Reviews by C and D (Arthur No. 18/Sept. 2005)

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

REVIEWS BY C and D

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

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

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

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

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

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

Terry Reid
Superlungs
(Astralwerks)
C: The legendary Terry Reid gets a long-overdue compilation. A soul singer more than a rock singer, he came up in the ‘60s at the same time as Steve Marriott, Rod Stewart and all those guys. He’s best known as the guy Jimmy Page asked to front Zeppelin, who had to turn it down cuz of contractual obligations.
D: Doh!
C: They said Plant sang like a woman, and Terry Reid does too. Guess Page knew what he wanted. To paraphrase My Fair Lady,…
D: [singing] Why can’t a man sing more like a woman?
C: In that case, it’s a man singing like a woman singing like a man. In the tradition of Tina Turner and Mavis Staples or Inga Rumpf from German blues rockers Frumpy
D: This guy is a super-rocker. A mod-era master. He fucked it up, though.
C: Not as bad as Dave Mustaine. Better to have Led Zeppelin yelled at you on the street by the local smartcakes than Metallica.
D: [listening to “Stay With Me Baby”] Ian Gillan of Deep Purple totally took from his voice.
C: “Speak Now Or Forever Hold Your Peace” is unbelievable—the propulsive, tuneful, template for Slade, and by extension Oasis.
D: But Liam’s not a soul singer.
C: It’s very Faces. “Tinker Taylor” is the same thing. Word to the Djs out there: this is the only album you need to keep the dance party going…
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BULL TONGUE "TOP TEN #4" by Byron Coley & Thurston Moore

TONGUE TOP TEN #4 – May 26, 2009

Hey little buddies. Been sick as rat turds for a while now, but the covers are peeling back and we are breathing again. Nice.

1. We have made no secret of the boundless enthusiasm with which we embrace Vermont’s Mr. Dredd Foole and all his works, so it should be no surprise to hear that sparks fucking burst when these two new slabs arrived at headquarters. Songs to Despond Ya (Apostasy) is a brilliant solo live LP, with Dredd on acoustic guitar and howler, which demonstrates the warmth of smoke and the magic of his sound. It seems bogus to repeat the mantra for the nth time, but Dredd really takes the impulse of Starsailor/Lorca/Blue Afternoon-era Tim Buckley and throws it into the stratosphere. As casual as it is amazing. And it is icing to report that there is finally graspable evidence of the Dredd & Ed experience, after a couple decades (almost) of scattered live tapes and buzzing memory bulbs. That Lonesome Road Between Heart & Soul (Bo’ Weavil) is a CD by Dredd Foole and Ed Yazijian, who may be known to a few folks for his work with Kustomized or his Gladtree solo LP, Six Ways to Avoid the Evil Eye. Anyway, Ed is a string maestro inside this conceptual bonding, doing violin, lap steel and other guitar stuff, while Dredd uncorks spirals of upful phlegm. It’s glorious buzzing, droneful music, and a great companion piece for the LP. Of course, it should have been an LP itself, but what the hex?

2. Recent trip to that poetry fest in Cleveland went okay. Thanks for asking. Saw a bunch of good stuff. Drove many miles. Got an excellent book. Actually, got a few good books, but we have favorites on our minds right now, and that is a camp into which we will always place the great Valerie Webber and the equally smokin’ Elaine Kahn (late of 50 Foot Women). The pair has collaborated on a solid new volume called Convinced by the End of It (Big Baby Books), split in twain, shared half by each. And it is a motherfucker of a read—one of the best things we’ve read in a long time. Their voices have been very different in the past, these two, but there are similarities here never noted before—a slowly twisting surrealism, combined with casually strident orgone boil. This is powerful, funny, mean and possessed of a magical quality we associate with the incredible early work of Erica “Rikki” Ducornet. This is writing in its highest form.

3. For whatever reason, new jazz/improv disks have not been finding us as regularly as they once did. Maybe we complained about the format too much, and since no one apart from SIWA, QBICO, Eremite and a coupla other places even understand that jazz should be available on LP, it’s usually no big deal. But recent car travel has made CDs a somewhat more useful format (at least in the short term), and we got these three new things from the Porter Records label (previously noted for reissuing a few key Philadelphia pieces), and figured they’d ride as well as anything. And they did. Opus de Life by Profound Sound Trio which documents a show from June ’08. Saxophonist for the date is Englishman Paul Dunmall, who doubles on bagpipes, and really blows like a maniac. Long mired in my brain as a second tier freebopper, Dunmall presents a much weirder surface here than expected, creating raw melodicism with an almost primitive grace. The rhythm section is Andrew Cyrille and Henry Grimes (Cecil Taylor’s legendary Blue Note-era backline). Cyrille sounds as good as always—alternately multi-dimensional and hammy—and Grimes puts in a very solid arco-heavy performance on bass and violin. Had not paid much attention to the rediscovered Grimes, but his work here is fine. Julu Twine by Alan Sondheim and Myk Freedman finds Sondheim’s various strings (he’s been playing, writing and creating in various fields since the early ’60s) paired with Freedman’s lap steel to lovely weird effect. Tones get bent so far they curl back on themselves, and eternity’s whistle is always just a psychedelic heartbeat away. Sondheim’s reactivated musical career has been very interesting to track, and this album’s a good one. Not jazz, but good. Even less jazzic is Folkanization by Francesco Giannico. This young Italian electro-acoustic composer in whose work we can hear tendrils of everything from Luigi Nono to Toru Takemitsu. Filled with odd details, the music is fascinating. Good for the car, anyway.

louispothead

4. Much recent fume time has been spent amidst the pages of Steven Brower’s Satchmo (Harry N. Abrams), a book largely dedicated to the visual art of the last century’s premier pothead—Mr. Louis Armstrong. Brower was also responsible for that cool book of Woody Guthrie’s visuals a few years back, but this one is even bonnier on the peeps. Armstrong was an insanely gifted collage artist, who created hundreds of self-referential pieces to adorn reel-to-reel tape boxes, scrapbooks and even—until his wife pulled it down anyway—one of the walls of his house in Queens. The text Brower conjures is cool, but it’s really just a context generator for the wild wild art that crawls all over the pages of this book. Been showing this to everyone who falls by and they’re all blown away. You be, too.

rockymountainlow

5. If you held a gun to our heads and yelled, “Quick! Think of a great whiskey!” We’d have no problem rolling out a list that would make you weak in the knees. If, however, instead of whiskey, you asked for a list of great Colorado punk bands, the list would peter out in an embarrassingly short time, even if we stuttered a lot. Consequently, it’s no lie to say we were shocked (SHOCKED!) by the amazing contents of Rocky Mountain Low (Hyperpycnal)>. This 2 LP set is an insanely great insider’s view of the Colorado underground scene of the late ’70s. We’d never even heard rumors about half the bands here, but Joseph Pope (of Angst “fame”) was an active participant, and along with Dalton Rasmussen, he pulled together a great set of unreleased nuggets from demos, rehearsal tapes & whatnot. Like lotsa scenes in their early days, the sounds here are heterogenous—’60s style pop, hard garage, weird experimentalism and Brit-damaged lunge are all part of the mix, just as they were in the day. The book/zine included is a great blend of history, attitude, crappy-looking fliers and the best picture of Jello Biafra you will ever see in this lifetime (or any other) (although this one is good, too). Every town deserves this kind of deep investigation. Superb shit.

groovies

6. One of us (not telling who) recently made the trek down to New Orleans for the Ponderosa Stomp, which is an annual event tracking the trajectory of oddball roots dudes of all stripes. Two stages, ten hours a night at the House of Blues added up to 30-40 hours of solid listening insanity, but the absolute highpoint was the…well, not reunion of the Flamin’ Groovies (pic’d above), exactly, but it was the first time that founding members Cyril Jordan and Roy Loney had been together onstage since ’71, when Loney split in the wake of the Teenage Head LP. They were backed by the A-Bones, with Ira Kaplan on organ and former Groovies fanclub head Miriam Linna, banging the beat, and man, it was insane. Jordan and Loney both have a crazy sorta look going (check the youtube vids), but the sound was so right on you could just cry. They played almost all stuff from the first three LPs, but at show’s end they tackled “Shake Some Action” (from the long-post-Loney days), “Teenage Head” and “Slow Death” (which was recorded after Roy had left). It was unbelievably great. People were screaming like babies and Miriam was singing along with everything and just looking like the cat who ate the canary. There are going to be a couple of reprise shows coming up this summer, and you would be well advised to be there.

sperm-shh

7. Many peeps out there may know something or another about the legendary NWW list. This was a printed insert of recommended obscurities Steven Stapleton included in copies of the first couple of Nurse With Wound albums. The list has been a touchstone for a lot of people over the years, and various attempts to reissue bits and pieces from it have been made. Right now there are actually a goodly number of them available in one digital format or another, but shamefully few have been blessed by vinyl reissue, which remains the king of all known formats. Thankfully, De Stijl has taken the time to do a lovely, lovely LP reissue of the sole album by the Finnish experimental band, Sperm. Entitled Shh!, the album features one side of kosmiche-tinged free-rock with many electronic asides. The flip replaces the kraut proclivities with some free-jazz reed-gush, and it all sounds utterly jake. The original had a silk-screened sleeve, but this one looks dandy and sounds better than any original we’ve ever laid ears on. Gut stuf!

humbug-08

8. The story of Mad in its EC days is pretty well known. The early issues, edited by the insane Harvey Kurtzman have been reprinted in whole and also in various anthologies frequently during the past 50 years. Kurtzman’s next few projects have been less well documented. He left Mad to do a glossy humor mag called Trump for Hugh Hefner. Hefner killed the mag after two issues, but he allowed Kurtzman to use free office space. As a result, Kurtzman organized a bunch of other artists to pool their funds to create an autonomous humor monthly. It ran for 11 issues in 1957-58 and was called Humbug. We’ve seen occasional loose issues of the ‘zine, but Fantagraphics has compiled the full run in a new two-volume box set, and included lots of interviews, historical context, and info about Kurtzman’s next project, Help! (among many other things). The reproduction quality is great, and the contents—by Kurtzman, Will Elder, Arnold Roth, Al Jaffe and Jack Davis—are far more sophisto than Mad, and less pop-culture-oriented than Help! In a way, Humbug almost feels like a goof-humor version of The New Yorker or something. There’s a lot of fairly serious political/social commentary, cloaked in wry rainment. It’s a blend as interesting as any cocktail, and it’s goddamn great to have this stuff easily available. Hats away!

9. One of the less-known documentaries by D.A. Pennebaker is the hour-long Sweet Toronto, which was filmed at the Toronto Rock & Roll Revival festival in 1969. It has just been issued on DVD under the title John Lennon & the Plastic Ono Band Live in Toronto ’69 (Shout Factory) and is a rather good eye-felch. Pennebaker is a great framer of live concerts and this is no exception. It opens amidst a somewhat half-assed looking group of bikers who seem to be escorting the Plastic Ono Band to the outdoor concert, but soon settles down to matters at hand. There are segments with Bo Diddley, Jerry Lee Lewis and Little Richard to start things off (the full line-up was: Milkwood, Nucleus, Whiskey Howl, Cat Mother & the Allnight Newsboys, Chicago Transit Authority, Screaming Lord Sutch, Tony Joe White, Doug Kershaw, Alice Cooper, Junior Walker, Diddley, Gene Vincent, Lewis, Richard, Chuck Berry, Onos and the Doors. MC was Kim Fowley. Wonder where the other footage is?), the Plastic Ono Band hits stage with a boom. It’s crazy to see Yoko crawling around in a white bag while Lennon and Clapton howl through “Blue Suede Shoes”, and the vibe of the whole thing is gorgeously bizarre. By the end, when Yoko’s singing “John John,” Clapton has his guitar off and is kneeling, back to the audience, nudging feedback from his amp as though he was in the Skaters or something. Fuckin’ A!

manchild_coverwide

10. Just got a little package with three issues of Brian Walsby’s Manchild comics (Bifocal Media), the third and fourth issues of which come with CDs by the always exquisite Melvins. Walsby was extremely active in artifying the punk underground of the mid-‘80s onward, and his books are densely scripted and great reads. Some of the stories are about Brian’s early years, but most are detailed accounts of hardcore bands, what happened to them, interactions Brain had with them over the years, etc. Kinda inside baseball, but totally fantastic if yr into the noise at all. We don’t agree with all of Walsby’s assessments, but we defend to the death his right to say that the Descendents improved over time. Now that’s funny!

Alright, please be a good egg – if you want it licked, send two (2) (TWO) copies to:

BULL TONGUE
PO BOX 627
NORTHAMPTON MA 01061
USA