first published in Arthur No. 1 (December, 2002)
Exploring the Voids of All Known Undergrounds
by Byron Coley and Thurston Moore
We open this time with an essay by Thurston Moore entitled, “My Summer Beats My Winter.” If you didn’t catch the Metal Machine reference, look it up.
Touring around the USA, Europe, Japan, Oz etc. is like staying home: same dynamics of same-ism and same familial interaction complex. But there’s one thing that gives it ROCK distinction: seeing old n new chumsters and seeing old n new bands. With fam-man responsibilities these are things not readily available on the homefront scene (which, in case you think you’re groovy, I ain’t jonesing to trade for nut). So fuck this, dig the bands that were kicking my ROCK ass in the summer of 02:
dateline Lyon France 19 June:
MARTEAU ROUGE is a french band featuring legendary free-rock guitarist Jean-FranÁois Pauvros (along with Jean-Marc Foussat, Masahiko Sato and Yuko Kametani). We had Pauvros play once before with us in Paris as a solo artist where he came out and laid flat the room with howling amp buzz. It was not so much noise-violence but a more in-tune and curious new-birth wonder. Pauvros, a tall long-haired 40-something cat has an illustrious history. In the 70s, with formidable avant-garde legend Jac Berrocal, he was a member of Catalogue. And, with Gilbert Artman, he played in Lard Free and Urban Sax. Through the intervening years he has recorded with such disparate freaks as Blurt, Arto Lindsay and Keiji Haino. Marteau Rouge is his newest new-thing. Gone are the spiked edges of youthful blunder. What has evolved is the fascinating sounds of players moving into high-adult dimensions. This evokes a focused creative enterprise sweet to the collective soul of the listening audience. Pauvros and Marteau Rouge reportedly have a CD coming out on HatHut with American saxophonist Joe McPhee which could be excellent. But HatHut is mum on this news.
dateline Bristol, UK 24 June:
LIARS had the potential to annoy. Musical annoyance is one of the finer attitudes in rock, but it either takes a needlepoint intellect (Steve Albini) or a battering ram cementhead (GG Allin) to pull it off with any true swing. If it’s annoyance for the sake of annoyance (a la mid-period Bunnybrains, The Rachels) then it is naught but disingenuous time-death. Liars had one small label 12” available for one minute and then a deal with Blast First. They were part of the HOT new New York rock scene of 2002. They might even be the Stones to the Strokes’ Wildlife-period Wings. The singer cats it with Karen O, the panty-splitting snake charm spitter of Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Wild ass stuff but, like cheese, it’s a stink that can be either dick-thickening or no more fun than a phone call from Nedelkoff. I’ve seen some of the new new new new new new new New York City rockers and I must concur with Deborah Harry: What was once a surreal vision (1975 Johnny Thunders, Richard Hell) is now a MTV/Levis-sponsored giveaway. The songs are OK here and there, but here (in the Berkshire foothills) is as good as there (in the Williamsburg high-res rubble). But, fuck, everyone knows that anyway and the only reason to live and rock in NYC is for kicks–that much has not and will not, I suspect, ever change. LIARS are from California, Nebraska and Australia and maybe some other geogs, but the generally impressive reek they give off is of a fantastic spiced-earth stew. The best thing is they ain’t looking to pop, they’re looking to sizzle. The first hits will make any geek scream “Pop Group!” or “Birthday Party!” (Come to think of it, I remember screaming “Pop Group!” after first hearing Birthday Party(!)), but these buff young nice-niks are employing some fresh diaper liberation. Guitars seek fine slices of feedback sonance whilst the rhythm roots/toots like Nick Cave’s lips on acid nips. Sexy boy romp without the schmoe-pose even when the 10 foot tall Oz dream singer pelves the aghast UK sickheads into blankminded judgement lapse. All atonal skid mark flail and then the whomp and buttock kick of some weirdo Turbo-Rat setting. Pretty nice and wonderfully annoying to the point of cloying–the only B-Party comparison I’d deem to make. Cute as hell and, thankfully, the real deal. (www.liarsliarsliars.com)
dateline Turino, Italy 06 July:
MY CAT IS AN ALIEN do not jibe with the indie-rock establishment in Italy. At least that’s the impression I get when the twin brothers Maurizio and Roberto Opalio confront booking agents and gig promoters with the knowledge that My Cat Is An Alien exist to promote “alien love.” Maybe I’m missing something in the translation, but the professionals ain’t buying it; the only time these displaced wizards seem to get a decent gig is when we or Blonde Redhead blow through the boot. Which is a shame because MCIAA let loose a chance bafflement of free-rock ideas always set on upsetting conscious rock-realization. The first time I heard them was when they sent us CDRs entangled in wired cages. We saw they were from Italy, we were heading there soon enough, we loaded the CDR in and were caught off-guard by the voidoid cosmo pleasures in emittance. So we asked them to play. They rocked in the most non-rock way: guitars tuned to God-knows-what pubic tensity, drums possibly interacting with crashed electronic skittle and vocals calling all alien pets to keep watching the skies. Next time around the lads knelt with guitars raised to the electric maximus and delivered a mass of heatball fuzz. This evening they soundchecked for two hours in front of the incoming audience (outdoor gig), pissing off the already uptight promoters and crew with super-indeterminant blasts of synthi-shards and drum smacks to awaken the behemoth god Prometheus. It sounded nutso and awesome–“this should be their gig” we’d mutter every 15 minutes or so. Then they stopped and got ready to play. They returned to the stage and played one 12 minute rock n drop and then split. Huh? Go fig–when something like this happens I know the wannabe controllers of rock n roll surprise have a continuing uphill nightmare to contend with. Which of course makes it all a stone gas. I released a double-LP of MCIAA earlier this yr on Ecstatic Peace called Landscapes Of An Electric City/Hypnotic Spaces–available through our own mill outlet in Florence, Mass. if yr wanting to dig. (www.mycatisanalien.com; http://www.yod.com)
dateline Dresden, Germany 08 July:
COBRA KILLER are from Berlin. Two women: WILDEST GINA V. D’ORIO and KWIKEST ANNIKA TROST. They come out of the Digital Hardcore camp. And they come out swinging! Wine bottles, high heels, long leather pimp coats, glitter dust flaking off eyelashes to adhere to tear streaked cheeks. This ain’t no let’s destroy the scene vibe, this is destruction in all its celebrated collapse. Try pushing the right button on yr machine whilst yr red wine-in-paper-cup topples, maybe use yr nose or yr stockinged toe or yr ass which just happens to be slipping peekaboo out of yr ballet warmup–the one you wear anytime and all the time. Who created this noise hump? We were nailed by Cobra Killer. This is performance that only the full-blooded German lustlords n ladies can exhibit. Semi-drunken loop dancing and singing/chanting and hula-hoop mastery by a rather bountiful busted goddess of peace and deliverance. This is a right on band and they rock like absolutely no other. They have ingested the finest elements of Elvis, James Brown, Ari Up, Lydia Lunch, Sly Stone and Whitehouse and spend an amazing 35 minutes unleashing it in a personalized ritual of possession and exorcism. Theatrical concepts are utilized to keep it all on stage and within some sane atmosphere for the highly amused, if not aroused, audience. Any band that bids adieu to their audience by attempting to kiss them all and hold them to their sweet maiden breast is already better than the Beatles or Nirvana any day of the millennium. Dresden was flooded a week later to extraordinary levels. (www.cobra-killer.org)
dateline Hamburg, Germany 10 July:
OSTZONENSUPPENW‹RFELMACHENKREBS played with us. I thought I had heard of every band in Deutschland but I never heard of these cats. Something is amiss, a page ripped and slipped from the library. The encyclopedia in misfile mishap. Jim (O’Rourke) suggested Ostzonensuppenw¸rfelmachenkrebs. He said they’d been around for yrs and were rock-hep. Not full blown experimental noisedrone or squelch but sharpened rockists with a Fall-like Ex-like edge and possibly even better than that may infer. Their instrumentation was trad yet rad–real axes and skins though painted anew and freed from retail stunk. The songs were cranked and heady and not too cool to surprise yr jaded stem. Genuine Hamburger pop and bloody gut. I recommend checking em out next time they hit yr burg. The name translates maybe as: East Zone Soup Cube Making Cancer. They have a CD called Leichte Teile, kleiner Rock on L’Age D’Or/Rough Trade. And that’s about all I can tell you.
dateline Dallas, Texas 01 August:
MARY TIMONY met us here, as her new band was to spend the next few days/nights on the road with us. This was extremely exciting since Mary’s most recent LP, The Golden Dove (Matador), melted my mind when it entered my input system. Broken guitar string lead-dots and folk-mystic melody-trips seduce each other in a strangely harmonious manner throughout. Mary’s fortes strike the aether-sense of music’s heart in ways that I hear from no other circle. A lot of it is Mary’s voice, one whose song is informed by mistral dharma birds. The other is the plainsong rhythm of her compositions, which dance away to experimental experience. Her songwriting and execution thereof doth rock in righteous fashion. So yeh, I wanted to see what was going to go down on stage with her merry band but alas I couldn’t get to the stage from where I had sequestered myself. The dressing room was a makeshift hothouse with a bare bulb layering new heat onto the already 100+ degree summer blast. I went outside to go around the front or to the side of the club to get a front-of-house perspective ,but there were too many kids who wanted to debate, negotiate, relate and palpitate with me, assuring me a no-listen situation. Fuck it–I’d have to see them the next night or the next night. So back to the devil’s lair and all I could hear was the drums hammering as they were right next to the dressing room wall. At night’s end I went back out to my rental car to pack up and drive to Austin (3 hours thereabouts). A bunch of kids were hanging and we were spieling. Tom and Christina from Charalambides had come and we toasted the southern night. One couple was full on psycho-inebriated and were in full-slobber-mode, extolling pronouncements of devotion which was okay, fun, a little embarrassing. But the other kids figured they were on a nutso tip and dealt with it. The girl had disappeared and returned with the t-shirt I had worn on stage. She wanted me to sign it. It was a sweat soaked rag but it was one I had had for yrs. It had come from one of the most amazing Chelsea gay clubs in NYC called Splash. A helluva place, where men danced beneath crystal waterfalls and good times never seemed so good. I told the panting maiden I would like to hold on to that particular article. Earlier she had asked me to sign her chest and I declined but she insisted and I told her to keep her top on and I’ll sign just below her neckline. Now I’m looking at her forlorned and confused state with my name emblazoned in black magic marker from wingbone to wingbone and her boyfriend pops over with his backwards baseball cap (always a sure sign of disaster) and remarks: “hey she loves you man! she idolizes you! let her have the shirt man! we love you man!” and on and on and I said, “no not this shirt dude, sorry” and I took it from her realizing she had walked into our dressing room and had snatched it. Most inappropriate. This whole exchange had become wearisome and it was definitely time to hit the highway and as I was opening the car door saying final farewells to the last few kids I hear the dude again coming up behind me: “hey thurston – guess what? you suck!” and he grabs the shirt and tears ass across the parking lot. The other kids are immediately embarrassed and I accept the fact that this bonehead has robbed me of my groovy little t-shirt from the best gay club I ever partied at. But he was acting in chivalry for his bonked-out girlfriend and a love like that knows no bounds. He arced at the parking lot’s perimeter and headed toward the girlfriend who was on the other side of our equipment truck still being loaded into. The truck driver and our monitor guy/stage manager saw this kid rabbitting towards them knowing he had done something weird by our car and clotheslined him, making him flip like a turkey-sausage into the air where they caught him in hyper squirm. Amidst the slipperiness of it all the kid casually tossed the wet shirt to the girl who was standing idly by stoned and jittery and she just as casually walked around the club into the dark. They had to let the kid go as he was to squirrely and at this point obviously empty handed. And he booked. I really think she did have love in her heart for us and I really think he had love in his heart for her and the conflict of immaturity, psychotropic nosecandy and rock n roll once again made the Texas stars wink out in heaven.
There we end our assay of SY tour events, and return to the regular review portion of Bull Tongue.
In terms of concept records, probably the best one this time around is DEG’s eponymous LP (Firework Edition: http://www.algonet.se~tankred/fer.html). DEG is a trio comprising guitarist Kevin Drumm, electronics-and-whatsis-guy Leif Ellgren, and saxophonist Mats Gustafsson. So, their initials are DEG, right? Right. “Deg” is also the Swedish word for “dough.” And the cover art for this album is a mix of flour, salt and water in a little packet–dough. See? And the music is a reverie about the genesis of the Homunculus, the Golem of Prague, who was made from dough, too; the concept being that three elements can come together to form life. From a listener’s point of view, what you get is a noisy set of very tough-to-tag trio dynamics, recorded in real time. It sounds a bit like a team of field-doctors taking apart Tiger Mountain. By surgery. Trying to pick instruments (or even specific musicians) out of the mix is a fool’s errand, but as a passive listening experience DEG is pretty great–it combines elements of electro-acoustic mystery with free improvisation and strange post-industrial tactics for some real sweet sonic slurry.
The new issue of Ugly Things (3707 5th Ave. #145, San Diego CA 92103) is out. It’s #20 and is nothing short of a doozy, all 194 pages of it. There’s an assload of ‘60s coverage, including the first part of the definitive history of an amazing California-to-England combo called The Misunderstood, a band whose Yardbirds’ rip (“Children of the Sun”) is one of the ‘60s top five psych singles. There’s also lotsa ‘70s punk coverage: Metal Urbain, Eater, Kugelberg’s continuing DIY rants, the Shangrilas’ gig at CBGBs, etc. Plus a decent Roy Harper primer, great Yardbirds pics, more reviews of unfindable records than you can shake a bowel at and on and on and on. As always, it’s an absolute joy to file on the bathroom shelf for serious perusal. In a parallel track runs Ptolemaic Terrascope (PO Box 2152, Melksham, Wilts. SN12 7UQ, UK), which has just had its 32nd issue released. PT combines coverage (and uncoverage) of classic ‘60s psych characters (the Ultimate Spinach and Forest, this time) with extensive investigations of current underground rumblings. Editor Phil McMullen’s reviews column is one of the essential checklists for those investigating contemporary rock action, and the pieces on Charalambides, The Iditarod, Peter Scion, Damo Suzuki and others are great. Many of these artists also have otherwise unreleased tracks featured on a CD that is cunningly enclosed with the issue. Neither of these mags are something that you can afford to miss. So don’t.
Lee Ranaldo’s solo music is not usually thought of as being appropriative, but his new LP, Outside My Window the City Is Never Silent: A Bestiary (Hell’s Half Halo, PO Box 633, Ferndale WA 98248) is almost entirely so. The album-length piece was assembled for a Belgian radio broadcast, and is a collage of various spoken and musical elements lifted from different places in Lee’s catalogue and/or history. The idea is to create something akin to a sound palimpsest in the Burroughs/Gysin tradition, forging a new (although not necessarily false) narrative using only shards of memory. One side’s smooth, the other’s as choppy as a shortwave broadcast of Moroccan street musicians. Nice. Also extremely nice, and not incongruent is the 2LP set, Wave Train, by David Behrman (Alga Marghen c/o Emanuele Carcano, via Frapolli 40, 20133 Milano, Italy). This set collects a virtual pantload of Behrman’s early work, recorded between ’59 and ’68. The earliest two pieces are keyboard-based–one for piano and percussion, the other for prepared piano. But things really start to explode with “Wave Train” and “Players with Circuits” (pieces more or less for feedbacking amps and the resonance of a grand piano). And they reach their apotheosis with “Runthrough”. This piece, recorded by the Sonic Arts Union (Behrman, Gordon Mumma, Robert Ashley and Alvin Lucier) is great, crude, live electronic music, similar in feel to Europe’s MEV. It’s a wonderful vault-clearing effort, typical of the fine stuff that this label has unveiled.
In the real world, the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers have been dammed and re-routed to such a degree that the legendary marshes of Mesopotamia (the Fertile Crescent, from which we all sprang) have been turned into barren salt wastes. Presumably, this fate was not much on the minds of the members of either California’s SubArachnoid Space or Pennsylvania’s Bardo Pond when they cut the respective sides for their new split LP, Tigris ~ Euphrates (Camera Obscura, PO Box 5069, Burnley VIC 3121, Australia). SubArachnoid navigate the former as though it were a tributary of Pink Floyd’s Nile. And although they can be punishingly bass-heavy live, their music here is a relatively reflective and percussion-soaked push through thick atmosphere. Bardo’s evocation of the latter river makes it appear as a huge, stunned and smoking hoop-snake, baking in the hot Iraqi sun, shedding various layers of skin with wahs and bongs of eloquent pleasure. Why was there no American label visionary enough to release this record? As we stand on the verge of war in this region of the world, surely it would behoove us to intimately understand the parched valleys that will soon teem with our youth. Doesn’t this album represent a kind of first step? I think it might.
Two of the albums traditionally presenting the greatest collecting challenge to Don Cherry fans have been Orient and Blue Lake, a pair of 2LP sets issued only in Japan by the BYG label. Free jazz types have been known to dribble in the presence of these records, but they need to soil themselves no longer. The Italian label Get Back (via Runt, PO Box 2947, San Francisco CA 94126) has reissued them in their full glory. Recorded in 1971, these sets display Cherry at the beginning of his emergence into avant world music improv primacy. Orient is from two trio sessions. The first features a great mix of tone dissonance and percussion, recorded with the ICP’s immortal Han Bennink and Don’s wife Moqui on tamboura; the other is more like trance-splat-improv with South African bassist Johnny Dyani and Turkish percussionist Okay Temiz. Blue Lake has further work by the Dyani/Temiz trio, and both albums are deep, stone explorations of world’s molten core–where everything that is (and was) comes together.
The latest actualized project by No Neck Blues Band is an LP that appears to be of counterfeit origins. The boot is called Re: “Mr. A Fan” (Trade Mark of Quality) and sounds much like the band did during the period in which they were utilizing John Fell Ryan as a lead singer. Supposedly recorded on the 4th of July, 1999, in Detroit, this catches No Neck at their most rockist nexus, making a weird patchwork of moves that seem to specifically reference a dreamland-only version of the Mad River Blues Band, (at least as it might have been imagined by trolls). Ryan blabbers like a red turtle and the rest of them keep trying to start every available engine. It’s a rather fine thing, and the sonics are not bad. Ask around.
Georganne Deen has been one of the West Coast’s secret art weapons for a while. We first heard of her around the time of the emergence of the Western Exterminators group, a style-explosion which also introduced people like Robert Williams, Gary Panter and Raymond Pettibon to a larger audience. Anyway, Georganne seems to be the one behind recent Godfrey Daniels School of Charm show at the Track 16 Gallery in Santa Monica. Even if you couldn’t attend the event, you should still get an eyeful of the catalogue (Smart Art Press, 2525 Michigan Ave., Bldg C1, Santa Monica CA 90404) because it’s fantastic. The artists represented (Parker Pine, Johanna Went, Liz Young, Annalisa, Samantha Harrison, Christine Shields, Alison Elizabeth Taylor and Mackie Oscborne, along with Georganne) are real destroyers. Trapped in this fine little paperback are images of sex war, wooden clothes, hip-hop plates, PMS cartoons, and much more that will make yr very eyeballs wiggle with pleasure. Smart Art has done a lot of other great little books as well, so ask for a list.
Austin, Texas’ Lord High Fixers recently went to the boneyard for good, but it appears that their spirit has taken new root in Total Sound Group/Direct Action Committee, whose first album is called, Party Platform…Our Schedule Is Change! (Estrus, PO box 2125, Bellingham WA 98227). Guitarist Tim Kerr and vocalist Mike Carroll were both in the Fixers (as well as the legendary Poison 13) and TSD/DAC take that band’s unique approach to total energy music even deeper into the bush. The elements all wrangled up here start from a sorta power-garage base, but there’s an aggressive edge to both the vocals and the instrumental approach that gives things a mean-amphetamine edge. Add Memphis soul organ motion (as interpolated by English freakbeat bands), the sound of “little instrument” aggregations (akin to those heard on the most spiritual sides by Pharoah Sanders), plus raw bursts of radical liberation theology, and you start to get an idea of what’s floating around here. It is potent mix of crazy shit, some parts of it palatable to ‘most any tongue, other parts too blasted for mere words. An LP this open, this insistent about the unreality of genre tagging, really has the potential to change a few young heads for the better. Let’s hope it reaches some ripe targets.
Dual Anarchism by Masayoshi Urabe and Chie Mukai (Siwa, 66950 Brooks Rd., Imbler, OR 97841) is probably the prettiest LP you’ll see this season. As with all previous Siwa records, the cover is beautifully, subtly silkscreened by Alan Sherry, in a way that makes actually getting to the vinyl seem like opening a present. Urabe (on many instruments here, although primarily known as a saxophonist) and Mukai (on voice, piano and percussives) have performed together often over the yrs, but this is their first released collaboration. Very different from the dips into the pool of universal subconscious that mark her work with Che-Shizu, Mukai’s work here is more in line with the experiments she began when she worked with Takehisa Kosugi, back in the East Bionic Symphony days. She combines long-held tones with organic tumbles of bells, toys and whatnot in a way that recalls the slowly unspooling moves of Butoh. Urabe’s work is somewhat in counterpoint, although it is mostly complimentary rather than disruptive. Recorded at various shows over the course of eleven yrs, assembled in the studio, the album moves through a many moods and climates of improvisation. Urabe sometimes screams into the frame with frenzied gusts of Haino-styled electric guitar, forcing Mukai’s vocals into dark corners, but yr more likely to hear an unearthly blend of bamboo flute and late night vocals floating through dark air. The spatial and moving nature of their collaboration can be seen on the fiddle-heavy performance video that accompanies the limited edition boxed version of the LP. The vid may be available autonomously as well. And would be good to for you see.
Matt Valentine was one of the many tusslers to have emerged from the corpse of Tower Recordings, a Hudson Valley ensemble who explored the cracks that exist where folk, smoke, free improv and psych meet. His latest release is Tonight! One Night Only! MV & EE in Heaven (Time-Lag Recordings, 135 Marginal Way, PO Box 9715-162, Portland ME 04104-5015), and actually the LP is a reissue of a CDR, but who’s counting? Matt has turned himself into a real fine acoustic guitar picker in the American volk-blues/primitive idiom, and Tonight! is a wonderful exploration of the semiotic string textures of a post-Fahey, post-Skip James universe. Accompanied by Erika Elder, Matt creates instrumental music–both straight and spaced–with a timeless quality that only sounds contemporary if you’ve really been listening. Beautifully packaged by Time-Lag in a gatefold cover with bound-in booklet, paste-on color work, and interior silkscreening, this album looks as splendid as it sounds.
One of the great vocal pieces of all times is Kurt Schwitters’ “Ur Sonata” which the composer described as a “sonata in primal sounds.” There have been a few recordings of the piece, but it’s a nice thing to look at as well. And you can look at it as long as you like in PPPPPP by Schwitters, edited and translated by Jerome Rothenberg and Pierre Joris (Exact Change, 5 Brewster St., Cambridge MA 02138). There has never been a decent English language Schwitters compendium available before, and this one captures the six p’s (poems, performance pieces, proses, plays, poetics) in high style, drawing from the five volume Friedhelm Lach collection of Schwitters’ writing. A contemporary of the dadaists, surrealists, futurists, constructivists and other important movement-artists of Europe’s early 20th Century, Schwitters’ own art concept was called Merz–a kind of all-encompassing collage approach to the detritus of life, recasting swine as pearls and building figurative temples of the culture’s leftovers. PPPPPP collects a stunning array of Schwitters’ written work in a variety of disciplines, much of it never before translated, most just about as funny and wild as anything yr likely to read. So do.
Bobb Trimble is a fellow who has been kicking around the Worcester, MA scene for a long time. He cut a couple of albums in the ‘70s whose combined bizarreness and rarity have made them favorites with a certain breed of collector. Now, a follow-up LP has emerged from the old country, Life Beyond the Doghouse (Orpheus, http://www.orpheusrecords.dk), and it’s as odd as its predecessors. The first side was recorded in ’86, and balances itself between Bobb’s gauzily-layered, strangely-concocted singer-songwriterism, and some very bitchen Christian-lounge goosh. The second side was recorded live in ’83 with the Crippled Dog Band (which was formed after outraged parents broke up his previous group–you’ll have to read the notes for more info). This stuff is a pansy boy/raunchy rock garage mix, with an Amerindian-themed centerpiece, and it really has to be heard to be explained. It doesn’t come much “realer” than this.
Temple of Bon Matin are the Philadelphia-based lovechild of Ed Wilcox. It’s not entirely clear who else plays on the new Temple LP, Cabin in the Sky (Bulb, PO Box 3468, Olneyville RI 02909, http://www.bulbrecords.com/), but that’s certainly Ed there, all but naked, flailing at a variety of instruments, trying to integrate the ideas of free jazz (he also plays with Arthur Doyle, amongst others) and hillbilly blues. Sometimes these seemingly irreconcilable approaches merge head-on, at others they’re dealt with discretely. Either way, the clattery results are very flavorful, and would, we’re sure, upset the systems of anyone who’s unable to breathe with all their holes open. Certain non-valid similarities might be drawn to the Sun City Girls, whose own legendary ’96 set, 330,003 Crossdressers from Beyond the Rig Veda (originally a double CD on Abduction) has been reissued as in 3LP format by Locust Music (PO Box 220426, Chicago IL 60622, http://www.locustmusic.com). Crossdressers is almost like an impossibly excessive version of Torch of the Mystics, with every impulse chased to its highly illogical conclusion. This set has some of the SCGs’ most fearless improvisational strategies, aided by even more false ethnicity than usual. Listening to this is almost like what riding the hamster tube through Pol Pot’s colon must have been like.
For the last twenty yrs or so, John Sinclair has been working on a suite of poems detailing the history of the blues. Bits and pieces have emerged in different places over the yrs, but the magnum opus is finally completed and available. It is called Fattening Frogs for Snakes: Delta Sound Suite (Surregional Press, 903 Independence St., New Orleans LA 70117) and it kicks ass. Anyone who has heard Sinclair read or rail knows that he has the power. And that power comes blaring from the pages of Frogs. Sinclair’s personal taste in the music runs toward the electric, but he traces its developments and shifts and history through Charlie Patton, Robert and Tommy Johnson, and everyone, right up through the greats of post-war Chicago. Frogs is a massive, beautiful work appended with a discography and bibliography, introduced in brutal style by Amiri Baraka (including a really nice dig at Stanley Crouch). It is one the best, strongest, most wildly successful books of American poetry since Ed Sander’s 1968.
Seattle’s A Frames had a couple of singles, but we missed them. Thankfully, it was possible to connect with their self-titled debut LP (SS Records, 1114-21st St., Sacramento CA 95814), because this is the shit. Using a classic, early Rough Trade template, crossed with the thick-bottomed thug riffing of Australia’s X, perhaps leavened by the guitar-heavy wave-throb of very early Devo (ca. those Ryko CDs), these guys come up with a great new scuzz-punk hump. It’s one of the few great new American rock recs to not reference no wave. What’s up with that? Well, actually another great US record that doesn’t refer to no wave is The Great Golden Hive of the Invisible by The MCMS (Eclipse, 2172 Sierra Santiago, Bullhead City AZ 86442). This double lathe-cut LP documents the sound of young Nebraska as well as it’s likely to be done in a while. And that sound is a lovely droney thing, more rock-based (and perhaps VU-indebted) than most drone work seems to have been of late, interlaced with electronic flup and ready for portage. We have tendency to think of Nebraska as a dry state, but it must be said that the MCMS give all of their music enough of an underwater feel, that it’s possible we have been wrong about our aridity assessment of their scene. Sorry about that.
Richie Unterberger, former editor of Option, author of a couple of prior books about ‘60s fringe musicians, has a new one for yr shelf. Turn! Turn! Turn!: The ‘60s Folk-Rock Revolution (Backbeat: http://www.backbeatbooks.com) represents a massive amount of information gathering. Indeed, it is so dense with facts in places that it’s probably best approached piecemeal. But, as in his other books, Unterberger proves himself to be a fine researcher, interviewer and interpolator. It’s impossible to care equally about everything he covers here (he’s trying to be inclusive, after all), but there’re tons of great anecdotes, and the discography of recommended and available recordings is excellent. We could’ve stood for a few more Fugs/Rounders stories, but then, we always say that. As should you.
Again: should you have anything interesting for us to see/review (especially LPs, books, mags, vids) please send two (2) copies to: Bull Tongue, PO Box 627, Northampton MA 01061.
Last time we failed to give an accurate listing for the Darby Crash biography. Its full title is Lexicon Devil: The Fast Times and Short Life of Darby Crash and the Germs; it’s authored by Brendan Mullen with Don Bolles and Adam Parfrey. It is published by Feral House and may be ordered direct from the publisher at http://www.feralhouse.com. Our apologies.