Originally published in Arthur No. 10 (May 2004)
REVIEWS BY C and D
Eagles of Death Metal
Peace Love Death Metal
C: [singing along to “Kiss the Devil”]: “Who’ll love the devil?/Who’ll love his song?/I will love the devil and his song!”
D: Ha! This is party-starting rock n roll music! They should’ve called it, “There’s Beer in the Fridge.
C: No doubt. Doubtless. No doubt about it. Doubt-free. [sings along:] “I will kiss the devil on his tongue!”
D: He is the male Peaches!
C: The singer-guitar player Jesse ‘the Devil’ Hughes has the best moustache going in rock, and he knows it. I can hear him now: “C & D, you’ve been rocked by The Moustache.” Have you seen his cape?
D: This cannot be. What year is this? It’s like Mick wearing the Omega at Altamont. Totally Rolling Stones.
C: Jesse is Jumpin’ Jack Flash and Josh Homme—he’s the guy from Kyuss and Queens of the Stone Age—is just here to do Beat Number Three on every song and help shift some units. They say it’s “Canned Heat vocals with stripper beats” and you can’t beat that description so let’s not even gonna try. It’s a pretty raw recording, sounds like a rehearsal tape with all the talking.
D: We will have to subtract points for that.
C: Yeah, all that between-song tech talk is the rock equivalent of skits on hip-hop albums. Funny the first time, maybe, but after that?
D: Eagles of Death Metal, you were rocking the party, and then you’re talking amongst yourselves about when to come in on the beat?!? Thanks for fucking it up!
C: “Speaking in Tongues” is the coolest song. Can you hear that sound?
D: Is that a car honking?
C: It’s the CD! They mixed it in! Totally brilliant! [singing along] “Toot scoot! Boots! Scoot scoot!” I have no idea what he’s saying but I like it, I like it. I said, I like it.
This Is for Real
C: Okay, let’s get this party started again…
D: It is the Cramps. Wait, it can’t be the Cramps. Is this that “Fire in the disco” band?
C: Not it’s not Electric Six, it’s Pink Grease. Which sounds like a nightmare lubricant. Really good name for this band…
D: [hearing the riff kick in o “Fever”:] Whoa! They’re the house band for a creepy kind of party.
C: This is music for the wasters, and their married friends who are tying one on again, just this once.
D: In the right circumstances, this could finish somebody off. This is music for that kind of party where you do something you regret for weeks. [musing] Possibly even for the rest of your life…
C: They’ve got a cool thing going on—garage rockin’, good drums, new touches when you don’t see it coming: saxophone, a good chorus, some slide guitar, an out-there keyboard solo. [dreamily] They should tour with the Dirtbombs and Eagles of Death Metal and Peaches and Ween…
D: Could someone tell me why there are so many good-rockin’ dance bands right now?
John Wilkes Booze
Five Pillars of Soul
(Kill Rock Stars)
C: Then again, there’s this.
D: “John Wilkes Booze”? Terrible name.
C: I know. I gave it some time on the hi-fi cuz of the booklet. I mean, how bad can a band that salutes, in text, at length, Albert Ayler, Marc Bolan, Yoko Ono and Citizen Tania be?
D: Very, very bad, from the sound of it!
C: Is this a Make-Up and Jon Spencer parody band? Talk about putting the high back in high-conceptualism.
D: ‘Five pillars of soul”?!? Fake soul is the worst!!!
C: I’m embarrassed for these people—they have some cool inspirations and ideas about what they want to do but they don’t have the chops or the instincts to pull it off yet. Maybe they’ll get better…
D: They’re from Indiana? HA HA HA HA HA !
C: I’d like to see them try this in New Orleans.
D: [Definitively:] Guided by Voices. But harder, with more of that old piledriver beat.
C: It’s actually a whole different band, a trio called the Thermals. I like ‘em. It’s urgent. Reminds me of Lee Renaldo from Sonic Youth, bashing away in his garage with the neighborhood teenagers cutting school. Oops, dude just knocked over the ten-speed.
D: [shaking head furiously] I just spilled my beer!
C: This guy’s got one of those voices where you don’t care if he doesn’t really sing. 12 songs, 28 minutes. No solos, but it’s not hardcore or screaming emoters. Just cool. He’s determined, he’s holding on.
D: These are high-energy super-tight anthems! Where’s the towel?
C: [singing along] “Anything you break, you can probably mend/Anything you can feel, you can feel again/Hold tight, remember today.” Shit, those are words to live by.
D: Wisdom from a man called Hutch Harris. Thank you, Thermals! Yo don’t have a moustache but you have rocked C & D!
Mission of Burma
C & D: [stunned silence]
C: How can it… How did they…
D: How can it be this good?
C: They haven’t made a record in 22 years… Some of the people in this issue of Arthur were born and grew into adults in the time between Mission of Burma albums.
D: They sound hungry and creative. [singing along] “Now I live inside the circle!”
C: Inside the circle, but still outside the box. How to describe the pleasures of Burma for the people…hmmm.. well, it IS guitar rock, it has melodies and punch and strange flair, and again, like that Thermals record, there’s a sense of no wasted breath, no gloss, no glamour, just direct intention-into-thought.
D: It’s like a greatest-hits record from the last 22 years, except not only were these songs not hits, they weren’t even released!
The Icarus Line
C: I saw these guys last year. Their singer reminded me of Richard Ashcroft in the vintage Verve days, when they were at their most cosmic and loose and desolate and swaggering… 1995… Skinny dude with cheekbones, just GONE, going for it—
D: [hears guitar break in on “Up Against the Wall”] YES!
C: —amidst the maelstrom. This one is called “Spit On It.“ Okay, this is what you call RIGHTEOUS SQUALL. Mixed by Alan Moulder, who did stuff with My Bloody Valentine, so there you go…
D: [laughing] Alan Moulder spat on it! That’s holy spit. The old Moulder grease…
C: [listening to “Spike Island”] See, and just when you think it’s all shaped noise, here comes a song with a solid, almost disco rhythm and a guitar refrain—something to pull you, something to grasp onto.
D: They’re an L.A. band. There’s a little Jane’s Addiction in them, isn’t there? Especially in the vocals!
C: That’s true. But Perry always had something interesting to say, I don’t know about these guys, I can’t understand a single word he’s singing.
D: He’s hiding behind the Wall of Squall.
C: Then again… [listening to the beginning of the 9:07-long “Getting Bright at Night”] Well, here we go.
D: They bring it down to earth so they can go back into space!
C: I just want to tell the people that at 6:15 in this song, this simple thing happens that makes you love rock n roll turned up to overwhelming. I know we were talking about finishing people off earlier, but maybe this is the real Finisher right here.
D: Right now, my ears love me.
C: Searched, destroyed. Now let’s see if they can write a song on an acoustic guitar.
The Secret Machines
Now Here Is Nowhere
C: Well, they’ve got a good drum sound, that’s certain. But…um… Is he going to do that same tempo for 9 minutes?
D: Sounds like it. I think I’ll be needing to smoke some more of those special cocktails for this one. [Leaves room, returns happier.] Ah, now it’s changing. This is good. They’re originally from Texas, this really takes me there, out to the nudist lakes, drinking some Shiners, laying back in the sun with your girl, nobody around, music coming up over the sand from the box, lookin’ up and just tripping out to the great big… big I don’t know..
D: The big Big.
C: [repeating lyrics to “Road Leads Where It’s Led” ] “We communicate by semaphore/No language/We’ve got flags of our own.” I like that.
D: They’re so laidback, they’re almost out of the pocket. A big cinematic sound with lots of air between the different sounds…
C: They’ve been watching Zabriskie Point, I‘m guessing.
D: They’ve definitely been visiting the dark side of the moon. Especially on this song [“Pharaoh’s Daughter”].
C: You know it. “Breathe, breathe in the air.” [listening to the concluding/title track] There’s the Neu/Can/Kraftwerk motorik rhythm, done right–this is like Flaming Lips used to sound sometimes, back when they’d let it out a little more when Ronald was in the band… [listening to the song explode around 7:00] Yes!
D: Big but not pompous, psychedelic but not goofy. Yes! I nominate these guys to do a co-headline tour with The Icarus Line.
C: Good stuff from secret machines and special humans. Thank you again, Texas.
The Runaway Found
D: Echo & the Bunnymen?
C: Ha! He DOES have a bit of the Ian McCulloch in him. This is a 20-year-old fella from Australia. There’s some real beauts on here, D… [clicks ahead to “The Leavers Dance”]
D: Radiohead. Starsailor.
C: Yeah, I guess… But listen to those strings come in… it’s so gorgeous. I think sometimes people like us get too caught up in “spot the influence.” It’s one thing when you’re hearing straight, passionless, contrived mimicry—plagiarism—but it’s another when folks’ voices are just…similar. What are they supposed to do? Not sing at all cuz that voice is taken already?
D: [thoughtful, agreeing] To paraphrase Gertrude Stein: “A good song is a good song is a good song.”
C: Anyways, I think it’s beautiful stuff. There’s some vintage Britpop rave-ups, there’s ringing guitars. There’s some middling tempo numbers, which are hard to do, when you think about it… And there’s these autumnal, oceanside ballads. [listening to “Vicious Traditions”:] You can see how it could get all histrionic and spittle-flying, but he reins it in just right.
D: [quietly] So young, and so anguished already…
Through the Sun Door EP
D: At last, a female voice!
C: [listening to opening track “One-Note“] This is one of favorite songs of the spring.
D: Charging piano!
C: It’s serious, but not Tori Amos melodrama. “Some-thing is a-bide-ing!” Hmm…
D: “White Magic.”
C: Best name since Comets On Fire. Lotsa witchy stuff going on right now, eh? [Listening to “The Gypsies Came Marching After”] Wow here’s another stormer. This is probably referencing Fairport Convention or Incredible String Band or Pentangle but I just don’t know that stuff well enough… I guess you’d call it folk-rock—it does swing, you can move to it—and they use traditional acoustic and electric instruments and so on.
D: I like her voice. Strong, feminine, with hints of tenderness and loss.
C: This song [“Apocalypse,” the EP’s final track] is a sorta blues groove—it’s like Heart, if they were amazing.
D [musing]: PJ Harvey, with flowers and beads in her hair.
C: More really lovely, absolutely spellbinding boots-over-pants modern two girls-one boy psychedelic chamber folk-rock for you…
D: [eyes closed, rapt] My, my, my.
C: Reminds me of Damon & Naomi and Ghost. Very, very pretty, and not at all dippy or precious, which is the way these things can so easily go. [listening to “Meadow”] See, cuz they can write actual songs, they’re not just inhabiting a texture or a form…
D: It cannot be possible. What woods are all these people coming from?
C: They come from the Shire, sire. Actually they come from Philadelphia.
D: [listening to “Voices”] There’s no drums, there’s no backbeat, but, [quietly, seriously] I can dig it anyway. Listen to me when I say this: This is music that lifts the veil.
Acid Mothers Temple and the Melting Paraiso U.F.O.
Mantra of Love
C: Speaking of lifting the veil: here’s the new Acid Mothers Temple studio album, two very long tracks. The first is a traditional vocal, with Miss Cotton Casino singing, that goes…
D: [6:25 in] There it goes now, off into the universe… Happy trails everywhere.
C: For those out there who don’t know, the Acid Mothers are a Japanese psych outfit known to the acid cognoscenti for volume, trance and hair frizz. They’re on a serious far-out trip and they’re gonna do it, sometimes on the turn of the dime, whether or not anyone else is interested. I’ve seen them play a 100-person room like they were playing for the galaxy…
D: This is the best-recorded AMT album I’ve ever heard!
C: You can actually hear the bass beneath all the Hawkwind psych-bleeptronics and Acid Mothers “super guru” Kawabata Makoto’s super-guru-guitar guru-ifying all over the place. A proper mix, finally. [listening] Aaaaand then back down to the central melody. This is humanity at its finest: dignified—cooperative—transcendent.
D: So good! I must nominate the Acid Mothers as this planet’s ambassadors to the Galactic Council!
Last of Analog Sessions 3-CD box set
D: Ack! What the???? Something’s wrong with the needle!
C: Oh, D. So easily confused. This is Japanese noise artist Merzbow, that’s what the stuff sounds like…at first. Then you get into it. You have to listen closely.
D: I will NEVER get into this!
C: Well, that’s your problem. For the non-philistines out there in Arthurworld, I want to say that his packages three Merzbow albums—Catapillar, Medamaya and Springharp—recorded from ‘97-99 by Masami Akita, in his final analog tantrums before he went digital. As it says on the back of this beautiful silver-on-black package, “Akita plays Self-built junk—”
D: Yeah this is junk alright—
C: “—with contact mics, various filters and ring modulators, various effects pedals, EMS Synthi A synthesizer, EMS VCS3 Synthesizer, Moog Synthesizer, GR-500 Guitar Synthesizer, Tapes, EXD, Drum Machine and Oscillators.” It’s good stuff, although a little of this goes a long way and I couldn’t tell you what my favorite track is. You’ve got to be in a very certain and very open mindset to listen to this stuff, but it’s worth it. Shit is meditational, bro!
D: Listen, I get this when the DVD isn’t connected right to the stereo, and that’s free of charge.
The Departing of a Dream Vol. III: Juliet
D: Much better. Lonesome guitars sounding occasional hopeful notes in the desert.
C: It occupies its own unique space. Not quite ominous, but not settled either. Restless, haunting. Just one man doing “guitars, tapes, sounds.”
D: This is what that Daniel Lanois guy wishes he could sound like.
C: It’s only 30 minutes, but I swear it feels like six hours. This will slow you right down, just like yoga or a good bath or chopping vegetables… Wow.
Thee Silver Mountain Reveries
Pretty Little Lighting Paw
C: Four tracks, thirty minutes. “More Action! Less Tears!” is a great title: it’s like Godspeed You! Black Emperor gone early Spiritualized, with a sense of humor. [Listening to “Microphones in the Trees”]: Now we’re getting down to the REAL anguish of the evening. Guitarist-vocalist Efrim is Wayne Coyne realizing all hope IS lost, actually and death is no comfort. But there’s this ease at the end of the song, a moment of brightness. Epiphany? Or maybe it’s just the street lights buzzing on, like in Antonioni’s L’Eclipse…
D: [stirring deep into the 10-minute “Pretty Little Lightning Paw”]: What is this…? A choir from the dark stars…
C: Future jazz from nowtime. Reminds me a bit of Carl Craig’s Innerzone project from a few years ago. Whatever happened with that, anyhow? Jazz and digital electronics: a treacherous and therefore unexploited frontier? Tonight at 10!
D [drifting]: …Cinematic Orchestra….
C: This is heavier, swings a bit more, and goes further out, leaving the drums behind altogether. A little more intense. These are compositions, not jams, you have to follow it along. It’s cool in a tough situation.
C: This is my other new favorite record. Really lovely folk stuff from some San Francisco cats, led by Andy Cabic on vocals, guitar and banjo.
D: He sings so nakedly. There’s some Nick Drake here…
C: It reminds me of that third Velvet Underground album. Or any Velvets when they’re quieter: that sort of foggy country-folk that Lou would do then. Kind of hushed and candlelit, away from the streets and the squall and the squalor, in a bohemian garret in the city or a tent in the woods. It’s a balm, like that last Six Organs of Admittance record.
D: There is a gauzy, dreamy feel to this.
C: The songs are really well structured and arranged–there’s cello and violin all over the album. [looking at the CD booklet:] And gaze upon this centerfold, it looks like a vintage Satty image! That’s Joanna Newsom playing harp on “Amerlilie,” and of course that’s the ubiquitous Mr. Banhart sings and plays guitar on a couple songs that are almost hoedowns. Colm O’Ciosoig, from My Bloody Valentine and Hope Sandoval’s band, plays drums on a couple of tracks… and then there’s Hope herself, singing backup on “Angels’ Share.” Goosebumps…
D: There is a real Mazzy Star thing going on here! It is Mazzy Star with a sensitive boy singer.
C: They both go back to the Velvets, don’t they. Oh, the Velvets! I’d give this to the people in the coffeehouses of America digging Cat Power and Beth Orton. Such beautiful songs.
D: These are modern songs, but these are not modern world people.
If We Can’t Trust the Doctors…
C: Another stylish country-folk softie, with a distressed cover, and banjo and quietish voices by people less than happy with the present day and their present circumstances.
D: A little bit Lyle Lovett, a little bit Buck Owens…
C: They’re from Detroit. This first song has Brendan Benson singing backup, and there’s a perfect little Jack White guitar part…
D: This is nuts. How can there be so many good bands coming out of one city at one time?
C: It does boggle the mind. It’s not just the music, though, which bypasses the alt-country tedium you might be fearing and heads for that stately old country bluegrass thing, it’s good lyrics too: “Who’s to say that I’m obsessed with everything you do/just because it seems my schedule seems to shadow you/who’s to say that tired cliche, there’s more fish in the sea/I don’t mind treading water, you’re the one for me.”
D: And male-female duets — always good, rarely done, rarer still done well.
C: [reading lyrics] “Life once again is carefree/where we tiptoed, now we waltz/past the black cats and the mirrors we cracked/without our fingers crossed…”
D: They are admirers of the old ways, but they are not worshippers.
C: What can you say? It’s the new Los Lobos. Fucking buy it already.
D: One of America’s greatest living bands.
C: They’re the house band for America. They can do everything, and they do everything with taste, and they’re not afraid to venture out. Always. Year after year! I mean, what do you call them, how do you categorize them? A jam band? Okay but they’ve got SONGS! A rock n roll band? Sure, but they’ve got so much soul, they can do traditional Mexican folk stuff, and they can flip into so many musical spaces and styles, for all the occasions of life: carnivals, barbecues, funerals, weddings, lonely drives. They’re the ascended masters, they’re our nation’s poet laureates. They should be on the radio all the time, on Leno and Letterman ever week. The true music fans know this, the true musicians know this. This album is like a testimonial to Los Lobos—it’s the band with a ton of guest stars doing new songs, some covers, all over the map stylistically. I’ll just list em: Cafe Tacuba, Willie G, Dave Alvin from the Blasters, Bobby Womack, Tom Waits & Martha Gonzalez, Ruben Blades, Richard Thompson, Elvis Costello, Mavis Staples…
D: Wow. Somebody call NPR!
C: That’s some heavy hitters, but I’d be buying this anyway, bro. I found an amazing quote from Mickey from Ween the other day on Los Lobos. He said, “I love Los Lobos, that’s a band that’s out there that really does it for me that I’ll go see. I don’t know why people aren’t really hip, because Los Lobos, to me… Like people say that Phish filled in a void for the Dead when they were gone, for a variety of reasons. You know, they played long sets, they jam a lot, they changed their set list every night. [But] Los Lobos play a very long set, they change their set lists all the time, it’s as much good, quality guitar that you could want. They’ve been doing it forever and they give off the vibe on stage that they have. They have that telepathy going.”
D: So true, so true.
C: When I hear David Hidalgo’s voice, I tear up, just automatically.
D: Like War said, the world is a ghetto. But the world is a barrio too, and I want to be there.
Toots & the Maytalls
C: Let’s wrap this up with another celebrity testimonial album… Toots Hibbert—
D: Toots & the Maytalls!
C: —joined by a bunch of folks doing some of his old songs, and some new stuff, with a constellation of stars. There’s some total sheened-up clunkers on here, but damn, any time there’s a chance to hear Willie Nelson singing reggae, I’m there.