Reviews by C and D (Arthur No. 9/March 2004)

Originally published in Arthur No. 9 (March 2004)

REVIEWS BY C and D

Guitar Wolf
Red Idol DVD
(Narnack)
D: Hey, I can’t make this DVD work.

The Von Bondies
Pawn Shoppe Heart
(Sire)
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.

Franz Ferdinand
Franz Ferdinand
(Domino)
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…
D: Whoa….
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.

The Walkmen
Bows and Arrows
(Record Collection)
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.
D: …
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.

Oneida
Secret Wars
(Jagjaguwar)
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.
D: Well…
C: ‘80 Marvel Comics. Which I read. And I bet you didn’t.
D: …
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.

Weird War
If You Can’t Beat ‘Em, Bite ‘Em
(Drag City)
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
(Southern)
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.

Casual Dots
Casual Dots
(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!
C: …

Hella
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!

Deerhoof
Milkman
(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.
D: Disgusting!
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!

OOIOO
Kila Kila Kila
(Thrill Jockey)
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!

Ghost
Hypnotic Underworld
(Drag City)
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.
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Reviews by C and D (Arthur No. 8/Jan. 2004)

Originally published in Arthur No. 8 (Jan. 2004)

REVIEWS BY C and D

Unicorns
Who Will Cut Our Hair When We’re Gone?
(Alien8)
C: Who?
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.
C: [puzzled]
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.

Eugene McDaniels
Outlaw
(Water/Runt)
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.

The Starvations
Get Well Soon
(GSL)
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!

22-20s
05-03
(Astralwerks)
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
(Jetset)
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.
D: Greendale.
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.

Jolie Holland
Catalpa
(Anti/Epitaph)
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.
D: Sleighbells!
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
(Beggars Banquet)
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.

Califone
Heron King Blues
(Thrill Jockey)
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…
D: Incredible.

Book of Lies: The Disinformation Guide to Magick and the Occult
edited by Richard Metzger
(Disinfo)
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.
D: Nice.
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.”
D: Oh.
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?
C: Ulp.
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Reviews by C and D (Arthur No. 7/Nov. 2003)

Originally published in Arthur No. 7 (Nov. 2003)

REVIEWS BY C and D

The Hidden Hand
Divine Propaganda
(Meteor City)
C: This is Wino’s new band…
D: From St. Vitus! And the mighty Spirit Caravan!
C: This is prime Wino. Very focused. Full-on Sabbath power trio. Political eco-stoner stuff. “I feel the sky cracking/I feel the ice melting/I feel the world dying.”
D: Track 8 is an unstoppable beast!
C: “The Hidden Hand [theme].” Yeah, this is solid shit. Kinda conspiracy-minded. I mean, just look at the name of the band—
D: As we said in the days of old, these guys can carpet a good chair!
C: He put a suggested reading list in the CD tray, you don‘t see that too often with metalish bands. Edmund O. Wilson, The Future of Life… Greg Palast, The Best Democracy Money Can Buy… Wait a sec. David Icke?!?
D: Who is this guy?
C: That’s the British dude who sez that the world’s political and economic leaders are not humans, they’re actually reptiles from outer space working in a conspiracy together. Very V. I think he’s saying that 9/11 and its consequences were predicted in the pages of Alice in Wonderland. Obviously he’s onto something.
D: ?
C: I’m joking. But I wonder if Wino is in on the Icke joke. Seems like he’s taking it seriously…?
D: Wino is the best. But he looks totally different with a beard. I don’t know if I approve.

The Raveonettes
Chain Gang of Love
(Columbia)
D: Is this the new Jesus and Mary Chain album?
C: No, it’s this Swedish band called the Raveonettes.
D: Why don’t they just call themselves the Raveisionists?
C: Who do you think you would win in a rumble between these guys and the Black Rebel Motorcycle Club?
D: Agh! I hate those Black Rebel guys! So boring live.
C: Their second album is terrible. I think it could be the end of the road for them. But who cares. The Raveonettes have a six-foot chick singer, I think she could take them out.
D: Swedish precision! There’s a Spector back beat jangle here.
C: Melodies and distortion, it always sounds good. You gotta cop to it, there’s some good stuff on here.
D: Yes, this song [“That Great Love Sound”] is good. But it’s nothing that will make you spill your ice cream on the floor.
C: …?

Ween
Quebec
(Sanctuary)
D: Incredible. Who is this?
C: Ween.
D: Each song? No, it can’t be. They are all so different
C: Yes. That’s what they do! I’ve been trying to get you to listen to them for years—
D: Every song is a population of musical influences of the last 20 years. It all sounds familiar but beautifully deranged. You don’t know where the sound comes from, it’s written down in the backpages of your brain and heart but you can’t locate it.
C: This song “Zoloft” is fantastic.
D: Zoloft—that’s some good stuff there. The doctor’s medicine is working. I’m seeing different colors in a different way. Yellow even is starting to look good.
C: Listen to this one [“Transdermal Celebration”]: it’s like an Oasis song except it’s really good.
D: None of those Anglo-Saxons can rock like Americans! [Listening to “So Many People In the Nieghborhood”] These guys are like the Residents, some of this stuff. But it’s also very melancholic. This song [“Among His Tribe”] cuts straight to the bone.
C: This one “Captain” is my favorite. Very Pink Floyd. Listen to those drums. He’s stuck on a spaceship and they WON’T GO BACK!
D: “Tried and True”—this is middle American melancholy. Another weightless psychedelic Byrds song. Record store clerks rejoice. They’re the best. They’re too good for me. It’s like Ian Curtis said, I looked behind the doors of time, there was nothing there to see.
C: ???
D: [still listening to “Tried and True”] …Is that a sitar?!? No.
C: Yes it is.
D: It cannot be.
C: They’re putting the India in Indiana.
D: Ween are a jukebox. One way not to disappear up your own ass is to disappear up others’.
C: Right… I guess that’s one way of looking at it.

Terry Hall & Mushtaq
The Hour of Two Lights
(Astralwerks)
C: This should be the soundtrack for that hookah place on Sunset’s sound system.
D: Yes! Exactly!
C: It’s the Specials guy. They sound like melancholy gypsies.
D: Dignified, beautiful.
C: Class, yeah? Two cultures, maybe three.
D: I like it! Let me look at the box.
C: It’s like a new kind of traditional music.
D: Yes… [thoughtful] Can we order some Indian food now?

Brant Bjork
Keep Your Cool
(Duna Records)
C: Brant Bjork from Kyuss and Fu Manchu and Mondo Generator’s new record.
D: Is that him singing?
C: [Nods ‘Yes.’] He’s playing all of the instruments too.
D: [Thumbs up.] Vintage ‘70s rock! And Thin Lizzy too! Wow. The reggae bass on “Searchin’”… scary. Reminds me of David Bowie. Or Blondie.
C: This is kinda Foghat, yeah? Plus the Cars… Here he is in falsetto… “Sister’s got the inside infoooooh!” He should do that more. Michael Jackson, almost. Very cool. This is really good, such a good feel, laidback. Compare this to that new Nebula album, ech. This is the good shit here.
D: I always liked him, Brant Bjork! Thanks for the Red Sun, Mr. Bjork.
C: Check this out: dude is putting the album out only on 12-inch vinyl. No CDs!

PFFR
United We Doth
(Birdman)
C: Bad Ween.
D: Sick.
C: I dunno, dude.
D: I love it. How did they get Snoop Dogg for this?
C: I think one of the PFFR guys is a South Park guy or something, that’s the word on the street. I don’t what street that is, but whatever, there you go. This sound like bad acid trip music. Very bad acid trip.
D: I love it.

The Rapture
Echoes
(Universal)
D: I know this. This is the Moving Units.
C: No, this is the Rapture.
D: They do the same thing.
C: Yeah, well… The Rapture have been going for a while longer, but yep it’s the same influences… Gotta say this is kinda disappointing. That one single on here from two years ago [“House of Jealous Lovers”] is cool but after a while…
D: It’s good but COMPLETELY unoriginal. Birthday Party. Pop Group. Gang of Four. They love that music.

Erase Errata
At Crystal Palace
(Troubleman Unlimited)
D: Same thing! I’m already sick of this. All of these people love the Pop Group. They love this music to DEATH.
C: It does seem pretty little limited on record. But you gotta admit it’s well done. This reminds me a whole lot of that amazing band Lilliput, you remember them? From Switzerland. Some of this stuff seems almost directly ripped. Well maybe they’ll get more interesting on the next record…
D: Lilliput, call your Swiss lawyers!!!

Pretty Girls Make Graves
The New Romance
(Matador)
D: (sighs) More of this stuff? Everybody likes the Pop Group. They like them too much.
C: I dunno, I think this is pretty good. I’d be curious to hear the next record, to see where they go.
D: Whatever. Can we listen to the new Kraftwerk again?

High Llamas
Beet, Maize & Corn
(Drag City)
C: [singing] “Orange crate art/is where it starts.” Oh wait, wrong album. This is pretty shameless Brian Wilson/Van Dyke Parks, sheesh.
D: Take it off the CD player now.
C: All arrangement, no hooks… Beach Boys without harmonies or melodies–what’s the point? Nice wallpaper stuff, though. I think he could do good soundtrack music. Maybe with Alison Anders, this is her type of shit.
D: This guy should move to Nashville or go back in time to the Brill Building. ENOUGH! Turn it off NOW or I’m leaving.

Festival in the Desert
(World Village/Triban Union/Harmonia Mundi)
C: This is my favorite album out of the whole bunch.
D: This is Malian stuff, right?
C: Yes. This whole CD was recorded live at this festival in the desert, as you might’ve gathered from the title. Pretty amazing stuff.
D: [Listening to “Buri Baalal” by Afel Bocoum] So beautiful. Listen to how the women sing!
C: Yeah, see? This music has everything: melodies, chants…incredible rhythms… all those stringed instruments, I don’t even know what they are. Guitars, I guess.
D: Beautiful.
C: They’re doing a DVD of this, that should be amazing. Sand and candles and this music: what a setting. Tinariwen are on here, they’re amazing.
D: Those are the guys who sound like Junior Kimbrough right?
C: Exactly—the electric guitars are just like his, but I bet they never heard each other’s music. Makes you wonder how far back Junior’s music really goes… Ali Farke Toure’s on here too. And this Native American rock group Blackfire, they have this old guy singing all through it. The Robert Plant song is great.
D: [Listening to Tartit’s “Tihar Bayatin”] So hypnotic… This is the deep stuff, man. The deepest stuff. I’m serious.
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C & D bicker about new records (Arthur No. 17/July 2005)

Originally published in Arthur No. 17/July 2005


Debashish Bhattacharya


C: We meet again.
D: Indeed. [goes to fridge, returns with chilled brownie]
C: Okay? We are ready to begin. D, I wish you clarity.
D: Yes. Focus pocus.

Kool Keith
Global Enlightenment Part 1 DVD
(MVD)
C: I thought this was gonna be Keith being oh-so-weird but actually it’s him being clever… He’s talking philosophy.
D: He’s talking seltzer water.
C: He’s talking about theft, it’s a favorite subject of his. And this is about how he dealt with that: by doing something that is unstealable. Listen to what he’s saying…
Kool Keith on screen, talking about what he keeps in his refrigerator: “I learnt that people like to steal your sodas. Seltzer water, people don’t like it. You could send a big jug of seltzer water around, and nobody would touch it… But people taking my Hawaiian Punches, people drinking all my Tropicana. That happened for weeks, and months. I really learned that seltzer water keeps people away. It’s like a twist: I really don’t like it myself, but I like it because people don’t like it. You have to do it that way. But you have to learn how to like it, like it’s so good to you: it’s SO GOOD to have a glass of seltzer water.”
C: That’s the way I’ve felt about Keith’s last, uh, five records. They’re hard to like! But now I gotta listen to them again, because they were hard to like on purpose!
D [musing]: Hmm. I have to admit I did not even hear those records.
C: Keith is brilliant even when he’s talking about being weird as a conceptual survival strategy. This is funny: watching Keith on Tour. It’s a sustained critique of status-obsessed modern hip-hop. So, he’s supposed to be showing how large he’s living, that’s what hip-hop stars do on their DVDs. But here he’s living in a hotel, he’s eating at Popeye’s. He’s got no hot women on his wing so he follows one around buys her some shorts. He hangs out with music stars friends, that is, the streetbusking guitarist. He has trouble finding liquor. The whole thing is done straight….
D: Even straighter than the Turbonegro film.
C: Which is saying a lot, when you think about it.
Kool Keith on screen, walking through Manhattan’s streets: “I’m always touring, even when I’m walking…. Am I above the streets? I am above the streets at my mentality level. Everybody now raps behind the microphone and a couple of bodyguards and they say they’re the streets. You see a lot of rappers, they walk around with a lot of people with ‘em, with headsets? Their reality is not even reality. It’s a fantasy. I don’t sit in an SUV, doing my documentary, ride around and talk about ‘I was in the streets, I live the street, I am the streets.’ You mean you ride through the streets. Ha. You know what I’m saying?”
C: He’s goofing like Sun Ra. Everything has at least two and a half meanings.
D: Thirty-five minutes of new stoner comedy-philosophy.

Little Freddie King
You Don’t Know What I Know
(Fat Possum)
D: [looking at cover, reading the album title] “You don’t know what I know?” I have a feeling he knows the same thing Kool Keith knows. Which it is I do not but I am trying to know.
C: It’s obviously a Fat Possum production.
D: Which means it’s thick enough to eat with a fork.
C: Raw John Lee Hooker feel, without sheen or Clapton cameos.
D: John Lee Hooker would never have a song called “Crack Head Joe.”
C: It’s about time someone paid tribute to a crackhead.

Blowfly
Fahrenheit 69
(Alternative Tentacles)
C: Blowfly is an old R & B songwriter dude who’s been running the crude parody game for 75 years. Wears a cape and mask to protect his secret identity. Totally classic if you’re in a certain mood.
D: We have to give him some major credit to the cover picture, which is a takeoff on the Bad Brains’ first album cover, only Blowfly is doing a urine lighting strike on the Capitol building.
C: Blowfly has to be experienced live, he’s a comedian provocateur goofball. (You can see why he’s on Jello Biafra’s label now.) I saw him opening for the Pixies and Soul Asylum once at a half-empty Universal Amphitheatre, and I know this is damning by faint praise Blowfly blewflied them off the stage. And get this: his ENTIRE band was wearing GIANT…RAINBOW….AFROS!!!!
D: [looks at sleeve picture of Blowfly with his middle fingers extended] I like his fingernails more than his new record.
C: To update George Clinton: Smell my fingernail.

A Band of Bees
Free the Bees
(Astralwerks)
C: There are songs on here that are as good as the originals they’re styled after– whether it’s the Zombies, or the ballads, the Afrobeat stuff. The writing is great, the spirit is there, the production is definitely there, but… Could it be that they are the men who know too much? With the internet and Mojo every phase of Western pop music is now available to kids, and it’s all presented with this sexy, dramatic gosh-wow. What does that mean for young smart musicians? Are they perhaps over-educated in music history?
D: Maybe you are an over-educated listener!
C: Could be true. I’m sure if I was 12, I’d listen to this one record all summer. But back then, you did listen to only one record all summer because that’s the most that you could get your hands on. You had just enough money saved up to buy a new record. Do kids even do that anymore, listen to one record for a whole summer? This one record, with all its styles and the sheer rich quality of the writing and playing, would keep me going. But now…
D: Now you are becoming an old man. Which is sad for you, because for me this is wonderful stuff. It’s not just vintage décor, the innards are top-notch too. And as my good friend Gertrude Stein said, A good song is a good song is a good song. Continue reading

C & D bicker about new records (Arthur No. 15/March 2005)

Originally published in Arthur No. 15/March 2005

Nina Simone
Baltimore
(CTI/Legacy/Epic/Sony)
D: [to tape recorder] Hello. We are back!
C: [very formally] It is time to exchange views once again, after our brief vacation from these pages. A vacation, I might add, that was not entirely voluntary—
D: But we will speak of that some other time.
C: Everything was going well until they caught you putting the potato in that Hummer’s exhaust pipe in front of the military recruitment center.
D: I told them I was removing the potato that I had just witnessed some crazy anarchist put there. I was actually de-vandalizing their truck—
C: But, strangely, they were not convinced. Especially after they found the grater in your jacket.
D: Yes, well…
C: [Yawns.] Please remind me to forget to call you next time something is going down, because I can’t afford any more of these “vacations.”
D: Soooo, Nina Simone’s 1974 album Baltimore has been reissued.
C: Apparently she didn’t want to make this record. She didn’t like making the record. She didn’t like the finished record. And it’s such a good record!
D: The title track is the greatest Randy Newman cover of all time. I mean, Randy Newman done in a loping funk mode? If you’ve ridden the Amtrak through Baltimore, the route it takes gives you an unobstructed view of a horribly blighted ghetto, and her voice here really captures that sadness.
C: I’m guessing she thought the more pop-orientated /songs were beneath her, that it was somehow undignified for her to sing Hall & Oates’ “Rich Girl,” and maybe she was right on that count. But this is really a unique Nina Simone album, and frequently magnificent.

Antony and the Johnsons
I Am a Bird Now
(Secretly Canadian)
D: Give me that. [looks at sleeve] I was happier when I didn’t know what he looks like.
C: Hey man, everyone looks like something.
D: It’s like if you heard Pavarotti singing and then turned out he looks like Pee-Wee Herman!
C: Well, how hard is it to just listen to the music? My goodness.
D: I’m just saying.
C: This guy’s voice is known to have moved Lou Reed to tears. I might be wrong, but I don’t think Lou Reed cries very often. The tracks of Lou’s tears…
D: …could not extinguish torch songs this strong. So very beautiful. [towards end of album] Yet here we have instance number eighty-seven-thousand-four-hundred-and-two of a greaseball, cheeseball Saturday Night Live style saxophone solo ruining another otherwise faultless song.
C: Clarence Clemmons, so much to answer for.

The Kills
No Wow
(Rough Trade)
D: They still don’t have a drummer? Another incomplete band…
C: That means that each get an entire half of the proverbial pie! Great opening salvo, it’s the drum beat equivalent of a strobe light in the face. They have a song about asking if you got the real good cigarettes from the store like I asked.
D: A frequently posed question around my house.
C: There’s that chugalug thing they do so well, on the chorus of “I Hate the Way You Love.” You can ride that into the sunset. By taking instruments away, rock’n’roll has reminded us that at it’s core it’s dance music. Fewer instruments means the sound has room to breathe. And breath plus beat equals boogie. Even if the beat is that of a machine. See? Drum machines do have soul.
D: I am more enamored with their human qualities. Speaking of which, I’d like to give a hearty salute to VV for being that rarest of regional species: the untanned Floridian.
D: [end of “Rodeo Town”] That is so Velvets! She is fearsome yet vulnerable, a potent combination.
C: The fella in the group goes by the nom de rock Hotel. I think Motel would be more appropriate. Someplace where rooms can be rented by the hour.
D: [Listening to the three note piano riff on “Ticket Man”] They should use piano on more songs. And they should use more of the piano, period. I think there’s 85 more keys to be precise. It’s like the music has been shaved to an inch of its life.
C: I’ve always said there’s two types of people: the shaves and the shave-nots.
D: Not as catchy as the first album, but The Kills aren’t dead yet.

M. Ward
Transistor Radio
(Merge)
D: [listening to “One Life Away”] He actually says, “I’m visiting my fraulein”! An inspired approach to breaking into the hofbrau circuit. How sweet is this…you could whistle or hum along to this entire album without feeling stupid once.
C: This guy seems unassuming. I’d like to hang out with him in an Airsteam trailer crossing the country. Easygoing, but clever. He’s making lyrical origami out of the sad history of rock on “Fuel For Fire”: “I’ve dug beneath the wall of sound/the song is always the same/I’ve got lonesome fuel for fire/And so my heart is always on the line.” This album is genius. For fans of Dylan, Red House Painters/Sun Kill Moon, even Chris Isaak aficianados feeling frisky.
D: I have seen M. Ward. He has curly hair. And if the hair is curly outside your head, it means there is something curly going on inside too.
C: This song “Big Boat” is the dis track of the year! All about how this guy who says he’s got a big boat really only has a tiny dinghy! HAHA!
D: “I’ll Be Yr Bird” – a bird reference, just like Antony. The whole lot are ornithology-crazed.
C: What do you think the M in M. Ward stands for?
D: Megamensch. Obviously.

Fiery Furnaces
EP
(Rough Trade)
D: Ween covering Kraftwerk?
C: It’s like they’re playing the zaniest parts possible. Zappa plus Sandy Shaw plus Miami bass plus Peter Frampton talkbox plus “Da Funk”-era Daft Punk. [as song builds] You can hear why this band has such a good live rep. And there’s the Disneyland Electrical Parade. Geniuses, pushing it forward: a band mashing itself up. And dig those fistfulls of piano notes!
D: Eleanor and Matthew Friedberger, I salute you. Or I would, except I am sitting on my hands in an effort to behave.
C: Somewhere, Neil Hagerty doesn’t feel so lonesome anymore.
D: Todd Rundgren looks up, with interest.
C: Friedberger & Frampton has a certain ring to it. The law firm that rocks!
D: That’s very similar to an Echo & Bunnymen song, “Killing Moon.” [tries singing along]
C: You can’t sing along with this record. How you going to do “fireman Frank friendly fed fee-free/daznk dusty doughnuts den da dribble drank”? Can you imagine Fiery Furnaces karaoke?
D: Only after multiple pitchers of margaritas.
C: Pace yourself, please.
D: You may call me Margarita Friedbergerhead from now on.
C: I may not.
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