Monday, December 29, 2008

Flipper - Get Away

(Subterranean, 1982)

Remember the time Paul McCartney covered “Mary Had a Little Lamb” and released it as a single? Sure you do! That shit, screamed stunned listeners far and wide, was FUCKED. Well, Flipper’s not about to let Paulie hold a monopoly on all of the world’s zany ideas, so they respond ten years later with their own noize-smear take on “The Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly.” The playing is a loosey-goosey racket, the singing some inspired Dave E-style snottery – whole thing’s like a doped-out Electric Eels. Then, unpredictable as ever, the B-side is the more serious and melodic “Get Away.” With its dense, weirdly distorted guitar and crunchy drums, it should probably be considered a chunk of scuzzpsych rock rather than a “punk” song; in fact, I think the Brian Jonestown Massacre might’ve “borrowed” the first 15 or so seconds of it on one of their early tracks, the scoundrels. Oh, and guess what? There’s nothing happening at work today, so this one’s coming to you STRAIGHT FROM MY OFFICE, THE ROCKIN’EST OFFICE IN TOWN. Now I’m going to make some coffee, some real stickin’-it-to-the-suits coffee.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Flipper - Sex Bomb

(Subterranean, 1981)

The goofy single! The mindnumbingly-repetitious single! The famous single! And why not? “Sex Bomb” is a masterpiece of half-assed, drunk-assed songwriting, with chunky, noisy Flipperisms underneath happy/maniacal whooping and hollering that mainly consists of the line “SHE’S A SEX BOMB, BABY! YEAH!!” over and over. Stupid. And perfect. I actually hear a lot of David Baker’s live style (see: “Very Sleepy Rivers”) in the way Will Shatter grunts and screams here, bending the line to make it sound new each time he lets it loose. And even if the joke gets old after about 60 seconds, the inarticulate hardcore lunk (Bruce Lose) who stammers over the standard-issue thunka-thunka backing of “Brainwash” is extremely funny once or twice. Complete lyrics: “Um… OK, like… see, there’s this… and… but, and then uh… nevermind… forget it… you wouldn’t understand anyway.” Too bad the band decided to loop the same snippet over and over again for six wrist-slit-inducing minutes! OK, OK, it’s also kinda funny that the disc ends with a lockgroove on the final “forget it… you wouldn’t understand” for maximum annoyance.

There appear to be many sleeve variations, most (all?) of them involving simply the “dead fish” logo and band name hand-stamped on white paper in some fashion. Collect ’em all!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Flipper - Ha Ha Ha

(Alternative Tentacles, 1981)

Good ol’ Flipper. This first single gives Joe Listener a good idea of how the band was out to stick a finger up the rump of punk convention from the get-go: It’s slow (relative to their peers), bleak sludgepunk that could perhaps musically be considered an uglified descendent of the VU’s backing on “The Gift.” The horror and disgust of the lyrics, however, are cut with some degree of wiseacre humor, as on the jaded suburban observations and obnoxious laff-riot chorus of “Ha Ha Ha.” Adding a further level of weirdness, tape fuckery abounds on the vocals – speed-ups, extreme reverb, etc. The whole thing’s wasted, lumbering, and unpretty, but at the same time cutting, smart, and funny. Nice fold-out sleeve on this one, too!

The Flipper catalog was finally reissued a few weeks back – a happening that long ran neck and neck with the recent Loop reissues in the “believe it when I see it” sweeps – and this material is included, alongside the other ’80s singles, on the 100% awright Sex Bomb Baby comp.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Flaming Lips - Silent Night/Lord, Can You Hear Me

(Warner Bros., 2008)

Yet more Christmas music from the Flaming Lips, courtesy of this white-vinyl 7” included as a freebie in the limited Christmas On Mars LP. The material included here is more “song-y” than the largely instrumental selections heard on the album; we get a perverse, non-soundtrack medley of a hymn (“Silent Night”) merged with a drug-damaged plea (Spacemen 3’s “Lord Can You Hear Me” – a song the band has been covering off and on since at least the mid-’90s), backed by the mournful “It’s Christmas Time Again.” The latter’s crushing orchestral seriousness and thematic joyfulness sums up the actual film better than any other Mars recording, with the A-side a close second, making it odd that these two songs have been relegated to “bonus single” obscurity. Truly confounding. But worrywart completists need not fret: In keeping with recent form, the band has since made this music available elsewhere as an overpriced picture disc. Uh… great. Keep them wallets open, kids.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Flaming Lips - She Don't Use Jelly (Live)

(Warner Bros., 2007)

A rather pointless vinyl tie-in released alongside the band’s UFOs at the Zoo live DVD. The A-side is, of all things, a perfunctory run-through of “She Don’t Use Jelly” that sounds almost identical to the album version (with the exception of a chaotic climax followed by the stripped-down singalong the Lips have been doing for almost ten years), and the B is a ripping “W.A.N.D.” that, again, is too close to the LP recording to be of much interest. If nothing else, this 7” at least shows how much more exciting the group has become in concert since adding Kliph Scurlock as live drummer; jettisoning the pre-recorded drum tapes has given them considerable punch, even if they do fail to stretch/reimagine their songs as extensively as one might hope.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Flaming Lips - The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song

(Warner Bros., 2006)

While the Flaming Lips never worried about being ridiculous, for decades they at least tried to either challenge the audience or simply make it laugh… and can either of those things honestly be said about the insipid “Yeah Yeah Yeah Song”? Come on. No need to mince words: this is retard-pop. It’s lovely that the band brought the guitars back after two electronics-based albums, but they’re more “bounce” than “crunch” here, and the total package, with the fuzzy political sentiments and embarassing vocal effects, is pure kiddie fare in the worst, most dumbed-down sense. Meanwhile, the excellent “Why Does it End” would have fit quite well on The Soft Bulletin, all thunderous crescendos and bittersweet ruminations as it is – the song’s sophisticated emotional with-it-ness makes “The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song” seem even more pathetic by comparison.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Flaming Lips - Christmas On Mars

(Warner Bros., 2004)

Don’t get too excited. First the Flaming Lips released “Syrtis Major” on one of the U.K. “Do You Realize” singles. Then they paired it with “Protonilus Death March” on a 7” picture disc and sold it as part of an expensive photo-book package through their website. Then they divorced the vinyl from the book and sold the standalone single as a web-only exclusive. Then they renamed both songs (“Space Bible With Volume Lumps” and “The Gleaming Armament of Marching Genitilia,” respectively) and hawked ’em to the public via the Christmas On Mars soundtrack. So pardon me for my muted enthusiasm as I dust this fugger off.

And yet… the music’s not terrible.

Whereas the softball instrumentals on The Soft Bulletin and Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots evoked intergalactic grocery shopping above all else, these two brief songs have a dramatic edginess that does anything but soothe. The mix of chilly, futuristic electronics and more “classical” soundtrack elements create an unsettling, unearthly atmosphere that works well on disc and even better on film when paired with the visuals for which the music was composed. So ultimately, the low-budget, sci-fi psych-out Christmas On Mars DVD is a safe recommendation, the various repackagings of its score significantly less so. Particularly this 7”; avoid chumpdom and don’t bother to lose any sleep or cash over it.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Flaming Lips - Do You Realize??

(Warner Bros., 2002)

Wayne Coyne has recently said in several interviews that “Do You Realize” will probably end up being what the Flaming Lips are best remembered for, and I think that’s a canny (and, coming from a musician, uncharacteristically honest) read on things, as the song is the clearest summation of the blend of Christmas-y optimism and death-acceptance that has colored the band’s work since Clouds Taste Metallic. Production-wise, it also stands as the ultimate late-period Lips/Fridmann song, with rich acoustic guitars a-strummin’, bells a-clangin’, drums a-poundin’, and synth flourishes a-burblin’. Heavenly stuff for sure, and while it does seem to be fairly well-known thanks to its many appearances in TV commercials, it’s surprising that “Do You Realize” didn’t do so well on the charts – it never appeared on Billboard in the U.S., and only made it to 32 in the U.K. Given that the subsequent Yoshimi singles performed better as critics slobbered all over the album throughout the year, it seems a missed opportunity that Warner failed to reissue and re-promote such an accessible song (as Mercury Rev did with “Goddess on a Hiway”).

“Up Above the Daily Hum,” which is on the other side of this fancy picture disc, is a reworking of a song from the Soft Bulletin days (a 1999 radio performance is on the Bulletin 5.1 DVD). The vocal melody in the bridge is extremely nice, but the treacly muzak quality of the electronics/piano-based instrumental track stands as a warning of what bland paths the Flaming Lips could have easily followed from here. While I’m no huge fan of At War With the Mystics, a descent into cosmic alt-Manilow crooning would have been much, much worse.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Flaming Lips - What's The New Mary Jane?

(Warner Bros., 1995)

WB beats the boots (Sorta! Says “Sweet Jesus…It’s the Lords of Love Noise” later re-bootleged these tracks) with this promotional release of two live songs from an October 18, 1994, Flaming Lips show in Minneapolis. It’s the Moles getting the cover treatment on the A-side, as the sonically-intense Coyne-Ivins-Drozd-Jones lineup saws and thunders its way through “What’s the New Mary Jane.” An absolutely psychedelic and gigantic-sounding hunk of music; Ronald Jones’s guitar playing is practically orchestral in its effects-laden weirdness (though Wayne’s singing has sounded far better…). The other side is a shaggy, largely by-the-book garage-band thrashing of “Under Pressure,” which ends with the incredible time-capsule absurdity of Coyne saying, “Thanks a lot everybody. Candlebox is up next.” Yikes.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Flaming Lips - Drug Machine

(Glitterhouse, 1988)

No! No! NO this is not the same version of “Drug Machine” that appears on the unfairly-trashed Telepathic Surgery, so you best get that STRAIGHT. It’s slower, sludgier, druggier, heavier, though with the same frantic helium-gtr solo that makes the doggone thing so spiffy on the LP. Actually, I have a sneaking suspicion (OR IS IT AN EARTH-SHAKING ACCUSATION?!?!) that the 7” is in fact just Wayne singing over a slowed-down instrumental of the album take – anyone out there agree? Either way, AGREE that it’s mighty clever to use the B-side in order to cram-jam the self-consciously evil Sonics (
“Strychnine”) and the self-consciously AWARE Nick Lowe/Elvis Costello (“Peace, Love, and Understanding”) into a seamless, nonsensical medley that musta been all kindsa cool/uncool back in ’88. Whatever. This is a definite pair of dandies, and both are included on Finally the Punk Rockers are Taking Acid, a compilation that’s a shocking, fried-amp wonderland for those youngsters who know the Flaming Lips only as over-earnest orchestro-beards who are so reliant on pre-recorded tapes in concert and ultra-spiff production in the studio that they couldn’t possibly handle “sloppy.” No? Well. Buy the early stuff and hear ’em when they wuz FUN and LOUD!!

Monday, December 8, 2008

The Flame - See The Light

(Brother, 1970)

In 1969, the Beach Boys signed up these South African sharpies and brought ’em over to the U.S. to record for the band’s new Brother label. A Carl Wilson-produced album later, guitarist Blondie Chaplin and drummer Ricky Fataar (a.k.a. Stig O’Hara) would join up with Da Boys themselves and play on the So Tough, Holland, and In Concert records, and this single does a fine job of showing why the flailing Beach Boys would be interested in enlisting such tuff-rockin’ pals in a bid for continued credibility. “See the Light” and “Get Your Mind Made Up” are both a slightly funkier take on the Badfinger success formula, and their hooky, harmony-spanked groove-pop would sit well among the best of albums like Straight Up and No Dice. The Beach Boys had hinted at a similar direction on “It’s About Time” and “Got to Know the Woman,” but the Flame sounds far more effortless and seamless in its stinging boogie here, and it’s fairly clear that the successful rockers of So Tough and Holland – some of which were actually written by the new members – owed plenty to the introduction of Chaplin-Fataar. Unfortunate that excellent songs such as these two end up getting footnoted due to the sexy Wilson connection; a reissue and wider objective (re-) appraisal is in order. Rhino…?

Friday, December 5, 2008

Fe Fi Fo Fums - In The Summertime

(Boom-Boom, 2006)

This one’s more about posture and aggression than stoopid, boozefaced good-timeyness, I think, and it ultimately just ain’t as fine as the first Fe Fi Fo Fums single. Really: Feels like the fun and spontaneity of that earlier 45 has GONE FORMULAIAC this time around, with unexciting, shitty-Ramones style lunk-punk and faux-bankrupt production dominating. Four songs cranked out over two sides, but it’s hard to brush off the sense that more effort went into the “ultra-garage-y” sound than the actual songwriting. A real disappointment, and probably the last record by these fellers you should bother to dig up. BUT SO WHAT!!! BECAUSE OF THIS MUFFLE-HEAVY GARAGE-PUNK/POP PURITY, DUMMY REKKID COLLECTORS OF THE FUTURE WILL GO GA-GA OVER THE FE FI FO FUMS FOR YEARS TO COME – GUARANTEED!! – SO BUY ’EM UP NOW, EACH AND EVERY ONE. NO KIDDIN, NO JOKE! MAKE YOUR ZILLIONS TODAY!! Solid investment info like that should earn me some tithing down the road, yeh?

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Fe Fi Fo Fums - Electrofize Me

(Boom-Boom, 2004)

Absolute party trash from defunct Northwest-U.S. Pebbles-luvers! The usual: A swingin’ stomper for delinquents that sounds like it was recorded on an underwater boombox. While drunk. Song’s nothing but boss (w/ hot solo!), though, so no gripes allowed, even if “Wild One” kinda disappointingly fast-forwards a decade to do it Cleveland-style. Far worse crimes have been perpetrated. But! Both of these rockin’ cheezeburgers are on the band’s Shake All Night LP, so think things over carefully before writing out that Postal Money Order – the album’s definitely a better deal. But BUT! This particular pressing (2nd?) of the single does score big for having three different covers – representing the three members of the Fums, see – each limited to a ridiculous 33 copies. The choice is yours, gentle spender.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Feelies - Everybody's Got Something To Hide (Except Me And My Monkey)

(Stiff, 1980)

I’m not quite sure why Stiff chose “Everybody’s Got Something To Hide (Except Me and My Monkey)” as the single from Crazy Rhythms… maybe there was hope that the novelty appeal of such an unusual cover selection would sell a few copies? No idea. Anyway, the Feelies replace the Beatles’ aggressive clang with nervous jitter here, but there’s definitely some AOK muscle behind the wisely-emphasized drumming. While totally inconsequential, it’s a fast, fun version of a rarely-covered Lennon toss-off. The more serious “Original Love” is similar in feel, with some nice Velvets-style guitar playing and deep vocals that make the whole thing oddly reminiscent of early Dream Syndicate. Just… geekier. Listening to this stuff after a few years of experiencing the bands in the extended NYC Cake Shop family, there’s no denying that the herky-jerky college-rockers of yesterday and today owe a heapin’ helpin’ of thankya to these goofs. Kiss their tennis shoes, fellas.