Friday, February 20, 2009


Store credit still ruleth (second visit in as many weeks):

DEATH: ...For All The World To See LP (DRAG CITY) This was the record that got me moving, foot into building, cash (er, credit) in hand. You've probably heard about this one... the year is 1975 and, inspired by The Stooges, a black three-piece band in Detroit are inventing punk rock. They wouldn't change their name for Clive Davis and Columbia Records, so we don't find out about their killer music for 33 years. Drag City has just released the 7 songs they wouldn't give to Clive and vinyl has been immediately hard to get. (Apparently they're between represses; this was the store's last copy.) (Update: now on their third pressing.) On first spin it actually seemed a little cleaner and poppier than I expected, with surprise prog leanings as well... I even jotted down that "both the Stooges and the Bad Brains make these guys sound like the Attractions (as in Elvis Costello)," but I quickly shredded the paper that flippancy was written on because this band is truly awesome -- believe the hype. Tons of great hooks, super sharp and mean playing, undeniable heaviness, surprising tempos and changes... not only do they indeed sound like Bad Brains at times, a good three years early (bassist Bobby Hackney's vocals can especially sound like HR), they are simply a great hard rock band as well, three excellent instrumentalists, as heavy and anthemic as Thin Lizzy... and damn near as charismatic... hell, these recordings even beat Jailbreak by a year...

DISAPPEARS: Live Over The Rainbo 10 26 08 CS (PLUS TAPES) I bought everything Reckless had from this new Chicago-based cassette-only label with an eclectic and fresh lineup so far. Disappears is a current Chicago band that I didn't yet know of because I just plain don't go out anymore. I mean, sheez, you have to go to the Rainbo to hear this band? How old do you think I am, 26?? Anyway, the word "shoegaze" was vaguely thrown out there in the store blurb for this tape, but I think it's accurate, and either way lurking underneath is a good old garage pound, bolstering the dreamy elements with taste and strength. The store clerk did tell me Brian Case of 90 Day Men and more recently The Ponies is in this band, so that makes sense.

CHRIS CONNELLY: Lost Episodes CS (PLUS TAPES) I like the idea of an outtakes release for Chris Connelly's The Episodes album, because that's a seriously good record, with extended jammed-out song structures that certainly lend themselves to varied approaches (rather than just getting the song 'right'). And sure enough, this is a cool tape. These versions seem more stripped down than the album... some of them might be Connelly solo, singing and playing guitar (and one song is a vocal a capella). There are also two really good live songs from "the one and only Episodes live show with the full band" (more info about the tape here). Mid-period Tim Buckley-esque is the easy way to describe what Connelly's doing here, but there's something a little more upbeat and hard-driving about Connelly's stuff, less likely to fracture and get lost in halls of mirrors.

THE TRAVELLERS: The Sound of Travellers CS (PLUS TAPES) Not entirely sure about this one... it looks cool, a Sublime Frequencies-worthy groovy-60s mod-rock band from Indonesia or something (Singapore to be exact), but so far the music seems a little on the elevator muzak side, string-laden with Herb Alpert-style trumpet. Sure it has a nice vibe and if it was playing in a grocery store it would be dreamy but I don't really get a 'real band' feeling, more like it was put together by cigar-chompers and studio lackeys to be thrift-scored years later. There's certainly far worse thrift-scores to be scored, don't get me wrong... it really is a pleasant listen, inhabiting that languid lotus-land muzak zone where everything's gonna be alright.... everything's gonna be alright.... no woman, no cr -- wait, where am I?

FUNKADELIC s/t LP (WESTBOUND) Of course I already have this on CD (I even have it on cassette) but when I saw this distinctly 'VG-' original vinyl copy at Reckless for a mere $19.99 I had to pick it up. Just imagining the way Funkadelic sounds on original vinyl gives me shivers, all cloudy, crackling & popping, perfect vintage. And, for as many times as I've listened to it over the years, this album still threw me for a loop when I spun it tonight... not so much a collection of songs as a collection of rituals, heavy chants and exquisitely slow grooves and gutbucket riffs that pile up and gain momentum and swirl around the room like ghosts.

Maximum Rocknroll #310 (The Health Issue) After completely ignoring Maximum Rocknroll for basically all my life, over the last year I keep finding myself buying new issues off of the newstand. I don't know... at $4 the price is right, there always seems to be at least one band/person mentioned on the cover I'd really like to read an interview with (Clockcleaner, Ray Pettibon, Billy Bao, stuff like that), and in this day and age where deep music zines are hardly ever printed on paper, all of a sudden MRR really stands out for being incredibly packed with opinion, ideas, scenes, addresses, you know, culture. Sure, I don't agree with it or care about it all, but so what? I just like the fact that it takes me a couple weeks to get through the columns section alone. Anyway... this time it's a themed issue, the health issue, so you've got all kinds of random real-people stories like getting a vasectomy, being a nursing school dropout, dealing with herpes, not having health insurance (of course), and lots more. This is also the issue with all the staff's year-end record/band/show roundups, so that's cool too. Lots of Sex/Vid mentions.

AND POST-RECKLESS, a theme emerges:
"Great Weird Black Music, Ancient To The Future"

After getting through the Reckless pile with its Death and Funkadelic, I felt the urge to follow up with another recent archival 1970s record, the one and only Chaos (1978-1986) by Wicked Witch. These are recordings by one Richard Simms, a resident not of Detroit but the original Chocolate City, Washington DC, and this is some loose, murky, and funky mutant machine disco with grunting grooves and over-the-top one-man orchestrations. Not necessarily strong in the tunes department but definitely a missing link between P-Funk and 1980s developments like Prince and Cybotron. Things get really weird, and a little dodgy, when he goes into a full-on Narada Michael Walden-era Mahavishnu Orchestra impersonation, and even weirder when he basically pulls it off. If you think Funkadelic got just a little slick in 1978 with One Nation Under A Groove, don't worry, Wicked Witch was handling things in the 'wrong' department..

After this craziness, I figured I was finally ready to hear Chicago's own ONO for the first time. I was wrong, nothing gets you ready to hear ONO. I had only recently heard about these guys for the very first time when Joe Carducci was in town to read from his latest book Enter Naomi. Before the reading started, a couple striking dudes (big, goofy, dreadlocks, sunglasses) showed up who clearly went back with Carducci and hadn't seen him in awhile. Carducci turned to a page in his book and they all looked at it and chuckled. During the Q&A after the reading, he mentioned that these two were in the band ONO, and had been on his record label Thermidor in the 1980s. The page they had looked at featured a reproduction of their original promo glossy. Checking it out later at home, that picture made me expect something kind of art-damaged and new-wave, and Carducci called them a "non-rock art group" in Rock and the Pop Narcotic. Well, tonight I played their debut album Machines That Kill People, and uh, they sure as hell don't sound like Depeche Mode -- this non-rock art is aggressively spaced-out electronic ritual, with off-kilter drum machines snapping haphazardly, mutant sax caterwauling in some far-off room, sharp but inscrutable guitar scrape, surprisingly heavy low-end surges from the non-rhythm non-section, and wow, the singing of Travis (just Travis, the guy with the dreadlocks)... he's all over the place, from Paul Robeson to Jim Morrison to, I don't know, Robby the Robot? Crazy band. Go here for a great article on 'em from the great Roctober magazine.

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