Originally published in Arthur No. 8 (Jan. 2004)
REVIEWS BY C and D
Who Will Cut Our Hair When We’re Gone?
D: Who what?
C: Who, Sir D, will cut the Unicorns’ hair when they’re gone?
D: Ah, yes.
C: You don’t really care, do you?
D: Can’t say that I do, no, not really. These guys are wacky.
C: Sub-Ween wacky pop.
D: Helium-sucking stoners.
C: Queasy synthesizers.
D: A Rephlex artist gone Dr. Demento.
D: This is like hearing someone you’re not interested in taking drugs. Boring drugs.
C: Maybe too much Flaming Lips for them…? There’s some talent here… “Child Star” sounds like a Radiohead parody…. You know, it’s not easy providing comic relief.
D: This whatever-it-is is not one of my cups of tea.
C: And you have a lot of china.
D: Indeed I do.
D: [reading] “Eugene McDaniels – the soul anarchist.” Then it says here, “Under conditions of national emergency , like now, there are only two kinds of people — those who work for freedom and those who do not… the good guys vs. the bad guys. — mc d.”
C: [singing along to opening track “Outlaw”:]“She’s an outlaw, she don’t wear a bra.” Um, yeah…I don’t know if it’s me, but this doesn’t seem to have aged well.
D: This came out in the early ‘70s.
C: The guy has cred, supposedly he gets sampled a lot. And you can hear why… there’s a nice feel to these songs. Ron Carter on bass, from Miles’ group…
D: But the lyrics are terrible! And his singing is totally affected. “La la la smoke a joint” blah blah.
C: Yeah I don’t get what the big deal is either. None of these songs stand out…in a good way, at least. [laughter]
D: The cover looks amazing, though.
C: Talk about badass, there it is in front of ya.
Get Well Soon
C: We haven’t got off to a real positive start here…
D: Who chose these CDs, anyway???
C: The editor.
D: Hmm… Hey, I like this one. Very Gun Club! Do you remember “cowpunk”?
C: Yeah. [shudders] Actually I think this is better than, say, the Bo Deans or something.
D: The Bo Deans! Now there is a name from the distant past.
C: These guys are from L.A… Kinda makes sense. Countryish rock, some punk aggression… slide guitars…walking bass…throaty singer…
D: Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds.
C: Yeah, that’s true. There’s some Birthday Party in there too. [looking at the lyric sheet] I can’t really understand what he’s saying…
D: He should practice his enunciation.
C: He sings in a tough key a lot of the time but he hits it. [reading from the lyric sheet] Yep…lyrics about graveyards, ghosts, voodoo, burgundy wine, rebel angels…and a guy called Rat Boy. Folks, we have ourselves a bona fide Romantic.
D: A bohemian.
C: But anyways, you can totally hear the L.A. heritage: not just the Gun Club but also the Blasters and the Geraldine Fibbers…
D: Nice to hear an accordion too. This is good!
D: Whoa! Who is this?!?
C: They’re like 20 years old, from England. It’s like the Starvations, yeah?
D: But more banging. Blues-rock with punk balls!
C: Yeah the hooks are bigger, the playing is better. Hard to believe they’re not Americans. They’ve got the Gun Club in there too…
D: That solo is like that stuff the white guy who plays with R. L.Burnside does!
C: Kenny Brown. Yeah you’re right, I hadn’t noticed that. He totally does slide solos like Kenny.
D: You can dance to this stuff.
C: Yeah that’s the R.L. influence maybe, I dunno. This track [“Messed Up”] is a march but it’s also real soulful… That’s hard to pull off. The dude’s voice reminds me of a non-fucked up Shaun Ryder, a little.
D: “King Bee,” that’s an old one.
C: Big Chicago blues stomper. This is something. Pretty good for a debut EP–there’s not a weak track. I see why there’s such a fuss about these guys. Too bad we missed em when they opened for Jet and Kings of Leon last month. Oh well.
Sun Kil Moon
Ghosts of the Great Highway
D: What’s going on here? Are we reviewing for Some Depression now?
C: No Depression, you mean.
D: Whatever… all of this so far is roots-ish.
C: [looking through CD pile] Yeah, and there’s more on the way. Must be the season or something.
D: So, who is this?
C: Mark Kozalek’s new band. He used to do a band called Red House Painters. Pretty popular with the NPR crowd.
D: Never heard of ‘em.
C: Yeah, well… What a voice, eh?
D: It is a pretty voice… This kind of music reminds me of seaside towns. Long sad afternoons in the winter.
C: Yeah, it’s sad but it’s beautiful, it’s not depressing. Long, droney folk songs… ooo, lookit that, here come the drums 3:45 in to the first song. Always a nice touch.
D: I would say there’s a bit of Neil Young to him.
C: Yeah, fer shure. This song “Salvador Sanchez”…fantastic electric guitar. Listen to that simple riff and then the endless solo… People should turn in their copy of Greenville and get this instead.
C: Whatever. When he puts the strings behind his falsetto, whoa. This is almost too intense to listen to in sequence. You know what? This is what Jay Farrar from Son Volt wishes he could do…
D: It is bittersweet music.
C: Stunning, really. On first listen, I gotta say I’m stunned. That doesn’t happen too often.
C: She sounds a little like Karen Dalton.
D: Is this new?
C: Yeah. She was in this group the Be Good Tanyas for a little while, I guess. It’s good, huh. Acoustic guitar, ukulele, and what a voice.
C: Yeah. Country-blues-folk… Very pretty, kinda spooky. She’s got that white-girl Billie Holiday thing going for her, just like Karen Dalton did. [listening] Did you hear that? She sang “3 a.m.” like “three-eye-am.”
D: She must be American…
C: She is.
D: There’s a song on here credited to “Holland/Parton/Syd Barrett”…?
C: Ha! How appropriate for this ish of Arthur… [reading the sleeve] “The Littlest Birds.” I hafta admit, I don’t know exactly what she’s doing here…I guess this is a medley?
D: It must be. [repeating a lyric:] “The littlest birds sing the prettiest songs…” That’s true, you know.
Mark Lanegan Band
Here Comes That Weird Chill (Methamphetamine Blues, Extras and Oddities) EP
C: Here’s another distinctive voice. Brought to you by Marlboro…
D: Mark Lanegan! He’s in Queens of the Stone Age. That guy who comes out in the middle of the show and hangs on to the microphone for dear life!
C: Right, right. Used to be in Screaming Trees, did a bunch of solo records on Sub Pop, blah blah. Amazing artist that not enough people check on, for some reason.
D: This is pretty rough stuff.
C: Yeah it’s kinda grimy. Machine rock, at least this first track.
D: Nightmarish drone…
C: I gotta say I prefer to hear his voice unfiltered… [checking credits] Oh right, okay so this is the session they did with Chris Goss, Dean Ween and Josh and Nick from the Queens and so on. With that lineup you could probably call it Desert Session 8.5 or something. Only in happened in the Valley, not the desert.
D: [listening to “On the Steps of the Cathedral’]: What is this…?
C: Pretty, eh? Like a rondolet… And the next song is a Beefheart cover, “Clear Spot.” It sounds like they’re using a drum machine, really tinny and flat. This stuff has a Tricky feel to it. Very disorienting.
D: Reminds me of that song at the beginning of The Sopranos… [singing] “Born under a bad sign…”
C: Yeah, I can hear that. Listen to that solo…it’s all high up, like one of those solos Jack White does on Elephant. Only this was recorded before that came out… This track “Message to Mine” sounds like a demo for a really good Screaming Queens song… can you hear that organ? Nice. And a little bit of the bubblegum pop on the chorus, which is appropriate since Lanegan’s album coming out next year is called Bubblegum…
D: I like it…
C: Spoken-word here… tacked piano… “Skeletal History,” wow listen to that… he’s crooning with a swagger.
D: The bass is covered in fuzz!
C: Yeah. Good stuff. Sounds like Laney gone beatnik… [repeating words] “Girls stare in dead-eyed wonder”… Yikes.
D: And this last one is a dub?
C: Yeah. It’s like a country dub, right? 6am comedown music… This is a strong EP.
D: 8 songs, 26 minutes.
C: Thanks for the stats, D.
Heron King Blues
C: Uncategorizable …dark country…banjo…electronics… a lot of the ol’ kling-klang.
D: I like his voice but I can’t hear what he’s saying.
C: Yeah it’s always like that with these guys, you just catch weird phrases here and there… I like this, this might be my favorite Califone yet…
D: There’s a bit of a Tom Waits Bone Machine feel here. The Lanegan record had that, too!
C: Mmm, you‘re right. Kind of rustic, kind of futuristic. Vintage futurist. It reminds me some of that Medicine album that came out this year too… Apparently this is something of a concept record.
D: What is that on the cover?
C: That would be the heron king, I guess. Kinda got that witchy Lord of the Rings-Mercury Rev-Guy Maddin-Svankmajer vibe, doesn’t it? And then, check this out… I was gonna say Califone is like Radiohead and Wilco stripped of the pretension and pop sense, but then there’s this track… [skips ahead to “2 Sisters Drunk On Each Other”] It’s actually funky. They’re bringing in that Sly Stone stuff.
D: There’s a Riot Goin’ On…
C: Exactly. This is a proper jam band. Sounds like some of this stuff was improvised, but it really works. I’ve seen ‘em do it live. Totally underrated.
D: They played at All Tomorrow’s Parties at UCLA! We saw them–
C: That’s right…
Book of Lies: The Disinformation Guide to Magick and the Occult
edited by Richard Metzger
D: So we’re reviewing books now, too?
C: Yeah, and DVDs, if we have time.
D: Which ones?
C: We’ve go the Guitar Wolf DVD here from Narnack, if we have time.
C: So, this certainly keeps us on the witchy path, don’t it?
D: Yes. [looking at the list of contributors on the cover] But for a book about witches and magick…why are there no women here?
C: [taking the book away] Give me that. Lemme look. Hey, you’re right…. [reading further] Oh geez. From the editor’s introduction: “For some reason, I have always considered myself to be a warlock. Even when I was very young, I don’t know why, really but it is true … [W]hen I was a little kid I really loved Bewitched.” I mean, is this guy serious? “It works on a lot of levels, metaphorically speaking, for me to consider myself a magical businessman, if you see what I am saying.”
D: Oh god.
C: Yeah. Richard Metzger, he’s that guy who’s on all the Disinfo book covers, smirking. [still reading] Then he ends it with some talk about an emerging mutant race and asks “Which side are you on?” I mean, come on, these are Grant Morrison ideas here…
D: …who is in the book.
C: Yeah, well… Gotta admit there is a lot of good stuff here, although I have no idea how useful it is… Lots of excerpts from books by Robert Anton Wilson, Daniel Pinchbeck, Gary Lachman, Terence McKenna, Julius Evola and so on… Tons of stuff about Gysin and Burroughs and Crowley and Genesis P-Orridge and so on. The usual subjects, in other words.
D: This could be a good introduction, then.
C: Yeah, I suppose, if you want to be introduced to this stuff via a book that‘s title ‘Book of Lies‘ and published by someone called ‘Disinformation.’ I mean, those aren‘t exactly names that inspire confidence on the reader’s part in the authors’ accuracy, you know? Hey, wait! I just found a woman author: Tracy Twyman is in here writing about “Hitler and the Occult.”
C: Yep. Remember she’s the one who’s in with Boyd Rice on all that Cocteau-conspiracy crap. Losers. Anyways there are some women as subjects in here—Cameron, Ida Craddock and Rosaleen Norton—so it’s not completely Magic Boys’ Club. But it’s close.
D: How many women musicians have we reviewed so far today?
Bobby Conn and the Glass Gypsies
C: Speaking of conspiracies…
D: Speaking of terrible is more like it. What is this shit?
C: “Franchised Jesus Christ/Organized paradise/Clear Channel, bargain priced/We’re not very nice/We’re taking over the world”… Yeah… Dude means well, but…
D: Turn it off now.
C: Oh, come on, we have to listen to more than four songs.
D: I am exercising my veto power!
C: [turning the CD off] Okay, well what do you think of the cover.
D: Nice pyramid and the eye, okay, I get it, I get it. Masons blah blah. Off! [Throws CD out window.]
C: Hey bro, you need to get another beer and settle down.
D: I will get another beer but I will not settle down! [exits]
C: [to tape recorder] Man, he’s totally losing it! He’s been useless today, useless… D’s falling off…
Purple on Time
C: Okay, I’m just gonna do this myself then. [puts CD in, looks st jacket] US Maple? I hate these guys. People say there’s some Beefheart in there, and maybe there is, but all I hear is a lot of dry wank and no humor or beauty or whimsy, which the Cap always had. [listening] Hm, this is alright. Like AC/DC, simmering. Blasted. Not exploding, just…simmering, yeah. The vocals are low. A Dylan cover too? [pockets CD] I’m taking this home, don’t tell D…
Exquisite Fucking Boredom
C: The mighty Skullflower! One album, one riff. Talk about jamming econo! It’s a good riff, fortunately. Somewhere around Sabbath’s “Supernaut.” No vocals, just riff and maybe a drum machine and now there’s loads of texture and stuff coming in and out…. Gets kinda crazy with the electronics towards the end and the riff is buried. But the riff doth remain. Well, it’s a mind-narrower! Definitely could be used as a meditation aid, what with the propulsive rhythm and the repetition of the guitar riff. If you’re into that sort of thing.Better than one of those fucking Enya/Mickey Hart catastrophes. Anyways. “Exquisite“? Yeah. “Boring“? No way!
Pearls From the River
C: Gotta say I never listened to these guys before. Hearing this, I have some definite catching up to do…[reading from the sleeve notes by Coley] “Join Pelt in celebrating the ecstatic joy that results from refusing to accept the alleged primacy of shit-culture. It does not exist if we do not believe in it. And we must refused it on all levels always. The proof of its surrender is at hand. Yr hand. Right now, motherfucker!” Well amen to that.
D: [muffled sound from kitchen]
C: Now he’s talking to himself. Great. Okay, so it’s YET ANOTHER instrumental record we’ve got here.. three longish acoustic pieces… Like Godspeed, I guess, but with some Indian raga flair to it, and there‘s no percussion. Three guys, including Jack Rose on guitar… Really beautiful, haunting, kinda dramatic, out-there woodstuff… Some slight menace on this second track. Music to hold hands too, late at night… Actual playing here, this isn’t abstract experimentation for the artists’ sake a la some of those No Neck Blues Band records I got which totally blew. This last track is gorgeous, reminds me of McLaughlin’s Shakti a bit, only not so fast. I’d love to hear these guys with a decent tabla player… Yeah, so… Man, where’s D? [yelling] Dude, you should check this out! [mumbling] I dunno, we might need to get E in here soon, at this rate…
Million Year Old Sand
(Times Beach Records)
D: I was ordering Indian food.
C: Oh, right on. Perfect.
D: What were you playing?
C: Skullflower, that shit is awesome.
D: Well, put it back on, you scum-suck!
C: “Scum-suck”…? Dude, chill out. Listen to this record here…
D: This is nice, who is she?
C: Audra Kubat. I think this is her first record.
D: Kind of like Beth Orton.
C: Yeah. And Joni, and Nick Drake. And Miss Cat Power. This could be very big in the college-town coffeehouses of America. For sure. She’s a good singer but she doesn’t over-do it like those Lilith Faire buskers. So nice to hear music like this coming up now…
Like Hearts Swelling
D: We are not listening to too much rock music this time around, are we?
C: 22-20s and The Starvations were pretty rockin’.
D: [drinking beer] Yeah, you’re right!!! But this is not rocking, although it is something very good. What do you call this kind of music???
C: Well it’s from the Godspeed You! Black Emperor camp, or at least from the label that they do. I’ve lost track of who’s in whose band doing which project. It’s like Parliament-Funkadelic up there now, and Polmo Polpo is Parlet or something. But who is the George Clinton of the Montreal disastercore scene? That is the question…
D: [thoughtful] This is very scary music, very cinematic. It’s like something terrible is just about to happen, something I don’t want to know about…
C: And then the next track skips to after the event, doesn’t it? It’s like build-up and aftermath, but no actual event. They circle it, skirt its edges… [dreamily] This stuff makes me want to drink wine and light some candles. Or go down to the train yard and look at the stars and maybe hop a train out of town…
D: …And there’s some slide guitar! This is the best! Man… [doorbell rings] And there is our food!
D: This is not eating music.
C: You’re right… Why don’t you go in the other room and I’ll finish this. [D exits.] He is useless, totally useless. We have a job to do here! For the Arthur readership! Okay… Ambient haunted house stuff, no real instruments or tunes. Scratch that: more like a whole haunted city. Reminds me of Coil, a bit. Amazing cover and sleeve. Like that “Aumgn” song on Can’s Tago Mago—if you dig that, which we all have at one time or another, right?, then here’s two records’ worth. Hums. Buzzes. Very cool stuff for the headphones I bet, and good music to end a party with. This is some seriously dark mystery shit. Whoa…