Sunday, July 26, 2009

AC/DC - Highway To Hell

It was thirty years ago today that AC/DC’s Highway To Hell was released. It’s hard to believe that in just a few short weeks, I will finally be seeing the band live for the very first time.
Of course, it would have been awesome to see the band circa ’79-hell, any Bon Scott era show would have been great-and it would have been great to hear how the band would have progressed had Scott managed to control his drinking to the point where he didn’t get so loaded that he could turn his ass over to vomit properly.
Some of you may be too young to remember this (Jesus, I sounded like my Dad right there), but there was a time when AC/DC were downright dangerous. A lot of that danger was because of Bon Scott, a dude that looked like he’d drink you under the table, try to steal your girlfriend, and the try to kick your ass the moment you tried to stand up for your old lady.
Highway To Hell was the album that attempted to tame AC/DC enough to get airplay on AOR radio. It worked-Mutt Lange does a fantastic job of bringing the riffs front and center, letting Phil Rudd kick the who thing in the ass, and giving Bon Scott the opportunity to…well, nobody told Scott to do anything, so it’s pretty much just business as usual for the frontman.
Because to tame Bon Scott would be the same thing as neutering a tomcat. The thing becomes fat, lazy, and devoid of aggression. Lange may have given the kitty a flea bath, but it’s obvious from the mix that he’s left the balls throughout the album’s ten songs.
There’s not a dud in the lot, which begs the question: why didn’t radio just spin the piss out of any one of these songs? Each one is unmistakable. Each one, undeniable. Yet in the ears of fickle radio programmers, they latched on to a pair of tunes while their audience obviously fell in love with this album; it launched the band into stardom.
It was also the last album for Bon Scott, but what a great record to leave on. It’s too bad he didn’t get to try to repeat the success, because his tenure with the band was certainly the most consistent and most rewarding.
The next record-the eulogy that was Back In Black-not only turned out to be the band’s biggest seller, it became one of the biggest sellers period. There are rumors that Scott actually demoed a lot of Back In Black’s material, but so far, I have never been able to track down any recorded evidence of this.
Highway To Hell is all we have as the final word for AC/DC’s original (and still better) vocalist. It’s a masterpiece of raunchy, barroom bravado. Scott may have been the consummate teenage hood, but the difference between him and his predecessor Brian Johnston was how natural he was at it. It’s probably because it wasn’t act; the man you heard on Highway To Hell wasn’t projecting an image, he was living it.
Unfortunately, his death all but showed us how fast Bon Scott really drove down that road. And it sounds like one hell of a ride.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Sebastian Bach On The Trailer Park Boys

Here's the best 8 minutes you'll ever spend in your life.
For those of you not familiar with the Trailer Park Boys, it's a Canadian comedy series of such comic brilliance that it's shameful we haven't given the show the recognition it deserved. For those of you who are familiar with it, you know exactly what I'm talking about.
I think there's like 7 seasons to the show, but for the Trailer Park Boys, a "season" is only like 7 thirty-minute long episodes.
This is one from the seventh season (4th episode) and is one of my favorites. It begins with Ray driving a big rig with Bubbles to Maine so they can recycle a bunch of shopping carts and to visit a model train convention. Bubbles is keen on model trains, but Ricky picks up truck stop whores at every chance, explaining to Bubbles that it's "the way of the road." Eventually, Ray gets busted on a prostitution sting, leaving Bubbles alone and scared in a truck stop. He calls his friends Ricky and Julian to rescue him and they do him the favor of still managing to get him to the model train convention, albeit a tad drunk, where who should they see but one Sebastian Bach who delivers an Emmy worthy cameo.

And yes, the next episode is just as funny. The three come up with a plan to ship weed across the border to the U.S. using model trains. Powering the weed delivery system? The Patrick Swayzie Express!
Bonus points to whoever can comment on what song is playing over the end credits. If it's a solo song from Bach, who knew he could rock a song that hard?

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Centro-Matic/South San Gabriel - Dual Hawks

Centro-Matic’s only flaw may lie in their prolific output. It’s hard to focus on one achievement because the moment you do, they’re off releasing another album of equal achievement. And while their output is consistently better than other prolific artists (Ryan Adams immediately comes to mind), there is this nagging feeling that the band has sacrificed a masterpiece or two at the hands of simply divulging too much too soon.
If this minor complaint…the desire to have everyone recognize how amazingly good this woefully underappreciated band is…wasn’t enough, leader Will Johnson started a second band a few years ago under the name South San Gabriel. Essentially using the same supporters as Centro-Matic, South San Gabriel provides these Texans with an outlet for their atmospheric side.
Texas is a big state, I sure wouldn’t want to disparage the residents of one area for the actions of another, and I sure as hell won’t make the mistake with anything Johnson has his fingers in. Far be it from me if he wants to package both areas of his muse in a single jewel box, one that comes at the price of a single, I might add. So call it one 2008’s best bargains and one the albums you can start with when you’re first becoming acclimated with this prodigious band(s) and this enormously talented musician.
Call it one of 2008’s best albums too, while you’re at it. Bargain pricing aside, Dual Hawks represents everything that’s great about American underground rock music: next to every challenging element is a melodic hook, housed in a unique formula that sounds both reassuringly familiar and wonderfully unique.
Johnson sounds introspective on the Centro-Matic disc, carefully considering the road that led him to a second decade of unwarranted obscurity and tiredly pressing on to the next ubiquitous college town.
On “Remind Us Alive,” he remembers his youth when the ticket out was a metal cover band. At the time, it seemed like a legitimate career choice, not knowing that there was plenty of make-believe going on besides the layers of eyeliner and hairspray.
“Looking back on built in times and the speaker stacks up high
We were scattered along in crowds of black shirts and cheap wine
Did you notice the frequencies will damage you for life?
As if the saccharine songs they’re singing ain’t enough of a lie”
Unlike Wilco’s “Heavy Metal Drummer,” a song that mines similar introspection, it’s hard to tell if Johnson is looking back with elderly nostalgia, or with the contempt that he now knows that it was all bullshit.
Later tracks like “Twenty Four” don’t provide any more insight, other than the possibility that Johnson is showing the initial signs of weariness while still maintaining his original vision. “I’m trying everyday to improve and not conform/Stick with what we’re fighting for/Like the simple times before, at twenty-four.” It’s as close to a mission statement as we’ve heard, and sadly, as close as we’ve seen him considering finality.
The moment you’ve realized that this is one of the best Centro-Matic albums of their career is the same moment that you’ve noticed there’s another disc waiting.
The South San Gabriel side is a relief. These are therapeutic soundscapes, sparse with strings and occasional horns, filling what can only be described as a creative need within Will. Yes, there are times when the songs could be easily listed as Centro-Matic without much debate and even others that could be with some minor tweaking. But this is obviously the creation of another mindset, and one that has been painstakingly pieced together.
To drift off in S.S.G.’s contribution is to miss some of its complexities. The competing drum patterns and endless vocal loops of “When The Angels Will Put Out There Lights,” the surprising clarinet of “The Arc And The Cusp,” the nearly gospel quality of Johnson and Scott Danbom on “From This I Will Awake,” yes, this is an effort where all involved have considered much and left much to the imagination.
I’ll make no pretense and admit that I’m a bigger fan of the Centro-Matic side then of the South San Gabriel, but I was pleasantly surprised at how much I did enjoy the second disc. I won’t enter the debate on why a second entity even exists or why now, with this project, there’s a need to house them together. What’s puzzling is how either project is still entrenched under the radar and how an album this good can’t manage to lift them out of the Econoline and into some better accommodations.
If Will Johnson’s only sin was his prodigious output and lack of a corralling method, then a firmer hand may be in order. But how could anyone raise a heated pen to this, a streamlined collection of impressive material from two entities? It’s the work of not just one, but several talents that are deserving of more attention than what they’ve currently been provided.
Hopefully, by throwing both projects together at the same time, someone will emulate the bird of prey’s visual acuity and notice one of the country’s best-kept secrets. Dual Hawks not only ranks as one of either band’s best efforts, it flies above most anything else you’ll hear too.

This review originally appeared in Glorious Noise.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Hello world, I'm your wild girl!

There are moments where I don’t just feel like I’m heading for trouble with my daughter, I know it. It has nothing to do with the fact that she’ll go to her mother and ask for a cookie, get told “no” and then immediately come to seek me out because she knows that I’ll relinquish the sweet, cookie goodness for her.
It’s in her approach, you understand. The way she looks at me, smiles, and tilts her head. How can I say no?
I tell my wife if she asked me for things the same way Calli does, then she’d have a better chance of getting things too. And would it kill her to yell “Daddy’s home!” the same way Callista does when I come home?
She turned two a couple of months ago, but her musical appreciation doesn’t appear to be advancing more than simple, two-to-three chord rock songs. She’ll bop her head with other music, but it’s quite apparent when she hears something that she really enjoys.
“Again, Daddy? Play it again?”
Most recently, the song that’s been getting the most requests is The Runaways’ “Cherry Bomb.”
She’s got the chorus down pat-and because the nature of the song is about, well, female empowerment through being as sexually free as the guys are.
“Have ya, grab ya, til you’re sore!”
A close second (after falling from the number one spot for four weeks) is “Mama, I’m A Big Girl Now,” a song that she picked up from visiting her grandma (my mother). Sample lyric: “So, if I get a hickey, please don’t have a cow/’Cause mama I’m a big girl now.”
The repeated verse is, again, the chorus of “Stop! Don’t! No! Please! Mama, I’m a big girl now!” which she brings up at appropriate times, like when her mom actually is telling her “Stop! Don’t! No! Please!”
I’m telling you, this toddler knows what she’s doing.
And I know good and well where this will end up.

Golden Earring - Something Heavy Going Down

Golden Earring is the first band I that ever had a brush with greatness. It was in St. Louis, Missouri at a hotel. Our family went to breakfast in the hotel and we were seated next to a group of guys-many of who had long hair-who were intently perusing through the local morning newspaper. They would read aloud from a page and then pass it to another person. After a few rounds and a few sips of coffee, the group left and had it not been for my dad, I would have never known how close I was sitting next to a bona-fide rock band.
“I think those guys are from Golden Earring.” He announced to mom and I after they were well out of earshot.
They were reading a review of their show from the night before, and apparently my dad, who was reading his own copy of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, came across the same article right around the same time that our table neighbors did.
This was around the time of “Radar Love,” a song that was played constantly on the radio. I was too young to know anything about asking for autographs, but I did question why my father didn’t just simply go up to them and ask “Hey! Are you the guys from Golden Earring?” It would have been awesome to go back home, stretch the true a bit and tell all my second-grade friends that I had breakfast with Golden Earring.
Years later, Golden Earring scored their second hit single quite a while after the first. “Twilight Zone” sounded quite different from “Radar Love” and it took a few listens to “get” the hook. There was something about “when the bullet hits the bone” that just doesn’t stand up and say, “You wanna be startin’ somethin’?”
Anyway, there was a dude in my high school-a quiet, unassuming fellow-that sold factory-fresh cassettes out of his locker for pennies on the dollar. He was a band geek and a friend of mine who happened to be in band bought a tape from him in school and told me about the great deal he got. So I went up to him and said, “I hear you’re selling tapes.” And he directed me to stop by his locker after fifth period so that I could take a look. The whole thing was like a drug deal and I even mentioned to him that it seemed stupid that he was acting so secretive about the transaction.
But something was array; the dude brings out a fairly large cassette case and placed it on the windowsill across from his locker to review its contents. There was a wide array of cassette tapes, brand new and still sealed, of new releases. These were not promotional copies-there was no promo cuts or holes-but were straight off the shelf tapes at the low, low price of $4 each or 3 for $10. To go to the store would have easily set you back $9 for just one.
I asked him how he acquired all of this product and he mumbled something vague that may have referenced something about an uncle, cousin, or other family member. Chances are, the shit was ripped off, acquired for cheap, and each sale put a buck into the dude’s pocket.
I need to explain something: new releases don’t always equate to good releases, or releases that I necessarily want. There was a lot of stuff that I could have easily lived without, but at prices that low, you begin to make compromises-particularly when trying to get that “3 for $10” discount.
There was a live Golden Earring album, Something Heavy Going Down, that enabled me to save a buck and since I’d had a run in with them and since I liked “Radar Love” and “Twilight Zone” (and since the album contained both songs) I decided to contribute $3.33 to this album.
You may have noticed that it took me a long time just leading up to the album that this post supposedly reviews, and there’s a reason for that. The stories you’ve read about my entire experience with the band Golden Earring is about ten-times more entertaining than anything you’ll hear on Something Heavy Going Down.
First, there’s the matter of the mix. It’s a weird blend thin production values and an even worse capturing of Barry Hay’s lead vocals. It sounds like someone provided the frontman with the worse microphone in the house-there’s no depth to it; everything sounds like it’s bound to only midrange tones. The entire recording sounds like it was meant for one of those Westwood One “In Concert” shows with the actual commercial release of the show being recorded directly from the FM transmission.
Which leads to something even more annoying than the sound quality-the censoring of swear words. Yes it’s true: Golden Earring would occasionally swear in concert, but either the band or the record company decided that the “legions” of Earring fans would be offended by such profanity.
May whips out a little “sad, sad story” during “Long Blonde Animal,” about how he came home after the last U.S. tour to find that his old lady had shacked up with “the meanest motherfucker you ever saw.” I know that May says “motherfucker” because they just take that word, play it backwards, and think that they’ve achieved complete success. The problem is, the album is called Something Heavy Going Down and there’s nothing heavy by pussing out on the word “fuck,” “shit,” or anything else meant to convey heaviness.
The title track, by the way, is the only thing that isn’t live. Golden Earring apparently intended it to be the hit single off the album, but it’s such a cantankerous piece of shit, filled with synths and electronic drums, that it should have been called “Going Down On Someone Heavy.”
That’s right, it’s a fat piece of smelly vagina.
Or a tubby layer of stinky balls, if you’re a lady.
Other than that, the album lets you get to sample all of those other songs you missed in between Golden Earring’s two hits. And believe me, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out why these Dutch ovens couldn’t manage another hit.
When it comes down to visiting the actual songs, they roll it on and on for an unbearable eleven minutes (“Twilight Zone”) or speed the song up to the point where it sounds like they’re trying to get through the goddamn thing (“Radar Love”) but still spin through the motions for over nine minutes.
You have to give a band who’s been around for as long as Golden Earring (they were celebrating their 20th year by the time this album was released) a certain amount of credit for that kind of longevity. At the same time, you also have to hold them to a higher standard. They should know better than to release something this dismal, particularly when they were trying to use it to provide some longevity for their second chance.
No wonder their comeback lasted about as long as their first taste of success.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Axe - "Heat In The Street"

Admittedly, I’ve given the band Axe more webspace than what they’re probably entitled to, but a sidetracked visit to You Tube brought me to the band’s awesome video for “Heat In The Street.”
Their two most noteworthy albums have been review before, but the reviews failed to explain just how plain looking these blue-collar fellows were. Dudes like this shouldn’t be anywhere near melody, unless they’re in a Lynyrd Skynyrd cover band that occasionally puts a Molly Hatchet and the Outlaws’ “Green Grass and High Tides” into their set list.
But Axe did come close to placing a few songs on top 40 radio, tracks that belied their grizzled appearance and hinted at a certain amount of talent within.
The video is so awesome that I had to post it, giving the band their third mention here on Glam-Racket.
Bobby Barth sports a nice Motorhead t-shirt, well before it was considered cool to wear one. He also manages to bed a pair of chicks at the same time, even when it’s painfully obvious that there’s no way that would actually happen in reality.
I mean, just look at the dude! His grill looks grody!
Even better than the actual plot of the video is the fact that one of the dudes in Axe is playing a fucking keytar.
But you want to know something-and I’m being totally serious-that same dude was awesome when I saw them live, cheesing it up like a goddamn guitarist every time they gave him some time to solo.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

They Said We'll Set Your Hair On Fire

It took a quarter century and Michael Jackson's passing before footage of the 1984 Pepsi commercial footage to finally come to, ahem, light.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

OCD Chronicles: Polvo - "Beggars Bowl"

Funny how the moment you hear something new from a band that’s been out of commission for a while is the moment when you realized how much you missed them. Such is the case of Polvo, a band I religiously followed during their initial run during the 90’s. Along the way, there was a nicely documented dispute with those Chapel Hill guitar beaters, but there were a whole lot more close-to-idyllic records they released to wade through. It was guitar rock for people who believed there were no wrong notes on a fretboard, no such thing as a bad guitar tone, and nothing quite like creating aural chaos with stringed instruments plugged through an amplifier.
There was a strong contingency of supporters during their career, but not enough to keep the members of Polvo together even when they physically began to move away from each other. After the band’s quiet disbanding their reputation began to slowly quiet like the final moments of a plucked chord.
But thanks to Austin’s Explosions In The Sky, the band reformed after getting a nod and a large gig from their younger brethren.
“You like me! You really like me!” exclaimed Ash Bowie.
And Pitchfork deemed it to be cool.
Actually, a reformation of Polvo is cool. But what’s even cooler is when said band goes beyond a one-off show and makes new music. Which is what they did. Which is what I’ve been spinning repeatedly.
The new song is called “Beggars Bowl” and it’s the first track from their upcoming album In Prism which is scheduled for a September release on the very same label that dished out earlier Polvo awesomeness.
The biggest difference between the new song and older material is the noticeable increase in fidelity and testicles. It’s meaty, and it sounds like the only thing that’s changed in the band’s approach is better recording technology and a penchant for louder volumes.
Fine by me.
Here’s hoping the full-length rocks similar balls.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Love Is All - A Hundred Things Keeps Me Up At Night

It’s been three years since Love Is All released their debut Nine Times The Same Song, but you’d think it’s been three weeks judging by the sounds of things. The drums are a little fatter and there’s a bit more depth to the rest of the band thanks to some updated production. But aside from these minor advancements, there are more similarities to the first than differences, all compressed into an efficient half-hour package of love’s trials and tribulations.
Perhaps the most notable difference is with the way vocalist Josephine Olausson handles the topic. Whereas Nine Times The Same Song celebrates the internal narcotics that love creates while their latest, A Hundred Things Keep Me Up At Night, works out the harsh realities of it. That empty feeling after the break-up. The bad choices you make during closing time. The resentment you feel when forced to witness couples in their own love haze while you’re solo. And all of this moping is done with Love Is All’s business-as-usual giddiness over a veritable floor of danceable rhythms.
On “Last Choice,” Josephine recounts a party where she’s been ditched by her friend and left to watch the couples leave at the end of the night. “I’m about to be left alone/Now I’m sitting on the sofa on my own” she sings before hooking up with “someone I vaguely know,” in a nightcap of unremarkable sex with her last choice. It’s a moment we’ve all encountered…settling for mediocre companionship rather than going home alone…but Love Is All transcends this embarrassing admission of desperation without any hint of regret and some sweet post-punk ass shaking to boot.
Then there’s “Wishing Well,” one of the hands down best singles from last year and from 1981 (sic). While it’s true that Olausson and company may be doing little more than channeling Poly Styrene through Kiwi-pop melodies, they’re doing it so convincingly and so full of verve that it would be a shame for them to wait another three years before they get around to album number three.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

The Church Gear

One of the things that amazed me about the Church show I saw last month was the amount of aural textures the band created with what seemed to be very small pieces of equipment. True, the guitarists were utilizing more than a few pedals, but the suprising thing what how everything was powered by combo amps about the same size as the one sitting in your basement, attic, or garage right now.
I get that amplification often is an extention of a dude's penis and that when you see a wall of Marshall stacks, only one or two may really contain working parts. But I think it's pretty badass that a band as established as The Church is utilizing the utmost amount of efficiency in their live shows and not sacrificing a thing in sound quality.

WW: The Church has had a distinctive and influential guitar sound that has perhaps not received the recognition it deserves. If I may ask, what kinds of rigs and guitars have you used to create your unique sound?
Marty Wilson-Piper: I'll answer that question in three parts.
First of all, recognition is in the eye of the beholder. My top ten guitarists aren't in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. What does that tell you? Success is what it's all about? You know what, I know it isn't all about that. I know Rory Gallagher, Paul Kossoff, Bill Nelson, Richard Thompson, Tom Verlaine, Robert Fripp and whoever else I could think of in a row that aren't in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame are amazing. I don't care what anybody thinks. I don't care if people agree with me, I accept it if they disagree with me, but those seven guys I just named off the top of my head, oh yeah and Harvey Mandel and Terje Rypdal, nine, I know those nine guys are not getting in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. So how can I care about getting recognition, if nine people I love, and who have been around and what geniuses they are since day one, aren't getting in there. If it isn't going to come around for them, it isn't going to come around for me. And the people who like what I do, that's enough. That's great. People come up to me and say, "Hey, Marty, I love the way you play guitar." Wow. Imagine being a guitarist in the world and having people say that to you. That's amazing.
I'm completely content with that, I don't need some kind of institution to recognize me. And if they do, great. If they do, I'll be grateful and then say, "Now let me tell you about Paul Kossoff, Tom Verlaine, Richard Thompson, Bill Nelson, Robert Fripp..." and that will be my speech.It's an emotional thing for me. I guess I've learned some kind of adept skills on the guitar but it was never about that.
If I do something that looks tricky, it comes from an emotional place. I'm interested in the tone, I'm very interested in doing something very different.
Having said that, I've listened to Derek Trucks, and he's amazing, and he's sort of a very traditional slide guitar player in a blues band, and he's completely the opposite of what I do, but I think he's brilliant. Or Jeff Beck, there's a real recognized amazing guitar player.
As for my and Peter's (Koppes) rig, we both usually use a Vox AC 30. He has a 50-watt Marshall and I have a 15-watt Orange. In the studio I've got a 100-watt Orange. I've got 3 '60s AC 30s and with a blend of those I come up with some sort of great tone. Peter has got an AC 30 and his Marshall 50 and he uses a kind of Danelectro amp, it's an effects amp. Sometimes he uses it for his tone as well.
For this tour Matchless have leant me an amp. So I've got a very colorful rig at the moment. My guitar tech Davida, who plays with me when I'm doing solo shows, she's leant me her 15-watt Orange and Matchless leant me their 30-watt amp. So I've got a green amp and an orange amp so I'm looking very autumnal one side and sort of springy on the other. So it might change my mood by just looking around. I might look around and go, "Ooh...the autumn sound." Anyway...Loads of pedals...I use a big, long Boss volume pedal, which is one of the most pieces of effects that I use in my rig. It has nothing in it but it sort of gives you expression with your foot in your fingers. Expressing notes with a volume pedal is an amazing thing. Of course I've got one of those OC-1, stereo chorus vibratos. The one I'm actually using on the road is Peter's, but I've got one in the studio in England. I've got one of those old Boss yellow pedals, the C-1s, I think they're called. I've got one of those funny green Line-6 pedals for reverse delay. I try to use the authentic stuff. I've also got a UE-405 Ibanez effects unit with a compressor, analog delay, stereo chorus and a parametic, which I never use.
I've also got an Electro Harmonix Big Muff but it sounds kind of muddy because it was fixed and has never sounded the same. When you're a guitarist you can tell the difference between muddy in a good way and muddy in a bad way. Mine is muddy in a bad way.
I've usually got a wah pedal but I may buy one on tour to use in places in songs where it makes sense. Usually I like to use [an Ernie Ball Crybaby.]
I've also got a '59 Jazzmaster; it's my main guitar. I also play a Roger McGuinn Limited Edition Rickenbacker 12-string, strung the other way around; it's got compressors in it. Rickenbacker, I must say, have been very kind to me. That guitar I just took in to get fixed up because it was in such a disgraceful state. It had so many things wrong with it it was unbelievable, and they fixed the whole thing up for me brilliantly. I'm getting a Rickenbacker bass for this guitar and I'll be playing it if I can get it to work. I saw the bass player from Dead Meadow play and he had a really warm sound, so I hope it can work out. I also use a Takamine acoustic 12-string, which I've had for 25 years and it's a really nice guitar. It doesn't look like it will be but it sounds great.
Peter's playing a new-ish strat and he has '59 Telecaster but I don't think he's bringing it on this tour. He's also got a Taylor 12-string. He's probably going to bring the AC 30 on this tour so he can get a dirty sound as opposed to my clean sound. He's probably bringing a Fender Deluxe and an effects amp. He's got a huge number of pedals I couldn't even begin to tell you what they are--20 pedals or something. He uses a [Sony] GP-5 to get those symphonic sounds.
And I think that's about it for me and Pete.

Thanks to my fact-checkin' cuz for hitting me up with the interview above which was originally published in Denver Westword.
The photo of The Church's gear was lifted from Steve Kilby's blog, which is quite good.
My review of The Church's Chicago show can be found here over at Glorious Noise.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Bob Nastanovich Joins Poison Control Center For Pavement's "Two States"

Awesome video footage of Bob Nastanovich joining Poison Control Center on stage for a drunken rendition of "Two States." His wife jumps on stage later on for a few screams and Bob offers a drunken speech on how Des Moines bests Chicago. I agree in some aspects, but I think it may have been the booze talkin'.

Bob Nastanovich of Pavement w/ The Poison Control Center "TWO STATES" from TAPES FOR LIFE on Vimeo.

Thanks to reader Patrick Tape Fleming for the link and for capturing the footage. Patrick and Ashley Fleming are two talented Iowa filmmakers that recently won "Best Iowa Filmmakers of 2009" for their film That March.

Friday, July 10, 2009

2009 80/35 Recap

Last summer, my wife and I stumbled across the 80/35 Music Festival in Des Moines and got comped a pair of tickets at the last minute.
Free tickets?
The Flaming Lips?
You bet!
Full account of the show here.
But the biggest beef what how little we knew about the event until, literally, a week before the actually took place. Call it first year mistakes, the Des Moines event coordinators being selfish, or the inability of a Midwestern city to figure out how to adequately promote in the age of new media. Whatever the excuse, it what poorly executed event that ran the risk of ending just a quickly as it was put together.
Apparently, last year’s festival was successful enough to grab some additional money from the city and get another reprieve.
The extra money did get 80/35 some additional press-I actually ran across a few articles that focused on the event well before it happened-but it didn’t do much (for me) in terms of attracting enough bands for me to fork over the money for tickets.
And yes, the festival organizers decided to increase ticket prices this year, apparently oblivious that people are still hurting in today’s economy.
Maybe they’ll figure it out-if they manage to get a third year-as attendance was reportedly well below expectations and the figure needed to break even. And perhaps future organizers will learn to schedule their shit at different times instead of directly competing with KGGO’s Geezerfest.
Don’t laugh. I actually liked the line-up from the classic rot festival a grey hair more than this year’s 80-35.
So while I missed 80-35, James Wilson from CR/IC legends The Douglas Four recently located to Des Moines went to the festival and buzzed back what he thought of the show(s) and of the scene there in general.
Actually, we’re probably too old to refer to things like a “scene” anymore, but apparently, there’s a few fucksticks in DM that still think our capitol city is better than your place. Reality check: it’s Des Moines. A band with a misspelled rodent name who haven’t had a hit in twenty years doubled the attendance of your indiefest. And no matter how hard you try, 80-35 will never be on par with Pitchfork, Rothbury, or whoever you’d eventually like to turn into.
You know what I’d like? A festival that has the balls to have Ratt, the replacement singer of Bad Company, April Wine, Pat Travers on the same bill as Cymbals Eat Guitars, the dude from Pavement, Public Enemy, and House of Large Sizes joining Head East on stage for a medley of “Never Been Any Reason” and “Two Liter Man.”
Now there’s a line-up I’d pay $100 to see!
Here’s the skinny with Wilson’s take on the 2009 edition of 80-35, begining with a dream that I had how Japandroids were at the festival:

Glam-Racket: Japandroids were one of the bands I wanted to see this year at 80-35…
Wilson: Were Japandroids scheduled to play 80-35? They’re playing here July 20th…
Glam-Racket: Never mind…you’re right…I’m confused
Wilson: 80-35 was fun...
Glam-Racket: How big were the crowds?
Wilson: Definitely bigger on Saturday. I think Ben Harper headlining on sat was a big draw for the hippie contingent. I saw in the paper that they estimated approx 30k for attendance.
Glam-Racket: Actually, that area downtown probably couldn’t handle that many people and I think the promoters are now saying the paid attendance is more like 12,000 total for the entire event.
Wilson: I had to work until 6 on Friday so by the time I got there it was raining and I missed Tilly and The Wall, but I could hear their set from my that was kind of cool. That being said, I didn't have any problem getting to the front for anyone I wanted to see.
Glam-Racket: Top 5 bands?
Wilson: Malkmus, Cymbals Eat Guitars, the House of Large Sizes reunion, the Tilly set I heard from work, and the 4 songs we heard from Margot and The Nuclear So and So's before we got annoyed by the Des Moines Social Club hipster faction and left.
Glam-Racket: Who the fuck are they and why do they think they’re important enough to kill the vibe for other paying attendees?
Wilson: The first encounter at the social club was when we stopped in to their bar for 2 dollar Grainbelts about a month ago. I had seen some advertisements about it being a non profit organization supporting local arts and music. They also boast the slogan "you are a member," so we go in and order drinks. Two bartenders working at the time must have decided that we were not cool enough for them to waste time waiting on us, so after that night we decided never to go back.
On Saturday, we’re waiting to for Margot and the Nuclear So and So's to take the stage and people are packing in pretty tight. Guess who comes up? Those same two shitty bartenders and four others pushing through the crowd to the front. They and hop the barrier for the press and stand in there like self-important pieces of shit. My wife actually asked if they were press or something? And their response was a smug "or something." That was bad enough but then once the band started playing they were flailing around drunk as fuck almost burning everyone in the front row with lit cigarettes. We got pissed and left.
So fuck them and fuck that place. Actually i wrote an email to the director of the organization and told him what went on both at the bar and at the show and told him that we didn't "want" to be members of that shitty club. He apologized and said he would chastise those responsible but I'm still gun-shy about going back.
Glam-Racket: Other than doucheness at a music festival-which is to be expected-what’s your take on the Des Moines music scene so far?
Wilson: There really hasn't been much worth seeing before 80-35. Seems like terrible emo or terrible metal...or worse a bunch of Slipknot imitators. I'm excited for Fall as it seems the Vaudeville Mews is getting some shows. Hope it gets better.
Glam-Racket: What was the biggest disappointment of the weekend?
Wilson: Probably that the weather wasn't nicer...but if it wasn't raining it would've been super hot so I guess it could be worse in the long run. Flava Flav was a no show as well so that was a bummer for my wife who was in the front row for Public Enemy. Even got on the cover of the Des Moines Register on Saturday!
Glam-Racket: Don’t. Don’t. Don’t. Don’t believe the hype!
Wilson: I was in the back when they announced that Flava was not going to show due to being in the hospital! There was just this mass exodus from the front after that announcement. I got the feeling most folks were there to see him. There was no mention of that hospital visit on any national news sites, by the way. In an interview Chuck D did that morning, he was blasting Flav for his lack of professionalism by being a no show...seemed like a cover.
Glam-Racket: Any signs of Bob Nastanovich? How close to a Pavement reunion were we?
Wilson: Bob didn't grace the stage. I was hoping for it, though. I thought I might have seen him milling around back stage during the set. Malkmus did give him a shout out in the form of "so does everyone know Bob? Figured everyone would by now." I found out Thursday night-way too late-that he was going to be at the Mewes with Poison Control Center for a kickoff party. Still kicking myself for not going to that.
Glam-Racket: What the fuck does Nastanovich do there in Des Moines?
Wilson: From what I saw on the news when they interviewed him about the Kentucky Derby. He is the odds maker at Prairie Meadows racetrack.
Glam-Racket: Got the song list for Malkmus’ set? What was the highlight?
Baby C'mon
Senator (New Song)
Jenny and The Ess Dogg
Out Of Reaches
Tigers (New Song)
Bill Fay (New Song)
Pencil Rot
Water And A Seat
Cribz (New Song)
Ret (Think this is new that's all that was on the set list)
The new stuff was great...reminded me of CRCR-era Pavement. I always liked “Jenny and the Ess Dogg” so it was cool to hear that one.
Glam-Racket: Loudest band?
Wilson: Cymbals Eat Guitars. Man, those guys are good with great 90's era noise guitar solos!
Thanks to our man for braving the pricks and giving us the low down on the 80-35 Festival.

Photo lifted from the 80-35 website.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

The Devil And Daniel Johnston

Oh yeah. Just finished The Devil and Daniel Johnston doc. Highly recommended. Two in a row. Here comes the obligatory opine on the subject matter.
I guess I never really had an opinion of Johnston, and still don’t today. I mean, the dude’s crazy. I think he’d even admit that. And I’ve got a thing for the crazies. Something seems so pure about what they do and those moments of brilliance shine a little brighter when you know that someone isn’t really playing with a full deck upstairs.
But Johnston seemed a bit too precious even for my tastes and that includes the period before he went completely bonkers. It’s the period after he went completely batty that bothers me. From Gibby Haynes ridiculous interview with an obviously-off-his-meds Johnston (to his questionably honest response to the question if Gibby was indeed the one that fed Johnston some LSD, thereby escalating his diminishing mental state). To Steve Shelly attempting to put Daniel on some kind of indie-revival, only to discover that Johnston was not the type of person to follow logic, let alone a fucking itinerary. To Atlantic records for attempting to cash in on a bipolar man-just like any other signing-with almost total disregard for creating a contract that considered this man’s mental state. And to us, really, for expecting Johnston to fall in line like any other alterna-idol. Relishing his aloofness. Secretly hoping for a glimpse of his insanity.
I mean really: any decent person would have just said, “Fuck it. This dude needs help. Never mind SXSW appearances. Forget albums. To hell with Jad Fair collaborations.”
It all ended up the same: disastrous. And in watching the car crash, you can’t help but bark out “Leave him alone!” like some Chris Crocker type.
It seemed like only his parents were versed enough to properly address Johnston’s condition. Their patience is unnerving, particularly his Father. This is a man-a former fighter pilot, no less-that should be enjoying his golden years in peace. Instead, he’s battling his overweight adult son for the controls of his Cessna because Daniel decided he wanted to become Casper the friendly ghost. As stoic, patient, and strong as this man is, retelling the story of this frightening event breaks him into tears.
What’s strange about The Devil and Daniel Johnston is that I didn’t immediately want to run out and get his music. I did want to check out some of his art-cartoonish characters that provide a telling glimpse into Johnston’s mind. It’s a tad overpriced for my pocketbook, but it’s refreshing that he has a creative outlet and doesn’t have to rely on events that can trigger mental instability (Daniel has a tendency to restrict his meds before performances).
The film leaves you wondering: what will happen when his parents pass away? Financially, he made have found some stable footing (his family runs his website and his sellable goods) but one has to consider that his two elderly parents are the most stable sources in his life. When they’re gone, how will their absence impact Daniel and his art?
It’s a question that obviously is left unanswered, but one that isn’t is the story of Daniel’s muse, Laurie. There’s a touching bonus feature on the DVD that shows their reunion. Laurie is charming and very supportive of Daniel’s work. Daniel, on the other hand, is decked out in a stained sweat shirt and is obviously still smitten with Laurie.
“Will you marry me?” he asks within the first few minutes of the meeting.
She politely laughs knowing that Johnston is probably serious about his question, but smart enough to know that being out of reach has provided Daniel with enough material to fuel his entire career.
And Daniel’s career has provided director Jeff Feuerzeig enough material for a totally engaging documentary.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Bruce Springsteen - The River

It’s not the best Springsteen album-that title probably goes to Born To Run-but The River ranks as my personal favorite. It’s the album that introduced me to Bruce and, as a double record, gave me a nice overview of a variety of different moods our boy from New Jersey possessed.
I suppose that The River is fairly limited in epic scope while filled with songs-a-plenty about life, love, and those annoying Mother-in-laws.
Considering this, The River is probably the best record that a 14 year old kid could stumble upon when examining his collective works. It’s full of out and out rockers (“Ties That Bind,” “Out On The Street,” “Two Hearts”), blue-collar heartbreak (“The River,” “Fade Away,” “Independence Day”) and a bunch of songs that only began to grow as I grew with them.
The best examples are probably later on in the album, a section that I frequently skipped over as a teenager. These were the ones that didn’t immediately grab me-they weren’t intended to-but when I became old enough to appreciate things like space, mood, and sublety, then I began to understand how great Springsteen was, even at that young of age, was an incredible craftsman of rock and roll.
The song that did it for me both then and now is the title track. The appeal was because I grew up in a river town, so the imagery was something I could relate to. I remember vividly thinking how the protagonist, a young man who knocked up his high school sweetheart and then is forced to face the consequences, could have been anyone in my hometown. And as honorable as getting married and doing the right thing might have been, it doesn’t provide him with the tools to keep love strong.
He reminsices of the time when his passion ran deep. Years later, it all seems like a cruel joke as he surveys the remanents of his lost love. “Is a dream a lie that don’t come true” he ponders, “or is it something worse?”
With The River, I became a full-fledged fan of The Boss. I jumped into his back catalog and found that his talent was established well before that two-fer. Every week, I watched the ads for his show in Des Moines supporting The River, longing for a chance to see him and for an allowance that could even afford a ticket.
I got that opportunity a few years later, but I’ll forever be fond of the album that introduced me to Springsteen even when there are other parts of his catalog that are more deserving of praise.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Bruce Springsteen - Working On A Dream

Let’s get right down to it: “Outlaw Pete,” the opening track of Bruce Springsteen’s sixteenth album Working On A Dream does sound just like Kiss’ “I Was Made For Loving You.” It’s not a complete re-write, but there’s a series of do-do-do’s and a guitar part that mimic the same note sequence as Paul Stanley singing “I was made for lovin’ you baby,” from the horrific Dynasty album.
It’s enough to get Gene Simmons’ attention, but not similar enough to get him to try to sue The Boss.
The déjà-vu won’t leave you mad at Springsteen, but it will have you scratching your head “Why?” Why didn’t any of the performers, producers, confidants, whoever, come up to him and say “You know Bruce, that one part sound like that shitty Kiss song…The one when they went disco…Whadya say we rework it, or better yet, just leave that section out?” Seriously: the song, which drags on for a yawn inducing eight minutes, doesn’t need it at all.
No sir, what it and The Boss needs is a district manager. Someone who can sit him down and advise him on little matters like Kiss, Wal Mart, and his own legacy within the scope of rock and roll.
Working On A Dream isn’t about to change Springsteen’s place in rock history, but more to the point, it won’t going to help it either. It comes off like the third installment of the Human Touch/Lucky Town sessions but even less focused. And even though the liner notes to attribute the performers as the E Street Band, one could make the argument that their character has been all but erased here, supplemented with misguided attempts to sound updated and relevant. Producer Brendan O’Brien may be to blame for some of the unnecessary bombast and clutter within the arrangements, but the real fault lies with Springsteen for putting O’Brien in the predicament for having to cover up what was a weak album before the tape even started rolling.
Take “Queen Of The Supermarket,” a faux lust piece where Springsteen seemingly has run down a list of blue-collar careers primarily held by women (Waitress? Already been done. Hairstylist? Ditto. Checkout girl? Perfect!) and then slapped a few clichés and sappy phrases on it. O’Brien layers so much shit on top of the lyrical nonsense that by the time the song reaches the second half, he has Patty Scialfa doing an over-the-top refrain, a ridiculous orchestral swell, and the fucking beeps of a checkout aisle in the mix. It’s the most embarrassing thing ever in Springsteen’s catalog and it’s almost bad enough to make you give up on listening to the rest of the album.
As for the songs that are at least tolerable, they suffer from an uncomfortable feeling of this iconic artist is growing lost as he approaches his sixth decade, and no one has the good sense to light a fire under his ass or challenge his authority. “Life Itself” sounds like he’s trying to channel Warren Zevon. “Good Eye” finds him aping the blues while the rest of the band sounds like they’re lost inside of the interloping rhythms of Bruce’s distorted yelps and repetitive harmonica. “Tomorrow Never Knows” utilizes a nice acoustic shuffle before, once again, Brendan O’Brien starts tossing pointless vocal effects and worthless instrumentation into the mix.
Working On A Dream is nothing more than a half-hearted attempt at building excitement for another arena tour with the E Street Band. The thing is, the show itself is excitement enough and Bruce’s latest greatest hits compilation for Wal-Mart will probably do more to fill the seats than any memorable track on this album.
And for good reason: the songs on that compilation hark back to a time when Springsteen was a reliable champion of the everyman while Working On A Dream sounds like a white collar effort from someone who’s become part of the problem.
The only dream that is being worked on here is The Boss’ financial well-being.

This review originally appeared in Glorious Noise.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Jet Black Factory - Duality/House Blessing

I debated about considering this as a lost classics candidate over at Glorious Noise, but I think that it would have been a little too obscure and, therefore, too much of a nostalgia trip for anyone to really take seriously.
The band in question is Jet Black Factory.
From the underbelly of Nashville, Tennessee, this quartet formed in the mid-80’s and released a pair of interesting e.p.’s and a defining full-length before imploding. Their music was a strangely appealing blend of heavily reverberated guitars fronted by a deep-rooted baritoned vocalist. Think what Bauhaus would have sounded if they grew up in Music City, U.S.A. and attempted to do their own version of The Cult’s Love.
I stumbled across the band via their second e.p., Duality, a six-song gem that served as one of the recurring soundtrack cassettes of an ill-fated spring break trip to Hilton Head, South Carolina. I threw together a few newly released e.p.’s that caught my ear prior to the trip and put them all on a Maxell tape for the trip. The band’s brooding Goth rock fit in nicely during the late-night drives through Georgia and, yes, Tennessee.
Plus, one of the songs was appropriately titled “Interstate.”
Vocalist Dave Willie does a good job of bringing just enough fog without sounding too corny. Occasionally, he’ll deliver a pretty good line too. One of the best tracks-“Towards The Sun”-documents a late night insomniac walking the streets (“Now you pace off the darkness…step by step/Towards the sun”), motivated by some unnamed torment. “The song intentionally drags, ever so slightly, giving it both a sinister quality and the appearance of exhaustion.
Nearly every one of the songs is memorable, which, admittedly, should be fairly easy with a six-song e.p. The problem is, this particular e.p. was released on a woefully small record label some twenty years ago and is hard to come buy. As a testament to the band’s impact on me, I kept Jet Black Factory in the back of my head for these two decades. Stumbling around the ITunes store, I typed in the band’s name and was surprised to find that both the elusive e.p. and the full-length (House Blessing) that came after it. I will admit that some of my fondness must have come from all of those years of elusiveness; there’s not a lot of real inventiveness in the arrangements and Willie’s voice is limited in its range. But hearing those songs again did bring back a wave of collegiate emotions and from a non-partisan perspective, they’ve held up fairly well. It would sit nicely along side any one of Peter Murphy’s solo albums from the same time period and, even with all of that reverb keeping things afloat, the production quality may be a tad better.
The band never managed to break out of the Southern club circuit and-to add to the band’s mystique a bit-Jet Black Factory’s rhythm guitarist was convicted of 2nd degree murder in 1991 of a club owner in Alabama. Shortly afterwards, the band hung up their boots and emerged in the daylight to face the harsh reality of the real world.
But for a time, Jet Black Factory was one of the best of those bands fixated with darkness who unfortunately never managed to break out from underground.