Originally published in Arthur No. 22 (May 2006)
C and D: Two fellas reason together about some new records
D: We have some severe time and space restrictions today because there’s 25 records to examine and I only brought four beers.
C: [disbelieving] I told you all week.
D: Yes, well. We’ll have to be efficient and precise, like the German defense.
C: Always with the soccer metaphors when he’s supposed to bring the beer.
D: [looks at stack of CDs] Hmm, I like this pitch. [smiles broadly, uncaps a Foster’s] Come on man! It’s time for kickoff.
The Real Thing: In Performance, 1964-1981 DVD
D: Marvin Gaye, the sweetpeacelovevibetenormaster of all time.
C: Sometimes things really are essential, and this nine-dollar DVD is one of those times. Or things. Anyways, the reason I’ve been watching this all week long is pretty obvious. There’s nobody like Marvin, no one even close; it’s a blessing just to watch him lip synch.
D: [grabs DVD case] Give me that. Especially when it’s Marvin duetting with Tammi Terrell at something called “Swinging Sounds of Expo 67,” singing “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” in a futuristic phone booth under a plastic dome with a people mover going by in the background.
C: Look at those Dentyne smiles. It’s like a commerical for some future utopia where they are the fertility king and queen.
D: [thoughtfully] A world where you’re not afraid to have a baby
C: Hey, you’ll like this: the a capella option lets you hear Marvin singing in the shower.
D: No it doesn’t.
C: Okay it’s actually just isolated studio tracks. Beautiful. He really can make you swoon with just a voice and a snapped finger. That’s all he needed.
D: Very efficient.
C: “War is not the answer/for only love can conquer hate… we’ve go to find a way/to get some understanding here today”—man, if you sing that today, you’re called a master of the obvious, and yet maybe it’s only a lovesinger who can bring the super-commentary that lasts. He reminds us there’s better things to do with our time.
D: [musing] Lovers and poets make the best peace advocates.
C: This is footage from the film Save the Children—
D: —which should be released on DVD immediately—
C: —which includes live renditions of “What’s Going On/What’s Happening Brother” from a 1972 concert where they did the whole album, and you get Marvin at the piano and the legendary James Jamerson on bass guitar.
D: [sipping beer] Unbelievable. Total butterland.
C: Total ethnographic film of Black America in the early ‘70s: broken windowed skylines and gang grafitti, soul food joints and black pride bookstores, men in dashikis, women in flares and kids in corduroys with spaghetti on their faces, street basketball and barbecue, balloons and checker pants and sweaters.
D: Excellent fashion!
C: He sings like his voice is a horn—and his voice actually has the grain of one. So amazing. Plus there’s multiple appearances on the Dinah Shore show—[notices puzzled D]—that was an afternoon TV show for bored housewives back in the ‘70s.
D: That was the time before they started making all the women work all the time too, in addition to the men. What happened?
C: [ignoring] He talks about What’s Goin On: “I don’t recall much about making it. I feel it was very personal, very divine. I don’t hardly remember writing the songs, it was like I was in some sort of other dimension when we did it, so I know it was a very spiritual.” We could spend weeks talking about everything on here: the polyester jumpsuit future-Chic-soul-P-funk—
D: Somewhere The Juan Maclean is crying.
C: —about getting down on the moon with floor fog that is the promotional video for “A Funky Space Reincarnation”— “COME ON BABY, let’s go peace loving and check out this new smoke/Naw this thing I got, it ain’t classified as dope/Smoke I got from Venus/Have had it all week, it’s getting old/come on and try this new thing with me baby….”
D: This song is my new national anthem.
C: And your new wardrobe, if the world is lucky.
C: This is a collab concept duo album by two geniuses-in-progress: Dangermouse, the guy who did the Beatles/Jay-Z album-length bootleg mashup, and Cee-Lo, the short guy from Goodie Mob with the voice and the lyrics and the concepts. Goodie Mob, those guys were part of that Georgia crew in the ‘90s, all of them interesting—Goodie and the Dungeon Family and Organized Noize and Outkast and Witchdoctor and Cool Breeze—
D: Who had a dream, he was in a place called Butter.
C: Here’s something bonehad obvious: this song “Crazy” is the song of the year—very apropos for these times, in so many ways that [looking at D opening his second Foster’s] we have no time to count. Three seconds and you’re hooked, three minutes and you’re done and ready to begin again. [looking at promotional photo] These guys are total half-bus refugees.
D: The revenge of the nerds is neverending. [listening to the song’s music] Somewhere, The Juan Maclean are crying another tear, alongside N.E.R.D. [repeating lyrics] “I remember when, I remember, I remember when I lost my mind/There was something so pleasant about that place/Even your emotions had an echo, and so much space/And when you’re out there ,without care, yeah I was out of touch/but it wasn’t because I didn’t know enough/I just knew too much/Does that make me crazy?” Whew. I’ve been to that place—I think I lost my mind there too once.
C: [laughs] Once?
D: [glares] SILENCE in the lower ranks!
C: Philadelphian bagpipe-playing long-ago jazz dude with new studio record. Coltrane indebted. Whoa that’s a nice double-deep in the pocket beat underneath the drone on the second track. It’s weird how the bagpipe drone works, immediately.
D: It’s dronetime once again.
C: Sometimes I’m not sure he’s playing the same song as his band—
D: [singing that Gnarls Barkley song] Mayyyybe he’s crazy?
C: —which, according to these liner notes, includes his son Messiah, one of 17 kids?!? Is that right?
D: Could it be a misprint?
C: What, he had 1.7 kids? That’d be hard to do, then again it might not be hard for a guy that plays bagpipes in 7/4.
THE BLACK KEYS
D: I am very happy sitting in front of this speaker.
C: This is the Black Keys doing six Junior Kimbrough songs.
D: One thing’s for sure: Junior had a lot of riffs.
C: One other thing’s for sure: Junior had a lot of kids. 36, to be exact.
D: [The Black Keys’ singer-guitarist] Dan Auerbach is not one of them.
C: Not that we know of. But yeah, it is uncanny how his guitar tone, style and voice can all echo Junior’s so much—on “Have Mercy On Me” at first I thought it was Junior. Who knows why what pops up where. As they say in Africa, the wind blows the seeds. Nice to hear the Keys branching out on the track, by the way, with the organ and tabla—it’s a good sound for them. And that knotty riff.
D: Wasn’t Robert Plant gonna join these guys on bass?
C: He didn’t make the cut. Re: Zeppelin, it should be said: the guitar does have that tone and bottomlinenastiness that Jimmy Page could get sometimes. So good. Great, varied drums from P. Carney, his best work yet. And here comes another long snaking moan riff.
D: Junior’s music wasn’t done evolving, even if he’s gone.
Broken Boy Soldiers
D: Yes meets the Eagles?
C: That’s a bit harsh. I know you’re a stict Megitarian, but come on: you’ve always liked both Jack White and Brendan Benson. There’s some good cuts on here, especially the Deep Purplish stutter funk on this one [“Store Bought Bones”].
D: [sagely] Sometimes when you split the difference, the difference gets split.
EAGLES OF DEATH METAL
Death by Sexy
C: Another supergroup, featuring Jesse Hughes and his boomerang of love, plus Josh Homme.
D: Unlike the Raconteurs, this group knows what it’s doing.
C: And what it is doing is very simple: retarded Rolling Stones riffs that you can go-go to.
D: This music encourages sexual tendencies and is proud of it.
C: Quality high-fiber retro guitar-and-organ pop and ballads from Bay Area sweethearts.
D: That the Raconteurs would, uh… raconteur for.
C: Dude, you gotta stop ranking on the Raconteurs. You need another beer. [hands fresh Fosters to D with ridiculously gay(e) smile] As Marvin would say, ‘Here, my dear.’
C: Very nicely done modern retro-dub from the Arthur office favorites, with guestwork from Ranking Joe, Mikey Dread, Ras Congo, the Scientist. You can’t argue with a band that uses a six-foot-long papier mache electric doobie—with smoke machine and lights—as its onstage prop.
C: Very nicely done retro rocksteady, with just the right amount of grit and spit, from members of bands I don’t usually care about.
D: A pleasant shockah.
THE FIERY FURNACES
C: Our favorite geniuses. Some may say this is the record they’ll be remembered by, but I say this is just them scraping the gravy off the ground. The endless Disneyland Electrical Parade keyboard squigglery and backmasked vocals and whatnot sure sounds to me this is a band trying to stay ahead in the weirdness sweepstakes.
D: [smugly] It’s not nearly as weird as Gnarls Barkley, and not nearly as good. And I bet you they know it.
C: Don’t they know competition is so 20th century? The key is to listen to the album in reverse order, last track first. That way you’ll listen to all of it, and you’ll be sure to hear the best song, “Whistle Rhapsody?”, which is also one of the saddest songs I’ve ever heard.
C: Okay, this is sadder.
D: I like these Espers. I sense naked hippies dancing around the maypole. After dark. Drinking the stuff from the milk of the frogs… [closes eyes]
C: It does have a certain Sandy Denny/Pentangle quality. I bet they get tagged with the New Wave of Ren Faire thing, but I bet they wouldn’t be caught dead at that party—they’re gloomy gusses and sad-lifed maidens who’d rather be in the woods than the castle, anyway. I’m speaking metaphorically of course.
D: [continuing, rhapsodic] Or they they may be playing in that town called ‘Machine’ in Jarmusch’s Dead Man. Which featues Robert Mitchum in his last performance. [opens eyes, smiles] One of this nation’s finest weedsmokers.
A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing
C: Okay, this is even sadder.
D: An American woman singing all 18th or 19th century German folk songs for children, in German, is the personification of melancholy. It might not be the right music to listen to when you’re deciding whether to live or die, deep at night in those grey hours.
C: As Marvin would say, That’s not livin’! But it sure is singing. Absolutely beautiful.
D: Excellent art-rock that doesn’t rock from a living legend, but I’m afraid this music encourages morbid tendencies. This is immense, this record. But what is it? The mood somehow implies a seriousness that might not have to do with worldly events. It is religious? spiritual? There is an urgency! Dreadstorms coming. I think of Japanese ghost music…
C: We’re running out of time, D. I think this is one we’ll have to come back to next time.
D: At least we let the people know that the mighty Scott Walker has returned.
D: The great freckled Greenwich Village folk soul who wrote “Everybody’s Talkin’,” which Nilsson had a top ten hit with in 1969 off the Midnight Cowboy soundtrack.
C: [puts on "That's The Bag I'm In"] Check out the morning he’s having: “toast was cold and the orange juice was hot.” There’s so much soul in his singing, this is an album for the dinosaurs.
D: Not the dinosaurs man, the dolphins!
C: It’s true, these are songs for the dolphins. Seriously.
C: I’ve been let down by NASA, what with the militarization of space and all, but this gives me some insight as to what it feels like to be launched into space. Beautifully fluttered and static-drenched, like those between-song passages of Loveless-era My Bloody Valentine.
D: [blissed out]
C: [blissed out]
C: Okay. One more beer, we’ll split it. This is the new Boris, the co-ed heavy guitar sludge march trio from Japan who in the last year have dropped the overt Melvins moves and become a band of varied powers—
D: [Stands on couch with bepuzzled-in-happy-way face] Majestic dry ice fog riffage that can’t be turned any louder!
C: A landmark record, a virtual catalog of extreme rock guitar strategy—Godflesh/Jesu ethereal rings and reversed dread, overdriven High Rise-style rhythms, post-Sonic Youth squall, Kim Thayil-style tone, Grand Funk/Montrose laying-it-out-there vocals—all on the first two songs. I don’t know if any of that makes sense but I’m trying to give people a general idea.
D: Unbelievable, neighborhood-destroying pummel drumming here [on title track].
C: [listening to ‘Woman on the Screen”] Wow. Reminds me of really, really good Nirvana-style punk/grunge, only somehow much huger.
D: [listening to “Blackout”] A mighty behemoth from the Far East is throwing mountains!
C: I think we are all in agreeance. Rock album of the year so far, easy.
D: [Dancing to “Electric”] You can lose fingers to this album.
C: One last supergroup: Howlin Rain, which is Moloney from Sunburned Hand of the Man on drums and Ethan Miller from Comets on Fire on vocals and guitar, working out their common interest in that seemingly lost-forever continent of great 1968-1973 American rock ‘n’ roll, when the hippies went back to the land and kept on rocking until the Man pulled all but a few back into his lame grip. Allmann Brothers, Creedence, Grateful Dead, Neil Young…
D: I sense benificent Jerry Garcia vibes coming from smiling visage of Ethan.
C: He is singing at the edge of his capability like Jerry —it’s a high, roasted voice. But, curcially, not shrieking. He sings like he’s losing his throat. One of those guys whose vocals get quieter the louder he sings. He’s got the goner’s high moan.
D: Like that guy in Canned Heat. [listening to “Calling Lightning With a Scythe”] Or Faces-time Rod Stewart. [laughs] I call this album Another Side of Ethan Miller, Workingman Rock Star.
Originally published in Arthur No. 12 (Sepember 2004)
REVIEWS BY C and D (and E…)
THE GRIS GRIS
The Gris Gris
C: Okay D, we’re gonna start this one off with something I know you will dig—the debut album from San Francisco psych-rock three-piece Gris Gris, who are led by that kid Greg Ashley, whose solo record we dug last year.
D: Yes I remember Mr. Ashley well! He is the new Syd Barrett and [listening to keyboard run] he is advising us to join him on an interstellar overdrive magic carpet ride.
C: The carpet’s in the garage, and it’s kind of greasy. It’s not used, it’s vintage.
D: Rock bands were doing this in garage basements in the Bay Area of ‘60s, after they got their first Yardbirds records. And all across Milwaukee in 1987. Mister Ashley is singing his ASH off! I also like the simplicity of the drumming.
THE BLACK KEYS
C: Third album from Akron’s finest, once again produced by themselves.
D: [listening] I am not sure if they needed to make another album on their own. There’s not enough progression here.
C: It’s more mellow than the last one. But I like it. Listen to the solo here on “Desperate Man.” And this one on “Stack Shot Bully.”
D: Hmm, definite burning there. This is a 7.5 moving up to 9.3…
C: And this Kinks cover, “Act Nice and Gentle” is great, really blissed out, reminds me of going down to the river in the summertime. I didn’t think I ever wanted to hear another take on “Summertime Blues,” but…
D: That’s a rocker with extra thrusters, baby! It still is summertime and yes I still have those blues! Even though it says “do not duplicate,” can I duplicate it?
Wet From Birth
C and D: [blank stares]
C: Um… Pretty belabored electro dance new wave blah blah.
D: I am in Berlin getting down with the transvestites.
C: I see 16-year-old girls dancing poorly.
D: Who are they? I wish he woulda left the transformer effect at home.
C: They come from Omaha. This is their second album.
D: Really??? [listening more closely] They’ve finally written a song good enough for Victoria’s Secret commercial. Congratulations!
C: Maybe we just don’t have an ear for this stuff, but, sheesh, this is painfully shitty. Crap new wave is a joke that didn’t need to be told, ever again.
MOUSE ON MARS
D: This is so bad in such an obvious way. They don’t even number their tracks! So inconsiderate.
C: What, you’ve never heard of glitch in Milwaukee or Berlin?
D: Yes yes, but this… Mouse on Mars have lost it. This trying-to-be-funky-and-clever thing is not working in their favor.
C: You are not happy with the Mouse’s progress.
D: They are progressing to a place where nobody wants to dance. And I am a dancing kind of fellow!
She Loves You
(One Little Indian)
C: An album of covers by Greg Dulli’s Twilight Singers project. He used to lead the Afghan Whigs, about four decades or so ago.
D: Never heard of ‘em. I am not a fan of the ‘90s.
D: Really? [listening to cover of “Hyperballad”] This sounds like U2. Agh, can’t stand it. Even the guitar is ringing! Can we please listen to something I might like?
C: Dulli does sound like Bono when he tries to hit those trailing Bjorknotes.
D: Is that her voice in the background? [sarcastic] Are they holding hands? This is ghastly! [listening to cover of Billie Holiday’s “Strange Fruit”] Now he sounds like Marianne Faithful. I’m getting a drink. Okay, maybe three drinks. [heads for kitchen]
C: I only like the songs where Mark Lanegan sings, really. This version of the blues “Hard Killing Floor” where Lanegan sings lead is all nice and charcoal and moonshine… But basically, I like this album more in concept than in execution. The world doesn’t need an easy listening MOR version of “A Love Supreme,” in my humble opinion.
Trust Not Those In Whom Without Some Touch of Madness
C: [to tape recorder] D’s in a bad mood, again! Sheesh. Okay, guess I’ll keep going here. This is the new album by the sublegendary Thalia Zedek, who lead the great lost rock ‘n roll band Come for many years. Unforgettable voice, jointly sponsored by Jameson’s and some devilry, I think. Like later Marianne Faithful, actually. Anyway, this is pretty straightahead sad-eyed twilight rock ‘n roll, with some violin on it, which of course sends me back to another lost-‘90s-rock-n-roll-band-with-a-great-female-singer: the Geraldine Fibbers. They also had a violin. Yep.
The Second Man’s Middle Stand
C: Mike Watt from the minutemen and fIREHOSE and current Stooges bassist doing his first album in six years, a total concept piece about his near-terminal illness, plus Dante and one thousand and one other layers of meaning, played by a storming organ-drums-bass three-piece. 9 songs, with eight of them over 5:30, which means this earns Prog certification. Like a particularly smart Deep Purple, subbing out the ponderousness for some art-punk new-beat spastics, splatter and stutter. Do you need a lyric sheet to make sense of it? Yes you do.
C: One of the worst album titles in recent times, but let’s not hold that too much against it. Continuing in the ‘90s-semistar series here, the new solo album from the former singer of the Replacements, who were also doing traditional American rock ‘n roll when that wasn’t exactly called for by the times. Never really dug his solo work, but this is ridiculously good at what it’s doing: really melodic mid-tempo rock ‘n roll that you listen to at the gaspump and then hum the rest of the way home: kinda Oasis, actually, and kinda Tom Petty. And “Looking Up In Heaven” is gorgeous perfection. Yep.
D: [walks back into the room holding big coffee mug, mumbling to himself] People can’t tell you’re an alcoholic if you drink it out of a coffee cup…
C: [oblivious] Solo album from the guitarist for the Black Crowes, who are on some kind of trial separation. Very in-the-pocket, and lovely harmonies, just solid rock ‘n roll songs for longhairs washing their VW bus on a Sunday afternoon.
THE WHIRLWIND HEAT
Flamingo Honey EP
C: This is the new EP from the Detroit band Jack White called the closest we’re gonna get to a Devo in this generation.
D: Hmph. I will be the judge of that!
C: 10 songs, 10 minutes, each song almost exactly one minute.
D: [listening to “The Meat Packers”] Sounds like when the White Stripes covered all those Beefheart songs on that Sub Pop 7-inch.
C: You’re totally right! Good call
D: These guys sound a little too smug to me. They’re just good enough that they’re getting laid.
C: I like conceptual limits, generally. Sometimes it gets you out of a creative jam, makes you go into a new space you wouldn’t’ve otherwise thought of. It necessitates invention and problem solving, keep you from getting too set in your ways. Standard John Cage theory, right? Brian Eno…
D: These guys should work with Eno!
C: He did produce Devo’s first album, didn’t he? Hmm. Perhaps it can be arranged.
COLONEL CLAYPOOL’S BUCKET OF BERNIE BRAINS
The Big Eyeball in the Sky
(Prawn Song Records)
C: Okay, I think I’ve had enough Primus for one lifetime but this looked interesting. It’s Claypool on bass, Bernie Worrell from P-Funk on keyboards, Buckethead on guitar and Brain on drums. Like one of those old Axiom jams that Bill Laswell used to put together back in the early ‘90s with Bootsy and all them.
D: I used to listen to Primus. They had one good album, I don’t remember what it was called but it certainly wasn’t Pork Soda. That was the worst.
C: [cracking himself up] The wurst, you mean, ha ah ha!
E: [entering room] Hey guys, what’s going on? This sounds great!
C: Whoa. The notorious E dares to enter Arthur’s inner sanctum.
D: We have not seen a woman here in sometime.
C: But your presence here has been foretold.
E: You guys might have more company if you guys didn’t lock the door all the time!
C: Sorry… So, you really like this, E?
E: I love Les Claypool’s voice. I admire his integrity. And can you say “Pork Soda” without laughing? I think not.
C: Er… I believe no one should imitate Zappa. Well not like this, at least.
D: I do like things that are circus-y. It’s like a Fellini movie, you’re waiting for the transvestite to pop out of the tent…
C: I think I’d like it more if I was 16 and playing Nintendo.
E: This is great. What’s your problem, C? If it said “Ween” on the box, you would totally dig it. They’re clearly incredibly smart and having fun.
C: Hmm. Okay, maybe if I was 14.
D: This is totally late Residents and is making me want to get very high right now. I could get a lot of cleaning done to this.
Who Is This America?
E: Fela? Tony Allen? This is cool, of course.
D: Is this from Nigeria? If I had to DJ a wedding, I would definitely play this. You can do any kind of dance to it, there’s so much going on. You can meringue to it.
C: But it’s not Fela Kuti, it’s Antibalas, that group from New York trying to bring back that original Afrobeat. They’re so good now, I can’t tell the difference, really.
D: Don’t they have like 86 people in their band or something?
E: [dancing] More like 20! It’s between them and the Polyphonic Spree for largest band in the Arthur world…
C: I have to say that as good as they are, their lyrics still aren’t there. Fela’s was always really biting and clever. Most of this is too straightforward, there’s none of that really cutting, mordant wit.
D: [dancing with eyes closed] Who cares, this is phenomenal! It makes me want to put my ass into it!
C: [to tape recorder] He said he was a dancing fellow, and now he is proving it.
E: Hey, did you guys hear that Rick James died today?
C: A lot of people owe him big time.
D: Especially those guys who had girlfriends who became superfreaks!!!
Pigs of the Roman Empire
E: Now for something completely different.
C: Is it Godflesh?
E: It’s actually the Melvins with Lustmord.
C: Awesome dark sludge from some creepy condemned industry at the edge of town.
E: [listening to “The Bloated Pope”] I think this music is really erotic! Much more than easy listening or slow jam, because it’s dark and there’s an element of mystery.
C: And the fifth song is called “Pink Bat,” which is almost as good a title as “Pork Soda,” eh, E?
E: [smiling] Yes, exactly.
D: It’s not my favorite kind of music, but I could scrub the walls to it.
E: Hey D, what are you drinking in that coffee cup? It doesn’t smell like coffee…
Original soundtrack by Bobby Beausoleil
C: Speaking of dark and mysterious, here is the original soundtrack for Kenneth Anger’s legendary Lucifer Rising. The original composer was supposed to be Jimmy Page, but Anger ended up using this score by Bobby Beausoleil, an old Manson associate who recorded it in the ‘70s while in prison…
D: UNBELIEVABLY black! Black turned to 100, with lizard eyes. But subtle and beautiful, somehow. This is a high point of human culture.
D: Throbbing Gristle!!!
C: Yeah kind of, right? It’s actually Wolf Eyes, who we reviewed last ish.
E: [reading song titles] “Black Vomit.” “Urine Burn.” And of course, “Stabbed in the Face.” I think they need to get some grooves going. That’s their problem.
D: I used to go see a lot of bands like this. Then I stopped.
C: You have to see it in a small space where the sound of just overwhelming and crushing and inescapable and you are just being confronted with it. I can’t really picture listening to it at home—
E: Me either.
C: —but maybe that’s my problem?
Originally published in Arthur No. 9 (March 2004)
REVIEWS BY C and D
Red Idol DVD
D: Hey, I can’t make this DVD work.
The Von Bondies
Pawn Shoppe Heart
D: This is the Detroit garage guy who had his face bashed up by Jack White.
C: Right. Jason Von Bondie is apparently the town asshole, or so I’ve been told. But, do you know that song, “Pablo Picasso”?
D: Of course! Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers! They were the best! [singing:] “He could walk down your street/And girls could not resist his stare/Pablo Picasso was never called an asshole.” But this doesn’t sound like Jonathan Richman…?
C: [sighs] Okay D, I’ll spell it out for you: Pablo Picasso was an asshole. But he also made some great paintings.
D: This is what the Strokes and the Rapture should have done on their last records. But they were incapable.
C: Every song is a sure-hit on the dancefloor. Plus the guy can sing. And check out what they do on this track (#3), 55 seconds in…
C: The tempo slows down… And listen to that guitar playing! Then here comes that descending disco bassline again.
D: This is ridiculous. Can I use your phone? I’ve got to call my financial advisor. I’ve got to buy stock in this band! They are the new kings!!!
C: I know, eh. It’s like all the those other bands, including those Interpol guys, were all just warm-ups for the Ferds. Amazing stuff. Album of the year so far, easy.
Bows and Arrows
D: Ah, I see what you’re doing…
C: Yes, I am Clever Man.
D: These guys, they’re good, they’re kind of like the Ferdinand and the Strokes and…
C: Dude’s got a bit of the crooner in him. And he’s a more interesting lyricist than Julian Casablancas. Then again, just about everyone is.
D: Watch it.
C: Oh right, sorry, I forgot about your inner 14-year-old girl self.
C: Um… Okay, sorry, that was uncalled for.
D: You can be so ARROGANT sometimes… [listening] The sounds they get are so cool.
C: Organs, guitars, tacked pianos. But check out this next track, you’re gonna lose it.
D: [listening to “The Rat”] It’s the Strokes with their pants on fire! That guy’s mad!!!!
C: Madder than Jack White. He’s fucking going for it, damn, and you know, when a crooner spits blood, you better look out. Anger always means more when it’s coming from a guy who usually .
D: This shit is banging. “You’ve got a nerve to be asking a favor/You’ve got a nerve to be calling my number/I’m sure, we’ve been through this before/Can’t you hear me, I’m beating on the wall.”
C: I’d pay $15 for this song alone. And you know what? There’s ten more songs on the album!!!
D: And they’re good too. Shit. This is gonna be some year.
C: You wouldn’t know this–
D: Again with the arrogance!
C: Well, you wouldn’t–
D: Wouldn’t what?
C: Wouldn’t know what the title is based on.
C: ‘80 Marvel Comics. Which I read. And I bet you didn’t.
C: So fuck off! [laughter] Big battles between superheroes and the main guy who summoned them to the “secret wars” : The Beyonder.
D: [wistful] Ah, the ‘80s…
C: Or it’s based on something else! Anyways. I dig this.
D: [Listening to “$50 Tea”] It’s frantic. Hypnotic. Like strobe lights for your ears.
C: But it stretches out too, and there’s melodies. It’s a lot like that last Primal Scream record, Evil Heat. Difference is that Oneida won’t let the machines do any work.
D: The Beyonders is the name of my new band.
If You Can’t Beat ‘Em, Bite ‘Em
C: From Secret Wars to Weird War, get it?
D: You are so clever. Almost too clever to bear. I cower before your cleverness.
C: [laughs] As you ought. Now check this shit out…
D: [listening to “Grand Fraud”]: Is it supposed to sound like that? Listen to all that hiss.
C: Yes, it’s nice and raw and funky and kinda fucked up. They used some old mixing board that Sly Stone and later the P-Funk guys used. Um. I guess it’s possible…
D: [2:45 into “Grand Fraud”]:WHOA!!!!!
C: That’s the shit right there. That’s IT.
D: Who is the singer?
C: Ian Svenonius, Arthur astrologer, on vocals. He’s been around forever. Nation of Ulysses, Cupid Car Club, Make Up, Scene Creamers… The Make Up split up just when they were getting good! Now I think he’s got it going on again, especially with this new guitar player, that guy has some tasty chops, as they used to say back in the day. Do you remember, back in the ‘90s, when it was a point of pride to be less than competent?
D: Stupid indie rockers, I never liked that stuff. Weird War is a weird name.
C: You’re right. Like, what do you call the people in the band?… Weird War-ers?.
D: Weird Warriors! [Ears pop up as female voice rapping begins on title track breakdown] Is that Peaches????
C: It’s Jennifer from Royal Trux.
D: Whoa. I think she can quit her dayjob! And Peaches should call her lawyers.
C: Always with the lawyers, this guy.
TV On the Radio
Desperate Youth, Blood Thirsty Babes
(Touch and Go)
C: Another band with a difficult name.
D: “TV on the Radio”? What does that mean? What are they thinking? This is crazy talk.
C: Just listen to the music. You can’t judge a band by its name! The Beatles is the stupidest name ever, right?
D: Yes, okay. [listening] What do you call this kind of music?
C: I have no idea, but I like listening to it.
D: It’s dance music, but it’s got all this…
C: All these weird elements, used in weird ways. Horns. Backing vocals. Dance grooves.
D: He’s got a voice like Peter Gabriel. There’s something kind of scary about this stuff.
C: It seems like they’re holding it together in the face of something. [Quoting song lyrics:] “You were my favorite moment/of a dead century.”
D: This is really good. It’s genuinely new—I can’t say that I’ve heard something like this before. And I want to hear it again.
The Paper Chase
What Big Teeth You Have EP
C: Speaking of scary.
D: Super-tension crisis music!
C: Drills. Angst. Space. Rolling bass. Piano stabs. Guitars at angles.
D: It’s like a soundtrack to a murder.
C: Reminds me of Jesus Lizard. Drive Like Jehu… But there’s an almost… symphonic, I guess…component to it. They’re from Texas, they thing big.
D: Violins too. Genuine horror movie stuff! But not in a cheesy way. No organ grinder.
C: You should see the video that‘s on here: it’s like low-budge Lynch meets Cunningham. Okay, onto the next track, which is a Brel cover…
D: Of course. “My Death.” Scott Walker did this!
C: The drums are so big on this record. I think it’s a Texas thing. Those guys love the big Bonham drum thing down there. Lift to Experience, Secret Machines, these guys… Maybe it’s from all those years of Flaming Lips coming down to Austin from Oklahoma, that dude is an epic drummer. So is this guy.
D: The guitar is now being strangulated. It’s almost too much. Psychodramatic, just at the edge of being too much.
C: Yes. This last song is a Roger Waters cover from The Pros and Cons of Hitch Hiking. It’s massive.
D: Whoo-ee. We need to keep an ear on these guys!
C: Their next album is gonna be on Kill Rock Stars… A label with a violent name for a band with a violent streak as wide as a Texas mile.
D: They are the new Texas chainsaw murderers, only they use guitars. Murdered by music.
(Kill Rock Stars)
C: Speaking of Kill Rock Stars, here’s a record on the label by a new band.
D: More angularity.
C: Angularity is the new strumming.
D: A female voice, finally! Why do we always listen to men records?
C: That is a very good question to which I don’t have a very good answer. Anyway, in case you were wondering, this sounds to me like Stereolab meeting Deerhoof with, oh, Poison Ivy from the Cramps on guitar. It’s indie rock vets from bands like Autoclave and Bikini Kill, but they can play their instruments.
D: Progress has been made. Miracles, they never cease.
C: This song, “I’ll Dry My Tears” is a cover, right?
D: It must be. Very nice, so different from the rest. We can ask the Internet about it.
C: Poison Ivy is so underrated… This whole record sounds like a tribute to her guitar playing.
D: Cool stuff on record, now I wanna see ‘em live. Women rock!
The Devil Isn’t Red
(5 Rue Christine)
C: Instrumental mathcore by men.
D: Excuse me while I yawn.
C: I’m sure it’s all very difficult and very intense, but why should people listen to this when they could listen to, oh, King Crimson or Magma?
D: This is so difficult. Oh so very difficult. The nerds of rock, shredding away. Maybe it is fun for them.
C: The drumming on this bugs the shit out of me, it’s busy beyond belief. For what? I don’t get it.
D: Off it goes. Bye bye!
(Kill Rock Stars)
C: Speaking of Deerhoof, here’s their new one on…Kill Rock Stars.
D: Which rock stars do they want to kill exactly, that’s what I always wondered.
C: Of all the people to advocate killing, why rock stars? Why not…um…first-world capitalist greedheads? If you’re going to go down that route, I mean… Not that I’m advocating anything.
D: We are peace people.
C: But rock stars? John Lennon was killed. Are these John Hinkley sympathizers, then? That’s pretty fucking stupid.
C: Hey anyway, guess what? This sounds like the other Deerhoof records! Cute dreamy vocals in the same key by Japan-born singer Satomi Matsuzaki, I don’t know what she’s saying but it good, and lotsa riffs glued on, stomping and stopping and starting.
D: They’re supposed to be amazing live.
C: Yeah, I can see that. But they still don’t quite do it for me on record.
D: Well, that’s your problem. I am digging it. Next!
Kila Kila Kila
C: Continuing on from our “kill” theme, and also on the Japanese theme, here’s the new record by the band that Yoshimi from the Boredoms leads…
D: This is boring twiddling thumbs music. Where are the drums? I need some drums.
C: You may get your drums. Just sit still and listen for a second, will ya? Patience is a virtue.
D: Hey what about that Guitar Wolf DVD? He’s Japanese.
C: Oh yeah. Lemme see if I can make it work. [tries to make it work] Nope.
D: This is getting better, but it’s taking too long. I am a busy man.
C: Okay, okay. I just want the Arthur readers to know that this is an interesting, minimalist art-trance-experimental record that rewards multiple listens by the genuinely curious. I mean, shit D, this song is 10 minutes and 40 seconds, you gotta let it develop. It’s like the opposite of Deerhoof. Deerhoof is for people who need it NOW and OOIOO is for people who can wait.
D: I am definitely a cannot-waiter. I apologize to Yoshimi, but that is how I am!
C: I have prepared a statement regarding this album, that I wrote while in what we shall call ‘alternative consciousness,’ which I will now read. [clears throat] “Pure, total towering all-encompassing humble acoustic-electric-Mellotronic psychedelic-pastoral-rock-art-prog-outre accomplishment, the summation of a career, a flowing highlight reel that takes every angle that Batoh’s Ghost band (who come from Japan) have ever explored during the last decade and a half and multiplied the richest parts by a factor of 48. (It’s like The Love Below, in a way, right?) The band is sympathetic, tremendous, stunning: the electric guitarist Michio Kurihara deserves particular recognition for his restraint, his launches, his trails. Lower the lights, turn on the fog machine, put a candle in the wine bottle, turn the stereo up loud and gaze lovingly at the gatefold. I want to tell you something: my friends, whoever you are and whatever language you speak, This album is why Music exists.”
D: Yeah, it’s pretty good.
MAY THE ROAD RISE UP TO ROCK YOU
Peter Relic rolls out for a week on tour with The Black Keys & Sleater-Kinney
Originally published in Arthur No. 4 (May 2003), with original photography by Melanie Pullen shot at beautiful Amir’s Garden in Griffith Park (these photographs were later optioned to Fat Possum Records for promotional purposes)
“Rule Number One: Never make friends with a journalist.” I wagged my finger and slurped my coffee, assuring the two young men across from me I knew of what I spoke. “Rock hacks are fretful freeloaders out to steal your shine and misquote you every time.”
We were sitting at a back booth of Dodie’s, a greasy spoon on Market Street, Akron, Ohio. It was the final hayfeverish week of May, 2002. I had driven down from Cleveland to find out how the hell these fellas—Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney, co-captains of the two-piece band The Black Keys—had created such a thrilling slab of raw-dog fatback juke joint blues as The Big Come Up, their brand new debut album. To hear the Keys tell it, simplicity was the key.
“We stopped talking about time signatures a long time ago,” Auerbach said.
“We’re de-evolving,” said Carney, a Duty Now For The Future glint in his eye.
“We’ve even removed the word ‘repertoire’ from our repertoire,” Auerbach added.
The following week The Cleveland Free Times ran my column about this band yet to play a gig outside Ohio who had made, quite simply, “one of the best American records you’ll hear this year.”
Pretty soon they did play outside Ohio. I tagged along to those Detroit and Chicago shows. By the end of ‘02, the good word about The Big Come Up had gotten around; Janet Weiss, drummer for Sleater-Kinney, testified in Rolling Stone that the stuff was up to snuff. 2003 was happily wrung in playing with Guided By Voices at a New Year’s Eve beer bash in Indianapolis. Then the call came: Would the band like to open up for Sleater-Kinney on tour? The Black Keys would fly with their equipment to Portland, Oregon, rent a van, and the West Coast leg would start there in Sleater-Kinney’s hometown. Perfect. Except that contract liability on the van stipulated that no one under 25 could drive the thing. But by then Rule Number One had been broken. And so 22-year old drummer/producer Patrick Carney and 23-year old singer/guitarist Dan Auerbach cannily roped in their over-30 Cleveland journo pal to act as de facto tour mensch. Best as I can remember, it went a little something like this…