Reviews by C and D (Arthur No. 8/Jan. 2004)

Originally published in Arthur No. 8 (Jan. 2004)


Who Will Cut Our Hair When We’re Gone?
C: Who?
D: Who what?
C: Who, Sir D, will cut the Unicorns’ hair when they’re gone?
D: Ah, yes.
C: You don’t really care, do you?
D: Can’t say that I do, no, not really. These guys are wacky.
C: Sub-Ween wacky pop.
D: Helium-sucking stoners.
C: Queasy synthesizers.
D: A Rephlex artist gone Dr. Demento.
C: [puzzled]
D: This is like hearing someone you’re not interested in taking drugs. Boring drugs.
C: Maybe too much Flaming Lips for them…? There’s some talent here… “Child Star” sounds like a Radiohead parody…. You know, it’s not easy providing comic relief.
D: This whatever-it-is is not one of my cups of tea.
C: And you have a lot of china.
D: Indeed I do.

Eugene McDaniels
D: [reading] “Eugene McDaniels – the soul anarchist.” Then it says here, “Under conditions of national emergency , like now, there are only two kinds of people — those who work for freedom and those who do not… the good guys vs. the bad guys. — mc d.”
C: [singing along to opening track “Outlaw”:]“She’s an outlaw, she don’t wear a bra.” Um, yeah…I don’t know if it’s me, but this doesn’t seem to have aged well.
D: This came out in the early ‘70s.
C: The guy has cred, supposedly he gets sampled a lot. And you can hear why… there’s a nice feel to these songs. Ron Carter on bass, from Miles’ group…
D: But the lyrics are terrible! And his singing is totally affected. “La la la smoke a joint” blah blah.
C: Yeah I don’t get what the big deal is either. None of these songs stand out…in a good way, at least. [laughter]
D: The cover looks amazing, though.
C: Talk about badass, there it is in front of ya.

The Starvations
Get Well Soon
C: We haven’t got off to a real positive start here…
D: Who chose these CDs, anyway???
C: The editor.
D: Hmm… Hey, I like this one. Very Gun Club! Do you remember “cowpunk”?
C: Yeah. [shudders] Actually I think this is better than, say, the Bo Deans or something.
D: The Bo Deans! Now there is a name from the distant past.
C: These guys are from L.A… Kinda makes sense. Countryish rock, some punk aggression… slide guitars…walking bass…throaty singer…
D: Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds.
C: Yeah, that’s true. There’s some Birthday Party in there too. [looking at the lyric sheet] I can’t really understand what he’s saying…
D: He should practice his enunciation.
C: He sings in a tough key a lot of the time but he hits it. [reading from the lyric sheet] Yep…lyrics about graveyards, ghosts, voodoo, burgundy wine, rebel angels…and a guy called Rat Boy. Folks, we have ourselves a bona fide Romantic.
D: A bohemian.
C: But anyways, you can totally hear the L.A. heritage: not just the Gun Club but also the Blasters and the Geraldine Fibbers…
D: Nice to hear an accordion too. This is good!

D: Whoa! Who is this?!?
C: They’re like 20 years old, from England. It’s like the Starvations, yeah?
D: But more banging. Blues-rock with punk balls!
C: Yeah the hooks are bigger, the playing is better. Hard to believe they’re not Americans. They’ve got the Gun Club in there too…
D: That solo is like that stuff the white guy who plays with R. L.Burnside does!
C: Kenny Brown. Yeah you’re right, I hadn’t noticed that. He totally does slide solos like Kenny.
D: You can dance to this stuff.
C: Yeah that’s the R.L. influence maybe, I dunno. This track [“Messed Up”] is a march but it’s also real soulful… That’s hard to pull off. The dude’s voice reminds me of a non-fucked up Shaun Ryder, a little.
D: “King Bee,” that’s an old one.
C: Big Chicago blues stomper. This is something. Pretty good for a debut EP–there’s not a weak track. I see why there’s such a fuss about these guys. Too bad we missed em when they opened for Jet and Kings of Leon last month. Oh well.

Sun Kil Moon
Ghosts of the Great Highway
D: What’s going on here? Are we reviewing for Some Depression now?
C: No Depression, you mean.
D: Whatever… all of this so far is roots-ish.
C: [looking through CD pile] Yeah, and there’s more on the way. Must be the season or something.
D: So, who is this?
C: Mark Kozalek’s new band. He used to do a band called Red House Painters. Pretty popular with the NPR crowd.
D: Never heard of ‘em.
C: Yeah, well… What a voice, eh?
D: It is a pretty voice… This kind of music reminds me of seaside towns. Long sad afternoons in the winter.
C: Yeah, it’s sad but it’s beautiful, it’s not depressing. Long, droney folk songs… ooo, lookit that, here come the drums 3:45 in to the first song. Always a nice touch.
D: I would say there’s a bit of Neil Young to him.
C: Yeah, fer shure. This song “Salvador Sanchez”…fantastic electric guitar. Listen to that simple riff and then the endless solo… People should turn in their copy of Greenville and get this instead.
D: Greendale.
C: Whatever. When he puts the strings behind his falsetto, whoa. This is almost too intense to listen to in sequence. You know what? This is what Jay Farrar from Son Volt wishes he could do…
D: It is bittersweet music.
C: Stunning, really. On first listen, I gotta say I’m stunned. That doesn’t happen too often.

Jolie Holland
C: She sounds a little like Karen Dalton.
D: Is this new?
C: Yeah. She was in this group the Be Good Tanyas for a little while, I guess. It’s good, huh. Acoustic guitar, ukulele, and what a voice.
D: Sleighbells!
C: Yeah. Country-blues-folk… Very pretty, kinda spooky. She’s got that white-girl Billie Holiday thing going for her, just like Karen Dalton did. [listening] Did you hear that? She sang “3 a.m.” like “three-eye-am.”
D: She must be American…
C: She is.
D: There’s a song on here credited to “Holland/Parton/Syd Barrett”…?
C: Ha! How appropriate for this ish of Arthur… [reading the sleeve] “The Littlest Birds.” I hafta admit, I don’t know exactly what she’s doing here…I guess this is a medley?
D: It must be. [repeating a lyric:] “The littlest birds sing the prettiest songs…” That’s true, you know.

Mark Lanegan Band
Here Comes That Weird Chill (Methamphetamine Blues, Extras and Oddities) EP
(Beggars Banquet)
C: Here’s another distinctive voice. Brought to you by Marlboro…
D: Mark Lanegan! He’s in Queens of the Stone Age. That guy who comes out in the middle of the show and hangs on to the microphone for dear life!
C: Right, right. Used to be in Screaming Trees, did a bunch of solo records on Sub Pop, blah blah. Amazing artist that not enough people check on, for some reason.
D: This is pretty rough stuff.
C: Yeah it’s kinda grimy. Machine rock, at least this first track.
D: Nightmarish drone…
C: I gotta say I prefer to hear his voice unfiltered… [checking credits] Oh right, okay so this is the session they did with Chris Goss, Dean Ween and Josh and Nick from the Queens and so on. With that lineup you could probably call it Desert Session 8.5 or something. Only in happened in the Valley, not the desert.
D: [listening to “On the Steps of the Cathedral’]: What is this…?
C: Pretty, eh? Like a rondolet… And the next song is a Beefheart cover, “Clear Spot.” It sounds like they’re using a drum machine, really tinny and flat. This stuff has a Tricky feel to it. Very disorienting.
D: Reminds me of that song at the beginning of The Sopranos… [singing] “Born under a bad sign…”
C: Yeah, I can hear that. Listen to that solo…it’s all high up, like one of those solos Jack White does on Elephant. Only this was recorded before that came out… This track “Message to Mine” sounds like a demo for a really good Screaming Queens song… can you hear that organ? Nice. And a little bit of the bubblegum pop on the chorus, which is appropriate since Lanegan’s album coming out next year is called Bubblegum…
D: I like it…
C: Spoken-word here… tacked piano… “Skeletal History,” wow listen to that… he’s crooning with a swagger.
D: The bass is covered in fuzz!
C: Yeah. Good stuff. Sounds like Laney gone beatnik… [repeating words] “Girls stare in dead-eyed wonder”… Yikes.
D: And this last one is a dub?
C: Yeah. It’s like a country dub, right? 6am comedown music… This is a strong EP.
D: 8 songs, 26 minutes.
C: Thanks for the stats, D.

Heron King Blues
(Thrill Jockey)
C: Uncategorizable …dark country…banjo…electronics… a lot of the ol’ kling-klang.
D: I like his voice but I can’t hear what he’s saying.
C: Yeah it’s always like that with these guys, you just catch weird phrases here and there… I like this, this might be my favorite Califone yet…
D: There’s a bit of a Tom Waits Bone Machine feel here. The Lanegan record had that, too!
C: Mmm, you‘re right. Kind of rustic, kind of futuristic. Vintage futurist. It reminds me some of that Medicine album that came out this year too… Apparently this is something of a concept record.
D: What is that on the cover?
C: That would be the heron king, I guess. Kinda got that witchy Lord of the Rings-Mercury Rev-Guy Maddin-Svankmajer vibe, doesn’t it? And then, check this out… I was gonna say Califone is like Radiohead and Wilco stripped of the pretension and pop sense, but then there’s this track… [skips ahead to “2 Sisters Drunk On Each Other”] It’s actually funky. They’re bringing in that Sly Stone stuff.
D: There’s a Riot Goin’ On…
C: Exactly. This is a proper jam band. Sounds like some of this stuff was improvised, but it really works. I’ve seen ‘em do it live. Totally underrated.
D: They played at All Tomorrow’s Parties at UCLA! We saw them–
C: That’s right…
D: Incredible.

Book of Lies: The Disinformation Guide to Magick and the Occult
edited by Richard Metzger
D: So we’re reviewing books now, too?
C: Yeah, and DVDs, if we have time.
D: Which ones?
C: We’ve go the Guitar Wolf DVD here from Narnack, if we have time.
D: Nice.
C: So, this certainly keeps us on the witchy path, don’t it?
D: Yes. [looking at the list of contributors on the cover] But for a book about witches and magick…why are there no women here?
C: [taking the book away] Give me that. Lemme look. Hey, you’re right…. [reading further] Oh geez. From the editor’s introduction: “For some reason, I have always considered myself to be a warlock. Even when I was very young, I don’t know why, really but it is true … [W]hen I was a little kid I really loved Bewitched.” I mean, is this guy serious? “It works on a lot of levels, metaphorically speaking, for me to consider myself a magical businessman, if you see what I am saying.”
D: Oh god.
C: Yeah. Richard Metzger, he’s that guy who’s on all the Disinfo book covers, smirking. [still reading] Then he ends it with some talk about an emerging mutant race and asks “Which side are you on?” I mean, come on, these are Grant Morrison ideas here…
D: …who is in the book.
C: Yeah, well… Gotta admit there is a lot of good stuff here, although I have no idea how useful it is… Lots of excerpts from books by Robert Anton Wilson, Daniel Pinchbeck, Gary Lachman, Terence McKenna, Julius Evola and so on… Tons of stuff about Gysin and Burroughs and Crowley and Genesis P-Orridge and so on. The usual subjects, in other words.
D: This could be a good introduction, then.
C: Yeah, I suppose, if you want to be introduced to this stuff via a book that‘s title ‘Book of Lies‘ and published by someone called ‘Disinformation.’ I mean, those aren‘t exactly names that inspire confidence on the reader’s part in the authors’ accuracy, you know? Hey, wait! I just found a woman author: Tracy Twyman is in here writing about “Hitler and the Occult.”
D: Oh.
C: Yep. Remember she’s the one who’s in with Boyd Rice on all that Cocteau-conspiracy crap. Losers. Anyways there are some women as subjects in here—Cameron, Ida Craddock and Rosaleen Norton—so it’s not completely Magic Boys’ Club. But it’s close.
D: How many women musicians have we reviewed so far today?
C: Ulp.

Bobby Conn and the Glass Gypsies
The Homeland
(Thrill Jockey)
C: Speaking of conspiracies…
D: Speaking of terrible is more like it. What is this shit?
C: “Franchised Jesus Christ/Organized paradise/Clear Channel, bargain priced/We’re not very nice/We’re taking over the world”… Yeah… Dude means well, but…
D: Turn it off now.
C: Oh, come on, we have to listen to more than four songs.
D: I am exercising my veto power!
C: [turning the CD off] Okay, well what do you think of the cover.
D: Nice pyramid and the eye, okay, I get it, I get it. Masons blah blah. Off! [Throws CD out window.]
C: Hey bro, you need to get another beer and settle down.
D: I will get another beer but I will not settle down! [exits]
C: [to tape recorder] Man, he’s totally losing it! He’s been useless today, useless… D’s falling off…

Continue reading

KARIN BOLENDER: “In a time of great need—starvation, privation, aggravation, a broken heart and a broken head—I found succor at Dollywood.” (Arthur, 2004)

Karin Bolender on the secret truths that Dollywood reveals

As published in Arthur No. 8 (January 2004), with illustrations by Emily Ryan and art direction by W.T. Nelson

. . . And me astride a mighty rooster, with a raging red crown and swelled breast and silver claws, and it running, running: but suspended, rising and falling slow like tides, like a horse in a dream who gallops without going anywhere-rising and falling with hydraulic and dreamlike monotony, round and round, the same dim motion ascribing its circumference of colored lights and warped music round and again like a lathe into the world’s great big empty bowl. The next time around, it was a goat I rode. (1)

Oh it may have all started way back, when I was nine and saw a unicorn while on a honeymoon in Mexico. It was 1984: the beginning of the end for so many of us, God’s children. Of course nobody believed me. We also saw the Love Boat on that honeymoon, docked in Puerta Vallarta. It was my mother’s second marriage, the real one. But what does it matter now, anyway? That was another age, a virgin country.

And I can tell you, because you already know, how the paths that bring us from childhood to this are crooked and fraught with pitfalls. And this is what we get for our troubles: a soul full of rusty fish hooks and bullet holes, eyes that squint, hands that shake. But there are certain little comforts of adulthood. Whatever your poison happens to be, you seek succor where you can. In a time of great need—starvation, privation, aggravation, a broken heart and a broken head—I found succor at Dollywood.

I suppose I should thank the Bearded Menace, because I never would have discovered Dollywood if he had not smashed up a dream and sent me packing. So it was a fine gift he gave me, in the end. This hotblood from sweethome Georgia who said, “Come on baby, let’s go down south where I am from: I’ll build a mansion in your name, we’ll swim in the black creeks, lay down in the weeds, anywhere we want, lay back on the front porch or on piles of old tires and rock and rock until we are old and wise and ugly to everyone but each other, ourselves. And we’ll hold hands and murmur this dreaming talk with dogs at our feet licking and scratching, rolling in play with our naked children, who will cackle in raucous joy and swing from the scuppernong vines-wild flesh, dying light, faint music wafting in from somewhere. Ripe peaches and pokeberries’ll be washed clean and brought to the porch steps for us by possums and coons. Fruits of the land collected and carried to us by the crows and ants and snakes, who will all gather round in the evening to hear us speak in tongues and sing tales of these very days we are living now and the glory days to come, full of moon-age romance and steamy concupiscence, and don’t forget adventuring, on the sea, in the air, by camelback and purple Triumph: come on baby, let’s go down. Go down with me.”

Back in 1984, when I saw the unicorn in the month of November, I knew that you only have to believe in something enough to make it come true. I knew this because my mama told me, and it was confirmed by Robert Vavra’s 1984 “Unicorns I Have Known” calendar, which advised the following “to the pure of heart: watch carefully entering each forest glade as though you were the first human to set foot there; take time to sample pollen carried on a golden breeze; do not use deodorants or insect repellents or wear leather shoes or belts; and believe. Yes, above all, believe, and you will surely meet as lovely and noble and snow-white a single-horned creature as any who pirouette upon these pages.”

And so I did. All over 1984, I scrawled with the new calligraphy pen that was also a Christmas present that year: “I BeLIeVe! UnICorNS arE ReAl! UniCoRNs LiVe in 83! I [HEART] UNicOrnS!” And almost a year later, on the honeymoon, it came true. Nobody saw it but me. Not even my mother, who was wrapped up in her own love dream in the Mexican jungle, brighter and more free and happy than she had ever been before, or has been ever since.

* * *

“Women are so wise. They have learned how to live unconfused by reality. Impervious to it.” (2)

This comes from William Faulkner. But it might just as easily come from the pages of Dolly Parton’s autobiography, Dolly, if you read between the lines. Or it could be painted like a motto in twenty-foot letters, alongside a gigantic pink butterfly and an even more gigantic image of Dolly herself, all a-sparkle with sequins and high nest of golden hair, on one of the billboards along the highway in northeast Tennessee, advertising how many miles are still to go before the pilgrim shores up at Dollywood.

But of course, that couldn’t be. Because what lies under the however-many square acres of the Dollywood park is not the glitterful attractions and family entertainments that lure people in, but an old organic thing buried beneath. A mighty powerful secret. Primeval, even.

But oh, the unicorn: it’s not that I ever really forgot it, it’s just that after a while, in time, that quarry was overrun with the dream of other beasts-boys and men, but mostly boys. And with pubescence, I began a metamorphosis into a new and strange kind of being myself: some kind of rootless hairy hallucinating mushroom with linguistic and motor skills.

As if the hormones of pubescence themselves are this bewitching and infinitely powerful kind of hallucinogen, the effects of which never quite wear off, and make you hear and see, and more so believe, all sorts of beautiful monstrosities and warped miracles that fall under the rubric of sexlove. Wild imaginings like “I saw a unicorn” get replaced by wilder ones, like “I will love you forever.”

And somewhere along the seam between childhood and this circus that is sexlove, we are supposed to weed out illusions and fantasies and find out what reality is. A dark time is had by all, for a while anyway. But most of us make it out of adolescence somehow, and emerge as more mature human beings with hopes and desires and even, heaven help us, beliefs. Beliefs are great and all, until they stray toward the sayings and doings of other people. Then, we are all screwed. Yes, that’s exactly what we are.

Well, that’s how I got screwed by the Bearded Menace anyway. Hell, you heard what he said! Let’s see you try to not fall in love with somebody who vows, with an avowal disturbingly familiar to the last letter-every pitch and note and rhythmic twang-to work to construct the world newly every moment, build it with words and woods and other raw materials into what he believes it should be, all the forms and lights and glories, that seem to be exactly what you have been longing and working for all this time, and trying to build, alone. Just see if that doesn’t get all your electrical juices flowing. Silly beast, you believed in this—that the words and deeds building up between the two of you were plank-for-plank making something real and solid of a dream, and not just playing around in funhouse mirrors.

Well, when the blue lightning was over down in Georgia, the darkness that followed was profound. I was thinking all this over one evening, lying there alone in twisted sheets, in the fall, in his parent’s attic, when it was dead. That is when it came to me like a startling burst, hovering over the dark filthy futon, in the sheets full of our scabs and little bloodstains left over from the plague of seedticks we had suffered together with our mutts. And the last kiss—a desperate end-kiss. I will tell you. It was something I had never thought of before, but suddenly there it was. DOLLYWOOD. That’s how it came, a vision, like Jim Morrison’s Indian. Except it was not a figure but a booming sourceless voice that came into my head, out of nowhere, and commanded, “YOU MUST GO TO DOLLYWOOD.”

What? You mean Dolly Parton’s theme park? What the hell?


And how can you argue with a booming sourceless voice that commands you to go somewhere, especially when you are no longer welcome where you are, and you have nowhere else in mind to go?

* * *

Continue reading

'STARE INTO THE SUN' by Ian Stevenson

From UK illustrator Ian Stevenson:

Revealing the world of a strange small man, who spends his days away from the world. While indulging in strange pleasures he is suddenly thrown into a fantastical journey.

This animation has been shown at a Pictoplasma animation festival and as part of my presentation at SweetTalk in Ireland. Thanks for all your support and please help us to create more animations by watching and blogging it.