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…
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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?
Continue reading

Reviews by C and D (Arthur No. 11/July 2004)

Originally published in Arthur No. 11 (July 2004)

REVIEWS BY C and D

Fiery Furnaces
Blueberry Boat
(Rough Trade)
D: [extremely puzzled] Is this the Residents?!?
C: It’s Fiery Furnaces. Second album in one year. Usually when you say “difficult second album,” you mean it was hard for the artist. But this is actually hard on the audience!
D: [grimacing] I am not sure if I like this much.
C: It’s… it’s… it’s completely nuts. But: interesting nuts.
D: I remember them now! They were interviewed in Arthur. Brother and sister. But I thought they were blues-rocking New York people? What is all this synthesizer-ragtime stuff?!?
C: It’s like low-key prog. [looking at CD player] We’re in the ninth minute of the first song here… 13 songs, 75 minutes… The whole thing is a wigged-out concept album, man. I dig it.
D: [irritated] I do not have time for concepts! I am a ramblin’ man, that’s what I am.
C: Don’t spill your Dr. Pepper, Popeye. There’s a lot of good stuff on here, it’s just sorta tucked away in pockets within pockets in a large spangled coat of many prog colors.
D: This is too wacky and too wordy. [Brightens, listening to riff midway through second song] I like that, though. I think these guys may be too smart for their own good.
C: A singles-only edit of this album would be nice for the Short Attention Spanners out there…

Comets On Fire
Blue Cathedral
(Sub Pop)
C: The new one from Comets On Fire, full-on super-rock five-piece from the Bay Area. They keep the demons at bay.
D: Yes! Big super-blaster balls-nailed-to-the-wall heavy power rock from a space cannon!
C: Amazing, visionary wizardstuff. And they give you a break in the middle of songs—there’s these lighter sections, they’re even choogling here and there, mellowing the crunchy harsh.
D: [listening to keyboard-heavy “Pussy Footin’ the Duke.”] There is a taste of the prog here, too! But I don’t mind because the riffs are deep canyons and the singer is a yowler and the drums are mighty!
C: It’s like the best of Japanese power-rock plus Quicksilver Messenger Serivce or Meddle-era Pink Floyd plus Kiss. Album-of-the-year contender.
D: I am going to make a pilgrimage to this Blue Cathedral.
C: Which is right next door to the Acid Mothers Temple, no doubt.

The Reigning Sound
Too Much Guitar!
(In the Red)
D: The Reigning Sound! Mister Greg Cartwright! Long may he reign. I doff my beer in his general direction. Heartfelt thrashing songs with a zest for life!
C: [nodding head] The is one of those records that gives garage rock a good name. Which is pretty hard, considering there’s like 45,000 bands out there who are trying to do the same thing over the last three decades.
D: I am getting old. But I will get out my leather jacket for these guys. And stitch their name on it, as is my duty.
C: They’ve got actual songs, it’s not just the two-chord mono-grind smear. And listen to this ballad [“Funny Thing”]. If you’re not a connoiseur of this sort of stuff, it sound like something between the Stones and the Hives. And the Hives are taking them on the tour, so there you go.
D: Giving them that big Swedish stamp of approval!

The Concretes
The Concretes
(Astralwerks)
C: Speaking of the Swedes. A girl band…
D: They have the big Spector beat. A little Mazzy Star, don’t you think? [the chorus comes in on “Say Something New”] The Ronnettes! It cannot be! I am 9 years old again…
C: Yeah. A little Cardigans, perhaps: she doesn’t have the most unique voice, she’s not the greatest singer. But it’s pretty. A lot of this is pleasant music for cleaning house or driving with no traffic and the windows open on warm summer nights… And by coincidence “Warm Night” is my favorite song. It has a waltz rhythm and all these harmonies…
D: [listening] It has a sea chanty quality. Beautiful and SUPER-romantic. Ah, what goes on in the Swedish woods…
C: If there had been an ecstasy scene in the The Muppets Movie this is what it would have sounded like, and I mean that with all respect and seriousness.

Martina Topley-Bird
Anything
(Palm)
C: This reminds me of Morcheeba, and I know that isn’t fair, cuz Martina was with Tricky and they were first, but… Lady can sing okay, a hint of blues pain, acoustic guitars, brushed drums, ‘70s keyboard, lush strings. Yep, this is ad agency music.
C: Totally! I see the car commercial now. Volkswagen?
D: BMW, maybe.
C: Okay, let’s skip to the track with Josh Homme from Queens of the Stone Age and Mark Lanegan.
D: [listening] Eh. It’s Okay.
C: Well, at least this song has more energy…
D: [thinking deeply] I must say, I always preferred Portishead.
C: The texture of trip-hop stuff is just…worn out. Do we need another record of this stuff? Even Beth Gibbons has moved on.
D: That album she did last year was the most…
C: Yes! Out of Season, Beth Gibbons & Rustin Man, on Sanctuary. Arthur readers, just buy that instead. I weep openly when I listen to that record. But here…
D: I yawn openly.

The Obsessed
Incarnate
(Southern Lord)
D: [Looking at High Volume track listing] Stoner rock, but no Kyuss…? Hmm…
D: Gas Giant are gaseous. Hello, Monster Magnet?
C: They’re not on here either. But Clutch and Orange Goblin and Nebula are, and a ton of other longhaired stoner rock lifers.
D: [looking at the sleeve] Hidden Hand and High On Fire are on here!!! Let’s skip to those. High On Fire march on like warrior kings of peace!
C: Some of it’s like speedmetal but then there’s these weird chord sequences and that six-limbed drumming the dude does. Everything they do smokes. [smugly] And where there’s smoke, there’s High On Fire, ha ha.
D: You make yourself laugh. Now for Hidden Hand, “Falcon Stone.”
C: Your basic Hidden Handiwork. Solid riffage, a firm construction.
D: Wino’s new band, bringing the master pummeller once again! [opening record sleeve, with picture of girl with clothes falling off] Hmm, I like this centerfold, I mean record sleeve.
C: There’s some cool stuff on here, like the Suplecs track, but…
listen: Stoner rock lyrics are like the male versions of girls’ bad high school poetry. It would be cool if they’d trade lyric sheets. Then we’d get stoner rock with lyrics by Jewel. And adult contemporary with lyrics by Bad Wizard.
D: [distracted, gazing longingly at record sleeve] I really like this centerfold. I’ll be right back, I’ve got to to take care of something. [leaves room, taking sleeve with him]
C: Oh geez. I don’t believe this. Anyways… If Arthur readers want some classic heavy rock, the kind of stuff that begot this High Times comp, check out Incarnate, the new Obsessed archive job that compiles a gobload of ‘90s Wino & Company stuff that went lost or mal-released. Music for driving a bulldozer down Main Street to. Heavy is as heavy does…

Wolf Eyes
“Stabbed in the Face/Rat Floods” 12-inch
(Sub Pop)
C: [to tape recorder] Well, we’ve lost D to…um… Let’s just say… Um… Pornography claims another victim. Erotic imagery. [yelling] Tits ‘n’ Buds, bro! Whatever. Fortunately I am prepared to solider on alone. Arthur readers will recognize Wolf Eyes as a Bull Tongue perennial—well, they’ve somehow made it on to Sub Pop despite being pretty brutal and weird and just generally artfuck. For some reason I am reminded of Killdozer. Anyways “Stabbed in the Face” is angry vampire rock on a disco tape loop. Forget the Dead, this is the real skullfuckery. Beware! There’s blood in the grooves of this 45rpm record, which is why on Side 2 the thing locks into a repeater groove, sending the listener down the Wolfhole into a negatory dimension where one is bed-fed codeine by the leering nurse-corpse of Ronald Reagan.

The Fall
The Real New Fall LP…Formerly Country on the Click
(Narnack)
C: There’s little to be said here besides: the Fall are on a full-forward-rock mission again and your surrender is imminent. The guitars are propulsing, broken hip priest Mark E. Smith sounds wonderfully surly and declamatory, almost drifting into dreamtalk sometimes, the other cats in the band are singing some refrains and choruses and this is very important: you can dance to almost every song. It’s full of WFMU-world hits! You people know what I mean. If this were a young band, rather than one that’s been around since 1848, this would be the now-shit of rockcrit and fashion magazines and art schools across the planet. This is as much a return-to-form as Wire or Mission of Burma have done in the last few years: these original post-punk artniks are back on the trail, it can’t be rationally explained. [listening to “Sparta 2”] Shit’s positively magestic! [sighing] We are Fallstruck, once again.

Black Dice
Creature Comforts
(DFA Records)
C: Never really dug these guys and their electro-spazz-randomonica-epic trip before for some reason, although it sounded good in theory. This, though, I dig. I am a digger. I mean, “Cloud Pleaser” is a great title. People who dig early Tangerine Dream, and I mean very early, will dig this. Also some of the more out-there Popul Vuh stuff. It’s a strange mix of electronic stuff and abstracted organic noises with forward motion, enough rhythm for you to keep it on while you’re doing dishes, but enough weird noises and soundfloods and collagework for you to pay attention to it. Kinda meditative, actually… [To D, who has re-appeared] So, everything work out okay?
D: Yes, yes. [irritated, listening to “Treetops”] Do people get paid to do this?

M83
Dead Cities, Red Seas & Lost Ghosts
(Mute)
C: Mostly instrumental compositions with occasional sighs. Big and grand and emotional and beautiful. Sounds like it was fabricated by Tokyo-made cyborgs with tearducts, on vacation in France.
D: Like a darker Air… Dark Air should be their name!
C: Reminds me a bit of Casino Versus Japan, and Spiritualized too. Really lovely, hugely evocative, cinematic stuff.
D: Somebody alert Sofia Coppola!

Legendary Pink Dots
The Whispering Wall
(ROIR)
D: Hmm. Creepy creepy! Music for creepy crawling in dismal English towns.
C: Sort of a psychedelic haunted disco thing, yeah. Very stylish, but melodic too. They’ve been around forever but somehow I’ve never cottoned to them until now.
D: [listening to “A Distant Summer”] I like this. Such a strange, dislocated feel.
C: It’s ominous, sinister pop. Again, something that very much has its own feel. Crushed velvet, light rain, spooky carnivals…
D: A new record for all the pale people.

SUNN O)))
White2
(Southern Lord)
C: [reading the sleeve] It says here, “Maximum volume yields maximum results.” We better turn it up.
D: [smiling] Ahh. You can always count on SUNN 0)) for that maximum slow throb ambient guitar doom. They are the legendary black dots.
C: The first track is 14 minutes long! No drums, no vocals… Sonic qualudes. It’s so slow it isn’t even there. Totally enveloping.
D: It’s doom-bliss for your needy skull!

Eccentric Soul: The Capsoul Label
(Numero Group)
C: 19 tracks from an an obscure Columbus, Ohio soul record label who put out a dozen 45s, one album and had a few regional hits during the early ‘70s. Normally I wouldn’t care, there’s got to be a zillion compilations like this out there, right? But…
D: [listening to Bill Moss’s “Sock It To ‘Em Soul Brother”] This is really something. This is as good as the JB’s!
C: When you hear stuff like this, it makes you realize how much luck plays a role in what songs make it into general public’s consciousnsess. Some of this stuff, you can tell why it didn’t go beyond being a regional hit—the voice isn’t unique enough, or the lyrics are prosaic, or whatever. But there’s no reason that most of these songs weren’t big hits, other than that they were recorded and released in Ohio rather than Detroit or New York or L.A. It’s tragic that this is all we’ll ever hear from these folks, because of an accident of geography and timing. Just listen to this: Ronnie Taylor’s “Without Love” is a stone cold church-organ classic from the opening second. What a riff, what a voice.
D: [listening to “Hot Grits!!!” by Elijah & the Ebonites] Incredible! Instant dance floor groove sensation! [very seriously] Listen to me when I tell you this: This is the best soul compilation I’ve heard in 20 years.
C: [dancing] I know what you mean. Damn!

Reviews by C and D (Arthur No. 10/May 2004)

Originally published in Arthur No. 10 (May 2004)

REVIEWS BY C and D

Eagles of Death Metal
Peace Love Death Metal
(Rekords Rekords/AntAcidAudio)
C: [singing along to “Kiss the Devil”]: “Who’ll love the devil?/Who’ll love his song?/I will love the devil and his song!”
D: Ha! This is party-starting rock n roll music! They should’ve called it, “There’s Beer in the Fridge.
C: No doubt. Doubtless. No doubt about it. Doubt-free. [sings along:] “I will kiss the devil on his tongue!”
D: He is the male Peaches!
C: The singer-guitar player Jesse ‘the Devil’ Hughes has the best moustache going in rock, and he knows it. I can hear him now: “C & D, you’ve been rocked by The Moustache.” Have you seen his cape?
D: This cannot be. What year is this? It’s like Mick wearing the Omega at Altamont. Totally Rolling Stones.
C: Jesse is Jumpin’ Jack Flash and Josh Homme—he’s the guy from Kyuss and Queens of the Stone Age—is just here to do Beat Number Three on every song and help shift some units. They say it’s “Canned Heat vocals with stripper beats” and you can’t beat that description so let’s not even gonna try. It’s a pretty raw recording, sounds like a rehearsal tape with all the talking.
D: We will have to subtract points for that.
C: Yeah, all that between-song tech talk is the rock equivalent of skits on hip-hop albums. Funny the first time, maybe, but after that?
D: Eagles of Death Metal, you were rocking the party, and then you’re talking amongst yourselves about when to come in on the beat?!? Thanks for fucking it up!
C: “Speaking in Tongues” is the coolest song. Can you hear that sound?
D: Is that a car honking?
C: It’s the CD! They mixed it in! Totally brilliant! [singing along] “Toot scoot! Boots! Scoot scoot!” I have no idea what he’s saying but I like it, I like it. I said, I like it.

Pink Grease
This Is for Real
(Mute)
C: Okay, let’s get this party started again…
D: It is the Cramps. Wait, it can’t be the Cramps. Is this that “Fire in the disco” band?
C: Not it’s not Electric Six, it’s Pink Grease. Which sounds like a nightmare lubricant. Really good name for this band…
D: [hearing the riff kick in o “Fever”:] Whoa! They’re the house band for a creepy kind of party.
C: This is music for the wasters, and their married friends who are tying one on again, just this once.
D: In the right circumstances, this could finish somebody off. This is music for that kind of party where you do something you regret for weeks. [musing] Possibly even for the rest of your life…
C: They’ve got a cool thing going on—garage rockin’, good drums, new touches when you don’t see it coming: saxophone, a good chorus, some slide guitar, an out-there keyboard solo. [dreamily] They should tour with the Dirtbombs and Eagles of Death Metal and Peaches and Ween…
D: Could someone tell me why there are so many good-rockin’ dance bands right now?

John Wilkes Booze
Five Pillars of Soul
(Kill Rock Stars)
C: Then again, there’s this.
D: “John Wilkes Booze”? Terrible name.
C: I know. I gave it some time on the hi-fi cuz of the booklet. I mean, how bad can a band that salutes, in text, at length, Albert Ayler, Marc Bolan, Yoko Ono and Citizen Tania be?
D: Very, very bad, from the sound of it!
C: Is this a Make-Up and Jon Spencer parody band? Talk about putting the high back in high-conceptualism.
D: ‘Five pillars of soul”?!? Fake soul is the worst!!!
C: I’m embarrassed for these people—they have some cool inspirations and ideas about what they want to do but they don’t have the chops or the instincts to pull it off yet. Maybe they’ll get better…
D: They’re from Indiana? HA HA HA HA HA !
C: I’d like to see them try this in New Orleans.

The Thermals
Fuckin’ A
(Sub Pop)
D: [Definitively:] Guided by Voices. But harder, with more of that old piledriver beat.
C: It’s actually a whole different band, a trio called the Thermals. I like ‘em. It’s urgent. Reminds me of Lee Renaldo from Sonic Youth, bashing away in his garage with the neighborhood teenagers cutting school. Oops, dude just knocked over the ten-speed.
D: [shaking head furiously] I just spilled my beer!
C: This guy’s got one of those voices where you don’t care if he doesn’t really sing. 12 songs, 28 minutes. No solos, but it’s not hardcore or screaming emoters. Just cool. He’s determined, he’s holding on.
D: These are high-energy super-tight anthems! Where’s the towel?
C: [singing along] “Anything you break, you can probably mend/Anything you can feel, you can feel again/Hold tight, remember today.” Shit, those are words to live by.
D: Wisdom from a man called Hutch Harris. Thank you, Thermals! Yo don’t have a moustache but you have rocked C & D!

Mission of Burma
ONoffON
(Matador)
C & D: [stunned silence]
C: How can it… How did they…
D: How can it be this good?
C: They haven’t made a record in 22 years… Some of the people in this issue of Arthur were born and grew into adults in the time between Mission of Burma albums.
D: They sound hungry and creative. [singing along] “Now I live inside the circle!”
C: Inside the circle, but still outside the box. How to describe the pleasures of Burma for the people…hmmm.. well, it IS guitar rock, it has melodies and punch and strange flair, and again, like that Thermals record, there’s a sense of no wasted breath, no gloss, no glamour, just direct intention-into-thought.
D: It’s like a greatest-hits record from the last 22 years, except not only were these songs not hits, they weren’t even released!

The Icarus Line
Penance Soiree
(V2)
C: I saw these guys last year. Their singer reminded me of Richard Ashcroft in the vintage Verve days, when they were at their most cosmic and loose and desolate and swaggering… 1995… Skinny dude with cheekbones, just GONE, going for it—
D: [hears guitar break in on “Up Against the Wall”] YES!
C: —amidst the maelstrom. This one is called “Spit On It.“ Okay, this is what you call RIGHTEOUS SQUALL. Mixed by Alan Moulder, who did stuff with My Bloody Valentine, so there you go…
D: [laughing] Alan Moulder spat on it! That’s holy spit. The old Moulder grease…
C: [listening to “Spike Island”] See, and just when you think it’s all shaped noise, here comes a song with a solid, almost disco rhythm and a guitar refrain—something to pull you, something to grasp onto.
D: They’re an L.A. band. There’s a little Jane’s Addiction in them, isn’t there? Especially in the vocals!
C: That’s true. But Perry always had something interesting to say, I don’t know about these guys, I can’t understand a single word he’s singing.
D: He’s hiding behind the Wall of Squall.
C: Then again… [listening to the beginning of the 9:07-long “Getting Bright at Night”] Well, here we go.
D: They bring it down to earth so they can go back into space!
C: I just want to tell the people that at 6:15 in this song, this simple thing happens that makes you love rock n roll turned up to overwhelming. I know we were talking about finishing people off earlier, but maybe this is the real Finisher right here.
D: Right now, my ears love me.
C: Searched, destroyed. Now let’s see if they can write a song on an acoustic guitar.

The Secret Machines
Now Here Is Nowhere
(Reprise)
C: Well, they’ve got a good drum sound, that’s certain. But…um… Is he going to do that same tempo for 9 minutes?
D: Sounds like it. I think I’ll be needing to smoke some more of those special cocktails for this one. [Leaves room, returns happier.] Ah, now it’s changing. This is good. They’re originally from Texas, this really takes me there, out to the nudist lakes, drinking some Shiners, laying back in the sun with your girl, nobody around, music coming up over the sand from the box, lookin’ up and just tripping out to the great big… big I don’t know..
D: The big Big.
C: Yep…
C: [repeating lyrics to “Road Leads Where It’s Led” ] “We communicate by semaphore/No language/We’ve got flags of our own.” I like that.
D: They’re so laidback, they’re almost out of the pocket. A big cinematic sound with lots of air between the different sounds…
C: They’ve been watching Zabriskie Point, I‘m guessing.
D: They’ve definitely been visiting the dark side of the moon. Especially on this song [“Pharaoh’s Daughter”].
C: You know it. “Breathe, breathe in the air.” [listening to the concluding/title track] There’s the Neu/Can/Kraftwerk motorik rhythm, done right–this is like Flaming Lips used to sound sometimes, back when they’d let it out a little more when Ronald was in the band… [listening to the song explode around 7:00] Yes!
D: Big but not pompous, psychedelic but not goofy. Yes! I nominate these guys to do a co-headline tour with The Icarus Line.
C: Good stuff from secret machines and special humans. Thank you again, Texas.

The Veils
The Runaway Found
(Rough Trade)
D: Echo & the Bunnymen?
C: Ha! He DOES have a bit of the Ian McCulloch in him. This is a 20-year-old fella from Australia. There’s some real beauts on here, D… [clicks ahead to “The Leavers Dance”]
D: Radiohead. Starsailor.
C: Yeah, I guess… But listen to those strings come in… it’s so gorgeous. I think sometimes people like us get too caught up in “spot the influence.” It’s one thing when you’re hearing straight, passionless, contrived mimicry—plagiarism—but it’s another when folks’ voices are just…similar. What are they supposed to do? Not sing at all cuz that voice is taken already?
D: [thoughtful, agreeing] To paraphrase Gertrude Stein: “A good song is a good song is a good song.”
C: Anyways, I think it’s beautiful stuff. There’s some vintage Britpop rave-ups, there’s ringing guitars. There’s some middling tempo numbers, which are hard to do, when you think about it… And there’s these autumnal, oceanside ballads. [listening to “Vicious Traditions”:] You can see how it could get all histrionic and spittle-flying, but he reins it in just right.
D: [quietly] So young, and so anguished already…

White Magic
Through the Sun Door EP
(Drag City)
D: At last, a female voice!
C: [listening to opening track “One-Note“] This is one of favorite songs of the spring.
D: Charging piano!
C: It’s serious, but not Tori Amos melodrama. “Some-thing is a-bide-ing!” Hmm…
D: “White Magic.”
C: Best name since Comets On Fire. Lotsa witchy stuff going on right now, eh? [Listening to “The Gypsies Came Marching After”] Wow here’s another stormer. This is probably referencing Fairport Convention or Incredible String Band or Pentangle but I just don’t know that stuff well enough… I guess you’d call it folk-rock—it does swing, you can move to it—and they use traditional acoustic and electric instruments and so on.
D: I like her voice. Strong, feminine, with hints of tenderness and loss.
C: This song [“Apocalypse,” the EP’s final track] is a sorta blues groove—it’s like Heart, if they were amazing.
D [musing]: PJ Harvey, with flowers and beads in her hair.

Espers
Espers
(Locust Music)
C: More really lovely, absolutely spellbinding boots-over-pants modern two girls-one boy psychedelic chamber folk-rock for you…
D: [eyes closed, rapt] My, my, my.
C: Reminds me of Damon & Naomi and Ghost. Very, very pretty, and not at all dippy or precious, which is the way these things can so easily go. [listening to “Meadow”] See, cuz they can write actual songs, they’re not just inhabiting a texture or a form…
D: It cannot be possible. What woods are all these people coming from?
C: They come from the Shire, sire. Actually they come from Philadelphia.
D: [listening to “Voices”] There’s no drums, there’s no backbeat, but, [quietly, seriously] I can dig it anyway. Listen to me when I say this: This is music that lifts the veil.

Acid Mothers Temple and the Melting Paraiso U.F.O.
Mantra of Love
(Alien8)
C: Speaking of lifting the veil: here’s the new Acid Mothers Temple studio album, two very long tracks. The first is a traditional vocal, with Miss Cotton Casino singing, that goes…
D: [6:25 in] There it goes now, off into the universe… Happy trails everywhere.
C: For those out there who don’t know, the Acid Mothers are a Japanese psych outfit known to the acid cognoscenti for volume, trance and hair frizz. They’re on a serious far-out trip and they’re gonna do it, sometimes on the turn of the dime, whether or not anyone else is interested. I’ve seen them play a 100-person room like they were playing for the galaxy…
D: This is the best-recorded AMT album I’ve ever heard!
C: You can actually hear the bass beneath all the Hawkwind psych-bleeptronics and Acid Mothers “super guru” Kawabata Makoto’s super-guru-guitar guru-ifying all over the place. A proper mix, finally. [listening] Aaaaand then back down to the central melody. This is humanity at its finest: dignified—cooperative—transcendent.
D: So good! I must nominate the Acid Mothers as this planet’s ambassadors to the Galactic Council!

Merzbow
Last of Analog Sessions 3-CD box set
(Important Records)
D: Ack! What the???? Something’s wrong with the needle!
C: Oh, D. So easily confused. This is Japanese noise artist Merzbow, that’s what the stuff sounds like…at first. Then you get into it. You have to listen closely.
D: I will NEVER get into this!
C: Well, that’s your problem. For the non-philistines out there in Arthurworld, I want to say that his packages three Merzbow albums—Catapillar, Medamaya and Springharp—recorded from ‘97-99 by Masami Akita, in his final analog tantrums before he went digital. As it says on the back of this beautiful silver-on-black package, “Akita plays Self-built junk—”
D: Yeah this is junk alright—
C: “—with contact mics, various filters and ring modulators, various effects pedals, EMS Synthi A synthesizer, EMS VCS3 Synthesizer, Moog Synthesizer, GR-500 Guitar Synthesizer, Tapes, EXD, Drum Machine and Oscillators.” It’s good stuff, although a little of this goes a long way and I couldn’t tell you what my favorite track is. You’ve got to be in a very certain and very open mindset to listen to this stuff, but it’s worth it. Shit is meditational, bro!
D: Listen, I get this when the DVD isn’t connected right to the stereo, and that’s free of charge.

Loren Connors
The Departing of a Dream Vol. III: Juliet
(Family Vineyard)
D: Much better. Lonesome guitars sounding occasional hopeful notes in the desert.
C: It occupies its own unique space. Not quite ominous, but not settled either. Restless, haunting. Just one man doing “guitars, tapes, sounds.”
D: This is what that Daniel Lanois guy wishes he could sound like.
C: It’s only 30 minutes, but I swear it feels like six hours. This will slow you right down, just like yoga or a good bath or chopping vegetables… Wow.
D: [asleep]

Thee Silver Mountain Reveries
Pretty Little Lighting Paw
(Constellation)
C: Four tracks, thirty minutes. “More Action! Less Tears!” is a great title: it’s like Godspeed You! Black Emperor gone early Spiritualized, with a sense of humor. [Listening to “Microphones in the Trees”]: Now we’re getting down to the REAL anguish of the evening. Guitarist-vocalist Efrim is Wayne Coyne realizing all hope IS lost, actually and death is no comfort. But there’s this ease at the end of the song, a moment of brightness. Epiphany? Or maybe it’s just the street lights buzzing on, like in Antonioni’s L’Eclipse…
D: [stirring deep into the 10-minute “Pretty Little Lightning Paw”]: What is this…? A choir from the dark stars…
Continue reading

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

Originally published in Arthur No. 9 (March 2004)

REVIEWS BY C and D

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

The Von Bondies
Pawn Shoppe Heart
(Sire)
D: This is the Detroit garage guy who had his face bashed up by Jack White.
C: Right. Jason Von Bondie is apparently the town asshole, or so I’ve been told. But, do you know that song, “Pablo Picasso”?
D: Of course! Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers! They were the best! [singing:] “He could walk down your street/And girls could not resist his stare/Pablo Picasso was never called an asshole.” But this doesn’t sound like Jonathan Richman…?
C: [sighs] Okay D, I’ll spell it out for you: Pablo Picasso was an asshole. But he also made some great paintings.

Franz Ferdinand
Franz Ferdinand
(Domino)
D: This is what the Strokes and the Rapture should have done on their last records. But they were incapable.
C: Every song is a sure-hit on the dancefloor. Plus the guy can sing. And check out what they do on this track (#3), 55 seconds in…
D: Whoa….
C: The tempo slows down… And listen to that guitar playing! Then here comes that descending disco bassline again.
D: This is ridiculous. Can I use your phone? I’ve got to call my financial advisor. I’ve got to buy stock in this band! They are the new kings!!!
C: I know, eh. It’s like all the those other bands, including those Interpol guys, were all just warm-ups for the Ferds. Amazing stuff. Album of the year so far, easy.

The Walkmen
Bows and Arrows
(Record Collection)
D: Ah, I see what you’re doing…
C: Yes, I am Clever Man.
D: These guys, they’re good, they’re kind of like the Ferdinand and the Strokes and…
C: Dude’s got a bit of the crooner in him. And he’s a more interesting lyricist than Julian Casablancas. Then again, just about everyone is.
D: Watch it.
C: Oh right, sorry, I forgot about your inner 14-year-old girl self.
D: …
C: Um… Okay, sorry, that was uncalled for.
D: You can be so ARROGANT sometimes… [listening] The sounds they get are so cool.
C: Organs, guitars, tacked pianos. But check out this next track, you’re gonna lose it.
D: [listening to “The Rat”] It’s the Strokes with their pants on fire! That guy’s mad!!!!
C: Madder than Jack White. He’s fucking going for it, damn, and you know, when a crooner spits blood, you better look out. Anger always means more when it’s coming from a guy who usually .
D: This shit is banging. “You’ve got a nerve to be asking a favor/You’ve got a nerve to be calling my number/I’m sure, we’ve been through this before/Can’t you hear me, I’m beating on the wall.”
C: I’d pay $15 for this song alone. And you know what? There’s ten more songs on the album!!!
D: And they’re good too. Shit. This is gonna be some year.

Oneida
Secret Wars
(Jagjaguwar)
C: You wouldn’t know this–
D: Again with the arrogance!
C: Well, you wouldn’t–
D: Wouldn’t what?
C: Wouldn’t know what the title is based on.
D: Well…
C: ‘80 Marvel Comics. Which I read. And I bet you didn’t.
D: …
C: So fuck off! [laughter] Big battles between superheroes and the main guy who summoned them to the “secret wars” : The Beyonder.
D: [wistful] Ah, the ‘80s…
C: Or it’s based on something else! Anyways. I dig this.
D: [Listening to “$50 Tea”] It’s frantic. Hypnotic. Like strobe lights for your ears.
C: But it stretches out too, and there’s melodies. It’s a lot like that last Primal Scream record, Evil Heat. Difference is that Oneida won’t let the machines do any work.
D: The Beyonders is the name of my new band.

Weird War
If You Can’t Beat ‘Em, Bite ‘Em
(Drag City)
C: From Secret Wars to Weird War, get it?
D: You are so clever. Almost too clever to bear. I cower before your cleverness.
C: [laughs] As you ought. Now check this shit out…
D: [listening to “Grand Fraud”]: Is it supposed to sound like that? Listen to all that hiss.
C: Yes, it’s nice and raw and funky and kinda fucked up. They used some old mixing board that Sly Stone and later the P-Funk guys used. Um. I guess it’s possible…
D: [2:45 into “Grand Fraud”]:WHOA!!!!!
C: That’s the shit right there. That’s IT.
D: Who is the singer?
C: Ian Svenonius, Arthur astrologer, on vocals. He’s been around forever. Nation of Ulysses, Cupid Car Club, Make Up, Scene Creamers… The Make Up split up just when they were getting good! Now I think he’s got it going on again, especially with this new guitar player, that guy has some tasty chops, as they used to say back in the day. Do you remember, back in the ‘90s, when it was a point of pride to be less than competent?
D: Stupid indie rockers, I never liked that stuff. Weird War is a weird name.
C: You’re right. Like, what do you call the people in the band?… Weird War-ers?.
D: Weird Warriors! [Ears pop up as female voice rapping begins on title track breakdown] Is that Peaches????
C: It’s Jennifer from Royal Trux.
D: Whoa. I think she can quit her dayjob! And Peaches should call her lawyers.
C: Always with the lawyers, this guy.

TV On the Radio
Desperate Youth, Blood Thirsty Babes
(Touch and Go)
C: Another band with a difficult name.
D: “TV on the Radio”? What does that mean? What are they thinking? This is crazy talk.
C: Just listen to the music. You can’t judge a band by its name! The Beatles is the stupidest name ever, right?
D: Yes, okay. [listening] What do you call this kind of music?
C: I have no idea, but I like listening to it.
D: It’s dance music, but it’s got all this…
C: All these weird elements, used in weird ways. Horns. Backing vocals. Dance grooves.
D: He’s got a voice like Peter Gabriel. There’s something kind of scary about this stuff.
C: It seems like they’re holding it together in the face of something. [Quoting song lyrics:] “You were my favorite moment/of a dead century.”
D: This is really good. It’s genuinely new—I can’t say that I’ve heard something like this before. And I want to hear it again.

The Paper Chase
What Big Teeth You Have EP
(Southern)
C: Speaking of scary.
D: Super-tension crisis music!
C: Drills. Angst. Space. Rolling bass. Piano stabs. Guitars at angles.
D: It’s like a soundtrack to a murder.
C: Reminds me of Jesus Lizard. Drive Like Jehu… But there’s an almost… symphonic, I guess…component to it. They’re from Texas, they thing big.
D: Violins too. Genuine horror movie stuff! But not in a cheesy way. No organ grinder.
C: You should see the video that‘s on here: it’s like low-budge Lynch meets Cunningham. Okay, onto the next track, which is a Brel cover…
D: Of course. “My Death.” Scott Walker did this!
C: The drums are so big on this record. I think it’s a Texas thing. Those guys love the big Bonham drum thing down there. Lift to Experience, Secret Machines, these guys… Maybe it’s from all those years of Flaming Lips coming down to Austin from Oklahoma, that dude is an epic drummer. So is this guy.
D: The guitar is now being strangulated. It’s almost too much. Psychodramatic, just at the edge of being too much.
C: Yes. This last song is a Roger Waters cover from The Pros and Cons of Hitch Hiking. It’s massive.
D: Whoo-ee. We need to keep an ear on these guys!
C: Their next album is gonna be on Kill Rock Stars… A label with a violent name for a band with a violent streak as wide as a Texas mile.
D: They are the new Texas chainsaw murderers, only they use guitars. Murdered by music.

Casual Dots
Casual Dots
(Kill Rock Stars)
C: Speaking of Kill Rock Stars, here’s a record on the label by a new band.
D: More angularity.
C: Angularity is the new strumming.
D: A female voice, finally! Why do we always listen to men records?
C: That is a very good question to which I don’t have a very good answer. Anyway, in case you were wondering, this sounds to me like Stereolab meeting Deerhoof with, oh, Poison Ivy from the Cramps on guitar. It’s indie rock vets from bands like Autoclave and Bikini Kill, but they can play their instruments.
D: Progress has been made. Miracles, they never cease.
C: This song, “I’ll Dry My Tears” is a cover, right?
D: It must be. Very nice, so different from the rest. We can ask the Internet about it.
C: Poison Ivy is so underrated… This whole record sounds like a tribute to her guitar playing.
D: Cool stuff on record, now I wanna see ‘em live. Women rock!
C: …

Hella
The Devil Isn’t Red
(5 Rue Christine)
C: Instrumental mathcore by men.
D: Excuse me while I yawn.
C: I’m sure it’s all very difficult and very intense, but why should people listen to this when they could listen to, oh, King Crimson or Magma?
D: This is so difficult. Oh so very difficult. The nerds of rock, shredding away. Maybe it is fun for them.
C: The drumming on this bugs the shit out of me, it’s busy beyond belief. For what? I don’t get it.
D: Off it goes. Bye bye!

Deerhoof
Milkman
(Kill Rock Stars)
C: Speaking of Deerhoof, here’s their new one on…Kill Rock Stars.
D: Which rock stars do they want to kill exactly, that’s what I always wondered.
C: Of all the people to advocate killing, why rock stars? Why not…um…first-world capitalist greedheads? If you’re going to go down that route, I mean… Not that I’m advocating anything.
D: We are peace people.
C: But rock stars? John Lennon was killed. Are these John Hinkley sympathizers, then? That’s pretty fucking stupid.
D: Disgusting!
C: Hey anyway, guess what? This sounds like the other Deerhoof records! Cute dreamy vocals in the same key by Japan-born singer Satomi Matsuzaki, I don’t know what she’s saying but it good, and lotsa riffs glued on, stomping and stopping and starting.
D: They’re supposed to be amazing live.
C: Yeah, I can see that. But they still don’t quite do it for me on record.
D: Well, that’s your problem. I am digging it. Next!

OOIOO
Kila Kila Kila
(Thrill Jockey)
C: Continuing on from our “kill” theme, and also on the Japanese theme, here’s the new record by the band that Yoshimi from the Boredoms leads…
D: This is boring twiddling thumbs music. Where are the drums? I need some drums.
C: You may get your drums. Just sit still and listen for a second, will ya? Patience is a virtue.
D: Hey what about that Guitar Wolf DVD? He’s Japanese.
C: Oh yeah. Lemme see if I can make it work. [tries to make it work] Nope.
D: This is getting better, but it’s taking too long. I am a busy man.
C: Okay, okay. I just want the Arthur readers to know that this is an interesting, minimalist art-trance-experimental record that rewards multiple listens by the genuinely curious. I mean, shit D, this song is 10 minutes and 40 seconds, you gotta let it develop. It’s like the opposite of Deerhoof. Deerhoof is for people who need it NOW and OOIOO is for people who can wait.
D: I am definitely a cannot-waiter. I apologize to Yoshimi, but that is how I am!

Ghost
Hypnotic Underworld
(Drag City)
C: I have prepared a statement regarding this album, that I wrote while in what we shall call ‘alternative consciousness,’ which I will now read. [clears throat] “Pure, total towering all-encompassing humble acoustic-electric-Mellotronic psychedelic-pastoral-rock-art-prog-outre accomplishment, the summation of a career, a flowing highlight reel that takes every angle that Batoh’s Ghost band (who come from Japan) have ever explored during the last decade and a half and multiplied the richest parts by a factor of 48. (It’s like The Love Below, in a way, right?) The band is sympathetic, tremendous, stunning: the electric guitarist Michio Kurihara deserves particular recognition for his restraint, his launches, his trails. Lower the lights, turn on the fog machine, put a candle in the wine bottle, turn the stereo up loud and gaze lovingly at the gatefold. I want to tell you something: my friends, whoever you are and whatever language you speak, This album is why Music exists.”
D: Yeah, it’s pretty good.
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Reviews by C and D (Arthur No. 8/Jan. 2004)

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

REVIEWS BY C and D

Unicorns
Who Will Cut Our Hair When We’re Gone?
(Alien8)
C: Who?
D: Who what?
C: Who, Sir D, will cut the Unicorns’ hair when they’re gone?
D: Ah, yes.
C: You don’t really care, do you?
D: Can’t say that I do, no, not really. These guys are wacky.
C: Sub-Ween wacky pop.
D: Helium-sucking stoners.
C: Queasy synthesizers.
D: A Rephlex artist gone Dr. Demento.
C: [puzzled]
D: This is like hearing someone you’re not interested in taking drugs. Boring drugs.
C: Maybe too much Flaming Lips for them…? There’s some talent here… “Child Star” sounds like a Radiohead parody…. You know, it’s not easy providing comic relief.
D: This whatever-it-is is not one of my cups of tea.
C: And you have a lot of china.
D: Indeed I do.

Eugene McDaniels
Outlaw
(Water/Runt)
D: [reading] “Eugene McDaniels – the soul anarchist.” Then it says here, “Under conditions of national emergency , like now, there are only two kinds of people — those who work for freedom and those who do not… the good guys vs. the bad guys. — mc d.”
C: [singing along to opening track “Outlaw”:]“She’s an outlaw, she don’t wear a bra.” Um, yeah…I don’t know if it’s me, but this doesn’t seem to have aged well.
D: This came out in the early ‘70s.
C: The guy has cred, supposedly he gets sampled a lot. And you can hear why… there’s a nice feel to these songs. Ron Carter on bass, from Miles’ group…
D: But the lyrics are terrible! And his singing is totally affected. “La la la smoke a joint” blah blah.
C: Yeah I don’t get what the big deal is either. None of these songs stand out…in a good way, at least. [laughter]
D: The cover looks amazing, though.
C: Talk about badass, there it is in front of ya.

The Starvations
Get Well Soon
(GSL)
C: We haven’t got off to a real positive start here…
D: Who chose these CDs, anyway???
C: The editor.
D: Hmm… Hey, I like this one. Very Gun Club! Do you remember “cowpunk”?
C: Yeah. [shudders] Actually I think this is better than, say, the Bo Deans or something.
D: The Bo Deans! Now there is a name from the distant past.
C: These guys are from L.A… Kinda makes sense. Countryish rock, some punk aggression… slide guitars…walking bass…throaty singer…
D: Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds.
C: Yeah, that’s true. There’s some Birthday Party in there too. [looking at the lyric sheet] I can’t really understand what he’s saying…
D: He should practice his enunciation.
C: He sings in a tough key a lot of the time but he hits it. [reading from the lyric sheet] Yep…lyrics about graveyards, ghosts, voodoo, burgundy wine, rebel angels…and a guy called Rat Boy. Folks, we have ourselves a bona fide Romantic.
D: A bohemian.
C: But anyways, you can totally hear the L.A. heritage: not just the Gun Club but also the Blasters and the Geraldine Fibbers…
D: Nice to hear an accordion too. This is good!

22-20s
05-03
(Astralwerks)
D: Whoa! Who is this?!?
C: They’re like 20 years old, from England. It’s like the Starvations, yeah?
D: But more banging. Blues-rock with punk balls!
C: Yeah the hooks are bigger, the playing is better. Hard to believe they’re not Americans. They’ve got the Gun Club in there too…
D: That solo is like that stuff the white guy who plays with R. L.Burnside does!
C: Kenny Brown. Yeah you’re right, I hadn’t noticed that. He totally does slide solos like Kenny.
D: You can dance to this stuff.
C: Yeah that’s the R.L. influence maybe, I dunno. This track [“Messed Up”] is a march but it’s also real soulful… That’s hard to pull off. The dude’s voice reminds me of a non-fucked up Shaun Ryder, a little.
D: “King Bee,” that’s an old one.
C: Big Chicago blues stomper. This is something. Pretty good for a debut EP–there’s not a weak track. I see why there’s such a fuss about these guys. Too bad we missed em when they opened for Jet and Kings of Leon last month. Oh well.

Sun Kil Moon
Ghosts of the Great Highway
(Jetset)
D: What’s going on here? Are we reviewing for Some Depression now?
C: No Depression, you mean.
D: Whatever… all of this so far is roots-ish.
C: [looking through CD pile] Yeah, and there’s more on the way. Must be the season or something.
D: So, who is this?
C: Mark Kozalek’s new band. He used to do a band called Red House Painters. Pretty popular with the NPR crowd.
D: Never heard of ‘em.
C: Yeah, well… What a voice, eh?
D: It is a pretty voice… This kind of music reminds me of seaside towns. Long sad afternoons in the winter.
C: Yeah, it’s sad but it’s beautiful, it’s not depressing. Long, droney folk songs… ooo, lookit that, here come the drums 3:45 in to the first song. Always a nice touch.
D: I would say there’s a bit of Neil Young to him.
C: Yeah, fer shure. This song “Salvador Sanchez”…fantastic electric guitar. Listen to that simple riff and then the endless solo… People should turn in their copy of Greenville and get this instead.
D: Greendale.
C: Whatever. When he puts the strings behind his falsetto, whoa. This is almost too intense to listen to in sequence. You know what? This is what Jay Farrar from Son Volt wishes he could do…
D: It is bittersweet music.
C: Stunning, really. On first listen, I gotta say I’m stunned. That doesn’t happen too often.

Jolie Holland
Catalpa
(Anti/Epitaph)
C: She sounds a little like Karen Dalton.
D: Is this new?
C: Yeah. She was in this group the Be Good Tanyas for a little while, I guess. It’s good, huh. Acoustic guitar, ukulele, and what a voice.
D: Sleighbells!
C: Yeah. Country-blues-folk… Very pretty, kinda spooky. She’s got that white-girl Billie Holiday thing going for her, just like Karen Dalton did. [listening] Did you hear that? She sang “3 a.m.” like “three-eye-am.”
D: She must be American…
C: She is.
D: There’s a song on here credited to “Holland/Parton/Syd Barrett”…?
C: Ha! How appropriate for this ish of Arthur… [reading the sleeve] “The Littlest Birds.” I hafta admit, I don’t know exactly what she’s doing here…I guess this is a medley?
D: It must be. [repeating a lyric:] “The littlest birds sing the prettiest songs…” That’s true, you know.

Mark Lanegan Band
Here Comes That Weird Chill (Methamphetamine Blues, Extras and Oddities) EP
(Beggars Banquet)
C: Here’s another distinctive voice. Brought to you by Marlboro…
D: Mark Lanegan! He’s in Queens of the Stone Age. That guy who comes out in the middle of the show and hangs on to the microphone for dear life!
C: Right, right. Used to be in Screaming Trees, did a bunch of solo records on Sub Pop, blah blah. Amazing artist that not enough people check on, for some reason.
D: This is pretty rough stuff.
C: Yeah it’s kinda grimy. Machine rock, at least this first track.
D: Nightmarish drone…
C: I gotta say I prefer to hear his voice unfiltered… [checking credits] Oh right, okay so this is the session they did with Chris Goss, Dean Ween and Josh and Nick from the Queens and so on. With that lineup you could probably call it Desert Session 8.5 or something. Only in happened in the Valley, not the desert.
D: [listening to “On the Steps of the Cathedral’]: What is this…?
C: Pretty, eh? Like a rondolet… And the next song is a Beefheart cover, “Clear Spot.” It sounds like they’re using a drum machine, really tinny and flat. This stuff has a Tricky feel to it. Very disorienting.
D: Reminds me of that song at the beginning of The Sopranos… [singing] “Born under a bad sign…”
C: Yeah, I can hear that. Listen to that solo…it’s all high up, like one of those solos Jack White does on Elephant. Only this was recorded before that came out… This track “Message to Mine” sounds like a demo for a really good Screaming Queens song… can you hear that organ? Nice. And a little bit of the bubblegum pop on the chorus, which is appropriate since Lanegan’s album coming out next year is called Bubblegum…
D: I like it…
C: Spoken-word here… tacked piano… “Skeletal History,” wow listen to that… he’s crooning with a swagger.
D: The bass is covered in fuzz!
C: Yeah. Good stuff. Sounds like Laney gone beatnik… [repeating words] “Girls stare in dead-eyed wonder”… Yikes.
D: And this last one is a dub?
C: Yeah. It’s like a country dub, right? 6am comedown music… This is a strong EP.
D: 8 songs, 26 minutes.
C: Thanks for the stats, D.

Califone
Heron King Blues
(Thrill Jockey)
C: Uncategorizable …dark country…banjo…electronics… a lot of the ol’ kling-klang.
D: I like his voice but I can’t hear what he’s saying.
C: Yeah it’s always like that with these guys, you just catch weird phrases here and there… I like this, this might be my favorite Califone yet…
D: There’s a bit of a Tom Waits Bone Machine feel here. The Lanegan record had that, too!
C: Mmm, you‘re right. Kind of rustic, kind of futuristic. Vintage futurist. It reminds me some of that Medicine album that came out this year too… Apparently this is something of a concept record.
D: What is that on the cover?
C: That would be the heron king, I guess. Kinda got that witchy Lord of the Rings-Mercury Rev-Guy Maddin-Svankmajer vibe, doesn’t it? And then, check this out… I was gonna say Califone is like Radiohead and Wilco stripped of the pretension and pop sense, but then there’s this track… [skips ahead to “2 Sisters Drunk On Each Other”] It’s actually funky. They’re bringing in that Sly Stone stuff.
D: There’s a Riot Goin’ On…
C: Exactly. This is a proper jam band. Sounds like some of this stuff was improvised, but it really works. I’ve seen ‘em do it live. Totally underrated.
D: They played at All Tomorrow’s Parties at UCLA! We saw them–
C: That’s right…
D: Incredible.

Book of Lies: The Disinformation Guide to Magick and the Occult
edited by Richard Metzger
(Disinfo)
D: So we’re reviewing books now, too?
C: Yeah, and DVDs, if we have time.
D: Which ones?
C: We’ve go the Guitar Wolf DVD here from Narnack, if we have time.
D: Nice.
C: So, this certainly keeps us on the witchy path, don’t it?
D: Yes. [looking at the list of contributors on the cover] But for a book about witches and magick…why are there no women here?
C: [taking the book away] Give me that. Lemme look. Hey, you’re right…. [reading further] Oh geez. From the editor’s introduction: “For some reason, I have always considered myself to be a warlock. Even when I was very young, I don’t know why, really but it is true … [W]hen I was a little kid I really loved Bewitched.” I mean, is this guy serious? “It works on a lot of levels, metaphorically speaking, for me to consider myself a magical businessman, if you see what I am saying.”
D: Oh god.
C: Yeah. Richard Metzger, he’s that guy who’s on all the Disinfo book covers, smirking. [still reading] Then he ends it with some talk about an emerging mutant race and asks “Which side are you on?” I mean, come on, these are Grant Morrison ideas here…
D: …who is in the book.
C: Yeah, well… Gotta admit there is a lot of good stuff here, although I have no idea how useful it is… Lots of excerpts from books by Robert Anton Wilson, Daniel Pinchbeck, Gary Lachman, Terence McKenna, Julius Evola and so on… Tons of stuff about Gysin and Burroughs and Crowley and Genesis P-Orridge and so on. The usual subjects, in other words.
D: This could be a good introduction, then.
C: Yeah, I suppose, if you want to be introduced to this stuff via a book that‘s title ‘Book of Lies‘ and published by someone called ‘Disinformation.’ I mean, those aren‘t exactly names that inspire confidence on the reader’s part in the authors’ accuracy, you know? Hey, wait! I just found a woman author: Tracy Twyman is in here writing about “Hitler and the Occult.”
D: Oh.
C: Yep. Remember she’s the one who’s in with Boyd Rice on all that Cocteau-conspiracy crap. Losers. Anyways there are some women as subjects in here—Cameron, Ida Craddock and Rosaleen Norton—so it’s not completely Magic Boys’ Club. But it’s close.
D: How many women musicians have we reviewed so far today?
C: Ulp.
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