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TONGUE TOP TEN — OCT. 20, 2009
by Byron Coley and Thurston Moore
Sorry about our recent absence, but travel and general shit have shoved their fingers deep into our collective schedules. Hopefully, we’ll manage to wiggle around in more timely fashions now that the nuts are off the trees.
1. Was really curious to hear some sides by The Pink Noise—Canadian noise rockers recently expanded to three pieces from two—after hearing them kill it one night at Union Pool. So, was hanging at Earwax on Bedford waiting for the line to shrink in front of the Endless Summer taco truck and eyeballed their Alpha LP (Almost Ready Records) and the “Gold Light/Prince Charlies Revenge” 7” on Sacred Bones Records. Grabbed ‘em both and was kinda stunned by how much weirder and seriously zonked they were in comparison to their live blast. Gotta see ‘em again now cuz these vinyls are really outasite no (whatever) wave primal beat drum/guitar from crazy place and the singing is odd guttural scrawl. You might wanna dig this. Or eat it. We did both and are ready for many more spoonfuls.
2. Incoherent Lullabies (Camera Obscura) is the second album by Denver-based space pop outfit, Fell. And it makes me (the older Tongue handler) recall the first time I ever heard of Pink Floyd. It was the spring of 1968. I was attending Montclair Academy. I was talking to someone about how much I liked the Doors and he said, “Oh, you should check out this new band from London, The Pink Floyd. They’re like the English Doors.” I did check them out, and didn’t really get the connection very clearly. Syd Barrett and Jim Morrison were so incredibly different it just didn’t make sonic sense. But now, hearing Fell, I am starting to appreciate some of the sonic similarities between Obscured By Clouds-era Floyd and L.A. Woman-era Doors. They really do share turf in terms of construction and looseness. Anyway, at several moments, Fell remind me of a cross between those two bands, although their vocals are more like generic post-Pepper Brit pop, verging on tongue-turf staked out by the pre-Threshold Moody Blues. Which is actually a fairly cool mix. Other parts sound real diff—with influences ranging from Suicide (copped from some Suicide-damaged band rather than the root source, I’d wager) to the Cure—but I keep thinking of 1968. Before Chicago. Before Nixon. It’s a pleasant memory.
3. Gotta say side two of the Diagram A LP, excellently titled Human Tissue Press : Vinyl Removal (Open Mouth), is one of the classiest cut-up, clipped and jagged one-man/one-mantra meditation sessions we’ve ever ommm’ed across. Really very sweet and ahead of the game. This Providence-expat dude has been on the sub-tributary scene of bizarro solo noise junk sculpture performance for like fucking ever and, along with Noise Nomads, is one of the Eastern Seaboard’s most magnificent purveyors of random brain rip.
4. Cruising the road and/or the dial and/or the web on Sunday mornings at 2:00 AM to 4:00 AM (CST), our ears are gently pressed to the dulcet warblings of Tulane Blacktop on WTUL-FM (91.5). The show, co-hosted by Lazy Dave and Mr. McSuds has proven to be a solid sniff of interesting night air. These 19 year-olds may not have brain roots as deep as redwoods, but we’ve heard more Dictators tracks played on this show than any other in recent memory, and one segue a couple of weeks ago—going from the Misfits into the Supremes—was the most bodacious transition we can recall since someone used Hendrix’s “Hey Baby” (from Rainbow Bridge) as an exit strategy out of “Anarchy in the UK” (single version) on a party mix back in ’77.
5. Ypsilanti, Michigan continues to throw up weirdo record labels without surcease, and one we’ve been sloshing through with boots of gunk lately is With Intent Records, which has been issuing some real nice graveyard drone dirt. A particularly deadening example of their aesthetic would have to be the new Exhumed Corpse LP titled Pray For Death. This minimal dark dirge morass spreads its inky stasis across both sides and when it’s over, well you won’t know it’s over, cuz you’ll be dead.
6. A couple of summers ago we had the chance to watch a mind-blowing pre-punk document from suburban L.A.’s deep underground. The object in question was video documentation of a gig by the Imperial Dogs at Cal State Long Beach, the night before Halloween, 1974. The Imperial Dogs were one of those bands about whom rumors more than facts have long tended to cohere. Led by writer/maniac Don Waller, they were part of the same aesethetic gush as Back Door Man fanzine (with whom they were tightly associated) and various other loose threads that were blowing around in those rough days. The band only had one posthumous 45 released in the ‘70s, and it didn’t seem indicative of the madness of which they were supposedly capable. That legendary quality was finally made manifest in 1989, when the Australian Dog Meat label issued the amazing Unchained Maladies LP. And this newly released dvd—Live at Long Beach! (Imperial Dogs)—is icing on all known cakes. It is an exquisite, Stooges-damaged dive into the dumpster of style—as punk as a glitter jockstrap caked with blood. It ups the ante as far as extremo-pre-punk recklessness is concerned and is one of the swellest things to watch ever.
7. Fuckin fuck fuck fantastic duo LP by trumpet mangler maestro Greg Kelley and Scottish drum freak Alex Neilson called Passport To Satori (Golden Lab Records). Just kills. First side is straight up awesome lips on brass spoot ‘n spit tone with sweet tap tap. Side two is more manic, more off the fucking wall with Kelley sending air sound through sickened pedal puh while who one of these drunk fucks starts whooshing some kind of synth hell—really great improvisation and it takes you straight to that Satori joint (or whatever that place is) where blowjobs are as good as free jazz.
8. We have been off the Corwood Records promo list for a few years now, so it was lovely to see a package with The Representative’s distinctive lettering on it in the mailbox once again. The parcel in question contained a 2CD set called Portland Thursday and it is an absolute ratification of the enduring brilliance of this eminence grise. Like Charles “Chuck” Berry, Jandek usually plays with pick-up bands as he travels around, and this quartet (Sam Coomes, Emil Amos, Liz Harris, Jessica Dennison) is very damn fine—creating drift clouds of beauty and menace to encircle the free-form composite-obsessions of The Representative. We must do some catch-up work on the Corwood catalogue. This music is far too good to not-gobble.
9. Meditations had a couple of cassette releases on the excellent Anathema Sound label a while back which exhibited a mesmerizing take on sick forest desolation and the harsh chill of deviant synth blackness. Whoever they are they got as good a grip on new nothing black grimness as anyone out there and this new Digitalis cassette of theirs called Precipice, is full-on beautiful agony of dead vocal puke tone awash in earthworm feedback. Genius.
10. Also embued with genius is Dark Horse Comics’ series of three volumes reissuing the collected adventured of Herbie–The Fat Fury. These books seem obvious as the root-source of some of the best characters invented by Dan Clowes and Chris Ware, but there’s a strangely inert quality to the drawing and writing that pushes this stuff into a real strange and unique place. Friends collected copies of these ‘60s books quite assiduously at various times, and they were never super-rare, but they were always super-weird. Great to have them in one handy place. If you got a taste of these in Dan Nadel’s great Art Out of Time: Unknown Comics Visionaries 1900-1969 (Abrams) you may now fully slake yr thirst.
Over & Out.
We remain interested in all spew—especially vinyl, print & visual. Two (2) copies are best. Send ‘em to:
PO Box 627
Northampton MA 01061
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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:
PO BOX 627
NORTHAMPTON MA 01061