Reviews by C and D (Arthur No. 20/Jan. 2006)

Originally published in Arthur No. 20 (Jan. 2006)

C AND D: Two guys bicker about new records.

TV on the Radio
“Dry Drunk Emperor”
(Touch and Go)
D: I’ve listened to this probably a hundred times by now, and I still find it overwhelming. It’s a devastator.
C: For those out there who haven’t heard it yet, this is the song TV on the Radio released in the wake of Katrina, free to everyone via the Touch and Go website [go here]. This is what they said at the time: “we were back in the studio thinking and feeling again and made this song for all our everybody… in the absence of a true leader we must not forget that we are still together…. hearts are sick … minds must change … it is our hope that this song inspires, comforts, fosters courage,and reminds us… this darkness cannot last if we work together. let us help each other… heal each other …. look after one another … the human heart is our new capitol…. this song is for you…. us…..we….them… it is free. pass it on. TO THOSE AFFECTED BY HURRICANE KATRINA: NEW YORK CITY’S HEART IS WITH YOU… STAY STRONG! WE LOVE YOU.”

We don’t usually do this sort of thing, but this is a special case. Here are the song’s lyrics:

DRY DRUNK EMPEROR
baby boy
dying under hot desert sun,
watch your colors run.

did you believe the lie they told you,
that christ would lead the way
and in a matter of days
hand us victory?

did you buy the bull they sold you,
that the bullets and the bombs
and all the strong arms
would bring home security?

all eyes upon
dry drunk emperor
gold cross jock skull and bones
mocking smile,
he’s been
standing naked for a while!
get him gone, get him gone, get him gone!!
and bring all the thieves to trial.

end their promise
end their dream
watch it turn to steam
rising to the nose of some cross legged god
gog of magog
end times sort of thing.
oh unmentionable disgrace
shield the children’s faces
as all the monied apes
display unimaginably poor taste
in a scramble for mastery.

atta’ boy get em with your gun
till mr. megaton
tells us when we’ve won
or
what we’re gonna leave undone.

all eyes upon
dry drunk emperor
gold cross jock skull and bones
mocking smile,
he’s been standing
naked for a while.
get him gone, get him gone, get him gone!!!
and bring all his thieves to trial.

what if all the fathers and the sons
went marching with their guns
drawn on Washington?
that would seal the deal,
show if it was real,
this supposed freedom.

what if all the bleeding hearts
took it on themselves
to make a brand new start.
organs pumpin’ on their sleeves,
paint murals on the white house
feed the leaders LSD
grab your fife and drum,
grab your gold baton
and let’s meet on the lawn,
shut down this hypocrisy.

C: The harmonies they get on this are just shattering. And the chorus…
D: This is soul, with zero retroism. That’s not supposed to be possible anymore and yet here it is. Pure righteousness.
C: I find this song overwhelming too. Not just for the song itself, but for the spirit in which was recorded and offered to the public, and the immediacy and selflessness involved. That’s what being an artist is about, in times like these. They get to something really tragic about the current situation: all those poor idiots who have been buying the Bush balderdash since 9/11… because they did that, now we are all paying for their mistakes, and will do for decades. And I’m broke, man. My pockets are empty. And I’ve got it easy. Think of all the unnamed, uncounted dead civilians in Iraq, all the dead and mistreated in New Orleans, all those detained in the secret torture prisons in Poland…
D: This song is so good I can’t believe somebody made it. The build and release, the chorus, the singing, the lyrics, the fife and drum…
C: It’s a call to imaginative action, for less talk and more walk. This is prime Fela Kuti-level stuff, seriously: talking truth directly to power, giving comfort and uplift to the powerless. I’ve never heard this song on the radio, yet it’s exactly the kind of song radio was made for.

Cast King
Saw Hill Man
(Locust Music)
C: Debut album from 79-year-old white fella. Recorded in a shack in Alabama.
D: Seniors rock. Look at this guy. I think our friend T-Model Ford might have some new competition!
C: He recorded eight songs for Sun Records in the ‘50s. He he had a touring country and bluegrass band, Cast King and the Country Drifters, but it didn’t work out and he never released an album.
D: Sweet baby Jesus, what is wrong with this country?
C: I find myself wondering that often these days…
D: The first line of this song is “I don’t care if your tears fall in my whiskey.” What more do you need?
C: The guy’s voice is so rich, it’s a pleasure just to hear his singing. The sadder the lyrics, the brighter the music. The songs are clever, catchy, simple. How could nobody care for three decades? This nation is so cruel to its artists.
D: There’s some Johnny Cash here for sure.
C: To our modern ears, of course. But I’m starting to wonder. Who came first? Not that it matters as much as, well, just how many other guys are out there still who are this good, who we’ve never heard? Maybe it’s a lot more than we think. People who got skipped over by accident of history or circumstance. That’s the lesson of the reissue culture that’s so strong right now—the Numero Group label’s releases, the stuff they talk about in Wax Poetics, all the rediscoveries of people like Vashti Bunyan and Gary Higgins and Simon Finn—all of this teaches us that actually the cream doesn’t always rise to the top. It often sinks to the very bottom.

Nina Simone
The Soul of Nina Simone dual disc
(Legacy/RCA/Sony BMG)
C: You’re not going to believe this, either. A new dual disc release: one side is a greatest hits run, the other side is vintage live footage. Deep vintage.
D: [looking at track listing] Whoa! None deeper vintage. Pure black power, 1960s. Look at this!!! [Reading aloud scrolling text on screen] “By the end of the ‘60s, the civil rights movement was in a shambles; its key leaders were dead, and race riots had erupted in several U.S. cities. ‘It felt like the shutters were coming down on anyone who dared to suggest there was something seriously wrong with the state of our country,’ said an angry Nina Simone. A ray of community hope appeared in the sammer of ’69, when the Harlem Festival—called ‘a black Woodstock’ by its producer, Hal Tulchin—came to Central Park. Crowds of up to 100,000 flocked to six free concerts. The stars included Sly and the Family Stone, Stevie Wonder, Mahalia Jackson, B.B. King, Gladys Knight and the Pips and Simone. These excerpts from Simone’s performance have never before been shown in America.”
C: I’ve never even heard of this festival.
D: Me neither.
C: How is that possible? I thought we knew our shit. My god. Are they saying this footage has just been sitting there since 1969? Listen to her go. Listen to this band. Look at that set, look at this audience. Look at the songs she’s playing—“Revolution,” “Four Women,” “Ain’t Got No—I Got Life” and “To Be Young, Gifted and Black.” Look at the setting. Look at the situation is which this was performed.
D: This is right before she went into self-imposed exile.
C: She looks absolutely purposeful. There is a resolve in her voice, in her comments to the band and the audience, in that gorgeous face of hers as she sings that is just absolutely… She looks like a woman about to leave, because she’s been wronged. You know she’s gonna slam that door.
D: No whining. “My life has been much too rough,” she sings. [Listening to “Ain’t Got No—I Got Life”] Listen to the band swing! Unbelievable.
C: She’s holding back tears for the entire performance… She finally breaks—just a bit—on “To Be Young Gifted and Black.”
D: I think this is the greatest single live performance I have ever seen.
C: Especially when you consider the context. This is just extraordinary. Le Tigre and other no-skill apologists who say technique is irrelevant would do well to watch this. The reason people are listening to what she has to say is because she had skills beyond even her conviction.
D: It’s an absolute travesty that the American public hasn’t seen this footage until now.
C: Can you imagine what the rest of this festival must have been like? Look at that lineup. Sheesh. We’ve got to ask again: WHY HAVEN’T WE HEARD OF THIS UNTIL NOW? Where are our cultural historians? Why do we know about Jimi liberating the national anthem and not taking the brown acid and all that other Woodstock jive but not about this? It’s criminal.

Niger: Magic & Ecstasy in the Sahel dvd
by Hisham Mayet
(Sublime Frequencies)
C: And now for somebody who knows how to document and distribute important stuff immediately, rather than waiting for 36 years…
D: [spills beer in joy] YES! The mighty Sublime Frequencies strike AGAIN!
C: 70 minutes of footage of hot blast from the streets of Niger, one of the quote poorest unquote nations in the world. Oil can drum duos, one-stringed instrument maestros, harmonizing ululators, invocation dances. Divination ceremonies and informal nighttime initiation rituals, Taureg trance funk at the end.
D: Absolutely riveting.

OOOIOO
[Untitled]
(Thrill Jockey)
C: New album from project featuring Yoshimi who is in Boredoms. Don’t really understand the provenance of this album—recorded in 2000 but only released this year? Weird vocal calisthenics, big tribal drum thrusters, chimes and flutes and birds and trumpets, synthesizers, tablas, loopage and harmony chants, Sean Lennon and Yuka Honda amongst the guests, the best album booklet I’ve seen in 2005—it seems to illustrate a place directly midway mushroom wonderland of the Allmans’ Eat A Peach album centerfold and the post-toxic landscapes of Lightning Bolt—and check it out, here on Track 7: straight-up female Tuareg ululations!
D: Sometimes I think Bjork gets all the attention for trying to do what Yoshimi is already doing.

Pearls and Brass
The Indian Tower
(Drag City)
C: We really shouldn’t be reviewing this til next issue cuz it’s not out til January 24. But excuse me, I think I need to turn this up.
D: Cream covered by Kyuss?
C: Yeah, kind of, huh? It’s actually three dudes from Pennsylvania.
D: These are some pretty knotty riffs. Quite a brush. A hedgerow.
C: Thorny stuff, but they still give you a riff. Here, have one.
D: Why thank you.
C: Total air guitar and drum practice CD. “The Face of God” is the face they make when they play, I bet. And there’s the vocal harmonies, and the fingerpicked acoustic blues.
D: This is bigrig truck driving music.
C: Forty-wheeler stuff—for the poor dudes trying to forget about the price of gas as they drive the nation’s clogged freeways. If it’s time for a Convoy remake, then this is the soundtrack.
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Reviews by C and D (Arthur No. 19/Nov. 2005)

Originally published in Arthur No. 19 (Nov. 2005)

REVIEWS BY C and D

C: I feel dutybound to advise you that we shall be reviewing many records today that have shall we say significantly progressive overtones.
D: It should be no problem. I came prepared. [smiles mischievously] With beer.

Jana Hunter
Blank Unstaring Heirs of Doom
(Gnomonsong)
D: This is Cat Power covering Patsy Cline. After a plate of lasagna.
C: Are you sure?
D: I cannot be sure, but I feel it to be true. I am trusting my intuition. My blink-of-an-eye insight.
C: Looks like you got something in your eye. This is Jana Hunter, from Houston, Texas.
D: The home of Mike Jones?
C: The same.
D: I see. What would you call this?
C: I dunno. Downbeat lo-fi folk music with a touch of glum? But it’s more lonesome than depressing, and she tries a lot of different approaches in arrangement, texture and just general aesthetic.
D: There is definitely a deep longing at work here.
C: The album title hints at a sense of bleak but playful humor—you know the way it mimics doom metal phrasing, half believing it, getting off on how suited to these times this exaggerated language is becoming, what with all the war, pestilence and natural disaster. But sonically this is obviously not High on Fire, so you get a little wink there. Her guitar lines can descend towards doomland like Sabbath.
D: Sometimes I see where she gets the title from…

Vashti Bunyan
Lookaftering
(DiCristina)
D: Spectacularly beautiful.
C: Quiet English folk artist who made a single, slightly psychedelic album in 1970 with various Incredible String Band personnel and so on, and was then lost to the world. Championed by Devendra Banhart, Animal Collective and Four Tet, who’ve all collaborated with her during the internet era. I think some of them are on this but you just spilled your beer on the notes from the record publicist.
D: Sorry!
C: Anyways, her first album was re-released last year and here’s the follow-up. Next album is scheduled for 2037.
D: She sounds the same as last time. There’s an almost Burt Bacharach-like feel to this.
C: Yeah the orchestral hook is sweet.
D: They’re very shy, mellowcholic songs.
C: There’s more piano than one might expect. Very pretty, very modest. Quite a comeback, eh?
D: She saved a little…

M.O.T.O.
Raw Power
(Criminal IQ)
D: [instantly] I like this band. Make it louder!
C: [turning it up] Andrew W.K. meets Guided by Voices: power-pop played with Marshalls.
D: A melodic Fear. Big influence. [increasingly ecstatic] Perfect music for smart hooligans! You can quote me.
C: I am.
D: “Let’s Nail it to the Moon” is like Blondie’s first record. And “Spend the Night On Me” is full-on Lazy Cowgirls.
C: [quizzical look]
D: Aha, you don’t like them, but they have mighty hooks! “Teenage Frankenstein” is righteous rock, I’m telling you.
C: Who on earth would call their record Raw Power? At first you think they don’t know what they’re doing, then you think they’re just stupidly audacious, then you find out they’ve been around since like 1988 and so it’s just a great reverse inverse record-geek joke.
D: I never heard of M.O.T.O. But they have heard of themselves. They are their biggest fans. They’re like, ‘This is our Raw Power.’ And they’re right: it’s two giant balls on fire!
C: [looking at sleeve photo of mixing board] Notice that everything’s recorded at level Infinity. [calculating] The singer must be like 40 years old. Perhaps he is a schoolteacher too…
D: “Flipping You Off With Every Finger That I Have” is song title of the decade.
C: A good ol’ American fistfight. Those don’t happen too much anymore. What if fighting was in? I don’t mean Fight Club. But you know, hipsters going to other areas of town to get drunk and fight in public.
D: [repeating lyrics] “The moon in the sky/Kicks the ass/of the stars/they all fade.” This is true. Every song has a certain drunk-at-midnight, howling-at-the-moon-in-the-bar-parking-lot anthemic quality.
C: Their label has the best name in recent memory: Criminal IQ.
D: [confiding] It is said that there is a certain IQ where anyone who has it will eventually commit a crime. It’s like 116 or 115 or something.
C: Interesting. [listening to “Girl Inhale”] Anyway, this is an homage to the Beatles tune “Girl” that is so obvious it’s great. And is so great because it’s so obvious. It’s the folk tradition: this is how songs used to change over generations. The keyboard solo is a rip of “In My Life.” I wonder if every song is like that and we only are catching the most obvious ones.
D: I am saluting the mighty M.O.T.O. with every finger of my hand.

Cult Cargo: Belize City Boil Up
(Numero Group)
C: Another start-to-finish classic from one of America’s very finest record labels, the Numero Group out of Chicago.
D: They are number one!
C: This one is a collection of singles recorded between 1960 and 1980 in Belize. Amazing stuff, lots of covers of American soul hits, some reggae stuff too, all infused with this special feel. There’s a warmth—an ease—that’s absolutely seductive. You can just get glimpses of their accent.
D: [repeating lyric] “You can’t go half way, you got to go all the way/to have all my love.” Song of the third date.
C: Numero Group specialize in upending every notion you have that there is, or has ever been, a meritocracy in pop. They prove that human achievement on this planet is continuous and happens wherever people have time on their hands. It does not take place in the easily circumscribed times and places and sequences that VH1 or self-appointed music experts like ourselves—
D: [Snorts, beer comes out of nose]
C: —like to place it in. The energy is always-there-everywhere, it’s just a matter of whether you’ve found out about it yet. Remember M.O.T.O.? They’ve been going since 1988, they’re in our own country, and we only just found out about them. Think what’s been going on in other countries for decades! We don’t know anything! Admitting ignorance is the first step towards enlightenment.
D: [definitively] Numero Group are international cargo crate diggers of the first order. They should be awarded United Nations medals of honors for service to mankind.
C: Okay, time for a snack. [Offering a jar of tiny pickles from Gelson’s] Tiny pickle?
D: That’s what she said. Wait a second! That’s not what I meant.

Choubi Choubi! Folk & Pop Sounds From Iraq
(Sublime Frequencies)
C: Songs from our musically oriented friends in Iraq, much of it recorded in the Sadaam Hussein era.
D: I like this! You know, maybe we wouldn’t bomb them if we listened to their music.
C: Sublime Frequencies, who were spotlighted last issue in Arthur, also deserve special recognition and financial reward for service to humanity.
D: [looking at sleeve] It says here that this song, “They Taught Me,” is in the style of “1970’s Socialist Folk-Rock.”
C: Very helpful, D. Now, please pass the shisha.
D: [listening] This one sounds groovy… I am at a loss for words—
C: But not at a loss for beer—
D: [glares] Silence in the lower ranks!
C: It turns out that my favorite is the “Choubi” style, which sounds very Indian movie soundtrack to my untrained ears: odd rhythm, acoustic string instruments, orchestral strings, a woman ululating with a choir.
[listening to track 5] Is this one called “bee attack”?
C: No. Although there is an instrument being used called, which is Arabic for “wasp.” By the way, it says here on the sleeve that music was regarded as very important by Sadaam Hussein: he apparently called musicians the “seventh division” of his forces. But musicians themselves are not really highly regarded in Iraq. They aren’t really stars. Professional musicians are usually outsiders and outcasts, who play weddings and parties and illicit nightclubs, a recording is made to keep the artist going between gigs… gigs as income, recordings as low priority… songs are immediately public domained and any popular, locally pressed recordings are pirated… Is the music better or worse for existing in this way? I dunno. If you were to judge American music solely on the basis of each year’s 20 best selling albums, you wouldn’t say our system is outputting much to speak of. Could it be that music is worse in a corporation-ruled market system than in a dictatorship with zero intellectual property laws? If you were a musician and you’re being pirated and you’re not getting songwriting royalties and nobody is getting rich off your labor—stall merchants were just getting by, selling tapes, and in the process getting your name out there—would you care about piracy? You might be pissed off a little, but then again, chances are you built on what was there before you too. And anyways, you’re doing fine.
D: I would like to drink to this and swivel my hips. Generally just do that thing.
C: I don’t think you could get in a bar fight to this.
D: Or a war.

Radio Pyonggyang: Commie Funk and Agit Pop from the Hermit Kingdom
(Sublime Frequencies)
C: Paging Mike Patton, please come to the Lost & Found. We have your Mr. Bungle demo. But seriously: this is a whole record of North Korean stuff: “field recordings, television/radio intercepts and live performances” from 1995-1998. Album two in Sublime Frequencies’ Axis of Evil collection. I guess Iran will be next.
D: There is something special here but I think it takes a certain mind to appreciate it. [smiling] Which I have.
C: I dunno, this is a bit too schmaltzy for me. Where’s the funk? Sounds like that shitty Thai pop you hear sometimes. In the interest of peace between nations, I want to get to this but I can’t.
D: [musing] How can we hate them when they’re so awesome?

Residual Echoes
Phoenician Flu and Ancient Ocean
(Holy Mountain)
D: [explodes] Whoa! WHOA!!!! What have you let into this place?
C: This band almost caused a riot at Arthurfest when they played the first day downstairs in the theater. Socks were blown off. Heads were on their cel phones telling people to get over here NOW.
D: I can hear why. WHOA. Fuck me, this is some full-on majestic streetwalking cheetah thruster guitar rock in Satty-like collage. Man!
C: Year they’re like cousins to the Comets on Fire bros, spiritually speaking.
D: Another strike force from Santa Cruz!?!
C: It’s a question that needs an answer: What exactly is going on up there in the banana slug republic to generate this kind of Hawkwind power gazer goner stuff? I can hear some Dead Meadow blisswork bursts in there too—and Crazy Horse search-soling as well. And Acid Mothers Temple yawning-sound journeying, heavy Bonzo drumming. Amazing.

Lightning Bolt
Hyper Magic Mountain
(Load)
C: New riff-blat super-attack from the Providence, Rhode Island artcore guitar-drums power duo.
D: The cover art matches at least the first eight seconds.
C: [reading sleeve] “Humans chill out! There is no back-up planet!”
D: Cathartic art attack. They must be a ball to see live.
C: They have some definite hits here., like track 2, “Captain Caveman.” Reminds me of Unsane, Big Black, Helmet, Killdozer, Slayer: everything on that label Amphetamine Reptile used to sound like this. I guess that sound went pretty mainstream with more ink and noserings but there was always some infant-mind tantrum rapping on top of it. But this is more like the original stuff to me, more imaginative and nature-loving, and, as they say, “mastered for metal loudness.” You gotta dig the lyrics: “Health is all the wealth I need/birds and squirrels and bees and trees/all the things that ride the breeze/money makes the world go round/drags it down and burns it out/I am the caveman/I am the timebomb…”
D: Time for another beer. I’ll be in the fistfight in the other room.
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Reviews by C and D (Arthur No. 18/Sept. 2005)

Originally published in Arthur No. 18 (Sept. 2005)

REVIEWS BY C and D

Ween
Shinola Volume 1
(Chocodog/ween.com)
C: Ween, the house band of Arthur.
D: Not that they’d ever come to our house.
C: Coming through with an album of outtakes. But it doesn’t—
D: [singing along to opening track “Good on the Bun”] “Tastes! Tastes! Tastes good on the bun! Tastes! Good on the bun! Tastesssss…”
C: Another great Ween album. I mean, this is just a guide vocal, and a Miami bass drum pattern and the Deaner wanking away.
D: And we wouldn’t want it any other way.
C: Once I was talking to the singer of a band who shall remain nameless who went on tour opening for Ween. All the people couldn’t wait til Ween came on, and when they played a 20-minute version of “Push the Little Daisies,” people were in tears, just losing it. That’s when he realized his band was never going to make it.
D: Which is a terrible thing to realize.
C: [listening to “Boys’ Club”] “You can talk of the future/you can talk of the past/you can go find yourself a nice piece of ass”: What is this, a jingle for the Catholic Church? Amazing. And “Israel” is a Jersey Jew, perfunctorily giving a benediction, backed by the greasiest Sopranos saxophone possible…
D: It’s a one-man bar band at a bar mitzvah—
C: He just pressed the “pan flute” button on the Korg.
D: The cheese is frying on this one, that’s for sure.
C: I heard someone say these guys are one step removed from Weird Al—
D: Totally ridiculous.
C: Weird Al changes the words to popular songs. Ween write the best songs all of your favorite bands should’ve written. That’s a big difference, bro. “Gabrielle” is total Thin Lizzy action—
D: [spilling beer, exclaiming] Thinner Lizzy!
C: Please, D, contain yourself.
D: Like you’ve never spilled a beer! [muttering] So arrogant!
C: [continuing] And “The Rift,” which I think is “Roses Are Free” slowed down—is like the worst slash greatest Styx song possible. “I am the commander of time/in my vessel of god/I go through the rift/to the palace of ice … we may not come back from the palace of ice/because the rift is a door”—it’s prog written by the guy who got held back in eighth grade. I know I’m not saying anything new here but they’re the closest thing we have to Zappa, sending up everything they love, without mercy. These guys are a national treasure. And like Zappa, just as scatologically obsessive.
D: Pass the Shinola, bro!

Shel Silverstein
The Best of Shel Silverstein
(Columbia/Legacy)
C: Speaking of national treasures, here’s a compilation of stuff by Shel Silverstein.
D: I must confess, I do not know him.
C: Sure you do. He wrote Where the Sidewalk Ends and Light in the Attic, which is like required reading for the young and intelligent. Funny poetry for kids, he does these hyperdramatic readings of them here—
D: Sounds like Joe Cocker’s creepy uncle—without his pants on.
C: Plus, he wrote story-songs like “Cover of the Rolling Stone” and “A Boy Called Sue”—
D: I know that one, of course—
C: —and then there’s tracks like this “I Got Stoned and Missed It” and this one by Dr. Hook, the orgy ode “Freakin’ at the Freakers’ Ball.” [reciting lyrics] “Everybody’s kissing each other/brother with sister, son with mother/smear my body up with butter/take me to the freakers’ ball/pass that roach please/and pour that wine/I’ll kiss yours and you’ll kiss mine…”
D: Sounds like a pretty good time at the freakers’ ball.
C: “Well all the fags and the dykes/they are boogieing together/the leather freaks are dressed in all kinds of leather/The greatest of the sadists/and the masochists too/are screaming, ‘please hit me/and I’ll hit you’”… A funny guy into music, drugs, storytelling and kink—who drew gag cartoons for Playboy? He must’ve been the most popular dude alive in the ‘70s…
D: And looking at these pictures of him, I bet—
C: I know. Total human bonobo.

Devendra Banhart
Crippled Crow
(Beggars Banquet)
C: Devendra has a lot more hair on his head than Shel, but I think there’s a certain similarity in sensibility. Good times, weird times, you know he’s had his share.
D: He knows where the sidewalk ends.
C: So this is Devendra stretching it out in studio splendor, playing solo, playing with a band, playing a ton of acoustic guitar and piano songs. In English, in Spanish, in jest, in all seriousness, in duet…
D: [listening to “Now That I Know”] In the style of St. Nick Drake.
C: Such a range on the album as a whole, you can hear it in just the first five songs [out of the album’s 22]: whispers, tropicalia, a gentle piano protest lullaby, dreamytime-in-the-hash-den psychedelic-folk…
D: These songs… [listening to “Mama Wolf”] Every syllable is soothing, which is not something you hear done that often anymore. [seriously] Listen to me: Something magical is going on here.
C: Check out the singing, probably the best he’s ever done: that’s a guy who’s going for it in a heavy, trembling way—without losing it. He didn’t used to be able to sing like that. Incredible. And the lyrics, “Yeah when they come over the mountains/we’ll run yeah we’ll run right round them/we don’t have no guns/no we don’t have any weapons/just our cornmeal, and our children…”
D: I’m joining Devendra’s unarmed forces.

Silver Jews
Tanglewood Numbers
(Drag City)
D: [grimacing after a few seconds of the first song] I think I’m going to need three more beers. Immediately.
C: Don’t worry, I’ve got this one covered. [pulls out sheet of paper, clears voice] And to think this man formerly claimed he was nearly “hospitalized for approaching perfection”! Whatever D.C. Berman’s been smoking, his voice is shot. He once had a stentorian authority on par with Kristofferson and Robert Frost, now it’s lost. This might be a mere symptom of his decline —
D: Or the need for throat-coat tea and a personal trainer.
C: —or at least to mix the vocals up front—
D: Maybe he’s been freaking a bit too much at the freakers’ ball?
C: —but it dovetails with another problem, which is that since he is not a performing artist, he has never learned how to improve his craft by translating it live to an audience.
D: Which doesn’t help when it comes to making a record.
C: He now sounds as if he’s reading from a script rather than singing songs. His lyrics are great though, maybe as good as ever, like this choice couplet from “Sleeping Is the Only Love”: “I had this friend named Marc with a c / his sister was like the heat coming off the back of an old TV” altho’ his never ending quest for the ultimate bohunk cliche—”I’m getting back into getting back into you”—can be a little trying. There are a couple nice guitar moments, probably attributable to the Malk—
D: Who?
C: Steve Malkmus from Pavement, who’s on this album. [continuing] Otherwise the music is a detour-round-this junction of indie and bar band. Oh waitaminute, the seven-minute “The Farmer’s Hotel” is a sprawling gothic masterpiece: Breece D’J Pancake meets Stephen King meets Rick Brautigan in, apparently, a pernicious country inn where “there was no air of slumber/ there doors they had no numbers”…call it an analogue to being a Silver Jews fan: you can check in but you can never check out.

Sinead O’Connor
Throw Down Your Arms
(Sanctuary)
C: Sinead does an album of extremely faithful reggae covers, recorded in Kingston with Sly & Robbie. It had to happen.
D: [stroking chin, deep in thought] I believe Sinead was the first celebrity I’d ever heard of who checked herself into a rehab center for addiction to that demon weed. Sometime in the mid-‘90s, it was.
C: And didn’t she retire from the music industry a couple of years ago? So this is an interesting turn of events.
D: The main question is whether she has grown the dreads or not. The answer, thank Jah, would appear to be no.
C: I gotta say combining the stridency of the Irish with the righteousness of the Jamaican reggae artist doesn’t seem like the best strategy, and most of this album is the dull hybrid I feared it would be: too serious, too austere. Missing is the sense of playfulness.
D: She is just doing the songs she wants to do, without regard for what anyone else thinks.
C: Respect to her for that. It is weird to hear a woman with her range do songs that offer her so little room to exercise her pipes. You get the feeling that these are songs that she’s sung along to a thousand times…the versions are so faithful, at this point, she’s more of a mimic than an interpreter.
D: I think as usual you are being too hard. If you were sitting there and a girl across from you started playing “Downpressor Man” on acoustic guitar and singing, it’d be all over.
C: Her take on Lee Perry’s seduction ballad “Curly Locks” is certainly seductive.
D: And “Untold Stories.” And “Vampire.” Come on, man!
C: I’m just saying, when Sinead does an album of Ween covers, then we’ll really be getting somewhere.

Buckwheat Zydeco ils sont partis band
100% Fortified Zydeco
(Shout! Factory)
D: I am not what you would call an expert exactly, but I do not detect too much zydeco here.
C: It is pretty generic—I keep seeing John Belushi doing backflips down the center aisle. An authentic practitioner shouldn’t be caught delivering this stuff. Then again if I had an alligator po’ boy and a cup of Dixie Beer in my hand, I might have a different opinion.

Terry Reid
Superlungs
(Astralwerks)
C: The legendary Terry Reid gets a long-overdue compilation. A soul singer more than a rock singer, he came up in the ‘60s at the same time as Steve Marriott, Rod Stewart and all those guys. He’s best known as the guy Jimmy Page asked to front Zeppelin, who had to turn it down cuz of contractual obligations.
D: Doh!
C: They said Plant sang like a woman, and Terry Reid does too. Guess Page knew what he wanted. To paraphrase My Fair Lady,…
D: [singing] Why can’t a man sing more like a woman?
C: In that case, it’s a man singing like a woman singing like a man. In the tradition of Tina Turner and Mavis Staples or Inga Rumpf from German blues rockers Frumpy
D: This guy is a super-rocker. A mod-era master. He fucked it up, though.
C: Not as bad as Dave Mustaine. Better to have Led Zeppelin yelled at you on the street by the local smartcakes than Metallica.
D: [listening to “Stay With Me Baby”] Ian Gillan of Deep Purple totally took from his voice.
C: “Speak Now Or Forever Hold Your Peace” is unbelievable—the propulsive, tuneful, template for Slade, and by extension Oasis.
D: But Liam’s not a soul singer.
C: It’s very Faces. “Tinker Taylor” is the same thing. Word to the Djs out there: this is the only album you need to keep the dance party going…
Continue reading

Reviews by C and D (Arthur No. 16/July 2005)

Originally published in Arthur No. 16 (July 2005)

REVIEWS BY C and D

Sleater-Kinney
The Woods
(Sub Pop)
D: Before we begin, I would like to say that today I am in the mood to rock.
C: Well, my friend, you have come to the right place.
D: [first song starts, D leaps out of chair immediately] Is this one of those Japanese bands? With a girl?!? Who is this singing?
C: That woman is not a girl—she could show you a thing or two. [dramatic pause] It’s Sleater-Kinney, produced by Dave Fridmann.
D: [Jaw hits floor] Really?!? SLEATER-KINNEY?????!!!!???? Fuck, man! [shakes head] This is a MAJOR statement of psychedelic riot woman super-rock power! Rock ‘n roll album of the year! God DAMN!!!!
D: I know. Maybe the decade. Superfuzz-heavy in the Northwest tradition of Blue Cheer-Nirvana-Mudhoney, expansive like Neil Young with Crazy Hors…Hendrix… Built to Spill? There’s stuff on here that is out as Comets on Fire, possible even further. Who’s going to top this? Absolutely gigantic sounds…amps out of the red and into the black… a 14-minute song at the end that goes as far out as Comets On Fire, even into Les Rallizes Denudes and Ash Ra Tempel territory…
D: I have to admit I would never have thought these three women would make a record that’s this relentlessly face-melting.
C: I don’t know if they’d thought it possible either. There’s some precedent in Babes of Toyland, or early Hole, maybe, but this is just so much further… Well, I’m not sure that they’d call it psychedelic but it’s definitely psychoactive in an urgent kind of way.
D: [musing] There’s a bit of Jefferson Airplane in here, that’s for sure.
C: There’s a structure to everything but there are these void spaces, too. And then there are straight songs too, which rock in this tight, urgent way and then blow into something else via a drum charge or a panned guitar solo or I don’t know what. I know I’m going Beavis here but I don’t know how to [clears throat] …ahem… properly articulate the sensations I am feeling as I listen to this album. For a long time I didn’t like Corin Tucker’s voice, but here? It’s like this is the setting it’s always been looking for.
D: And that’s some hotshit drumming for sure.
C: [dancing] I can’t believe it, but seriously, one must acknowledge what is happening here. This is higher than High on Fire. They are Queens of a more stoned Age!
D: An unheard of power monster, that singlehandedly, forever eradicates the notion that women have no balls.
C: [Gives puzzled look at D, then continues] I cannot account for what I am hearing. Cannot assimilate. How did this happen? Seriously. It’s a lidflipper, a real wig-frier. Can you name another band that seven albums into their career, supernovaed into this kind of territory? This is so rare. It reminds me of something that Michael Moorcock was saying the other day: “In the ‘60s, Dylan, Beatles, Beefheart et al. were all thinking on their feet, if they were thinking at all. While Dylan remained a Guthrie sound-a-like he had no real credibility (although he did bring Guthrie a wider audience, I’d guess). As Dylan dumped the Guthrie cloak, especially when he went electric, he gained authenticity. The less like Buddy Holly the Beatles sounded, the better they got. Eventually, you went into a studio not knowing what you’d come out with.” I think that may be what’s happened here with Sleater-Kinney. Maybe this record just happened. Maybe we are witnessing the joy of unplanned, no-thinking, no-rules spontaneous creativity, of these three amazing women following and trusting their muse, confident in their abilities and each other to give it a trust that most other artists cower from giving these days? In any event, it’s an extraordinary creative breakthrough record made at precisely the right time by artists working at the peak of their collective rock power. That they are women in a stupid, male-centric culture doing this makes the whole thing even more important and inspirational. I want to go door-to-door like an evangelist for this record: “Hey sisters and brothers, have you heard the Good News?” But the old doors don’t exist after this album. They’ve all been blown open.
D: Word to your moms, Sleater-Kinney drop bombs.

Oneida
The Wedding
(Jagjaguwar)
C: New one from New York underground trance/art-rockers Oneida: a favorite around the Arthur offices for years now.
D: [Listening to “The Eiger”] They’re using strings?!?
C: Yes! This sounds amazing. The songs are catchier, there’s more dynamics in the structure, the arrangements are more varied. And the production is just nuts. This is another huge artistic breakthrough. Damn…
D: Something is in the air… Something good. A new scent.
C: Shit! Listen to how the keys get sucked out of the soundfield [on “Lavender”]… Listen to the almost-Espers psych-folk that is “Run Through My Hair.” “High Life” is an optimistic vocal over a total Kraftwerk/Cluster/La Dusseldorf electronic bed that changes into something more organic… “Did I Die” is like Wolf Eyes without the noise, [chuckles] whatever that means. Wow. I can’t believe this album…
D: It’s true, it’s beautiful.
C: Listen to how massive the drums are on “Spirits” and “Heavenly Choir,” and how majestic the guitar is. These are their “Kashmir”’s, their “When the Levee Breaks,” and this album is their Physical Graffiti…
D: We are in the presence of genius, manifesting itself.

Angels of Light
The Angels of Light Sing “Other People”
(Young God)
D: Who is this? It sounds like Johnny Cash with the Up With People choir or the Beach Boys singing backup.
C: It’s the new album by Angels of Light. You know, Michael Gira from Swans’ new band. Well, if you can be on “new” when you’re on your fourth album.
D: The most brutal, dealing-with-ultimate-things band ever?
C: None other. He moved away from that a while ago, but this one is sort of the moment when it all comes together for him. [listening to “Destroyer”] Listen to how amazing this: is that a mellotron, or strings? [Skipping through the record] And glockenspiels? Shit! This whole record is soaked in the most resplendent bittersweet textures, never getting sappy or fruity or corny in any way. Not an easy thing to do, for anyone. And for it to come from the man who wrote “Raping a Slave”? Fuck…
D: [smiling beatifically] I am shocked, once again, in a pleasantly happy way. He’s aging well, into something elegant and striking in his own way. Kinda like Nick Cave.
C: It is really beautiful, and represents the third risky, radical creative breakthrough THAT SUCCEEDS we’ve heard this session. So exciting to be in the presence of artists when they’re going for it like this.

Boredoms
Seadrum/House of Sun
(Vice)
C: And now…would you believe…? NEW BOREDOMS! Yoshimi sings a capella…and then this…[wave of drums crashes in]
D: [musing] We appear to be living in magical times.
C: 45 minutes, two tracks, completely different from each other. It says one thing: “Fuck off (in a good way). We are Boredoms. And we cannot be denied. We will now share this with you.”
D: Please place this on infinite repeat while I unclog every stuck nerve ending in my elderly body. Music…music…music…Boredoms… Boredoms… is…life.

Brain Donor
Brain Donor
(MisterE/Revolver)
D: I don’t whether to pump my fist in the air or punch myself in the face.
C: Who would have guessed that Julian Cope would be making this sort of rubber-burning rock’n’roll what, 25 years down the line?
D: His head is out on the highway. And he’s stuck in sixth gear.
C: Julian calls them a stupor group. Doggen, the guitarist, plays in Spiritualized, as does drummer Kevlar. They wear neon facepaint and have empty thought balloons over their heads. They’re like the Rutles version of the Stooges: songs that are just as good, with better lyrics. Dig the song titles: “My Pagan Ass,” “Shaman U.F.O.”
D: [shimmying] My pagan ass! My pagan ass!
C: This is a compilation CD, selections from the Brain Donor’s two previous discs that were only released in the UK. Now America can welcome Brain Donor with open heads.
D: If these gentlemen are really donating their brains, I need to go to the brain bank and get one.

Turbonegro
The ResErection DVD
(MVD)
D: Aha, Turbonegro! “IT’S DEATH TIME!” They ARE rock ‘n roll! In the gay sailor style of Norway!
C: I will explain D’s outburst of Turbonegroist passion to the gentle readers of Arthur.
D: [muttering] So arrogant!
C: I heard that, D. And I will remember. Oh yes. I will remember.
D: [muttering] So smug!
C: Shut up and let me do the thing that needs to be done. [to tape recorder] This is Turbonegro’s Some Kind of Monster, the story of “how the bandmobile went off the road in 1998,” it says here, and what happened next. Could Hank von Helvete recover from heroin addiction and other assorted mental problems and don the black cape and Alice Cooper makeup again? Could the Absolut-guzzling band of self-professed “death punk” godfathers successfully re-buddy after four years apart? Would anyone care? Would—
D: OF COURSE PEOPLE CARE! This is Turbonegro! [singing] “Whoa-oh-oh/I’ve got ERECTION!”
C: The other difference between Turbonegro and Metallica is that Turbonegro seem quite comfortable being gay. I do not know if they are actually gay, but they play a gay band onstage and on camera with a great deal of affection and commitment and sense of humor. Fear of a Gay Planet is the general concept.
D: [Watching Hank show off a vat of cod liver oil outside the local maritime museum where he worked for a couple of summers.] Look at this! This is better than A Mighty Wind!
C: We visit Hank’s seaside sanctuary, where he lived for four years, rebuilding his life. “The only thing that kept me alive were my grandparents and my belief in God,” he says, then compares himself to Napoleon in exile: “I was supposed to be emperor of Europe, but I’m kept prisoner of reality.” We do not know if he is joking, which is how the entire film is, it’s as outrageously straight-faced as comic atrocities like Alan Partridge or The Office or League of Gentlemen or—I’m feeling generous—Neil Hamburger in his most sublimely awful, banal moments. That kind of rare, supergenius thing. I don’t know if I’m doing it justice…? [looking on screen] But Hank is now showing us around his hometown: “Let’s stroll in the realm of dry fish…”
D: I still think they based their entire sound on the Dictators!
C: Ha! You’re right! Hank’s real stage name should be Gruesome Dick Manitoba.
D: They are like the Hives’ evil reverse twins.
C: The Hives give 1000% every time, but as Happy Tom says here, Turbonegro give 50, maybe 60 percent. The interviewer asks if they may get 80% this time? “I don’t think that’s ever happened,” says Tom.
D: It’s a cracker! A classic! [Thinks hard.] It’s This Is Spinal Tap—by Chris Morris!!!

BBQ
Tie Your Noose
(Bomp!)
C: Now here’s a one-man garage band, do it and doing it well. Makes the two-piece garage band seem passé.
D: Does that mean he practices in a one-car garage?
C: Fire up the grill, this is a fatback slab of that raunchy, rib-rocking goodness. It’s like Bob Log III and Doo Rag in one.
D: Yes, in one big barbecue pit! Which he probably dug out behind his garage.
C: “Don’t Hold Out On Me” is the hit.
D: I think it sounds like someone singing the Hives in the shower. Really, it’s that good.
C: Nice to see such a fine release on the Bomp! imprint, furthering the cause of Bomp! honcho Greg Shaw, may he rock in peace.

Radar Bros.
The Fallen Leaf Pages
(Merge)
C: One of Los Angeles’ subtle treasures, and group that explains the pastoral side to LA that only residents really know about. This music has a calming, benign presence.
D: It gives me the feeling I get from “Dear Prudence.” Or my very favorite song, “Something In The Air” by Thunderclap Newman.
C: The Radars absolutely own this gentle shuffle tempo. But I think they’d loan it out to anyone who wanted it. Although sometimes the lyrics are darker than you’d expect…
D: I believe he just sang, “I am the stable in which the ass has laid his manure.”
C: Walk, don’t run to pick this up. Or better yet, lope.
D: Yes, amble on.
C: There is something about this that puts me in the mindset of lightning bugs in a jar. And the most wistful of Muppets songs. You can always count on Jim Putnam to take one great whistling solo per album, and he comes through here again.
D: This truly Floyd-ian, I mean Mettle-era Floyd. The dreaminess of it, it’s positively molassesfying.
C: David Gilmour is on the phone, says the Floyd is playing the Pyramids again, and will the Radars kindly open? Could happen.
D: Should happen.

Lee Perry
I Am the Upsetter four-cd boxset
(Trojan/Sanctuary)
D: “Satan is public enemy number one.” You know, this may be my favorite music have to do with organized religion.
C: Sweet soul singing by Max Romeo. The production on these… it’s like all these sounds aren’t allowed to exist anymore, I can’t imagine a contemporary producer getting anywhere near this. Anyways, since Lee Perry was rediscovered about ten years ago, there’ve been a lot of re-releases and vaultpilations…including the Arkology three-disk set which was a big hit with a lot of people. But this is really special—it’s digestible, it’s got all the great shit on it, it covers everything from the obvious Bob Marley and the Wailers stuff to cuts even dedicated Scratch diggers may never have heard before—like “All Over” by Eccols & Neville, which is actually Clancy Eccols and Bunny Wailer. Spans 1968 to 1978, so much went by, the world changed so much. So many artists went from next-level to the pits, but Lee Perry maintained this wonderful, playful energy…
D: I am a great admirer of the well-played unison horn line.
C: [listening to “Black Panta”] I mean what’s going on here? There is a spatial distance in dub music, a relationship between the listener and the music that’s just completely, profoundly different from any other kind of music.
D: It’s like growing a third ear from the center of your forehead.
C: Seeing a stretch of the color spectrum that you’d never been shown before. I love that there are all these skank songs on here. [Looking sternly at D.] Ahem. The ORIGINAL meaning of skank, which just means Lee is gonna scratch a certain rhythm that’s gonna make you dance the Jamaican version of the funky chicken…
D: [with eyes closed] The echo makes the music sound like it’s talking to itself. For someone who uses so much delay, he certainly was on time.
C: I always thought Lee Perry’s physique, short and lean, so much finely toned power in his arms, was represented in his music. I always think of him as the producer, working the board, making compact energetic music. Totally dynamic. Full presence, just infusing everything. All sides of him are there: the playful side, the mischievous side, the judgmental side, the father side where he puts his child in there, crying. Wailing. Pleading. And mixing that in to a song that says “for god’s sake give more justice to the people”? Amazing.

Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti
Worn Copy
(Paw Tracks)
C: [listening to opening instrumental] This sounds like one of those cheap John Carpenter scores, recorded underwater. In the wrong kind of water.
D: Cheese is not a virtue, except in certain hands.
C: These are not the right hands. [listening to “Jules Lost His Jewels”] Although…you know, some of this is actually pretty catchy. If only Mr. low-budget Wings here weren’t so stuck on recording underwater with such tragically awful sounding instruments.
D: So judgmental, you are. I think this might be a grower not a shower. [grabbing the CD out of the player] I will examine it more at home and report back next issue!

Animal Collective and Vashti Bunyan
Prospect Hummer EP
(Fat Cat)
C: Playful, rules-less, suffused with love…. Vashti and the AC boys harmonizing on these quiet little melodies… Whistles and phased waves of glowing acoustic guitars and… Is that a steel drum? Whoa. These guys are on such a hot streak right now. So wonderful to hear Vashti’s voice again, last year’s duet with Devendra wasn’t enough. This is a wower. You could play it for anyone: children, grandparents, sullen teenagers even…
D: [listening to title track] I think the oompa-loomas are coming.
C: Unbelievable dub-like production—there’s a real unique sense of space and place here too. Where do these people live? Somewhere in Sweden, Lee Perry awakens from his slumber…
D: [blissed out] It’s womblike. Feels like coming home from the greatest picnic ever.

Colleen
The Golden Morning Breaks
(The Leaf Label)
C: …And this is what it feels like when you’re in REM sleep, later. Music in miniature.
D: Mini-minimalism. Beatless.
C: So still. Satieists. A phased, handcranked music box. If a Joesph Cornell box had a sound… Wind chimes, plucked guitar figures.
D: Very cinematic. Makes me think of Bjork, Kubrick, City of Lost Children, Jeunet/Caro.
C: Colleen are (is?) Aphex Twin’s ambient grandchildren. Like Eno was for a while, Aphex Twin is no longer a man, he’s an adjective.
D: This is what I always hoped ambient music would sound like. Don’t throw the baby out with analog bubblebathwater!
C: … [pauses] Can I have some of whatever it is that you are on?

The Geto Boys
The Foundation
(Rap-A-Lot)
D: Who is this?
C: You know who this is.
D: The Geto Boys! Scarface, Willie D, and Bushwick Bill, together forever. Unless my mind is playing tricks on me, which is has been known to do.
C: You were right the first time, D. You may now take off the blindfold.
D: After all these years, they certainly are keeping it gangsta.
C: And yet it’s soul music. From the soul, of the soul, and the slower songs on here are actually sweet soul music.
D: You know, when I’m feeling homicidal, this music calms me down.
C: I appreciate that. More than you know.
D: Well if I didn’t know, now I know!

Neil Hamburger
Great Moments at Di Presa’s Pizza House
(Drag City)
C: On the other hand, when I’m feeling suicidal…I think of Neil Hamburger, self-proclaimed “TV comic” and “American funnyman.” [Listens to CD for a few minutes.] Well, this is a new low. Which is what you catch yourself thinking every time there’s a new Neil Hamburger album, but by now it’s clear that there is no bottom.
D: What is this? [to stereo] Tell some jokes already!
C: Heckling a CD is not the same as heckling a performer, unfortunately. One thing you can say about Neil Hamburger is he’s remarkably consistent. No matter where he plays—an expat nightclub in Malaysia, a greyhound racing park in Tempe, Arizona, a pipe organ-equipped pizza parlor in Northern California—he’s always just terrible, just desperately unfunny. You know what you’re getting with Neil Hamburger. The only surprise is how much worse he’s managed to get since the last time you heard him.

Yellow Pills: Refill
(Numero Group)
C: 33 power-pop 45s by super-obscure one-shot artists, compiled with mindblowing meticulousness and liner note cleverness by an obvious labor-of-lover: this guy Jordan Oaks, who used to do a zine called Yellow Pills. I gotta cop to it, I never heard of the zine, never heard any of these songs.
D: Man! A lot of these really should have been hits. Especially the Toms? As Dr. John and the Meters would say, They were in the wrong place.
C: This drawing of Jon Brion is incredible, when he was like 14 and a member of a band called The Bats.
D: I don’t know about this one…
C: If you don’t like one song, another will be along in two minutes. You’ll be able to find a seat on one of them. [pauses] You know D, we’ve received a lot of letters asking why we are called C & D…
D: We choose to remain anonymous.
C: I bet these bands didn’t want to be anonymous.
D: Well… life’s like that, sometimes.

The Ponys
Celebration Castle
(In the Red)
D: Must be The Ponys. Cuz it sounds like Voidoids and Television.
C: Yep. Less Hellish than before, though, I think.
D: [listening to the chorus of “Glass Conversation”] Now they are rocking!
C: And check out this guitar sound. It doesn’t matter what they play on their solos—although what he’s playing is cool—the sounds they are getting are enough for me. Yes! The solo on “Discoteca” is really simple but it SOUNDS wonderful. That’s like their second signature, after the dude’s voice. [listening to “Today”] Wow this goes into a blues thing in the middle, very cool. No wonder they were on that Junior Kimbrough tribute record, it’s all making sense now.
D: [philosophical] This is more like the first album than the first one was… [listening to “We Shot This World,” shaking head like a tumbler.] The difficult second album is not so difficult for the Ponys!
C: Our little Ponys have all grown up.

Spoon
Gimme Fiction
(Merge)
D: Sounds like the Kinks in a troubled mood.
C: But look they pull out a chorus—a melody like what the Walkmen wish they could do, and I don’t mean to damn with faint praise there.
D: Great album opener.
C: It’s like they’re gonna confront the Kinks Klone critique head-on and then go from there… This is their best shit ever, and their shit has always been fresh. The songs are better put together… listen to the counter-melodies and harmonies… even strings… Like the Left Banke, except not so fussy, or even SF Sorrow-era Pretty Things… Tight psychedelic-tinged upbeat soul rock. This song [“I Turn My Camera On”] is total disco! When he does falsetto, he sounds like what Beck tries to do. If they has strings swoop in we’d have Chic…
D: Maybe they’re saving that for the next album, which I am already eagerly awaiting.
D: [listening to “My Mathematical Mind”] Another cinematic record. There is a hint of John Barry in the air. I picture Oliver Reed in 1965 on the prowl, on the way to a party, or the scene of a crime, whichever he reaches first. Americans are making great English music again!

Weird War
Illuminated by the Light
(Drag City)
C: In the interest of full disclosure, it should be noted that Weird Warlord Ian Svenonius is an Arthur contributor.
D: That guitar tone sounds straight from a robot’s butt. Is he playing one of those keyboard guitar things?
C: It’s called a keytar.
D: I don’t know if I can take anyone playing a keytar seriously. I believe this is supposed to be funky but it does not swing.
C: Svenonius output always divides the crowd. I dig some of this album, but the real undeniable gemwork here is the album art, which is like a Neapolitan version of what Pedro Bell used to draw for Funkadelic LPs.
D: Yes, keep the great artwork, but maybe they should head in a different direction musically.
C: I’ve heard they’re going to do a Grateful Dead tribute called Weir War.
D: …
C: Sorry.

Death in Vegas
Satan’s Circus
(Drone)
D: New Death in Vegas? Excellent! That song with Hope Sandoval and the Indian violinist on the last album was a high point global civilization.
C: No guest vocalist this time.
D: It’s very krautrockian. And Human League. And Gary Numan, the guy that we all hated, because he had bad teeth… always trying to combine the robotic and emotive. He had that pretentious super-serious look mixed with looking like a yuppie. It was bound to fail. Now he’s a cult hero. Just goes to show that every shit you throw against the wall might come down as gold. Write that down!
C: [Writing it down] Very Cluster. And the second track here…listen to this…
D: THEY ARE COVERING KRAFTWERK’S ‘TRANS EUROPE EXPRESS’!?! Unbelievable! That’s balls!
C: These guys have got to be total stoners. They are just fucking around, having fun. You can hear how much they’re digging this.
D: Roedelius, Harmonia, all those guys… I can hear this being played in a German countryside on a nice Sunday afternoon. Very evocative, simplistic—I love it. There’s a track called “Heil Xanax”? Another one called “Sons of Rother”? I give up. They are the victors.
C: The record is so committed to the style.
D: To me, this could be played in a stadium. “Reigen” is a German word for the old-world, Middle Ages a come-together, a joyous come together where you dance around the maypole, so there’s a Wicker Man aspect to it. This shows insane respect and love for a very specific genre. They are saying, Excuse us while we pay tribute to our love.

Josephine Foster
Hazel Eyes, I Will Lead You
(Locust Music)
C: Speaking of Wicker Man.
D: Speaking of Jefferson Airplane.
C: Speaking of genius.
D: Speaking of…speechless.
C: She’s been in Arthur before, but… Damn. This is my favorite work yet by one of my favorite voices in the world. Her most conventional songwriting, really, with fantastic arrangements and playing. All by Josephine herself. It’s not harsh like Born Heller could be, not as histrionic as last year’s Supposed album was… I think people will now find out what the big deal is…
D: So many big deals right now, most of them female!
C: I know. Feels like a new dawning, a new birthing, a new burst of feminine energy is going on, doesn’t it?
D: Yes.
C: I can’t wait to hear what happens next…

Reviews by C and D (and E…) (Arthur No. 12/Sept. 2004)

Originally published in Arthur No. 12 (Sepember 2004)

REVIEWS BY C and D (and E…)

THE GRIS GRIS
The Gris Gris
(Birdman)
C: Okay D, we’re gonna start this one off with something I know you will dig—the debut album from San Francisco psych-rock three-piece Gris Gris, who are led by that kid Greg Ashley, whose solo record we dug last year.
D: Yes I remember Mr. Ashley well! He is the new Syd Barrett and [listening to keyboard run] he is advising us to join him on an interstellar overdrive magic carpet ride.
C: The carpet’s in the garage, and it’s kind of greasy. It’s not used, it’s vintage.
D: Rock bands were doing this in garage basements in the Bay Area of ‘60s, after they got their first Yardbirds records. And all across Milwaukee in 1987. Mister Ashley is singing his ASH off! I also like the simplicity of the drumming.
C: …Milwaukee?

THE BLACK KEYS
Rubber Factory
(Fat Possum)
C: Third album from Akron’s finest, once again produced by themselves.
D: [listening] I am not sure if they needed to make another album on their own. There’s not enough progression here.
C: It’s more mellow than the last one. But I like it. Listen to the solo here on “Desperate Man.” And this one on “Stack Shot Bully.”
D: Hmm, definite burning there. This is a 7.5 moving up to 9.3…
C: And this Kinks cover, “Act Nice and Gentle” is great, really blissed out, reminds me of going down to the river in the summertime. I didn’t think I ever wanted to hear another take on “Summertime Blues,” but…
D: That’s a rocker with extra thrusters, baby! It still is summertime and yes I still have those blues! Even though it says “do not duplicate,” can I duplicate it?

THE FAINT
Wet From Birth
(Saddle Creek)
C and D: [blank stares]
C: Um… Pretty belabored electro dance new wave blah blah.
D: I am in Berlin getting down with the transvestites.
C: I see 16-year-old girls dancing poorly.
D: Who are they? I wish he woulda left the transformer effect at home.
C: They come from Omaha. This is their second album.
D: Really??? [listening more closely] They’ve finally written a song good enough for Victoria’s Secret commercial. Congratulations!
C: Maybe we just don’t have an ear for this stuff, but, sheesh, this is painfully shitty. Crap new wave is a joke that didn’t need to be told, ever again.

MOUSE ON MARS
Radical Connector
(Thrill Jockey)
D: This is so bad in such an obvious way. They don’t even number their tracks! So inconsiderate.
C: What, you’ve never heard of glitch in Milwaukee or Berlin?
D: Yes yes, but this… Mouse on Mars have lost it. This trying-to-be-funky-and-clever thing is not working in their favor.
C: You are not happy with the Mouse’s progress.
D: They are progressing to a place where nobody wants to dance. And I am a dancing kind of fellow!

TWILIGHT SINGERS
She Loves You
(One Little Indian)
C: An album of covers by Greg Dulli’s Twilight Singers project. He used to lead the Afghan Whigs, about four decades or so ago.
D: Never heard of ‘em. I am not a fan of the ‘90s.
D: Really? [listening to cover of “Hyperballad”] This sounds like U2. Agh, can’t stand it. Even the guitar is ringing! Can we please listen to something I might like?
C: Dulli does sound like Bono when he tries to hit those trailing Bjorknotes.
D: Is that her voice in the background? [sarcastic] Are they holding hands? This is ghastly! [listening to cover of Billie Holiday’s “Strange Fruit”] Now he sounds like Marianne Faithful. I’m getting a drink. Okay, maybe three drinks. [heads for kitchen]
C: I only like the songs where Mark Lanegan sings, really. This version of the blues “Hard Killing Floor” where Lanegan sings lead is all nice and charcoal and moonshine… But basically, I like this album more in concept than in execution. The world doesn’t need an easy listening MOR version of “A Love Supreme,” in my humble opinion.

THALIA ZEDEK
Trust Not Those In Whom Without Some Touch of Madness
(Thrill Jockey)
C: [to tape recorder] D’s in a bad mood, again! Sheesh. Okay, guess I’ll keep going here. This is the new album by the sublegendary Thalia Zedek, who lead the great lost rock ‘n roll band Come for many years. Unforgettable voice, jointly sponsored by Jameson’s and some devilry, I think. Like later Marianne Faithful, actually. Anyway, this is pretty straightahead sad-eyed twilight rock ‘n roll, with some violin on it, which of course sends me back to another lost-‘90s-rock-n-roll-band-with-a-great-female-singer: the Geraldine Fibbers. They also had a violin. Yep.

MIKE WATT
The Second Man’s Middle Stand
(Columbia)
C: Mike Watt from the minutemen and fIREHOSE and current Stooges bassist doing his first album in six years, a total concept piece about his near-terminal illness, plus Dante and one thousand and one other layers of meaning, played by a storming organ-drums-bass three-piece. 9 songs, with eight of them over 5:30, which means this earns Prog certification. Like a particularly smart Deep Purple, subbing out the ponderousness for some art-punk new-beat spastics, splatter and stutter. Do you need a lyric sheet to make sense of it? Yes you do.

PAUL WESTERBERG
Folker
(Vagrant)
C: One of the worst album titles in recent times, but let’s not hold that too much against it. Continuing in the ‘90s-semistar series here, the new solo album from the former singer of the Replacements, who were also doing traditional American rock ‘n roll when that wasn’t exactly called for by the times. Never really dug his solo work, but this is ridiculously good at what it’s doing: really melodic mid-tempo rock ‘n roll that you listen to at the gaspump and then hum the rest of the way home: kinda Oasis, actually, and kinda Tom Petty. And “Looking Up In Heaven” is gorgeous perfection. Yep.

RICH ROBINSON
Paper
(Keyhole Records)
D: [walks back into the room holding big coffee mug, mumbling to himself] People can’t tell you’re an alcoholic if you drink it out of a coffee cup…
C: [oblivious] Solo album from the guitarist for the Black Crowes, who are on some kind of trial separation. Very in-the-pocket, and lovely harmonies, just solid rock ‘n roll songs for longhairs washing their VW bus on a Sunday afternoon.

THE WHIRLWIND HEAT
Flamingo Honey EP
(Dim Mak)
C: This is the new EP from the Detroit band Jack White called the closest we’re gonna get to a Devo in this generation.
D: Hmph. I will be the judge of that!
C: 10 songs, 10 minutes, each song almost exactly one minute.
D: [listening to “The Meat Packers”] Sounds like when the White Stripes covered all those Beefheart songs on that Sub Pop 7-inch.
C: You’re totally right! Good call
D: These guys sound a little too smug to me. They’re just good enough that they’re getting laid.
C: I like conceptual limits, generally. Sometimes it gets you out of a creative jam, makes you go into a new space you wouldn’t’ve otherwise thought of. It necessitates invention and problem solving, keep you from getting too set in your ways. Standard John Cage theory, right? Brian Eno…
D: These guys should work with Eno!
C: He did produce Devo’s first album, didn’t he? Hmm. Perhaps it can be arranged.

COLONEL CLAYPOOL’S BUCKET OF BERNIE BRAINS
The Big Eyeball in the Sky
(Prawn Song Records)
C: Okay, I think I’ve had enough Primus for one lifetime but this looked interesting. It’s Claypool on bass, Bernie Worrell from P-Funk on keyboards, Buckethead on guitar and Brain on drums. Like one of those old Axiom jams that Bill Laswell used to put together back in the early ‘90s with Bootsy and all them.
D: I used to listen to Primus. They had one good album, I don’t remember what it was called but it certainly wasn’t Pork Soda. That was the worst.
C: [cracking himself up] The wurst, you mean, ha ah ha!
D: …
E: [entering room] Hey guys, what’s going on? This sounds great!
C: Whoa. The notorious E dares to enter Arthur’s inner sanctum.
D: We have not seen a woman here in sometime.
C: But your presence here has been foretold.
E: You guys might have more company if you guys didn’t lock the door all the time!
C: Sorry… So, you really like this, E?
E: I love Les Claypool’s voice. I admire his integrity. And can you say “Pork Soda” without laughing? I think not.
C: Er… I believe no one should imitate Zappa. Well not like this, at least.
D: I do like things that are circus-y. It’s like a Fellini movie, you’re waiting for the transvestite to pop out of the tent…
C: I think I’d like it more if I was 16 and playing Nintendo.
E: This is great. What’s your problem, C? If it said “Ween” on the box, you would totally dig it. They’re clearly incredibly smart and having fun.
C: Hmm. Okay, maybe if I was 14.
D: This is totally late Residents and is making me want to get very high right now. I could get a lot of cleaning done to this.

ANTIBALAS
Who Is This America?
(Ropeadope)
E: Fela? Tony Allen? This is cool, of course.
D: Is this from Nigeria? If I had to DJ a wedding, I would definitely play this. You can do any kind of dance to it, there’s so much going on. You can meringue to it.
C: But it’s not Fela Kuti, it’s Antibalas, that group from New York trying to bring back that original Afrobeat. They’re so good now, I can’t tell the difference, really.
D: Don’t they have like 86 people in their band or something?
E: [dancing] More like 20! It’s between them and the Polyphonic Spree for largest band in the Arthur world…
C: I have to say that as good as they are, their lyrics still aren’t there. Fela’s was always really biting and clever. Most of this is too straightforward, there’s none of that really cutting, mordant wit.
D: [dancing with eyes closed] Who cares, this is phenomenal! It makes me want to put my ass into it!
C: [to tape recorder] He said he was a dancing fellow, and now he is proving it.
E: Hey, did you guys hear that Rick James died today?
C: A lot of people owe him big time.
D: Especially those guys who had girlfriends who became superfreaks!!!

MELVINS/LUSTMORD
Pigs of the Roman Empire
(Ipecac)
E: Now for something completely different.
D: Fudgetunnel?
C: Is it Godflesh?
E: It’s actually the Melvins with Lustmord.
C: Awesome dark sludge from some creepy condemned industry at the edge of town.
E: [listening to “The Bloated Pope”] I think this music is really erotic! Much more than easy listening or slow jam, because it’s dark and there’s an element of mystery.
C: And the fifth song is called “Pink Bat,” which is almost as good a title as “Pork Soda,” eh, E?
E: [smiling] Yes, exactly.
D: It’s not my favorite kind of music, but I could scrub the walls to it.
E: Hey D, what are you drinking in that coffee cup? It doesn’t smell like coffee…

LUCIFER RISING
Original soundtrack by Bobby Beausoleil
(Arcanum Entertainment)
C: Speaking of dark and mysterious, here is the original soundtrack for Kenneth Anger’s legendary Lucifer Rising. The original composer was supposed to be Jimmy Page, but Anger ended up using this score by Bobby Beausoleil, an old Manson associate who recorded it in the ‘70s while in prison…
D: UNBELIEVABLY black! Black turned to 100, with lizard eyes. But subtle and beautiful, somehow. This is a high point of human culture.

WOLF EYES
Burned Mind
(Sub Pop)
D: Throbbing Gristle!!!
C: Yeah kind of, right? It’s actually Wolf Eyes, who we reviewed last ish.
E: [reading song titles] “Black Vomit.” “Urine Burn.” And of course, “Stabbed in the Face.” I think they need to get some grooves going. That’s their problem.
D: I used to go see a lot of bands like this. Then I stopped.
C: You have to see it in a small space where the sound of just overwhelming and crushing and inescapable and you are just being confronted with it. I can’t really picture listening to it at home—
E: Me either.
C: —but maybe that’s my problem?
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