lock grooves don't quite happen. Mastering problem, or intentional art statement? Why not both?

Canned Hamm is involved, both Big and Li'l, along with several other Vancouver, BC-based miscreants and ne'e'r-do-wells. If you're really 'into the scene', you might remember some wacky live footage by the July Fourth Toilet on that various artists video comp called Ass High and Left of Center that came out a few years back. But this isn't video, it's audio, and what you hear when you put the disc in is: odd pop!! Wife just asked if it was They Might Be Giants, which I'm guessing they won't take as a compliment. I'd compare it more to the heyday of The Greatest Record Label of All Time (Amarillo Records), which I'm guessing they WILL take as a compliment. The Amarillo influence is quite apparent, mainly in all the funny singing voices, such as the nerdy falsetto voice, and the tired yawning guy voice (as popularized by Mark Davies). The latter features prominently in my favorite track, the melancholy album-closing six-minute epic "One Day Is Representative Of Our Time Together."

July Fourth Toilet live in Vancouver, British Columbia

KHANATE: "No Joy (remix)" b/w "Dead" 12-inch (LOAD)
This is my introduction to Khanate, but I've read that they're real heavy and doomy. First track is slow and doomy, heavy but also quite skeletal, almost like some Swans shit. This casts the screamo vocals in a totally new light, and they chill to the bone. Maybe it's the remixer's doing, but I have a feeling it's the band's. This is one of the most melancholy, reflective things Load has released. It really gets under your skin as its 9 chilling and unhurried minutes play out. Track two has a similar feel, just slow and skeletal doom screams. No 'wall of noise.' So what Khanate should I get now?

See, man, Dronedisco just does something different every time with the packaging. This time it's a 3" CDR. Who knew? I saw Life Rocks! play a show a few months ago and they played what might have been two jams and it lasted 3 minutes tops. This disc has 6 jams at around 13 minutes so that's like 3 sets worth. This is basically just all out drums and guitar abuse, although distorto vocals creep in and there is more sonic variety than I had time to process live. (For example, it sounds like a cell phone is going off in the last jam.) The drummer plays in a kind of blast beat style and the guitar just makes a mess. Thumbs up. Funny, 4 or 5 years ago this would have been 'marketed' as 'extreme guitar/drums duo improvisation', like Ascension, now it's just 'neo no wave' or something. Who knew?

LIGHTNING BOLT: Wonderful Rainbow CD (LOAD)
For about ten minutes I actually thought the new Mindflayer was better than the new Lightning Bolt. Then I realized I was insane to think that. Wonderful Rainbow is even better than Ride the Skies, let alone Take Your Skin Off. It's also the first record that has made me get up and dance around the house by myself since I played that Grandmaster Flash CD like eight days ago. Actually, I was already standing up and track two "Assassins" (the real 'first song' on the album, because track one is a really short 'tuning up' kind of jam) kicked in and I remembered it from their last show, at which I was headbanging, and I just couldn't help but start headbanging again, even though I was just walking through the hallway of my apartment all by myself. It gave me a chance to make up for my somewhat disappointing headbanging at the show itself, because it was so darn crowded there, and I couldn't get right up to the band, and I let the Chicago uncomfortability get to me, darnit. (People still mosh in Chicago, but they do it really self-consciously, with lots of fake fists in the air, and one guy was doing this solo shoulder-mosh thing where he'd roll one shoulder and then the other, to the beat, and he was doing it on this really fast song, so it looked like he was doing some weird bicycle imitation with his shoulders. Put on a fast song from this CD and try it at home -- it's actually decent exercise!
       Track three "Dracula Mountain" crushes you for three minutes with absurd crazy-metered brutal-prog fanfares, and then, after this introduction, it gets on the fucking silver motorcycle for one of the most memorable motorik heavy metal pop hooks they've ever written. Track four "Two Towers" starts sort of as another 'tuning up' jam, but then kicks into this beyond-lardacious two-note bass riff that Chippendale just, well, rides. Possibly their best track yet. And it's called "Two Towers" and it's coming out just after the Lord of the Rings movie! Now that's the kind of promotional tie-in I'd like to see.
      Anyway, track five is "On Fire," and it's the one I really remembered from their live show, the 'hit' I couldn't wait to 'buy' on the 'new album.' You can actually start to smell the Thin Lizzy influence on this one, which only adds to the skullfuck/headrush/
whatever it is these days that they're calling music-induced disorientation. The 'ballad' breakdown in the middle is just plain ill, I remember it from the show because in the middle of it I said to Mike Elsener "this is the most retarded song I've ever heard." (I know, I know, I'm extra-pithy at live shows.) But all hell still breaks loose and it's dirge city, Brian Gibson's bass actually sounding exactly like Jon Lord's organ (if you know what I mean). Next song shows off Gibson's eight-finger tapping technique better than ever atop a hideously regal stomp! Next song "Longstockings" features an actual cowboy riff! The title track is next and it's a minute-long post-Eno ambient thing, like an actual Swell Maps interlude! This album really is just one hit after another! Next song "30,000 Monkeys" is just total insanity metal riffing. And it's all just based around like two chords -- where is Gibson getting this shit? Last track "Duel in the Deep" starts off kind of slow, like maybe they should've just called it good at 35 minutes with the incredible "30,000 Monkeys." But that's before Chippendale enters and brings it up about nine notches. (Eight, at least.) He's just a heavy drummer, I mean listen to the Mindflayer, the guy's better than Bonham.

"Toru Yoneyama: tokai-talbo, toys, junk microphone, vo . . . Osama Kato: jazzmaster, rapman, pcr, vo." I wasn't super-hep on this duo's previous release in a previous ish; but I would call Maze, their second release for the Public Eyesore label, an improvement. I really like that guitar duo Delayed Sleep from Northern California, and that's basically what Luv Rokambo has grown into with their second release: a quasi-punk ambient guitar duo. They're almost playing songs now, instead of just 'ideas' or 'moods' (i.e. facile improvisations). Like track 5 ("only shadow / without human (III)") is really slow and stretched-out, with a very nebulous concept of songwriting, but it does have singing, and hooks that you actually realize you remember the second time you listen. Then they do another version of it ("only shadow / without human (II)") a coupla tracks later that's like an outtake by The Led C. (i.e. a Michael Morley/James Page hybrid) but you can still tell it's the same song. Loren Connors influence is worn well on the sleeve, which I've seen drag down a few bands/guitarists in my time. It's a lot harder to do that kind of stuff than it might sound (Mazzacane himself doesn't always pull it off), and there’s a fine line between doing minimalism and just not doing much of anything . . . but with Maze, Luv Rokambo manage to do just enough. And on track nine, without abandoning the ‘abstract dirge ballad’ template, they certainly break some new ground as far as ‘piercingly loud’ goes. (My cat wouldn't shut up and I had to turn down the stereo.)

Not gonna say much, except that Mr. CMS was the first person I ever heard mention this guy when he handed me these bootlegs, and then just two weeks later I see the name again, mentioned on pitchforkmedia.com, so I sense a real Hurricane Albert brewing and you heard it here first (or second, third, fourth, fifth, etc.). Marcoeur is a French bandleader who did most of his work in the 1970s, and it's kind of a prog wonderland. Playful and surprising, complicated but soulful. And "prog" doesn't even do it justice -- there's more going on. Musique concrete? Sound poetry? I think so. That's all I'm gonna say for now -- like I said, this is just a quick note so I could say "you heard it here first." (Or second, third, fourth, or yes, even fifth would make me feel cutting edge!)

Bootleg version of this legend -- the original Metallica release, a demo cassette that circulated through tape trading only -- and I'm not even sure it's the real thing, because it's kinda terrible. I mean, this came from file-sharing, and anybody could've been pranking and saved any old Metallica cover band's MP3 as "Metallica _ No Life Til Leather." The band itself I could believe as the real thing, but the singing is absolutely freaky. If this is Hetfield, he just plain hadn't figured out how to sing yet, as he would just a year or whatever later when the real debut, Kill 'Em All, was released. On here, as Mr. CMS pointed out, he's imitating early Vince Neil way too much. After all, Mötley Crüe was Hetfield's favorite band when he was growing up in the L.A. suburb of Downey (that's where the Carpenters were from too), and on here "Hit the Lights" actually sounds like a paler version of "Live Wire." He also tries some weak-ass Halfordisms, wavers all over the place, and just generally sounds really green. I can hear the greatness start to come through with Hetfield's chanting chorus to "Search and Destroy," which is also one of the best early Metallica riffs. And in a year's time, he had learned to almost completely ditch the high Neil/Halford wails and concentrate on that one chanting/barking register. And the rest is history.

This album has been hyped as a return to roots, and even has Pushead cover art to prove it. Well, the songwriting is definitely thrashier and rawer but unfortunately it's not good. For about 7 minutes I was like, "This might be okay," but then the riffs just bogged down in the throes of one too many over-repeated self-help catchphrases like "My lifestyle determines my deathstyle! / My lifestyle determines my deathstyle! / etc." Good point, but not a good lyric. And Hetfield's vocals have gone full circle to where they're almost as bad as they were on No Life 'Til Leather. Except now he's not imitating early Vince Neil, he's imitating nu-metal singers, alternating between a lifeless croon and nu-metal bark-rapping. Another big problem is that the production tries to be 'raw' when the attitude is not, with the drums sounding so wrong that I feel this album might become a cult favorite among Neubauten heads. What's more, for the four tracks I listened to, I heard NO Kirk Hammett guitar solos. What, is that supposed to make it more "raw"? That just makes it more boring.

MINDFLAYER: Take Your Skin Off CD (BULB)
Supergroups usually have at least three or four members, but Mindflayer is a superduo, consisting of Brian Chippendale (of Lightning Bolt) and Mat Brinkman (of Meerk Puffy, Forcefield, and most definitely et al).
      The record starts with some No Wave Pummel and I can't help but think okay, No Wave Pummel is over. It's a done deal. Every I time I hear a band play No Wave Pummel, even when it's good I just think, "Yeah, it's been done, it's not really gonna surprise anyone anymore, at least not me." It's like a knee jerk thing, but that's because No Wave's goal is to jerk knees. And after all, what genre is like 60% of this zine about? (No Wave Pummel.)
       Sure 'nuff, by track three I'm pretty much totally into it, like this is every bit as heavy as Lightning Bolt but also somehow cleaner, in a good way. Chippendale doesn't play with the same crazed 'cover every available space' style he uses in Lightning Bolt -- this is actually more restrained and pulse-oriented, in a good way. (Some reviews have even used the word "tribal" . . . in a good way.) This might also be because M. Puffy's electronics don't change chords and time signatures as frantically as Brian Gibson's bass, although he more than competes with Gibson when it comes to sheer sonic brouhaha. Track five, for example, could probably pass for the new Lightning Bolt album if you told someone who didn't know. Powerful recording job by trash-gunk maven Velocity Hopkins at Bulb Clubhouse, back when it was located in Rhode Island. Great track titles too: "Drop Bass Not Bombs," "A Wind War," "Are You Fucked Up," "Gold Lake Spiller," and "Street Attack With Mongrels, Elephants, Glitter, Etc." to name a few.

THE MOGLASS: Telegraph Poles Are Getting Smaller and Smaller as the Distance Grows CD (NEXSOUND)
These guys were one of the 'out of nowheres' for last ish, coming straight outta the Ukraine with a disc that seemed like it was going to be standard drony improvised space-rock, and in fact even sounded like it was, but somehow just sort of refused to be. I called it "space-ug" and it was indeed this lost creepy kind of vibe that almost reminded me of the Conet Project. Here's a followup that actually is a little less creepy, and maybe even slightly new-agey, but once again I just don't mind. The Moglass just know what they're doing. This one, along with the RH Band LP on HP Cycle, get the "Tangerine Dream" award for the issue.