Sunday, August 31, 2008

10. In a Drawing Room with Tasteful Goatse Wallpaper

Goatse has lost its ability to shock, and I for one pour out my forty of scat leftover on the curb, here at the corner of Jaded Street and Saturation Lane.

I'm not gonna link to it, cause little children read this (it was named a "required blog" for passing the Virginia SOLs), and because chances are you see it about 300 times a day. It's no longer shocking. It has become shorthand for shocking, but the image has lost its power, or whatever power we allowed it to have, anyway.

And while we're discussing totemic images that have lost their magic, let's talk about the sixth most interesting member of the Velvet Underground, the estimable Lou Reed. Here was a man who tried way too hard in his solo career, and subsequently, never really did much of interest to me. His batting average was way below the Mendoza line, way below those of Cale (Paris 1919 wiped the floor with him), Tucker (the 50 Skidillion Watts releases are hella fun), Pfafgen (an ACTUAL degenerate), Morrison (tugboat captain!) and Yule (probably now known as "Doug Yule of Doug Yule Ford", and who I am placing above Reed just to be an asshole).

The one thing he DID do that I unreservedly like is, yes, the popular Goatse of its time, Metal Machine Music. Which when heard today in our landscape of Kevin Drumms and John Wieses and Tom Smiths is really not all that extreme. And which, it could be argued, Reed probably doesn't even remember making. You can read all the Bangs stuff about how it enraged every man-jack and child; I'll assume you know what went on back there. But by the time I got to it, sometime in the mid- to late-90's, it was just another noise record. And a damn good one to boot.

Reed, to this day, still doesn't know how to spin this thing, which can be considered as the one piece of music he did which wasn't slathered in layers of pose; he'll describe it as a continuation of his drone work in the Velvet Underground (oh yeah, "his" drone work, right) and then a couple of sentences later pass it off as some sort of Warholian joke. He doesn't know how to relate to the one thing he did that is just a piece of music. And that's sad, but shed few tears; he's shacked up with Laurie Anderson now, and the two of them wax post-epistemological over blintzes and Sanka.

So what becomes a Goatse? How about a classical re-interpretation thereof? An ensemble called Zeitkratzer somehow transcribed Metal Machine Music, arranged it for classical instruments, and played it, no doubt, at maximum valume in front of an audience who have Goatse t-shirts. The amazing thing is how well it works. Well, maybe not so amazing: they wouldn't have put in on CD if it didn't. Avant-garde classical ensembles have to justify their recorded releases, as opposed to yer more common noise yodels, who can shit out a CD-R at will.

Look for the Goatse version of the Flying Toaster screensaver in yer new Vista service pack. And stare deep into the ruby sun twixt that old man's cheeks, and enjoy the feeling of ironic peace it brings.

8. Organized Disorganzed Noise

Just found a very cool site here (it's also in the links to the side), which got me whooped up on field recordings again. Field recordings are tricky things, and fall into that hideous little experimental cul-de-sac wherein, as in yer garden-variety avant garde, it's usually a hell of a lot more to do it than to listen to it. (Reminiscent of when I tried to get one of my bands a gig at the Velvet Lounge in DC: "You people only come out for your own bands." Now, five years later, the amplified-hairnet underground is rampant, and the VL is booking any schmuck with a no-input minxing board; nevertheless, the guy was right.)

I'll just let the site speak for itself:

Folk Songs for the Five Points is a celebration of cultural diversity and change, using “folk songs” as a metaphor to explore immigration and the formation of identity in New York’s Lower East Side.

The project isn’t about absolute answers or clear definitions. We are celebrating the unexpected richness that confronts you at every turn – from the many languages of Canal St to the endless complexity contained in words like “immigrant” and “folk song”.

The interface raises some interesting points about intent. Obviously, there is no such thing as a completely unmediated field recording. The very act of choosing the spot and action (or process) to record constitutes a narrowing of options. Eventually, field recording will reach its apotheosis when Chris Watson (or some post-industrial maniac like Mark Pauline or Genesis P-Orridge) gets a Marantz installed in his sinuses and leaves the tape rolling 24/7. But do people who enjoy field recordings buy them for what is recorded rather than who is recording it? I don't know, I'm ust riffing. I suspect the latter, and I also suspect that a philosophical point can be made but I just woke up.

I think this site makes a great point regarding field recording: intent and organization are super-natural, and necessary. I think kids could have a lot of fun with it, mixing and matching the sounds; you can pan them, eq them, make your own b-boy bouillabaise from the exceptionally rich sonic palette of the Five Corners, organize the disorganized noise.

I think my favorite field recording probably wouldn't be considered such by purists, but I imagine field recording purists are people who have five-digit sound systems and no subscription to cable television. Sublime Frequencies have a slew of releases where people just went out into the country, deep in SE Asia or Sub-Saharan Africa, pointed their mics and hit record. They also have a series of recordings of radio broadcasts from these countries, edited and chopped (or not), which I think are as much field recordings as made by any pud with a raincoat and a bag of Fisherman's Friends out on the shore in Maine during a nor'easter. It's a sort of punk take on field recording, all in shit-fi, that I like, cause I love to hear evidence of the medium (tape distortion, bad edits, etc.) but that's a whole other pile of aesthetic philosophy and I'm gonna go smoke now.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

7. Degrees of Don B., Part 1

Now that school is in session, it would behoove you little merrinks to, as Vanessa Hay once so intelligently said, "read a book." They're those rectangular things with the bendy white planes in them. Call your mother, she knows about these things. And reassure her that, even though you're away at Southwest Northern State U and Chicken Sexery, you're still upholding the tenets of Moroni. I'll wait.

We're up to speed and you've gotten a sandwich, so, a recommendation: Donald Barthelme. Not only was this man hilarious, capable of genius, and prodigiously bearded, he was also quite hard-wired into a fertile Texas psychedelic scene that was more than just The Thirteenth-Floor Elevators.

But back to Barthelme. I guess the word 'post-modern,' like the words 'gamelan' or 'irnoic' [sic], doesn't mean much any more now that Taco Bell ads regularly subvert the medium, but he was post-modern when that was a freak flag to fly high. From jump (read: "A Shower of Gold," which can be found at the link above) here was a man who knew that even if you weren't interested in absurdity, it was interested in you, and the stories follow humanity's Via Dolorosa towards a Golgotha where God doesn't answer not because he's dead, but because he was drafting his fantasy football team and drinking Lone Star.

So check out that fine collection at, go buy all the short stories, go buy The Dead Father, set up a kegerator on your veranda and whiff it:

Barthelme's brother Frederick is a writer in his own right, most like Carver except his stories manage to be more sun-blasted and desolate. He also played in some of the earliest incarnations of The Red Krayola with Mayo Thompson, and here's where the six degrees take off. The Red Krayola, revolving around our boy Mayo, has been around since 1968, and the list of people who went through it reads like a phone book from Hipville. But for our purposes, let's just focus on someone who played with him in the third, Drag City incarnation: Jimbo Rourke. Sorry. Meant Jim O'Rourke.

At this point, you yourself are on the degrees of separation railway, because it is contractually obligated from when you are born that you will have to put out an album with Jim O'Rourke whether you want to or not.
So, let's review:
Donald Barthelme → Frederick BarthelmeMayo ThompsonRed KrayolaJim O'Rourke → Your Granny on Bongos → You.
See? You're cooler than you thought.

6. Royal Trux - The Radio Video EP (+ bonus)

Royal Trux were simultaneously the World's Finest Boogie Band, backwater noise music terrorists, the logical fusion and evolution of Butthole Surfers and Was (Not Was), and two Stupid Asshole Junkies with a good hand on musical equipment. Their catalog ranges anywhere from puke-rock terrorism, Rolling Stones blues poppers, compressed cock rock anthems and the theme from M.A.S.H. complete with helicopters.

A formerly married couple, Jennifer Herremma and Neil Haggerty are the Drag City heroes of a world without hooks and art rock without rock. Jennifer is known to pack 'tude and shoot heroin, and, if in the mood, add her brand name crass, disgusting vocals over the mix, sounding almost as if a Ween song had a point, merit, or any kind of visible humor. Neil twiddles and bends on cheap pawn shop guitars, channeling some of the greatest rock soloists of his time and poking fun at all of them with every delay stompbox and pentatonic mumbling in the book, piled on top of the over produced drums, vocals, flangers, pots and pans, and sing-along reverberation, clouding the music in a thick haze on the line between snideness and sincerity. They are Captain Beefheart and Led Zeppelin, The Los Angeles Free Music Society and The Cars. Conceptual experimental, or earnestly in love with FM Radio? Either way, they're alot of fun.

The Radio Video EP is one of the band's most peculiar works, completely unlike the infamous Twin Infinitives and a little more stripped down than Accelerator and the like. The extraneous strings, stadium rock drums, and corny Farfisa organs are left out in favor of a dry, hollow drum and bass sound, droning with seductive background vocals courtesy of the unknown Reeta Young and accompanied by long time Trux drummer Chris Pyle on one track. It feels almost as if they've made dance music their next target. On the flip side, the messy vocals, rambling guitars, hysterical lyrics and generally obnoxious overtones are all in tact, and on a whole new level. The Inside Game (you might recognize this number from High Fidelity if you're a huge wiener and a fag) is a yelping, grooving, filthy dance number that sets the continuity of the record; pounding bass and percussion, loose shredding and absurd half-rapping vocals from Haggerty, and Herremma slipping in for the chorus with the effects on high. Echoes waiver, lead guitar and background samples switch on and off at seemingly random jumps, and the end product is both very psychedelic and very funky, bizarre and consistently amusing on top of that. Victory Chimp: Episode 3 was recorded live inside a book store if these boney shitheads are to believe, sung by a throaty Haggerty on lone acoustic guitar with two pairs of bongos thrown in. Dirty Headlines is the star track, continuing the canon of Inside Game with this little chant:


atop Reeta Young's impatient moaning and Herremma's multi-tracked nursey rhymes. Mexican Comet bridges the next gap with a short percussive drone, and the album climaxes with On My Mind, the last in Haggerty's trilogy of uncouth South Jersey boy sermons. It's strange there's so little seen of this EP on the internet, because it's a huge accomplishment in their discography and a definite stand out in the hodge podge of material these faithless dickwads have released.

Royal Trux have a different niche for everyone. Their signature tongue-in-cheek humor, hidden within the 50/50 earnest/sarcastic writing and instrumentation, psychedelic and unhinged and endlessly mocking, masked by a noise rock attitude and demeanor is sure to appeal to fans of most stuff that is not gay.

Click Here To No Longer Be Gay

(PS: I've added Jay Reatard's Hammer i miss you EP in, as EPs are really short and people seem to be catching onto his sneering Adverts punk rock and stupid jew fro these days)

Sunday, August 24, 2008

5. Fire Engines - Hungry Beat

If Orange Juice is the Oasis of the Scottish post-punk scene, and Josef K is the Blur, then the Fire Engines have to be the Manic Street Preachers. Under-appreciated and almost forgotten, yet artier and messier and, on the whole, much more interesting than the bands in the spotlight. OJ and Josef K are very nice bands, but if you're looking for more than "angular" guitars backed by a straightforward disco beat, Fire Engines is a good example of what made post-punk so great. Sure, it was swell of Edwin Collins to bring his fascination with Chic into the underground music explosion, but is "Rip it Up" really post-punk? Farther down the Scottish totem pole, yet light years away in terms of sound and technique, Fire Engines give us a noisy mess that you can dance to. Hungry Beat, released in 2007, is a near-discography, compiling the full-length Lubricate Your Living Room and the various 7"s put out during the band's extremely brief existence. The packaging includes a blurb from Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand. If there was ever proof that good influences do not make a good band, this is it. Listen to Fire Engines, not Franz Ferdinand; listen to Joy Division, not Interpol; and don't listen to Vampire Weekend (not really relevant, just had to slip it in there).

Fire Engines - Hungry Beat

4. Cosmic Invention - Help Your Satori Mind (1997)

In 1997 several titanic monster godkings of Japanese psyfolk teamed up to create this gem. Ghost's Masaki Batoh, White Heaven's Michio Kurihara, and Blaze Subvert's Futoshi Okana were just a few of the stars who worked on the six tracks here. While the album's title references as a Flower Travellin' Band classic release and the opening track clearly shows this influence - although it adds a lot of early Funkadelic style bass - as it progresses the various artists explore every territory of psych-rock and psy-folk. You have a great mix of heavy rock in the vein of FTB, Black Sabbeth, King Crimson, and LSD March, and much softer, but still psychedelic, folk. Truly an Album To Remember.

Click here if you are a homosexual.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

3.The Plaintive Cry of the Country-Western Robot

Well, it ain't Nickel Creek, but it is country. You will learn the following things from this:
§ the proper use of the parenthesis!
§ what you can learn for free from a fifty cent illustrated guide!
§ exactly how many things rhyme with "Saginaw, Michigan"!
§ the link between smoking and existential longing!
§ the sound of the country-western robot!
§ where the poodle who thinks he is a cowboy lives!
§ and so much more!

Country music is not a drug or religion. No operators will call.

Happy birthday, Notagoon.

2. Frank Talk About Eye Color

Blue eyes: People with blue eyes are descended from Nazis. People with blue eyes are from: Scandinavia, Brazil, Oklahoma. Blue-eyed people are horse-whisperers, cheerleaders, Robin Hoods, devils. Blue-eyed people think they run the world but they so don't. Blue-eyed people were able to rap in the early 90's. Blue-eyed people will never find the face of Jesus in a miracle tortilla, and only 7% (adjusted) will ever try to. Blue-eyed people know where participating locations are. Blue-eyed people: 11.99% APR, $700 down at participating locations.

Brown eyes: People with brown eyes wake up later than people of other eye colors, and they go to bed later. Types of brown eyes: cylindrical (reversed), like chestnut, bloodshot, muffin. If you approach a brown-eye person from behind, be sure to ring your bell; their frightened ululations will startle and delight the cattle. Brown-eyed girls resent Van Morrison, for they have never been under the stadium, and they haven't grown. They have reached only the size of their cubicles, which are piled on top of each other like Tetris blocks. Brown-eyed people are seen in the early levels, and may be defeated with the Young Moon combo, which you should have had tattooed to your left wrist by Horga, the IceWitch in Yodelling City.

Green eyes: Not jealous, but resentful of the implication. Green-eyed lady, passionate lady: child of nature, friend to man; will prepare your taxes using druidic "essences." Green-eyed people hang out under power lines, smoking; on ley-lines, smudging; in places where coffe is served in tiny china demitasse cups, writing the next American novel, not the great one, just the next. Green eyed men come from Mars, and green eyed ladies come from "What do you mean by that!?".

Red eyes: Linda Blair! Oh no. Oh no no no, God no.

Hazel eyes: Those of the hazel persuasion know their limitations, but surpass them anyways. Hey hazel-eye lady, won't you share your Twix with me? Hey hazel-eye daddy, you let my woman be. We wanna have us hazel eye children underneath that hazel tree. Hazel-eyed people would write a musical like that, but have been counselled against it.

Still here? You must be hard like Muhammad Ali.

1. Free Rock and Roll

Can't think of a better way to kick this off than with the first Love 666 album. Which is now 14 years old, or exactly one-third the age of most of my bodily organs.

See, I had always wanted to be in a band, and in fact, was in one what I'll euphemistically refer to as my college years. We were called Slag Battery, which was one step and only one step up from what we were going to be called, which was Fudgehammer Buzz and fuck it, I wanted to be called Appalachian Equipment. It was them gruge years, you know?

The problem was, all I could do was sing. And to be frank, singing was not the first thing you thought of when you listened to the kindamuzkiliked. Now, I had fucked around on keyboards... but how the fuck do you make feedback on a keyboard? Couldn't be done.

Well, a downy lad I was, and twee. My boy Joe probably turned me on to this. What we have here is NoVa White Panthers, who were on an opiate-fueled mission to bring Ayler and Coleman into rock and roll. Did any of them play horns? No. Guitar, keyboard (!!!) and drums. Go figure it would be people from Falls Church.

Did they succeed? Well, they DID get to put out two albums on Amphetamine Reptile (entitled "American Revolution" and "Please Kill Yourself So I Can Rock") so you be the judge. My favorite of their releases, however, will always be this album, which is their least diluted version, their demo. Imagine: they had to tone it down for Hazelmeyer. Whadda pansy. Imagine: they thought someone would release this object. What men there were in those days, right?

As to lyrics, well, they can best be described as pointillist, usually just words strung together, muttered in a strangely fey voice: "blue/sunlight/flashing rain/5935-03/kansas city" are the lines opening the album. Although my favorite song by them, "Free Rock and Roll," actually makes sense:

When you get to my side/ then you get through a bad ride/ Over here can you hear it now?
Freedom is won not given/ I'm just tryin' to tell you something/ Maybe you can understand.
The place where you're living/ everything is just a drag:
But I have a good feeling today/ I had a new feeling today.

I got to meet the band eventually, when they were on the downside of their run, self-releasing a half-hour cauldron of whee called "Nashville Sounds." I booked them at Tokyo Rose (RIP); it was, in fact, my last booking. I had promised them two hundred bucks. In the two days before, I lied to everyone I met. "They're jazz," I said with a straight face.

So they get up there after drinking vodka-diet cokes by the gallon (vodka-diet cokes? yes) and proceed to, all two of them (drummer was absent), play two different songs at the same time. Now I know that's a cliché but hey, I was there and anyway, they stayed at my place and, in fact, the entire point was that they didn't listen to each other at all on purpose, and that they were playing two different songs. So step.

And it was great! Dave (keyboards) treated his instrument like a god-damn mortar and pestle, grinding the husks of phrases into atoms, playing the thing with his entire body. It was a meltdown, to be sure, and they did it every night, this particular one to a crowd that was, toput it mildly, unprepared for what was going to happen in front of them. One of the guys I lied to walked up to me and gave me the 'I'm not mad, I'm disappointed' face. Hey man. By any means necessary. The band got their guarantee, I got a t-shirt and a fifth of Jack from the bar, and the audience got owned. So that's why you should go to every show at your local rock hole.

Dave has gone on to start a band called Rock, which has some free music up on their site that I haven't gotten to, and he still does shit with Joe Johnson, who was the guitar player for Love 666. Also, if you check out he link, you'll find out that he dropped out the Peabody Institute, where he was studying LaMonte Young. Of course he was.