Originally published in Arthur No. 21 (March 2006)
C and D: Two guys bro down over some new records
D: I’m looking at the stack of stuff we’re going to talk about and I am noticing an absence this time round of certain records, or styles, that I am particularly fond of. I am worried about the lack of brash super-volume riff-monster guitar and backbeat.
C: Well D, the way I look at it is: We certainly can’t review everything that we come across—who has the energy for that? And we can’t even cover everything that’s obviously worthy—there’s just not enough space. So it’s a bit down to what most interests us at the moment. As Allen Ginsberg pointed out, “Mark Van Doren used to write book reviews for the Herald Tribune and almost every one of the reviews was intelligent and sympathetic; he was always talking about something absolutely marvelous. I said, ‘What do you do with a book you don’t like?’ and he said, ‘Why should I waste my time writing about something I’m not interested in?’” And anyways, don’t worry. There’s some riffs on the way.
D: [Listening to “Sewn One”] Hmm… Could it be the mighty Growing?
C: Close, but no cigar. This is Mountains, a duo from New York who I only recently became aware of because Mr. Plastic Crimewave selected them to play at his 2 Million Tongues festival. Their second album. A nice electrical nature hum. I’ve also been hanging out recently in the mountains, so I feel a special affection for them automatically.
D: An orchestral shower with the warm drone reminiscent of Herr Klaus Schulze on the synthesizer.
C: And then, little acoustic guitar lines and horn tones, foregrounded, or deeply backgrounded. It’s pretty great isn’t it? Total mama nature kids in a low-wattage electronic garden. Reminds me of what Ginsberg’s “great peaceful lovebrain” would sound like, slowly comfortably spinning drifting slowly in eternal wombspace. An alternate soundtrack to Silent Running‘s opening sequence, or a lost instrumental Talk Talk aria…
D: You’ve been on quite a Ginsberg kick lately.
C: [smiles beatifically] Why bother to paraphrase already perfectly put words of wisdom? I say quotate away til we have something new to say… I like to listen to this at Arthur HQ with the windows and front door open, hoping birds will fly by or neighborhood animals will walk in, and we can all be at peace together, for once… Of course, it’s also useful to drown out the car alarms and sirens and lawnmowers and leafblowers and helicopters. It’s not sentimental flashy hot leftbrain human, not cold technical rightbrain robot: strictly ahuman, objective in a naturalist’s sense.
C: Continuing in the rural mode…
D: Psychedelic canyon and meadow music such was made in ye olde ’70s! [starts air guitaring to closing ascending twin electric guitar line of "Seasons Don't Fear the Year"]
C: They’re really nailing that rich acoustic-electric rolling tabla honey harmony sound that all those heavy bands—Sabbath and Zeppelin, especially—used to do, back when all the best musicians were inspired by what the Incredible String Band were doing, and were still able (or willing) to express a feminine side to go with their preening barbarian or depressive wail aspects…
D: [reminisces] When the maidens were fair and wore flowers in their hair instead of covering themselves in tattoos and piercings. I am awaiting Sandy Denny’s entrance at any moment.
C: Total “Battle of Evermore” vibe, especially on “Nice Cuffs.”
D: Nice title. I also like this one: “What Never Was and What Should Have Been.”
C: More like “What Always Is and Will Ever Be.” This is an album without a sell-by date, with a song for every season.
D: [listening to "Shalom of Safed"] Monumental. Like the best parts of Deep Purple and the Moody Blues and Pink Floyd.
C: Making music for horse-drawn sledrides thru the driving snow to the lodge in the distance, where pale ale and a fireplace and friends are…
D: [10 minutes later] Was that all one song?
The Duke Spirit
Cuts Across the Land
D: [listening to “Stubborn Stitches”] Could it be Heartless Bastards?
C: Yeah, a little eh? It’s actually the first album from an English band, three blokes with a woman in front who does have a voice not too far from Ms. Bastards, or Ms. The Kills, or Ms. Polly Harvey, or here, on “Darling You’re Mean” …
D: Great title!
C: …which opens like an old Spacemen 3 or Spiritualized tune, she’s got that Hope Sandoval reverbian thing going on, but she doesn’t just mope-pout, she howls too. Pretty standard tunes but a great voice and an interest in building to liftoff, repeatedly. The band reminds me a little of their contemporaries and fellow Englishpeople the 22-20s here and there, which of course takes us back to The Gun Club and X. And I also hear, especially on “You Were Born Inside My heart”…
D: ANOTHER great title!
C: …the sound of Come, of the great Thalia Zedek, an underappreciated true believer voice of blues trauma/”I’m having an episode” rock & roll darkside… This music says: jeans and threads, fringes and belt buckles, whiskey and sunglasses, late nights and tough mornings.
D: They strike me as… promising.
C: What do they promise?
D: Dirty glares, at first. But later? [smiles] Sex with slapping.
Isobel Campbell & Mark Lanegan
Ballad of the Broken Seas
D: [listening to "The False Husband"] Well the obvious recent comparison would be that Nick Cave & Kylie Minogue song on Murder Ballads. Also Serge Gainsbourg and Ms. Bardot, or Lee Hazelwood songs, or Jimmy Webb, or Johnny Cash…
C: It has a classic vintage feel. There’s a real string section (which more artists should do instead of cheaping it out with the synthesizer), and a darkness and a ’60s country and western duet swirl to it, with an almost inappropriately sexkittenish breathy femme voice—
D: Julee Cruise. Or, Marilyn Monroe singing to the president—
C: She’s a better singer than that, but you get the feeling listening to this—
D: [smiling broadly, with raised eyebrows] I get many feelings listening to this—
C: I have no doubt that you do, but anyways you get the feeling that she’s holding back singing, doesn’t trust her voice so much as she should. But her reticence doesn’t hurt her here because the songs are so accomplished, and she’s got Mr. Mark Lanegan, probably our nation’s greatest wounded survivor voice, to harmonize and duet with.
D: And they’re all HER songs! Interesting…
C: Except for “Revolver,” a really spooky nighttime shortness-of-breath anxiety thing written by Lanegan, and a clever reworking of Mr. Cash’s “Ramblin’ Man.” Yeah, how often do you see women writing for men anymore? It’s great. Lullabies and laments, offers and pleas, thoughtfully arranged with appropriate decor: a fiddle here, reverbed tabla there, an instrumental intermission at just the right point.
D: Which could have been a track on the Citay album!
C: And the pop tune here — “Honey Child What Can I Do?” is pure singalong AM radio gold.The album closer—”The Circus Is Leaving Town”—is an all-timer for closing time.
D: This is the kind of heartsong Tom Waits used to write.
C: What a song, what lyrics, what a melody, what a feel. I wish we could run all the lyrics for this: “The party’s over now/stop howling at the moon/you need a different beat/you need a different tune/Remember that old song/we had when we were young/Life was an empty page/the world would write upon/Do you recall the meadow grass, we’d sit and watch the hours pass/ You were such a good girl then/Oh Ruby dry your eyes/The circus is leaving town/Oh Ruby, roll your stockings down…” When Lanegan sings, “You could make me think/the sun sets in the east” and then hums at the end? Whew!
D: That’s when you know a singer knows how good a song is. When he still wants to sing it even when there’s no more words to sing.
C: Obviously, hopefully, this is just the beginning of a beautiful, enduring partnership.
Comfort of Strangers
D: Wow. Total laugh-cry masterpiece triumph to the 32nd degree. And I was never a huge fan. What happened?
C: Maybe a weekend at Esalen helped? Who knows. It’s a huge creative breakthrough, for sure, on every level. There’s more good words in the first minute of the album than most songwriters come up with in their entire career. And the music is tremendous, really dry and warm and thought-out.
D: It’s called craft at service to a group of great songs.
C: Maybe it’s down to the guys she’s working with—Tim Barnes on drums, Jim O’Rourke on other instruments and production—but it seems like they totally gelled creatively in a way where it doesn’t really matter how it happened. I mean, O’Rourke was involved with those Judee Sill records finally seeing the light of day last year, and I can hear echoes of her work here—that melancholy, that minor joy, those major choruses in spite of everything, that lovely canyon feel, etc. So it makes sense. Still… Man, every song is a hit. Listen to the breakdown on the chorus of “Rectify.” Amazing. Only a live band can do that. Same thing on “Shopping Trolley,” which is practically anthemic, with zero cheese content, and “Heart of Soul,” which she just BELTS. Amazing. Bare music, bare soul. I’m crying here!
D: Coffeehouse denizens of America rejoice, we have a new masterpiece to sip our lattes to.
Belle & Sebastian
The Life Pursuit
D: [singing along to "Act of the Apostle Part 1] “What would I do in Germany?” I find myself wondering that sometimes.
C: [smugly] I have no doubt that you do.
D: Enough with the sarcasm, you, or there may be damages! [listening to "Another Sunny Day"] Who is this?
C: Belle & Sebastian, from Scotland. Your friend Isobel Campbell used to be in this group.
D: I don’t recall them being this fun.
C: Yeah, it’s total record store pop, isn’t it? Almost like Ween in its variety and craft, when you think about it. Just a ton of styles they didn’t have mastered before: 12-string Byrds country-soul, Gary Glitter glam beat with Sweet-style melodies and harmonies, upbeat melodic Creedence chug rock & roll, a stylish Jam dance number, a Stevie Wonder Synclavier summer sunpop hit, all sung in choirboy stylee. Lotsa great music hall stuff, but it’s all perfect for a stylish afternoon-into-evening garden party.
D: Rufus Wainwright, eat your heart out.
C: Clever observational storytelling lyrics too, which they’ve always done well. “Sukie in the Graveyard” is Sly & the Family Stone-style organ riff funk with Kinks kharacter lyrics and long-line melody. “Funny Little Frog” takes me back to Pulp, who I dearly miss.
D: “For the Price of a Cup of Tea” is an undeniable number one hit in the harmony pop heaven of my inner music-lover mind.
Hello Young Lovers
(In the Red)
C: [listening, slackjawed] …
D: [listening, eyes bulging] …
C: Talk about genius.
D: Talk about masterpiece.
C: How do you even start to talk about this?
D: I’ve never heard anything like it.
C: The best I can say is if you ever liked Sparks—any of their many, many startling inventive endlessly idiosyncratic innovator phases during the last 30 (!) years—this will destroy you. And if you never liked Sparks, ever, you need this, just to know that pop music, pop lyrics, pop personae could be so much…MORE.
D: They should be on the cover of Arthur.
C: Stop the presses!
D: I gotta say I didn’t see this one coming.
C: A surprise knockout in the 20th round! Or, in Sparks’ case, the 20th album.
D: [opens window, yells outside to passers-by] C and D are down for the count! [pause] Again!
Recorded on a whim days before Hairy Painter left for Thailand, this episode of Arthur Radio is a celebration of all possible futures; roads that we choose to take, for whatever reason, that ultimately lead us to another, and yet another. Whether life is a choose-your-own-adventure or a fated journey is unknown to us, but it is empowering to believe that we mold our own destinies.
The positive energy created by special guests SAADI (Boshra AlSaadi of Janka Nabay & the Bubu Gang with Tim Wagner)’s performance was tangible in the Newtown Radio studio, where we stayed after hours to dance with christmas lights in the dark. White-saged into the present, we returned to the streets with a sense of newness in every passing moment.
Photo: Alberto Milazzo
DOWNLOAD: Arthur Radio w/ SAADI 12-05-2010
Above: Kenneth Anger (not inside the Pentagon).
The following is a brief excerpt from “Out! Demons Out!: An Oral History of the 1967 Exorcism of the Pentagon and the Birth of Yippie!,” a 16,500-word piece in Arthur No. 13 (cover by John Coulthart above—that’s Ken’s face in red), available for $6 postpaid from the Arthur Store…
PAUL KRASSNER: There were a lot of young people and old protesting vets. Viet Nam was much more in people’s minds by then. It was also at the end of the Summer of Love. So, the march was part of an intensification and expansion of what was already going on. It was one of the first, biggest, non-linear, non-traditional, non-Old Left demonstrations. I think in that sense it was seminal.
ROZ PAYNE: After all the speeches that went on in front of the Lincoln Memorial and the music, then the people went to march on the Pentagon. The kids were at the demonstration anyway and anything that looks more interesting than listening to speakers is gonna attract people, and so a large group of people followed the march. On one of the overpasses there was this young Black guy who has a sign that said No Vietcong Ever Called Me a Nigger. There was a river there, and there were people on boats there who had signs. It was almost like a new type of thing we had never encountered. Usually you went to a demonstration, you heard speeches and you left; this time, you followed the group. People went through this break through bushes, climbed up some rocks, cleared a pathway and you ended up at the Pentagon, which is really exciting. And here are all these…there were just thousands and thousands of people there, soldiers surrounding the Pentagon, people sitting on the ground OMMMing. The exorcism of the Pentagon was a sideshow. It was brought up that they were going to be doing this but that wasn’t the main thing.
KENNETH ANGER: There were a bunch of idiots there. I didn’t consider myself an idiot, but maybe other people would. [laughs] There were these hothead lefties, who, their idea was they would take over and kill the capitalists. Well, that’s not very practical. Then there were Hare Krishnas, peacenik idiots, saying peace peace, or something like that. I didn’t go for anything like that. It was so annoying.
ALLEN GINSBERG: Ed Sanders carried the levitation out. But not in a Buddhist way but in a Western magical way which was maybe not such a good idea. While Ed was trying to un-hex the Pentagon, Kenneth Anger was underneath his wagon trying to hex him.
ED SANDERS: Kenneth Anger was burning something down there and making snake sounds at whomever should try to come near. He told me that he had been inside the Pentagon weeks ago to bury something.
KENNETH ANGER: I just walked right in. I had studied how the Pentagon staff were dressed, and I was just like them. I wore a dark blue conservative suit. I even had a small American flag on my lapel.
I was attacking Mars, the god of War. He’s still our ruling god. If you think Mars is an extinct thing from the antique past that we can just laugh at now, forget it. Mars is still here. That is not my opinion, but my knowledge. Mars is a terrifying but sobering vision. I have had this vision of Mars—you have to do all the things at certain times of the year, and then he does come through. And he’s about 500 feet tall, he’s not very handsome, he’s very strong, he’s armored, he’s bearded in a scraggly way, he’s got the fiercest eyes of any of the gods. He makes Jupiter—Jove—look benign and effete in comparison. But Mars is kind of childish—that’s why it’s so hard to get to him. He just loves bloodbaths. This is his thing. He does it very well. And he’s always thinking up new ways to do hideous things to the human race. This is his FUN. He’s the god of War. And he’s been alive since there were humans in tribes. War is the most consistent activity of the human animal. For whatever reason, some good, and a lot bad, we’ve been doing it as a race since the cave days. Of course, some wars are justified, like World War II, fighting the Nazis, I can’t think of a better cause. But Mars has nothing to do with being fair. Mars loves bloodshed, and he is a force that’s still operating in the world—it’s a force that according to modern thinking is irrational, but nevertheless there. Freud would have called it the unconscious or something but I believe that these are actual living entities. Not ‘living’ in the way like humans living and breathing, [but] living in a way that are much beyond our capacity, because they’ll never die.
In a personal sense, men more than women have a big problem with Mars. Most soldiers from the beginning of time have been men, and still are. And the Pentagon is controlled by men. The Pentagon itself is sort of an occult shape—like a five-sided collapsed star. [In the Crowley tradition, Mars’ number is five and its color is red.—Ed.] I’m a pagan. Mars doesn’t terrify me because I’ve come to understand him as a living entity. But just because Mars is so powerful doesn’t mean you always have to give in to him. You have to [put him in his place]: ‘Alright buster, calm down. You’re not the only star in the firmament. Enough already.’ That sort of thing. And [so I attacked Mars] in an abstract way.
I had a map of the Pentagon. I went into every single men’s room and left—in a place where it was bound to be discovered, usually on the seat where anyone using that stall would have to see it, not on the floor, of course! —a talisman which was written on parchment paper, drawn in india ink. Each one was drawn individually using one of Crowley’s talismans as my guide. I’m sure no one in the Pentagon could figure out what this thing meant. There was nothing like “War is bad” on it. There weren’t even English words. They probably could figure out it was something occult. They know about those things, and they have a reference library.
I went from one men’s room to the next. I didn’t stop until I had scattered all 93 of my talismans—because 93 is a sacred number for Crowley. Then I walked out, it was all very inconspicuous. The security guard looked at me and gave me a nice look, like we’re all looking after each other. If I’d been stopped and put in handcuffs that would’ve been unpleasant. That isn’t the way I want to spend my time in Washington—I had a ticket to the opera for later that week.
ED SANDERS: I remember after we’d done “Out, Demons, Out,” I went down under the truck and there was this guy from Newsweek trying to hold a microphone close to Anger. It looked like Anger was burning a pentagon with a Tarot card or a picture of the devil or something in the middle of it. In other words the thing we were doing above him, he viewed that as the exoteric thing and he was doing the esoteric, serious, zero-bullshit exorcism. So I went along with that.
KENNETH ANGER: I don’t burn Tarot cards, I respect them too much. [What I was doing] was saying Ed Sanders and the Fugs are a bunch of crap, this isn’t the way to fight a war. After all, I was there to protest the war. I knew what I was doing. It was a Crowley-type ritual. They’d brought in a truck, decorated in flowers, making it like a float in the Rose Parade. They were just showoffs, they were putting their own agenda on this other thing. I found that offensive too because it wasn’t the point. Naturally flowers are nice and peace is nice and all that, but that’s not quite the point of what’s happening. And they were doing their omni hare krishna chant chant, peace peace, whatever, the kind of crap that Lennon and Yoko used to chant. People could say they were harmless and meant well. Well I’m sorry, they may have meant well [but] it didn’t do any good. In my view, there’s ways to [demonstrate] that are correct and there are ways to do it that are not correct. All the singing and flowers and chanting and all that crap was not the right way. The focus should on the objective of the march, not on Hey! Me! I’m here! Since it was close to Halloween, some people came dressed in costume, or carrying inappropriate signs, and I found that totally inappropriate, because it’s saying Look at me, don’t think about what we’re here for. The kind of energy that can be generated by a march can be dissipated by just turning it into a sideshow. And I see this happen over and over with American marches. Like people who try to protest in the nude: this is not appropriate for anything. Because public nudity happens to be against the law—and it probably should be, because most people are ugly! [laughs] The few Adonises and Venuses around, I’d love if they would parade in the nude. But most people could use a little concealment.
Special thanks to Byron Coley
“WE WANT THE WORLD, AND WE WANT IT NOW”
In 1968, after years of self-imposed exile in Europe, the Living Theatre triumphantly returned to America with their theatrical breakthrough “Paradise Now.”
The sensational production, involving group nudity, marijuana smoking, advocacy of a non-violent anarchist revolution, continuous interaction with the audience and something just this side of a full-on public orgy, received attention from those far outside the normal theater-going public.
From The Living Theatre: Art, Exile, and Outrage by John Tytell (Grove Press, 1995):
Doors singer Jim Morrison and poet Michael McClure actively participated in performances of ‘Paradise Now’ at the [San Francisco Bay Area's] Nourse Auditorium…. McClure brought Morrison to visit at [Beat poet/City Light Books founder Lawrence] Ferlinghetti’s office. Julian [Beck, of the Living Theatre} was on and off the telephone to New York, frantically worried about the money to get the troupe back to Europe where engagements has been scheduled. Quietly, Morrison offered to assist with money.
Morrison–who had read Artaud and Ginsberg in college–saw himself as a revolutionary figure. Agreeing that repression was the chief social evil in America and the cause of a general pathology, he was typical of the sectors of support The Living Theatre had received in America. [The Doors'] long improvisational song ‘When the Music’s Over’ proclaims, as in ‘Paradise Now,’ ‘We want the world, and we want it now.’ Morrison had seen every performance in Los Angeles and followed the company up to San Francisco.
“On the day after his visit with McClure, Jim Morrison gave Julian [Beck] $2,500 for the trip home…”
Two years in the making, beautifully assembled with love by Will Swofford, Arthur Magazine’s PARADISE NOW: A Collective Creation of the Living Theatre features a DVD of rare, never-before-distributed films and revolutionary multimedia documents from the production, plus two double-sided posters and a detailed 40-page booklet. This set is worth far more than $29.95, but that’s what we’re charging. We made a single edition of 1,000 in 2008. When they’re gone, they’re gone.