TONGUE TOP TEN by Byron Coley & Thurston Moore

1. Been a while. We realize that, and there are various excuses we could proffer, but we won’t bother. Suffice to say, we’re sorry. But time flies. Been receiving much good stuff. Have even written some of it up here and there, but in truth, there’s a book that came out a while back which we wanted to review. But it was such a long, horrible slog to get through the thing, we were totally thrown off our game. It took actual physical months to read the bastard, and we were so fucking upset by the very idea of evaluating it when we were done, we considered giving up reading FOREVER. Since reading and writing are linked at the hip ‘n nip, well…you get the idea. That book is Through the Eyes of Magic (Proper Books) by John “Drumbo” French.

On one hand, the book has an insane amount of new detail about the machinations and evolution of almost everyone involved with Capt. Beefheart & the Magic Band, and that’s good. French was in many of the group’s line-ups, and he interviewed pretty much everybody, except Jeff Cotton and Don himself, neither of whom speak to him.

Beginning long before the Magic Band came into existence, the book tells the saga of the early ’60s high desert rock scene, then goes into the saga of Beefheart-proper in staggering detail—pretty much gig-by-gig and session-by-session (excepting the years French was out of the band in the early ‘70s). The legends surrounding Beefheart’s creative process have already been pretty well debunked by now. Indeed, the privations the band endured were common knowledge by the time Trout Mask Replica turned 25 in 1994. French, however, has the inside track. And that’s fine. But it’s clear his publisher decided at some point to exercise absolutely no editorial oversight, all but destroying the book’s worth to anyone excepting the most fact-crazed Beefheart fan. And that’s bad. The book is full of digressions, pointless personal anecdotes, whiny chest-thumping, repetitions, Christian bullshit, and is organized in a discursive format we found maddening. At one point, French comments, “I don’t think that will make it past the editor,” and we can only groan and wish someone had seen fit to liberally red-line this unwieldy 864 page opus. With a complete re-write, Eyes could have been a fine book at a third of its current length. As it is, it’s a mess, albeit a perversely compelling one. The facts and photographs add substantially to our working knowledge of the Magic Band’s history, but man, getting through this monster was about as much fun as french-kissing a duck. And to cap it all off (SPOILER ALERT), French gets himself exorcised at the end of the book, loudly barfing Beefheart’s evil mojo straight out his mouth. What the fuck was Kris Needs smoking when he blurbed this book so positively? Kris?

2. Not too long ago, we made the drive down to Maxwell’s in Hoboken to see When Giants Walked the Earth, a brilliant one-man show put together by Andy Shernoff. Although he was very mean to rock writers in the course of the evening, it was still funny as hell. Shernoff’s personal history is pretty rich. He went to grade school with Johnny Thunders, hit high school with the Fleshtones, ran the legendary Teenage Wasteland Gazette fanzine when he was in college, and founded the Dictators in ’73. The Dictators were a band whose aesthetic (cars, girls, surfing, beer) was immediately embraced by Sandy Pearlman and Richard Meltzer (among others). The band was signed to Epic before they’d played a singe live gig and uh…well, you should listen to Shernoff tell the rest. Andy has done lotsa stuff, from producing Joey Ramone’s solo LP, to touring the UK with the Stranglers at the height of the Gobbing Era, and even opening for Rush in Atlanta—which is not the least incongruous of the Dics’ early live pairings. He told excellent stories and interspersed them with acoustic versions of his songs. From “Master Race Rock” (whose opening lines—“Hippies are squares with long hair/And they don’t wear no underwear”—sounds exquisite in this format) to “Baby Let’s Twist,” the tunes smoked.

Shernoff’s gonna be back working with his current band, The Master Plan, for the next few months, but he promises more of these solo shows ‘fore long, and you would be a goddamn square to miss an opportunity to glom the wit and wisdom of the man who wrote so many immortal tunes.

3. Steve Lowenthal first appeared on the scene in NYC as the editor of Swingset, which was a fairly boss fanzine. Unfortunately, Lowenthal-the-man sometimes reminded me of Terry Southern‘s great short story, “You’re Too Hip, Baby.” Lately, though, Steve has returned to school and he recently visited to do some interviews for his thesis work on John Fahey. He was a changed man, in our estimation, and he has also embarked on producing a very cool series of solo acoustic guitar records for the Vin Du Select Qualitee label. The first volume is by Joshua Emery Blatchey, a California-based dude who plays in Mountain Home with Greg Weeks and Marissa Nadler. On this LP Joshua plays very much in the American Primitive tradition, evoking Epstein-Barr-era Fahey as well as anyone this side of Terry Robb.

Volume Two is by Mark McGuire, the steroid-drunk baseball player who founded the band Emeralds soon after he left the major leagues. On this solo set, Mark’s playing has some of the same kosmiche moves as his work with Emeralds, but the tools are stripped down to guitar and pedals, so the smoke glows with a distinctly volky quality, a la certain periods of Ash Ra Temple, Popol Vuh and others. McGuire unpeels notes and lets them pile up in shimmering coils, awaiting trans-substantiation through listening. Nice trope. Volume Three documents work by the brilliant journeyman, Chris Brokaw.

Chris’s take on the project is the most song-like of the three. His pieces are shorter, generally more evolved melodically, but still simple, stark & lovely. They also take some unexpected stylistic turns (as on the percussive “Undrum”), and pleasure is the sweet result.

4. Not sure how we missed this for so long, but the From Tapes & Throats LP by Ludo Mich & Blood Stereo (Giant Tank) is a woggle-fest that won’t let you down. Mich is a Fluxus-related sound artist from the depths of the Low Country underground who has been active from the ’60s onward. Blood Stereo is this hideous coupling of Dylan Nyoukis and Karen Constance, and the racket the three create when gathered in a single lump is inelegant, malformed and harmful to aesthetic health. That said, the album is a gas. One side’s live, the other was recorded by Ludo at home, then sent to Brighton, where the Bloody Duo fucked with it until it squoke. The sonics are relatively sane (inside the given parameters) and this will flow past yr ears like a river of steaming tapioca. Also more recent than several diseases we could name is Nyoukis’s solo LP, Inside Wino Lodge (No Fun).

Again, this is less gibberous than you might expect, and is a nearly-beautiful melange of brillo’ed electronics and vocals, weeviling into occasional acoustic drones, and trying to surge underneath everything like blood clots. Something like the Three Stooges trying to take a serious whack at the Angus Maclise songbook with tuned shovels or something.

Also, very nice to have an easily available domestic issue of an LP by thee great insane couple of the sound-art field—Kommisar Hjuler and Mama Baer, Amerikanische Poesie und Alkoholismus (Feeding Tube).

Continue reading

Own a copy of Arthur No. 7 (Oct 2003)





Here’s some text adapted from the October 8, 2003 press release announcing the impending publication of Arthur No. 7…


In grim times, Americans turn to ARTHUR, the nation’s finest underground magazine of arts and ideas, for guidance and comfort. What they get is Sun Ra, the Dream Machine, Charles Bronson, Peaches and oh so much more..


Les Deux Cafe – The Room in the Back
Saturday, Oct. 18, 9:45pm

Upstart indie magazine Arthur Magazine kicks off its second year of publication with a mind-expanding issue specially designed to help readers consider the mind-expanding possibilities of light, sound and dreams.

“Read Arthur No. 7 and call us in the morning,” said publisher Laris Kreslins.

Beneath a beautifully hyperpsychedelic cover by mad Manchester artist JOHN COULTHART commissioned especially for this issue, Arthur No. 7 features Paul Cullum considering jazz genius/Afro-futurist SUN RA’s feature film Space Is the Place on the occasion of its re-release …

Kevin Shields of lost dreampop innovators MY BLOODY VALENTINE reveals the secrets of his legendary band’s “fluff-on-the-needle” sound to Hua Hsu — and finally tells how the band self-destructed at the height of its powers …

John Geiger on the development of Brion Gysin’s DREAM MACHINE, a simple do-it-yourself machine that induced visionary experiences in William S. Burroughs, Timothy Leary, Aldous Huxley and Allen Ginsberg …

and Tony Rettman (Blastitude) hangs out with COMETS ON FIRE, SUNBURNED HAND OF THE MAN and SIX ORGANS OF ADMITTANCE—three amazing, ascendant bands from America’s fertile psychedelic music underground.

But that’s not all. This issue of Arthur also features:

* Controversial provocatuerix PEACHES (wo)manhandles the problems that Arthur readers find themselves saddled with.

* ‘SEX $75’: Photography and text from turn-of-the-century Los Angeles by Susannah Breslin. “Sex was everywhere, every time I turned my head. Nobody else appeared to notice.”

* “I was at home but I didn’t have anybody teach me nothin’.” Infamous 78-year-old Mississippi bluesman T-MODEL FORD weighs in on the home schooling debate.

* New comics by Sammy Harkham, Gary Panter (Pee-Wee’s Playhouse) and Jordan Crane.

* “Never Mind SARS”: Two entries from the just-published The Thackery T. Lambshead Pocket Guide to Eccentric & Discredited Diseases, written by Steve Aylett and Brian Evenson respectively.

* Reviewage by Byron Coley & Thurston Moore (Sonic Youth) of recently released subcultural musical/textual/visual artifacts from Raymond Dijkstra and Timo van Luyk, Charlemagne Palestine, Tony Conrad, Steve MacKay, The Radon Ensemble, Bastard Noise, Smegma, Solid Eye, Afri Rampo, Richard Meltzer, Ed Pinsent, Tetuzi Akiyama, Splendor Mystic Solis, Tuck Tuck Tuck, Irving Stettner, Mineshaft zine, Wildflowers zine, Andy Clausen, Barbara Manning, Glands of External Secretion and Decaer Pinga, Fast Forward, Valerie Webber, Mouvement Lent (Slow Movement), Steven Heller’s new book on avant-garde magazine design, Paper Rodeo paper, T.L.Kryss, Peter Brotzmann and Walter Perkins and Japanther.

* “CHARLES BRONSON, DARK BUDDHA”: An appreciation of a life, by author Joe Carducci.

* A complete horoscope by IAN SVENONIUS (gemini), vocalist for the Scene Creamers a/k/a Weird War.

* C & D review The Hidden Hand, The Raveonettes, Ween, Terry Hall & Mushtaq, Brant Bjork, PFFR, The Rapture, Erase Errata, Pretty Girls Make Graves, High Llamas, Festival in the Desert dvd, House of Low Culture, The Dirtbombs, Dufus, James Blood Ulmer and Robert Wyatt.

Arthur No. 7: 56 broadsheet-sized pages. High quality newsprint. Available FREE OF CHARGE to the people of North America at hundreds of locations starting October 15.

The LOS ANGELES TIMES has called Arthur “a magazine with moxie…which aims to agitate and inspire in much the same way early Rolling Stone and other underground publications did in the 1960s and ’70s.” The PHILADELPHIA WEEKLY said, “ARTHUR is kind of in a category by itself…DIY in its sensibility but far-reaching in its goals.”

ARTHUR is published bimonthly and has a print run of nearly 40,000 copies. Its counter-intuitive editorial approach and business structure have resulted in a breakout success after just one year of operation.

ARTHUR: the best magazine no money can buy.

Well, now you can buy it. CLICK HERE TO PURCHASE