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Friday, February 25, 2005
  neighbor's pick

The Futureheads "Decent Days and Nights (Phones Bad Acid Remix)"

The Futureheads are playing a couple blocks down from my apartment tonight. I probably won’t be going; I blew this week’s funtime bucks on the new Crooked Fingers record (five dollars extra for the vinyl, so I could get to hear an inferior remake of an old hit and one new one that’s the worst CF song since “Red Devil Dawn”). Both Jerkwater / SA and myself dig the Futureheads album, and they seem like the sort of band that could be better live than on record, so I was sort of looking forward to seeing them. No dice, unfortunately.

But so, earlier today Hillary emailed me this remix of the Futureheads’ “Decent Days and Nights”. I don’t know a damn thing about who made this abomination, but it’s actually pretty good. It took a few listens to get past the Shamenism of it all, but I quickly learned to not just accept, but actively appreciate, the cheeseball technostrosity. . Of course they dump that pretty awesome riff after the chorus, but some sacrifices have to be made when turning perfectly good rock songs into reasonably acceptable dance malarkey. The preremix remains unscathed, though, and more prone to get my ass a-shaking. So neither an improvement, nor a bastardization, this remix whatchamacallit exists as something separate and removed from the superior original, kind of like the Jumble Crossword that momentarily distracts me from the roving hell that is the MBTA.

Rebuttal, Hillary?
 
Wednesday, February 23, 2005
  I feel guilty for being myself

Marek “Isn’t It Great to Fall In Love”

Marek is probably the leading light of Austrian backalley Americana. Not that he sounds anything like anybody on Bloodshot or Lost Mountain, but there’s definitely a strong element of traditional western folk music within his album. On Its These Magic Moments That I Live For, Christoph Marek comes off as an ersatz Leonard Cohen struggling against his own limitations. I have no idea if, on “Isn’t It Great to Fall in Love”, Marek is shooting for total earthy honesty, or if this is some sort of parody of the confessional singer-songwriter type. Either way, it touches me on a personal level. I’m a little surprised I hadn’t written this song yet, myself, to be honest.

Tir na nOg “Free Ride”

Irish folk-rock band Tir na nOg released three albums on Chrysalis between 1971 and 1973. Strong in the Sun, their last, started off with this excellent cover of Nick Drake’s ”Free Ride”. I haven’t heard their first two records, but on Strong in the Sun Tir na nOg resembles a slightly more rocking and less overtly hippified version of the Incredible String Band.
 
Tuesday, February 22, 2005
  The Sell Out Works On Me

The Concretes "Say Something New"

The Concretes "You Can't Hurry Love"

So here's a couple from a band that's currently lighting up the commercials. I was first introduced to them almost a year ago by a revved up roommate. "Holy fucking shit, I just took a dump in my pants and and a shit in my mouth because this band is so piss-hot wonderful! You gotta hear this, my man!" Except he didn't say that, except for the last bit. And so I listened to it, and I heard it as a result of him jamming it around the house from time to time, and my reaction: sounds pleasant, but doesn't really take hold. I might've even broken some sort of gift giving etiquette because of my sheer lack of interest. I gave said roommate a pair of tickets for their show for his birthday, and refused to go myself (thoughts on this? the pair were for him and his girlfriend).

So where does this bring us? Right up to now, where I've seen that damn Target "Ikea rip off" commercial a couple dozen times with Say Something New in it, and now I like it. I saw the video for the other song in Radio Shack the other day and realized that, hey, I guess I like that song too. Sometimes it just takes a good sell out.

Boring, Hillary? Too long? I know You Can't Hurry Love is not too long.

This thing can be bought by you (at an exorbitant price) here.
 
Friday, February 18, 2005
  temporary insight into the cosmic drift

Acid Mothers Temple "The Incipient Light of the Echoes"

See, Acid Mothers Temple isn’t just about blasting you halfway deaf with the swirling speed-freak maelstrom. They’ve got a softer, more soothing side, as shown on their excellent recording of Terry Riley’s "In C". Prior to that, though, there was an amazing piece called "The Incipient Light of the Echoes", the first song on the second disc of their 2000 album Absolutely Freak Out (Zap Your Mind). Composed of layered, repeating keyboards and electric harpsichords, “Echoes” is a peaceful redoubt from the overbearing squall we’ve come to expect and enjoy. The drifting, dream-like “Echoes” could be a Spiritualized song, if it had Jason Pierce croaking about how badass of an addict he is. As is, the beautifully delirious “Echoes” is as hypnotic as Metal Machine Music, but a sixth as long and not nearly as abrasive. It’s not typical for Acid Mothers Temple, but it’s one of the best things they’ve ever done.
 
Wednesday, February 16, 2005
  the third good band from florida

Dumbwaiters "Icons (Too Many People)"

So of course Tampa is a complete shithole. It’s in Florida, so you know it is. What’s really screwed up is that it’s not even remotely the shithole that Jacksonville or Orlando or Tallahassee is. I wouldn’t call it an oasis (have you ever fucking been to Ybor City? God-damn!), but it pales in comparison to the unvarnished, unfiltered disastrodome that is the rest of our most unnecessary state.

I’m allowed to say these things. I grew up in Sarasota, a rare atoll of sanity in an otherwise churning sea of societal diarrhea. I also grew up in Georgia, and thus my hatred is legitimate. I'd rather not wake up at all than have to wake up in Florida. Florida is where you go when you’re too weak to kill yourself. Yes.

Dumbwaiters are from Tampa, and I admire their resolve. Instead of fleeing to New York at the first possible moment, like former Sunshine State indie-rockers Home, these guys are gutting it out down in our closest approximation to Hell. I imagine a town best known for its absolutely ridiculous AD&D-nerd goth-metal scene probably isn’t the best place for an indie-rock band to flourish, but Dumbwaiters have been making nice for themselves nonetheless. They’ve been around for eight years now, and recently released their third album, Musick, on the Fiani Records label. Musick alternates between blazing indie-space rock (a la early, pre-easy listening Mercury Rev, and the Flaming Lips’ early ‘90’s peak) and more straight-forward, New Wavey, melodic pop-rock. “Icons (Too Many People)” starts off like an outtake from Wire’s Chairs Missing before drifting into Simply Saucer / Yerself is Steam territory. Musick sounds contemporary while also being a nice throwback to a lot of the stuff that made college radio worth listening to thirteen or so years ago. It’s also probably the best thing out of Tampa since Fred McGriff.

You can buy a copy of Musick here.
 
  I can't believe this was over a decade ago.

Archers of Loaf "Bag"
Archers of Loaf "Pile of Dirt"
Archers of Loaf "Raincoat"


We got back in town around nine o’clock on a Saturday night. LD, Chuck Goodyear, and I immediately drove downtown to the long-gone Midtown Music Hall, tucked away inside a strip-mall somewhere in the heart of Atlanta. Two of us were still seventeen, and were fearful that our beard and VSU cards wouldn’t fool the doorman into thinking we were old enough to be granted entry. There were no problems, though, and soon enough we were standing inside the club, a good hour and a half before any music started. We were complete idiots, and actually expected a show to start relatively on time. And because we were under 21, we couldn’t venture into the bar side, and had to stand in the otherwise vacant club area for a half hour or so before somebody showed up. Some awkward times, for sure.

It was worth it, of course. After missing their show with Superchunk at the Masquerade a year earlier, I finally got to see my then favorite band, Archers of Loaf. It was great, of course, and I remember having a hell of a time, but, to be honest, I don’t really remember anything else. I don’t even remember what the club looked like, or where it was located. There are certain songs I’m sure they played, but I can’t definitely recall anything specific about the show. I think they played all of the Vs. the Greatest of All Time ep, which was, like, the most amazing record I’d ever heard when I was a dumbass kid, but I don’t have a single concrete memory. Oh, wait, I do remember the beeping part on ”Nevermind the Enemy”, a song that hadn’t even come out yet. And Matt Gentling told some bad joke about the Grateful Dead. But other than that it’s all been lost. Fuckin’ nuts. I’d see them a dozen or so more times over the next three years, under more memorable circumstances (hey Ice, our city’s blowing up – let’s drive to North Carolina to see some bands play!), so maybe that has something to do with the near total blankness.

But, so, dude. I loved this band to an embarrassing degree. All-encompassingly. I’d drive all over to see them, once catching them four times in two weeks. More so than Pavement or GBV or Yo la Tengo, the Archers were my main band through high school and college. And with Crooked Fingers, Eric Bachmann is still cranking out some essential stuff. My devotion runs deep, and has never wavered. So it makes sense that, during my brief foray into tape-trading, the Archers were one of my primary targets. They weren’t a great band for bootleggers; they didn’t have many rarities, didn’t do a lot of radio shows, and their concerts barely differed from the albums, or each other. Very unlike Pavement, whose live detritus still floats along at various websites. But there were a few tapes of interest, and one of them was a 1992 Chapel Hill show from early in the band’s history. Alongside a handful of songs that would pop up on Icky Mettle, and a few b-sides like “South Carolina” and “Powerwalker”, are three songs that have never been released. They might not even have been recorded.

Of the three, the one referred to as “Bag” is probably the best (no idea where that name came from; that’s what the guy who sent me the tape called it). “Bag” kind of sounds more like Small, Bachmann’s other band at the time, than the Archers, but Eric Johnson’s squealing, echoing guitar solo is immediately recognizable. Not a great song, but better than some of the ones that did get released from this period. The ugly sounding “Pile of Dirt” has that dramatic quality found in “Tatiana” and “Quinnbeast” that Bachmann started using to much greater effect after growing out of his collegiate angst. ”Raincoat”’s better than “Pile of Dirt”, but still full of unseemly anger and awkward verses. The chorus is fine, though, one of the catchier and more straight-forward moments in the Archers’ early catalogue.

So other than “Bag”, this stuff isn’t really all that great. One can understand why the band never released “Pile of Dirt” or “Raincoat”, even though neither is as bad as “Powerwalker” or “Tatiana”. As a nerdishly obsessive fan, though, I find value in even the least of Bachmann’s works. Subpar Archers still hits me in a way most bands never could. Also, after listening to their official releases several thousand times each, it’s refreshing to have some AOL material that I’m not completely familiar with, even if it’s far from their best work.

Anyway, the new Crooked Fingers album is out on Tuesday. I hope to have a song up in a day or two, if possible.
 
Thursday, February 10, 2005
  My Mind Explored Her Labyrinth Eyes



White Noise "My Game of Loving"

White Noise "The Black Mass: An Electric Storm in Hell"

Recorded in the late ‘60’s by some folks affiliated with the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, White Noise’s An Electric Storm is some prime early electro-psychedelic nonsense. Tape manipulation, primitive electronics, stereo panning, and delay and echo effects abound, while the singing and lyrics call to mind contemporaries like the United States of America and the National Gallery. Released by Island in 1969, An Electric Storm didn’t get a cd rerelease until 1996, which apparently went out of print almost immediately. Tom from WZBC told me that, in the UK, this record was required listening for early ‘70’s heads and longhairs.

With only seven songs, it’s over before you know it, which is for the best. If there was much more on here, it would start to approach unbearability. “My Game of Love” is a good example of White Noise’s zapped-mind confluence of sonic exploration, hippiefied free love, and semi-serious Satanic hedonism. You’d be hard-pressed to find a more unsettling song about (potentially group) sex. The album concludes with what the group claimed to be the soundtrack to an actual Black Mass. It sounds more like Acid Mothers Temple without a guitar, and with random “scary” screaming popping up every minute or so. Pretty rad (and ridiculous) stuff. This sort of dated, otherworldly, retro-futuristic Dark Ages crap just illustrates how so much “experimental” rock of today is actually quite tame and unoriginal.

Amazon has copies of An Electric Storm at a reliably high import price.
 
Wednesday, February 09, 2005
  having some troubles

We're in the middle of changing servers, and thus some files haven't been available. Also, we can't do any updates yet. We'll get this straightened out shortly.
 
Monday, February 07, 2005
  From a Compound Eye

Robert Pollard "U.S. Mustard Company"

Robert Pollard "Dancing Girls and Dancing Men"

Robert Pollard "I'm a Strong Lion"

So after releasing his so-called comedy album, and some four-song soundtrack to something called “ZOOM”, and six or seven other records by random congregations of previous bandmates, Robert Pollard will issue From a Compound Eye, his first official post-Guided by Voices solo album, sometime this fall. Of course, even though it’s six or so months away, it’s already been leaked, and thanks to Crogers, we gots ourselves a copy.

I’ve listened to From a Compound Eye a little over three times now, and I can already tell that it’s much better than Half Smiles of the Decomposed. It’s a long record, especially for Pollard – 26 songs and 70 minutes. A bit lo-fi in spots, maybe a little cleaner and brighter than usual, but for the most part it’s of that middling fidelity that Pollard’s been primarily working within since ’97 or so. You know, moderately slick, with occasional rough patches. The songs aren’t really a grave departure from Guided by Voices, and in fact the whole thing could easily be a GBV record. It has a distinctive sound and feel, though, and a few of the songs would sound out of place on any of their albuma. There are more synths and piano parts than you’d maybe expect, and it doesn’t rock too hard, but I’m still digging it. In a way it’s similar to the middle portion of Half Smiles, but good, instead of turgid and boring.

From a Compound Eye is far from a reinvention of Pollard and his aesthetic. It does break solidly enough from GBV convention to stand distinctively separate from that catalogue, though. Based on this record, Guided by Voices’ break-up might mean something more than just the retiring of a name; it could signal a slight but noticeable shift in Pollard’s work. At any rate, From a Compound Eye is a good first step for the newly single Pollard, and will be worth buying, whenever it can be bought.

Oh yeah, these song titles might not be accurate; they come from Coke Machine Glow's review of the album.
 
Wednesday, February 02, 2005
  I wanna feel your sexual rage



Simply Saucer "Instant Pleasure"

Simply Saucer "Nazi Apocalypse"

I was watching Jeopardy last night, the last quarter-final episode of the Teen Tournament. There was this really cute Illinois girl on there talking about how she wanted to be an archaeologist or historian when she grew up, so she could fight with Nazis for the Holy Grail, like Indiana Jones. You know them Illinois girls, always confusing Denholm Elliott movies for reality. But it would be pretty great to fly around the world, digging up cool old shit, like Akkadian bottle-openers, or Scythian spatulas made of human brains, and then giving them to the Queen, who’d throw them in some big room somewhere that pock-marked British school-kids would be forced to visit once a year.

Maybe if the Jeopardy girl grows up to be an archaeologist of “rawk” she could uncover more stuff like Simply Saucer. Some ‘70’s dudes from Canada, the Saucer owes as much to proto-punks like the Velvet Underground and the Stooges as they do to long-haired heavy riffin’ rockers like Deep Purple and Captain Beyond. Throw in some Syd Barrett psych and krautrock groove and you’ve got yourself a keeper.

The band kicked around Hamilton for a while in the mid-‘70’s, recording a bunch of stuff in 1974, but only releasing a single during their lifetime. An astute historian of the underground music of Canada rescued the magic from oblivion, and released it to the public under the name Cyborgs Revisited in the late ‘80’s. Odd Canuck pan-indie behemoth Sonic Unyon re-released it on compact disc in 2003, to some acclaim, and that’s how I came to dig it.

Ms. Indiana didn’t seem like the type to spend her days tracking down the Simply Saucers of the world, but I’m sure that could be a fertile area to focus on. Every few months some previously unheard of, early ‘70’s punk precursor gets rediscovered and reissued, and almost every time legions of obsessive music nerds go nuts and snap that shit up with the greatest alacrity. It may not be as exciting as screwing indigenous populations out of their religious and cultural heirlooms, but it probably beats dealing with people like Michael Adams.

You can buy a copy of Cyborgs Revisited from Insound.
 
Tuesday, February 01, 2005
  I was briefly a tape trader

Guided by Voices "Unleashed! The Large-Hearted Boy"

Guided by Voices "Game of Pricks"

I was a college freshman in 1995, and was newly introduced to the world wide web. Early on I found various sites that promised rare, unreleased, and live recordings by my favorite bands. Getting indoctrinated into the high-stakes nerdism of bootleg tape-trading was easy; trade a blank tape for one with a concert or radio session, build up a little library of your own, and eventually you’d be sending and receiving 90-minute Maxells from like-minded strangers across the globe. I did this steadily for a year, acquiring forty or so tapes by the summer of 1996, and then gradually trickled down to complete inactivity by ’98 or so. Initially interested in Pavement and Archers of Loaf stuff, I wound up with a hodge-podge of mid-90’s indie-rock stuff that pretty much all sounded like a car with a busted muffler. The audio quality would almost never be as good as the trader would claim, and at least half of my collection was listened to no more than twice, but I was able to get my hands on a lot of great music that I otherwise never would have heard. It certainly beat paying twenty-five bucks for some cheaply produced bootleg cd from Italy.

Anyway, I’ve got a big green duffel bag full of this crap that’s been moving back and forth between my parents’ basement and attic for the last five or six years. I grabbed a handful of the more notable tapes when I was home in December, and here are some songs from one of them. It’s a 1995 performance on D.C.’s WHFS radio station by Guided by Voices. The guy who sent it to me threw it on as filler at the end of an Archers tape, so it cuts halfway through the third song, “Motor Away”. These two made it in their entirety, though, and so here they are.
 
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