Monday, June 30, 2008

Corrections - Mailorder Freak 7" Singles Club

(Kill Rock Stars, 1999)

I don’t know nothing about these Corrections but AAAAGH WHAT’S THIS LI’L BUG CRAWLING ROUND IN MY BED?! Oh OK it’s just some mini guy with stripes on his shell, not a bedbug or a gawshdamn roach or anything. KILLED now, just in case. So these Corrections. Lotta guitar scree (+ some drums) that sounds like it’s coming through over the telephone lines or a disintegrating cassette. Thrash and wiggle, nothing hardassed enough to be considered confrontational or even challenging. Yawn; I’ve heard fluppin’ Neutral Milk Hotel songs that work the strings rougher than these guys do. Stuff’s some total bedroom tapedeck wank in the least satisfying possible way. A found-sound joke perpetrated on KRS singles-club subscribers? I can’t believe 2,000 copies of this record exist.

Cornelius - Chapter 8

(Matador, 1998)

So I was all set to get back on track with writing these reviews, but then, last night, my laptop decided that it had had enough of life on this planet and committed suicide. It was a dignified death, at least: The screen suddenly went black, and now it simply won’t turn back on. Fried motherboard or something, according to tech support sites. Anyway, I guess I’ll just start writing these out longhand and then type them up while I’m on my lunchbreak at work.

Beginning… NOW.

Which means that Cornelius, the Japanese Beck (with Caribou as the Canadian Cornelius??), has the honor of being the first to receive this exciting, time-wasting new treatment. And hullo, what have we here? Why, it’s Robert and Hilary from the Apples In Stereo bringing a decidedly Elephant Sixy flavor to “Chapter 8 (Seashore and Horizon),” a song that switches back and forth between summery acoustic strumming and gentle, twilit electronic psychedelia. Lush vocals harmonizing and weaving around each other are the whipped cream on an absolute pop beaut that could fit on any Apples or Olivia Tremor Control record. Outstanding! “Count Five or Six,” a highlight of the Fantasma-era live A/V extravaganzas, is on the B-side, its turbo-garage robo-countoff providing a dirty JSBX-esque counterpoint to the soothing A while maintaining that layered vocal loveliness. Eliminating the need for this 7” (unless you happen to like the artwork), both songs appear on Fantasma, a record I just realized I’ve been meaning to buy for a DECADE now. Might have to wait a little longer on that, too, cuz for the next few whenevers all funds are going to be diverted to hard drive recovery and the purchase of a shiny new computing machine. Doggone.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Tony Conrad With Faust - The Pyre Of Angus Was In Kathmandu

(Table of the Elements, 1993)

Two outtakes from the 1972 Outside the Dream Syndicate sessions, with Tony Conrad on violin and a few members of Faust (Werner Diermaier, Jean-Herve Peron, and Rudolf Sosna) helping out on bass, drums, and synth. These tracks don’t have the intensity or the insane focus of the two long pieces that make up the LP; those were mind-melting endurance tests, with Conrad’s drone shrieking above the most basic two-note, boom-thwap boom-thwap accompaniment for an entire album side. These recordings feel like outtakes, like slightly-bored jam-session noodlings accidentally caught on tape between the white-knuckled epics that actually saw release in ’72. What I love about Outside the Dream Syndicate is the stylistic tug of war that goes on between the players: the discipline of Conrad’s vision/method meeting the loose ’n’ wacky Faust makes for a tense and exhausting listen as the violinist imposes strict order on his hairy pals. Much of that is lost here, as the rhythm section is allowed to get livelier, even heading into funky territory on “The Death of the Composer Was in 1962.” It’s an interesting pair of recordings that fills out the Conrad/Faust picture a bit more, but neither track rates as must-have. Anyway, the material from this rare and oft-pricey 7” was later included on the double-CD 30th anniversary edition of Outside the Dream Syndicate, so the smart move is to go find that thing and just get all of the recordings from these sessions in one nifty package. After that, cop the live version from 1995 (Outside the Dream Syndicate Alive), which is brutally heavy and thus pulls off the shocking trick of actually topping the original.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Computer Cougar - Computer Cougar

(Gern Blandsten, 1998)

I received this as a toss-in with an order from Spirit Of Orr a few years back, assumed it was jive, and stashed the thing away without playing. Too bad for me! Both sides are tight with Wire-style jaggedness and discomfort, guitar aggression that lurches instead of swaggers. The vocal squawking on the more violent B (sides are labeled only with the number of beats per minute… no song titles) is a bit over the top and threatens to ruin an otherwise fine track, but the A gets it together just right with its terse, sweaty dance-punk that’s more about paranoia than partying. Bust out the latter in order to impress your rock buddies the next time you find yourself in charge of a turntable.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Compass - Antonio Rumori

(SharkAttack!, 2001)

Lockgroove bassist Dave Doom (a.k.a. Compass) takes a strut down solo-gentleman lane, and it’s certainly a different trip from the spacerock blast-offs of his SharkAttack! friends. Rather than guitars, beats are the key here, tinny beats all a-snappin’ and cracklin’ and poppin’ alongside keyboards and electronic loops. It’s not “dance” music, though, and there’s something vaguely unsettling about the grimy, densely-layered “Antonio Rumori” as those peppy rhythms skitter underneath Doom’s faraway vocals. There’s definitely a late-night, druggy fog around both songs (particularly the languid pop-collage “Estacion Especial”), which means that Compass, mood-wise, doesn’t stray so far from the Lockgroove/Charlene reservation as to be totally unrecognizable as a product of that scene, but it’s still an interesting attempt to stretch out and cover some new sonic turf.

Compass later released a full-length that I have yet to hear… I got nuttin for you on that front.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Comet Gain - Hate Soul

(Kill Rock Stars, 1998)

More Comet Gain, and more comparisons drawn to groups through the ages: “Hate Soul” is halfway between The Monks and something off the One Kiss Can Lead to Another girl-group box, a sweet-n-sour, primitive stomper bustin’ out from the garage. Then it’s another stab at slow-and-soulful on “When You Come Back I’ll Feel Like Jesus Coming Off the Cross,” and the end result – though comparatively ragged – is disturbingly reminiscent of Primal Scream ballads like “Damaged.” Yikes! This is a bonus single included with the Tigertown Pictures LP, which is (with Realistes) one of Comet Gain’s best albums, for my money, a record that American descendents Saturday Looks Good To Me would kill to make.

Comet Gain - Mailorder Freak 7" Singles Club

(Kill Rock Stars, 1998)

The September installment of Kill Rock Stars’ 1998 Mailorder Freak 7” Singles Club. “If I Had a Soul” is crammed with ringing guitars, mixed-gender harmonies, mini drum-breaks, and handclaps, which means it’s pretty much more of the same outta Comet Gain. And that’s no knock, cuz this is a catchy one that careens along effortlessly without doing much of anything wrong – Black Tambourine with more sophistication. Rest of the single is equally strong: “He Walks By Night” goes a heavier distortion-happy route, while “The Brothers Off the Block” is the clean, sensitive one that builds in volume with each “Sweet Jane”-copping verse. The single is a limited edition (of 2000?), but copies are still bouncing around and are worth the few bucks you’ll have to shell out for ’em; these songs beat hell on the sometimes overcooked retro-isms of other Comet Gain records.

Now let’s talk about something different! While I was getting my coffee this afternoon, there was a grown-up adult woman ladyperson explaining to her boyfriend how she had recently lived in a haunted apartment and had had to convince her landlord to let her break lease because, well, the place was h-h-h-haunted. This was good stuff, so I eavesdropped for a while, waiting to hear the punchline. It never came, and I has left kinda stunned. People actually (a) believe in this nonsense, (b) will move over it, and (c) will talk about it in public?? Advice to the guy who was being told the tale: Run for the hills. If you stick it out, this imbecile could one day be RAISING YOUR CHILDREN.

(Hopefully my sneering dismissal of this gal’s earnest story will not bring any sort of spectral retribution down on my head. Do ghosts use the internet?)

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Comet Gain - Strength

(Wiiija, 1997)

These U.K. modderfuckers have always done a credible impression of handclappy days gone by, with the organs, horns, girly backing-vox, yeah-yeahs, and heavy echo adding up to a certain kind of studied fashion-pop whose own reeking cleverness occasionally overpowers its winningly catchy affability. And, indeed, on “Strength” the sound is just too clean and antiseptic to hide the obsessive historical cribbing that went into every stage of the song’s life: it’s numbingly paint-by-numbers mod-/soul-pop. “A Film By Kenneth Anger” and “Letting Go” satisfy and avoid suffocating under frilly period touches, but still aren’t much more than moody thinking-fella’s pop that please the ears while avoiding making a knock-knock on the door of the ol’ memory banks. On this disc at least, we’re not talking about anything beyond a more rock-oriented Belle and Sebastian. Fun and carefully assembled, but it’s ultimately just empty ear-calories.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Comet - This Is Freedom

(Last Beat, 1995)

Given how much I love Comet’s seemingly forgotten Chandelier Musings album, which came out a year after “This is Freedom,” it’s hard for me to give this single the critical eye that it deserves; reflected glory and all of that, you know? Still, while the LP dealt in the towering, glistening orch-rock of Rollerskate Skinny and Satellite Heart/Clouds-era Flaming Lips, this 7” – though sonically dense – is a comparatively raw and less-majestic affair that leans on guitar effects and volume instead of trusting in the considerable melodic strength of the group’s songwriting. The B-side gives us a perfect point of comparison with the album, a demo-quality version of Chandelier-opener “Rocket Flare” that makes it clear that Comet had everything in place by the time of single #1 except for mastery of the studio (or, perhaps, just a steady cash flow) – the LP recording is rippling and dynamic, whereas this take feels flat and forced. Rather than the Ronald Jones Flaming Lips, a more accurate reference for this material might be the crunchy, rockier shoegaze that bands like the early Smashing Pumpkins were churning out at the beginning of the decade. But both songs on here are interesting, if rough, listens anyway, and the single is a worthwhile walk-before-you-run companion to the super-recommended full-length.

Comet’s work through Chandelier Musings was produced, appropriately, by David Baker – these discs are honestly what Mercury Rev would have sounded like if they had held onto their guitars and hadn’t stumbled off into fey electronic mysticism. After the album, however, the band sadly disappeared until 2005, when it reformed and put together a limited EP for Spune Productions called Feathers From the Wing.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Clockcleaner - Missing Dick

(Hit-Dat, 2005)

“Frogrammer” gets left in the dust by this heapin’ helpin’ of grinding, heavy guitarshit, a disc that’s rotten to the core with fatass bass in yo face to boot. The grunts and squeals of “By the Door” win Clockcleaner a blue ribbon as they reach very special heights of rocking obnoxiousness that would do any of the band’s scummy 1980s forefathers proud. It all sounds a little like mid-period Killdozer, and that means these boys are onto sumpin good.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Clockcleaner - Frogrammer

(Parts Unknown, 2005)

Look, I like this record a bunch, even if I don’t have too much to say about it. The vocals on “Frogrammer” have that dramatic, from-the-belly seriousness of Danzig+Sage, but this is no rip… the no-frill guitars are sinewy and nasty, none of the robust machowhatever that characterizes the Misfits. Pissed, but nervous, and slathered in tape-hiss. And is it the same guy or not yowling on “Early Man,” which goes for more of an’80s-Touch-&-Go, no-fi, primal-scream sludgefest? No idea, but this is worth a listen for all those who luvs it loud n dirty. Go-time for Clockcleaner! Released by the same fellers who gave us the Homostupids, so there’s clearly some trustworthy brainpower at work back at Parts Unknown HQ. Buy buy buy.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Clinic - Walking With Thee

(Limited Addition, 2002)

When “Walking With Thee” came out in 2002, I got the darn fool idea into my head that it was going to break Clinic bigtime in the U.S., launching them to semi-mainstream success on the radio and album charts. That didn’t quite happen, but the song still sounds like a HIT to me, with that menacing, crackling organ riff (even better than “Walking On the Sun”!); eerie, strained vocal; and crisp drumming. It’s easily-digested, indie-informed garage psych, an oddball offering that’s nevertheless readymade for mass consumption. A bona-fide “Nugget” for the new millennium, I have no idea why it wasn’t bigger at the time. The B-side, “D.T.,” is recycled from Clinic’s 1998 “Monkey On Your Back” EP, and shows the band’s raw, Neu-inspired krautpunk side. Good propulsive stuff with frantic guitar thrash over robotic drumming; it’s too bad they didn’t pursue this avenue much further on later records (and despite the rather spot-on accusation that every album sounds the same, I still think the rough-n-ready self-titled EP collection on Domino is easily the best Clinic full-length…the even bloodier “Operating at a Theatre Near You” live EP – a rare one – comes in second place).

This 7” initially came packaged with an issue of Stop Smiling magazine, but is now available through the Limited Addition site for all you Clinic completists out there. Assuming that that population actually exists. Does it?? Regardless, everyone else can be happy with the eventual best-of, which will surely be a toe-tapper, a head-nodder, and a grin-causer. Mark my words: a decade from now, we’ll be sorry we didn’t appreciate Clinic when the dudes existed…

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Dave Clark Five - The Red Balloon

(Columbia, 1968)

Like “Tabatha Twitchit,” “The Red Balloon” is a brassy, semi-psychedelic pop song that doesn’t paint a very convincing picture of the Dave Clark Five as trippy funsters, but it’s both catchy and innocent enough to earn at least tepid praise from these quarters. Clark himself takes the lead vocals on this one, and its colorful, rootin’-tootin’, singalong cheeriness will likely either charm your pants off or annoy you to no end. Fans of, say, “Yellow Submarine” oughta dig it, which I hope paints a picture of what kinda goofy fun we’re dealing with here. Now, I don’t mind “The Red Balloon” too much, but I personally prefer the comparatively gritty psych authenticity of John Fred & His Playboy Band when I’m looking to have my mind blown by some boss sounds. OR… WAIT! I can just flip this single over and listen to the shockingly fiery Creation-lite rocker “Maze of Love”! One of their rawest and best guitar songs! Wow! It’s tragically obscure, though, as it never even came out on an American album.

Which leads us to a big ol’ problem.

Thing is, the DC5 catalog was a total mess by this point. Epic had stopped releasing studio albums in the States after Everybody Knows, whereas Europe kept cranking ’em out, with collections like 5 by 5 (NOT the same record as the America LP with the same title), the dire If Somebody Loves You, and the ultra-elusive Dave Clark and Friends. There are a few cheap import compilation LPs that round up some of the better songs from this period (notably Historia de la Musica Rock and Gigantes del Pop), but it is exceedingly difficult to acquire everything the band did after 1967. To make matters even more frustrating for the present-day fan, our buddy Dave, renowned biznass man that he is, continues to delude himself as to the cash value of his group’s recordings, and so we still haven’t seen ANY of the DC5 albums committed to CD as of 2008 (word has it that he has held out for a price that he just ain’t gonna get from any label). My hope was that there’d be a catalog clean-up and comprehensive reissue campaign after “Jann” Wenner let the band into his sham Hall of Fame earlier this year, but despite some rumor-mill rumblings and a so-so iTunes collection, the record-store shelves remain unburdened by DC5 CDs. Mebbe Davey’s waiting for more group members to die off? Or perhaps he thinks it’s smart to let old age swallow up a nice chunk of his original fanbase before he allows official reissues to come out? What is he thinking at this point? Does he even CARE about his group’s legacy?? Besides losing money for himself and his pals, he’s effectively consigning his band to obscurity by letting the bulk of its catalog remain out of print and largely unavailable for decades. Honestly, the guy just needs to get it together and PUT THE MUSIC OUT THERE AGAIN. Until that in fact happens, I absolutely encourage you – yes, you! — to poke around and buy or download the nifty, carefully-assembled “Complete Collection” bootlegs, because these records, all the way back to Glad All Over, deserve better, deserve to actually be heard. And if that has to be done illegally, so be it.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Dave Clark Five - Everybody Knows

(Polydor, 1977)

Another version of the “Everybody Knows” single, which, for some bizarre reason, Polydor in Germany felt the need to reissue in the late ’70s. But there is at least some value here, as the B-side, “Always Me,” isn’t on any American Dave Clark Five LP. The song isn’t terribly different from “Everybody Knows,” with those strings and choir-of-angels backing vocals, and despite the 1977 copyright date it’s apparent that this Clark/Smith composition also comes from the tail-end of the ’60s. Rarity or not, however, it’s hard to get charged up rather than depressed about further lifeless, flabby balladry. The DC5 is clearly limping its way the end of the creative road with this garbage.

Dave Clark Five - Everybody Knows

(Columbia, 1967)

Why yes, I do own a French copy of “Everybody Knows,” thanks for asking! Same old syrupy dreck on the A-side, but our Gallic friends get the pleasure of experiencing “Tabatha Twitchit” on the flip. It’s a mildly psychedelic attempt at whimsy, an idiosyncratic child’s-eye character sketch of an old lady that’s powered by jaunty horns and the sort of nursery-rhyme melody common to the era’s pop-oriented lysergic-come-latelies. A charming oddity, nothing more. Notable, though, in that neither song is instantly recognizable as the Dave Clark Five, so have fun confounding your friends with this one.

Dave Clark Five - Everybody Knows

(Columbia, 1967)

You might think it’s silly and confusing to issue two different singles called “Everybody Knows” over the course of your career, but Dr. David Clark and his merry foursome happens to disagree. And so we have the release of “Everybody Knows (We’re Through)” a mere three years after “Everybody Knows (I Still Love You)”. While the songs actually have little in common beyond their titles, I do appreciate the false sense of sequel that the parentheticals lend the proceedings… of course, if one really wants to, it can be imagined that the slow, sappy defeatism of the later song is the sound of the lovelorn narrator of the upbeat original, now older and wiser, simply giving up. It’s a treacly bit of heavily-orchestrated melodrama that prefigures fat Elvis, minus the cheap button-pushing dynamism that makes Presley’s bloated hits guilty pleasures. A failure. Things do go better on the B-side, as the thumping garage soul of “Concentration Baby” – with an urgent keyboard part that’s awfully reminiscent of “You Keep Me Hangin’ On” – plays well to the Dave Clark Five’s strengths as an energetic rock ’n’ roll band and shows that the group was making at least tentative steps towards changing with the times. [This is the Danish version of the single; in America, “Inside and Out” appeared as the B.]

Monday, June 2, 2008

Dave Clark Five - You Got What It Takes

(Epic, 1967)

It’s interesting (to me) to note that while many other major groups – the Beatles, Kinks, Rolling Stones, various bubblegum popsters – backed off from their r&b influences in ’66/’67 to explore a self-conscious “Britishness,” the Dave Clark Five delved deeper into a range of American forms – blues, soul, and country/western – on albums like Satisfied With You and the downright weird ’n’ wonderful You Got What it Takes. The crazy-quilt stylistic hodgepodge of the discs the band released during this period suggests that it was more about shooting blindly in all directions for hits than executing any grand artistic masterplan, but there’s plenty to enjoy from this eccentric phase in Clark & co.’s career. The “You Got What it Takes” single is a fine example of such curiosities. Trying out something new, Mike Smith’s hammy, barking vocal is backed by an army of bright horns on this clunky, chunky hunk of white soulpop; the end result is more proto-Blues Brothers than DC5, but it was goofily appealing enough to give the group its last U.S. top ten. “Doctor Rhythm” is another of those “why didn’t they release this three years ago” songs, a streamlined r&b frathouse dancer that rides a great bassline as sax growls underneath. Satisfying, if incongruous. While neither track approaches trainwreck status (“Doctor Rhythm” would even fit nicely on a compilation of early hits), there are certainly a lot of embarrassing and baffling misfires on the surrounding late-era records as the Dave Clark Five tries to find its niche amid marketplace upheaval. Nevertheless, it’s always fun and surprising to hear them stretch out and switch from style to style on these unpredictable discs, and the additional effort it takes to find dusty copies of the LPs and singles from the immediate post-hitmaking period is effort well spent, I’d say.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Dave Clark Five - Try Too Hard

(Epic, 1966)

I’d like to get personal for a moment and let everyone out there know that I’m in love. Truly in love.

With baby food!

Yes, that delightful mush has become a major dietary staple over the last few weeks, and my tastebuds and tummy couldn’t be happier. Whether it’s a single jar for a light breakfast or a midday snack, or a three-jar mix-n-match for a full meal, baby food keeps me going full-speed through my rat-race days and my rock ’n’ roll nights. My favorite flavor so far is Turkey Tetrazzini, though the zesty Ginger Chicken & Veggies is not without its merits. Want something a little more exotic? Try the Carne Asada, which is part of Gerber’s “Recetas Latinas” line. Spicy stuff; you Latin babies really know how to party! The biggest disappointment has surely been the bland Beef Vegetable, but as far as I’m concerned even a great company like Gerber is allowed to swing and miss every once in a while. As long as the overall quality level remains as sky-high as I’ve found it to be, I’ll continue to shell out the big bucks for those tiny jars. Keep up the good work, folks!

So what does all of this have to do with the Dave Clark Five’s “Try Too Hard” / “All Night Long” single? More than you might think. In an industry first, the DC5 sold this 7” as a delicious brownish paste pureed to a consistency that even the littlest mouths could handle when fed by… Hang on. Let me start over.

“Try Too Hard” is yet another pumping, wall-of-beat classic from our five heroes, and while the band’s simply sticking to the formula that made all of its rockers so satisfying going back to ’64, heck, things ain’t broke so there’s no need to fix ’em. Not much to say about this one, just another winner in a string of distinctive, “DC5-sounding” hits. Best of all, though, we get two fast ones this time around, as “All Night Long” is a frenzied beat-group freakout whose only vocals are screams and wordless oh-oh-ohs – a real hot number! Both songs get my official Don’t Hesitate To Play These At Your Next Party (DHTPTAYNP) seal of approval, so don’t hesitate to play these at your next party. Free advice, that. Now get outta here, you knuckleheads!