Thursday, July 31, 2008

Dean and Britta - He's Coming Home

(Chimney Rocks!, 2007)

A pair of Christmas covers from Dean Wareham, Britta Phillips, and Sonic Boom. Meaning: Galaxie 500, Jem, and Spacemen 3 collaborating on a holiday disc?! Yep! And, in a shock to your late-’80s sensibilities, it’s a rootin’-tootin’ family-time success, no joke. These are both some comfortably warm, gather-round-the-hearth marshmallows spiked with enough sleepy psych to avoid all saccharine sap. “He’s Coming Home,” sung by Britta, is a jaunty yet wistful seasonal love song whose reverb-heavy, Wilson-esque production gives it a richness that doesn’t take away from its pleasant breeziness. Future D&B songs should pay mind: a delicate sleepy/interesting balance is successfully struck on this one, and that’s something well worth replicating. I seem to remember “Old Toy Trains” appearing as a limited download several years ago, but it makes its first physical appearance here, and thank whatever for THAT. Wareham croons wonderfully, and Sonic Boom’s familiar sustained keyboard chords crackle throughout. Fantastic! This single is limited to 500, so fuzzhead sentamentalists the world over oughta buy it up now or cry about it on eBay later. Consider that your warning, goof.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Dean and Britta - White Horses

(Sonic Cathedral, 2007)

Dean and Britta jump into the 7” game with two versions of a track from Back Numbers, their most recent LP. Wareham has always come across a sober and wry/pointed grown-up in his music – even back to Galaxie 500 – but his post-Luna work, while occasionally pretty, has become suffocatingly adult to me, de-emphasizing guitars and wrapping itself in polite cocktail-party production and Lee-and-Nancy-isms that are smoothed of any edge. Here, Britta handles vocals on the typically gentle “White Horses,” a comatose lounge-popper that gets tweaked for the single with the substitution of French lyrics. No great shakes. On the other side, Sonic Boom hardly reinvents the wheel with his remix, but he does transform the song from an E-Z listening clunker into something quite nicely toasted, an undulating, echo-laden blissout that’d make for swell pool-floating music. Whereas the original begged to be relegated to background muzak, Sonic’s mix – particularly because of the clatter he adds to the percussion – demands the listener’s attention, even while it soothes the ol’ brain.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Dan Deacon - The Crystal Cat

(Carpark, 2007)

I’ve yet to hear any discographical evidence that proves live isn’t the preferred experience when it comes to Dan Deacon, but this single is a sho-nuff-fine party hit that at least gets within sniffin’ distance of the dude’s true neon-trash-psych hyperactivity. It’s chipmunk vocals and jittery big-bass synth fuckery on “The Crystal Cat,” a dancefloor winner that’s impressively topped by the B-side’s sugar-high videogame hip-hop crunch – yep, a shout-along chorus (+title) of “Totally boner! Eat shit!” will always take the gold. So why don’t you own this? And why haven’t you seen the show? Even a sworn non-dancer like me tapped all tootsies while witnessing the mayhem.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

The Darkside - Lunar Surf

(Bomp!, 1993)

The final Darkside record, and not a very interesting one, I’m afraid… if these are the recordings that the British label refused to release, I can dig their call. Quality control’s a seeming nonissue with these chunky rhythms and big-blah P. Bassman moaning, especially on “Retroglide,” where the band members are either disinterested (drums) or noodling without regard for what anyone else is doing (guitars). “Spacewalk” ain’t bad, a throbbing, bass-heavy instro with radio-tower transmission samples overlayed, but its stoned formlessness is ultimately just another sign that the Darkside was drifting along minus direction and probably doping it up far too much. A dispiriting curtain-closer of a 7”; go back a few years and find the “Waiting For the Angels” EP or the first LP to get a better idea of what they were all about.

After this, Bassman put the group out of its misery and took off to fiddle with electronics in Alphastone, while Sterling Roswell eventually whipped up a shockingly great single called “Girl From Orbit” and a less-great album called The Psychedelic Ubik. Last I heard, a Darkside rarities box was being assembled, though label indifference and beaurocratic wranglings mighta killed that project by now. As is fitting with most Spacemen 3-related matters, said box lets us conclude with some bitchy gossip: In a bit of too-harsh but amusing message board sniping a few years ago, Sonic Boom sneered that such a compilation would be – and I’m cleaning up the grammar here – “an exercise in the meaningless…can’t wait.” Cold.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

The Darkside - Jukebox At Munster's

(Munster, 1992)

All accusations of mediocrity flung at these guys are probably deserved, but I’ve always found the
Darkside’s stuff to be a pretty awright noise, and have yet to kick their discs off my player when there they do appear. This one, a Spanish import, is from late in the game, and the A-side pulls off a lumbering fuzz-thick head-nod that’s much closer to Bassman’s S3 roots than most of the Darkside’s work. Heavy drums, repeato guitars, etc.: very Playing With Fire, plus a little amateur-hour stumblebum sass in the performance to lighten the mood. Sure, ol’ Pete’s got a wince-worthy flat croak for a voice, but the croon isn’t the point here, is it? A goodie. Not the B, though, where “Frankie Teardrop” gets a free-psych cover (with trombone!) that’s boring to the point where it actually makes me want to listen to Suicide. If you’re dumb enough to need more “Frankie” a torturous nine-minute version is on Munster’s Rev/Vega tribute CD.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Cuppa Joe - Archipellago [sic]

(Drive-In, 1997)

…And meanwhile, halfwit
John McCain is a serious candidate for President. Wha?? How?! The guy’s a buffoon and a phony, an elderly tough-talker who couldn’t chest-puff his way out of a rhetorical paper bag. Can this race POSSIBLY be as close as the polls say it is? Will any of you ACTUALLY stand up for a hawkish McCain administration (given how well a hawkish Bush administration has worked out)?? And will anyone ACTUALLY dare to play the “Obama is inexperienced” card after months of bizarre McCain foreign policy gaffes and Republican scrambling that ultimately results in the right trying to co-opt Obama’s positions?! YEESH!! But I’ll give you this: Perhaps you and your fetishized future dead soldiers would rather have a beer in heaven with Bush and McCain than with Kerry and Obama. Well, congrats, morons. You really showed ’em!

And this
single? Shucks. It can’t possibly get me as worked up, cuz it’s just an inoffensive gtr-pop twee moodpiece that goes for nasal rainy-day mopiness in yer standard wimp-pop vein, leaving no real impression either way. Except! The brief violin breaks on “Archipellago” (sic!) give the song the kind of “sure, yeah” emotional resonance that the Rentals achieved every now and then, and that’s, uh, whatever, a nifty feat for a few seconds. But: was the song ever tortured by the Viet Cong? I THINK THAT’S THE REAL QUESTION HERE. Argh. Please wake me when we’re all D-E-D.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Culturcide - A Day At My Job

(Nuf Sed, 1991)

Culturcide was a group of punk weirdos and smarties from Houston which, while often missing the mark with its experiments, at least had IDEAS up the arse that allowed it to break out of the pissed-off-youngster norm to occasionally interesting effect. The Wolf Eyes-endorsed Tacky Souvenirs of Pre-Revolutionary America album – on which the band simply sings over tapes of major hits from the early 1980s – is probably the perfect half-funny, half-obnoxious, mostly-dumb example of the group’s work, but this single (recorded in 1984, released in 1991 on the godly Nuf Sed label) goes beyond that gimmick to show what else the goofs in Culturcide were capable of churning out.

“A Day at My Job,” which sounds like it was recorded live, is noisy social commentary with a decent beat and some OK guitar skree; the lazy, sardonic vocals are the weak link here and hold it back from being a minor knucklehead classic. Split over a side and a half, the delightfully annoying “Mommy and I are One” shows a degree of studio and/or sampler creativity, its looped “check…check…check” providing an introductory beat of sorts to the disturbingly phrased titular sentiment, which repeats endlessly over wisps of non-instrumental field recordings. A jerkoff minimalist’s “Revolution #9,” designed more as piss-take than high-falutin’ art; make of it what you will – Culturcide probably doesn’t care. Absolutely buy the aforementioned LP for yuks and groans, then check this thing out if you absolutely must dig deeper.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Cul De Sac - Doldrums

(Nuf Sed, 1992)

Another Cul de Sac single rescued from the WERS dumpster (total airings listed on the enclosed log-sheet: zero), and again we’ve got ourselves a loopy amalgam of sounds and influences spread over two instrumentals. But while the guitars still play in that surf-derived style heard on “Sakhalin,” there’s a fine overriding dreaminess to “…His Teeth Got Lost in the Mattress…” thanks to the gauzy production and burbling electronics (which seem to be a nod to the 13th Floor Elevators’ electric jug). Flipping the script somewhat and making the disc a gotta-get, “Doldrums” is a roaring psych-out, Can’s hypnotizing rhythm section plus the Creation’s searing guitars – great great great! Comes packaged in a velour cardstock sleeve and is limited to 1,000, with 100 of those signed and numbered.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Cul De Sac - Sakhalin

(Shock, 1992)

An unusual pair o’ instrumentals from these technique-minded oddballs. “Sakhalin” has a surf/spy feel in the bass and guitars, but also features Kraut-y drums and dreamy waves of feedback – an interesting combo that the band pulls off quite nicely. The cleverness continues unabated on “Cant,” whose queasy circus-time synths and little drum-rolls make for a sinister number that oughta be piped into some Bradbury-esque nightmare funhouse. All in all, it’s an intriguing record, but one that clearly didn’t set the world on fire: I own the copy that once belonged to WERS in Boston, and even they, the band’s hometown college station, only gave the B-side a single play before dumping it. Ouch!

And say, isn’t the Savage Pencil drawing on the cover awfully reminiscent of the eyeball-licking that’s going down on the Flaming Lips’ Wastin’ Pigs EP?

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Creeper Lagoon - Vs. The Dead C

(Ratfish, 1995)

Hiya friends, sorry to keep you waiting so long on this Creeper Lagoon review for which I asked you to hold your breaths. Thing is, I was at the Jersey Shore Monday night, and then on Tuesday the MLB All-Star Game electrified me so much that I needed to fall asleep early on the couch. But all of that’s in the past now, because tonight NOTHING will stand between me and this review, not even a thousand bullets or a million bombs. People, no number of catapults or cannons or dangerous armored vehicles will prevent this average-to-good record from spinning. Neither dogs nor horses nor apes nor elephants will tear me from my keyboard. A sea of sharpened sticks a-slicing and a-stabbing? Not a chance! I’ll type with my stumps! OK, now, having spat upon every weapon through history, LET’S GET TO IT!! READY???

…Oh, hey! Hang on. Guess what? This is the first single to be played on my Brand New Record Player – a true honor! Unfortunately, the needle has already been sullied by the vomitous John Cale Comes Alive LP, but I’m confident that better days are ahead for that machine. And for my ears!

Now. Guitars- n vocals-wise, we’re often in loosey-goosey GBV land with Creeper Lagoon, but small touches like simple keyboard parts, doubled vox, and competent harmonies elevate the songs to a certain catchy/goofy level of okey-doke (esp. “August Pascal”). A slow happy one + a slow sad one + a fast one + a sub-sophomoric one = bases COVERED, all in a lo-fi fuzzy pop/rock style that strives to keep it casual. And succeeds, at that, so another apt comparison might be the earlier Home records, pre-XIV. Anyway, here’s an embarrassing but accurate statement: Things don’t come much more “stereotypically ’90s indie” than this sucker. Truth.

And ah, right, one last tidbit. The title’s a joke, so Dead C fans shouldn’t be running through the streets burning and killing in order to find a copy of this 7”. However, if you would really like to determine for yourself whether or not Bruce Russell contributes, I’ll happily sell you mine for a princely sum.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

The Creation - How Does It Feel To Feel

(Hit-Ton, 2005)

Import re-ish of a 1967 German single with a nifty sleeve-pic taken in a gun shop, the boys surrounded by a buncha artillery.
These Brits had a good thing going through most of their career, mucking around as they were at the intersection of mod-pop and psych, and this single (despite the unexciting and un-guitary soul of “If I Stay Too Long” on the B), was as right-on as it ever got. “How Does it Feel to Feel” is a monster, with total power in those drums and rightly-worshipped guitar mania, a crackling power surge that does chunky and watery equally well. Stands tall next to “I Can See For Miles” in the pantheon of great lysergic creepy-crawlies, and it stars on every Creation comp out there, so close your eyes and pick at random.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Cowsills - The Prophecy Of Daniel And John The Divine (Six-Six-Six)

(MGM, 1970)

What was up with MGM in the early ’70s?! As if it wasn’t glorious enough that Coven and Osmonds records bore the distinctive blue and gold labels in those days, here comes “The Prophecy of Daniel and John the Divine,” which is surely the best of ’em all – lord a’mighty, this is an out-and-out CLASSIC from start to finish. We’re talking about the Book of Revelations set to pop music by the Cowsills and a fellow named Remo Capra, done so skillfully and without any obvious concession to the Top 40 marketplace that mouths MUST hang agape whenever this number is first experienced. The arrangement is admirably ambitious, with some Eastern instrumentation, intricate vocal parts, spoken passages, and more distinct musical sections – both dark/doomy and jarringly bouncy – than one normally finds in a 3:37 single. A laudable bit of work, but it’s nevertheless the lyrics that truly carry the song. And buddy, you haven’t lived until you’ve heard these sweet children sing about Babylon and the Mark of the Beast. The massed chants of “six-six-six” throughout the track are astonishing, and when wedded to that dense apocalyptic-psych backing, the total effect makes for perhaps the most chilling pop record I’ve ever heard. Seriously, it’s a masterpiece.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Cows - Woman Inside

(Insipid, 1992)

I have a funny – no, HILARIOUS – feeling that these are the same versions of the songs that appear on Cunning Stunts, but if you have the need to hear them in inferior fidelity on Australian 7” vinyl (and who hasn’t felt that need?), consider this your golden ticket to the land of happiness. Now, these aren’t my favorites from that LP, so let’s get that straight right away. Yeah? Still, they both have that smart blend of rawk nastiness and humor that makes the Cows, even at their average-est, so likeable. Take “Woman Inside,” for example. It’s a pummeling hardcore nightmare that goes from dopey-voiced to anguished, thanks to some funny/clever lyrics: the “woman inside” is AN ACTUAL WOMAN living inside of the screaming and horrified singer! HAW, right? And on the other side of the coin, an unexpected cover of the spaghetti-fave “Theme From Midnight Cowboy” goes for a wobbly-guitared drunk feel that shows the Cows could win even when they weren’t going full throttle; it’s total melodic loveliness. All of which makes a nice single, but there’s just no reason not to get these songs in their larger context – along with rumploads of better tracks! – on the full Cunning Stunts LP.

(Tho I reckon the outrageous prices that that alb goes for these days might be a legit deterrent.)

Cows - Plowed

(Amphetamine Reptile, 1992)

Degenerate scum, this wacky
Cows band! Always fun, always crazy, always goosing the ass of Johnny Expectations and Suzy Goodtaste. In a departure from the teeth-gnashing norm, it’s some disconcertingly dreamy vocals on the A-side’s snappy motorpunker, aside from the mean-ass chorus, which seems to be about…rape?? I suppose?! No such ambiguity on the filthy horn-tootin’ boogie of “In the Mouth,” which clearly concerns the forcible insertion of sumpin into the oral cavity of anyone – shrink, teacher, boss, gal-pal, landlord, you – who has had the fool notion to rub the vocalist wrong. It’s kinda like a swingin’ new take on “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer”! Neither song is as good as the best of tight albums like Sexy Pee Story and Cunning Stunts, but both are exclusive to this single, so sure, why not buy a copy today?

Friday, July 4, 2008

Coven - One Tin Soldier

(MGM, 1973)

Oh MAN I love this record. A fife and drum intro swells into a horn-soaked joyride as this brassy broad with a nice set of pipes belts out an O Henry-style life-lesson concerning peace and cooperation. The whole thing, from the vocals to the trumpets to the drumming to the slight hint of novelty appeal, is full-bodied and spectacular – a perfect single. Just for fun, I prefer to ignore the song’s actual message and focus on the startling “Go ahead and hate your neighbor / Go ahead and cheat a friend” chorus, which is quite dramatic as it blares from the speakers (the evil-sounding Killdozer really nails these lines in their For Ladies Only cover). There are a few versions of this song floating around: the one I own features the full Coven lineup, the other – from the soundtrack of Billy Jack – just the vocalist and an orchestra. The original, for the record, is by Original Caste, and Coven largely remained faithful to that arrangement.

Meanwhile, the twangy, lazy B-side “I Guess it’s a Beautiful Day Today” lets some male vocalists get in on the action and sounds like something Mike Nesmith might have attempted as the Monkees wound down. It’s a fine wisp of a song – the lyrics mostly consist of the title – but it is of course overshadowed completely by the awe-inspiring A-side.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Elvis Costello & The Attractions - I Can't Stand Up For Falling Down

(F-Beat, 1980)

Punchless dreck from the eternally-overrated Elvis Costello. I never understood the love this guy receives from all corners of the universe; I don’t hear any of that alleged cutting wit in his lyrics, and the unremarkable music is glorified pub rock that only occasionally flirts with jagged punkiness. “I Can’t Stand Up For Falling Down” is an especially dull exercise, with shades of the E Street Band in that tootling organ and sleek, jovial bar-band muscle. Mediocre as can be, and the less said about it the better. On the other side, “Girls Talk” seems promising with its rhythmic oomph, but it’s all tease… there’s no payoff in the end. What, if anything, am I missing when it comes to Costello? I’ve heard all of the records on which he built his rep, and aside from the odd single that sounds good coming through a jukebox, I find this snoozer of a 7” to be pretty much representative of his early work. But we can all agree that his late-’80s collaboration with Paul McCartney, “My Brave Face,” is fun, right?