C & D: Two guys reason together about some new records (Arthur No. 23/July 2006)

Originally published in Arthur No. 23 (July 2006)

Ethan Miller of Comets on Fire onstage at ArthurFest, 2005 (photo by Jeremiah Garcia/IceCreamMan.com)

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

C: We resume not far from where we left off last issue. Only without D, our lovable excitable German, who has vacated the rumble seat to return to Der Fatherland to observe the World Cup. In his place, quaffing D’s beers for this issue only, ladies and gentlemen of the court, may I present to you: F.
F: Happy to be here, C. Those are big shoes to fill.
C: Relax. After three beers and the proper auditory stimulation, your feet will swell to fit.

Comets on Fire
Avatar
(Sub Pop)
F: After five seconds of this record, I can confidently say: Comets on Fire, you made an excitable German out of me. Pummely stuff.
C: This blasts off from where their last record left off: frequent flyer acid rock mentality, virtuous verses and choruses, oodles of audible poem lyrics, spry jams, and serious assblasting. A couple songs are slow burners…
F: …that put the power back in balladry.
C: The album-opening epic “Dogwood Rust” slithers into a Hawkwind-Ash Ra Tempel-Stereolab-Oneida locked groove around the six minute mark, then ignite into dueling guitar spirals, then some Von Harmonson echotronix. Plus the kind of casual avant garde move that’s so natural you almost don’t notice it: the electric birdsong at end of “Jaybird,” a nice fresh-air breather.
F: A muscle-relaxer for the brain.
C: For me, this album plugs back into what their labelmates Sleater-Kinney did on their most recent album: laying sweet waste to the center of Ted Nugent’s mind by power tripping from the top of the randiest redwoods. This is the Comets’ answer record, at least in my personal universe.
F: I grok that. Fight fire with Fire! Those dark noontide chimes at the beginning of “The Swallow’s Eye,” and the chorus guitars on “Lucifer’s Memory”…it’s crystal clear: Cosmic soul rock kills pain dead.
C: And it arrives just two months after the Howlin’ Rain album. Howlin’ Rain, of course, is the new band spotlighting Comets on Fire singer-guitarist Ethan Miller’s songwriterly aspect, which leans to the Allmans/Dead/Faces side of the highway. And just a few months after Comets guitarist Ben Chasny’s latest Six Organs of Admittance pan-cultural acid-folk stunner, The Sun Awakens.
F: Not to mention Comets pianist/drummer Utrillo’s nuevo Elton John/Bill Fay song project, The Colossal Yes.
C: That one 11-minute song on the Colossal Yes album? Wow… [listening to “Holy Teeth”] But back to the album at hand. This is total High Rise/Acid Mothers Temple/Kiss destruction boogie.
F: A strange thing about “boogie” is it’s been Not Cool for a period about ten times longer than it was Cool. [standing up from the couch] But it never left my behind!
C: [averting eyes, mumbling] Christ, F. Boogie if you must but please do it where I don’t have to see it. This one [“Sour Smoke”] is like keyboard-driven Fela Kuti meets Television. Can a band be this good?
F: Felavision: I wish they had that on the Dish.
C: Call your cosmic cable company…
F: To paraphrase Foster’s: Comets on Fire—it’s American for rock.

Vetiver
To Find Me Gone
(diCristina)
F: The second album from San Francisco’s haziest, gentlest canyon-folk drifters, Vetiver.
C: There’s a bucolic feel to this I love.
F: True, but what’s up with the word “bucolic”? The sound of words should correlate to their meaning, and there’s something about “bucolic” that always makes me think of a baby with a wet, hacking cough.
C: Whereas this music would more likely cure a baby of such a cough.
F: Readers with babies might let us know how it works…
C: Vetiver’s music evokes all those little phases or episodes along a dayhike in the country: the initial entry into the wilderness…the part where you’re making serious headway, alone with your thoughts…the moment when the senses are overwhelmed by the nature stimuli, the dew and the sap, the sun’s heat and the insects’ hum…when you finally you stop for water by a brook, and take a nap in the shade. When Andy Cabic sings, “I climbed so high/the sky dropped down to teach me,” he’s tapping into the naturalist in all of us.
F: I heard somebody say you could call this kind of music ‘naturalismo.’
C: I also heard somebody say that the real reason music originating from the West Coast underground—all the aforementioned bands, Brightblack Morning Light, etc etc etc—is so beautifully gone right now is because of the high potency of the marijuana out here.
C: While I am not stoned at this time, I swear I just looked out the window and saw a burrito fly past.
F: Yeah, that’s Vetiver, working the California tradition: Flying Burrito Brothers, Neil Young, the Mac of course, the original Charlatans from San Francisco…
C: And of course the late under-lamented Beachwood Sparks, whose final EP had some of this same swooshy nature euphoria and next-afternoon melancholia. Not that this is mimicry. Cabic’s songwriting here goes beyond recidivist texture gesture. It’s a very subtle, tricky thing Vetiver does, mellowing the harsh but resisting the corn. They use violins instead of fiddles.
F: Whoa, this song [“Red Lantern Girls”] is amazing! It’s like a horse just trotting along, and then alluvasudden, this squalling and sustained one-note electric guitar solo [courtesy of guest Brad Laner (Medicine/Electric Company guitarist-composer)] kicks in and the band breaks into a gallop.
C: Vetiver: cures coughs, cleanses palates. Use hourly.

Awesome Color
Awesome Color
(Ecstatic Peace/Universal)
C: Whoa!
F: Yowza!
C: These guys get on that train and ride it back to Cincinnati 1969! Total Stooges in Iggy’s-Got-the-Peanut-Butter-Again mode…
F: Yeah, but even more than that— Sound of Confusion-era Spacemen 3, especially on this track “Dinosaur”: that’s the sound of a band refusing to learn more chords or grooves because they already found the best ones.
C: Concentrating on tone and psychotic drive, like all the greats, like our national treasures The Cramps and Tav Falco and of course the 13th Floor Elevators…Awesome Color are…uh…awesome.
C: I’ve got to admit that my inner adolescent thinks this is the coolest shit possible.
F: I hope they’re all under 18, and there better be some brothers in this band.
C: This song [“It’s Your Time”] features some actual choogle.
C: Which brings us to the question that has haunted many a rock fan: what, exactly, is the difference between the boogie and the choogle?
F: Would that be choogie or boogle?

Zizek! dvd
(Zeitgeist)
C: Dude, I’m trying to play this DVD, but you totally messed up my system while reconnecting the TV to the stereo so you could watch the World Cup in surround-sound.
F: I think that D, absent as he is, would’ve approved. Anyways, it was worth it to hear the Mexican TV commentators hollering so sonorously.
C: Okay, here we go… This is a documentary about Slavoj Zizek, the Solvenian philosopher who’s known as “a one-person culture-muncher” and “the Elvis of critical theory.”
F: He looks more like Klaus Kinski. Or Yakoff Smirnoff.
C: Blame it on the beard. Zizek’s basically this super erudite dude who is also a willfully contrary polemicist commentating on everything under the sun as he goes. As he says, “The duty of philosophy is to redefine problems, not to solve them.” Here he is on a tour of colleges…he sees a girl carrying some Evian and remarks, “Water in a bottle —it reminds me of socialism.”
F: This guy’s great! Reminds me of the biting, death-obsessed comedy of the late great Brother Theodore. I believe Zizek speaks as a friend although he expounds with fiendish fervor.
C: Fiendish fervor is right. Zizek is a pre-postmodern man. He was raised in Communist Yugoslavia, but when that all went to bloody hell, he became a Christian atheist.
F: I knew I dug this guy. He’s got some zingers, like when he talks about being “up to your shit in ideology.”
C: Zizek cuts through the tripe. Here he is watching an old televised broadcast of Lacan giving a lecture. Lacan is one of Zizek’s primary influences, but he is not in awe of Lacan: “I find his emphasis and gestures ridiculous…. I’m a total enlightenment person, I believe in clear statements.”
F: Like Zizek says: “I always tell the truth. Not the whole truth, because one can’t.”
C: My favorite part about this film is where Zizek proudly shows us that he keeps his clean laundry in the kitchen cupboard.
F: You’ve got that much in common…

Beavis and Butthead: The Mike Judge Collection, Volume 2 DVD
(Paramount)
C: Meanwhile, at the other end of the philosophical spectrum…
F: Beer me!
C: Y’know, there’s so much product that comes out these days, so many records, DVDs and CDs, but I still feel like there’s a void Beavis & Butthead left that remains unfulfilled.
F: Hey, Zizek’s doing his best.
C: Hard to imagine Zizek calling Lacan a “dillhole” though. It would be so cool if they made a new Beavis & Butthead movie, like, checking in with them ten years later…
F: In the meantime, creator Mike Judge is putting out these super-packed DVDs, and it’s amazing to watch the classic cartoons uninterrupted by erase-your-blemish commercials.
C: The titles alone are remarkable: “Wet Behind The Rears” — “Premature Evacuation”—”Here Comes The Bride’s Butt.”
F: “Bang The Drum Slowly, Dumbass.”
C: I love when the screen goes dark, right before the show starts, and you can only hear their immortal “hunh-huh-unh” laughter. Ohmigod, I love this one, where they go in to the plastic surgeon to get their “thingies” made bigger, but [uncontrollable laughter] instead the doctor gives them boobs! [falls off the couch]
F: Settle down, C. How many brownies did you eat?
C: I dunno. Is the baggie half full or half-empty, buttmunch?

Phi Ta Khon: Ghosts of Isan dvd
Directed by Robert Millis
(Sublime Frequencies)
F: Feature-length film about a weird three-day street festival in Thailand, sometimes referred to as “Mardi Gras from Hell.” Whoa. Talk about awesome colors.
C: You see, this is what America should have learned from pre-Katrina New Orleans. Continue reading

Reviews by C and D (Arthur No. 20/Jan. 2006)

Originally published in Arthur No. 20 (Jan. 2006)

C AND D: Two guys bicker about new records.

TV on the Radio
“Dry Drunk Emperor”
(Touch and Go)
D: I’ve listened to this probably a hundred times by now, and I still find it overwhelming. It’s a devastator.
C: For those out there who haven’t heard it yet, this is the song TV on the Radio released in the wake of Katrina, free to everyone via the Touch and Go website [go here]. This is what they said at the time: “we were back in the studio thinking and feeling again and made this song for all our everybody… in the absence of a true leader we must not forget that we are still together…. hearts are sick … minds must change … it is our hope that this song inspires, comforts, fosters courage,and reminds us… this darkness cannot last if we work together. let us help each other… heal each other …. look after one another … the human heart is our new capitol…. this song is for you…. us…..we….them… it is free. pass it on. TO THOSE AFFECTED BY HURRICANE KATRINA: NEW YORK CITY’S HEART IS WITH YOU… STAY STRONG! WE LOVE YOU.”

We don’t usually do this sort of thing, but this is a special case. Here are the song’s lyrics:

DRY DRUNK EMPEROR
baby boy
dying under hot desert sun,
watch your colors run.

did you believe the lie they told you,
that christ would lead the way
and in a matter of days
hand us victory?

did you buy the bull they sold you,
that the bullets and the bombs
and all the strong arms
would bring home security?

all eyes upon
dry drunk emperor
gold cross jock skull and bones
mocking smile,
he’s been
standing naked for a while!
get him gone, get him gone, get him gone!!
and bring all the thieves to trial.

end their promise
end their dream
watch it turn to steam
rising to the nose of some cross legged god
gog of magog
end times sort of thing.
oh unmentionable disgrace
shield the children’s faces
as all the monied apes
display unimaginably poor taste
in a scramble for mastery.

atta’ boy get em with your gun
till mr. megaton
tells us when we’ve won
or
what we’re gonna leave undone.

all eyes upon
dry drunk emperor
gold cross jock skull and bones
mocking smile,
he’s been standing
naked for a while.
get him gone, get him gone, get him gone!!!
and bring all his thieves to trial.

what if all the fathers and the sons
went marching with their guns
drawn on Washington?
that would seal the deal,
show if it was real,
this supposed freedom.

what if all the bleeding hearts
took it on themselves
to make a brand new start.
organs pumpin’ on their sleeves,
paint murals on the white house
feed the leaders LSD
grab your fife and drum,
grab your gold baton
and let’s meet on the lawn,
shut down this hypocrisy.

C: The harmonies they get on this are just shattering. And the chorus…
D: This is soul, with zero retroism. That’s not supposed to be possible anymore and yet here it is. Pure righteousness.
C: I find this song overwhelming too. Not just for the song itself, but for the spirit in which was recorded and offered to the public, and the immediacy and selflessness involved. That’s what being an artist is about, in times like these. They get to something really tragic about the current situation: all those poor idiots who have been buying the Bush balderdash since 9/11… because they did that, now we are all paying for their mistakes, and will do for decades. And I’m broke, man. My pockets are empty. And I’ve got it easy. Think of all the unnamed, uncounted dead civilians in Iraq, all the dead and mistreated in New Orleans, all those detained in the secret torture prisons in Poland…
D: This song is so good I can’t believe somebody made it. The build and release, the chorus, the singing, the lyrics, the fife and drum…
C: It’s a call to imaginative action, for less talk and more walk. This is prime Fela Kuti-level stuff, seriously: talking truth directly to power, giving comfort and uplift to the powerless. I’ve never heard this song on the radio, yet it’s exactly the kind of song radio was made for.

Cast King
Saw Hill Man
(Locust Music)
C: Debut album from 79-year-old white fella. Recorded in a shack in Alabama.
D: Seniors rock. Look at this guy. I think our friend T-Model Ford might have some new competition!
C: He recorded eight songs for Sun Records in the ‘50s. He he had a touring country and bluegrass band, Cast King and the Country Drifters, but it didn’t work out and he never released an album.
D: Sweet baby Jesus, what is wrong with this country?
C: I find myself wondering that often these days…
D: The first line of this song is “I don’t care if your tears fall in my whiskey.” What more do you need?
C: The guy’s voice is so rich, it’s a pleasure just to hear his singing. The sadder the lyrics, the brighter the music. The songs are clever, catchy, simple. How could nobody care for three decades? This nation is so cruel to its artists.
D: There’s some Johnny Cash here for sure.
C: To our modern ears, of course. But I’m starting to wonder. Who came first? Not that it matters as much as, well, just how many other guys are out there still who are this good, who we’ve never heard? Maybe it’s a lot more than we think. People who got skipped over by accident of history or circumstance. That’s the lesson of the reissue culture that’s so strong right now—the Numero Group label’s releases, the stuff they talk about in Wax Poetics, all the rediscoveries of people like Vashti Bunyan and Gary Higgins and Simon Finn—all of this teaches us that actually the cream doesn’t always rise to the top. It often sinks to the very bottom.

Nina Simone
The Soul of Nina Simone dual disc
(Legacy/RCA/Sony BMG)
C: You’re not going to believe this, either. A new dual disc release: one side is a greatest hits run, the other side is vintage live footage. Deep vintage.
D: [looking at track listing] Whoa! None deeper vintage. Pure black power, 1960s. Look at this!!! [Reading aloud scrolling text on screen] “By the end of the ‘60s, the civil rights movement was in a shambles; its key leaders were dead, and race riots had erupted in several U.S. cities. ‘It felt like the shutters were coming down on anyone who dared to suggest there was something seriously wrong with the state of our country,’ said an angry Nina Simone. A ray of community hope appeared in the sammer of ’69, when the Harlem Festival—called ‘a black Woodstock’ by its producer, Hal Tulchin—came to Central Park. Crowds of up to 100,000 flocked to six free concerts. The stars included Sly and the Family Stone, Stevie Wonder, Mahalia Jackson, B.B. King, Gladys Knight and the Pips and Simone. These excerpts from Simone’s performance have never before been shown in America.”
C: I’ve never even heard of this festival.
D: Me neither.
C: How is that possible? I thought we knew our shit. My god. Are they saying this footage has just been sitting there since 1969? Listen to her go. Listen to this band. Look at that set, look at this audience. Look at the songs she’s playing—“Revolution,” “Four Women,” “Ain’t Got No—I Got Life” and “To Be Young, Gifted and Black.” Look at the setting. Look at the situation is which this was performed.
D: This is right before she went into self-imposed exile.
C: She looks absolutely purposeful. There is a resolve in her voice, in her comments to the band and the audience, in that gorgeous face of hers as she sings that is just absolutely… She looks like a woman about to leave, because she’s been wronged. You know she’s gonna slam that door.
D: No whining. “My life has been much too rough,” she sings. [Listening to “Ain’t Got No—I Got Life”] Listen to the band swing! Unbelievable.
C: She’s holding back tears for the entire performance… She finally breaks—just a bit—on “To Be Young Gifted and Black.”
D: I think this is the greatest single live performance I have ever seen.
C: Especially when you consider the context. This is just extraordinary. Le Tigre and other no-skill apologists who say technique is irrelevant would do well to watch this. The reason people are listening to what she has to say is because she had skills beyond even her conviction.
D: It’s an absolute travesty that the American public hasn’t seen this footage until now.
C: Can you imagine what the rest of this festival must have been like? Look at that lineup. Sheesh. We’ve got to ask again: WHY HAVEN’T WE HEARD OF THIS UNTIL NOW? Where are our cultural historians? Why do we know about Jimi liberating the national anthem and not taking the brown acid and all that other Woodstock jive but not about this? It’s criminal.

Niger: Magic & Ecstasy in the Sahel dvd
by Hisham Mayet
(Sublime Frequencies)
C: And now for somebody who knows how to document and distribute important stuff immediately, rather than waiting for 36 years…
D: [spills beer in joy] YES! The mighty Sublime Frequencies strike AGAIN!
C: 70 minutes of footage of hot blast from the streets of Niger, one of the quote poorest unquote nations in the world. Oil can drum duos, one-stringed instrument maestros, harmonizing ululators, invocation dances. Divination ceremonies and informal nighttime initiation rituals, Taureg trance funk at the end.
D: Absolutely riveting.

OOOIOO
[Untitled]
(Thrill Jockey)
C: New album from project featuring Yoshimi who is in Boredoms. Don’t really understand the provenance of this album—recorded in 2000 but only released this year? Weird vocal calisthenics, big tribal drum thrusters, chimes and flutes and birds and trumpets, synthesizers, tablas, loopage and harmony chants, Sean Lennon and Yuka Honda amongst the guests, the best album booklet I’ve seen in 2005—it seems to illustrate a place directly midway mushroom wonderland of the Allmans’ Eat A Peach album centerfold and the post-toxic landscapes of Lightning Bolt—and check it out, here on Track 7: straight-up female Tuareg ululations!
D: Sometimes I think Bjork gets all the attention for trying to do what Yoshimi is already doing.

Pearls and Brass
The Indian Tower
(Drag City)
C: We really shouldn’t be reviewing this til next issue cuz it’s not out til January 24. But excuse me, I think I need to turn this up.
D: Cream covered by Kyuss?
C: Yeah, kind of, huh? It’s actually three dudes from Pennsylvania.
D: These are some pretty knotty riffs. Quite a brush. A hedgerow.
C: Thorny stuff, but they still give you a riff. Here, have one.
D: Why thank you.
C: Total air guitar and drum practice CD. “The Face of God” is the face they make when they play, I bet. And there’s the vocal harmonies, and the fingerpicked acoustic blues.
D: This is bigrig truck driving music.
C: Forty-wheeler stuff—for the poor dudes trying to forget about the price of gas as they drive the nation’s clogged freeways. If it’s time for a Convoy remake, then this is the soundtrack.
Continue reading

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 (Arthur No. 16/July 2005)

Originally published in Arthur No. 16 (July 2005)

REVIEWS BY C and D

Sleater-Kinney
The Woods
(Sub Pop)
D: Before we begin, I would like to say that today I am in the mood to rock.
C: Well, my friend, you have come to the right place.
D: [first song starts, D leaps out of chair immediately] Is this one of those Japanese bands? With a girl?!? Who is this singing?
C: That woman is not a girl—she could show you a thing or two. [dramatic pause] It’s Sleater-Kinney, produced by Dave Fridmann.
D: [Jaw hits floor] Really?!? SLEATER-KINNEY?????!!!!???? Fuck, man! [shakes head] This is a MAJOR statement of psychedelic riot woman super-rock power! Rock ‘n roll album of the year! God DAMN!!!!
D: I know. Maybe the decade. Superfuzz-heavy in the Northwest tradition of Blue Cheer-Nirvana-Mudhoney, expansive like Neil Young with Crazy Hors…Hendrix… Built to Spill? There’s stuff on here that is out as Comets on Fire, possible even further. Who’s going to top this? Absolutely gigantic sounds…amps out of the red and into the black… a 14-minute song at the end that goes as far out as Comets On Fire, even into Les Rallizes Denudes and Ash Ra Tempel territory…
D: I have to admit I would never have thought these three women would make a record that’s this relentlessly face-melting.
C: I don’t know if they’d thought it possible either. There’s some precedent in Babes of Toyland, or early Hole, maybe, but this is just so much further… Well, I’m not sure that they’d call it psychedelic but it’s definitely psychoactive in an urgent kind of way.
D: [musing] There’s a bit of Jefferson Airplane in here, that’s for sure.
C: There’s a structure to everything but there are these void spaces, too. And then there are straight songs too, which rock in this tight, urgent way and then blow into something else via a drum charge or a panned guitar solo or I don’t know what. I know I’m going Beavis here but I don’t know how to [clears throat] …ahem… properly articulate the sensations I am feeling as I listen to this album. For a long time I didn’t like Corin Tucker’s voice, but here? It’s like this is the setting it’s always been looking for.
D: And that’s some hotshit drumming for sure.
C: [dancing] I can’t believe it, but seriously, one must acknowledge what is happening here. This is higher than High on Fire. They are Queens of a more stoned Age!
D: An unheard of power monster, that singlehandedly, forever eradicates the notion that women have no balls.
C: [Gives puzzled look at D, then continues] I cannot account for what I am hearing. Cannot assimilate. How did this happen? Seriously. It’s a lidflipper, a real wig-frier. Can you name another band that seven albums into their career, supernovaed into this kind of territory? This is so rare. It reminds me of something that Michael Moorcock was saying the other day: “In the ‘60s, Dylan, Beatles, Beefheart et al. were all thinking on their feet, if they were thinking at all. While Dylan remained a Guthrie sound-a-like he had no real credibility (although he did bring Guthrie a wider audience, I’d guess). As Dylan dumped the Guthrie cloak, especially when he went electric, he gained authenticity. The less like Buddy Holly the Beatles sounded, the better they got. Eventually, you went into a studio not knowing what you’d come out with.” I think that may be what’s happened here with Sleater-Kinney. Maybe this record just happened. Maybe we are witnessing the joy of unplanned, no-thinking, no-rules spontaneous creativity, of these three amazing women following and trusting their muse, confident in their abilities and each other to give it a trust that most other artists cower from giving these days? In any event, it’s an extraordinary creative breakthrough record made at precisely the right time by artists working at the peak of their collective rock power. That they are women in a stupid, male-centric culture doing this makes the whole thing even more important and inspirational. I want to go door-to-door like an evangelist for this record: “Hey sisters and brothers, have you heard the Good News?” But the old doors don’t exist after this album. They’ve all been blown open.
D: Word to your moms, Sleater-Kinney drop bombs.

Oneida
The Wedding
(Jagjaguwar)
C: New one from New York underground trance/art-rockers Oneida: a favorite around the Arthur offices for years now.
D: [Listening to “The Eiger”] They’re using strings?!?
C: Yes! This sounds amazing. The songs are catchier, there’s more dynamics in the structure, the arrangements are more varied. And the production is just nuts. This is another huge artistic breakthrough. Damn…
D: Something is in the air… Something good. A new scent.
C: Shit! Listen to how the keys get sucked out of the soundfield [on “Lavender”]… Listen to the almost-Espers psych-folk that is “Run Through My Hair.” “High Life” is an optimistic vocal over a total Kraftwerk/Cluster/La Dusseldorf electronic bed that changes into something more organic… “Did I Die” is like Wolf Eyes without the noise, [chuckles] whatever that means. Wow. I can’t believe this album…
D: It’s true, it’s beautiful.
C: Listen to how massive the drums are on “Spirits” and “Heavenly Choir,” and how majestic the guitar is. These are their “Kashmir”’s, their “When the Levee Breaks,” and this album is their Physical Graffiti…
D: We are in the presence of genius, manifesting itself.

Angels of Light
The Angels of Light Sing “Other People”
(Young God)
D: Who is this? It sounds like Johnny Cash with the Up With People choir or the Beach Boys singing backup.
C: It’s the new album by Angels of Light. You know, Michael Gira from Swans’ new band. Well, if you can be on “new” when you’re on your fourth album.
D: The most brutal, dealing-with-ultimate-things band ever?
C: None other. He moved away from that a while ago, but this one is sort of the moment when it all comes together for him. [listening to “Destroyer”] Listen to how amazing this: is that a mellotron, or strings? [Skipping through the record] And glockenspiels? Shit! This whole record is soaked in the most resplendent bittersweet textures, never getting sappy or fruity or corny in any way. Not an easy thing to do, for anyone. And for it to come from the man who wrote “Raping a Slave”? Fuck…
D: [smiling beatifically] I am shocked, once again, in a pleasantly happy way. He’s aging well, into something elegant and striking in his own way. Kinda like Nick Cave.
C: It is really beautiful, and represents the third risky, radical creative breakthrough THAT SUCCEEDS we’ve heard this session. So exciting to be in the presence of artists when they’re going for it like this.

Boredoms
Seadrum/House of Sun
(Vice)
C: And now…would you believe…? NEW BOREDOMS! Yoshimi sings a capella…and then this…[wave of drums crashes in]
D: [musing] We appear to be living in magical times.
C: 45 minutes, two tracks, completely different from each other. It says one thing: “Fuck off (in a good way). We are Boredoms. And we cannot be denied. We will now share this with you.”
D: Please place this on infinite repeat while I unclog every stuck nerve ending in my elderly body. Music…music…music…Boredoms… Boredoms… is…life.

Brain Donor
Brain Donor
(MisterE/Revolver)
D: I don’t whether to pump my fist in the air or punch myself in the face.
C: Who would have guessed that Julian Cope would be making this sort of rubber-burning rock’n’roll what, 25 years down the line?
D: His head is out on the highway. And he’s stuck in sixth gear.
C: Julian calls them a stupor group. Doggen, the guitarist, plays in Spiritualized, as does drummer Kevlar. They wear neon facepaint and have empty thought balloons over their heads. They’re like the Rutles version of the Stooges: songs that are just as good, with better lyrics. Dig the song titles: “My Pagan Ass,” “Shaman U.F.O.”
D: [shimmying] My pagan ass! My pagan ass!
C: This is a compilation CD, selections from the Brain Donor’s two previous discs that were only released in the UK. Now America can welcome Brain Donor with open heads.
D: If these gentlemen are really donating their brains, I need to go to the brain bank and get one.

Turbonegro
The ResErection DVD
(MVD)
D: Aha, Turbonegro! “IT’S DEATH TIME!” They ARE rock ‘n roll! In the gay sailor style of Norway!
C: I will explain D’s outburst of Turbonegroist passion to the gentle readers of Arthur.
D: [muttering] So arrogant!
C: I heard that, D. And I will remember. Oh yes. I will remember.
D: [muttering] So smug!
C: Shut up and let me do the thing that needs to be done. [to tape recorder] This is Turbonegro’s Some Kind of Monster, the story of “how the bandmobile went off the road in 1998,” it says here, and what happened next. Could Hank von Helvete recover from heroin addiction and other assorted mental problems and don the black cape and Alice Cooper makeup again? Could the Absolut-guzzling band of self-professed “death punk” godfathers successfully re-buddy after four years apart? Would anyone care? Would—
D: OF COURSE PEOPLE CARE! This is Turbonegro! [singing] “Whoa-oh-oh/I’ve got ERECTION!”
C: The other difference between Turbonegro and Metallica is that Turbonegro seem quite comfortable being gay. I do not know if they are actually gay, but they play a gay band onstage and on camera with a great deal of affection and commitment and sense of humor. Fear of a Gay Planet is the general concept.
D: [Watching Hank show off a vat of cod liver oil outside the local maritime museum where he worked for a couple of summers.] Look at this! This is better than A Mighty Wind!
C: We visit Hank’s seaside sanctuary, where he lived for four years, rebuilding his life. “The only thing that kept me alive were my grandparents and my belief in God,” he says, then compares himself to Napoleon in exile: “I was supposed to be emperor of Europe, but I’m kept prisoner of reality.” We do not know if he is joking, which is how the entire film is, it’s as outrageously straight-faced as comic atrocities like Alan Partridge or The Office or League of Gentlemen or—I’m feeling generous—Neil Hamburger in his most sublimely awful, banal moments. That kind of rare, supergenius thing. I don’t know if I’m doing it justice…? [looking on screen] But Hank is now showing us around his hometown: “Let’s stroll in the realm of dry fish…”
D: I still think they based their entire sound on the Dictators!
C: Ha! You’re right! Hank’s real stage name should be Gruesome Dick Manitoba.
D: They are like the Hives’ evil reverse twins.
C: The Hives give 1000% every time, but as Happy Tom says here, Turbonegro give 50, maybe 60 percent. The interviewer asks if they may get 80% this time? “I don’t think that’s ever happened,” says Tom.
D: It’s a cracker! A classic! [Thinks hard.] It’s This Is Spinal Tap—by Chris Morris!!!

BBQ
Tie Your Noose
(Bomp!)
C: Now here’s a one-man garage band, do it and doing it well. Makes the two-piece garage band seem passé.
D: Does that mean he practices in a one-car garage?
C: Fire up the grill, this is a fatback slab of that raunchy, rib-rocking goodness. It’s like Bob Log III and Doo Rag in one.
D: Yes, in one big barbecue pit! Which he probably dug out behind his garage.
C: “Don’t Hold Out On Me” is the hit.
D: I think it sounds like someone singing the Hives in the shower. Really, it’s that good.
C: Nice to see such a fine release on the Bomp! imprint, furthering the cause of Bomp! honcho Greg Shaw, may he rock in peace.

Radar Bros.
The Fallen Leaf Pages
(Merge)
C: One of Los Angeles’ subtle treasures, and group that explains the pastoral side to LA that only residents really know about. This music has a calming, benign presence.
D: It gives me the feeling I get from “Dear Prudence.” Or my very favorite song, “Something In The Air” by Thunderclap Newman.
C: The Radars absolutely own this gentle shuffle tempo. But I think they’d loan it out to anyone who wanted it. Although sometimes the lyrics are darker than you’d expect…
D: I believe he just sang, “I am the stable in which the ass has laid his manure.”
C: Walk, don’t run to pick this up. Or better yet, lope.
D: Yes, amble on.
C: There is something about this that puts me in the mindset of lightning bugs in a jar. And the most wistful of Muppets songs. You can always count on Jim Putnam to take one great whistling solo per album, and he comes through here again.
D: This truly Floyd-ian, I mean Mettle-era Floyd. The dreaminess of it, it’s positively molassesfying.
C: David Gilmour is on the phone, says the Floyd is playing the Pyramids again, and will the Radars kindly open? Could happen.
D: Should happen.

Lee Perry
I Am the Upsetter four-cd boxset
(Trojan/Sanctuary)
D: “Satan is public enemy number one.” You know, this may be my favorite music have to do with organized religion.
C: Sweet soul singing by Max Romeo. The production on these… it’s like all these sounds aren’t allowed to exist anymore, I can’t imagine a contemporary producer getting anywhere near this. Anyways, since Lee Perry was rediscovered about ten years ago, there’ve been a lot of re-releases and vaultpilations…including the Arkology three-disk set which was a big hit with a lot of people. But this is really special—it’s digestible, it’s got all the great shit on it, it covers everything from the obvious Bob Marley and the Wailers stuff to cuts even dedicated Scratch diggers may never have heard before—like “All Over” by Eccols & Neville, which is actually Clancy Eccols and Bunny Wailer. Spans 1968 to 1978, so much went by, the world changed so much. So many artists went from next-level to the pits, but Lee Perry maintained this wonderful, playful energy…
D: I am a great admirer of the well-played unison horn line.
C: [listening to “Black Panta”] I mean what’s going on here? There is a spatial distance in dub music, a relationship between the listener and the music that’s just completely, profoundly different from any other kind of music.
D: It’s like growing a third ear from the center of your forehead.
C: Seeing a stretch of the color spectrum that you’d never been shown before. I love that there are all these skank songs on here. [Looking sternly at D.] Ahem. The ORIGINAL meaning of skank, which just means Lee is gonna scratch a certain rhythm that’s gonna make you dance the Jamaican version of the funky chicken…
D: [with eyes closed] The echo makes the music sound like it’s talking to itself. For someone who uses so much delay, he certainly was on time.
C: I always thought Lee Perry’s physique, short and lean, so much finely toned power in his arms, was represented in his music. I always think of him as the producer, working the board, making compact energetic music. Totally dynamic. Full presence, just infusing everything. All sides of him are there: the playful side, the mischievous side, the judgmental side, the father side where he puts his child in there, crying. Wailing. Pleading. And mixing that in to a song that says “for god’s sake give more justice to the people”? Amazing.

Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti
Worn Copy
(Paw Tracks)
C: [listening to opening instrumental] This sounds like one of those cheap John Carpenter scores, recorded underwater. In the wrong kind of water.
D: Cheese is not a virtue, except in certain hands.
C: These are not the right hands. [listening to “Jules Lost His Jewels”] Although…you know, some of this is actually pretty catchy. If only Mr. low-budget Wings here weren’t so stuck on recording underwater with such tragically awful sounding instruments.
D: So judgmental, you are. I think this might be a grower not a shower. [grabbing the CD out of the player] I will examine it more at home and report back next issue!

Animal Collective and Vashti Bunyan
Prospect Hummer EP
(Fat Cat)
C: Playful, rules-less, suffused with love…. Vashti and the AC boys harmonizing on these quiet little melodies… Whistles and phased waves of glowing acoustic guitars and… Is that a steel drum? Whoa. These guys are on such a hot streak right now. So wonderful to hear Vashti’s voice again, last year’s duet with Devendra wasn’t enough. This is a wower. You could play it for anyone: children, grandparents, sullen teenagers even…
D: [listening to title track] I think the oompa-loomas are coming.
C: Unbelievable dub-like production—there’s a real unique sense of space and place here too. Where do these people live? Somewhere in Sweden, Lee Perry awakens from his slumber…
D: [blissed out] It’s womblike. Feels like coming home from the greatest picnic ever.

Colleen
The Golden Morning Breaks
(The Leaf Label)
C: …And this is what it feels like when you’re in REM sleep, later. Music in miniature.
D: Mini-minimalism. Beatless.
C: So still. Satieists. A phased, handcranked music box. If a Joesph Cornell box had a sound… Wind chimes, plucked guitar figures.
D: Very cinematic. Makes me think of Bjork, Kubrick, City of Lost Children, Jeunet/Caro.
C: Colleen are (is?) Aphex Twin’s ambient grandchildren. Like Eno was for a while, Aphex Twin is no longer a man, he’s an adjective.
D: This is what I always hoped ambient music would sound like. Don’t throw the baby out with analog bubblebathwater!
C: … [pauses] Can I have some of whatever it is that you are on?

The Geto Boys
The Foundation
(Rap-A-Lot)
D: Who is this?
C: You know who this is.
D: The Geto Boys! Scarface, Willie D, and Bushwick Bill, together forever. Unless my mind is playing tricks on me, which is has been known to do.
C: You were right the first time, D. You may now take off the blindfold.
D: After all these years, they certainly are keeping it gangsta.
C: And yet it’s soul music. From the soul, of the soul, and the slower songs on here are actually sweet soul music.
D: You know, when I’m feeling homicidal, this music calms me down.
C: I appreciate that. More than you know.
D: Well if I didn’t know, now I know!

Neil Hamburger
Great Moments at Di Presa’s Pizza House
(Drag City)
C: On the other hand, when I’m feeling suicidal…I think of Neil Hamburger, self-proclaimed “TV comic” and “American funnyman.” [Listens to CD for a few minutes.] Well, this is a new low. Which is what you catch yourself thinking every time there’s a new Neil Hamburger album, but by now it’s clear that there is no bottom.
D: What is this? [to stereo] Tell some jokes already!
C: Heckling a CD is not the same as heckling a performer, unfortunately. One thing you can say about Neil Hamburger is he’s remarkably consistent. No matter where he plays—an expat nightclub in Malaysia, a greyhound racing park in Tempe, Arizona, a pipe organ-equipped pizza parlor in Northern California—he’s always just terrible, just desperately unfunny. You know what you’re getting with Neil Hamburger. The only surprise is how much worse he’s managed to get since the last time you heard him.

Yellow Pills: Refill
(Numero Group)
C: 33 power-pop 45s by super-obscure one-shot artists, compiled with mindblowing meticulousness and liner note cleverness by an obvious labor-of-lover: this guy Jordan Oaks, who used to do a zine called Yellow Pills. I gotta cop to it, I never heard of the zine, never heard any of these songs.
D: Man! A lot of these really should have been hits. Especially the Toms? As Dr. John and the Meters would say, They were in the wrong place.
C: This drawing of Jon Brion is incredible, when he was like 14 and a member of a band called The Bats.
D: I don’t know about this one…
C: If you don’t like one song, another will be along in two minutes. You’ll be able to find a seat on one of them. [pauses] You know D, we’ve received a lot of letters asking why we are called C & D…
D: We choose to remain anonymous.
C: I bet these bands didn’t want to be anonymous.
D: Well… life’s like that, sometimes.

The Ponys
Celebration Castle
(In the Red)
D: Must be The Ponys. Cuz it sounds like Voidoids and Television.
C: Yep. Less Hellish than before, though, I think.
D: [listening to the chorus of “Glass Conversation”] Now they are rocking!
C: And check out this guitar sound. It doesn’t matter what they play on their solos—although what he’s playing is cool—the sounds they are getting are enough for me. Yes! The solo on “Discoteca” is really simple but it SOUNDS wonderful. That’s like their second signature, after the dude’s voice. [listening to “Today”] Wow this goes into a blues thing in the middle, very cool. No wonder they were on that Junior Kimbrough tribute record, it’s all making sense now.
D: [philosophical] This is more like the first album than the first one was… [listening to “We Shot This World,” shaking head like a tumbler.] The difficult second album is not so difficult for the Ponys!
C: Our little Ponys have all grown up.

Spoon
Gimme Fiction
(Merge)
D: Sounds like the Kinks in a troubled mood.
C: But look they pull out a chorus—a melody like what the Walkmen wish they could do, and I don’t mean to damn with faint praise there.
D: Great album opener.
C: It’s like they’re gonna confront the Kinks Klone critique head-on and then go from there… This is their best shit ever, and their shit has always been fresh. The songs are better put together… listen to the counter-melodies and harmonies… even strings… Like the Left Banke, except not so fussy, or even SF Sorrow-era Pretty Things… Tight psychedelic-tinged upbeat soul rock. This song [“I Turn My Camera On”] is total disco! When he does falsetto, he sounds like what Beck tries to do. If they has strings swoop in we’d have Chic…
D: Maybe they’re saving that for the next album, which I am already eagerly awaiting.
D: [listening to “My Mathematical Mind”] Another cinematic record. There is a hint of John Barry in the air. I picture Oliver Reed in 1965 on the prowl, on the way to a party, or the scene of a crime, whichever he reaches first. Americans are making great English music again!

Weird War
Illuminated by the Light
(Drag City)
C: In the interest of full disclosure, it should be noted that Weird Warlord Ian Svenonius is an Arthur contributor.
D: That guitar tone sounds straight from a robot’s butt. Is he playing one of those keyboard guitar things?
C: It’s called a keytar.
D: I don’t know if I can take anyone playing a keytar seriously. I believe this is supposed to be funky but it does not swing.
C: Svenonius output always divides the crowd. I dig some of this album, but the real undeniable gemwork here is the album art, which is like a Neapolitan version of what Pedro Bell used to draw for Funkadelic LPs.
D: Yes, keep the great artwork, but maybe they should head in a different direction musically.
C: I’ve heard they’re going to do a Grateful Dead tribute called Weir War.
D: …
C: Sorry.

Death in Vegas
Satan’s Circus
(Drone)
D: New Death in Vegas? Excellent! That song with Hope Sandoval and the Indian violinist on the last album was a high point global civilization.
C: No guest vocalist this time.
D: It’s very krautrockian. And Human League. And Gary Numan, the guy that we all hated, because he had bad teeth… always trying to combine the robotic and emotive. He had that pretentious super-serious look mixed with looking like a yuppie. It was bound to fail. Now he’s a cult hero. Just goes to show that every shit you throw against the wall might come down as gold. Write that down!
C: [Writing it down] Very Cluster. And the second track here…listen to this…
D: THEY ARE COVERING KRAFTWERK’S ‘TRANS EUROPE EXPRESS’!?! Unbelievable! That’s balls!
C: These guys have got to be total stoners. They are just fucking around, having fun. You can hear how much they’re digging this.
D: Roedelius, Harmonia, all those guys… I can hear this being played in a German countryside on a nice Sunday afternoon. Very evocative, simplistic—I love it. There’s a track called “Heil Xanax”? Another one called “Sons of Rother”? I give up. They are the victors.
C: The record is so committed to the style.
D: To me, this could be played in a stadium. “Reigen” is a German word for the old-world, Middle Ages a come-together, a joyous come together where you dance around the maypole, so there’s a Wicker Man aspect to it. This shows insane respect and love for a very specific genre. They are saying, Excuse us while we pay tribute to our love.

Josephine Foster
Hazel Eyes, I Will Lead You
(Locust Music)
C: Speaking of Wicker Man.
D: Speaking of Jefferson Airplane.
C: Speaking of genius.
D: Speaking of…speechless.
C: She’s been in Arthur before, but… Damn. This is my favorite work yet by one of my favorite voices in the world. Her most conventional songwriting, really, with fantastic arrangements and playing. All by Josephine herself. It’s not harsh like Born Heller could be, not as histrionic as last year’s Supposed album was… I think people will now find out what the big deal is…
D: So many big deals right now, most of them female!
C: I know. Feels like a new dawning, a new birthing, a new burst of feminine energy is going on, doesn’t it?
D: Yes.
C: I can’t wait to hear what happens next…

Reviews by C and D (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!

East Coast, Nov. 7-13: Numero Group presents ECCENTRIC SOUL REVUE…

eccentricsoulrevuephilly

Press release:

Motown had one, so did Stax. Three soul-deep acts and one smoking hot band to back them up. The triple-header of R&B: the soul revue. Once a mainstay of theaters, gymnasiums and VFW halls everywhere, the soul revue ultimately vanished in the late seventies as recorded sound pushed live performance out of the limelight and onto car stereos and refrigerator-sized boom boxes. The performers returned to their day jobs and the world was the poorer for it.

That is, until April 4th, 2009, when your Numero Group mounted the first Eccentric Soul Revue, packing Chicago’s Park West Theater with soul-hungry acolytes, satisfying them and then some with the real thing: a 17-piece band backing The Notations, Renaldo Domino, The Final Solution, Nate Evans, and Syl Johnson, putting on a show that combined 70s slick with revival-meeting fervor.

It was a magical evening, as the past lived and breathed and got on down, right here in the present. Those in attendance went home that night knowing they’d seen something that just wasn’t done anymore. And wanting more. If you live in Columbus, Ohio, New York, Brooklyn, or Washington D.C., the wait and the want is over. The Numero Group is taking this show on the road.

Eccentric Soul Revue hits the East Coast in November with the totally explosive Syl Johnson, the silky smooth Notations, and the man with the voice like Domino sugar, Renaldo Domino, plus special guests, a slide show, and an autograph line.

There is absolutely nothing else like The Eccentric Soul Revue. A ticket is a time machine. Be there.

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