Monthly Archives: January 2018


Mudhoney by Vincent Vannes

As a new live album recorded on tour in 2016 demonstrates, the Seattle band is always morphing, and always, always, always is a monster live band.


The set starts in a monstrous wall of feedback, a fuzzed out roar that parts, like primordial swamp for the fuzz-clustered, two guitar crocodilian riff of “Fuzz Gun,” a form of guitar mayhem first plotted before Nirvana broke, before grunge became a fashion statement, when it seemed like the primitive stomp and psychedelia skree of Mudhoney might become, if not the next big thing, something bigger and more lucrative than the journeyman hard rock outfit they eventually turned into. That cut, and the one that follows is “Get into Yours,” from the 1989 S-T, are a quarter-century old when we hear them now, somewhere in Eastern Europe, but they sound just as relevant, just as hard and blunt and distended with volume as they must have when Mark Arm and Steve Turner first thought of them.

Mudhoney’s new live set, L.i.E. (Sub Pop), a/k/a Live in Europe, collected from a 2016 tour, is bluntly, ferociously coherent, though it spans three decades, seven albums and one Roxy Music cover.

The set list leans a bit on 2013’s Vanishing Point, then and now, the band’s most recent full-length (though a new one is coming in 2018), with an extended, pedal-fucked, guitar-spiraling, through-the-rabbit-hole treatment of “The Final Course,” followed by the slyer, more compact boogie of “What to Do with the Neutral” (“What to do with the neutral/It’s not an easy problem,” sings Arm, who has demonstrably spent more time on extremes). The post-millennial Mudhoney albums have an air of comfortable free-ness, of settling in with what the band has, of getting over undue expectations, and their loose, humorous bluster colors this live performance. But they make perfect sense in conjunction with older material — the explosive vamp of “Judgment Rage Retribution and Thyme” from 1995’s My Brother the Cow, the viscous chug of 2009’s Piece of Cake’s “Suck You Dry.”

You might think that covering Roxy Music is an odd choice, but “Editions of You,” is one of Ferry’s rougher, more rocking outings. Mudhoney gets at the twisted, clanging guitar line, pumping it up with pummeling drums, and obliterating any vestigial crooning in a barrage of Arm’s frantic shout-ranting. It sounds, in the end, like Mudhoney. It’s followed by the best cut on the disc, the long, fever-blistered rampage of “Broken Hands,” which encapsulates blues-like dirge and psychedelic freakery in its slow-moving, drum-rattling procession.

Which sounds completely different but also like Mudhoney, always what it is, always morphing, and always, always, always a monster live band.

Incidentally, Mudhoney and Sub Pop made an intriguing move with the album by not releasing it on CD, just vinyl and digital. And then they paid further tribute to vinyl collectors (Such as moi. — Blurt Wax Ed.) by also pressing up a special European-only, limited-to-500-copies version pressed on clear vinyl and boasting different gatefold artwork from the standard US pressing, it’s on 180gm CLEAR VINYL. And initial copies came with a 7” Bonus single. (“Touch Me I’m Sick” b/w “Where the Flavor Is”). Nice touch, gents.


Mini-tour, 1983, San Francisco. photo by Jon Shines

With two of hardcore outfit MIA’s seminal albums newly reissued, the band’s guitarist looks back on his his—and the hardcore scene’s—early years.


I think it must have been the Summer of 1985 when my pal Bill, who had been turning me on to a lot of music at the time, handed me a cassette with the new MIA record on it, Notes From the Underground.  I loved it immediately. It was similar to a lot of the hardcore I had been listening to, but ….different. Darker, moodier but still just as melodic and hard hitting. I ended up finding their previous record, Murder in a Foreign Place (from 1984) and loved that one as well. I then was really blown away by what would be the band’s last record, 1987’s After the Fact, a gorgeous melodic masterpiece (Flipside Records).  I ended up seeing the band once in the ‘80s at City Gardens in Trenton, NJ where they put on a terrific set and then….that was it. I never heard about the band again and had heard they’d broken up. In 2001 the Alternative Tentacles label released Lost Boys, a compilation of the band’s early material and then I’d heard the sad news that vocalist/guitarist Mike Conley had died in early 2008.

Fast forward to earlier this year when I’d gotten an email from James Agren at Darla Records stating that he was going to be reissuing two of the band’s records, Notes From…. And After the Fact (he’d said he got interested in the band again after I’d posted a song on Facebook earlier in the year). One of us, (probably James) suggested that I interview guitarist Nick Adams who is a working musicians/photographer now living in Utah. I jumped at the chance and Nick was more than happy to answer any questions I threw his way. Gracious all the way through. Thanks so much to James for helping set up the interview (and for the reissues) and especially to Nick. Read on and find out about the early days of Las Vegas and SoCal hardcore….

Where were you and raised in Las Vegas? If so were your parents in the casino business?

I was raised by a single mother (kind of a punk thing to do in the 60s!), and she was a high school teacher. Growing up in Vegas the casinos, even the slot machines in grocery stores, were no big deal to me, just a part of life that was around me but not interesting. On my street I think most of the parents were not involved in the gaming industry, they were Nevada Test Site workers, accountants, car dealers, etc. When I left Vegas in 1980 it had maybe 200,000 residents, now it is ten times that, and the gaming industry is bigger than ever, so a lot of the people I know, people I went to school with, are involved in it. But it’s also like any other city, there are teachers, doctors, lawyers, beggars, thieves, everything.

Do you remember the first record you ever bought?

Meet the Beatles in early 1967. I was five.

When did you first pick up an instrument? Was it a guitar?

I first got a toy drum kit, but that was not popular around the house. Soon after I got a guitar, a small Decca classical acoustic, I think I was 7 or 8. But I didn’t really get serious until I got into high school.


How did the punk rock bug bite you? Was it early on? Was there much of a scene in Vegas?

We were a bit culturally isolated in Vegas, and it was before the internet so ideas and movements traveled much more slowly. I was always into rock music – Beatles, Stones, Kinks, Zeppelin, Elton John (my first concert in ‘75), stuff that got played on the radio, and I would stretch a little with what I saw in Circus Magazine or Creem. They had photos and stories about Bowie and Iggy Pop, along with the stuff I was more familiar with. I remember seeing a photo of Iggy probably right after Raw Power came out, that freaky one where he has long straight white hair, white pants and no shirt, screaming at the camera. Later I bought it, took me a while to wrap my head around it. I remember when the Sex Pistols were touring the U.S. in ‘78, I was barely 16, and it was on the TV national news, my mom said, “I don’t care WHAT you do, just don’t get mixed up in that punk rock.” Heh, heh. I heard that album and was blown away, instant fan.

How/when did you meet Mike Conley?

Mike was an instigator. He was a few years older than me, really scrappy with a lot of street smarts (which I never had). He was the guy you wanted by your side in a fight. He was always scheming, thinking, and bringing people together. He was industrious. He became a great songwriter and musician through sheer force of will. I was 18, out of high school and in the process of dropping out of my first semester of college. Paul (M.I.A. bassist) and I were in a band together that was loud and loose, somewhere in between rock and punk, and we rented a room over an office building in a real seedy part of town. Other bands rented rooms there too. One evening we were practicing and heard a knock, it was Mike, he wanted to find out who it was that had the coolest sounding amp in town (it was my 77 Marshall JMP 100w half stack, crunchy and louder than shit). He invited me over to hear his band, The Swell. They had gone all out decorating their rehearsal space, painting a floor-to-ceiling Union Jack on one wall, and hanging cool fliers and posters everywhere. That alone made a big first impression. Mike played bass, Chris Moon (who was in the very first Vegas punk band, Bad Habits, with Vegas legend Eric Hill) was on drums, Todd Sampson was on vocals (Todd looked just like Johnny Rotten, and was pretty menacing for a 16-year-old kid), and a guy named Jim on guitar. They were looking to replace him, or at least his amp. So Mike asked if I would sit in one night. It was really fun, I was hooked. I joined when they asked. (Below: Nick in Guerneville, CA / photo by Rhoda Rohnstock)

Tell us about the beginnings of M.I.A. At what point did you leave Vegas for Southern California?

Shortly after I started playing with The Swell, we decided to change our name to M.I.A. We rehearsed a lot and played a party or two, not really much. But being in a punk band and dropping out college made things difficult for me at home. When a musician friend invited me to room with him in San Diego, I took the opportunity and moved there and M.I.A. broke up. I had only been there about two weeks when my friend got an offer to play in a band somewhere up in LA, so I ended up being poor and alone in San Diego. A few miserable months later I got a call from Mike – he and Chris had moved to Newport Beach, and he said, “Hey, why don’t you come live with us.” So I did. We started going to the Cuckoo’s Nest whenever we could and up to LA for some big shows, and we started playing again, only Todd was still 16 and couldn’t move out from Vegas. We tried out some singers (Mike was still on bass) when finally Mike said he would sing and we’d look for a bass player. I called Paul, I knew he was a great bass player and musician, and convinced him to move to OC with us, and that was the band that recorded Last Rites. This all happened within about 6 months of my moving from Vegas, and really it turned out great because I don’t think as a band we would’ve ever moved to California together, we had never talked about it, though Chris says he and Mike did. The OC and LA scenes down there were so influential and I feel lucky to have been a part of them, as well as part of the nascent Las Vegas scene.

Anything notable happen during the recording of any of your records? Do you still listen to them these days?

Our first demo was made in 1981 with a $300 donation from friends. We wanted to record something that maybe Rodney Bingenheimer might play on his Rodney on the ROQ show, you know, decent sound quality. We walked into a local studio at the beach, JEL, and said we wanted to record 9 songs and walk out with a finished tape. Bill Trousdale was the engineer, he said, “no way, you might get two.” So using eight tracks we blasted through nine songs, and mixed seven before we ran out of money (if you listen too carefully you can tell that the last two songs on Last Rites were mixed by someone else). We played it for a friend, Bad Otis Link, and he said he could get us a show in Reno. So we got a show in Reno with 7 Seconds and The Wrecks! How lucky is that? From that show our demo tape wound up in the hands of folks at Maximum Rock n Roll, Bomp and Smoke 7, and suddenly we were on records.

Murder In A Foreign Place was made in the same studio with a larger budget (plus a new drummer, Larry Pearson, that Mike recruited), and a solid record deal from Alternative Tentacles, which was cool. It was a distribution deal, which meant that we handled all of the recording, artwork, album cover jacket printing, mastering and album pressing ourselves, and the finished product got drop-shipped to AT for distribution. I did a lot of the footwork myself with our financier, Jon Shines. It was a great learning experience and very true to the DIY ethic of the time. Biafra and AT have always been great to us.

Notes From the Underground took us in a moody direction, I think reflecting some conflict in the band, helped along by the darker post-punk tones of 1985. It has some great songs on it, though, and has us exploring some different sounds with Thom Wilson producing. One of his favorite songs from the session was Write Myself A Letter and he put a little extra time into it, and it turned into a slightly psychedelic jangle. My favorite song from that album is Shadows, one that Mike and I wrote from an idea he had. It was a great live song back in the day and I still love to play it. I’ve been listening to Notes a lot lately because we are working on the reissue, and there is a lot of really great stuff going on there.

Did you do much touring back then? Overseas? I’m guessing you played with every notable So. Cal punk band?

Never made it overseas. We did a lot of small regional tours – you could hit a few cities over a few days, so we’d do Vegas-Phoenix-Tucson-San Diego, or Reno-Sacramento-San Francisco-Santa Cruz-Santa Barbara. That helped us get a decent regional following. Sometimes we would do these regional tours with other bands, like TSOL, Circle Jerks, Angry Samoans or Dead Kennedys. Sometimes we would take our Vegas pals, Subterfuge, or double bill with other great bands like Decry or Mad Parade. I remember watching Ron Emory (TSOL) at soundchecks, I would always try to be there because he would pull out some great Hendrix riffs or blues stuff. His technique was inspiring. Ron has so much depth as a player, he’s one of my heroes. We did another one of these regional tours in Northern California with Dead Kennedys and Butthole Surfers, that was amazing. I was glad we didn’t have to go on after the Butthole Surfers, their show was insane at that time. There were so many great bands back then, and we got to play with many of them. We played a bunch of the big Goldenvoice shows in and around L.A. too.

When Murder in A Foreign Place came out in the spring of 1984 we had friends at Goldenvoice and they were starting to book national tours, so we did a three month summer tour of the US and Canada, booked by Jim Guerinot and Mike Vraney, both legendary guys. Only trouble was, the punk scene was still very young in many areas of the country – sometimes we would pull up to the venue and find it boarded up, or sometimes a whole string of shows would be canceled. We’d have to buy paper city maps and look for phone booths to make calls and hope to catch someone, there was no voicemail. It was a very rough tour, but we had loads of fun and when we came home we were battle-hardened and road tight, we were a kick-ass live band by the end of that tour.

We did another US tour just before recording Notes From the Underground. A tour had been booked for Social Distortion and they had to back out, so it was given to us. It was a winter tour, so it had different challenges, but we hit a lot of cities we hadn’t been to on our first tour. I loved being on tour. M.I.A. did one last national tour supporting After the Fact in 1987. (below photo by Rhoda Rohnstock) 

How did M.I.A. end?

It ended with infighting and disagreement, like bands usually end. Shortly after recording Notes From the Underground things came to a head and I walked away. Mike was angry at me, I was angry at him. But one thing about Mike, any kind of adversity like that just made him try harder. He brought M.I.A. back with a vengeance and made M.I.A.’s 4th album, After the Fact with Chris Moon (the drummer on Last Rites), Mark Arnold and Frank Daly (both would later form the great OC band Big Drill Car). He came to me and asked me to record a guitar part, he said he wanted something noisy and atonal with whammy bar dives like I did in Used to Know Me from the Murder album. I was actually a little annoyed but he insisted. I’m so glad he did – that is what opens the album, and it serves as a kind of meaningful transition from the old band to the new, and to what Mike would go on to do later. A lot of the lyrics on that album are very personal to me because I feel like Mike is singing about us, our conflict, the bitterness, the feelings of betrayal. There is a lot of me on that album even though I didn’t participate in making it, save for that intro. It took me a while to come to terms with it, and now I love it – it is a great album, and Frank and Mark were really good on it, as was Chris. Mike really grew as a songwriter, but he also held a lot of control in the band. After this version of M.I.A. toured, Frank and Mark wanted to be more involved in songwriting, so they left to form Big Drill Car. After M.I.A. Mike made a couple of great bands, Naked Soul and Jigsaw, there are videos online if you search for them.

Tell us about a few of the bands you were in post-M.I.A.  (Arab and the Suburban Turbans?)

Arab and the Suburban Turbans was kind of a way for some of us to explore different musical influences. It had varying membership over the years, but the core was Arab (Love Canal), Jeff Newlin, Bob Gnarly (Plain Wrap), Dallas Don Burnet (Plain Wrap, later Lutefisk), Raggs Adams and me. We played some traditional blues and soul covers, plus we turned some punk into blues and we also had a few stellar originals. We recorded Black Flag’s Nervous Breakdown, which was selected for a Flipside Vinyl Fanzine compilation, but the person who owned the publishing had a beef with the record label (not Flipside) and would not allow it. But we played some great shows with the likes of Jane’s Addiction and Thelonius Monster, and we actually got accepted into the Long Beach Blues Festival, quite a mean feat. They were bummed because we ended up being more punk than they imagined and kind of crashed the mellow vibe. We had a great crowd response though!

I was in another band in 1989-90 called Flatbed with Bob Thomson (Big Drill Car) on bass and Miles Gillette (El Groupo Sexo, Fluf) on drums. Kinda grungy, I guess. Those two were the best musicians I have ever played with. I played in several other projects with notable players (Don Burnet, Sean Greaves, Mark Stern, Bad Otis, Chuck Biscuits) but nothing that stuck.

Tell us about the M.I.A. reunion? I’m guessing Mike’s death is still a shock to you all.

Mike’s death was so unexpected, it was a huge shock. He had worked so hard to build a really cool bar in Costa Mesa, the Avalon. He had so many friends, so many people that loved him. He just had that great kind of personality — gregarious, friendly, thoughtful. He helped people, and they were and still are, after nearly ten years, very loyal to him. So his death was a huge loss for many people. I was astonished at the number of people who came to his memorial on the beach, it was amazing. I was standing there dumbfounded when this guy walked up in a suit wearing reflective aviators walked up and said, “Are you Nick Adams?” It was Jello Biafra. Hadn’t seen him in over 20 years, I couldn’t believe he made the effort to be there.

As it turned out, Mike’s girlfriend and kids were left in a bad way financially from his death, so we were approached to do a fundraising reunion. Joe Sib (SideOneDummy Records) helped set it up, and worked with Jim Guerinot (Time Bomb Records) to get Social Distortion on the bill. They played an amazing acoustic set. Also on the bill were Cadillac Tramps, and tributes to two of Mike’s later bands, Jigsaw and Naked Soul. It was a stellar night for sure. As for M.I.A., we had our original Vegas singer Todd Sampson do vocals, supplemented with Kevin Seconds on a few songs and Jello Biafra on a few more. We also got to play a few Dead Kennedys songs, which was unreal! Biafra was so cool, he let us pick the Dead Kennedys songs we wanted to do.

We continued to play a few shows with Todd on vocals, but then he died of heat stroke after a show in Vegas in 2011. That sucked. Now we play as a three piece with me handling most of the vocals, Paul doing a few. It’s actually a good band, and though we can never replace Mike’s energy, voice and creativity, I think that it is the best compromise that stays true to the band. In other words, we’re not trying to replace Mike, we are just trying to stay true to the music and let people hear it. We got a great reception at Punk Rock Bowling in 2016.

..and tying in to the above question, how about the upcoming reissues on Darla? How did that come about? Did you know James?

I’m very excited to get the last two M.I.A. records re-released. They need to be heard! I met James Agren (Darla Records) in the summer of ‘83 or ‘84 I think. We were roommates for a bit at the beach with a mutual friend. A while back he contacted me on social media about the possibility of re-releasing Notes From the Underground and After the Fact. Since I knew him from way back and I could tell he was really professional (plus he was persistent!), I agreed. I’m so glad to have the opportunity to work with James, he has great attention to detail and is treating these two albums with the utmost respect. It’s a very personal relationship, even though we are hundreds of miles away. I can’t say enough good things about James. The remastered tracks (by Mark Alan Miller at Sonelab) sound amazing, exceeding the original releases in my opinion – a lot more depth and nuance, you can hear each instrument with more clarity. And there are some bonus tracks too.

Who are some of your favorite current bands or musicians?

I’m all over the map, and not super current. Back in ‘82 I fell in love with the Birthday Party and Tom Waits (Waits inspired the song Murder In A Foreign Place) and have been a fan ever since. Saw Nick Cave perform last month, it was great. I saw the Damned on their most recent tour – twice! – and that was amazing. Iron and Wine, Black Keys, Jack White, Off!, Paul Westerberg. Things have changed so much in terms of how we get exposed to new music and how it is delivered that it is pretty overwhelming sometimes. Add to that the sheer volume of music that has been long out of print coming back. It’s a great time to be a music listener! But also, with the ubiquity of technology and how quickly information spreads, I wonder if anything like the punk scene we experienced could ever emerge again.

Please tell us about your career as a photographer.

After M.I.A. I went back to school and earned a degree in Anthropology from U.C. Berkeley, graduated in ‘93. I was planning to go to grad school when I got into photography by accident. I had a job at a cabinet shop that I was not cut out for, so I applied at the local newspaper for a menial desk job in the photo department. I was in the right place, right time; within a year I was a full time staff photographer. It was great, I got to shoot every day, learning photography while getting paid for it! Being a photojournalist was interesting and fun, but also very hard and sometimes difficult work. I photographed presidents and senators, but also tragedies, homeless people, city council meetings and kids at the fair. Around 2004 I started my own business, and I’m still doing it – mostly portraits and magazine work nowadays.

Care to tell us your top 10 desert island discs?

In no particular order (and if you asked me next week it would likely be different):

The Damned – Strawberries

Bowie – Hunky Dory

The Germs – (GI)

Stooges – Funhouse

Rolling Stones – Beggar’s Banquet

Tom Waits – Bad As Me

The Birthday Party – Prayers On Fire

Gun Club – Fire of Love

Velvet Underground – Velvet Underground

Roy Orbison – Greatest Hits

Radiohead – Amnesiac

BONUS QUESTION- Do you have a favorite of the M.I.A. records?

Though I love the raw, stripped down sound of Last Rites, and the fan favorite seems to be Murder In A Foreign Place (which I love), right now I would have to go with Notes From the Underground. It’s not as even as Murder, but it has some stellar moments and it moves me.

BONUS QUESTION TWO- Did you ever meet Genocide’s Bobby Ebz? He’s sort of a NJ legend (I’m originally from NJ).

No, we never met any of the Genocide guys. I’d like to!





“All you can do is bust your ass to make good music”: With new album Top of the World and a re-release of their Steve Earle-produced masterpiece, High Hat, this seminal Americana band from North Carolina marks another new beginning.


There’s a certain truth to the saying “timing is everything.” And there’s no more pertinent application to that adage than in the music biz. Being on top of trends, recognizing relevant topics, and tuning in to an audience’s interests and expectations are absolutely essential when it comes to maintaining a viable and prolific career.

Consequently, when North Carolina’s 6 String Drag made their bow and formed in 1993, it seemed an ideal time in terms of fertile possibilities. The boundaries between rock, pop, punk and country were breaking down, and bands like Uncle Tupelo in particular were opening the door in hopes of encouraging that slow but steady transition. 6 String Drag’s archival influences were obvious — Van Morrison, the Replacements, the Stones, the Kinks and George Jones all made the cut — but the rough-hewn sound they crafted was all inclusive, one that could appeal to anyone with a devil- may-care attitude as well as a taste for homegrown sensibilities.

All was well and good, but despite a razor-sharp sound, a contract with Steve Earle’s E-Squared Records, two strong seminal albums (their self-titled 1995 debut and its excellent successor, High Hat, which followed in ’97 and was co-produced by Earle), the band never got the traction they deserved. In late 1998 founders Kenny Roby and Rob Keller went their separate ways in pursuit of their individual careers and the other band members dispersed as well. Roby in particular went on to a prolific solo career, releasing five solo albums — Mercury Blues (1999), Black River Sides (1999), Rather Not Know (2002), The Mercy Filter (2006) and Memories & Birds (2013; reviewed HERE) — but though he garnered his fair share of critical kudos, the absence between albums served to stifle his momentum.

Indeed, timing is the one thing that 6 String Drag always seemed to lack. Although the elements seemed stacked in their favor, their early masterpiece High Hat failed to win them the attention that outside observers reckoned that they had coming.

“I felt like we were changing the world…making Sgt. Pepper,” Keller’s been quoted as saying. “High Hat was not received like Sgt. Pepper. It was critically acclaimed, yet it did not sell as well as was expected.”

Roby has his own reasons for the failure of the band to maintain its forward progress. “I can’t go out and scream ‘give me some love,’” he insists. “There’s no telling what people listen to or why they listen to something, or why things catch hold or don’t catch hold. Or for that matter, what things come together to sell a band. We kind of broke up as we were on the upward mobility slant or whatever you want to call it. By the time 6 String Drag had a gotten a little bit of press recognition and some radio, and the record had come out, we were opening for Son Volt. We were post- the Uncle Tupelo world, but pre- the 2000 Americana explosion, the Avett Brothers and all that. So we were kind of in a bit of a lull.

“Do I wish I could make a little more money doing music? Yeah, probably. And have a quote-unquote career? Yeah, I guess. But you can’t change just one part of your life, ya know.”

Could the fact that the band only put out a pair of albums before breaking up and reforming some 17 years later have had anything to do with it? Maybe, Roby says. “But 6 String Drag at the time wasn’t much of a ‘pop’ band. If you listen to High Hat, it doesn’t sound like total pop music. We could have gotten into a little niche probably. It wasn’t quite as poppy as a Whiskeytown kind of thing, and it wasn’t as super country twangy as a lot of the country bands were at that time. I guess if I had to come up with an answer, I’d have to say that it wasn’t country enough for country and it wasn’t twangy enough for Americana.”

He pauses to reflect on that.

“I thought we were like a Doug Sahm kind of band, although we didn’t sound like Doug Sahm or the Sir Douglas Quintet,” he continues. “We were like a bar band that liked to embrace all kinds of music and the contemporary music of the ‘80s and ‘90s as well. Like a NRBQ or the Band. We have just as much fun playing to an intimate crowd at a corner bar dive with a bunch of people who like our music and sing along as we do on a theater stage. We’d love $30 a head and 2,000 people, but we’re totally comfortable being a bar band, a pub band. That’s when we’re at our best, just being loose and having fun.”

Likewise, he has a hard time coming up with a precise definition of exactly where the band fit in musically at the time. The explanation eludes him even today.

“We were like a lot of bands around that time, bands that took their cues from the Replacements and the Stones and Neil Young and Crazy Horse, kind of on the rootsier side of rock,” he suggests. “A lot of us grew up listening to punk rock and then getting into country rock. It was very similar to bands like Uncle Tupelo. That’s the kind of thing that appealed to us. I go back and listen to it now and of course I still like it. It’s like that slogan ‘three chords and the truth,’ which helped define punk rock. It’s like three chords and the truth for country, or three chords and the truth for blues…although sometimes there’s four. Maybe that was it. It was all the same to us. I never got into the super sophistication of bluegrass. I was never into progressive rock. I was into the Clash and Black Flag and the Bad Brains and Buck Owens and George Jones. It was always pretty simple, but it was also easy enough for me to do. I didn’t know enough about guitars or songwriting to play more complicated music than that. We didn’t think we were doing anything groundbreaking. It’s just these different waves of whatever’s popular. In the 2000s, they came up with this Americana thing. I thought Americana was a description for furniture.”

“We listen to a lot of different kinds of music and of course that rubs off on us,” Keller notes. “We get on this wavelength where we will get into things all at the same time. Recently, it’s been on the pop rockier side, from ‘60s Kinks to ‘70s glam rock, to ‘80s punk, and power pop. We probably would’ve made more records had we stuck together all these years because we’ve always been into this type of music.”

The sound he’s describing comes full circle on the band’s new album, Top of the World, due for release this March on Schoolkids Records. (Full disclosure: Schoolkids is BLURT’s sister business.) It’s their first undertaking since their initial post-breakup reunion, releasing the Roots Rock ‘N’ Roll album in 2015 (reviewed HERE). It also finds Roby and Heller still at the helm, with recent recruits — guitarist/multi-instrumentalist Luis Rodriguez, drummer Dan Davis, and producer Jason Merritt — offering able assistance. The album, clearly the band’s most effusive and assertive offering in terms of a genuinely accessible sound, follows the label’s vinyl (limited edition white vinyl at that) recent re-release of High Hat.

Roby, for one, is clearly excited about the new record’s direction.

“We recorded a lot of it at the same studio where we recorded the last one,” he explains. “But it’s more of a rock and pop record than the last one was. Real quick, real simple, ‘50s and ‘60s style songs. We tracked the record in four days. There were very few overdubs. For the most part the record was done by the time we walked out of the studio, except for the horns and the live vocals. Oddly enough, that’s the way we recorded High Hat, but High Hat was more of a rock record. We did basic tracks just like a basic rock band in the ‘80s and ‘90s, but we spread out the recording a little longer back then to give us time to absorb the songs. Some of it is done the same way, but some things were done differently. It’s got elements of all of our records, but also the contributions that the new guys bring. I can’t always put my finger on what that is, as far as stylistically, but it does sound a little more layered. It’s a little more mature, although I don’t know if that’s necessarily a good thing for rock ‘n’ roll or Americana.”

As far as the re-release of High Hat is concerned, Keller sees that as a valuable additive that helps underscore the band’s re-emergence. “High Hat has been out of print, so we really needed it in our present catalog,” he says. “Also, it being 20 years makes it a good time to celebrate it. We always want to look forward in creating, so we just coincidentally have this new record at the same time.”

As Keller tells it, he and Roby have always kept in touch over the years, and have even occasionally played some shows together. Still, Roby suggests that the extent of the band’s ongoing efforts has a lot to do with practicality, saying, “We’ll play weekends. We’ve been playing on weekends for the last two years since the last record came out… actually, before the last record came out. We’ve even been doing some weeklong stints. Luis has been with us since we laid down the last album and Danny has been with us for the last year. So we’ve played a good amount of shows. We’ll start playing here and there and get out of the immediate area. But I don’t know how we could go out on the road all the time. With guys in their 40s… I don’t know.

Likewise, Roby is realistic when it comes to measuring the band’s prospects for success this time around. “We still have a lot of fun doing it and the carrot is just to get better at it,” he maintains. “As far as recognition is concerned, you just have to do the best you can as far as making records. You can only do so much. You can work your ass off and nothing will happen. Or you can do nothing, and something will happen. I don’t know what that ‘something’ is.” (Below, “something” happening for the band a couple of months ago.)

Ultimately, Roby remains pragmatic. “Hopefully you have good records,” he muses. “When someone turns around to look at you, hopefully you did your best and you have some good work for them to notice. With us, we haven’t sold a ton of records, so a lot of this resurgence is about looking back and maybe checking out one of the earlier albums or a record from my solo career or whatever. You always want to have good work, because you don’t want people to say, ‘What’s all that bullshit hype about?’

“All you can do is bust your ass to make good music. I’d rather make good music than have more fans. It would be nice to have more fans, but the carrot is still to make the next record the best you can make.”

Read our 2013 interview with Kenny Roby: “Rock, Roll & the Art of Discipline”


Time to go fishin’ for the Blues with BLURT, along with our sister retail business, Schoolkids Records of Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill. Herewith, find some shopping and collecting tips for aficionados and newbies alike—many of the titles mentioned below (and others as well) are available at the Schoolkids site. And tune in next month for our next installment of our new series, “Build Your Record Collection.”


True story: One afternoon, not all that long ago, I was behind the counter of my job at the time, Schoolkids Records in Raleigh, North Carolina, when a father and son strode purposefully into the store. The father was probably in his late forties or early fifties, the son in his mid-teens. They asked me where our Blues section was, and I duly steered them over to the new vinyl, additionally telling the kid that we also had a lot of new indie rock on the front rack. Because, you know, teenagers.

“I’m just looking for some Blues,” he replied, adding, “I’ve been listening to a lot of my dad’s old vinyl and really getting into the Blues.”

I had the strangest feeling that, right before my eyes, I was witnessing a torch being passed from one generation to the next. I sneaked a glance over at the father, and he had a knowing, proud smile on his face.

A little later, when they brought their purchases up to the counter, he and I easily slipped into an earnest conversation about mutual favorite Blues albums—classic titles like Muddy Waters’ Electric Mud, Taj Mahal’s The Natch’l Blues, Albert King’s Live Wire/Blues Power, Howlin’ Wolf’s Moanin’ In the Moonlight (he was pretty impressed that I had met Wolf’s guitarist, Hubert Sumlin, one time and shared a flask of whiskey with him), pretty much everything by John Mayall, along with a very special personal hero of mine, Rory Gallagher. The kid soaked it all in, tentatively throwing out a few titles of his own. When I told the father that his son had good taste, he just grinned, then explained that, thanks to the younger man pulling his battered turntable out from the basement along with several boxes of his old record collection, his own passion for vinyl had been rekindled.

Who’s passing who the torch here, I thought to myself, grinning back at him.

The Blues is like that—it brings people together, bridges economic, social, and generational gaps, and in general just makes you feel good because what’s being expressed in the sounds and the words are universal emotions. When someone is singing about having lost their one true love, you can feel it in their voice—hell, you can feel it in the weeping guitar lines as well. It’s like having a friend there in front of you, opening up, feeling vulnerable, and just needing to have someone listen to them and understand them.

Patti Smith once told me that a key role artists play is that they offer us a shoulder to lean on when we need the support, and while she wasn’t specifically referring to the Blues, I can’t think of a better description of what the Blues brings to the table.


As I mentioned, that was a couple of years ago when I was working at Schoolkids, which now has stores in Durham and Chapel Hill in addition to Raleigh. There’s a 40+ years Schoolkids legacy that I’m proud to be a part of—BLURT is also the indie retail chain’s sister business, as we are owned by the same guy, so even though I no longer live in Raleigh I’m in touch with the crew there on a weekly basis—and I have no doubt that a lot of torches similar to the scenario I just outlined have been passed along in the Schoolkids aisles. This month they’re emphasizing the stores’ selections of classic Blues titles, both on LP and CD, so it should prove an excellent opportunity to either discover some of those classics, if you are a relative newbie, or rediscover them, particularly if you’re someone like the father above.

And since I’ve frequently gone on the record as being increasingly militant about people supporting brick-and-mortar stores and not the impersonal likes of Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Target, I’m not reluctant here to suggest you pop into a Schoolkids or your own local indie store, and if poor proximity makes that not an option, you can search for the titles on and then link to purchase. My old employer also has a web sales fulfillment deal arranged with national indie distributor AEC, so even if a title you’re looking for isn’t in stock at one of the stores, AEC will ship it to you if they have it—digital downloads as well.


In 2018, building a Blues collection is not a difficult task because there are enough universally acknowledged classics to give you a solid foundation, even if you’re on a limited budget. In addition, the Blues is remarkably stable and consistent; unlike some genres, EDM for example, you’re not going to have someone reinventing how it’s constructed and/or performed every other week. There will always be intriguing new wrinkles from time to time in the Blues, but even younger artists looking to make a name for themselves tend to approach the genre with respect and reverence while still trying to keep their music fresh-sounding. (Think, for example, of a jam band, which one moment is flying off on a Phish-inspired cosmic tangent, and the next plowing into a down ‘n’ dirty Blues groove as taught to them by the Allman Brothers.)

I could go on for hours about my favorite Blues records, but for the sake of sanity, here’s just a select few. Don’t think I’m offering my version of Blues For Dummies, however—there are plenty of well-documented reasons for why all of these are considered timeless classics.


Howlin’ Wolf is probably my favorite old-school Blues artist, having been a constant presence on the scene starting in the late ‘50s until his death in 1976, and his impact upon the artform continues to be felt to the present day. His 1966 album The Real Folk Blues was originally issued by legendary Chicago label Chess Records as part of their album series of the same name, which also featured Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, Memphis Slim, and Sonny Boy Williamson II. Everything in the series is essential, with Wolf’s contributions (including More Real Folk Blues) musical templates for Chicago-style Blues at its most primal—it’s downright hypnotic when Wolf and his band, which included the brilliant guitarist Hubert Sumlin mentioned above, slip into one of their signature low-slung grooves.

Wolf’s vocals should be singled out as well, a raspy-yet-tuneful growl/moan that is impossible to mistake; put into a larger cultural context, there would be no Captain Beefheart and no Tom Waits had Wolf not come before them.

Hold that thought: Without Robert Johnson, the most important bluesman ever, the Blues would not have unfolded and evolved the way it did. All paths lead back to Johnson. Born in 1911, he’s the guy from whom all those stories about bluesmen going down to the crossroads in Mississippi (to sell their soul to the devil in exchange for success, natch) are derived. Relatively speaking, he only recorded a handful of sides, but those sides, the core songs originally collected in 1961 long after his death as King of the Delta Blues Singers, exerted an outsized influence on pretty much every serious Blues artist who came after him. You can still hear echoes of “Cross Road Blues,” “32-20 Blues,” “Walkin’ Blues,” and “If I Had Possession Over Judgement Day” in contemporary Blues songs, both acoustic (which was how Johnson performed) and electric.

God help the archivist who attempts to list every cover version of a Johnson song. And in the feral, keening howl that is Johnson’s vocal style, one hears the existential agony consistently coursing through all classic Blues music. King… has been reissued countless times over the years, both on vinyl and on CD, including in the mid/late ‘80s as an expanded CD box set that not only introduced Johnson to a broader (and younger) audience, it also played a key role in making box sets commercially viable for the record industry.

Everybody has heard of Muddy Waters, arguably the second most important bluesman ever. There’s not a Blues band on the planet that doesn’t have at least one or two of McKinley Morganfield’s—Muddy’s—songs in their repertoire. My first direct exposure to him came with 1968’s Electric Mud, most likely because it was billed as his “psychedelic album” and at that point a teenage me was soaking in a near-100% diet of psychedelia. It was kind of an experiment on the part of Chess Records to try to get Muddy’s music into the hands of kids like me, with his regular backing band temporarily replaced by the younger musicians of Rotary Connection, and for good measure they even did a kind of electric gospel/soul/psych cover of the Rolling Stones’ “Let’s Spend the Night Together.”

And with more traditional Muddy fare like “I Just Want to Make Love to You,” “Hoochie Coochie Man,” and “Mannish Boy” semi-reworked for then-contemporary times, the album is wildly accessible without compromising Muddy’s core vision. While the artist himself was reportedly not enamored of the record, and purist American music critics didn’t take much of a shine to it either, it became the first Muddy album to land on both the Billboard and Cashbox album charts. Further proof of Electric Mud’s staying power? It has been sampled by Cypress Hill, Natas, and Gorillaz, and as Wikipedia informs us, Martin Scorcese’s documentary series The Blues contains scenes of the recording band for Electric Mud performing with Public Enemy’s Chuck D and members of The Roots.

Meanwhile, since we’ve been talking about torches being passed, consider John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers, white men from England whose deep appreciation of black American legends led them to bring the Blues to the British marketplace. That singer/harp player Mayall recruited high-profile sidemen like John McVie and Peter Green (who would go on to Fleetwood Mac after their Mayall tenure) and Some Guy Named Eric Clapton, fresh from the Yardbirds, was testimony to his artistic prescience. The 1966 album Bluesbreakers With Eric Clapton, which not so coincidentally gave that same Some Guy near-co-billing with Mayall on the cover, has seven of its 12 tracks written by earlier Blues artists—among them, Robert Johnson, Mose Allison, Otis Rush, and Freddie King.

The latter’s “Hideaway” is a textbook example of a Texas-Chicago Blues hybrid, and Clapton’s signature riffing is instantly identifiable to anyone even remotely familiar with his work in Cream and as a solo artist. The album as a whole is a perfect example of how British musicians were able to adapt the Americans’ music and carve out a unique piece of turf in the Blues for themselves.

Which brings us to Rory Gallagher. The fiery Irish guitarist, who passed away, sadly, in 1995, at the age of 47, earned an early rep fronting power trio Taste, which put its own unique spin on electric blues much as Clapton and Cream were doing at the same time in England. Following the group’s breakup in 1970, Gallagher embarked upon a prolific solo career, soon adding a keyboard player to round out the guitar-bass-drums ensemble. Yours truly was fortunate enough to see him several times during his heyday, most notably as an unannounced early-a.m. act at the Peachtree Celebration festival in tiny Rockingham, NC, in 1972. Coming on after headliner Alice Cooper had finished, the flannel-shirted guitarist seemed oblivious to the fact that much of the audience had already begun streaming out, and put forth a hi-nrg set that left those of us who stuck around scraping our jaws from the festival grounds.

Check out 1974’s Irish Tour ’74, whose setlist draws extensively from his superb Blueprint and Tattoo studio albums, additionally serving up classic Blues standards from Muddy Waters (“I Wonder Who”), J.B. Hutto (“Too Much Alcohol”), and, on the 40th anniversary box set, Junior Wells (“Messin’ With the Kid”) and Big Bill Broonzy (“Banker’s Blues”). Part of Gallagher’s genius was the way his original material was clearly derived from the Blues but also injected with strong doses of irresistible pop melodies and outright anthemism. Plus, he could play slide guitar like nobody’s business. At least two of the album’s tracks should be on any self-respecting rock ‘n’ roll playlist, “Tattoo’d Lady” and “A Million Miles Away” —the latter a 10-minute tour de force in concert, rife with dynamic shifts and myriad tonal textures all jostling amid a fairly straightforward 12-bar blues chord progression. Irish Tour ’74 makes for a stellar introduction to Gallagher’s oeuvre while also serving as a tutorial on how a lot of white electric bluesmen in the late ‘60s and ‘70s were able to adapt the Blues and make them commercially viable. (Below: Check out a choice live version of “Million Miles Away” from the Rockpalast German TV show in 1979.)

As I already indicated, I could keep going, but maybe I’ll save that for another column. I will, however, leave you with a list of artists well-worth checking out, whether you’re in student mode or simply revisiting old favorites—names like Albert King, BB King, Freddie King (what, no Queens? no Aces?), Elmore James, John Lee Hooker, Taj Mahal, Leadbelly, Lightning Hopkins, the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Robert Cray, KoKo Taylor, Willie Dixon, Albert Collins…

True Story: Albert King passed away in 1992, but I was fortunate enough to interview him in the early ’90s when I was the music editor of an alternative weekly paper. He was scheduled to be headlining a local all-day Blues festival, and for some reason we were able to pull enough strings to land a quickie (like, 12 minutes) phone interview with him for a preview piece in the paper. After some perfunctory comments about The Blues And Its Significance, King and I somehow shifted/devolved into a conversation about, of all things, fishing. I’d heard he was an avid fisher and figured that was a fair topic to broach, so I mentioned to him that I knew a couple of choice spots in the area where one could drop a line, including a pond owned by my family. I harbor no illusions that King eagerly scribbled down my suggestions, but he was gracious enough to take the ball and run with it, talking briefly about why he loved fishing so much. We subsequently turned back to the upcoming event, and soon, sensing my time was about up, I decided to close out with the stock “So, what’s next for you after this?” question.

King paused, gave a little snort, and gave the perfect answer.

“Man, I am tired. I just wanna go fishin’…”

Visit the Schoolkids Records online retail portal to shop for these and many more Blues records, on vinyl, compact disc, and digital. (Format depends on what’s currently in print.)


STILL LIKE A MOTHERFUCKER: The Heartbreakers’ Classic LP, Revived

As released on DVD and LP to chronicle a series of 2016 concerts, and more recently celebrated on a 2017 mini-tour, the iconic punk album proves its staying power.


L.A.M.F., the only studio album by Johnny Thunders’ infamous New Yawk punk ‘n’ roll band the Heartbreakers, turned 40 in 2017, outlasting its driving force by a good quarter of a century, Thunders, a notorious junkie, having passed away in ’91 in New Orleans. In anticipatory celebration, Heartbreakers co-guitarist and torchbearer Walter Lure assembled a dream team of Thunders cohorts and acolytes to perform the album front-to-back in its original Track Records 1977 order for a short residency in mid-November 2016 at the Bowery Electric venue, recording the shows for a proposed album and video. (For a detailed review of the event, along with the Heartbreakers’ backstory, check out journalist/photographer Caryn Rose’s account at Noisey.) The video rendering recently arrived on DVD courtesy Jungle/MVD.


Joined by MC5 guitarist Wayne Kramer (who played with Thunders in the short-lived Gang War), Blondie/Plimsouls drummer Clem Burke (who came up on the same downtown NYC scene as Thunders) and erstwhile Replacements/Guns ‘N Roses bassist Tommy Stinson (the ‘Mats being one of the few American bands to keep Thunders’ reckless rock ‘n’ roll spirit burning), plus guests, Lure delivers exactly the kind of rock show you’d expect from someone who came up that close to the flame.

The quartet plays like they rehearsed just enough to be on the same page with the songs, but not enough to be anything close to slick. Lure and Stinson share the vocals, with the former keeping to NYC cool and the latter bawling like an out-of-breath animal, while Lure and Kramer faithfully reproduce the original LP’s clashing six-string chaos and Burke calmly makes the case for being the best rock ‘n’ roll drummer alive. The ad hoc band acquits itself nicely on the usual classics like “Chinese Rocks” and “Born to Lose,” with Kramer singing “Let Go” and Burke doing Jerry Nolan’s “Can’t Keep My Eyes On You.” D Generation’s Jesse Malin guests on a feral “I Wanna Be Loved” and a poignant “It’s Not Enough”; Cheetah Chrome romps through “Goin’ Steady”; up-and-coming New York rocker Liza Colby brings soul to “I Love You”; and Chrome and Malin team up on a blazing “Pirate Love.” The whole thing comes clanging to a close with a Kramer-sung “Do You Love Me,” the Heartbreakers’ roaring bash through a Motown classic.

Production values are catch as catch can, with frequent out-of-focus video, a squirrelly mix that favors volume over nuance, a director clearly flying by the seat of his pants, especially in the editing room, and no effort put into maintaining continuity between the three different performances captured in order to compile the film. It makes one wonder if the decision to shoot it was last minute. But you know what? That’s all fine, even appropriate. Johnny Thunders never chased perfection when he could nail the moment, and Lure and company blast through his legacy with a ramshackle joie de vivre that’s more about feel and soul than precision — just like the work of the man to whom it pays tribute.

EDITOR’S NOTE: L.A.M.F. Live at the Bowery Electric has also been released as a limited edition (950 copies pressed), colored vinyl collectible, arriving in independent record stores for the annual Record Store Day “Black Friday” event. (The LP appears to not be listed on the Record Store Day website for that Black Friday sale, originally billed as a “RSD Limited Run/Regional Focus Release; but the BLURT braintrust eagerly snapped up copies on Black Friday, and as of this writing it appears to be available online but with only 950 copies in circulation, it probably won’t remain that way for long.)

And bringing things up to the present, the real 40th anniversary-of-L.A.M.F. was celebrated this past November 29 and 30, also at the Bowery Electric, followed by shows in Brooklyn, Los Angeles, Solana Beach, and San Francisco, where they wrapped on Dec. 4. The mini-tour featured a slightly different roster of players. Lure, obviously, headed things up, and fellow ground-zero punk Burke was also on hand; they were joined by Mike Ness of Social Distortion on guitar, and Sex Pistols/Rich Kids bassist Glen Matlock. Malin again was a special guest, having helped organize both the 2016 and 2017 shows, turning in spirited vocals on “Pirate Love,” “It’s Not Enough,” and — in the Thunders-centric four-song encore — the iconic “You Can’t Put Your Arms Around a Memory.”

Memories, indeed.


MOVIE THOUGHTS: Top 10 Films of 2017


(Go HERE to view the Blurt Movie Thoughts master page, which has links to all previous installments.)


  1. The Disaster Artist

From my love of a “behind the scenes” movie to my actual love of Tommy Wiseau’s 2001 The Room, The Disaster Artist continues to just be the one film that replays over and over in my head. Throughout the whole movie I had transcended into actually feeling like I was on set of The Room through James Franco’s Tommy Wieseau’s impression, alongside the huge cast of amazing actors and actresses that included Dave Franco, Seth Rogen, Ari Graynor, and Zac Efron. If you have not seen it because you are timid about James Franco making fun of it, or if you are just unfamiliar with it in general, I suggest taking a breath, watching The Room with a group of friends, and then watching The Disaster Artist.


  1. Good Time

This still has to be one of my favorite crime movies in quite a while. From one of the best scores of the year, by Oneohtrix Point Never, to the dark ‘80s vibe that has me anxious to see what the Safdie Brothers are gonna do next. What are they doing next? A remake of 48 Hours. Which has me very, very excited.

Read the rest of my thoughts here:


  1. The Killing of a Sacred Deer

Yorgos Lanthimos likes to make movies that will linger in your head for a very long time. I don’t think in all of 2017 I have seen a movie quite like this. Pretty sure I’ve never seen a movie like this ever.

Read the rest of my thoughts here:


  1. Raw

Seeing Raw without having any idea of what you are about to get yourself into is probably the best way to go into seeing it for maximum sense overload and an overall mind-blowing experience from director Julia Ducournau. Raw ends up being one of the most original cannibal stories in quite some time. Garance Marillier plays Justine, a devout vegetarian who just entered her first year of veterinarian school alongside her sister, Alexia, played by the wonderful Ella Rumpf. She enters a rough college world—from twisted hazing to her finding out who she really is—which is something really pro-founding. With cinematography overtones of Dario Argento, this is definitely a must-watch for any horror movie connoisseur.


  1. I, Tonya

This was one of the most spectacular surprises I had all 2017—from being unsure of seeing a movie I knew about from seeing on the news at a very young age and not caring then, to being completely spellbound by Margot Robbie’s portrayal of Tonya Harding and the story that covers not just “The Incident” but her life before and after. I can only hope that Robbie ends up taking the “Best Actress” award at this years Oscars.



  1. Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets

Unfortunately, I can see Valerian not making a lot of lists this year, but I had one of the best times at the theater seeing it. Hopefully after it hits the streaming services and physical copies are released, it will come back around and get the praise it deserves.

Read the rest of my thoughts here:


  1. Get Out

By far, one of the most multidimensional movies of the year was directed by Jordan Peele. Get Out was marketed as a horror movie where many thought it was not a horror movie. Whatever you thought the film brought to you, you can’t deny it being one of the best of 2017. Being that it’s Jordan Peele’s directorial debut is impressive and definitely has solidified for him a promising career in film.


  1. Brigsby Bear

One of the year’s most underrated movies was a small film done by a group of the Saturday Night Live current and past crew. Written and staring Kyle Mooney and produced by the Lonely Island (Akiva Schaffer, Andy Samberg, Jorma Taccone) comedy trio, Brigsby Bear takes you on an ‘80s trip that has dark overtones of 2015’s Lenny Abrahamson-directed Room. Which is a confusing sentence to read if you do read that right: Lonely Island comedy mixed with Room. From the cast that also includes Mark Hamill, Claire Danes, and Greg Kinnear, it’s one that people should definitely check out.


  1. Colossal

From the new distribution company, Neon, came its first film of 2017 that casts a giant shadow into what the distribution company can bring to the table (the second movie they released this year is I, Tonya). Starring Anne Hathaway and Jason Sudeikis, Colossal is a comedic love story blended with giant monster movie vibes. Overall, just a solid movie that leaves you satisfied.


  1. The Big Sick

Kumail Nanjiani and Emily Gordon put the story of the entire relationship out on screen this year and it ended up being one of the most romantic movies of the year. From one of my favorite directors, Michael Showalter, to some of my favorite actors and actresses, The Big Sick will be hailed as one of the classic movies from the year of 2017 when we look back from years to come.



REVENGE OF THE WRITERS: Blurt’s Best and Worst of 2017

 “Music is peace, love, and faith”: What stood out in the music world for 2017? The folks who work in the trenches here are gonna tell ya. Guarantee: all dialogue reported verbatim. Pictured above: some of our favorites from the year that just ended.


It’s like déjà vu all over again once again: For our 2017 year-end wrap-up we summarily yield the podium to the staffers and contributors who detail their personal picks for the year that just ended. Considering what a ghastly experience the year was, with the #metoo movement perhaps the only good thing to come out of it, for many of us, music was our only reliable respite. With more of same highly likely for 2018, here’s hoping the musicians’ community  — clearly in a state of shock for the bulk of the past 12 months — will finally step up and make itself heard. If it happened during the Reagan era, it can certainly happen again.  Note: If you want to contact any member of our staff, their contact emails can be found at our “Contact” page, and if you wish to reach out to any of the other contributors, send us an email and we will be happy to forward it along. —Fred Mills, Blurt Editor


Also check out our 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2016 coverage:

Revenge of the Writers: Best and Worst of 2016

Farewell: Music World Passings 2016

Revenge of the Writers: Best and Worst of 2015

Farewell: Music World Passings 2015

2014 In Review: Blurt’s Top 100 Albums

Revenge of the Writers: Best and Worst of 2014

Farewell: Music World Passings 2014

2013 In Review: Blurt’s Top 75 Albums

Revenge of the Writers: Best and Worst of 2013

Farewell: Music World Passings 2013

 2012 In Review: Blurt’s Top 75 Albums

Revenge of the Writers: Best and Worst of 2012

Farewell: Music World Passings of 2012


Senior Editor / World Music Ed. / Northeast Bureau

Top 10 of 2017:

1)      Michael Chapman — 50 (Paradise of Bachelors)
2)      Group Doueh & Cheveu — Dakhla Sahara Session (Born Bad)

3)      Mark Lanegan Band — Gargoyle (Heavenly)

4)      Xetas — The Tower (12XU)

5)      Jack Cooper — Sandgrown (Trouble in Mind)

6)      Sleaford Mods — English Tapas (Rough Trade)

7)      James Elkington—Wintres Woma (Paradise of Bachelors)

8)      Seamus Fogarty—The Curious Hand (Domino)

9)      Protomartyr—Relatives in Descent (Domino)

10)   Feedtime—Gas (In the Red)

Love These Too:

Julie Byrne—Not Even Happiness (BaDaBing)

Joseph Childress—Rebirths (Empty Cellar)

Heron Oblivion—The Chapel (self-release)

Tinariwen—Elwan (Anti-)

Stef Chura — Messes (Urinal Cake)

Feral Ohms—S-T (Silver Current)

Pere Ubu—20 Years in a Montana Missile Silo (Cherry Red)

Upper Wilds—Upper Wilds (Thrill Jockey)

Kelley Stoltz — Que Aura (Castle Face)

The Clientele—The Age of Miracles (Merge)

Algiers — The Underside of Power (Matador)

Avey Tare — Eucalyptus (Domino)

Golden Boys—Better than Good Times (12XU)

Gunn-Truscinski Duo—Bay Head (Three-Lobed)

Contributors—ST (Monofonus Press)

Mark Eitzel—Hey Mr. Ferryman (Merge)


The Fall—A Sides and B Sides (Cherry Red)

Jackie Shane—Any Other Way (Numero Group)

V/A—Ote Maloya (Strut)



Senior Editor / Metal/Rock ‘n’ Roll Ed. / Southwest Bureau


Top 30 of 2017

  1. Matthew Edwards & the Unfortunates – Folklore (Gare du Nord)
  1. Steven Wilson – To the Bone (Caroline)
  2. Craig Taborn – Daylight Ghosts (ECM)
  3. Sweet Pea Atkinson – Get What You Deserve (Blue Note)
  4. Tommy Howard – Storybook (Destiny)
  5. The Blue Note All-Stars – Our Point of View (Blue Note)
  6. Vijay Iyer Sextet – Far From Here (ECM)
  7. Charles Lloyd New Quartet – Passin’ Thru (Blue Note)
  8. Various Artists – Sky Music: A Tribute to Terje Rypdal (Rune Grammafon)
  9. Japandroids – Near to the Wild Heart of Life (Anti-)
  10. The Church – Man Woman Life Death Infinity (Unorthodox)
  11. Jim Jones & the Righteous Mind – Super Natural (Masonic/Hound Gawd!)
  12. Chris Potter – The Dreamer is the Dream (ECM)
  13. Ambrose Akinmusire – A Rift in Decorum: Live at the Village Vanguard (Blue Note)
  14. John Abercrombie Quartet – Up and Coming (ECM)
  15. Ralph Towner – My Foolish Heart (ECM)
  16. The Dream Syndicate – How Did I Find Myself Here? (Anti-)
  17. Ex Eye – s/t (Relapse)
  18. Lee Ranaldo – Electric Trim (Mute)
  19. Randy Reynolds – Positiveness (Rock Tumbler)
  20. Thurston Moore – Rock N Roll Consciousness (Caroline/Fiction)
  21. James McCann and the New Vindictives – Gotta Lotta Move – Boom! (Off the Hip)
  22. Raoul Björkenheim/eCsTaSy – Doors of Perception (Cuneiform)
  23. Ingebrigt Häker Flaten’s Time Machine – Hong Kong Cab (Self Sabotage)
  24. Sweet Apple – Sing the Night in Sorrow (Tee Pee)
  25. Myrkur – Mareridt (Relapse)
  26. Michael Chapman – 50 (Paradise of Bachelors)
  27. Jaco Pastorius – Truth, Liberty & Soul (Resonance)
  28. Power Trip – Nightmare Logic (Southern Lord)
  29. King Crimson – Live in Chicago (Panegyric/Inner Knot)


  1. Herbie Hancock, Austin City Limits taping, ACL Live at the Moody Theater, Austin, TX
  2. King Crimson, Bass Concert Hall, Austin, TX
  3. Jack DeJohnette/Ravi Coltrane/Matthew Garrison, McCullough Theater, Austin, TX
  4. Liberty Ellman, Carousel Lounge, Austin, TX
  5. Carmelo Torres and Los Toscos, Sonic Transmissions Festival, Kick Butt Coffee, Austin, TX
  6. The Young Mothers, Hotel Vegas, Austin, TX
  7. Japandroids, Emo’s, Austin, TX
  8. Songhoy Blues, Austin City Limits Music Festival, Zilker Park, Austin, TX
  9. Pere Ubu, Austin Jukebox, Beerland, Austin, TX
  10. Shabaka Hutchings, SXSW, The Main II, Austin, TX
  11. The Church, 3Ten, Austin, TX
  12. Tom Carter, No Idea Festival, Museum of Human Achievement, Austin, TX
  13. Megafauna, Cheer Up Charlie’s, Austin, TX
  14. Henry Threadgill’s Zooid, Scottish Rite Theater, Austin, TX
  15. Lemon Twigs, Austin City Limits Music Festival, Zilker Park, Austin, TX





Senior Editor / Twang Ed. / Cruise Director

The War on Drugs – A Deeper Understanding
Father John Misty – Pure Comedy
Aimee Mann – Mental Illness
Courtney Barnett & Kurt Vile – Lotta Sea Lice
Ha Ha Tonka — Heart Shaped Mountain
Robert Plant – Carry Fire
Kasey Chambers – Dragonfly
Ronnie Faust – Last of the True
Successful Failures – Ichor of Nettle
Deep Dark Woods – Yarrow
Shelby Lynne & Allison Moorer – Not Dark Yet
Chris Hillman – Bidin’ My Time
Jesse Terry – Stargazers
Rural Alberta Advantage – The Wild
Paul Kelly – Life if Fine
Parson Redheads – Blurred Harmony
Hiss Golden Messenger – Hallelujah
Josh Ritter – Gathering
Scott Miller – Ladies Auxiliary
Fallon Cush – Morning
Langhorne Slim – Long at Last
Slaid Cleaves – Ghost on the Car Radio
A.J. Croce – Just Like Medicine
Strawbs – The Ferryman’s Curse


Live Concerts:


Sam Bush

Lyle Lovett and John Hiatt

Old Crow Medicine SHow

Fairport Convention


Biggest Gripe:

The same as in years past — the continuing elimination of physical product  — and the exploitation of vinyl lovers via unreasonably high prices!





Senior Editor / Punk Ed. / Brotherly Love Bureau


Top 10 Albums


  • Cock Sparrer– Forever (Pirate Press Records)
  • Dave Hause – Bury Me in Philly (Rise Records)
  • Curse Of Lono – Severed (Submarine Cast Records)
  • The Mavericks – Brand New Day (Mono Mundo Recordings/Thirty Tigers)
  • Nikki Lane – Highway Queen (New West Records)
  • Cory Branan – Adios (Bloodshot Records)
  • Cait Brennan – Third (Omnivore Recordings)
  • The Texas Gentlemen – TX Jelly (New West Records)
  • Travis Linville -Up Ahead (CEN)
  • Japandroids – Near to the Wild Heart of Life (Anti- Records)


  • Stiff Little Fingers – No Going Back (earMusic)
  • The Replacements – For Sale: Live at Maxwell’s 1986 (Rhino)
  • Raspberries – Pop Art Live (Omnivore Recordings)
  • The Muffs – Happy Birthday To Me (Omnivore Recordings)
  • Various Artists – Thank You, Friends: Big Star’s Third Live (Concord)

Music Books:

  • Lonely Boys: Tales From a Sex Pistol By Steve Jones (Da Capo Press)
  • Hellraisers: A Complete Visual History of Heavy Metal Mayhem by Axl Rosenberg and Chris Krovatin (Race Point Publishing)
  • Henry & Glenn Forever + Ever by Tom Neely & Friends (Microcosm Publishing)
  • Trouble In Mind: Bob Dylan’s Gospel Years By Clinton Heylin (Lesser Gods)
  • Armadillo World Headquarters: A Memoir By Eddie Wilson (TSSI Publishing)




Senior Editor / Zines & 45s Ed. / Mile High Club

My Favorite Records of 2017:

Alvvays- Antiosocialites (Polyvinyl)

The Dream Syndicate- How Did I Find Myself Here? (Anti)

The Golden Boys- Better Than Good Times (12XU)

GospelbeacH- Another Summer of Love (Alive)

Rays- S/T (Trouble in Mind)

The Legendary House Cats- Greatest Blips Vol 1 (Used Bin Pop)

Alex Lahey- I Love You Like a Brother (Dead Oceans)

Jillette Johnson- All I Ever See in You is Me (Rounder)

Arts & Leisure- Found Objects (Mystery Lawn0

Pale Lights- The Stars Seemed Brighter (Calico Cat/Kleine Untergrund Schallplatten)

The Courtneys- II (Flying Nun)

Scupper- Some Gauls (Blue Cheese Toothpaste)

The Luxembourg Signal – Blue Field (Shelflife)

Speaking Suns- Range (Anyway)

Rat Columns- Candle Power (Upset the Rhythm)

15 More….

Antietam- Intimations of Immortality (Motorific Sounds)

Fred Thomas- Changer (Polyvinyl)

USA/Mexico- Laredo (12XU)

Last Leaves- Other Towns Than Ours (Matinee)

The Improbables- Object to be Destroyed (Hidden Volume)

Sacred Paws- Strike a Match (Rock Action)

A Certain Smile- Fits & Starts (self released)

Kosmonaut- Misfits on the Horizon (Porterfield Recording Company)

The Granite Shore- Suspended Second (Occultation)

Land of Talk- Life After Youth (Saddle Creek)

Beach Fossils- Somersault (Bayonet)

Star Tropics- Lost World (Shelflife)

Whitney Rose- Rule 62 (Six Shooter/Thirty Tigers )

Bye Bye Blackbirds—Take Out the Poison (Bye Bye Blackbirds Recordings)

The Clientele- Music for the Age of Miracles (Merge)

Wait….15 more:

Eyelids- Or (Jealous Butcher)

The Feelies- In Between (Bar None)

Slowdive- S/T (Dead Oceans)

The Side Eyes- So Sick (In the Red)

Magnetic Fields- 50 Song Memoir (Nonesuch)

Rose Elinor Dougall- Stellular (Vermillion)

The Yellow Melodies- Life (The Beautiful Music)

The Jet Age- At the End of the World (Sonic Boomerang)

Tripwire- Cold Gas Giants (self released)

The Proper Ornaments- Foxhole (Slumberland)

The Stevens- Good (Chapter Music)

David West with Teardrops- Cherry on Willow (Tough love)

Rose Elinor Dougall- Stellular (Vermillion

Girl Ray- Earl Grey (Moshi Moshi)

Metz- Strange Peace (Sub Pop)

Other very good ones….

Fake Laugh- S/T  (Headcount)

New Pornographers- Whiteout Conditions (Concord)

Mark Eitzel- Hey, Mr. Ferryman (Merge)

The Hellenes- I Love You All the Animals (Self Released)

Plax – Clean Feeling (Super Secret Records)

TSOL- The Trigger Complex (Rise Records)

Michael Head & the Red Elastic Band- Adios Senor Pussycat (Violette records)

Priests- Nothing Feels Natural  (Sister Polygon)

Rich McCulley- Out Along the Edges (self released)

Guided by Voices- How Do You Spell Heaven (GBV Inc)

These folks also released records I enjoyed in 2017 as well:  Bash & Pop, Richard X. Heyman, Ephrata, Church Girls, Flamin Groovies, Jon Langford, , Pains of Being Pure at Heart, Passengers, Quin Galavais, Lisa Said, The Telescopes, The Legends, Lost Balloons, Chastity Belt, School Damage, WV White, Fazerdaze, Fire in the Radio, The Bingers, Heather Trost, Xetas, The Rallies, Brent Cash , Lucy Dacus, etc .etc.


U- Men- S/T (Sub Pop)

The Wild Poppies- Heroine- Complete Collection 1986-1989 (Omnian Music Group)

The Creation- Action Painting (The Numero Group)

V/A- C88 (Cherry red)

Look Blue Go Purple- Bewitched (Flying Nun)

The Orchids- 30 Year Retrospective (Cherry Red)

Three Wishes- Aberdeen, The June Brides, 14 Iced bears- The Part Time Punks Sessions (Used Bin Pop)

Aberdeen- What Do I Wish for Now: Singles Collection 1994-2004 (Used Bin Pop)

Duane Eddy- Guitar Star (Real Gone Music)

V/A- The Complete Loma Singles Collection (Real Gone Music)

Cheap Trick- The Epic Archive- Vol 1 (1975-1979 (Real Gone Music)

V/A- Honeybeat: Groovy 60’s Girl Pop  (Real Gone Music)

The Sneetches- Form of Play: A Retrospective (Real Gone Music)

Aberdeen- Grey Skies Don’t Last Extras 1992-2012  (Used Bin Pop)

Armstrong- Fragments and Curiosities- the 4-track Sessions (The Beautiful Music)


M.I.A.- After the Fact (Darla)

M.I.A.- Notes From  the Underground (Darla)

The Terminals- Uncoffined (Hozac)

Buffalo Tom- Let Me Come Over (Beggars Banquet)

Helium- Ends With And (Matador)

Afghan Whigs- Congregation (Sub Pop)

Bobby Darin and Johnny Mercer- Two of a Kind (Omnivore)

Afghan Whigs- Up In It (Sub Pop)

Mortimer- One Our Way Home (Cherry Red)

Superchunk- S/T (Merge)

The Spinto Band- Nice and Nicely Done (Bar None)

Arthur Alexander- S/T (Omnivore)

Top 10 Eps:

The Paranoid Style- Underworld USA (Bar None)

Stutter Steps- Floored (Blue Arrow Records)

The Luxembourg Signal- Laura Palmer (Shelflife)

Last Leaves- The Hinterland (Matinee)

Rat Fancy- Suck a Lemon (HHBTM)

Even as We Speak- The Black Forest (Emotional Response)

The Persian Leaps- Bicycle Face (Land Ski Records)

Secret Meadow- Same Old Fear (Jigsaw)

The Fireworks-  Dream About You (Shelflife)

Whitney Rose- South Texas Suite (Six Shooter Records)


Blurt Editor / Creative Director / Vinyl Curator

Top 35 Vinyl New Releases of 2017:

Dream Syndicate – How Did I Find Myself Here (Anti-)
Antibalas – Where the Gods Are in Peace (Daptone; clear vinyl)
Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit – The Nashville Sound (Southeastern)
Curtis Harding – Face Your Fear (Anti-; clear vinyl)
Tamikrest – Kidal (Glitterbeat)
Goat – Fuzzed In Europe (Rocket; splatter green vinyl)
Prophets of Rage – Prophets of Rage (Fantasy; red vinyl)
Jon Langford – Four Lost Souls (Bloodshot; clear vinyl)
Coco Hames – Coco Hames (Merge; green vinyl)
The War On Drugs – A Deeper Understanding (Atlantic; colored vinyl box set limited edition)
Temperance League – Space Aquarium (Like, Wow!; purple vinyl)
Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings – Soul of a Woman (Daptone; red vinyl)
Jim Jones & The Righteous Mind – Super Natural (Hound Gawd!)
Jean Caffeine – Sadie Saturday Night (self-released)
Run The Jewels – 3 (Run The Jewels, Inc.)
feedtime – Gas (In The Red; splatter green vinyl)
Game Theory – Supercalifragile (KCM)
Happy Abandon – Facepaint (Schoolkids; splatter multicolor vinyl)
OBNOX –  Niggative Approach (12XU)
Akatombo – Short Fuse (Hand-Held Recordings; grey vinyl w/inserts)
King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard – Polygondwanaland (Crumbling Castle; clear vinyl – among many variations)
! ! ! – Shake The Shudder (Warp; clear vinyl)
Trad Gras & Stenar – Tach For Kaffet (Subliminal Sounds)
Ikebe Shakedown – The Way Home (Colemine; clear vinyl)
King Khan – King Khan’s Murder Burgers (Ernest Jenning, blood/white splatter vinyl)
Mogwai – Every Country’s Sun Box (Temporary Residence; 2LP colored vinyl + 12”)
GospelbeacH – Another Summer of Love (Alive Natural Sound; starburst vinyl + 7”)
Curse of Lono – Severed (Submarine Cat)
Pocket Fishrmen – The Greatest Story Ever Told (Saustex; red vinyl)
DJ Krush – Kiseki (Gamma Proforma)
Floating Action – Is it Exquisite? (Baby Gas Mask; random colors + 7”)
JD McPherson – Undivided Heart & Soul (New West; pink vinyl/autographed)
The Yes Masters – The Number 6 is In Red (No Threes; clear vinyl)
Tunbunny – PCP Presents Alice In Wonderland Jr. (Happy Happy Birthday To Me)
The Ape – Give In (Bang!)

Other Awesome Titles of 2017:

Wire – Silver/Lead (Pink Flag)
Travis Meadows – First Cigarette (Blaster)
Windbreakers – Terminal expanded reissue (Mark)
Flamin’ Groovies – Plastic Fantastic (Sonic Kick)
Margo Price – All American Made (Third Man)
Michael Rank – Another Love 3CD (Louds Hymn)
Paint Fumes – If It Ain’t Paint Fumes it Ain’t Worth a Huff (Get Hip)
Kendrick Lamar – DAMN (Aftermath)
The Jet Age – At the End of the World (Sonic Boomerang)
Raspberries – Pop Art Live (Omnivore)
Feelies – In Between (Bar/None)
U2 – Songs of Experience Deluxe Edition (Island)
Otis Taylor – Fantasizing About Being Black (Trance Blues Festival)
Samantha Fish – Chills & Fever (Ruf)
J Hacha De Zola – Antipatico (self-released)
Bert Wray Blues – Gut Bucket Radio (Third Lock)
Sonia Tetlow – Now (Tetlow Music)
Neil Young & Promise of the Real – The Visitor (Reprise)
Big Boi – Boomiverse (Epic)
Russ Tolman – Compass & Map (Lost)
Soul Scratch – Pushing Fire (Colemine)
Jonathan Mudd – Evidence (Major Label Interest

Essential Archival/Reissue Vinyl:

Tim Buckley – Greetings From West Hollywood 2LP (Manifesto_
Fela Kuti – Fela Box 4 Compiled by Erykah Badu 7LP (Knitting Factory)
Dead Moon – What A Way to See the Old Girl Go: Live at the X-Ray Café 1994 (Voodoo Doughnut)
Dream Syndicate – Complete Live at Raji’s 2LP (Run Out Groove; numbered/grey marbled vinyl)
Gary Wrong Group – Gary Wrong Group 2LP (12XU)
Replacements – For Sale: Live at Maxwells 1986 (Rhino)
Mike Watt – “Ring Spiel” Tour ’95 2LP (Columbia/Legacy)
John Trudell – Aka Grafitti Man (Inside)
Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds – Lovely Creatures 3LP (Mute)
Hy Maya –The Mysticism of Sounds & Cosmic Language (Smog Veil; blue vinyl)
Husker Du – Savage Young Du 4LP Box (Numero Group + 7”)
Scientists – A Place Called Bad 4LP Box (Numero Group + 7”)
Ramones – Rocket to Russia (Sire/Rhino; 3CD + 40th anniversary LP)
Tim Buckley – Greetings From West Hollywood (Manifesto)
Angel Olsen – Phases (Jagjaguwar; green vinyl)
Echo & the Bunnymen – It’s All Live Now (Run Out Groove; colored vinyl)
Schwartz-Fox Blues Crusade – Sunday Morning Revival (Smog Veil; yellow colored vinyl)
Eric Ambel – Live @ Livestock 2016 (Roscoe Live: Vol. 1) (Lakeside Lounge)
Little Wings – Light Green Leaves (Gnome Live; numbered/green vinyl)
The Stooges – Highlights From the Fun House Sessions (Run Out Groove; colored vinyl)
Judee Sill – Heart Food (Intervention; 2LP/45rpm audiophile)
Lyman Woodard Organization – Saturday Night Special 2LP (Bbe)
The Diodes – The Diodes Box: The Diodes/Released/Action Reaction/Rarities (colored vinyl)
Various Artists –
Oister (Dwight Twilley/Phil Seymour) – 1973-1974 TEAC Tapes (HoZac Arhival)
Latyrx – The Album (Quannum Projects; colored vinyl + 7”)
Keith Secola – Circle (Don Giovanni)
U-Men – U-Men 3LP Box (Sub Pop)
The Wedding Present – George Best (Happy Happy Birthday to Me; red vinyl w/silk-screened sleeve)
Flat Duo Jets – Wild Wild Love 2LP/10” Box (Daniel 13)
Richard Hell & the Voidoids – Blank Generation 40th Anniversary Edition 2CD (Sire)


Pylon – Part Time Punks Session 12” (Chunklet; clear vinyl)
Peter Holsapple – “Don’t Mention The War” 7” (Hawthorne Curve)
Schizophonics – Ooga Booga 10” EP (Pig Baby)
Black Helicopter – Everything Is Forever 12” EP (Limited Appeal; red vinyl + wood insert)
Coathangers – Parasite 12” EP (Suicide Squeeze; marble green vinyl)
Jamie and Steve – Sub Textural CD EP (Loaded Goat)
Henry Owings – Micro-Impressions Volume One 7” (Chunklet)


Most Anticipated Album of 2018:

Calexico (January; Anti-)
(Hon. Mention: Since I did the band’s bio, I may have a conflict of interest in listing this, but fuck, it’s a killer album: 6 String Drag – Top Of the World (March;  on our sister business Schoolkids Records)

Top 10 Music Books of 2017:

1967: A Complete Rock History of the Summer of Love, by Harvey Kubernik (Sterling Publishing)
Everything is Combustible, by Richard Lloyd (Beech Hill Publishing)
Dead Boys 1977: The Lost Photographs of Dave Treat, by Dave Treat (Signature Books)
The Rock ‘n’ Roll Archives Volume Two: Punk Rockers, by Rev. Keith A Gordon (Excitable Press)
Spent Saints & Other Stories, by Brian Jabas Smith (The Ridgeway Press)
Visual Abuse: Jim Blanchard’s Graphic Art 1982-2002, by Jim Blanchard (Fantagraphics)
Jimi Hendrix: The Illustrated Story, by Gillian G. Gaar (Voyageur Press)
Untitled (The Freak Scene Dream Trilogy Vol. 3), by Michael Goldberg (Neumu Press)
Lonely Boy: Tales From a Sex Pistol, by Steve Jones (Da Capo)
All Over the Map: True Heroes of Texas Music, by Michael Corcoran (University of North Texas Press)

 Biggest Losses:

Tom Petty, Oct. 2
Tommy Keene, Nov. 22
Holger Czukay (Can), Sept. 5
Jaki Liebezeit (Can), Jan. 22
Fred Cole (Dead Moon), Nov. 9
Col. Bruce Hampton, May 1
Jessi Zazu (Those Darlins), Sept. 12
Pat DiNizio (Smithereens), Dec. 12
Charles Bradley, Sept. 23
Grant Hart, Sept. 13
Larry Ray (Outrageous Cherry), Oct. 24
Gord Downie (Tragically Hip). Oct. 17
Glen Campbell, Aug. 8
Gregg Allman, May 27
John Abercrombie, Aug. 22
Chuck Berry, March 18

Complete This Sentence: 2017 was a ghastly year that I would just like to forget because____________________________.  Oh, be serious, there is only one answer to that. It starts with the letter “T”.

Complete This Sentence: The one saving grace of 2017 was _________________. #metoo



Contributing Editor / Big Ears Ed.

Top 10 Albums (alphabetical order):

Bedouine, (no album title), (Spacebomb)

Foxygen, Hang, (Jagjaguwar)

Diamanda Galas, All the Way, (Intravenal Sound Operations)

Curtis Harding, Face Your Fear, (Anti-)

Roscoe Mitchell, Bells for the South Side (ECM)

The National, Sleep Well Beast (4AD)

Open Mike Eagle, Brick Body Kids Still Daydream, (Mello Music Group)

Peter Perrett, How the West Was Won (Domino_

Shilpa Ray, Door Girl (Northern Spy)

Leif Vollebekk, Twin Solitude, (Secret City)

Best Classical:

Gregory Spears, Fellow Travelers (Fanfare Cincinnati) note: a new opera

Five More Favorites:

Don Bryant, Don’t Give Up on Love (Fat Possum)

Dream Syndicate, How Did I Find Myself Here?, Anti-

The Feelies, In Between (Bar/None)

Little Steven, Soulfire (UMe)

Pere Ubu, 20 Years in a Montana Missile Silo (Cherry Red)

Best Cover Version:

Puddles Pity Party, Nick Cave’s Ship Song

Best Live Show:

Pere Ubu/Johnny Dowd, Woodward Theater, Cincinnati, Nov. 21.



John Schacht
Contributing Editor / Prof. of Numerology

Top 15 of 2017:

  1. Do Make Say Think/Stubborn Persistent Illusions
  2. Mo Troper/Exposure & Response
  3. The War On Drugs/A Deeper Understanding
  4. Floating Action/Is it Exquisite?
  5. Marisa Anderson/Traditional and Public Domain Songs
  6. The New Year/Snow
  7. Waxahatchee/Out In the Storm
  8. Mount Kimbie/Love What Survives
  9. Moses Somney/Aromanticism
  10. Bash & Pop/Anything Could Happen
  11. Jaimie Branch/Fly Or Die
  12. The Clientele/Music for the Age of Miracles
  13. Watter/History of the Future
  14. Slowdive/Slowdive
  15. Saltland/A Common Truth

Reissues & “Other”:

  1. Acetone/1992-2001
  2. Dion/ Kickin’ Child: The Lost Album 1965
  3. The Replacements For Sale/ Live @ Maxwell’s 1986
  4. Thelonious Monk/Les Liasons Dangereuses 1960
  5. The Creation/Action Painting
  6. Various Artists/Midcentury Sounds: Deep Cuts from the Desert
  7. Jackie Shane/Any Other Way
  8. Alice Coltrane/World Spirituality Classics 1: The Ecstatic Music of Alice Coltrane Turiyasangitananda
  9. Wilco/A.M.
  10. Helium/Ends With And



Contributing Editor / Culture Ed.

Top 10 of 2017:

  1. White Manna- Bleeding Eyes (Cardinal Fuzz)
  2. Alice Coltrane- World Spirituality Classics(Luaka Bop)
  3. Lingua Ignota- All Bitches Die (self released)
  4. Japandroids- Near to the Wild Heart of Life (Anti)
  5. Slowdive –Slowdive (Dead Oceans)
  6. Les Amazones d’Afrique- Republique Amazone (Real World)
  7. Rationale- Rationale (Warner)
  8. Stefan Schyga (Stefan)- End of the Drought (Innovative Strings)
  9. Number Three Combo- Resurfacing (Slowburn)
  10. Fever Ray-Plunge (Rabid Records)


Worst album of the year:
The Darkness- Pinewood Smile (Cooking Vinyl)

Villain of the year:
Donald John Trump

Worst thing about American TV:
Pharma ads

Hardest star deaths to stomach:
Tom Petty

Event or person that overstayed its welcome:
Donald John Trump

Most overrated movie of the year:
Wonder Woman




Staff Writer / Perfect Sound Engineer


Top 10 of 2017:

– Run the Jewels Run the Jewels 3

– Sleater-Kinney Live in Paris

– Miguel War & Leisure

– Migos Culture

– Cleric Resurrection

– The Courtneys II

– Timid Boy This is Hardgroove

– The Regrettes Feel Your Feelings Fool!

– Patrick Gallois Cimarosa: Overtures, Vol. 5

– Rhomb Global Patterns Part Two


Top 10 Reissues/Archival:

– Chuck Berry The Complete Chess Singles As & Bs 1955-61

– Thelonious Monk Les Liaisons Dangereuses 1960

– Delaney and Bonnie Motel Shot

– Grateful Dead Cornell 5/8/77

– Camera Obscura Teenager

– Dion Kickin’ Child- The Lost Album 1965

– Various Artists The Stars of Modern- California Soul Classics

– Mississippi John Hurt Live At Oberlin College

– Can The Singles

– Young Fathers Tape One/Tape Two


Top 10 Singles/Tracks:

– Ace Tee “Bist du down?”

– Bell Biv DeVoe “Find A Way”

– Chance the Rapper “First World Problems”

– Slowdive “Star Roving”

– Denzel Curry “Knotty Head [feat. Rick Ross]”

– Nnamdi Ogbonnaya “let gO Of my egO”

– Zuzu “What You Want”

– Cende “What I Want”

– Eminem “The Storm”

– TEN FÉ “Twist Your Arm (Lindstrøm And Prins Thomas Remix)”


Top 10 Concerts:

– Cindy Wilson/Kaki King/Amy Rigby- Bell House, Brooklyn, December 2017

– Heaven 17- Highline Ballroom, NYC, September 2017

– Dave Chappelle/Chance the Rapper/Mo Amer/Hannibal Buress/Jon Stewart/John Mayer – Radio City Music Hall, NYC, August 2017

– Eric B. & Rakim- Apollo, NYC, July 2017

– DVK, Icepick- Burdock, Toronto, June 2017

– Meat Puppets, Mike Watt, Grant Hart- Brooklyn Bowl, NYC, May 2017

– Beyond the Clouds: Ambient Excursions – RBMA NYC, Bogart House, Brooklyn, April 2017

– Rumjacks- Rockwood Music Hall, NYC, April 2017

– Pussy Riot- Speakeasy, Austin, March 2017

– Globalfest- Webster Hall, NYC, January 2017



M.I.A. “P.O.W.A.”

Jauna Molina “Lentísimo halo”

Oddisee  “You Grew Up”

Wadada Leo Smith “Awakening Emmitt Till”

Kamasi Washington “Truth”


Music DVDs/Films:

Leonard Cohen: Bird on a Wire

Chasing Trane: The John Coltrane Documentary

Long Strange Trip (Grateful Dead)

Hired Gun: Out of the Shadows

L7: Pretend We’re Dead


Music Books:

Elaine M. Hayes Queen of Bebop: The Musical Lives of Sarah Vaughan

Jimmy McDonough Soul Survivor: A Biography of Al Green

Rob Sheffield Dreaming the Beatles

Richie Unterberger Bob Marley and the Wailers: The Ultimate Illustrated History

Loudon Wainwright III Liner Notes


Best label:



Most anticipated album of 2018:

Wei Zhongle The Operators


Notable deaths:

Chuck & Fats, American democracy




Staff Writer / Northern Mounties Bureau

Top 10 of 2017:
1. Steel Woods – Straw in the Wind (Thirty Tigers)

  1. Bill Scorzari – Through These Waves (Independent)
  2. Jesse Terry – Stargazer (Jackson Beach Records)
  3. Tucci – Olivia (Hideaway Music)
  4. Peter Parcek – Everybody Wants To Go To Heaven (Lightnin’ Records)
  5. Kat Goldman – Workingman’s Blues (Independent)
  6. Johnny Rawls – Waiting for the Train (Catfood Records)
  7. Danny Barnes – Stove Up (Wendell Records)
  8. Charlie Parr – Dog
  9. Ben Hunter/Phil Wiggins/Joe Seamons – A Black & Tan Ball (Independent)

Best Concert of 2017:
• Garland Jeffreys – Hugh’s Room Live, May 4th, 2017


Staff Writer / Office Security

Top 10 of 2017:
Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit – The Nashville Sound (Southeastern)

The War on Drugs – A Deeper Understanding (Atlantic)

St. Vincent – MASSEDUCTION (Loma Vista)

Julien Baker – Turn Out the Lights (Matador)

The National – Sleep Well Beast (4AD)

Big Thief – Capacity (Saddle Creek)

Japandroids – Near to the Wild Heart of Life (Anti-)

Sampha – Process (Young Turks)

Kendrick Lamar – DAMN (Top Dawg/Aftermath/Interscope)

Sunny Sweeney – Trophy (Aunt Daddy)

Honorable mention:
Jen Cloher – Jen Cloher (Marathon Artists), Girlpool – Powerplant (Anti-), SZA – CTRL (Top Dawg/RCA), Robert Plant – Carry Fire (Nonesuch), Angel Olsen – Phases (Jagjaguwar), Hurray for the Riff Raff – The Navigator (ATO), Broken Social Scene – Hug of Thunder (Arts & Crafts), Jay Som – Everybody Works (Polyvinyl), Chris Stapleton – From a Room Vol. 1 (Mercury), Laura Marling – Semper Femina (More Alarming)

Replacements – For Sale: Live at Maxwell’s 1986 (Rhino)

Jackie Shane – Any Other Way (Numero Group)

Wilco – A.M./Being There Special Edition (Rhino)

John Prine – September ’78 (Oh Boy)

Grateful Dead – RFK Stadium 1989 (Rhino)

Buffalo Tom – Let Me Come Over 25th Anniversary Edition (Beggars Banquet)


Best Concerts:
Gary Clark Jr., – 3/17, Austin, TX

Spoon –  3/16, Austin, TX

Afghan Whigs – 9/15, New York, NY

St. Vincent – 12/2, Brooklyn, NY

Japandroids/Cloud Nothings – 10/26, Brooklyn, NY

Angel Olsen – 11/30, New York, NY


Staff Writer / Shutterbug Wrangler

Let’s Rock Out a List!
I’m the kind of person that likes lists; I make lists to get things accomplished. Now, with that being said, the end of year list is something I have always had a strange problem with for some reason. I don’t know why. I find them almost not needed — I know there are always quite a few, but still, what is the point? Reflection, that is the reason.

I love rock ‘n’ roll: not only as a great song, but also true of me. I like rock and metal music quite a bit. This is a list that I compiled that spans each month of the year. Every month albums are released, and there are twelve months in a year, so why not use that as a basis for a metal list.

Here it is…

  1. John5 – Season of the Witch (March)
  2. Epica- The Solace System (September)
  3. Mark Slaughter- Half Way There ; Linkin Park- One More Light (both released in May)
  4. Theory of a Deadman- Wake Up Call (October)
  5. Alice Cooper- Paranormal; Prong- Zero Days (both released in July)
  6. Lorna Shore- Fresh Coffin (February)
  7. Asking Alexandria- Asking Alexandria (December)
  8. Jack Russell’s Great White- He Saw it Coming (January)
  9. KMFDM- Hell Yeah (August)
  10. Like Moths to Flames- Dark Divine (November)
  11. He is Legend- Few (April)
  12. Wednesday 13- Condolences (June)

That is the list! There is heavy and not so heavy on the list. No matter what your tastes, these are good albums all released in 2017. A couple of months were hard for me to decide between; for example, the month of July. Alice Cooper released a fantastic album, but so did Prong, therefore both are on my list. May is always an interesting month for metal music; it is considered the loudest month in rock/metal music. The new Linkin Park was released and some people liked it while others didn’t. Personally, I very much like this album; they always come up with the most interesting music to me. Unfortunately, it will never be the same again with Chester Bennington being gone — may he rest in peace. Mark Slaughter released an album in May as well. A quite good album. It may be telling of my age for me to add him to the list, but I don’t care it is a great album.

Music is meant to be enjoyed, and it doesn’t matter the genre. Music is part of good and bad memories for people. It is the sound of happiness, it is the sound of sadness. It has helped me through heartbreak. It has helped me through the best time of my life. Music brings people together in so many ways — too many to count, really. It is that idea that sparks a revolution, it has been the sound of revolution. Music is peace, love, and faith. Music is what makes you move and groove. It is the most wonderful time of the year to celebrate, so why not do it with music?




Staff Writer / Midwest Farm Bureau

Best of 2017:

  1. Algiers – The Underside of Power (Matador)
  2. Peter Perrett – How the West Was Won (Domino)
  3. Migos – Culture (Quality Control Music/Atlantic)
  4. Dream Syndicate – How Did I Find Myself Here? (Anti)
  5. Hurray for the Riff Raff – The Navigator (ATO)
  6. Robert Finley – Goin’ Platinum (Easy Eye Sounds/Nonesuch)
  7. Guided by Voices – August by Cake (Guided by Voices)
  8. Jessica Mayfield – Sorry is Gone (ATO)
  9. Bill Frisell and Thomas Morgan – Small Town (ECM/DG)
  10. Inheaven – s/t (Pias/U.K.)
  11. Alan Vega – It (Fader)

… Mine goes to eleven. Several of these are reviewed at the SPEW blog. The rest of my Top 50 for 2017 will be listed there also.



Staff Writer / Pentagon Bureau

(alphabetical by performer)
Top 10 of 2017 (alphabetical order):
Los Campesinos – Sick Scenes (Wichita)
Martin Carr – New Shapes of Life (Tapete)
Rhiannon Giddens – Freedom Highway (Nonesuch)
Girlpool – Powerplant (Anti)
New Pornographers – Whiteout Conditions (Collected Works)
Peter Perrett – How the West Was Won (Domino)
Saicobab – Sab Se Purani Bab (Thrill Jockey)
Swimy – Zetsu Zetsu EP (Ariola Japan)
Tinariwen – Elwan (Epitaph)
Shugo Tokumaru – Toss (Polyvinyl)

…and 13 songs…
Amadou & Mariam – “Bofou Safou”
Chain and the Gang – “Experimental Music”
Cornelius – “Sometime/Someplace”
Feelies – “Stay the Course”
Ha Ha Tonka – “Race to the Bottom”
Juliana Hatfield – “When You’re a Star”
Japandroids – “Near to the Wild Heart of Life”
Morrissey – “Spent the Day in Bed”
Peter Bjorn & John – “Dominos”
Sneaks – “Hair Slick Back”
Songhoy Blues – “Bamako”
Spoon – “Do I Have to Talk You Into It”
Dustin Wong & Takako Minekawa – “Yaikela Ya Ma”



Staff Writer / Archive Curator

Top 10 Albums of 2017

  1. Garland Jeffreys — 14 Steps to Harlem  (Luna Park Records)

Veteran singer-songwriter… Proud New Yorker… Uncategorizable artist… Garland Jeffreys is now in Act Three (at least) of a career that has spanned nearly 50 years. And he’s still got the goods, as he proves on 14 Steps. There are a dozen songs on this disc and while they don’t cover a lot of new ground thematically, the album sounds fresh from start (the rocking “When You Call My Name”) to finish (the lovely “Luna Park Love Theme”). In between, Jeffreys waxes nostalgic on the title track and pays homage to his late friend Lou Reed on a cover of “Waiting for the Man.” If you’ve never heard his work, what are you waiting for?

  1. Mount Eerie — A Crow Looked at Me  (P.W. Elverum & Sun)

I have to thank my friend Ryan for turning me on to this album, as I’d been unfamiliar with Phil Elverum AKA Mount Eerie until now. This album was inspired by the death of Elverum’s wife Genevieve last year at the age of just 35. It’s less a song cycle than a series of thoughts, recorded not long after her passing, with minimal accompaniment. On the opening track, “Real Death,” he says, “Death is real. Someone’s there and then they’re not. And it’s not for singing about. It’s not for making into art… I don’t want to learn anything from this. I love you.” Elverum doesn’t look for meaning here as much as he pours out his sadness. If John Lennon had recorded Plastic Ono Band by himself in the Pacific Northwest, A Crow Looked at Me might have been the result.

  1. Cheap Trick — We’re All Alright!  (Big Machine)

Cheap Trick is on a roll these days, releasing three albums in two years! On We’re All Alright, the pride of Rockford, Illinois proves they’re still a force to be reckoned with after 40 years in the game. This album is one of their harder-rocking efforts, with highlights like “She’s Alright” and “Brand New Name on an Old Tattoo.” And Robin Zander reasserts his place as “the man of a thousand voices,” one of rock and roll’s best singers ever.

  1. Harry Styles —  (Sony)

I can’t really tell you anything about One Direction, but this self-titled debut from Harry Styles is a quality piece of mainstream pop. Styles strikes me as the anti-Bieber. For one thing, he can actually sing, as he proves on both rockers (“Kiwi”) and ballads (the smash “Sign of the Times”). For another, he’s not a jerk. If you can get beyond his boy-band past, you may be pleasantly surprised.

  1. The Distractions — Kindly Leave the Stage  (Occultation Recordings)

The Distractions are the stuff of post-punk legend: an obscure band from Manchester, England who made one critically acclaimed album in the early 80s and promptly vanished. The title of their third long-player says it all. Kindly Leave the Stage is their swan song from singer Mike Finney, guitarist/songwriter Steve Perrin and their mates. While the opening track, “A Few Miles More,” is catchy, it isn’t happy. And after that, the album is basically one long farewell. But few bands do sadness as well as The Distractions.

  1. Nona Hendryx and Gary Lucas — The World of Captain Beefheart (Knitting Factory)

Two NYC legends — singer Nona Hendryx and Gary Lucas — pay tribute to another legend, the late abstract blues-rocker Don Van Vliet (better known as Captain Beefheart). On this album of covers, they tackle a dozen Beefheart compositions, from the reflective “My Head is My Only House Unless it Rains” to the jubilant closer, “Tropical Hot Dog Night.” Side note: if there was any justice in the world, Hendryx would be on the cover of Essence and in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame…

  1. The Relationship — Clara Obscura  (Rebel Union Recordings)

The Relationship is the side project of Weezer guitarist Brian Bell. Their long-awaited sophomore set, Clara Obscura, may not reinvent the wheel but it’s a solid collection of power pop: 10 well played tunes that offer proof positive than Rivers Cuomo isn’t the only talented songwriter in Weezer.

  1. Casey James — Strip It Down  (self-released)

Not to be confused with the guy who was one half of the ’70s R&B duo Bell & James. This Casey James got his big break on American Idol, where apparently he was marketed as sort of an alt-country heartthrob. On Strip It Down, however, he turns his attention to the blues with excellent results. Highlights range from the rocking title track and “Bulletproof” (where he’s joined by Delbert McClinton) to the more downbeat but equally effective “Different Kind of Love.”

  1. Loch & Key — Slow Fade  (self-released)

Loch & Key are actually Sean Hoffman and Layla Akdogan Hoffman, a husband and wife duo based in southern California. Their sophomore album Slow Fade is a collection of ethereal, enigmatic songs highlighted by Layla’s wispy vocals.

  1. Nick Heyward — Woodland Echoes  (Gladsome Hawk)

Nick Heyward is best known as the frontman of Haircut 100, the English band who hit big in the early ’80s with the great pop song “Love Plus One.” Woodland Echoes, his first solo offering in eons, finds him in a lusher, more rustic context. But he’s still able to craft ace songs, as evidenced by “A Beautiful Morning.”


Honorable Mention

  1. The War on Drugs — A Deeper Understanding  (Atlantic)
  2. Paula Cole — Ballads (675 Records)
  3. Gregg Allman — Southern Blood (Rounder Records)
  4. Harts — Smoke Fire Hope Desire (Razor & Tie)
  5. Edward Rogers — TV Generation  (Zip Records)



  1. Gary Crowley’s Punk and New Wave   (Edsel)

A three-CD, 77-song treasure trove compiled by veteran English radio personality Crowley. If you’re enamored of the New Wave era, as I am, you’ll love revisiting some of these tracks and discovering others for the first time. You won’t find the usual first wave UK punks like The Sex Pistols and The Clash here; but you will find important secondary punks (The Vibrators, The Saints, Eater, 999); power pop (Advertising, The Donkees, Tonight); great female-led groups (Altered Images, The Modettes, The Expressos); mod revivalists (The New Hearts, The Really 3rds); and endless other delights.

  1. Artful Dodger — The Complete Columbia Recordings  (Real Gone/Columbia)

Artful Dodger was the great lost American band of the late ’70s. Based in Virginia, they recorded four albums that split the difference between classic rock and power pop. Their best known song, “Wayside,” is still only a cult classic. Dodger had the looks, the hooks and the backing of a major label but somehow failed to make it big. Listen and weep.

  1. The Stax Vinyl 7s box (Stax/Concord)

A handsomely packaged box set of rare vinyl singles that originally came out in the 1970s on the legendary soul label Stax.  Richard Searling, another English DJ, complied this set which includes informative liner notes about artists that range from somewhat well known to hopelessly obscure.

  1. Gerry  Rafferty — United Artistry: The Best of Gerry Rafferty (Varese)

If you think the late Gerry Rafferty was a one-hit wonder, check out this well chosen, one-disc collection. That one big hit, the classic “Baker Street,”is here. But you’ll also find secondary hits (“Get It Right Next Time,” “Home and Dry”), rarities (“Big Change in the Weather”) and the Stealers Wheel standard “Stuck in the Middle with You.”

  1. The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band — Anthology (Capitol Nashville)

A double-disc set that pulls highlights from the Dirt Band’s 50-year career. Hits, album tracks, rarities, collaborations… They all add up to the definitive anthology from an Americana institution.


In Memoriam

Tom Petty

I wouldn’t have thought it possible but we lost even more great musicians in 2017 than we did in 2016. The one that hit me the hardest was Tom Petty. For one thing, it was unexpected. For a second, like so many Americans of a certain age, he and The Heartbreakers’ music really did comprise a big part of the soundtrack of my life. But for a third, there was something special about Petty that went beyond the music. There was a reason he was loved by both the mainstream and the hipsters, by people of all ages, ethnicities and musical stripes. Petty was sort of the conscience of the music business in my eyes: a nice guy who was loved by many but who was also very human and not afraid to call the industry on its bullshit when he had to. His loss is huge.

That said, we lost a lot of other important musicians this year. Some that come to mind are Chuck Berry, Gregg Allman, Pat DiNizio, Maggie Roche, John Wetton, Al Jarreau, Chris Cornell, Malcolm Young and Saxa of The English Beat.

Biggest Disappointment 

Bon Jovi will be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame next year while The Zombies (among other more deserving acts) were passed over once again. Criminal.

Best New Artist

Celisse Henderson

Prepare to be blown away by this NYC-based artist. She can sing, write and play guitar with a vengeance!

Best Holiday Album

Loose Cattle — Seasonal Affective Disorder  (Low Heat Records)

Best EP

Mary Lambert — Bold  (self-released)

Best Concert

The Pretenders at Terminal 5 in NYC.

Worst Trend

For the second year in a row, too many musicians dying before their time.

Asshole of the Year

14-year-old rapper Bhad Bhabie (nee Danielle Bregoli), a problem child with no talent who nonetheless got signed by Atlantic Records after “Them Heaux” and some of her other “songs” became YouTube hits. Ahmet Ertegun is turning over in his grave right about now.

2017 Release I’m Most Anticipating

Mary Gauthier — Rifles and Rosary Beads

Favorite Piece I Wrote for Blurt

“Whatever Happened to the Next Big Thing?”