SINGLES AGAIN / Chuck Eddy

Chuck
Eddy dusts off his old vinyl and scratches his head. We all win
.

 

Greetings,
BLURT readers. This column’s theme is fairly simple: Basically, I sort
alphabetic ally through my shelves for dusty old 7-inch vinyl indie singles
from acts that aren’t household names, and try to figure out why I wound up
keeping them in the first place. This is the 9th installment (first
two appeared at Idolator.)

 

***

 

 

JEFFREY LEWIS “The Chelsea Hotel
Oral Sex Song” (Rough Trade, 2001)

Basically, a Craig’s List Missed Connection ad as a shaggy
dog story: Slacker nebbish with ponytail and backpack (you can tell from the
comic strip tucked inside the record sleeve), born of the same East Village
“anti-folk” scene that coughed up Kimya Dawson, walks along Manhattan’s West 23rd Street towards the Chelsea Hotel, “where Nancy and Sid and my friend Dave once
dwelled.” He overhears a cute tattooed girl with glasses behind him walking
with a couple gay male friends and remembering some song where somebody got a
blowjob there. He gets “uncharacteristically courageous,” and turns around and
tells her “Leonard Cohen.” They wind up having a five-minute conversation in
which she confesses that Leonard’s song inspires naughty thoughts, but timid
little twerp that he is (a fact he’s going to passive-aggressively pound into
our heads with every last little self-aggrandizing bone in his undernourished
body if it’s the last thing he does), he never gets her phone number. “I’m a schmuck,
don’t you doubt it/All I did was write this stupid song about it,” when they
could have been giving each other head in the bed that Leonard Cohen once used.
“You may think it’s sad, you may think it’s pathetic/that I’ll sing this song
and she’ll never hear it.” He’s telling us all this, of course, in the most
monotonous sing-song diction, accompanied by only an acoustic guitar which he
barely strums, and his voice cracks like zits popping all the way through. The
girl probably thought it was adorable; we’re sure supposed to. Personally, it
makes me want to wring his pencil neck. Have to admit, though, I kind of like
the song anyway. The actual physical object – music on only one side of the
single, “33rpm” and song info rubber-stamped on its plain white label – is almost
as unadorned. And the enclosed miniature graphic-novel is about how Rough Trade
heard the song, which becomes “the top-selling single in the entire world,” and
50 years later poor Jeffrey plays it on stage and the girl is in the audience,
and they live happily ever after, except she tosses out all his music and comic
books. For now, though, he’s apparently half-moved to Portland, in order to badly cover Crass
songs. (www.myspace.com/jefflewisband)

 

 

THE LIVE ONES “Dirtweed”/”Don’t Look Down” (Slow Gold Zebra,
2008)

Muffled hard rock from a totally anachronistic – heck,
already totally anachronistic if this was ten or even 20 years ago – NYC
sleaze-punk trio, led by two scraggly Connecticut-born Czekaj brothers. Yeah, dirtweeds
for sure. They’re trying to sound like Detroit
in the late ‘60s, or maybe Seattle
in the late ‘80s, and they know how to look the part. Singer-who-drums Mike
Czekaj slimes high and threatening through his bloody adenoids about how you’re
gonna get beat when you walk down the street. The beat, naturally, sounds like
walking down the street. Toward the end, he starts “woooo!”-ing and
“waaagh!”-ing. In “Don’t Look Down” the band slows down, shooting for a black
hole of Funhouse emotion, and Mike’s
voice gets deeper and more self-destructive: “Please take me home/I can’t stay
here feeling this way.” He starts howling more, quoting BÖC’s “This Ain’t The
Summer of Love,” and the sound builds to a decently noisy spurt of a drone, and
there’s an actual guitar solo. Almost four decades after the first Stooges
album, this particular brand of rock yields constantly diminishing returns. But
there’s something still left in it. (www.myspace.com/theliveones)

 

 

LOOKER “After My Divorce”/”Master’s Gone Away” (Serious
Business, 2007)

Yet another young urban bohemian snapshot that already seems
somewhat dated, given the bedbug plague and all: Newly unmarried woman moves to
the Big Apple from Paris (or Venice, or Pittsburgh – depends which verse you’re
hearing, kind of like “Gone Country” by Alan Jackson backwards), digs a chair
and table out of the trash and sweater out of the hallway to make it through
the autumn. Well okay, that plot conflates both songs, but they do seem
related. Looker are three pretty gals and a guy drummer, and in mid-decade they
put a small, steady pile of good EPs, CD-Rs, and one album along with this
7-inch, and were one of my favorite local live bands in New York. “Master’s
Gone Away” has a rhythm that flirts with ska, and lyrics that quote the old
blackface minstrel tune “Jimmy Crack Corn,” which is also where the title (and
the song’s last line) comes from. “After My Divorce,” post-Byrds Anglophile
jangle with sweet triple-girl harmonies and a taut beat turning martial,
references Morrissey and Poe in consecutive lines; this charming man reads the
divorcée’s tell-tale heart. Toward the end, the Lookers repeat “Shangri-La,
Shangri-La, Shangri-La” – the Shangri-Las being one influence they list on
MySpace, along with the Clash, Adverts, Talking Heads, Shirelles, Blondie,
Pretenders, and Kinks. Though not the Primitives or Waitresses or Jam, all of
whom probably belong there too. (www.myspace.com/looker)

 

 

LOS ABANDONED “Office Xmas Party”/”Electric Dad” (Vapor,
2006) More friendly female vocals, this time from the opposite coast – Van Nuys,
L.A., Cali.  In the seasonal though not
especially seasonal-sounding A-side, a working woman (like the one in, say, Martha
and the Muffins’ “Echo Beach” maybe) ill-advisedly hooks up with a co-worker at
the annual holiday bash, beneath decorations while other attendees fall face-first
into the spiked fruit punch, and as you’d expect things get awkward when the pair
confront each other again in the coffee room Monday morning. The beat is
skiffly with a slight lilt, though probably not quite enough of one to justify
the middle part of Los Abandoned’s “new wave/Latin/indie” designation on
MySpace. Eventually, horns take over. “Electric Dad” does in fact seem to be
recited in Spanish, but its music is just an emaciated indie-pop approximation
of synth-pop: which is to say, the synth seems lazily stuck on just one
setting, too unambitious and not half funky enough to have passed for synth-pop
on ‘80s MTV.  Though the band does appear
to dress colorfully enough to pass for new wave. (www.myspace.com/losabandoned)

 

 

 

Chuck Eddy is the
former music editor of the
Village Voice and the author of several books, including the greatest book on heavy
metal ever written,
Stairway To Hell.
He won’t admit it, but he knows more about rock ‘n’ roll than the entire
accumulated BLURT brain trust.

 

 

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