C and D from Arthur No. 13 (cover date Nov 2004)

optimator

This C & D session was originally published in Arthur No. 13 (Nov. 2004)

C & D
Two confirmed schmucks grapple with the big issues—and an unexpected female visitor.

PICK A WINNER dvd
(Load)
C: You’re not going to believe this.
D: Try me.
C: [delicately loading DVD] Like an hour’s worth of charmingly bonkers/whimsical low-tech animation to go with homemade psych-crunge by the usual Fort Thunder-plus suspects… [Reading the sleeve text] “Dual formatted, double dipped and extra-whipped. Technicolor-laced acid flakes are on the table. Dig in! 18 trips of sound & sights are poured into K-Holes of dubious dimension from tonz of Load bands and video tribes with this new DVD/CD powered pellet.” Amen to all of that.
D: [looking at screen] Whoa.
C: Lightning Bolt, Black Elf Speaks, Wolf Eyes, Neon Hunk, Pink & Brown…
D: [eyes pinwheeling] I don’t believe it. I mean, I do believe it. I am believing it very hard.
C: Party video of the year. People are gonna be getting mandala’d all winter long to this thing, man. Plus there’s a CD in here too.
D: Do you have any mushrooms?
C: No.
D: I’ll take a spray paint can and a plastic bag at this point…

TOM WAITS
Real Gone
(Anti/Epitaph)
D: He really knows his Cuban rhythm, after all these years. You have to dance like David Byrne to this music.
C: Ribot sounds so good. This is the best one since Bone Machine, and you will notice that there was no Mr. Marc Ribot on guitar on the others in between.
D: I feel too close to Tom Waits to talk much more about this.
C: Really?
D: Yes, his armpits are kind of moist. He’s about as cool as you can get for a humid individual.
C: The most important music is for making out, cleaning and cooking. This music is for—
D: Whatever he’s doing, he’s doing it late at night.
C: —I want to walk at night to this music. This is quintessential Californian music – in the redwoods and towns like Bakersfield
D: And Capt. Beefheart…
C: If he wasn’t a musician, would he be this level of cool?
D: [musing] He could be a gas station attendant.
C: ….

THE CRAMPS
How to Make a Monster
(Vengeance)
D: This was recorded in the ‘60s.
C: Sort of. Except it was recorded in 1977. It’s the Cramps, my friend!
D: Hmm. 1977? Wow. Possibly better than the Sex Pistols. Tribal psychobilly, proto-blues!
C: Two solid CDs full of early Cramps for the diehard fans. Live stuff, demos, more stuff from the early ‘80s. It’s a clearing out of the Cramps garage, after all these years.
D: And that garage floor is covered in the goo goo muck! Forget Songs for Bad People, C. This is Songs for Worse People. And I am definitely a worse kind of person.

THE HIDDEN HAND
Mother Teacher Destroyer
(Southern Lord)
D: Whoa…. This is so heavy, I think I may be experiencing some pulmonary problems shortly. Ack…
C: New album from Arthur No. IX cover star Wino, legendary godfather of doom metal, stoner rock, whatever you wanna call it. He’s always been a bit beyond those niche-holes.
D: [listening to “Black Ribbon”] Black Sabbath is back AGAIN, my friend! This is music to endure a tragedy to…
C: It is a pretty amazing record. The kind of doomish, expansive rock record that… well, it elicits dripping monosyllabia from the listeners. Or at least from us, I guess.
D: We are on a doomed flight into the sun on a heroic mission to save humanity, and this is the music we will hear right before we explode!
C: The closing track is entitled “The Deprogramming of Tom Delay”!
D: Excellent! A profound title and some heavy helicopterage and sub-buzzsaw guitar for my least favorite congressman! Wino strikes ONCE AGAIN with his iron-falcon guitar of justice!

BLUES EXPLOSION
Damage
(Sanctuary)
E: [Entering with a six-pack of Optimator] Hey fellas, what’s the commotion?
D: E! You grace us with your female presence once again.
E: [ignoring] What is this?
C: [looking at sleeve] It’s the new Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, except they’ve shortened their name to deal with the shortened attention span of today’s audience.
E: Well for once, it doesn’t suck.
C: [listening to “Crunchy”] Alert the media! Jon Spencer is singing.
E: I always thought Jon Spencer took a special pleasure in subverting his own genius.
C: Look, there’s even a bridge here!
E: I don’t think irony goes well in blues, this hipster irony value. I think he does it because he’s embarrassed about going all the way like Jack White does, all-out all the time.
D: [out of nowhere] BUH-LOOZE EXPUHLOSION!
C: Er. I think he does what he has to onstage because he doesn’t know how else to be in public.
E: He is his own worst enemy. [listening to “Hot Gossip,” a duet with Chuck D] This is pure cheese.
C: I think it’s pretty good. Mista Chuck gets my vote! I wouldn’t demand my money back.
E: Orange kicked ass, they’ll never top it, and that’s the problem.

FELA KUTI MIXED BY CHIEF XCEL
The Underground Spiritual Game
(Quannum)
C: This is a whole bunch of old Fela songs mixed together in one long jam by XCel from Blackalicious.
D: [Dancing] I didn’t know what this was, but I could tell it was cool.
E: It’s hard to talk about stuff that’s so good.
C: You guys are just putdown artists. Just listen to this. It’s like a K-Tel Afrobeat record, and I mean that in the best possible way.
E: K-Tel XCel. Words are redundant when faced with something this good. It’s like Tolstoy said, all the happy families are happy in the same way, the unhappy families are all unhappy in different, interesting ways.
D: [Stops dancing for a minute to ponder] If Tolstoy had lived in Africa…
E: I’m just saying, if you want to stimulate discussion, it’s better to give us something sweaty and imperfect.
C: But we already had the Cramps.

AFRIKA BAMBAATAA
Dark Matter Moving at the Speed of Light
(Tommy Boy)
C: New album by the legendary Mr. Bambaataa, who seems to be on a Detroit trip. He’s obviously working on a computer from some kind of bank of sound samples.
E: If a kid was break-dancing to it this at some subway station, I would definitely check it out, but that’s the only context I’d listen to this.
C: This song “2137” has a distinct 227 feel.
E: [looking at sleeve] There’s a song on here actually called “Electric Salsa.” [makes negative face] Not very enticing.

TIM HECKER
Mirages
(Alien8)
C: This reminds me of the in-between songs on My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless.
D: It sounds like what an electric shaver would hear if it had ears.
C: Pink noise, where no one frequency is dominant. Instant cancellation.
D: It seems like the circuits are burning.
E: It’s contemplative music. Not music for airports, but music for landing strips in the desert. It’s Mogwai without the guitars…
C: He’s obviously interested in melody, it’s got that dislocated-yet-sensual warm/cool feel of certain films: The Man Who Fell to Earth, Demonlover… It’s a few degrees warmer than, say, Godspeed You Black Emperor. This is the opposite of death metal: life metal. He uses tones that the avant garde wouldn’t touch.
E: [drifting] It’s very womblike….
D: Exactly, and everyone should be able to like this, because that’s where we all come from!
C: It’s really inspiring and makes me want to buy multiple copies to give to all the young people I know. Imagine being 13 years old and getting this as a gift…

CAMPER VAN BEETHOVEN
New Roman Times
(Vanguard)
C: New concept album from Camper Van Beethoven. There’s always been a Zappa quality to Camper, I think they’ve achieved that here.
E: Yeah, that and, um, “Riverdance.” This is truly ridiculous, this song.
D: At my high school they would have called this Camper Gaytoven.
C: I dunno, I like it. The thing holds together. Listen to this Cubanic waltz klezmasm! And the lyrics…
E: Did he just say “Half-baked and high on Scientology”?
C: And come on, [singing] “Yeah, might makes right/Might Makes right/They say that God is on our side/and made us mighty”…
E: [disdainfully] I’m not convinced. Tesla, I think they sound like this, right? Next!

THE FUTUREHEADS
The Futureheads
(Sire)
E: Cool and refreshing, let’s dance. If I played this at the office, everyone would like me more…
C: Wonderful concise songs, totally XTC, Undertones, Stiff Little Fingers, the Jam…
D: Don’t forget Haircut 100!
C: Harmonies bring a lot to a group. Good new New Wave. Newer Wave.
E: [gets up and takes CD] See you guys later, I’ll be going door to door and replacing copies of Hot Hot Heat and the Faint records with this, in order to make the world a better place. [exits]
D: [wistfully] New ripples from old waves, making the ladies smile on the subways of London and helping people dance at the office parties. [exits]
C: They are the Hans to Ferdinand’s Franz.
D: …

THE VERVE
This Is Music: The Singles 92-98
(Capitol/EMI)
C: Here’s the career retrospective, bang on time for the holiday gift-givers. [in generic announcer voice:] “From the spaced-out rock with dark-ocean riffs through to the comedown ballads, ladies and gentlemen, we give you, direct from Wigan…the Verve.” [listening to previously unreleased song “This Could Be My Moment”] Sounds like [Verve singer] Richard Ashcroft fronting the Black Crowes.
D: We must initiate the [Black Crowes guitarist] Rich Robinson-Richard Ashcroft connection!
C: It’d be good to have a different kind of Anglo-American collaboration – something better than Bush/Blair.
D: I have to admit I never really got into these guys.
C: Having seen—experienced—them, I am forever converted. The Verve were a heartening phenomenon… an unafraid frontman inviting you from the stagelip … they were travelers from the psychedelic wilderness at the bonfire, singing their own stoned soul hymnals.

PATTY WATERS
You Thrill Me: A Musical Odyssey 1962-1979
(Water/Runt)
C: A collection of rarities from a very feted female who recorded deeply deeply soulful stuff for ESP back in the ‘60s. Foreword by Batoh from Ghost, an essay by Arthur’s own Bull Tonguer Byron Coley, and a short textpiece by Waters herself. What more can you say? It’s beautiful overcast music from a deeply soulful white woman working in that folk-soul-jazz-art idiom that’s so hard to master.
D: It’s devotional music to her man.
C: As Mr. Coley says here, “Rarely has longing-as-pain-as-art been created in such a massive way.”
D: [examining CD booklet picture of Waters completely naked, seated in a bohemian living room chair, her head tilted, gazing out a sunburst window] I do like the naked ladies.
C: I say, good for her for being naked. You can’t get any more naked than her music anyway. The Jax Beer commercial at the top must be noted.
D: [dreamily] I can almost imagine her, naked down by the water, singing, accompanying the piano playing from the other side of the lake…
C: …
D: Hey, where’d the Optimators go?

HANDSOME BOY MODELING SCHOOL
White People
(Elektra)
C: I’m going to play us only one song off this album, which is “I’ve Been Thinking,” sung by Chan Marshall of Cat Power.
D: How is the rest of the record?
C: I have no idea. I pretty much just keep coming back to this one song, which I think may possibly be the best thing she’s ever done. Easily the sexiest.
D: [listening] Reminds me of Sade or Lauryn Hill in a way that I am deeply appreciating in this moment, even without an Optimator. [clears throat] Can I see the sleeve?
C: What, are you gonna check for more boobs?
D: I am not saying that is not be true.
C: Well we don’t have the sleeve here, so you’re gonna have to keep making do with that Richard Avedon shot of her in The New Yorker. [Listening to Marshall sing “slip, slide/slippity slide”] Total babymaking music. These guys are geniuses to be able to convince her to sing like this, to finally coax the coy flirt out of her that we all knew she had. She should do her next record with them, in my humble armchair A & R opinion.
D: [speaking into tape recorder] I hereby prescribe this track once a day to every human on the planet. That, plus two Optimators. No negative side effects, I assure you. Ladies, take two and call me in the evening.

MARISSA NADLER
Ballads of Living and Dying
(Eclipse)
C: Debut album of winsome ghost-folk on the increasingly estimable Eclipse label. Music for tending a candle to.
D: Reminds me of Cowboy Junkies.
C: I think it’s a lot closer to Mazzy Star, with that kinda noir psychedelia sound. Not quite as depressive/sedate, though. Which makes her Hopeful Sandoval. [laughs]
D: …
C: I hear some Joan Baez in there too. Some of it’s incantatory, like some Spanish-Jewish-Irish hangover folk remedy. This is hangover music, for when the agave and cactus nectar don’t work.
D: I usually just grunt and throw up.
C: I bet someone in this band makes their own stained glass windows.
D: This is good music for hanging linen in the country… [face lights up] especially if you’re a naked woman!
C: [sighs] It’s been a long time, hasn’t it, D?

ENTRANCE
Wandering Stranger
(Fat Possum)
D: When I was in college there was a coffeehouse where you could hear music like this. I desperately want this to explode into something interesting.
C: But this isn’t Led Zeppelin, it’s solo lonesome blues, it’s supposed to be contemplative. Stop pounding the Optimators and have some whiskey for once, it’ll all make sense then. You gotta get in the spirit.
D: [listening to “Make Me a Pallet On Your Floor”] I gotta admit his voice is getting better. I thought he could only hit four notes.
C: And you’d be bored by R.L. Burnside if that’s your criteria. He’s doing lots *within those notes. And the guitar work is cool, subtle. The songs don’t explode, but there is some build and tension and then the guitar arches up and over and it’s just devastating. You just gotta have some patience bro. It’s not always gonna be a beer commercial. I can’t wait to see where this guy goes next.

WILLY MASON
Where the Humans Eat
(Team Love)
C: Same thing as Entrance, in a way, with some swamp country. But kinda dull.
D: I can imagine No Depression magazine people and Ryan Adams fans listening to this.
C: I keep thinking it’s gonna turn into a Richard Hawley thing, but his voice just isn’t that rich. Obviously the kid’s got talent, you can hear it in the songwriting. But the whole thing is just…studiofied. Well, it’s his first record, maybe he’ll get better later.
D: Can we watch that video again?

NICK CAVE & THE BAD SEEDS
Abattoir Blues / Lyre of Orpheus
(Anti)
C: Meanwhile, this guy keeps getting better. He’s opened like this before, on Henry’s Dream, but this is better because it’s got the gospel women singing. This is going to be unbelievable live. “There She Goes, My Beautiful World” is almost Spiritualized with a real preacher.
D: “Woke up with a frappucino in my hand”? He’s not concerned so much with southern gothic anymore. But this is good, really good. It’s obvious on first listen.
C: You have to go with his metaphor like Julian Cope is always telling us—he’s working in this weird idiom of over-the-top, almost maniacal surrealism sometimes, then there’s all this humor. He’s heading in Dylan’s direction, I think, by way of…Flannery O’Connor or something. This is his most American-sounding record: blues, gospel, roadhouse rock n roll, lolling funk. And what a beautiful closer vocal on “Carry Me.” Damn! He should be playing the Gospel tent at JazzFest.

BROTHER JT
Off Blue
(Birdman)
D: [singing along] “Everybody was/somebody’s baby once/Little lumps of clay/waiting to be shaped into…”
C: Gentle living room sofa psych-folk lucid lullabies from Brother JT, one of underground America’s gentlest and most open-hearted souls. Wonderful stuff, as always—and album title of the year.

NAGISA NI TE
The Same as a Flower
(Jagjaguwar)
Download: http://www.scjag.com/mp3/jag/bramble.mp3 (mp3, “Bramble”)
C: Continuing down the quiet-time path…
D: The cover picture perfectly describes what you’re going to hear.
C: A Japanese man and a woman and a flower and the sky, yep. Like the more stately Japanese folk melodies that you might hear on a Ghost record. Some songs stretch it out, there’s even one where something explosive happens, D. The mellotron enters at minute eight, it’s just mind-staggering…

GROWING
The Soul of the Rainbow & the Harmony of Light
(Kranky)
D: Warm buzz… Womb music… Drones of the gods by Eno descendants…
C: These guys are doing something profound, sublime.
D: All is right in the universe…

2 thoughts on “C and D from Arthur No. 13 (cover date Nov 2004)

  1. …it’s not like we’re asking for THE FUCKIN WORLD – just for the best reviews on the web, and print for that f’in matter which i guess is still the matter.

    …maybe it’s cabin fever, ass deep in snow here

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