C & D: Two guys reason together about some new records (Arthur No. 24/Oct. 2006)

Originally published in Arthur No. 24 (October 2006)

C & D: Two guys reason together about some new records

AKRON/FAMILY
Meek Warrior
(Young God)
C: [Looking at publicity photo of band] I’m surprised these guys haven’t featured in Arthur magazine yet. They appear to meet many if not all of this magazine’s apparent requirements for coverage.
D: What, they have beards?
C: Yes. I think the magazine is pretty clearly a beards-only policy. It’s pretty clearly where the underground beard was re-born. Or should I say, re-grown. Remember Alan Moore on the cover of Arthur No. 4?
D: That was a beard to be reckoned with. No razors and shaving cream in the Moore household!
C: Total ‘Lord of the Beards.’ On the other hand, Alan’s finger armor stylings haven’t caught on yet.
D: I will keep an eye out for the beard as we check out these records today. I assume there will be ladies, too?
C: Yes, of course.
D: Who presumably are not of the bearded variety.
C: One never knows, does one? [arches eyebrow meaningfully] Anyways, Akron/Family not only have some beardage, they have four-part harmonies, great cascading drumflows, sprawling late Trane skronk, and that’s all on the first track! I saw these guys once in L.A., they were like a devotional Animal Collective…
D: [smiling upon hearing the refrain “Gone, gone, gone/gone completely beyond.”] Ah yes. Beyond. One of my favorite places.
C: [ignoring, continuing] … in Oshkosh overalls, without the echo delays. Like Lubavitchers gone Sun Ra or Ya Ho Wha—
D: Say wha?
C: [snobbishly] Those who know, know. [continuing] They were awesome, in complete uni-mind synch. The audience made backward-and-forward ocean ripples and sounds at their command: ‘Shhh, shhh.’ It was beautiful.

BEACH HOUSE
Beach House
(Carpark)
C: Lovely—possibly perfect?—debut album from this girl-and-boy lovebird combo who sound like they’re living down by the sea on some magic moonlit beach that stretches from France to Baja to Bali.
D: [looks at biographical notes and photo] Actually they live in Baltimore. And there is no beard.
C: Waiter, get this man a beard, se vous plais.
D: [ignoring] But Victoria Legrand—
C: Is that a real name???
D: —is definitely a lady. A lady who knows how to wear an aqua dress.
C: [looking at the photo] And a big gold amulet as well.
D: I would say this is late summer music, recorded at the beach house after everybody else has gone back to the city.
C: It’s kind of minimal naturalismo—organ, drum machine, gorgeous female voice: Stereolab, minus le krautrock propulsion. Midway between Brightblack slow-to-stillness, Beach Boys “Pet Sounds” melancholism and Air and another Carpark artist, Casino vs. Japan. Also, what the heck, I’ll throw in that first Bjorn Olson record on Omplatten [Instrumentalmusik: Instrumental Music…to Submerge in…and Disappear Through, 1999]. Nordic beaches. As you can see, D, it’s a very particular, yet universal, mood. I see soundtracks in their near-future. [picks up phone] “Hello, Beach House? This is Sofia…”
D: Her voice reminds me a bit of Sigur Ros. Hey, whatever happened to those guys? It’s like they evaporated.
C: She can really SING, when it’s called for, which is in creamy middle of the album on the song “Auburn and Ivory.”
D: Is Auburn the new Ebony?
C: All the songs have some sophisto pop songwriting going on: bridges, key changes, et cetera. And the sounds… when the organ comes in on “House on the Hill,” it’s like Captain Nemo down in the Nautilus playing pipe organ for the octopi. Whew! Can you imagine these guys with a big budget…?
D: Ahoy! Captain Nemo: ANOTHER famous bearded musician.

MICK BARR & ZACH HILL
Earthship
(5RC)
C: New summit album by underground instrumental speed kings: guitarist Mick Barr of Ocrilim, and drummer Zach Hill of Hella. It’ll tighten yer wig!
D: Well, I won’t need coffee for the next five months.
C: They’re going in for the kill like two old ladies speed-crocheting. Mind the wheedlework.
D: They are the speed criminals who no doubt are under surveillance by the authorities of rock. There’s a NEW MOTHER IN THE TEMPLE if you know what I mean!
C: It does have that High Rise/Mainliner/Musica Transonic thing going a bit. Ah, Japan. Some people may also be put in mind of the Peter Brotzman Octet classic assault album, Machine Gun.
D: That’s a ripping title, “Earthship.” [considers] If you lived there, you’d be home by now.
C: Sometimes they’re against each other, sometimes they unify.
D: I must ask: is there a beard?
C: [looks at publicity photo] Have beard, will rock.These guys are the opposite of Sunn o))): they do as many notes and beats as possible per hour. It’s anti-void music, filling everything with sound.
D: Without the benefit of riffage.
C: There ARE riffs—you just need to adjust your attention to catch them. It’s condensed free rock. Like the instruments are too hot to handle. Except for this one song I keep coming back to… [plays “Closed Coffins and Curtains.”]
D: Whoa! What…is…THAT???
C: It’s like some super-processed symphonic tri-guitar. Like what that weird Godley & Creme instrument was supposed to sound like, remember that? The Gizmo. They made a whole triple-album with it, and Peter Cook too. Bonkers stuff.
D: [playing the 30-second track again] I am totally spooked. [musing] Perhaps if Mr. Ocrilim slowed down and contemplated like this occasionally, he’d get to somewhere really rewarding.
C: Rewarding to you.
D: [laughs] Of course, me! Who else matters?

THE HORRORS
The Horrors ep
(Stolen Transmission)
D: [Reading song titles] They have a song called “Sheena Was a Parasite”? I worship them already.
C: Frantic organ and guitar-driven psychobilly freakbeat rock’n’roll by five sharply dressed’n’coiffed Dickensian Brits from the belfry.
D: They look like they live in chimneys and spend all day drinking red wine and listening to The Cramps, Tav Falco & Panther Burns…probably the Hives too, and the Birthday Party and Screaming Jay Hawkins (who they cover here) and Screaming Lord Sutch and of course the right honorable Arthur Brown. I think they like bourbon and some pretty nasty stuff.
C: [listening to “Excellent Choice”] They’ve got a good look and a good sound and they seem up for a good party. They’ll come to your town and help you burn it down. And then dance in the ashes.

PRIMAL SCREAM
Riot City Blues
(Capitol)
C: They’re been around approximately forever. And this is their once-a-decade “rock n roll is dumb fun” concept record, apparently.
[C & D cringe for 15 minutes]
C: Talk about the horrors.
D: Where’s the pooper scooper?
C: Rock n roll should be fun, it can be stoopid, but it should never, ever be tedious. One hates to witness someone failing at slumming. It’s embarrassing to all involved. Does [Primal Scream singer] Bobby Gillespie seriously think this band can boogie? Ha ha ha. Poor Mani…
D: [thoughtful] Every once in a while an object is mysteriously withdrawn from stores by its manufacturer shortly after its introduction. That kind of decisive action may be appropriate here.

THEUSAISAMONSTER
Sunset at the End of the Industrial Age
(Load)
C: You will recall that both members of THEUSAISAMONSTER are members of Black Elf Speaks, which is one of the great band names ever.
D: What did Black Elf have to say?
C: I don’t know, it was this kind of gibberish? But it seemed important. [sadly, as if narration] ‘And Black Elf spoke, but no one could understand what he said.’
D: [helpfully] Maybe he had something in his mouth.
C: ….
D: Or, he might have a speech impediment.
C: …
D: [looking at album cover] Naturally I am wondering, what kind of monster?
C: Probably some kind of troll. On PCP.
D: That’s pretty negative. … Um…. Idiocracy got you down again?
C: Yeah… Between seeing that and re-reading Chris Hedges’s War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning last week, I guess I’m feeling more bleh about human life than ever. The idiots don’t know when to stop. And there’s more and more of them. They want war and fast food and spectacle. They’re bad at learning. We’re outnumbered, and it’s only getting worse because the herd never gets culled, since we lack exterior predators.
D: [considers] No more trolls.
C: What are we gonna do? I don’t see a way out. Ah, hell. Maybe that’s why the industrial age is going to end, as it says here on the album cover. [reading from the press sheet] “Of course The USA Is A Monster wants to turn the tide and prepare us for the time after the lights go dim on Western Civilization’s exhaust pipe party.” Sounds good to me! Let’s engage. [starts “The Greatest Mystery”]
D: YEARGH!!! THUNDERAMA!
C: Whoa. [45 minutes later…]Whoa.
D: A shining path indeed! Was that all one song?
C: Unbelievable, just ridiculous. The Who, Bruford-era Kid Crimson, Oneida, minutemen, Lightning Bolt, Liars, Rush. Homeopathic progrock with a lot of heavy spiritual-political truths and theories (“We are only holograms”) and jokes and accusations (“You’re a liar! And a CROOK!”) and digs (“My favorite subject is…me!”). That last song, the three-section “The Spirit of Revenge”…
D: What a giant marching groover that one is! These guys must be super-fit. I’m guessing it’s a lentil and walnut-heavy diet.

WOLF EYES
Human Animal
(Sub Pop)
D: [listening to “A Million Years”] This makes me insanely happy but I can’t put my finger on why exactly. Continue reading

C and D: Two fellas reason together about some new records (Arthur No. 22/May 2006)

Originally published in Arthur No. 22 (May 2006)

C and D: Two fellas reason together about some new records

D: We have some severe time and space restrictions today because there’s 25 records to examine and I only brought four beers.
C: [disbelieving] I told you all week.
D: Yes, well. We’ll have to be efficient and precise, like the German defense.
C: Always with the soccer metaphors when he’s supposed to bring the beer.
D: [looks at stack of CDs] Hmm, I like this pitch. [smiles broadly, uncaps a Foster’s] Come on man! It’s time for kickoff.

MARVIN GAYE
The Real Thing: In Performance, 1964-1981 DVD
(Hip-O/Motown/etc)
D: Marvin Gaye, the sweetpeacelovevibetenormaster of all time.
C: Sometimes things really are essential, and this nine-dollar DVD is one of those times. Or things. Anyways, the reason I’ve been watching this all week long is pretty obvious. There’s nobody like Marvin, no one even close; it’s a blessing just to watch him lip synch.
D: [grabs DVD case] Give me that. Especially when it’s Marvin duetting with Tammi Terrell at something called “Swinging Sounds of Expo 67,” singing “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” in a futuristic phone booth under a plastic dome with a people mover going by in the background.
C: Look at those Dentyne smiles. It’s like a commerical for some future utopia where they are the fertility king and queen.
D: [thoughtfully] A world where you’re not afraid to have a baby
C: Hey, you’ll like this: the a capella option lets you hear Marvin singing in the shower.
D: No it doesn’t.
C: Okay it’s actually just isolated studio tracks. Beautiful. He really can make you swoon with just a voice and a snapped finger. That’s all he needed.
D: Very efficient.
C: “War is not the answer/for only love can conquer hate… we’ve go to find a way/to get some understanding here today”—man, if you sing that today, you’re called a master of the obvious, and yet maybe it’s only a lovesinger who can bring the super-commentary that lasts. He reminds us there’s better things to do with our time.
D: [musing] Lovers and poets make the best peace advocates.
C: This is footage from the film Save the Children—
D: —which should be released on DVD immediately—
C: —which includes live renditions of “What’s Going On/What’s Happening Brother” from a 1972 concert where they did the whole album, and you get Marvin at the piano and the legendary James Jamerson on bass guitar.
D: [sipping beer] Unbelievable. Total butterland.
C: Total ethnographic film of Black America in the early ‘70s: broken windowed skylines and gang grafitti, soul food joints and black pride bookstores, men in dashikis, women in flares and kids in corduroys with spaghetti on their faces, street basketball and barbecue, balloons and checker pants and sweaters.
D: Excellent fashion!
C: He sings like his voice is a horn—and his voice actually has the grain of one. So amazing. Plus there’s multiple appearances on the Dinah Shore show—[notices puzzled D]—that was an afternoon TV show for bored housewives back in the ‘70s.
D: That was the time before they started making all the women work all the time too, in addition to the men. What happened?
C: [ignoring] He talks about What’s Goin On: “I don’t recall much about making it. I feel it was very personal, very divine. I don’t hardly remember writing the songs, it was like I was in some sort of other dimension when we did it, so I know it was a very spiritual.” We could spend weeks talking about everything on here: the polyester jumpsuit future-Chic-soul-P-funk—
D: Somewhere The Juan Maclean is crying.
C: —about getting down on the moon with floor fog that is the promotional video for “A Funky Space Reincarnation”— “COME ON BABY, let’s go peace loving and check out this new smoke/Naw this thing I got, it ain’t classified as dope/Smoke I got from Venus/Have had it all week, it’s getting old/come on and try this new thing with me baby….”
D: This song is my new national anthem.
C: And your new wardrobe, if the world is lucky.

GNARLS BARKLEY
St. Elsewhere
(Downtown)
C: This is a collab concept duo album by two geniuses-in-progress: Dangermouse, the guy who did the Beatles/Jay-Z album-length bootleg mashup, and Cee-Lo, the short guy from Goodie Mob with the voice and the lyrics and the concepts. Goodie Mob, those guys were part of that Georgia crew in the ‘90s, all of them interesting—Goodie and the Dungeon Family and Organized Noize and Outkast and Witchdoctor and Cool Breeze—
D: Who had a dream, he was in a place called Butter.
C: Here’s something bonehad obvious: this song “Crazy” is the song of the year—very apropos for these times, in so many ways that [looking at D opening his second Foster’s] we have no time to count. Three seconds and you’re hooked, three minutes and you’re done and ready to begin again. [looking at promotional photo] These guys are total half-bus refugees.
D: The revenge of the nerds is neverending. [listening to the song’s music] Somewhere, The Juan Maclean are crying another tear, alongside N.E.R.D. [repeating lyrics] “I remember when, I remember, I remember when I lost my mind/There was something so pleasant about that place/Even your emotions had an echo, and so much space/And when you’re out there ,without care, yeah I was out of touch/but it wasn’t because I didn’t know enough/I just knew too much/Does that make me crazy?” Whew. I’ve been to that place—I think I lost my mind there too once.
C: [laughs] Once?
D: [glares] SILENCE in the lower ranks!

RUFUS HARLEY
Sustain
(Discograph)
C: Philadelphian bagpipe-playing long-ago jazz dude with new studio record. Coltrane indebted. Whoa that’s a nice double-deep in the pocket beat underneath the drone on the second track. It’s weird how the bagpipe drone works, immediately.
D: It’s dronetime once again.
C: Sometimes I’m not sure he’s playing the same song as his band—
D: [singing that Gnarls Barkley song] Mayyyybe he’s crazy?
C: —which, according to these liner notes, includes his son Messiah, one of 17 kids?!? Is that right?
D: Could it be a misprint?
C: What, he had 1.7 kids? That’d be hard to do, then again it might not be hard for a guy that plays bagpipes in 7/4.

THE BLACK KEYS
Chulahoma
(Fat Possum)
D: I am very happy sitting in front of this speaker.
C: This is the Black Keys doing six Junior Kimbrough songs.
D: One thing’s for sure: Junior had a lot of riffs.
C: One other thing’s for sure: Junior had a lot of kids. 36, to be exact.
D: [The Black Keys’ singer-guitarist] Dan Auerbach is not one of them.
C: Not that we know of. But yeah, it is uncanny how his guitar tone, style and voice can all echo Junior’s so much—on “Have Mercy On Me” at first I thought it was Junior. Who knows why what pops up where. As they say in Africa, the wind blows the seeds. Nice to hear the Keys branching out on the track, by the way, with the organ and tabla—it’s a good sound for them. And that knotty riff.
D: Wasn’t Robert Plant gonna join these guys on bass?
C: He didn’t make the cut. Re: Zeppelin, it should be said: the guitar does have that tone and bottomlinenastiness that Jimmy Page could get sometimes. So good. Great, varied drums from P. Carney, his best work yet. And here comes another long snaking moan riff.
D: Junior’s music wasn’t done evolving, even if he’s gone.

THE RACONTEURS
Broken Boy Soldiers
(V2)
D: Yes meets the Eagles?
C: That’s a bit harsh. I know you’re a stict Megitarian, but come on: you’ve always liked both Jack White and Brendan Benson. There’s some good cuts on here, especially the Deep Purplish stutter funk on this one [“Store Bought Bones”].
D: [sagely] Sometimes when you split the difference, the difference gets split.
C: …

EAGLES OF DEATH METAL
Death by Sexy
(Downtown)
C: Another supergroup, featuring Jesse Hughes and his boomerang of love, plus Josh Homme.
D: Unlike the Raconteurs, this group knows what it’s doing.
C: And what it is doing is very simple: retarded Rolling Stones riffs that you can go-go to.
D: This music encourages sexual tendencies and is proud of it.

THE CUTS
The Cuts
(Birdman)
C: Quality high-fiber retro guitar-and-organ pop and ballads from Bay Area sweethearts.
D: That the Raconteurs would, uh… raconteur for.
C: Dude, you gotta stop ranking on the Raconteurs. You need another beer. [hands fresh Fosters to D with ridiculously gay(e) smile] As Marvin would say, ‘Here, my dear.’

FUTURE PIGEON
Future Pigeon
(RecordCollection)
C: Very nicely done modern retro-dub from the Arthur office favorites, with guestwork from Ranking Joe, Mikey Dread, Ras Congo, the Scientist. You can’t argue with a band that uses a six-foot-long papier mache electric doobie—with smoke machine and lights—as its onstage prop.

THE AGGROLITES
The Aggrolites
(Hellcat/Epitaph)
C: Very nicely done retro rocksteady, with just the right amount of grit and spit, from members of bands I don’t usually care about.
D: A pleasant shockah.

THE FIERY FURNACES
Bitter Tea
(Fat Possum)
C: Our favorite geniuses. Some may say this is the record they’ll be remembered by, but I say this is just them scraping the gravy off the ground. The endless Disneyland Electrical Parade keyboard squigglery and backmasked vocals and whatnot sure sounds to me this is a band trying to stay ahead in the weirdness sweepstakes.
D: [smugly] It’s not nearly as weird as Gnarls Barkley, and not nearly as good. And I bet you they know it.
C: Don’t they know competition is so 20th century? The key is to listen to the album in reverse order, last track first. That way you’ll listen to all of it, and you’ll be sure to hear the best song, “Whistle Rhapsody?”, which is also one of the saddest songs I’ve ever heard.

ESPERS
II
(Drag City)
C: Okay, this is sadder.
D: I like these Espers. I sense naked hippies dancing around the maypole. After dark. Drinking the stuff from the milk of the frogs… [closes eyes]
C: It does have a certain Sandy Denny/Pentangle quality. I bet they get tagged with the New Wave of Ren Faire thing, but I bet they wouldn’t be caught dead at that party—they’re gloomy gusses and sad-lifed maidens who’d rather be in the woods than the castle, anyway. I’m speaking metaphorically of course.
D: [continuing, rhapsodic] Or they they may be playing in that town called ‘Machine’ in Jarmusch’s Dead Man. Which featues Robert Mitchum in his last performance. [opens eyes, smiles] One of this nation’s finest weedsmokers.

JOSEPHINE FOSTER
A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing
(Locust Music)
C: Okay, this is even sadder.
D: An American woman singing all 18th or 19th century German folk songs for children, in German, is the personification of melancholy. It might not be the right music to listen to when you’re deciding whether to live or die, deep at night in those grey hours.
C: As Marvin would say, That’s not livin’! But it sure is singing. Absolutely beautiful.

SCOTT WALKER
The Drift
(4AD/Beggars)
D: Excellent art-rock that doesn’t rock from a living legend, but I’m afraid this music encourages morbid tendencies. This is immense, this record. But what is it? The mood somehow implies a seriousness that might not have to do with worldly events. It is religious? spiritual? There is an urgency! Dreadstorms coming. I think of Japanese ghost music…
C: We’re running out of time, D. I think this is one we’ll have to come back to next time.
D: At least we let the people know that the mighty Scott Walker has returned.

FRED NEIL
Fred Neil
(Water)
D: The great freckled Greenwich Village folk soul who wrote “Everybody’s Talkin’,” which Nilsson had a top ten hit with in 1969 off the Midnight Cowboy soundtrack.
C: [puts on “That’s The Bag I’m In”] Check out the morning he’s having: “toast was cold and the orange juice was hot.” There’s so much soul in his singing, this is an album for the dinosaurs.
D: Not the dinosaurs man, the dolphins!
C: It’s true, these are songs for the dolphins. Seriously.

BELONG
October Language
(CarPark)
C: I’ve been let down by NASA, what with the militarization of space and all, but this gives me some insight as to what it feels like to be launched into space. Beautifully fluttered and static-drenched, like those between-song passages of Loveless-era My Bloody Valentine.
D: [blissed out]
C: [blissed out]

BORIS
Pink
(Southern Lord)
C: Okay. One more beer, we’ll split it. This is the new Boris, the co-ed heavy guitar sludge march trio from Japan who in the last year have dropped the overt Melvins moves and become a band of varied powers—
D: [Stands on couch with bepuzzled-in-happy-way face] Majestic dry ice fog riffage that can’t be turned any louder!
C: A landmark record, a virtual catalog of extreme rock guitar strategy—Godflesh/Jesu ethereal rings and reversed dread, overdriven High Rise-style rhythms, post-Sonic Youth squall, Kim Thayil-style tone, Grand Funk/Montrose laying-it-out-there vocals—all on the first two songs. I don’t know if any of that makes sense but I’m trying to give people a general idea.
D: Unbelievable, neighborhood-destroying pummel drumming here [on title track].
C: [listening to ‘Woman on the Screen”] Wow. Reminds me of really, really good Nirvana-style punk/grunge, only somehow much huger.
D: [listening to “Blackout”] A mighty behemoth from the Far East is throwing mountains!
C: I think we are all in agreeance. Rock album of the year so far, easy.
D: [Dancing to “Electric”] You can lose fingers to this album.

HOWLIN RAIN
Howlin Rain
(Birdman)
C: One last supergroup: Howlin Rain, which is Moloney from Sunburned Hand of the Man on drums and Ethan Miller from Comets on Fire on vocals and guitar, working out their common interest in that seemingly lost-forever continent of great 1968-1973 American rock ‘n’ roll, when the hippies went back to the land and kept on rocking until the Man pulled all but a few back into his lame grip. Allmann Brothers, Creedence, Grateful Dead, Neil Young…
D: I sense benificent Jerry Garcia vibes coming from smiling visage of Ethan.
C: He is singing at the edge of his capability like Jerry —it’s a high, roasted voice. But, curcially, not shrieking. He sings like he’s losing his throat. One of those guys whose vocals get quieter the louder he sings. He’s got the goner’s high moan.
D: Like that guy in Canned Heat. [listening to “Calling Lightning With a Scythe”] Or Faces-time Rod Stewart. [laughs] I call this album Another Side of Ethan Miller, Workingman Rock Star.

Reviews by C and D (Arthur No. 19/Nov. 2005)

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

REVIEWS BY C and D

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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. 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…
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