Sunday, December 24, 2006

Everyone else is doing it, so why can't I?

Well, here it is, folks: the final curtain on that muddled Year of (Someone's) Lord Two-Thousand and Six. I'm not even going to begin to dissect the mixed bag of political conflagration that marked the past twelve months, nor will I divulge details about any personal emotional roller-coastering. Not that that's what we want during the winter Festivus. We want ENTERTAINMENT, and that is what we shall receive!


Not to say that music is exactly in a healthy state of affairs. Postmodernism has been delcared dead on several occassions, but I have yet to see any of that spine-tingling futurist momentum last evident in the Clinton era. Even the best of the new fails to point forward, untterly incapable not only of escaping but surmounting the past - theoretically pure anterograde amnesia. So until we find someone capable of forging a capital-N New sound, let's at least focus on the least retrovisionary, postmodernist crap...

Cansei de Ser Sexy - "Alala" (from CSS)

Serena Maneesh - "Selina's Melodie Fountain" (from Serena Maneesh)

Sonic Youth - "What a Waste" (from Rather Ripped)

Spank Rock - "What It Look Like" (from YoYoYoYoYo)

TV on the Radio - "Let the Devil In" (from Return To Cookie Mountain)


I had the most hellacious time composing my Top 25 of '06 list for one of my financially-unrewarding freelance gigs, because almost all the records that blew/continued to blow my mind were older records. To find a freshman band that could surpass this material is certainly asking a lot, but can't anyone at least come close?

Brainbombs - "Stupid and Weak" (from Urge To Kill)

The Brian Jonestown Massacre - "Super Sonic" (from Give It Back!)

Can - "Mushroom" (from Tago Mago)

The Fall - "Wrong Place, Right Time" (from I Am Kurious Oranj)

Magma - "De Futura" (from Udu Wudu)

Should you feel the need to purchase products by any of the above artists - and you should - check out Aquarius Records and, obviously, Amazon.


Yeah, I spent way too much time on YouTube too. Here's some of the better bits of digital detritus I've sifted through.

The "24-Hour Room" episode of Gaki No Tsukai, my favourite Japanese show with a hysterical Old Testament streak. I've learned more about Japanese culture analyzing and overthinking this talk show than I have from two years of living in Tokyo.

Magma rocks "De Futura." Which is more intense: the album-version (posted above) full 18-minute epic, replete with monster-movie organs... or this live performance from French TV, with its Mad Max-meets-Jonestown "White Night" cast, operatic gibberish, and peerless Drummer-Mug?

Oshiri Penpens perform "引き止め男と去る女." One of the best live acts I've seen in Japan. Deeply, importantly strange.

In the most brilliantly ironic and self-aware ad campaign ever, Einsturzende Neubauten bandleader Blixa Bargeld does dramatic readings from the Hornbach home-improvement catalogue. For added cultural context of Mr. Bargeld, go here.

Well, yeah, c'mon. It's Chris Fucking Cunningham.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Self-flagellation as *snark* ART...

One of the reasons I've been so seriously M.I.A. around here is because I've been working on something almost (but not completely) like a film. The good news is that we've got the trailer up & available, and it's a tripartite epic unto itself. Observe:




Now, one small caveat to save you some time and head-scratching: only the third of these is indicative of what to expect of our Film Proper. The good news is that, though I'm currently knee-deep in sound design, the final cut of our debut film is almost in the can. In the meantime, drop by our website and let us know what you think.

(Yeah, it's not a real website. Bite me. You think we got cash to throw around on shite like domain names and hosting? Hell, does this LOOK like the work of people with real jobs?)

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

So Sue Me...

Yeah, so it's been three months since my last post. So? Life has a way of not stopping, and Murphey's Law dictates that the first time my modem breaks, it'll be in a country where the languages spoken by myself and tech support will be mutually exclusive.

Now the internet's back up and running, but I still don't have the time to post anything of consequence just yet. I've somehow managed the small miracle of (a) not having a real job, and (b) not having a day off in approximately nine weeks. Draw that Venn Diagram, why doncha?

If nothing else, I promise to have posted a bunch of the great music I've been listening to by the end of the year. Deal? In the meantime, dig on the above...

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Would Axl Rose By Any Other Name Still Not Have Released Chinese Democracy?

David Jones, Jim Osterberg, and Louis Firbank prepare to rock you

"You Know My Name (Look Up the Number)" - The Beatles

This has to be the single most entertaining bit of web detritus I've seen in donkey's years. Ladies and gentlemen, the Onion A.V. Club (if it's this good, of course it's the Onion) presents...

...The Worst Band Names of '06!

I fell out of my chair, onto my knees, blue in the face and dry-heaving with laughter when I saw the words the Tony Danza Tapdance Extravaganza strung together. (Better still: they have a song called "Cliff Burton Surprise"!)

Personally, I'm shocked that Lubricated Goat didn't make the list. But hey, bad band names have existed since Engelbert Humperdink first slunk onstage. The Fugs, Echo & the Bunnymen, the Butthole Surfers, the Dismemberment Plan, TV On the Radio... let's face if, if we didn't know and love these lads, those monikers would surely land in the Bad Name Hall of Fame.

Here's a short list of embarrassing/amusing Japanese band names I've come across...

Guitar Vader
Angel'in Heavy Syrup (yes, that apostrophe is supposed to be there)
54 Nude Honeys
Bonkin' Clapper
Idea Of a Joke
Missing Girl Scoot
Glay (apparently, that L should have been an R)
Mummy the Peepshow
The Portugal Japan
Rip Slyme
Bathtub Shitter
Father Moo and the Black Sheep
Mr. Children
Sweet Robots Against the Machine

...and, naturally, Melt Banana. Don't believe the veracity of the above list? Feel free to fact-check here and here.

So, kids... what's the worst band name you have ever heard?

Happy Hell Day!

Iron Maiden, "Number of the Beast"

Don't forget to grab a souvenir while you're here!

Six Songs:

"Tupelo" - Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds

"New Face In Hell" - The Fall

"So Many Ways" - Morphine

"Your Pretty Face Is Going To Hell" - Iggy & the Stooges
(Caution: LOUD. For real. I'm talking -4dB RMD, baby.)

"Everything Goes To Hell" - Tom Waits

"Hell's Around the Corner" - Tricky

In other matters unrelated to all things infernal, I've started contributing to the Stylus Magazine blog. To be honest, I don't really know which of their various columns qualifies as the no-hyphenated-classification-required Blog, but my best guess is the Turntable. Stay tuned for various updates and contributions.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

David Yow: Always Has Been, and Will Be, More Hardcore Than You

Please note that the bottle actually breaks over Yow's head when it knocks him out. I don't recall even G.G. Allin performing a show with a concussion.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Impulse Listening

"Hit Liquor" - Shudder To Think
(from Pony Express Record, 1995)

I know, I know... what's with the sporadic posts full of empty promises of more constant content? Well, out of the myriad of ways I invest my time, blogging is, shall we say, low-yield. I'm not saying I'm giving up; hobbies, after all, are part of a balanced habitual agenda. But just don't shake yer skinny fists at me if a week slips by sans update.

The big news is that I'm rediscovering guitar-oriented indie-rock, but not those limp-wristed, moustachio'd, histrionic charlatans who send college kids' hearts atwitter these days. I'm talking about back when the guitar was still considered an instrument flush with potential, before computers became the dominant tool of the day, when our heroes expended energy physically wrenching demons and ideas from their instruments instead of breaking a sweat striking poses. This retrovisionquest has led me back, inevitably, to a city fundamental to my musical growth: Washington, DC.

One band I had the pleasure of seeing on two occassions in the mid-'90s were fish out of water in any pond, more theatrical and arch than their Dischord labelmates and certainly too strange to survive for long on a major label. Though they were unceremoniously relegated to the long list of '90s Ones That Got Away, their influence rippled throughout the rock underground. So singular was their sound, though, that their imitators could be used as a frame of reference for themselves: a sincere & retrained Brainiac, or perhaps the Dismembermant Plan squared.

Regardless, Shudder To Think friggin' rocked. Enjoy.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

"Tap that ass" is the new "1,2,3, uh!"

"Sweet Talk" - Spank Rock
(from their brand new debut, YoYoYoYoYo)

Let it be writ in the sky in burning emerald aurora...

"Sweet Talk" is the new "Hey Ya!"

Listen to this song three times in succession and you will believe me. And better yet, Spank Rock hails from Baltimore, which is to cred as Alberta is to oil sands. (Read: untapped.) Fear not if you've not heard of these clever young lads before. This is a bandwagon well worth jumping on.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

No, This is Bananas...

Forgive the un-posting-ness of late; once I complete the projects which have impeded my blogocity, I'll be able to deliver a hell of an excuse.

In the meantime, though, I (like everyone else) just stumbled across something fan-freakin'-tastic on No, not the Clerks II trailer - that ain't good news for anyone. Except maybe Jason Mewes, because it's about time that dude got his ducks in a row.

I'm talking about the above clip of Glenn Branca going absolutely batshit on a Telecaster way bay when in '78. Before any of you skeptics dismiss this a mere noise, allow the sheet-metal sonics to squeegee your third eye and consider that all of that sound is coming from one man. Makes his two most famous disciples, Misters Ranaldo and Moore, seem suddenly unimpressive, don't it?

I've got some more cacophonous euphoria from Branca on the way, but I just wanted to offer up this visual stimuli ASAP because... well, shit, look at it. If that doesn't clip your sensory input, nothing will.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

The Boy With the Stick Up His Ass

The only thing more inflated than his hair is his ego

"Hair of the Dog" - Nazareth
(from Hair of the Dog, 1975)

I like indie rock, ergo I'm a fan of the Smiths. However, something tasted sour about Morrissey's recent reemergence into the velvet blue of the spotllight. Perhaps its that the '80s Thatcherite England antihero has recast himself in the mold of the crusty crooning Vegas whore. Yeah, that was definitely part of it. Also, the solipsistic melodrama of songs like "How Could Anybody Possibly Know How I Feel" may have been fetching when Moz was in his twenties, but in his post-cocaine bloated forties, it wields all the emotional heft of a high school poetry professor's diary.

So leave it to Stephen to prove himself the once and future King of Self-Righteous Prigs when he declared war on Canada the other day. Like Paul "My Employees Are Contractual Vegans" McCartney before him, Morrissey is taking Canada to task for its annual seal cull by refusing to tour and urging a boycott of Canadian goods.

I'm not here to debate beating baby seals - though let's face it, if a baby seal had a face like a baboon's ass, no one would give a fuck. (Not to mention that, evironmentally, there are bigger fish to fry.) But let's have a quick look at the light in which Morrissey cast the Canadian government for sanctioning the seal cull:

"The Canadian Prime Minister also states that the slaughter is necessary because it provides jobs for local communities, but this is an ignorant reason for allowing such barbaric and cruel slaughter of beings that are denied life simply because somebody somewhere might want to wear their skin. Construction of German gas chambers also provided work for someone - this is not a moral or sound reason for allowing suffering.

...As things stand, Canada has placed itself alongside China as the cruelest and most self-serving nation."

Let me run that by you again: Hunting baby seals is morally equivalent to THE HOLOCAUST. Yeah. And apparently, we Canucks exhibit as little compassion and willingness to compromise as the world's largest military oligarchy.

This coming from a man who, for the past seven years, has maintained a residence in the United States - a country run by war criminals which also happens to be Morrissey's largest market. It's good to see some of that country's demagoguery and baldfaced hypocrisy have rubbed off on him.


Thursday, March 23, 2006

Better Music Through Chemistry

Thanks to a veritable landslide victory, this week's aurally-administered mental enhancement will be (as promised) epic junkie orchestral rock. Japanese jazzbo weirdness will have to wait until next week. (Yeah, I know only one vote was cast, but 1-0 is a shutout last I checked.)

"I Think I'm In Love" - Spiritualized
"Cop Shoot Cop" - Spiritualized
(both from Ladies and Gentlemen, We Are Floating In Space, 1997)

The Unholy Trinity of Sex, Drugs, and Rock 'n' Roll is as old as debauchery itself. Indeed, whole genres (e.g. jazz, rock) have nicked their names from slang for sex, while chemically-enhanced merriment walked hand-in-hand with music long before the Drug Death Sweepstakes of the early '70s.

Myself, I've never engaged in any extrachemical activity, if only because reality is hard enough to process as it is. As a music fan, this affords me the advantage of technical objectivity: the Grateful Dead were always so meanderingly dull that I suspect you have to be fucked up to enjoy their aimless wankery. Similarly, it's easy to spot cocaine-bloated arrogance (I'm looking at you, Liam and Noel) from a mile away. But while many of my musical heroes were decidedly anti-drug (Frank Zappa, Fugazi), a frighteningly large amount of my collection was produced by serious heroin addicts. From Miles Davis to O.G. junkie Iggy Pop to twenty-year-user Nick Cave, many of my favourite records were made by artists single-handedly supporting the Afghan economy.

I'm not naive or stupid enough to give the chemicals credit for an artist's creativity. The fact is, though, that drugs physically alter perception, therefore causing a different reaction to external stimuli. (You know those Van Gogh paintings we all love so much? That colourful mottle isn't "creative license," that's how he actually saw that shit.) And there is something about the music produced by heroin addicts that I find incredibly appealing. Let's compare and contrast, shall we?

::Marijuana (See Fu Manchu, Snoop Dogg, Bob Marley)
Music characterized by - An emphasis on repitition, heavy low-end, a narcissistic obsession with one's own pleasure, and ad nauseum references to the drug itself. Usually melodically unconvincing.

::Cocaine (See Fleetwood Mac, Oasis, Duran Duran)
Music characterized by - Luxe production value, tweeter-shredding treble, and preposterous self-importance. Makes frequent use of arena-sized sing-along choruses.

::Heroin (See the Velvet Underground, the Birthday Party, Nirvana)
Music characterized by - Constant contrast between succinct pop songcraft and listen-unfriendly feedback and seasick drones. Distortion drives the instruments, while hoarse-throated emotion fuels the vocals. Lyrical hallmarks include appeals for redemption and transendence while wallowing in dark spiritual (and literal) mire.

This is clearly a matter of personal taste, but if I was in a record store in 1977 and had a choice between the Eagles' "Hotel California" (emotionally cheap arena-rock pomp - COKE) and Iggy Pop's "Mass Production" (epic, equilibrium-destroying drone-rock nihilism - HEROIN), Ian Curtis and I would at least have our listening habits in common.

One musician with the dubious distinction of having a habit that's extended as long as his career is Jason Pierce, better known as J. Spaceman. Pierce spent the latter half of the '80s leading fuzzbox fanatics Spacemen 3, a rock band so reductivist that they made "Sister Ray" sound downright symphonic. Following that band's ugly dissolution, Pierce immediately launched the vessel he still captains to this day, Spiritualized. When their debut full-length, Lazer Guided Melodies, was released, Pierce had grown dissatisfied with the racket guitars alone were capable of. Over the subsequent decade, each new release would recruit an extra gospel choir, string quartet, horn section, or whatever session players were kicking around that day. By the time 2001's Let It Come Down was out, Pierce had almost completely sacrificed his band's fiery volatility for supersaccharine overorchestration.

But along the continuum between single-chord scuzzrock seances and self-indulgent symphonic prog, there is a sweet spot, and Pierce nailed it perfectly in 1997. Ladies and Gentlemen, We Are Floating In Space was a disorienting space-rock symphony somewhere between Sonic Youth and OK Computer. From the tremolo-soaked titular fugue to the delicate eye of "Home of the Brave's" emotional storm, the album is as awesome a conceptual beast as anything Pink Floyd accomplished - even better, dare I say. Truth is that there's a single song from any Floyd album I'd consider classic, where as Ladies and Gentlemen... has two.

The trick is that, as with any love song penned by a junkie, it's hard to tell to what these two songs are more dedicated: the woman or the drug. "I Think I'm In Love" shines with all the promise and potential energy of a new morning, as Pierce basks in the sunlight, but it's actually a self-deluded escape. We can hear the drug hit when the song blasts off around the 2:35 mark, propelled by percussion and a loping organ loop. Pierce undercuts his overconfidence with a smirking acceptance that it's a junk-induced illusion: "I think I'm on fire, but probably just smoking."

Most harrowing, though, is the album's epic closer, "Cop Shoot Cop." Lent a hand by Dr. John's nocturnal blues piano, the 17-minute masterpiece is a guided tour through the spiritual convulsions of an addict. The song literally nods off after two minutes, before Pierce's vocals rouse the music back into consciousness. His dry ruminations on redemption and depression grasp at the divine but are chained to the profane, interrupted by intermittent violent fits of howling guitar and assaultive drums before finally collapsing into a a six minute psychotic episode of unmitigated noise. The chaos continues to crescendo far longer than possibly expected, until all hope of a coherent conclusion is forfeit. Only then, when hope is exhausted, does Pierce retreat into the song's keystone vamp. The battle is lost, and Pierce surrenders himself to his fate, both narcotic and romantic, with a whispered promise: "I will love you... I will love you... I will love you..."

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Even Liars Tell the Truth Sometimes

"Us, retro?" The Guardian calls them "a Norwegian band who are to Primal Scream and the Mary Chain what Primal Scream and the Mary Chain were to the Velvets and the Stones."

"Selena's Melodie Fountain" - Serena Maneesh
"Your Blood In Mine" - Serena Maneesh
(from their eponymous debut)

If there's a purpose to the internet beyond pornography, it's to berate and deride others' opinions mercilessly. Which is a game I'm more than willing to play: if you can take it, dishing it out is like shooting fish in a barrel. Bullets can't hurt you if you're metal-plated.

Of course, sometimes the melee gets a little muddled, and perhaps certain things are said that needn't be. I'd been wondering if perhaps I've been too harsh on ubiquitous hipster wunderkind Nick Sylvester. For those unfamiliar, Sylvester is a Grand Poobah of Hyperbole, a master of the masturbatory metacriticism which Pitchfork helped define. More in love with his own language than interested in offering coherent criteria for his criticism, Sylvester's various offenses include...

::self-congratulatory writing that comes off more clumsy than creative.
::perpetually playing it safe with average album ratings ("3 Stars means never having to say you're sorry!") while only dropping the bomb on obvious atrocities.
:: inevitable, slavish devotion to the overrated esoteric bands he finds before everyone else.

But even a blind man at a dart board will occassionaly hit the target. Once in a blue moon, Sylvester unearths a true gem of a band, the most recent of which is Serena Maneesh. When I read Sylvester's self-consciously epic/epochal review of their eponymous debut, I doubted how impressive the album would be. I knew this "only melody that matters this fall" would be in accordance with Sylvester's obession with female-voiced, breathily-cooed naivete, and I wasn't about to get burned again by some mediocre band compared to MBV for strumming overdriven open-string chords. "This is probably just another art-school dropout act who carry Psychocandy in one hand and Daydream Nation in the other," I thought, "Just to tide people over until that Arctic Monkeys LP drops."

Fast-forward a few months, and I'm reading Tom Breihan's blog on the Village Voice where, lo and behold, is a review of Serena Maneesh's live debut in the Big Apple. I scan the opening sentence...

"Here's something weird about Serena Maneesh: they play loud, like really loud, like louder than SunnO))), loud to the point where it's physically uncomfortable to be at their show..."

...and I'm already sold, because Serena Maneesh get it. They understand that the secret to Kevin Shields' sound wasn't simply distortion under echo, but sheer gut-shattering VOLUME - sound as a physically transformative medium. The reason Shoegaze failed as a movement is because all the bands leaned more towards the Cocteau Twins than the Jesus and Mary Chain, all sounding like a limp-wristed return to the womb. Even to this day, people prize Loveless more for its pillowy ambience than its serrated, bed-of-nails overdrive.

But such is not the case with Serena Maneesh. Who'd have thought that a bunch of Norwegian dandies who dress like psychedelic pirates would have struck the most perfect balance between pop and apocalyptic noise in fifteen years?

Given that Serena Maneesh has garnered more spins in my stereo than the rest of my collection combined so far this year, I'd felt indebted to Nick Sylvester. After all, for every ten times he's wrong, he is sometimes so, so right. Of course, as I'm about to write this online love letter to Mr. Sylvester, this story breaks. In the week ensuent, Sylvester's, uh, "creative liberties" have cost him his pedestal atop the Pitchfork roster and he's been suspended from the Voice after a public spanking.

Really, Nick... fabricating material? On a story about singles bars? Shit, I wrote a cover story too and didn't need to make anything up. Come on, son.

PS:: What would y'all like to hear next - some Japanese jazzbo weirdness or epic junkie orchestral rock? Let me know your vote via the comments, please.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

The Best Practical Joke You've Ever Heard

"Does anyone here remember laughter?!"

I suppose we're due for a new post here, but I'm feeling a bit lazy, so reproduced below is my review of the Ging Nang Boyz' major-label debut that the good folks at TMT printed last week. I realize what an e-faux-pas it may be to quote myself so extensively, but to heighten the experience, I've included the two songs discussed in the review. Enjoy, and say goodbye to your eardrums.

"Baby Baby" - Ging Nang Boyz
"Nipponjin" - Ging Nang Boyz

I’d resigned myself to an evening indoors watching TV when my channel-surfing crested on MTV Japan. Under the caffeinated chatter of the obese greaser VJ chugged some J-pop power ballad, shellacked in enough gloss to make My Chemical Romance sound “raw.” As I vegetated in front of the screen, my attention was seduced by the gliding melodies and rolling chord changes. There was something perennial about the chorus as it blossomed in my ears, full of doe-eyed romance and teenage histrionics. This was classic doo-wop dressed in distortion, a pop vocal standard channeled by kids in ripped jeans. This was a catchy song! A subtitle below the VJ’s belly revealed that it was “Baby Baby” from the recent release by the Ging Nang Boyz.

A short while later, I sat with the CD in my hands. Sure enough, staring back from the album cover was the caricature of a sapphire-eyed, ruby-lipped blonde, the Excalibur of every teenage boy. “Let’s hope these lads write as well as they play lovesick,” I thought as I turned on my stereo. No more than three words escaped the singer’s velvet throat before he screamed like he was deep-throating a chainsaw and the band came crashing in with the subtlety of a blitzkireg. Technical accuracy, rhythmic durability, harmony, and dignity all leapt out the window, screaming and hopeless. This ninety-second opening salvo, “Nipponjin,” put a shotgun to the head of everything the Berklee College of Music teaches, an unapologetic orgy of anti-music.

I’d been punked. And I couldn’t have laughed harder.

Any guilt my inner Avant-Snob felt for picking up a pop-punk band was quickly allayed. Butchered chords, unplanned tempo shifts, and hopelessly unhinged vocals riddled the record. Magnifying the mess was the deliberately rough production, bloating and scorching the songs like a marshmallow left in a microwave. The three “ballads” (“Baby Baby,” “Drifting Classroom,” and an acoustic number) stick out like bone china in a sink of dirty dishes, but they proved the band’s competence. When Ging Nang Boyz bothered to hit their marks, they were capable of crafting memorable melodies and superb pop songs. This hidden knack for hooks rendered the record wholly listenable, an album both Burt Bacharach and Bad Brains could enjoy. Granted, at 14 songs, some fat could have been trimmed from the tracklist, but hey, there are certain pop-punk acts who by rights shouldn’t exist at all.

And to think I owe this discovery to MTV. Laugh if you like, but that’s the last time I judge a band by its single.

(Courtesy of myself and Tiny Mix Tapes)

Thursday, February 23, 2006

The In Sound From Way Out East

When I applied to Tiny Mix Tapes, I handed over a review of Friction's self-titled (in Japanese) debut, a hard-charging gem of an album I discovered at my local CD rental store. TMT didn't end up printing the review, but Atsureki is too great an album to go unadvertised, so here in full is my unpublished write-up:

"I Can Tell" - Friction (from Atsureki)
"Out" - Friction (Ibid)

If the New Wave revival hadn’t devolved into a fashion show, obsessive indie one-upsmen might have dug deep enough to unearth this jagged little gem. Bristling with barbed-wire guitars, tourniquet-tight drumming, and manic energy, Friction were one of Japan’s finest indie exports. Their post-punk pedigree earned in No-Wave heavyweights Teenage Jesus and the Jerks, James Chance and the Contortions, and Lydia Lunch, the band established itself with its 1980 debut, Atsureki.

Unfortunately, the album opens with its two weakest tracks. “A-Gas” sounds like a failed B-side by the Fall, and “Automatic Fru” is unremarkable punk paint-by-numbers. From there, the album’s teeth sink in. The moddish rave-up “I Can Tell” establishes the M.O. for the rest of the record, bashing through danceable fits of strum-and-clang. Bouyed by Reck’s John Lydonesque vocal lunacy, the trio manages to outdo many of its peers. Gang of Four never had this much fun, and Big Black never wrote riffs this memorable. Many songs even anticipate the shape of noise to come. Throw some more distortion on the gliding guitars of “Crazy Dream” and shoegaze is born. Later, “Cool Fool” beats the Jesus Lizard to its aggressive, angular punch by a decade, and the six-string abuse on “Cycle Dance” and “Big S” mustn’t have escaped Thurston Moore’s attention.

Shifting down tempo for the devastating closer, “Out”, the band claws at the walls for seven claustrophobic minutes. Abetted by a skronking saxophone, they sound on their way to meet the Stooges at the Funhouse. In spite of the lean production, it packs a harder punch than any of the brats currently gracing the cover of NME.

Given how necrophilic rock has become, it’s a wonder that Friction has never been name-checked by the “New New Wavers.” But for whatever reason that it remains so unnoticed, Astureki is a classic slab of raw power, at once a retro trip and utterly contemporary.

Saturday, February 18, 2006


Marco Mirror, road warrior and silver Ox

Where have I been? For crying out loud, I've got more important things to attend to than the internet. Yeesh.

Anyhoo, it's approaching the One-Year Anniversary of my amicable split from Baltimore, but I've already made one return journey to my domicile of almost a decade. Reverse culture shock rocked me, the food was like swallowing a butter stick soaked in sugar, and TV made me apopleptic, but as always, Baltimore amazed me with its music scene. 2005 was a particularly fertile year, as Charm City produced two of the finest full-lengths and the best EP I heard last year. Observe...

"Foxes" - The Celebration
(from their eponymous debut)

When Birdland rose phoenix-like from the embers of Love Life, the husband-and-wife duo wowed Baltimore crowds with their sweaty postpunk approach to Tin Pan Alley caberet. But there's only so much propulsion a band can accomplish without a full-time percussionist. Re-enter two Davids: former Love Lifer Bergander sat back down behind the kit, and Mr. Andrew-Sitek (of avant-popsters TV On the Radio) manned the boards to produce the debut of the newly-christened Celebration. Like all their previous incarnations, the band cannot escape comparison to that Dark Prince of Troubadours, Nick Cave, but Ford's melodramatic bellow remains a singularly hypnotic instrument. However, I wish you the best of luck in ignoring the wholly incohesive guest appearances by the individual members of TVOTR, as if those rocking Bono-specs and a Mars Volta-approved afro could be anything other than tactless attention hounds.

"Duty. Duty? Duty." - More Dogs
(from Never Let Them Catch You Crying)

More Dogs is almost too good to be true: three lanky dudes in sweaters, who looked cherry-picked from other ethnically-diverse indie acts, playing tense indie interpretations of Morriconean experimenal film noir scores on an oddball assortment of instruments. In other words, they're a walking manifestation of Hip - which, de facto, also means that they're a little less interesting than their components imply. But unlike almost every other contemporary indie act, More Dogs manage to exhibit restraint. There's no melodic melodrama, histrionics that border on sociopathy, or genre dress-up. More Dogs refuse to show their hand; their tells have to be spotted in sly peeks over the menacing hum of an organ. They throw their chips on the table with sudden drama, like the Varese-esque clatter the opens this song, while the the drummer's stomp puts the bark in this beast. Come closer, but watch your hands. This music does not seek your affection.

"Afri-Cola" - OXES
(from the Oxes EP)

In that mythical battle of infernal animals, I'd put my money on this six-limbed, tricranial taurine monster than a mangey mutt any day. Of course, the truth is that we may have to wait until the next world to see OXES again, now that Nattarino is shacked up somewhere in Italy whilst his bandmates remain in Baltimore. Good of the lads not to leave us with a whimper: the five searing tracks on the Oxes EP reaffirm the trio's legacy as the most unabashedly fun of the angular American instrumental rock bands. Most impressive is the final track, "Afri-Cola." While all the other tracks were recorded live to two-track in the band's practice space, this epic piece of death disco was pieced together in Reason. "We didn't really have a song," guitarist Marco Mirror told me, "we just had the riffs." The result is a Dance-Punk masterpiece in which the equation is truly balanced, instead of merely scruffy guitar-dudes with eyeliner playing house beats. Not that any self-respecting indie-kid would actually dance to this song: the signals are too blurred as they race by, with little obvious instruction betrayed in the chaos. Not the first (or, hopefully, last) time OXES have outsmarted the audience.

In Other News:: Camera 1, Camera 2. Is everything in New York City so bloody special that it needs to be documented so rigorously? Also: this is hysterical and heartening, while this is proof there is no god.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

At the Risk of Being Unpopular, I Blame You

"Shut Up!" - The Monks (from Black Monk Time, 1966)

This is an odd day in the history of media saturation, because of all the stories to get beaten into glue (oil consumption, nuclear threats, "what about the children?", etc.) I never thought I'd hear myself say this, but...

I'm bored of Deerhoof.

Honestly, it's not just because The Runners Four is inferior to Apple O'. I place the blame squarely on all of you fanboys for managing to overexpose one of the most idiosyncratic pop acts in the underground. I'm not even that excited that they're crossing the Pacific this month anymore. I already feel like I've had Satomi's helium-high voice ground into my grey matter enough for another year.

So I beg you (especially you, Nick): Okay. We get it. It's not that hard. Are you done now?

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Keep It In Your Pants, Kids

If this doesn't invite hysterical evangelising and unobjective geek-out, I don't know what does.

Friday, January 27, 2006

In The News...

Journalist tracks down 40+ former & current members of The Fall (tip o' the blog to Sasha)

Canadian music journalists rant out of control, offering a few shockingly accurate observations along the way

Snake befriends hamster that was intended as lunch

BBC's Jesus sings "Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now" with Happy Monday Bez as disciple

Michael Jackson spotted in women's clothing at mall in Bahrain

And last, but certainly not least...

Saddam To Sue Bush for War Crimes

Before you begin relishing the delicious irony of the above story, ask yourself why this item is from the goddamn MTV News website and not the Guardian, the Globe and Mail, or the New York Times.

Coming Soon: the Best of Baltimore!

UPDATE:: Well, how the hell did I miss THIS? I never liked Jay-Z's voice (a little nasal and needy for my taste), but I always thought he had some handy rhymes - so much for that. This goes beyond quoting in homage; once you start lifting that many lines, you've crossed over into thievery. Maybe this is what happens when you don't write down any of your lyrics and just spit off the top of your head.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Retrovertigo: Stuff I Dug From '05

As I mentioned in my last post, I recently started conrtibuting to Tiny Mix Tapes, a mutli-faceted music site refreshingly devoid of agenda. Of course, no working relationship is without its kinks: when TMT asked its staff for their Top 25 albums of the year, I realized I'd barely heard twenty-five albums released in 2005. After scraping the bottom of my cerebellum to complete my list (which admittedly gets rather spotty past #14), my Top 25 were cross-collated with the other TMT contributors to produce the Collective List. A brief comparison between the two lists reveals two rather telling details.

The first is that nearly everything I listed was a new release by an old favourite - the Fall, Oxes, Mu, Lake Trout, Number Girl - without a debut artist in the top 10. Secondly, there was absolutely no crossover between my list and the collective Top 25. Shit, Pitchfork went as far as a Top 50 and only held two albums in common with me.

It's official: I'm out of the loop. And though I've bitched about this before, seeing the Writing On the Web certifies this fact - and what a relief. Circumstance has stripped me of my membership to the Media-Savy Hipoisie, and I am free at last, free at last!

No more scouring file-sharing networks for advance copies of new releases! No more soul-searching about why I hate Animal Collective! No longer am I troubled by the Pop Apologist Pod People! Who cares if I can't stand Crunk? Does it matter that I still haven't heard that Wolf Parade album? Hell, I haven't even heard one single goddamned minute of "Trapped In the Closet."

And why should I? I'm a skeptic expat living in Japan; there's no reason I should feel a kinship with art students from NYU or McGill. Not that anyone was twisting my arm, demanding that I jump on board any band's wagon, of course, but I still feel divested of a certain responsibility. Now I'm free to sit in my six-tatami spiderhole, surrounded by European film scores and sloppy J-Rock, unperturbed by the chest-beating of cred hounds across the ocean.

But I digress: here are ten tunes from releases that I loved in 2005.

"Do Do Do Do" by Afrirampo

"Le 65isme" by Buck 65
(from Secret House Against the World)

"April 6" by Fantomas
(from Suspended Animation)

"Ano Musume Ni 1mm Demo Chokkai Ka" by Ging Nang Boyz
(from an album whose title I won't even begin to attempt)

"Oh No" by Gogol Bordello
(from Gypsy Punks: Underdog World Strike)

"Now We Know" by Lake Trout
(from Not Them, You)

"Tigerbastard" by Mu
(from Out Of Breach: Manchester's Revenge)

"SoStRx" by Need New Body
(from Where's Black Ben?)

"Bem Querer" by Seu Jorge
(from Cru)

"What About Us" by the Fall
(originally released on Fall Heads Roll; this version is from the Peel Sessions box)

"Mur Mur" by Toddle
(from I Dedicate D Chord)