BULL TONGUE by Byron Coley & Thurston Moore from Arthur No. 14 (Jan. 2005)

first published in Arthur No. 14 (January, 2005)

Exploring the Voids of All Known Undergrounds
by Byron Coley and Thurston Moore

Some new and excellent small presses have been rampaging across the USA. First up is Matthew Wascovich’s SLOW TOE PUBLICATIONS, which has been hellbent on issuing stapled 8.5×11 paper poetry screeds at a rate of almost once a month. Most of these are Matthew in conjunction with one or more other writers, either vintage heavyweights from his beloved Cleveland scene or underground noise freaks. The dude has an ear for who out there may be spilling righteous verbiage, such as Elisa Ambrogio and Pete Nolan both of blasted headcase rockers Magik Markers. Anyone who’s seen that group twist and spout will know that, yeah, they must have some kind of wowsville poetry wheel just going off in their heads n’ hearts. And they do. As does Tyondai Braxton, Dylan Nyoukis, Dead C’s Bruce Russell, Charalambides/Scorces’ Christina Carter, Valerie Webber et al. Don’t expect “rock” poetry, this is all way more out there and off the tracks. Wasco hears it with the same brain that has read the primordial greatness of the long-flowing history of Cleveland’s heaviest. Peeps such as Tom Kryss, Kent Taylor and Alex Gildzen, all constituents of the famed Asphodel Bookshop, where the recently and dearly departed Jim Lowell held court and where the visionary and law-hounded poet d.a. levy burst forth. Slow Toe has been slipping out a few CDRs lately as well, mostly of Wasco’s bent brain guitar expressions either solo or in group-mode as Real Knife Head.

There is something eternally appealing about women playing punk rock, negating (as it does) the testosterone monotheism that is so synonymous in the field. A fine new entry in this area is the debut album by Chicago’s MANHANDLERS. Their self-titled LP (Criminal IQ) is more like a vicious update on late period Runaways than some others inside the genre, since they don’t shy away from flash-qua-flash, or rely on the primitivist approach favored by the post-Riot Grrrl generation. The album is just slamming, high-speed, old school punk of the early OC variety. As such it is a splendid thing. Criminal IQ have another punk winner with the eponymous LP by THE FUNCTIONAL BLACKOUTS. It has been out for a while, but it’s really a world-class destroyer in classic CA punk terms. Filled with reckless noise owing small debts to bands like Crime and the Weirdos, but powered by lotsa pumice unique unto itself.

We’ve been languishing in the strictly female scribulations of NYC’s BELLADONNA BOOKS lately. This long running series of pamphlet poetry editions has been edited by the poets Rachel Levitsky and Erica Kaufman since the mid ‘90s, and is getting close to its 100th issue. Each zine is a succinct piece by a female poet, all of whom share a common sense of adventure and active consciousness. Great writing from Anne Waldman, Eileen Myles, Nada Gordon, Lynne Tillman, Lisa Jarnot, Rosemarie Waldrop and so many others. So if you’re in the market for deadly nightshade, this is the place for you. An adjunct press to Belladonna is Erica Kaufman’s own BOKU BOOKS, which is just getting started releasing some good new staplebound killers. Her own the two coat syndrome and Chris Martin’s The Day Reagan Died are verily hep.

Brooklyn label The Social Registry has also released a handload of jake new wax. THE ELECTROPUTAS’ 3 LP continues their strategy of investigating Can Groove Land, then blasting it with all kindsa crude noise hand grenades. I mean, just when you’re about ready to settle back into a ‘Turtles Have Short Legs” mood, the forest starts to melt around you. Pretty cool, and then some. Damn nice, also, to have vinyl on the new HALL OF FAME album, Paradise Now. Samara, Theo and Dan continue to kick out the smoke with their fourth, giving spatial folk stylings a disturbed urban underpinning. The way they layer rondelays of slithering acoustic muzz and scarily genteel vocals is as killer as ever. It’s good to see that the time Samara spent hanging with Jackie O Motherfucker didn’t spoil her campfire ghost-spirit. Dan’s is another story. Give it a spin.

Some really nice tactile offerings have been sloughing out of Woodstock, NY by way of SHIVISTAN PRESS, which is run by the charmed beard of local cosmo-poet Shiv Mirabito. Shiv is one of those cats who somehow manages to trounce back and forth from India a few dozen times a day. How he travels we’re still trying to figure out, but it’s certainly produced some groovy results. The Woodstock community remains rich in deep literary vibes with the likes of The Fugs’ Ed Sanders, nomad spirit seducer Louise Landes Levi, right-on Janine Pommy Vega and hard lovin’ Andy Clausen, all of whom have books pub’d by Shivastan. Meta-thought warrior Ira Cohen, famous for his mylar photo LP jackets of Hendrix and John McLaughlin, has a hip book just pub’d here. Like Ira’s prescient Bardo Matrix press, whose publications are as now rarified as god’s nipple junk, these books are all manufactured in Nepal utilizing Nepalese woven paper. The heft and olfactory sublimation put you in direct line with a strange bliss-out. A good place to start may be with the Woodstock mountain poetry journal series Wildflowers, but they’re all pretty tasty.

Got a really good booklet of poems called Birthmarks & Plastics (So & So Publications) by Bill Cassidy. Know nothing about the guy, except that he seems to live in New York, and has fine-tuned himself to the music of Ted Berrigan and Joe Brainard, and a lotta other really fucking good NY poets. There’s a fake sonnet, a few aphorisms, and some really striking imagist writing about being young and adrift. Cassidy’s work seems untainted by the stodgy academic bullshit that holds so many back, and his stuff is revelatory without being confessional. And that’s pretty cool.
Aa (big a little a) has a very swank one-sided LP out on Narnack. It’s the first release from this Brooklyn combo, and has a very beautiful way of shifting its center in unexpected ways. The album is pressed on white vinyl, the jacket contains a passel of very righteous inserts by a buncha artists who are in (or are friendly with) the band, and the single side of music is a fat-shifting tableau of the kindsa sounds that young people should be making and enjoying in bistros from here to Kalamazoo. Having not espied them, it is not simple to discern their true nature, but what the fuck? Here they club out bite-sized hunks of neo-no, new-wave-electro-murk, disco-noise-readymades, French duck calls and a buncha other stuff. And it sounds quite pleasing!

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BULL TONGUE by Byron Coley & Thurston Moore from Arthur No. 2 (Dec. 2002)

first published in Arthur No. 1 (December, 2002)

Exploring the Voids of All Known Undergrounds
by Byron Coley and Thurston Moore

We open this time with an essay by Thurston Moore entitled, “My Summer Beats My Winter.” If you didn’t catch the Metal Machine reference, look it up.

Touring around the USA, Europe, Japan, Oz etc. is like staying home: same dynamics of same-ism and same familial interaction complex. But there’s one thing that gives it ROCK distinction: seeing old n new chumsters and seeing old n new bands. With fam-man responsibilities these are things not readily available on the homefront scene (which, in case you think you’re groovy, I ain’t jonesing to trade for nut). So fuck this, dig the bands that were kicking my ROCK ass in the summer of 02:

dateline Lyon France 19 June:
MARTEAU ROUGE is a french band featuring legendary free-rock guitarist Jean-FranÁois Pauvros (along with Jean-Marc Foussat, Masahiko Sato and Yuko Kametani). We had Pauvros play once before with us in Paris as a solo artist where he came out and laid flat the room with howling amp buzz. It was not so much noise-violence but a more in-tune and curious new-birth wonder. Pauvros, a tall long-haired 40-something cat has an illustrious history. In the 70s, with formidable avant-garde legend Jac Berrocal, he was a member of Catalogue. And, with Gilbert Artman, he played in Lard Free and Urban Sax. Through the intervening years he has recorded with such disparate freaks as Blurt, Arto Lindsay and Keiji Haino. Marteau Rouge is his newest new-thing. Gone are the spiked edges of youthful blunder. What has evolved is the fascinating sounds of players moving into high-adult dimensions. This evokes a focused creative enterprise sweet to the collective soul of the listening audience. Pauvros and Marteau Rouge reportedly have a CD coming out on HatHut with American saxophonist Joe McPhee which could be excellent. But HatHut is mum on this news.

dateline Bristol, UK 24 June:
LIARS had the potential to annoy. Musical annoyance is one of the finer attitudes in rock, but it either takes a needlepoint intellect (Steve Albini) or a battering ram cementhead (GG Allin) to pull it off with any true swing. If it’s annoyance for the sake of annoyance (a la mid-period Bunnybrains, The Rachels) then it is naught but disingenuous time-death. Liars had one small label 12” available for one minute and then a deal with Blast First. They were part of the HOT new New York rock scene of 2002. They might even be the Stones to the Strokes’ Wildlife-period Wings. The singer cats it with Karen O, the panty-splitting snake charm spitter of Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Wild ass stuff but, like cheese, it’s a stink that can be either dick-thickening or no more fun than a phone call from Nedelkoff. I’ve seen some of the new new new new new new new New York City rockers and I must concur with Deborah Harry: What was once a surreal vision (1975 Johnny Thunders, Richard Hell) is now a MTV/Levis-sponsored giveaway. The songs are OK here and there, but here (in the Berkshire foothills) is as good as there (in the Williamsburg high-res rubble). But, fuck, everyone knows that anyway and the only reason to live and rock in NYC is for kicks–that much has not and will not, I suspect, ever change. LIARS are from California, Nebraska and Australia and maybe some other geogs, but the generally impressive reek they give off is of a fantastic spiced-earth stew. The best thing is they ain’t looking to pop, they’re looking to sizzle. The first hits will make any geek scream “Pop Group!” or “Birthday Party!” (Come to think of it, I remember screaming “Pop Group!” after first hearing Birthday Party(!)), but these buff young nice-niks are employing some fresh diaper liberation. Guitars seek fine slices of feedback sonance whilst the rhythm roots/toots like Nick Cave’s lips on acid nips. Sexy boy romp without the schmoe-pose even when the 10 foot tall Oz dream singer pelves the aghast UK sickheads into blankminded judgement lapse. All atonal skid mark flail and then the whomp and buttock kick of some weirdo Turbo-Rat setting. Pretty nice and wonderfully annoying to the point of cloying–the only B-Party comparison I’d deem to make. Cute as hell and, thankfully, the real deal. (www.liarsliarsliars.com)

dateline Turino, Italy 06 July:
MY CAT IS AN ALIEN do not jibe with the indie-rock establishment in Italy. At least that’s the impression I get when the twin brothers Maurizio and Roberto Opalio confront booking agents and gig promoters with the knowledge that My Cat Is An Alien exist to promote “alien love.” Maybe I’m missing something in the translation, but the professionals ain’t buying it; the only time these displaced wizards seem to get a decent gig is when we or Blonde Redhead blow through the boot. Which is a shame because MCIAA let loose a chance bafflement of free-rock ideas always set on upsetting conscious rock-realization. The first time I heard them was when they sent us CDRs entangled in wired cages. We saw they were from Italy, we were heading there soon enough, we loaded the CDR in and were caught off-guard by the voidoid cosmo pleasures in emittance. So we asked them to play. They rocked in the most non-rock way: guitars tuned to God-knows-what pubic tensity, drums possibly interacting with crashed electronic skittle and vocals calling all alien pets to keep watching the skies. Next time around the lads knelt with guitars raised to the electric maximus and delivered a mass of heatball fuzz. This evening they soundchecked for two hours in front of the incoming audience (outdoor gig), pissing off the already uptight promoters and crew with super-indeterminant blasts of synthi-shards and drum smacks to awaken the behemoth god Prometheus. It sounded nutso and awesome–“this should be their gig” we’d mutter every 15 minutes or so. Then they stopped and got ready to play. They returned to the stage and played one 12 minute rock n drop and then split. Huh? Go fig–when something like this happens I know the wannabe controllers of rock n roll surprise have a continuing uphill nightmare to contend with. Which of course makes it all a stone gas. I released a double-LP of MCIAA earlier this yr on Ecstatic Peace called Landscapes Of An Electric City/Hypnotic Spaces–available through our own mill outlet in Florence, Mass. if yr wanting to dig. (www.mycatisanalien.com; http://www.yod.com)

dateline Dresden, Germany 08 July:
COBRA KILLER are from Berlin. Two women: WILDEST GINA V. D’ORIO and KWIKEST ANNIKA TROST. They come out of the Digital Hardcore camp. And they come out swinging! Wine bottles, high heels, long leather pimp coats, glitter dust flaking off eyelashes to adhere to tear streaked cheeks. This ain’t no let’s destroy the scene vibe, this is destruction in all its celebrated collapse. Try pushing the right button on yr machine whilst yr red wine-in-paper-cup topples, maybe use yr nose or yr stockinged toe or yr ass which just happens to be slipping peekaboo out of yr ballet warmup–the one you wear anytime and all the time. Who created this noise hump? We were nailed by Cobra Killer. This is performance that only the full-blooded German lustlords n ladies can exhibit. Semi-drunken loop dancing and singing/chanting and hula-hoop mastery by a rather bountiful busted goddess of peace and deliverance. This is a right on band and they rock like absolutely no other. They have ingested the finest elements of Elvis, James Brown, Ari Up, Lydia Lunch, Sly Stone and Whitehouse and spend an amazing 35 minutes unleashing it in a personalized ritual of possession and exorcism. Theatrical concepts are utilized to keep it all on stage and within some sane atmosphere for the highly amused, if not aroused, audience. Any band that bids adieu to their audience by attempting to kiss them all and hold them to their sweet maiden breast is already better than the Beatles or Nirvana any day of the millennium. Dresden was flooded a week later to extraordinary levels. (www.cobra-killer.org)

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BULL TONGUE by Byron Coley & Thurston Moore from Arthur No. 1 (Oct. 2002)

first published in Arthur No. 1 (October, 2002)

Exploring the Voids of All Known Undergrounds
by Byron Coley and Thurston Moore

The concept of this column is simple: to cast light on scenes, music, words and images that are ignored by the handmaidens of capitalist culture. Living people seem to be tired of gagging on the brackish pablum of the known. We would like to offer them access to new nooks. That is all. To start this first installment, here is some bottled screed tossed from the Sonic Youth tour bus.

The 1970s punk rock scene in NYC never paid heed to L.A. And London did not have a clue. There was one record store in 1978/79 NYC on 1st Avenue around 3rd Street that actually had copies of the first West Coast punk rock 7”s. I remember seeing the Dangerhouse 7″‘s of X and Black Randy and wondering why they were even there. They seemed to be from a distant world as opposed to the spotlight punk scenes of NYC and London. I was curious about their weirdness and I bought the X one. I had read how they were the main L.A. punk group who played in a graffiti-drenched dungeon in Hollywood called the Masque. And I bought the Black Randy one cuz the cover was so completely inane, w/ comic book panels referencing a bizarro Hollywood sex-joke juvenilia. It was a repartee I have only just gleaned. And that gleaning is thanks to We Got the Neutron Bomb (Three River Press/Random House) an oral history of the early L.A. punk scene, edited by noted L.A. punk impresario/historian Brendan Mullen. Brendan, a founder of the Masque, also helped Germs drummer Don Bolles edit and prepare Lexicon Devil (Feral House Press ) an oral history of Darby Crash and the Germs. We Got The Neutron Bomb, gaping holes and all, acts as an almost necessary precursive read to Lexicon Devil.

The X single struck me as interesting if only because it was so different than the Ramones/Heartbreakers crunge I heard in the NYC clubs. Its obvious “poetic” sploo was also quite odd in comparison to the St. Marks Church visions of Patti Smith, Richard Hell and Tom Verlaine. And it certainly wasn’t the sex bop of Blondie or the artschool geekage of Talking Heads. And it didn’t have the ground zero allure of primo London punk–Sex Pistols, X Ray Spex et al. The Black Randy 7″ made no sense whatsoever, ‘though the barking retardo chorus of “trouble at the cup! trouble at the cup!” had a genuine other planet punk rock sensibility.

That other planet was L.A. and the only images available of L.A. punk in NYC were from imported issues of Slash and Flipside, magazines found only at Sohozat on West Broadway between Canal and Grand St. (or sometimes at Revenge on 3rd Avenue just south of St. Marks Place) (or at Manic Panic right on St. Marks Place just west of 2nd Avenue). I suppose Bleeker Bob’s, then on Macdougal Street just south of 8th Street, would carry them as well. Bleeker Bob was dependable for carrying any 7″ from the nascent punk rock scene upon its initial availability and had a large collection of ‘zines. Unfortunately, all of these items were behind the counter and you had to brave a request to check any of them out, which would invariably mean that Bob himself would humiliate you w/ assholistic douchebaggery. Plus, there were usually repellant Who-collector clientele farting about the place. These dups would be aggressively collecting “anything on Stiff Records” and wearing Gen X and Joe Jackson badges while still secretly believing that Steely Dan were valid. Bluggh.

The images in the punk ‘zines of L.A. showed bands and fans, all dressed up in ‘77-era leather, bondage and PUNK regalia. This was a style identified w/ the U.K. and no one in NYC bought into it, knowing that it was an extreme and manipulated reaction to Richard Hell, the Ramones, Blondie, Wayne County, Mink Deville et al. To see an American city like L.A., and to a slightly more obscure (yet more typically urban) extent S.F., adopt this identity seemed dopey. At this time, downtown NYC had a developing post-punk community of artists and musicians exhibiting a new radical style of nihilism and producing sex/danger noise/vision. This was “no wave” and it was committed to destroying any strain of rock n roll still alive in punk. To the no wave, the new wave of punk rock was corny. Seeing, hearing and playing atonal guitar monotony in a Broome Street gallery was formidable and it was a formulative experience for my 18-year-old psyche. I’m glad to have been there, all the while thinking that L.A. was nothing but a sea of goofy punk hairdos that weren’t even of their own creation.

I’d see Sid and Stiv Bators skinking around St. Marks and would follow them at a careful distance, wondering how to tell them I was the guitar player Sid should be playing with. The fact that Sid was a heroin dog never really registered to me at the nefarious level it should have. Even though I had near proximity to his thereabouts at the time (as he was always at the same CBGB gigs etc.), the reality of me ever hooking up or communicating w/ him was completely farfetched. Plus, I was conflicted by an incident involving him slashing Patti Smith’s brother’s face w/ a broken beer bottle. But when Sid died it was a landmark event for all of us, and punk CHANGED right then and there. The ideals went into transition: Patti moved to Detroit and married/disappeared. Richard Hell went even more subterranean. The Ramones began to be taken for granted in their perfection. Johnny Rotten made the genius move of experimenting w/ dub-radics and Sid Vicious remained dead. London went dipshit w/ new wave, new romantic and some kind of pirate bullshit, but also had an onslaught of cool Rough Trade inspired art-school punk (Raincoats, Pop Group). NYC went beyond no wave into Bush Tetras/ESG/Eight Eyed Spy grey-scale rhythm music and serious noise composition (Glen Branca, UT, Rhys Chatham, Information). And California continued being punk (but also w/ its own buy-in to dipshit new wave, the examples of which are too wretched to list here). But L.A., by documented proof, particularly The Germs’ (G.I.) LP, X’s Los Angeles LP, the first SST and Dangerhouse label 7″s, the Circle Jerks Group Sex LP and the wild issues of Slash magazine, was also evincing an exciting creative energy identity, unlike the intellectual toe-sniffing of NYC. L.A. was punk rock. But punk rock was over, wasn’t it? The new hardcore kids, romping around Avenue A w/ the Black Flag bars and the Germs’ blue circle on their leather jackets, certainly did not agree. Nor did they care if anyone thought otherwise.

L.A. punk in 1978 was not an affront to a culture-clashed society in a Thatcher-strangled depression. It was a reaction to a mellow Eagles/Jackson Brown “L.A. Sound” and the suburban mom n dad nowhere zone of SoCal. And it was decidedly anti-hippie. Hippie had been the dominant youth culture vanguard for too long. Glam/glitter-rock had never threatened hippie hegemony. If it was seen as anything, it was as a somewhat sex-wild cultural adjunct to hippiedom. But PUNK ROCK, which spun obliquely out of glam/glitter, was hardly foreseen by the potted royalty of the hippie elite. Punk set itself on a crash course to puncture the self-satisfied bloat of the longhair paunches. The punk rock revolution destroyed hippie. From its smoking ruins emerged the sentient force of real rock and roll fun.

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