Originally published in Arthur No. 24 (October 2006)
C & D: Two guys reason together about some new records
C: [Looking at publicity photo of band] I’m surprised these guys haven’t featured in Arthur magazine yet. They appear to meet many if not all of this magazine’s apparent requirements for coverage.
D: What, they have beards?
C: Yes. I think the magazine is pretty clearly a beards-only policy. It’s pretty clearly where the underground beard was re-born. Or should I say, re-grown. Remember Alan Moore on the cover of Arthur No. 4?
D: That was a beard to be reckoned with. No razors and shaving cream in the Moore household!
C: Total ‘Lord of the Beards.’ On the other hand, Alan’s finger armor stylings haven’t caught on yet.
D: I will keep an eye out for the beard as we check out these records today. I assume there will be ladies, too?
C: Yes, of course.
D: Who presumably are not of the bearded variety.
C: One never knows, does one? [arches eyebrow meaningfully] Anyways, Akron/Family not only have some beardage, they have four-part harmonies, great cascading drumflows, sprawling late Trane skronk, and that’s all on the first track! I saw these guys once in L.A., they were like a devotional Animal Collective…
D: [smiling upon hearing the refrain “Gone, gone, gone/gone completely beyond.”] Ah yes. Beyond. One of my favorite places.
C: [ignoring, continuing] … in Oshkosh overalls, without the echo delays. Like Lubavitchers gone Sun Ra or Ya Ho Wha—
D: Say wha?
C: [snobbishly] Those who know, know. [continuing] They were awesome, in complete uni-mind synch. The audience made backward-and-forward ocean ripples and sounds at their command: ‘Shhh, shhh.’ It was beautiful.
C: Lovely—possibly perfect?—debut album from this girl-and-boy lovebird combo who sound like they’re living down by the sea on some magic moonlit beach that stretches from France to Baja to Bali.
D: [looks at biographical notes and photo] Actually they live in Baltimore. And there is no beard.
C: Waiter, get this man a beard, se vous plais.
D: [ignoring] But Victoria Legrand—
C: Is that a real name???
D: —is definitely a lady. A lady who knows how to wear an aqua dress.
C: [looking at the photo] And a big gold amulet as well.
D: I would say this is late summer music, recorded at the beach house after everybody else has gone back to the city.
C: It’s kind of minimal naturalismo—organ, drum machine, gorgeous female voice: Stereolab, minus le krautrock propulsion. Midway between Brightblack slow-to-stillness, Beach Boys “Pet Sounds” melancholism and Air and another Carpark artist, Casino vs. Japan. Also, what the heck, I’ll throw in that first Bjorn Olson record on Omplatten [Instrumentalmusik: Instrumental Music…to Submerge in…and Disappear Through, 1999]. Nordic beaches. As you can see, D, it’s a very particular, yet universal, mood. I see soundtracks in their near-future. [picks up phone] “Hello, Beach House? This is Sofia…”
D: Her voice reminds me a bit of Sigur Ros. Hey, whatever happened to those guys? It’s like they evaporated.
C: She can really SING, when it’s called for, which is in creamy middle of the album on the song “Auburn and Ivory.”
D: Is Auburn the new Ebony?
C: All the songs have some sophisto pop songwriting going on: bridges, key changes, et cetera. And the sounds… when the organ comes in on “House on the Hill,” it’s like Captain Nemo down in the Nautilus playing pipe organ for the octopi. Whew! Can you imagine these guys with a big budget…?
D: Ahoy! Captain Nemo: ANOTHER famous bearded musician.
MICK BARR & ZACH HILL
C: New summit album by underground instrumental speed kings: guitarist Mick Barr of Ocrilim, and drummer Zach Hill of Hella. It’ll tighten yer wig!
D: Well, I won’t need coffee for the next five months.
C: They’re going in for the kill like two old ladies speed-crocheting. Mind the wheedlework.
D: They are the speed criminals who no doubt are under surveillance by the authorities of rock. There’s a NEW MOTHER IN THE TEMPLE if you know what I mean!
C: It does have that High Rise/Mainliner/Musica Transonic thing going a bit. Ah, Japan. Some people may also be put in mind of the Peter Brotzman Octet classic assault album, Machine Gun.
D: That’s a ripping title, “Earthship.” [considers] If you lived there, you’d be home by now.
C: Sometimes they’re against each other, sometimes they unify.
D: I must ask: is there a beard?
C: [looks at publicity photo] Have beard, will rock.These guys are the opposite of Sunn o))): they do as many notes and beats as possible per hour. It’s anti-void music, filling everything with sound.
D: Without the benefit of riffage.
C: There ARE riffs—you just need to adjust your attention to catch them. It’s condensed free rock. Like the instruments are too hot to handle. Except for this one song I keep coming back to… [plays “Closed Coffins and Curtains.”]
D: Whoa! What…is…THAT???
C: It’s like some super-processed symphonic tri-guitar. Like what that weird Godley & Creme instrument was supposed to sound like, remember that? The Gizmo. They made a whole triple-album with it, and Peter Cook too. Bonkers stuff.
D: [playing the 30-second track again] I am totally spooked. [musing] Perhaps if Mr. Ocrilim slowed down and contemplated like this occasionally, he’d get to somewhere really rewarding.
C: Rewarding to you.
D: [laughs] Of course, me! Who else matters?
The Horrors ep
D: [Reading song titles] They have a song called “Sheena Was a Parasite”? I worship them already.
C: Frantic organ and guitar-driven psychobilly freakbeat rock’n’roll by five sharply dressed’n’coiffed Dickensian Brits from the belfry.
D: They look like they live in chimneys and spend all day drinking red wine and listening to The Cramps, Tav Falco & Panther Burns…probably the Hives too, and the Birthday Party and Screaming Jay Hawkins (who they cover here) and Screaming Lord Sutch and of course the right honorable Arthur Brown. I think they like bourbon and some pretty nasty stuff.
C: [listening to “Excellent Choice”] They’ve got a good look and a good sound and they seem up for a good party. They’ll come to your town and help you burn it down. And then dance in the ashes.
Riot City Blues
C: They’re been around approximately forever. And this is their once-a-decade “rock n roll is dumb fun” concept record, apparently.
[C & D cringe for 15 minutes]
C: Talk about the horrors.
D: Where’s the pooper scooper?
C: Rock n roll should be fun, it can be stoopid, but it should never, ever be tedious. One hates to witness someone failing at slumming. It’s embarrassing to all involved. Does [Primal Scream singer] Bobby Gillespie seriously think this band can boogie? Ha ha ha. Poor Mani…
D: [thoughtful] Every once in a while an object is mysteriously withdrawn from stores by its manufacturer shortly after its introduction. That kind of decisive action may be appropriate here.
Sunset at the End of the Industrial Age
C: You will recall that both members of THEUSAISAMONSTER are members of Black Elf Speaks, which is one of the great band names ever.
D: What did Black Elf have to say?
C: I don’t know, it was this kind of gibberish? But it seemed important. [sadly, as if narration] ‘And Black Elf spoke, but no one could understand what he said.’
D: [helpfully] Maybe he had something in his mouth.
D: Or, he might have a speech impediment.
D: [looking at album cover] Naturally I am wondering, what kind of monster?
C: Probably some kind of troll. On PCP.
D: That’s pretty negative. … Um…. Idiocracy got you down again?
C: Yeah… Between seeing that and re-reading Chris Hedges’s War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning last week, I guess I’m feeling more bleh about human life than ever. The idiots don’t know when to stop. And there’s more and more of them. They want war and fast food and spectacle. They’re bad at learning. We’re outnumbered, and it’s only getting worse because the herd never gets culled, since we lack exterior predators.
D: [considers] No more trolls.
C: What are we gonna do? I don’t see a way out. Ah, hell. Maybe that’s why the industrial age is going to end, as it says here on the album cover. [reading from the press sheet] “Of course The USA Is A Monster wants to turn the tide and prepare us for the time after the lights go dim on Western Civilization’s exhaust pipe party.” Sounds good to me! Let’s engage. [starts “The Greatest Mystery”]
D: YEARGH!!! THUNDERAMA!
C: Whoa. [45 minutes later…]Whoa.
D: A shining path indeed! Was that all one song?
C: Unbelievable, just ridiculous. The Who, Bruford-era Kid Crimson, Oneida, minutemen, Lightning Bolt, Liars, Rush. Homeopathic progrock with a lot of heavy spiritual-political truths and theories (“We are only holograms”) and jokes and accusations (“You’re a liar! And a CROOK!”) and digs (“My favorite subject is…me!”). That last song, the three-section “The Spirit of Revenge”…
D: What a giant marching groover that one is! These guys must be super-fit. I’m guessing it’s a lentil and walnut-heavy diet.
D: [listening to “A Million Years”] This makes me insanely happy but I can’t put my finger on why exactly. Continue reading
Originally published in Arthur No. 13 (Nov. 2004), available from the Arthur Store. Layout by W.T. Nelson.
Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys’ Bomb-Ass Matzoh Ball Soup
As told to Gabe Soria
one stock pot
one slightly smaller pot
For the broth:
enough chicken bones to fill the stock pot
2 or 3 white onions, halved
bag of carrots, peeled and halved
parsnips (slightly less than the amount of carrots), halved
bunch of celery, halved
bunch of dill, coarsely chopped
salt and pepper
For the matzoh balls:
4 large eggs
1/2 cup club soda
2 to 3 tablespoons schmaltz (chicken fat) skimmed from the stock
2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
1 cup of Manischewitz matzoh meal
I make this a lot because it’s awesome. I had it growing up. My dad would make it about once every two weeks, and he’d always make a gigantic pot using my grandma [complicated Polish name]’s recipe. [Arthur: How do you spell her name?] Beats me. [laughs] You try spelling that shit. I don’t even think that she can spell it. That’s why she changed her name to Annette. Annette Auerbach, my dad’s mother. She taught herself how to cook, making the most out of not-the-most.
First you gotta make the broth, which is key, and then you make the matzoh balls. For the broth, you gotta get nice chicken bones, enough to fill three quarters of the stock pot. For the bones, I go to Klein’s Market here in Akron and ask for soup bones. You put those in, and you put in chopped-up parsnips and carrots and white onions and celery. You fill the water right up to the top of the bones. Not above, not below. Bring it to a boil and then reduce it to a simmer. Let it simmer for at least an hour, keeping it covered except for a little sliver. Check it every once in a while, and after the broth has reduced a bunch, put in a big handful of dill. The key ingredient is dill. It’s what sets my grandma’s chicken broth apart.
Now get a smaller pot, one that will hold all the broth, and strain out the bones. Normally me and my dad will pick through the meat on the bones and eat that. Take some of the carrots, some of the celery and some of the parsnips and cut them up into bite-sized pieces and save them to put into the strained broth later. Then you add some salt and pepper to taste and you got a good broth. You can even put in a little bit more fresh dill.
While that’s simmering, you want to make the matzoh balls, because they have to be refrigerated. You take four eggs, a half cup of club soda, a few tablespoons—three or four, you kinda do it by feel—of chicken fat that you’ve skimmed from the broth, plus a couple of tablespoons of chopped up parsley (chop it up nice and fine), salt and fresh black pepper, and about a cup of matzoh meal. My grandma only uses Manischewitz. I’ve never had others. I know some people use Goodman’s.
Mix it all up with your hands. Put a little bit of the chicken fat on your hands, rub it in so that the dough doesn’t stick to your fingers, get it nice and mixed up, and form balls with it. Make ’em bigger than a golf ball but smaller than a tennis ball. Some people make gigantic matzoh balls and I just think that’s fucking stupid. That’s kinda like foot-long hot dogs. “They taste like shit, but they’re a foot long. Can you believe it?!”
Put the matzoh balls in the refrigerator. They’ve gotta sit there for at least twenty minutes, a half hour. And then just put ’em right in the broth to cook ’em. Bring the broth back up to a boil and throw the matzoh balls in. They cook in 20-25 minutes, covered. Don’t peek. You just gotta trust the matzoh. Have faith in the Manischewitz. You should have perfect matzoh balls; they should be floating at the top. And then you put in your vegetables that you’ve chopped and then you’ve got the bomb-ass soup. Some people add noodles, but my grandma never does. But that chicken meat that you pick off of the bones? Sometimes she’ll use that. It’s a bonus.
MAY THE ROAD RISE UP TO ROCK YOU
Peter Relic rolls out for a week on tour with The Black Keys & Sleater-Kinney
Originally published in Arthur No. 4 (May 2003), with original photography by Melanie Pullen shot at beautiful Amir’s Garden in Griffith Park (these photographs were later optioned to Fat Possum Records for promotional purposes)
“Rule Number One: Never make friends with a journalist.” I wagged my finger and slurped my coffee, assuring the two young men across from me I knew of what I spoke. “Rock hacks are fretful freeloaders out to steal your shine and misquote you every time.”
We were sitting at a back booth of Dodie’s, a greasy spoon on Market Street, Akron, Ohio. It was the final hayfeverish week of May, 2002. I had driven down from Cleveland to find out how the hell these fellas—Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney, co-captains of the two-piece band The Black Keys—had created such a thrilling slab of raw-dog fatback juke joint blues as The Big Come Up, their brand new debut album. To hear the Keys tell it, simplicity was the key.
“We stopped talking about time signatures a long time ago,” Auerbach said.
“We’re de-evolving,” said Carney, a Duty Now For The Future glint in his eye.
“We’ve even removed the word ‘repertoire’ from our repertoire,” Auerbach added.
The following week The Cleveland Free Times ran my column about this band yet to play a gig outside Ohio who had made, quite simply, “one of the best American records you’ll hear this year.”
Pretty soon they did play outside Ohio. I tagged along to those Detroit and Chicago shows. By the end of ‘02, the good word about The Big Come Up had gotten around; Janet Weiss, drummer for Sleater-Kinney, testified in Rolling Stone that the stuff was up to snuff. 2003 was happily wrung in playing with Guided By Voices at a New Year’s Eve beer bash in Indianapolis. Then the call came: Would the band like to open up for Sleater-Kinney on tour? The Black Keys would fly with their equipment to Portland, Oregon, rent a van, and the West Coast leg would start there in Sleater-Kinney’s hometown. Perfect. Except that contract liability on the van stipulated that no one under 25 could drive the thing. But by then Rule Number One had been broken. And so 22-year old drummer/producer Patrick Carney and 23-year old singer/guitarist Dan Auerbach cannily roped in their over-30 Cleveland journo pal to act as de facto tour mensch. Best as I can remember, it went a little something like this…
DAN AUERBACH’S BEST OF 2007
This stuff might not technically be new but it was all new to me in 2007:
1. jessica lea mayfield – she’s a singer songwriter from kent, ohio by way of tennessee. she is amazing. i met her when she was 16. she had these little hotel bottles of whiskey in her purse and she sang songs, in a lazy southern drawl, about making love and getting lied to. her words and delivery made my brain melt. she says in one of her songs, “i’ll talk to whoever i goddamn wanna”. her first official record will be out this year.
2. mississippi records – this is my new favorite record label – based in portland, or. as far as i know, it’s just one guy who puts together compilations of very rare 45’s and 78’s and presses them to limited amounts of LP’s. he does the cover art for them too. so far i have about 5 or 6 of his releases and they are all mesmerizing. one is a washington phillips album. another is an electric guitar-crazy gospel field recording set from various artists title, “life is a problem”. there are also two amazing collections of weird american acoustic folk/blues/gospel/country/outsider art strangeness. one is titled, “last kind words (1926-1953) and the other is titled, “i don’t feel at home in this world anymore (1927-1948)”.
3. carl rusk “blue period” – i got this album from a friend of mine. it’s a collection of pop songs done in the 80’s by this guy named carl rusk. apparently they were all demos cut at different times to try to nab a record deal. you know the story – the deal never materialized and the record is now almost extinct. but i swear i don’t like it just cause it’s rare! mark neill (sonic genius) records, engineers and produces. the sounds are all amazing and inventive and the songs are great. catchy pop songs a la big star or the beatles but with a “little brother – get out of my room” kinda vibe.
4. doug sahm “i don’t want to go home” – i really got into doug sahm this year. this song in particular obviously makes me home sick when i’m out on the road for long stretches. i think it’s weird that i’d never heard his music much before. i’ll admit that some of his later stuff gets a bit stale but his first few records, both under his own name and under the sir douglas quintet, are really amazing. i can also see where lots of contemporary texan musician pride originated from.
5. eddie hinton “dreamer” – this song kills me. i can add eddie to the short list of humans i love and wish i could have met before they passed away. he played in the muscle shoals stable, backing up countless southern soul hitmakers, but he put out his own sides that, while obscure, just destroy. he “is” blue-eyed soul. everything else is just doodoo compared to the hard luck guy.
Dan Auerbach sings and plays guitar in the Black Keys, who Peter Relic wrote about in a big feature way back in Arthur No. 4 (May 2003), with photographs by Melanie Pullen. The Keys performed at ArthurFest in September 2005, and they’ve got a new record coming in April. And he cooks too: Dan’s recipe for Matzoh Ball Soup appeared in Arthur No. 13. Sorry ladies, he’s taken.