Monthly Archives: December 2009

X-Ray Spex – Live at the Roundhouse London 2008

January 01, 1970

(Future Noise/MVD)


This wonderfully packaged 2 disc set (a cd and a DVD of the
same gig) was, we are to believe, the first X-Ray Spex gig since 1979 (apparently
they reformed In the ‘90s but vocalist Poly Styrene got run over by a fire
truck before they could play any gigs). The digipak is bound with a 24-page
booklet that has lyrics, photos and some excerpts from Poly’s diary in the ‘70s.
The performance shows the band playing to a packed, rabid crowd (3000 people)
on a night in early September 2008 and they sound great. Poly is no longer the
young gal with curly hair and braces, looking now like full-figured mom and
quite smashing in the low cut black skirt with see-through sleeves and a
glittery toque while the rest of the band broke out the nice duds as well (even
the younger, mohawked drummer).


The set begins with, you guessed it, those famous word,
“Some people think little girls should be seen and not heard but I think, OH
BONDAGE UP YOURS!” Poly’s voice doesn’t have quite the same young screech it
did then but that’s ok, it sounds oddly better now (dare I say, mature?) while
Mr. Sax is honking including original bassist Paul Dean (sadly, guitarist Jak Airport
is no long with us). Up next is” Art-i-ficial”, which still has that great
stutter step to it. Elsewhere we get to hear the great “Warrior in Woolworths”,
the classic “I Am a Cliché'”, the catchy “I Am a Poseur”, their legendary
single, “The Day the World Turned day-Glo” and even one new song (“Bloody
War”). They come out for one encore, another try at “Oh Bondage Up Yours!”
(this time with a few new wavey women helping on vocals) and with that the
crowd at the Roundhouse is out into the balmy London night, feeling like they
easily got their money’s worth by a band they had been waiting three decades to


: “Oh Bondage Up Yours!”, “Art-i-ficial”, “I Am a Poseur”,
“The Day the World Turned Day-Glo” TIM HINELY



Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson – Summer of Fear

January 01, 1970

(Saddle Creek)


He’s still got one too many names for any good to come of
it. But Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson has made a record here that definitely
does its best to live up to the promise of a debut meant to be a demo with a
bigger, more confident sound that doesn’t necessarily squash the fragile, human
qualities that made him matter in the first place. Chief among those human
qualities, of course, is pain, which he’s still wearing like a scabby little


It doesn’t hurt to have a friend like Kyp Malone of TV on
the Radio you can call for production assistance, and his presence really
shines through in the textures of “The Sound.” But it’s the pain that
ultimately draws you in — or scares you off — delivered in an agitated whine
that may be what Tom Petty sounds like when you’re high on crystal meth. (I
wouldn’t know. I only listen to Madonna when I’m high on crystal meth.) But
Robinson is clearly at his best here when he lets the Petty thing get out of
hand – in the post-Byrds jangle of “Trap Door,” for instance, where he sets the
tone with “Woke up, wiped the blood from my bloodshot eyes, wondered why I
should still stand here and try to try.” It’s no “Honey, don’t walk out. I’m
too drunk to follow,” but he definitely sells it. The only thing missing, it
seems, is Mike Campbell to turn in a much better solo. If that sounds less than
flattering, it isn’t meant to be. It’s high time someone laid some Petty on
these kids to wash down all that Springsteen worship they’ve been swallowing
these past few years. 


Standout Tracks: “The Sound,” “Trap Door” A. WATT


Tom Dyer – Songs from Academia Vol. 1: Songs With Singing, 1981-2009

January 01, 1970

(Green Monkey)


From roughly 1983 to 1991, Seattle’s Green Monkey label issued a slew of
records, most of them by Northwest-based artists – and often only in cassette
form. The latter aspect may have contributed to the label sometimes being
written out of the history books, overshadowed as it was by the far more
high-profile likes of, say, Sub Pop and C/Z. But with label mainstays Jeff
Kelly and his band the Green Pajamas, along with the likes of Mr. Epp & the
Calculations (Mudhoney vocalist Mark Arm’s early outfit), Prudence Dredge, the
Fall-outs, the Ikons, the Fastbacks, Walkabouts and label head Tom Dyer, all
dotting the Green Monkey discography, it’s clear that no accurate accounting of
the pre-Nirvana NW music scene is complete unless Dyer’s brainchild is
included. I count myself lucky enough to have been in the Green Monkey loop
back in the day: writing a cassette column for east coast music magazine The Bob I covered numerous GM releases
throughout the ‘80s (and with enthusiasm I might add).


Until recently Dyer had more or less gotten out of the
record label business (he resurfaced briefly in 1995 and 2001 to put out CDs
from Kelly and then the Green PJs), concentrating on a career in academia. He
continued to record, however, sometimes under the nom du rawk Reptilicus Maximus, and apparently that old itch
returned earlier this year which led him to reestablishing the Green Monkey
name as a commercial enterprise. Two new CDs have resulted thus far, including
the two-disc It Crawled From The
Basement: Post-Punk/Pre-Grunge Seattle
which spotlights some killer
material from the above mentioned artists and many more, along with a must-read
booklet outlining the story of the label and, by extension, illuminating
aspects of Seattle’s untold history.


Songs from Academia,
then, tells Dyer’s own untold story via selected tracks, some having appeared
on earlier GM releases and many previously unissued. It’s an intriguing listen,
to say the least, the collection providing an intimate look at Dyer’s
free-wheeling, at times deeply experimental muse. That much is clear from the
get-go with “The Prize,” a skronky slab of sax-laden Beefheart/Zappa-dom from
’92 credited to the band Beautimus, which apparently was a one-off project Dyer
mounted with former students and band members he’d worked with in the past.
Another slice of sonic discombobulation is 1983’s “Cars Keep Moving,” which
with its electronics, herky-jerky rhythms and insane ranted/recited vocal
motif, suggests an abiding appreciation of early Devo. These and other forays
into sonic dissonance and lyrical snark speak to Dyer’s theatrical and even
Prog inclinations – 1988’s over-the-top, blackly humorous “She’s Winning the
War for Daddy,” is, according to Dyer’s liners, “my Sparks song,” no less.


Yet as a straightforward tunesmith, Dyer’s no slouch either.
Two tracks of recent vintage, 2009’s “The Stars” and 2006’s “Relativity,” rein
in the looniness and deliver, respectively, a surging powerpop anthem (that’s
the Green PJs’ Jeff Kelly adding a sleek guitar solo to “The Stars”) and a
psychedelic-surf epic with sci-fi themes (“Relativity” is by Reptilicus Maximus
and includes Dyer’s son Ben on bass). And “I’m Your Man,” cut in ’91 by Dyer
and a semi-secret combo called B.L.O.G. (Bunch of Lame Old Guys, is just
flat-out gorgeously twisted garage rock. As such, he almost sounds like 15
different bands on these 15 tracks – 14 listed, plus one hidden bonus cut – and
the musical fruits are accordingly bountiful.


“I am excited to finish the project exactly at its scheduled
time,” Dyer writes, in the press sheet that accompanied the CD. “When I set the
goal of October 2009 those 28 years ago, it seemed like a stretch. I really
think this project shows how an artist can develop if they set their mind to it
and have a good calendar.”


Copy that, Tom. We’ll be looking forward to the next
installment… circa 2037, correct?


Standout Tracks: “Relativity,” “I’m Your Man,” “The Stars” FRED MILLS



Stop Press: Dyer
reports that Songs from Academia, Vol. 2: Instrumentals and Spoken Word is
en route for a proposed January release. Check the Green Monkey site for
details and updates.


On Fillmore – Extended Vacation

January 01, 1970

(Dead Oceans)


On Fillmore is bassist Darin Gray and percussionist Glenn
Kotche. One degree of separation from this duo yields artists and groups like
Wilco, Jim O’Rourke, Kronos Quartet, and Chris Corsano. Play the six degrees of separation game and you
arrive virtually everywhere along the creative music spectrum from pop-rock to
freely improvised creative music.


Their fourth release, Extended
, continues their experimental investigations into compositions
with elastic forms utilizing relatively avant-garde instruments, sounds, and
techniques: electronics, field recordings, unusual percussion, bass grooves,
various small instruments (as referred to on their press release), collage, minimalism,
bird sounds, etc.


Yet for all of its oddness and chaotic mannerisms, EV is a very composed recording with
acoustic bass and vibraphone at its heart. Throughout the seven pieces that
make up the recording, these two voices form its core character by playing
contemplative, intricately written lines with a deliberateness that is
periodically obscured by less traditional voices and musical gestures. The
seven pieces play like a suite forming one large composition in which the
bass/vibraphone parts act as recurring leitmotifs supplying form and context.


EV opens
with sighs and suppressed laughter (crying?) lurking beneath the pensive,
floating vibraphone lines of “Checking In.” This subliminal, introductory
laughter can come off as a fun and goofy joke, or something more unsettling –
as if the title “Checking In” is intended to mean checking into a mental
institution after cracking up. This buried laughter echoes the same effect used
in Pink Floyd’s classic “Brain Damage” rumored to be about band member Syd
Barrett’s mental instability. The famous quote from that same Floyd song – “Got
to keep the loonies on the path” – is
reflected in another track’s title from EV:
“Off The Path.” And when seen in this context, yet another song title from EV, “Master Moon,” is related to the
album title Dark Side Of The Moon on
which the previously mentioned Floyd song first appeared. Considering all of
this, and the recording’s unwieldy and sometimes near chaotic energy, it’s easy
to interpret the title “Extended Vacation” as referring to Barrett’s tragic and
seemingly permanent vacation from ordinary reality. If that is the intent of EV (not bloody likely…), it’s a
beautiful tribute to the man and one he’d certainly have been very fond of.


Halfway into the eleven minute third track “Daydreaming So
Early,” the written material drifts away exposing an undercurrent soundscape
with a sort of purring motor or someone pulling a hit off an amplified bong.
Are these the field recordings that are mentioned in EV’s press release? Hmmm… Musical research. Like much of the
recording, “Daydreaming” pendulums back and forth between written and free,
subtle and overt. Later in the track, the more traditional compositional
approach floats back into the picture with multiple rhythms superimposed over
one another including vibes and bass lines, bird calls, and march-like snare
drum roll gestures.


“Off The Path” is EV’s best example, or at least the most concrete and overt, of On Fillmore’s
interest in intentionally clashing rhythms. Various percussion instruments
(some mechanical – like an old school typewriter; some more lush like cymbals
and bells) dance over a repeated bass/vibes figure in seemingly unrelated
tempos. Both “Path” and “Daydreaming” show On Fillmore’s penchant for linking
disparate elements to show: 1) how they can compliment each other, or 2) how
much they can clash. 


The twelve minute “Extended Vacation” opens with the
recording’s only solo bass section and features this instrument more than any
other track. At times, it uncharacteristically veers close to being a blues.
Gray’s warm tone and fine technique come through as well as his enviable
musical restraint. After being put through similarly creative paces to earlier
tracks, the piece closes with a sort of percussion fantasia featuring
glockenspiel, blocks, some type of pitched percussion, and what sounds like a
steel drum being put through distortion effects pedals all on top of another
repeated bass figure.


Closer “Clearing Out” begins with more machine sounds and
sirens opening into a four chord line cliché, minor key harmonic vamp and a simple
repeated melody building with added parts. As in the previous track, the added
piano is the weakest part of the record seeming somehow out of place and
functioning more as a distraction than another part of the puzzle; but not
distracting enough to bring it too far down. “Clearing Out” ends on an
uncharacteristically light piccardy third which, in the context of the rest of
EV, comes off more kitsch than inspirational.


On Fillmore’s self-titled 2002 release (Locust), “Cave
Crickets” and “Accidental Chase” are great examples of their ability to create
more traditional or popular style instrumental drum ‘n bass grooves. On those
tracks, Gray and Kotche come off as a more accessible version of another
masterful bass ‘n drum duo: William Parker and Hamid Drake. There’s not as much
overt ‘groove’ going on in Extended
and it’s certainly less accessible than your average rhythm
section project, but it remains a fascinating and detailed darkly atmospheric
experience for the aurally adventurous listener. It’s closer in vibe to their
previous Sleeps With Fishes (Columbia Japan,
2007) than their self-titled release. It remains very challenging but not at
all grating as, for example, some contemporary electronic or free jazz music may
be for the average listener.


On Fillmore’s EV conjures exaggerated or distorted representations of nature similar to Henri
Rousseau’s jungle paintings; exotic bird calls, chaos, beauty, fearful symmetry
and all. At times it may seem the goal on EV is confusion but it is something much deeper, positive, and more difficult to
get to: mystery and wonder.


“Master Moon,” “Daydreaming So Early,” “Extended Vacation”


Jim Weider’s Project Percolator – Pulse

January 01, 1970

(Moon Haw Records)


It’s the mark of an adventurous artist who can reinvent
himself and do it in such a way as to leave his credibility intact.  So credit Jim Weider with tracking to
opposite extremes, from the Americana
realms of the revitalized Band to this current experiment in fusion-esque rock
and riffing.  Having gathered an
accomplished group of collaborators, Weider and his Project Percolator (try saying
that three times!) offer up a driving series of raging instrumentals that tow a
fine line between Funk, Metal and Prog Rock realms.


Despite the fact that this is the ensemble’s first effort,
the results are remarkably cohesive, Weider’s fluid leads acting in tandem with
the sturdy anchor provided by his associates. 
While many jazz-tinged offerings tend to veer towards over indulgence
and bombastic extremes, Pulse keeps a
solid groove, balancing its precociousness with a solid focus on melody,
texture and dynamics.  Most of the tracks
– “Squirrels in Paris,”
“”No Exit Strategy” and “Green Zone” in particular – come across with a heavy
surge, similar at times to latter era King Crimson.  There’s a brief respite via “Release
Yourself,” one of the few tracks with vocals, and “Talking to You,” a pleasant
instrumental ballad, but for the most part the music veers towards a darker,
more intimidating, somewhat insurgent sound. 
It’s hardly the sort of thing that gives cause to humming along, but as
it plays out, this Pulse remains
consistently strong.


“Squirrels in Paris,”
“Talking To You” LEE ZIMMERMAN




Jim Jones Revue – Here to Save Your Soul

January 01, 1970

(Punk Rock Blues)


Releasing their self-titled debut album in 2008, the Jim
Jones Revue made quite a splash in their native U.K. with a ramshackle sound
that fleshed out the trendy stateside punk-blues duo conceit with a full-blown,
and full-bore band effort that amped up the noise, threw scraps of honky-tonk
madness and psychobilly rant-n-roll into the blender, pushed the button and let
those razor-sharp blades fly! For most bands attempting this sort of unlikely
hybrid, the sad results would be a foul-tasting musical puree; for the Jim
Jones Revue, however, what poured out of the studio was an album of
highly-flammable rocket fuel.


The band’s debut seemingly caught everybody by surprise,
British musical tastemakers only slightly less so than the Jim Jones Revue
itself. To prolong their fifteen minutes of fame in a country notorious for
whiplash musical trends, and perhaps to stave off a little boredom on the U.K.
charts, the band has released Here To
Save Your Soul
, an eight-song singles collection that falls somewhere in
betwixt an EP and a full-fledged album. Providing some value in a short-change
world, only three of the songs on Here To
Save Your Soul
are from the debut album, a fourth from a late-September ’09
single, and the others rambunctious B-sides that, honestly, don’t sound all
that much different than the ‘A’ sides of the singles.


Bereft of inhibition, the Jim Jones Revue plays every song
the same way – balls-out with reckless energy and a complete disregard for
polite society. For instance, “Rock N Roll Psychosis,” which opens Here To Save Your Soul, offers up
barrelhouse piano that would make Professor Longhair spin in his grave,
Delta-dirty guitar that’s heavy on grit and soulful feedback and short on
meaningless child’s play like technique, and blood-curdling vocals that would
put a death-metal glass-gagger to shame. The band’s cover of Little Richard’s
“Good Golly Miss Molly” captures the manic energy and crazed soul of
the original with atomic-bomb free-form instrumentation that blurs together
into a single sonic wave of ass-stompin’ sound-n-fury.


Taking their Little Richard obsession to its logical and
tragic end, “Princess And The Frog” jumps completely off the rails,
sounding much like what would have happened had Rev. Penniman dropped acid and
chugged a fifth of Kentucky bourbon before sliding into the studio (rather than
joining the ministry) to record. Elliot Mortimer’s piano-pounding hits your
greedy little ears like Jerry Lee on ‘roids and Robitussin, while the twin
guitars of Jim Jones and Rupert Orton follow a strict “scorched
earth” policy. The purposely crappy production puts the entire performance
behind a thick cloud of sound that recreates the experience of standing in the
back of a crowded juke-joint, trying to glom a peep of the band through the
smoke and sweat.


Thus goes most of Here
To Save Your Soul
, the band unashamedly refusing to release singles any less
devastatingly awesome than their album tracks, and certainly no less recklessly
conceived and executed. To be honest, the sound here is so ridiculously lo-fi
that it would make a Brooklyn hipster’s ears bleed Mississippi
River mud, with every nuance and subtlety of the band’s
performances, if they indeed existed, lost in a thunderous storm of dense echo,
feedback, and noise.


Discernable above the din of these eight songs, however, is
one of the most encouragingly anarchic outfits to hit rock ‘n’ roll since the
Clash wore short pants and the New York Dolls swapped their dresses for spandex
and leather. The Jim Jones Revue puts the “unk” back in punk, and
whether they’re just a three-chord seasonal joke or rebellious true believers,
it just doesn’t matter, because for a brief fleeting and glorious moment, rock
‘n’ roll has been taken off life support for one more slam-dance…and that,
children, will indeed “save your soul”!


Standout Tracks: “Rock N Roll Psychosis,” “Good Golly Miss Molly,”
“Burning Your House Down,” “Princess And The Frog” REV.




White Denim – Fits

January 01, 1970



Like Spoon and Trail of Dead, this Austin trio defies what we usually expect
from their mostly roots-rock hometown.  Their
explosive sound is compared to post-punk as much as it isn’t, suggesting that
they may be onto something bigger or stranger. 
On their major label debut, they sound like Meat Puppets, taking the
wild-eyed psych(o) territory and pushing it into blustering boogie.  It isn’t until the fifth song here, “I
Start To Run,” that they find the right funky groove to ride on.  After that, they mostly serve up funk jams
(“Sex Prayer”) and ballads (“Paint Yourself”). 


On the plus side, the 2nd CD here is an excuse to reissue
for the 3rd time the material from their first self-released record, the
wonderfully unhinged Workout Holiday
check out the rabid “Shake Shake Shake” for starters.  Nice to have this compelling early stuff
easily available now.


Standout Tracks: “I Start To Run,” “Shake Shake Shake” JASON GROSS


Fabulous Poodles – Mirror Stars + Think Pink

January 01, 1970

(American Beat)


My first introduction to new wave when I was a little kid
was a poster of the cover of the Fabulous Poodles’ Mirror Stars that hung in my uncle’s bedroom. I would sit there and
stare at those cracked images of Tony De Meur and Bobby Valentino’s faces with
both fear and fascination, utterly intrigued by the entire design of the cover
art, now largely considered to be one of the most enigmatic jackets of the new
wave era. 


Finally making its long-overdue (perhaps a tad too late?)
debut on compact disc, Collector’s Choice affiliate American Beat Records pairs
Mirror Stars up with its’ US-released
follow-up Think Pink (both albums
were, in actuality, reconfigured domestic versions of the band’s first two
albums in England-1977’s Fabulous Poodles and 1978’s Unsuitable). And while the
cover art has been shrunk down to deplete its grandeur, the long overdue task
of actually getting around to listening to the music contained within yields a
most enjoyable excursion into the Poods’ unique combination of low-brow English
humor (eg, they have a song called “Tit Photographer”), Costello-esque post-pub
new wave and a mean, mean fixation on the outer perimeters of rock ‘n’ roll’s
early days. In certain areas, the band even tends to come off like a more
button-up version of Thin Lizzy, not a bad thing in the least. 


Anyone boning up on their new wave education should not overlook
this unsung pair of aces that serve as the first and last word of this
criminally overlooked act of the era. 


“Chicago Boxcar”, “Tit Photographer”, “Bionic Man”,
“Suicide Bridge”, “Vampire Rock” RON HART



Chesterfield Kings – Live Onstage… If You Want It CD+DVD

January 01, 1970

(Wicked Cool)


Way back in November of 1966 the Rolling Stones rhetorically
mused Got Live If You Want It for the
title of their first (of many, it would turn out) concert album. Forty-three
years – almost to the day – later, Rochester
rockers the Chesterfield Kings, no stranger to Stones lore, offer a similar
proposal with a CD/DVD combo. Recorded in Rochester
in front of a seated studio audience for public television series Onstage, the 16-song set – mixed by heavyweight Ed Stasium, no less – serves
as a decent overview of the band’s back catalogue and, for newcomers, of the
Chesterfield Kings’ oeuvre.


It’s issued on Little Steven Van Zandt’s estimable Wicked
Cool label – Van Zandt also produced their previous album, 2007’s Psychedelic Sunrise – which should be a
tipoff in the first place of what you’ll be getting: non-nonsense garage-shock
that mines for ‘60s gold, with some touches of New York Dolls and Stooges
thrown in for good measure. In the Kings’ case, they usually come up clutching
the goods, from harp-flecked, hard-rocking opener track “Up and Down” and sinewy
“Jumpin’ Jack Flash” homage “Flashback” to haunting jangler “I Don’t
Understand” (performed acoustically, with tambourine percussion) and
organ-powered “I Walk in Darkness” (which references the 13th Floor
Elevators and assorted Nuggets icons). There’s even a ragged-but-right cover of Merle Haggard’s “Sing Me Back
Home” featuring pedal steel, which of course Keith Richards has been known to
play on occasion – just to toss one more Stones reference into the mix.


One caveat: somewhat annoying is the way applause is faded
out after each song followed by an audible gap prior to the next song
beginning; a good live album should have seamless segues in order to more
effectively replicate the concert experience even if the songs are not
sequenced in the same order as the original show. Perhaps this was due to the
fact that the recording was being recorded by someone other than the band
itself, but that’s still no excuse. It’s less distracting on the DVD, which
does utilize segues, so you might want to consider cueing up the DVD through
the stereo system instead of the CD.


Standout Tracks: “Flashback,”
“I Walk in Darkness,” “I’m So Confused, Baby” FRED MILLS




E.P. Hall – Mommy Crow

January 01, 1970



Like its title, there’s something both comforting and
chilling about the gothic folk debut from this Bloomington, Indiana-based duo.
Built primarily around Elise Percy’s haunting voice, plucked acoustic guitar,
rattling percussion and occasional synth twists, Mommy Crow‘s metaphor-rife narratives and psychological
preoccupations (Percy is a PhD student) would work well as accompaniment for
late-night cemetery visits or a fire-side soundtrack.


Tracks like the cello-washed “Gone Are the Thoughts of
Sparrows” and “The Shade” recall vintage (acoustic-based) Throwing Muses; Percy
even stretches her whispered vowels into anguished yowls like Kristen Hersh. Andy
Goheen’s percussion also morphs from traditional shuffles and beats to
clattering accents on the title track and “Churchyard,” creating off-kilter
contrasts that suit the melodies’ diminished chords. Some of the best songs
eschew or downplay the finger-plucked formula for more epic and widescreen
effects: 90 seconds into opener “The Emperor’s Note” an explosion of electric
guitars, percussion and synths morph the song from folky fare to cathartic
rock-out; the percussive 12-string strumming on “Water Tower” provides nice
depth, as do the burbling synths and bird-calls of “The White Bird, In
Springtime”; and the reverb-delay and guitar effects on “Ladders & Mirrors”
(the most Muses-like track of all) add another welcome dimension.


These accents are so effective, and given that a couple of
the finger-plucked drones drag a little, one hopes that future E.P. Hall
recordings will include even more of these subtle, yet essential, additions.  It’s those contrasts that best display Percy’s
compellingly creepy melodies.


“The Emperor’s Note,” “Water Tower” JOHN SCHACHT