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.
Magic and Medicine
C: New album from the Coral.
D: Liverpool young guys that sound old!
C: Yeah. This is a solid record, pleasant. More lightly psychedelic folk-country-rock-I dunno.Melodic. But…
D: There’s nothing urgent about it.
C: Exactly. It’s kind of timeless, but not in a cosmic-eternity Ghost way, it’s more just timeless in an England way. You get the feeling these songs might’ve been written at any time in the last few hundred years, but whenever they were written, they never meant much to anyone.
D: They don’t draw blood—they suck it!
C: [laughs] Well…there’s just this distance to them. They have such a warm, welcoming sound, but…well the singer’s kinda flat, it‘s like he never breaks this character he’s playing. Safe but harmless. He’s no Shane Macgowan.
D: The Pogues!
C: Shane had bite, even when he was gumming it. You wanna be a poet, you can’t just sit by your fireplace all the time. You gotta get out there and take some blows for the home team, soak something up, whether it’s your own experiences or what you witness. I always get the feeling these guys sit around playing records and watching flicks. That don’t do it.
D: You could be wrong, though.
C: Well… As T-Model says, that’s true now!
Medicine Fuck Dream
D: Is this new? It sounds like early Pink Floyd or…
C: It’s new. It’s Greg Ashley, he’s from Texas, used to be in a band called Mirrors down there (not the Mirrors of Cleveland), and he’s got a band in the Bay Area called Gris-Gris, who are supposed to be really good. Reminds me of Flaming Lips’ Hit to Death in the Future Head…Sparklehorse, too… Brother JT…Same sources, I guess!
D: Lonely desperate guy singing after hours in an reverbish spooky carnival funhouse about adult fears. I listen to this and I see in my mind’s eye scenes from Fellini’s La Strada. It’s beautiful…
C: There’s sadness here, but it’s not full of dread or angst—the guy’s just trying to get through something by singing, he’s not holding his situation against anyone. [Listening to “Deep Deep Down”:] The songs have this really solid folk-blues-country foundation, very simple, very hard to do. And there’s optimism here too. The dude’s got a flair.
D: [musing, eyes closed] …Gelsomina would listen to it every night as she took off her clown makeup. Maybe she’d dance a little, in the shadows, with the leopard man…
Mr. David Viner
Mr. David Viner
D: Basically it’s all traditionals. He does a version of “Corrina, Corrina,” which make me want to own this immediately. Just saying those two words aloud makes me warm.
C: It’s a romantic record: a romantic idea of music, of folk-blues music, done without flash or glamour or tongue. He’s a nice singer: he sings just enough, it’s like he’s not even there sometimes. It’s perfect. Reminds me a little of that John Lurie Marvin Pontiac record, or Robert Plant’s last record [2002’s Dreamland], only it’s more straightforward, of course.
D: I miss John Lurie!
C: I know. You can see why the Soledad Brothers are basically the backing band here. This is their shit, too, so it makes sense.
D: When you’re playing songs this old, songs this good, they can take you over, even if you’re English!
C: Let’s see if he can push it forward, now.
The Black Keys
The Moan EP
D: New Black Keys!?!
C: Not really… This is on their old label. Looks like odds and ends.
D: It’s true, I’ve heard all of these songs before, I think.
C: According to my calculations, this is what you get here. A version of the the lead track “The Moan” was on last year’s Fat Possum “Have Love Will Travel“ 3-track EP, taken from a John Peel session; another live version of the song was released on a spilt EP with The Six Parts Seven put out by Suicide Squeeze Records. The Peel version is the best. “Heavy Soul” here is an alternate take of a song from the first album The Big Come Up, on Alive, which was released on vinyl but not CD. The third track is the Stooges cover “No Fun,” which also was available on the vinyl of The Big Come Up, but not the CD. The last track is a cover of “Have Love Will Travel,” a later version of which appeared in a different, superior form on their Fat Possum album, thickfreakness.
C: My head hurts.
D: Here, have a glass of water.
C: I feel like The Seth Man. Record labels can do cruel things to fans.
D: That is your problem, AGAIN! I think it rocks in the low-down bluesy throaty way that they always do, and it collects a bunch of stuff in one place for the freaks in the audience who need everything. And I am one of those freaks who lives in the Secret Vaults of Rock!
Rocket From the Tombs
C: Speaking of vault-digging in Ohio. Or crypt theft. Here’s another band from Ohio.
D: I know this! “FRUUUUUSTRATION!!!!!” Rocket From the Tombs!!!! But what is this CD?
C: That part on the second song “So Cold’ is a straight rip off Alice Cooper’s “Sixteen”…
D: What is this CD?!?
C: It’s a new studio recording of the original RFTT repertoire by the surviving members.
D: Because they never made an album.
C: Yeah, I don’t remember the whole story but yeah the band split in two, into the Dead Boys and Pere Ubu… Who each released versions of most of the songs on here, blah blah. And one of the major guys, Peter Laughner, died.
D: These are STILL amazing angry poetic thrust-rockers from the TENSE heart of CLEVELAND, OHIO IN AMERICA IN THE MID-‘70S!!!! “30 Seconds Over Tokyo,” “Sonic Reducer,” “Final Solution”!!!! This is the super-shiznit!
C: It DOES sound awesome. You got David Thomas on vocals of course, plus there’s Cheetah Chrome on guitar, and then there’s Richard Lloyd from Television also on guitar, filling in for Laughner… [Listening to “What Love Is”:] They’re doing the same rhythm-riff thing as “Communication Breakdown” but then it goes OFF.
D: So, this was just recorded recently?
C: Yeah. Timeless shit, again, but here it seems like it actually meant something to people at the time. There’s a real passion and intellect at operation here, at the same time. Plus air pollution and dead-end jobs and random sex and amphetamines and desperation and all the other necessary stuff.
D: Those timeless twentysomething kicks.
D: Unbelievable! DMZ!!!!!! How can all of this be coming out now, in 2004?
C: We live in a golden era, my friend. All praise Sepia Tone. Speaking of old punks, we were supposed to talk about the new Mekons record [Punk Rock, Touch and Go], too, but I can’t find it… [leaves room]
D: [close up to tape recorder:] Mighty super-power…aggressive garage… freakbeat rock that pummels your balls!!!
C: [Returns to the room, empty handed.] 11 songs, 28 minutes, produced by Flo & Eddie of the Turtles, originally released by Sire in 1978. Their only studio album.
D: It puts everyone to shame!!!! Everyone else can fuck off and die hard! Goodbye!
C: I think only the Hives might come close to the tight dynamo fury of this stuff right now, and they had to practice really, really hard for years to get there. But these guys…
D: The breakdown on “Don’t Jump Me Mother” when it comes back?!?
C: Unfuckingbelievable, the song just keeps getting more intense.
D: 28 minutes of genius. Incredible production! Sharp and bold and tough! Play it next to the first Ramones records and you will have a revelation-revolution of the brain and heart.
Anarchy In Paris!
C: Here’s another archive release from the late ‘70s. Punk rock in French with a drum machine. 24 songs, 71 minutes, really good liner notes.
D: It’s cool, aggressive, chantalong stuff that you can wash dishes to, or put on at a party, or turn up real loud and put your head through the wall. The machine stuff doesn’t sound so good, but whatever. That was always going to be a problem.
C: It’s a little like… You know what? This is what that Wire record that came out last year, this is what that Wire record sounds like, only 24 years earlier and in French.
D: In my opinion French should only be sung on record by young women, with certain exceptions.
C: Every time I hear these guys use the word “bourgeoisie” or “fasciste!” or whatever… I think of the guys in powdered wigs and aristocrat costumes who do those AC/DC-type songs, what‘s their name?
D: [quoting a song from memory:] “Boudoir!”
C: Yes! Upper Crust! The best band without a deal in America? Maybe!
C: Oh sweet dark god of brutality. Lemmy, Wino, King Diamond from Mercyful Fate, Tom Warrior from Celtic Frost, Eric Wagner from Trouble plus Cronos!… Dave Grohl did all the music. He calls it metal fantasy camp. And the camp counselors were…ritually sacrificed on the first night, from the sounds of it.
D: Unbelievable! Unrelenting, joyous, full-on METAL UP YOUR ASS, as we used to say in the olden days.
D: Beavis and Butthead will rise from their MTV graves, bow down slowly and then stand on the couch and hurt their necks for an hour listening to this.
C: Dave Grohl did it. He didn’t have to, but he did. Somewhere, Kurt Cobain is cackling with glee.
D: [singing along with Sepultura’s Max Cavalera:] “Red war will follow my enemies!!!!! YESSSSSSSSSSSSSS!!!!
C: There’s a song called “Dictatosaurus”? I rest my case: we are in the presence of the metal gods.
D: [still singing along:] “Red waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaar! Red waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaar!”
C: This could be the soundtrack to the Republican convention in August…
“We Hate the President” single
D: …or this could.
C: Four tracks, one-sided clear red vinyl. Hardcore with a guy doing a high-demonic screech vocal. The cover images shows a very young girl child kneelingon the sidewalk…on the ground are the words “Fuck it or fight it… It does not matter. While kids die of hunger, you get fat.”
D: Yes! Fat fucking Americans need big SUVs to drive around in cuz they can’t fit in normal-sized cars cuz of their fast food lardasses! Then they need more oil for their precious Hummers…so they go to war to steal it from people! Fuckfaces!
C: I don’t usually like this kind of stuff but: well, nice one, fellas.
D: I hate the president too!!! RAAAARRGH!
C: Dear Narnack and XBXRX, please release this in a format so that everyone can play it all the time on their big mobile stereo speakers in August in New York for the Republican war pigs. I am sure they will appreciate it. Folk music’s not gonna cut it, people. We need extreme music for extreme occasions. And yes, the music SHOULD be one-sided!
All Night Radio
Spirit Stereo Frequency
C: And now for something completely different, because you can’t be angry and aggressive all the time, you have to let the sunshine into your heart and allow for just pure aesthetic beauty in some part of your life. Otherwise, why go on?
D: This is a preview of springtime. Of Utopia.
C: And you don’t mean the band.
D: Ha! [smiling] Maybe I do.
C: It’s a side project from the Beachwood Sparks guy. Or guys? I’m not sure. Lookit up on the internerd. Super-melodic layered orchestral gauze-pop with harmonies and melodies and solid riffs and soaring George Harrison gentle-ness. Musicboxes, echoes, forgotten vintage sounds. This is what all those Elephant 6 bands wanted to sound like but didn’t have the talent for, in the end. A Magical Mystery Tour for 2004? Possibly. Kind of like Mercury Rev’s first three albums too, especially See You On the Other Side.
D: So beautiful. I will be listening to this radio station all night long. What is the word for this? Oh yes: Sublime.