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.
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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!