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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One from the Desert Files: Mario "Boomer" Lalli and FATSO JETSON (2002)

From left: Larry Lalli, Mario “Boomer” Lalli and Tony Tornay

Larger Than Life: Casting shadows with Fatso Jetson
by Jay Babcock

A much shorter version of this piece was published Thursday, Dec 12 2002 in LAWeekly

Look closely at almost any significant rock band’s background—at its deeper, 
hazier context, at its place/space in its particular subcultural zeitgeist—and 
you will find someone who acted, perhaps unwittingly, as a crucial instigator: a 
subtle yet critical link without which the chain would not hold. Led Zeppelin 
had Roy Harper. Nirvana had King Buzzo. And Queens of the Stone Age, arguably 
the best American melodic hard rock band since Cobain exited in self-disgust, 
have guitarist-singer Mario “Boomer” Lalli.

“Boomer has this one quality that I’ve been searching for since the moment I 
saw him, and that is Boomer is un-heckle-able,” says Joshua Homme, the leader of 
the Queens of the Stone Age, who’s been watching Lalli play since he (Josh) was 
14. “There could be a wide array of reasons to heckle Boomer—but it’s impossible when you watch him play. The second he starts to play, when he 
squints his eyes? I’ve never heard anyone go, ‘bleh, shut up!’ I’ve seen people 
not like it, but I’ve never seen anything thrown at him. Nothing. Because you 
believe it. 
       

“It’s for real.”

* * *

Born in 1966 as “Mario” and quickly tagged with the impossibly appropriate 
nickname Boomer, Lalli was raised in Palm Springs, where his parents, a pair of 
opera singers, ran an Italian-themed restaurant called “Mario’s—Where They Sing 
While You Dine” with Mario Sr.’s brother Tullio. At Mario’s, which re-located to 
Pasadena earlier this year after three decades in the low desert, Mario Sr. and 
Edalyn lead the Mario Singers, a small group of performers, most of whom have 
other roles at the restaurant, in belting out two 30-minute shows (three on 
weekends) every night for the diners. (Now 80, the senior Lallis are still 
working/singing every evening, even on Sundays at 9.) [Restaurant’s now closed.—Ed., 2010]

“Our family has had a restaurant there for 30 years,” says Boomer. “For 20 of 
those years it was very successful, and summers off were just party time, just 
great. But now, it’s just changed. There’s a lot of big corporate money doing 
the restaurant thing there, so a unique little place like we had? It’s tough to 
make it work there these days. Our lease was up in the desert and we just 
thought What the fuck, let’s go for it in Pasadena.

“And you know, as great as 
the desert has been for our music, it was a terrible place to play music.”

Since he was 16, Boomer has been doing music in the desert that didn’t exactly fit the format at the family restaurant—or anywhere else.

“We grew up on Aerosmith, but that was fantasyland. Then we saw D. Boon and Mike Watt and the cats in Black Flag and the guys in Redd Kross and Saccharine Trust, and we saw these guys were guys like us! They‘re just dudes. And skateboarding too had a lot to do with it, because it was all about: Find a place. You wanna go skateboard? Find a pool, bail it out. You do all that work, you put effort into it, and then you’ve got this place. 
And that bled over into music.”

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How to Get Into the Grateful Dead (originally pub’d in Arthur No. 18/Sept 2005)

LISTEN TO THE DEAD

Originally published in Arthur No. 18 (Sept 2005)

Dear Arthur,
Okay, so a lot of people in Arthur have been coming out of the Deadhead closet lately [cf. “Uncle Skullfucker’s Band”, Arthur No. 11]. Someone, maybe Bastet, maybe someone else, should put out a mix CD or two of some of the Dead’s material that might be most likely to impress the contemporary drone/noise/psych/improv and/or free(k) folk scene(s). I have enjoyed a very small percentage of the G.D. that I have heard, and have been unwilling to delve through the catalog in search of the gems. I am willing to give them the benefit of the doubt, and would like to hear a carefully selected mix made by discerning ears. Example: Garcia solo piece on Zabriskie Point soundtrack.
Rick Swan
via email

Dear Rick,
There are over 2,800 Grateful Dead shows available for free download at archive.org, and depending on who you talk to at least a half-dozen studio albums worth checking out. That’s a lot of music to sort through, even if you can get your hands on most of it without laying down any cash. We convened a conclave of reconstructed Deadheads in order to help you and any other greenhorn seekers of the Dead find your way around. The Knights present for this meeting were:

Geologist, a member of Animal Collective, that incredible international post-hippie string band.
N. Shineywater, of Alabama’s creamiest slow-folk practitioners, Brightblack Morning Light. It is worth nothing that Brightblack’s cover of “Brokedown Palace” with Will Oldham on vocals makes us weep.
Ethan Miller, of the mighty Comets on Fire.
Daniel Chamberlin, a contributing editor at Arthur, and the author of “Uncle Skullfucker’s Band” (Arthur No. 11) about life as a closet Deadhead.
Denise DiVitto & Brant Bjork: Owner-operators of Duna Records, which releases records by Mr. Bjork (co-founder of Kyuss) and other worthy artists. Two mellow souls who hang in the desert.
Erik Davis, Arthur contributor, native Californian and the author of Techgnosis: Myth, Magic and Mysticism in the Age of Information.
Barry Smolin, the host of the essential “The Music Never Stops” Dead showcase on Los Angeles’s KPFK, 90.7 FM.
Michael Simmons, a contributing editor to Arthur.
The Seth Man, a/k/a The Seth Man, editor of FUZ and author of “The Book of Seth” on Julian Cope’s website.

PART ONE

GEOLOGIST (Animal Collective)
The birth of my father was a mistake; an unplanned pregnancy in the 1950s. As a result, his brothers, and my cousins, are much older. During the ’80s, my cousin Adam was my idol. I was in grade school, he was in high school and later went to college in Athens, GA. The guy was all about “rock & roll.” He had Live…Like A Suicide by Guns N’ Roses on vinyl in 1986. He predicted the worldwide stardom of REM and the B-52’s as far back as I can remember. But his first musical love was, and as far as I know, still is The Grateful Dead. By the end of the ’80s he had been to over 100 shows.

As I got older and began to hunger for more music than what was being fed to me on MTV, I of course turned to him. Like any true Deadhead, my cousin immediately pushed me towards their live material. His Dead collection was just a box of tapes with dates written on them; I don’t really remember seeing any albums. It is to this aspect of the Dead’s output that I would direct any new fan. I listen to the ’66-’74 era, pretty much exclusively. An easy place to start is the live albums released during this period, specifically Live/Dead (from ’69) and Europe ’72. The former has my all-time favorite Dead jam, “Dark Star” into “St. Stephen,” and the latter contains my second favorite, “China Cat Sunflower” into “I Know You Rider” (affectionately known to Dead fans as “China Rider”). In addition, there is a killer CD release of a Fillmore East show from 2/11/69, which has some of the same tunes. And for 1974, the Winterland shows from February of that year totally rule, even though you have to endure the awful background singing of Donna Godchaux.

I certainly don’t mean to discount the worth of their studio albums, because there is no denying the greatness of Anthem Of The Sun, Aoxomoxoa and American Beauty. I love them all and listen to them frequently, but I still lean towards the live stuff. The reason for this is simply “good times.” I recently got into an argument at a bar about whether or not you can give credit to someone for nothing more than “good times.” I say you totally can. Why not? Isn’t that pretty much what most of us want on a day-to-day basis? I was fortunate enough to see the Dead on one of their last tours in 1994. I was 15 years old, and had moved from Philly to Baltimore, where I was in the early stages of becoming best friends with the dudes I still consider my closest friends in the world. At the time, however, I dearly missed my old friends from middle school. They managed to get tickets to the Dead show at the Philly Spectrum, and my parents, being the wonderful folks they are, let me skip school for three days and hop on the train to catch the show. Jerry may have been old and forgotten some lyrics here and there, but man, good times were had by all. I’ve never since been in an environment as positive as that concert. As people who are passionate about music, especially music that is outside of the mainstream, we sometimes get caught up in our own brand of snobbery. But when I catch myself acting like a dick, I try and think back to that night wandering around the burrito stands and hacky-sack circles in that parking lot. If people continue to care about the music we make and continue to come see us play, I really hope our parking lots will look and feel like that one day. Good times.

N. SHINEYWATER (Brightblack Morning Light)
Early-era Dead songs resonate with me, so I would maybe dig a collection of songs featuring Pig Pen. The first recording I heard by Grateful Dead also served as a successful backdrop to a good time. It involved my native Alabama woods, an old Jeep chasing another old Jeep through the mud, and the constant doobie. The friend of mine who was driving the jeep let The Dead’s American Beauty repeat over and over … Somehow a very long early-version of the song “Dark Star” appeared on the homemade cassette, and when this came on we had just taken a doobie break. One friendly sister starting throwing mud at me so I threw mud back at her and the next thing I saw was this dancing grey mud flying and hitting smiling bodies of friends.

One time this same Jeep-friend has to drive across the country in a new Ford van. He happened to know he was going to be using reefer along the way. The van had only one sticker, plain in style, that read, “GOOD OL” really large, followed very small by “GRATEFUL DEAD.” It wasn’t the kind with little orange bears; it was red, white and blue. He chose this plain sticker to avoid attracting the Man. Yet he knew that he wanted to share his love of Grateful Dead music. It was a risk he didn’t mind taking.

Later in life he led a Greenpeace effort to successfully lower himself and a few others over the side of the Mitsubishi building in Oregon with banners that read, “BOYCOTT MITSUBISHI, MITSUBISHI DESTROYS RAINFORESTS.” The last I heard of him he became a river guide.

ETHAN MILLER (Comets On Fire)
First off, I also loved that article by Daniel Chamberlin in the July 2004 Arthur also and found it very inspiring to try and track down the more extreme avant-garde Dead stuff that the author of that piece talks about being fooled that it was Dead C. or Sonic Youth or whatever.
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Roadburn: "A time and place to get high en mass [sic] and bask in the heaviness"

Whether you’re looking for leaks and bootlegs from across the spectrum of doom and stoner rock, or you simply want to peruse Photoshopped images of topless, winged women wielding a variety of Renaissance Faire weapons, Doomed To Be Stoned In A Sludge Swamp is the audioblog for you.

Sludge Swamp is a collaborative affair, and right now their contributors are commemorating last weekend’s Roadburn Festival — an annual Dutch gathering focused on the hard rock underground, well known among European burners as a “time and place to get high en mass [sic] and bask in the heaviness,” to quote from its MySpace profile — by uploading live sets from Roadburns past.

Right now the archive includes recordings from Witch, Sunn O))), The Melvins, Om, Wolves in the Throne Room, Brant Bjork & The Bros, Masters of Reality, Hawkwind and Earthless (along with loads of lesser knowns) for your downloading pleasure.

Check out the full list of sets available by clicking here.