TONGUE TOP TEN by Byron Coley & Thurston Moore

1. Been a while. We realize that, and there are various excuses we could proffer, but we won’t bother. Suffice to say, we’re sorry. But time flies. Been receiving much good stuff. Have even written some of it up here and there, but in truth, there’s a book that came out a while back which we wanted to review. But it was such a long, horrible slog to get through the thing, we were totally thrown off our game. It took actual physical months to read the bastard, and we were so fucking upset by the very idea of evaluating it when we were done, we considered giving up reading FOREVER. Since reading and writing are linked at the hip ‘n nip, well…you get the idea. That book is Through the Eyes of Magic (Proper Books) by John “Drumbo” French.

On one hand, the book has an insane amount of new detail about the machinations and evolution of almost everyone involved with Capt. Beefheart & the Magic Band, and that’s good. French was in many of the group’s line-ups, and he interviewed pretty much everybody, except Jeff Cotton and Don himself, neither of whom speak to him.

Beginning long before the Magic Band came into existence, the book tells the saga of the early ’60s high desert rock scene, then goes into the saga of Beefheart-proper in staggering detail—pretty much gig-by-gig and session-by-session (excepting the years French was out of the band in the early ‘70s). The legends surrounding Beefheart’s creative process have already been pretty well debunked by now. Indeed, the privations the band endured were common knowledge by the time Trout Mask Replica turned 25 in 1994. French, however, has the inside track. And that’s fine. But it’s clear his publisher decided at some point to exercise absolutely no editorial oversight, all but destroying the book’s worth to anyone excepting the most fact-crazed Beefheart fan. And that’s bad. The book is full of digressions, pointless personal anecdotes, whiny chest-thumping, repetitions, Christian bullshit, and is organized in a discursive format we found maddening. At one point, French comments, “I don’t think that will make it past the editor,” and we can only groan and wish someone had seen fit to liberally red-line this unwieldy 864 page opus. With a complete re-write, Eyes could have been a fine book at a third of its current length. As it is, it’s a mess, albeit a perversely compelling one. The facts and photographs add substantially to our working knowledge of the Magic Band’s history, but man, getting through this monster was about as much fun as french-kissing a duck. And to cap it all off (SPOILER ALERT), French gets himself exorcised at the end of the book, loudly barfing Beefheart’s evil mojo straight out his mouth. What the fuck was Kris Needs smoking when he blurbed this book so positively? Kris?

2. Not too long ago, we made the drive down to Maxwell’s in Hoboken to see When Giants Walked the Earth, a brilliant one-man show put together by Andy Shernoff. Although he was very mean to rock writers in the course of the evening, it was still funny as hell. Shernoff’s personal history is pretty rich. He went to grade school with Johnny Thunders, hit high school with the Fleshtones, ran the legendary Teenage Wasteland Gazette fanzine when he was in college, and founded the Dictators in ’73. The Dictators were a band whose aesthetic (cars, girls, surfing, beer) was immediately embraced by Sandy Pearlman and Richard Meltzer (among others). The band was signed to Epic before they’d played a singe live gig and uh…well, you should listen to Shernoff tell the rest. Andy has done lotsa stuff, from producing Joey Ramone’s solo LP, to touring the UK with the Stranglers at the height of the Gobbing Era, and even opening for Rush in Atlanta—which is not the least incongruous of the Dics’ early live pairings. He told excellent stories and interspersed them with acoustic versions of his songs. From “Master Race Rock” (whose opening lines—“Hippies are squares with long hair/And they don’t wear no underwear”—sounds exquisite in this format) to “Baby Let’s Twist,” the tunes smoked.

Shernoff’s gonna be back working with his current band, The Master Plan, for the next few months, but he promises more of these solo shows ‘fore long, and you would be a goddamn square to miss an opportunity to glom the wit and wisdom of the man who wrote so many immortal tunes.

3. Steve Lowenthal first appeared on the scene in NYC as the editor of Swingset, which was a fairly boss fanzine. Unfortunately, Lowenthal-the-man sometimes reminded me of Terry Southern‘s great short story, “You’re Too Hip, Baby.” Lately, though, Steve has returned to school and he recently visited to do some interviews for his thesis work on John Fahey. He was a changed man, in our estimation, and he has also embarked on producing a very cool series of solo acoustic guitar records for the Vin Du Select Qualitee label. The first volume is by Joshua Emery Blatchey, a California-based dude who plays in Mountain Home with Greg Weeks and Marissa Nadler. On this LP Joshua plays very much in the American Primitive tradition, evoking Epstein-Barr-era Fahey as well as anyone this side of Terry Robb.

Volume Two is by Mark McGuire, the steroid-drunk baseball player who founded the band Emeralds soon after he left the major leagues. On this solo set, Mark’s playing has some of the same kosmiche moves as his work with Emeralds, but the tools are stripped down to guitar and pedals, so the smoke glows with a distinctly volky quality, a la certain periods of Ash Ra Temple, Popol Vuh and others. McGuire unpeels notes and lets them pile up in shimmering coils, awaiting trans-substantiation through listening. Nice trope. Volume Three documents work by the brilliant journeyman, Chris Brokaw.

Chris’s take on the project is the most song-like of the three. His pieces are shorter, generally more evolved melodically, but still simple, stark & lovely. They also take some unexpected stylistic turns (as on the percussive “Undrum”), and pleasure is the sweet result.

4. Not sure how we missed this for so long, but the From Tapes & Throats LP by Ludo Mich & Blood Stereo (Giant Tank) is a woggle-fest that won’t let you down. Mich is a Fluxus-related sound artist from the depths of the Low Country underground who has been active from the ’60s onward. Blood Stereo is this hideous coupling of Dylan Nyoukis and Karen Constance, and the racket the three create when gathered in a single lump is inelegant, malformed and harmful to aesthetic health. That said, the album is a gas. One side’s live, the other was recorded by Ludo at home, then sent to Brighton, where the Bloody Duo fucked with it until it squoke. The sonics are relatively sane (inside the given parameters) and this will flow past yr ears like a river of steaming tapioca. Also more recent than several diseases we could name is Nyoukis’s solo LP, Inside Wino Lodge (No Fun).

Again, this is less gibberous than you might expect, and is a nearly-beautiful melange of brillo’ed electronics and vocals, weeviling into occasional acoustic drones, and trying to surge underneath everything like blood clots. Something like the Three Stooges trying to take a serious whack at the Angus Maclise songbook with tuned shovels or something.

Also, very nice to have an easily available domestic issue of an LP by thee great insane couple of the sound-art field—Kommisar Hjuler and Mama Baer, Amerikanische Poesie und Alkoholismus (Feeding Tube).

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BULL TONGUE "TOP TEN #2" by Byron Coley & Thurston Moore

April 14, 2009



Martin Kippenberger. Untitled from the series Dear Painter, Paint for Me (Ohne title aus der serie Lieber Maler, male mir), 1981.

1. There is currently a huge Martin Kippenberger retrospective show up at MOMA in New York City. It’s called “The Problem Perspective”, and it is an incredible tribute to this wild artist, who created a fairly unbelievable amount of stuff in a trajectory that lasted only 20 years. We first became aware of Kippenberger in the late ’70s or very early ’80s because of his musical work with the band the Grugas (with Christine Hahn and Eric Mitchell), and for his association with the performance space, SO 36. There’s not much evidence of that aspect of his work here, but the multi-floor museum exhibit (and the dandy ass catalogue accompanying it) is a massive mind-blow. Went with some kids and one of ‘em was most impressed by the endless array of sketches, collages and whatnot Martin did on the stationery paper of fancy hotels. Another almost lost it when she realized how mean and funny the sequence of paintings of Picasso’s last wife was. But there is something for everybody here. And the book is excellent. It reprints a long, legendary interview Kippenberger did with Jutta Koether, and includes some extremely useful essays, plus a huge selection of eye candy produced by a guy who was the most influential German artist of his generation.


Leah Peah

2. Hampton, Virginia has been throwing down hard lately with its weirdo sick homegrown noise skuzz scene. The group Head Molt seems to be the chief instigators, particularly with the inclusion of wild woman Leah Peah. Leah’s solo cassette, peah pop & the baby lion show on Anti-Everything/AEN tapes is a peek into the furious sensibility she seemingly has raging through her consciousness. Lots of junk psychosis noise swill dementia. But it’s her split tape with freak loop weirdos Cheezface that really caught our attention. A highly contagious flow of sense bliss destruction.

3. A couple of jazz reissues just came out that are so savagely great it would be a goddamn shame to imagine there are homes without them. Both are on Eremite, both are LPs, and are packaged with amazing care via-a-vis sonics, wax quality & visual/heft appeal. The first is Sonny Murray‘s Big Chief, originally released on the French Pathe label, not to be confused with the sessions released under the same name by Shandar. Recorded in January ’69, Murray leads a wild international octet (supplemented in spots by the expatriate jazz poet, Hart LeRoy Bibbs) into insane, ragged bursts of gorgeous beauty. The material they tackle is a fine sample of Murray’s early compositions and the brakeless genius of the group (Francois Tusques, Ronnie Beer, Beb Guerin, Bernard Vitet , , Kenneth Terroade, Alan Silva and Becky Friend!) is the perfect compliment for the moment. Long a lost piece of the Murray discography, it is finally back the way it should be.

The same is true of Red, Black and Green by Solidarity Unit Inc., a rather obscure St. Louis combo led by Charles “Bobo” Shaw, which was essentially an expanded version of the legendary BAG (Black Artists’ Group). The band this evening is Richard Martin, Oliver Lake, Floyd Leflore, Joseph Bowie, Carl Richardson, Clovis Bordeaux, Danny Trice, Baikaids Ysaeen (aka Baikida Carroll) and Kada Kayan. Here, they present a concert, dedicated to Jimi Hendrix, recorded on the day he died, and filled with some of the craziest electric guitar ever, courtesy of the late Richard Martin. The sonics have the same raw galacto-fidelity associated with Arkestral recordings of the same period, and this is a great goddamn explosion. You bet!

From Demons’ “Life Destroyer” dvd

4. Steve Kenney has always been the wild card lost cog in the Michigan noise underground – the true wizard, the most insane of the insane. An original member of the legendarily fucked up Beast People along with Aaron Dilloway,and a current member of Demons with Wolf Eyes’ Nate Young and visualist Alivia Zivich, Kenney is just now beginning to bust out some releases of his own. His axe is the synth and with the proliferation of interest in synth investigations going on in the Midwest with Cleveland’s Emeralds et al and even out East a la Infinity Window and pals–it’s gotta be said: SK rules the fucking roost. The guy’s brain might as well be a modular synth smoked with toxic fuels it sounds that jazz. A great place to lose yrself in his sweet swarm is the cassette In the Sphere I am Everywhere on Nurse Etiquette. Majestic excellence.

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