Monday, March 30, 2009

Hall And Oates - Method Of Modern Love

(RCA, 1984)

You’ve gotta be a pretty sad chump to get your jollies ragging on Hall and Oates in 2009, but it’s impossible not to pile on when faced with ghastly, Pride Of The ’80s™ productions like “Method of Modern Love.” Whatever amusement one derives from noting the chorus’s influence on a Wu Tang Clan track (the sung-spoken “M-E-T-H-O-D”) is soon crushed under the weight of Hall’s oversinging and the garish, synth- and drum-machine-packed arrangement – the whole thing comes off like a cruise-ship band with a wrongheaded understanding of early hip-hop and an unlimited budget run amok in the studio. Terrible. Dudes were taking chances with their sound, yes, but this baffling, annoying single is prime evidence that some chances AREN’T WORTH TAKING. The silver lining is that the 7” at least has the decency to chop two minutes off the LP version’s runtime.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Half Japanese - Postcard

(Erl, 1992)

Jad Fair’s trembling, nasal yawpings, of course, dominate this sweaty 1992 live recording, a disc unremarkable other than for the fact that it’s interesting to hear how bluesy and rootsy the oft-cute ’n’ weird Half Japanese can sometimes be. The lineup here is competent in a ragged, bar-groop sense, blorting out two consecutive versions of “Postcard” (one fast, one slow), a rocking “Oh Colleen,” and the noise-squiggle blooze of “Rocking Chair,” all of which dials down the self-conscious silliness/amateurism while maintaining an anything-goes, rehearsal-quality looseness. But the best track, and the actual reason anyone should bother finding this record, is definitely the piledriving “Round and Round” cover, which is a swell marriage of Chuck Berry and Sonic Youth that pounds along with heavy, downstroke speaker-crunch before falling apart entirely.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Guided By Voices - Plantations Of Pale Pink

(Matador, 1996)

My knowledge of Guided By Voices – one of the two or three loudest bands I’ve ever seen live, by the way – is limited enough relative to the die-hard legions out there that any attempts at serious commentary on ’em by me is a fool’s game that I won’t play. Instead I’ll just spinny-spin this 7” and report real honest-like on what I hear. Meaning: Winning melodies, dirty production, short songs (three on each side!); a fun collection of 4-track orphans that rock nicely with a slightly psychedelic edge. I happen to enjoy the unfinished, demo-like, throw-shit-at-the-wall-and-see-what-sticks feel of GBV records such as this, even if it does mean that potential champ-songs like “Systems Crash” run for about half the length I might prefer. And let’s stop and recognize that every Elephant 6 band that ever existed would’ve certainly sold its soul at a discount to record something as effortlessly trippy and primitive as “Subtle Gear Shifting.” Yep: As far as castaways go, these six tracks are gold.

Interested parties should note that the contents of this EP eventually ended up on disc two of Matador’s Hardcore UFOs box set.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Guaranteed Ugly - The Ugly Ones

(Sympathy For The Record Industry, 1995)

The Guaranteed Ugly – featuring Natty “Mr. Ugly” Brooker – is the most obscure and least likely of all Spacemen 3 spinoffs, a garage-stomp nastyparty that careens in a way that few English “rock” bands are able to manage, enamored with posturing over sound as our Brit-buddies typically are. Cuz instead of focusing on haircuts and press, the Guaranteed Ugly is all shouty, anonymous, fuzzfuck in-the-red-isms that manage to sound effortlessly and legitimately like mid-’60s USA teen freakout, minus any cheap winks and condescension. Amazing throat-shred vocals, hot guitars, pounding toms, crackling organ, brief runtimes, Billy Childish production… it’s all here, DUM as you want it to be and FUN as it needs to be. Perfect shitpop. Tastemakers should push these guys HARD and gain ’em the attention they deserve, a decade after the fact or not. And note ye well that A-side “The Ugly Ones” is far dirtier and screwed on this 7” than it is on the otherwise crackin’ It’s an Ugly! Ugly! World CD. Blown OUT! Yum – hotcha!

So anyway.

Yeah. Today I am sick. I slept on a friend’s couch last night, and I suspect that his cat, Charlie, trod upon my prone being as I snoozed, shedding his fur all over me. So I’ve spent the morning and afternoon sneezing, coughing, and rubbing my swollen eyes, experiencing ever-increasing discomfort in all of my face-holes. Why can’t all cats simply devote themselves to hilarity the way Garfield has?? Seriously, guys: Cut it out with the allergen nonsense and focus instead on joking about your species-wide hatred of Mondays. And lasagna? Hey, I love it too! There’s a compromise to be had, maybe.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Growing - Dry Drunk On Woman

(Nail In The Coffin/Megablade, 2002)

IDEA: Cop drama that revolves around a forensic detective who solves crimes by licking evidence. No need to ever explain quite how that works, it’ll primarily serve as a vehicle for a few straightfaced gross-out gags per episode where the guy licks a footprint or a wound or a corpse and then offers his theories on what went down. My working title is “Taste of Justice,” but I’d be willing to consider something more literal, like “The Cop Who Licks Things,” or “Detective Tongue of New York City.” Look for it soon! On the TV!

“Dry Drunk On Woman,” the A-side of the first Growing release (a limited edition in an embossed sleeve, though a CDR reproduction has since appeared), might surprise the Kranky fans out there with its ploddingly sproingy melody and moaned vocals, all of which sounds a lot more like some nightmarish mantra than the dreamy/noisy, carefully-paced music on Soul of the Rainbow and the Harmony of Light (NOTE: COULD THIS BE DETECTIVE TONGUE’S FIRST MYSTERY???). Not the band I thought I knew; heck, I accidentally played the song at 45 RPM and deemed it an ultra-grim Animal Collective, the Froot Loops that fuel that band’s kangaroo-bounce replaced here by painkillers and booze. A curiosity at both speeds! “Residual Effects of Inertia II,” which is half droning hum, half menacing scrape – the midpoint between Experimental Audio Research and Tony Conrad, perhaps – is closer to the more familiar Growing sound of years to come, but not nearly as loud and not nearly as enveloping an aural experience. Look, all first-record “finding their feet” considerations aside, as every crumb-bum in the nerdiverse has observed at one time or another, the 7” just isn’t the best format for slow-building, patience-rewarding bands of this sort – full LP sides are where it’s at for such folks.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Grimble Grumble - Senseless

(Audio Information Phenomena, 1999)

Two dark, atmospheric tracks that maintain the Floydian creepiness of the first single while tilting more towards the then-ongoing Burnt Hair /
Mind Expansion school of slow, stoned prettiness. The female vocals on both songs invite the obvious Windy & Carl comparison (and that band in fact gets a prominent hat-tip in the liners of the first Grimble Grumble album), but thanks to elements like the rising tide of feedback in “Senseless,” or the very Slowdive-esque drone of “Left Out,” there’s a meatiness here that’s not often present in the drift-away quietude of most Windy & Carl records. Worth a listen.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Grimble Grumble - Fucked In The Head

(Amberley, 1998)

Another of the previous decade’s great, forgotten spacerock bands, the ever-active/inactive Grimble Grumble released only a handful of arcane singles and albums over the years, but every recording was – and is! – worthy of dedicated bin-burrowing, especially if one has the slightest interest in the likes of fellow Terrastock alums Azusa Plane and Flying Saucer Attack. A tape-saturating ebb and flow shared with the better, semi-ambient-minded psych groups of the ’90s – here performed with guitars, keys, bass, and drums – drenches the entire disc, making the music “floaty” in a non-shoegaze Slowdive sense, while still LOUD in a non-shoegaze My Bloody Valentine sense. And howzabout more comparisons? OK!! “Fucked in the Head” is echo-blasted instrumental hypno-psych that nestles itself between Tortoise and late-’60s Pink Floyd, and the oceanic “Return,” with its swelling crescendos, sounds like a more acid-soaked early Spiritualized. Nothing wrong with any of that, yeh? Indeed: this is an extremely nice record, and, released on a hopelessly obscure British label (which later happened to earn the lasting enmity – scroll down to “Scituate Loves Dear Alan Sheppeck” – of the Swirlies) one that is sadly difficult to find. Compile this stuff, bandpeople!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Grenadine - Don't Forget The Halo

(TeenBeat/Simple Machines, 1993)

Unable to get myself worked up about the Grenadine catalog, I’ve been avoiding thinking and writing about this single since Sunday. It’s been a while since I’ve cared so little, pro or con, about a band, and such ambivalence makes reviewing – even lazy, poorly-written reviewing like mine – a real drag. But now, after a nap, some “Best Show on WFMU,” some World Baseball Classic, a series of push-ups, and a heavy sigh, it’s time for me to quit crying and get it over with. Because enough, as they say, is enough. Gotta forge ahead. So here goes. Grenadine. Without passion.

As on previous single “Triology,” Toomey’s vocal showcase – “Don’t Forget the Halo” – is a gentle and sparsely-arranged snooze; this otherwise dull, meandering song has several sections during which Rob Christiansen appears on shuffling drums, and these bits at least generate mild indie-genealogical interest for me in how much they have in common with early American Analog Set, both in terms of the metronomic percussion and the chiming guitars. Non-historians can pass, however… overall, nuttin too splendid to dig here. On the B, “777” is noteworthy as the best of the four – count ’em! – Grenadine tracks I’ve heard, a multi-part, tempo-shifting instrumental that builds to a furious finish thanks to some intense, brush-wielding drumming by group MVP Christiansen. And, again, the guitar sonics impress. So yes, if the band’s two albums are filled with weird, codeine-laced pop-prog like “777” rather than the A-side’s bargain-bin background music, I’ll confess that I can actually imagine a world in which I find myself giving a shit about these kooks. Otherwise, I’ll just go ahead and live out my days in blissful ignorance of the remainder of Grenadine’s output. How should I play this one?

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Grenadine - Triology

(TeenBeat/Simple Machines, 1992)

Grenadine is Mark Robinson from Unrest and Jenny Toomey from Tsunami, an early-’90s, DC-area super-team-up of a coupla the biggest names in a scene that I’ll freely admit I have never been all that into. Which means I can’t do too much as far as contexualizing, no professorial and informative relating of this material back to what Robinson and Toomey were up to in their respective “day job” groups – I’m a DC-dummy by choice, sorry. What I can do, however, is cheerfully and uselessly report the fact that both members get equal time on this drum-free single, with Toomey helming “Fillings” and Robinson taking the lead on “Gillan.” The latter is the better song, as Robinson layers rich guitar strumming and multiple, intricate vocal tracks atop each other to hypnotic, vaguely Eastern effect. Outstandin’! Far less interesting is “Fillings,” a skeletal weepy that does nothing for me until the final minute or so, when the pace quickens and another guitar joins the party; still, I can do pretty well without it in my life. Sure. OK. Fine. Ha. But forget all this. Let’s switch gears and focus on the ever-sexy present, as in: have you heard the spectactularly awful new Chris Cornell record? Because you oughta! It’s a mindblower! Pure money-grab lunacy from the truest of hacks! Yikes!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Dan Green - The Dan Green Collection, 1968

(Double Agent, 1997)

A 2x7” collection of assembly-line pimple-pop demos cranked out through 1968, these youngfolk-oriented songs – all written by Dan Green – straddle a divider between the historically (stereotypically?) cleaved “early” and “late” ’60s sensibilities. The maudlin lovey-doviness of “Moonflower” and “I Pledge Allegiance” sound hopelessly dated, terminally unhip and regressive doo-wop hangovers both, but the fuzz-rockin’ “MacDougal Street Freak Out” and heartfelt acoustic realism of “Turn to Me” show that Green not only knew which way the commercial winds were blowing, but also knew how to construct a reasonably cynicism-free pop ditty when the occasion arose. Lookit, if Billy Nicholls has found critical luv for his late-decade work (while having recorded with a much bigger budget), there’s no reason why Green, based on the two stronger songs here, can’t at least garner minimal respect from the same fanbase… these tracks are of similar inspiration and similar quality when compared to Nicholls’. Superstardom is in no way evident, but structural and sonic soundness are, and I don’t doubt that fatboy collector pigs would be climbing all over each other at the record fair for a “MacDougal Street Freak Out” / “Turn to Me” 7” had it been quietly issued on an indie 40 years ago. Nice for non-freaks to know, then, that both songs are available on this cheapo 1997 edition, and nicer still to know that the set was released by Green’s son Peter, in what might be the kindest son-to-father gesture I’ve yet come across in the vinyl world. Much as I hate to let sentimentality sway my judgment too much, it’d truly hafta be a cold-hearted – but also dead-eared – bastard who’d knock such a package, both in terms of rec-label intent and actual sonic content.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Grayson Lane - If The Stars Aren't Enough

(Drive-In, 1999)

As far as I can tell, this is the only record released by Grayson Lane, a near-comatose five-piece with a similar lineup to a livelier band called Slumber (as heard on the entertaining Sounds From Psychedelphia time capsule comp). “Memory Man” emulates the sleepiest moments of Yo La Tengo’s career to decent effect, with occasional swells of distorted guitar and decent gal-guy vox, but then it’s full steam ahead with the boredom on side B, where we get a pair of barely-there, voice-and-acoustic, candlelight clunkers. Extra crybaby demerits assessed for including a Nick Drake cover (“Hanging on a Star”). No doubt that this is an easily-forgotten mediocrity; if there’s more Grayson Lane in the bins out there, I ain’t buying.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Grasshopper & The Golden Crickets - Silver Balloons

(Beggars Banquet, 1998)

Recorded during Mercury Rev’s quasi-breakup after See You on the Other Side, Grasshopper’s solo record essentially sounds like a disjointed vomiting forth of all of the ideas the band had toyed with up through that point – noisy freakouts, dreamy fuzzcrunch, jazzy mothball-pop, relatively straightforward “Something For Joey”-esque alt constructions, and even some evidence of an interest in mid-’90s electronica (a questionable road that was also walked by Jonathan Donahue around the same time – check the outtake “Serpentine,” his cover of “Bring in the Year 2000,” and his work with the Chemical Brothers). While not quite the missing link between early Mercury Rev and the band’s Deserter’s Songs reboot, it’s a pleasant enough album that demonstrates the breadth of Grasshopper’s interests while remaining tethered to the M Rev porch thanks to Suzanne Thorpe’s familiar flute. “Silver Balloons,” the keep-it-simple single, is the LP’s only real contender for radio play, its spaced-out, rudimentary keyboard and looped drums sounding like Spectrum meets Ultra Vivid Scene – fine, disposable candy for anyone who bumps rumps to either of those groups, and certainly better than the likes of “Hudson Line.” The B-sides are the worthless, sound-manipulating, non-song buzz of “The Solar Powered Hornet Beyond the Shadows of Overlook Mountain” and a demo of “Silver Balloons,” which, by subtracting the drums and adding both an electronic pulse and further keyboard burbling, tips it almost completely into the Spectrum-derived category. Must say, I wouldn’t mind seeing Sonic Boom attempt a cover of that song one of these days; he'd likely do it up real nice.

And: I’ve always been tickled that, whether intentionally or not, the cover photo is strangely reminiscent of that of Donahue on the cover of Deserter’s Songs, which was released around the same time. What’s the deal there? Is there one??

Monday, March 9, 2009

Grandaddy - Elevate Myself

(V2, 2006)

This is a night for high horses, people, because after nearly three years of procrastination I have finally gotten around to sorting and alphabetizing my many, many loose 7”s. No more will I buy second copies of singles, erroneously thinking I don’t already own them. No more will I live the shame of April 16, 2008, when I skipped over a Captain Kangaroo 45 because it was stashed in a forgotten pile somewhere, thus jumping from a review of Camphor to a review of the Carbonas – like an idiot. No more will I wonder how many different editions of “Hi Hi Hi” b/w “C Moon” I possess (six, unless there are more in my office). Hooray and so forth!

In celebration, I’ll think first about the brief B-side of this single, which is appropriately (FOR ME) titled “Winners!” As the last song on the last-ever Grandaddy release, it’s amusing in its conspicuously angry, tuff-guitar fuckoffitude (harkening back somewhat to earlier records), but Grandaddy was far better at doing ‘sad’ than ‘aggressive,’ so whatever satisfaction there is here comes more from naughty giggles at the song’s status as a semi-effective middle-finger of a goodbye than as an actual listening experience. Is potentially good for beerblasts, at least. Main attraction “Elevate Myself,” offa Just Like the Fambly Cat, is more of the same ol’ tech-freaked curmudgeonliness that the group’d been mining for the past three albums, very much in the spiritual vein of (though poppier than) previous uptempo A-sides like “Crystal Lake” and “El Caminos in the West”… both of which – hey!! – I happen to enjoy. Lookit, I can’t say that Grandaddy ever progressed too far after the musical polevault that was The Sophtware Slump, but the band did maintain an always-high-qual and sweetly melancholic synth-daubed pop that consistently topped contempo-chums like Sparklehorse and those loathsome Eels. There’s a rich, ELO-esque sheen to their later work, and both The Sophtware Slump and Sumday sound like the shoulda-existed musical bridges between the lush sugarfix of The Soft Bulletin and the digital oddness of Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots. A comp is definitely in order down the road. Fellas don’t get the respect they deserve, so won’t YOU be the one to take the first steps toward providing it?

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Golding Institute - Sounds Of The International Airport Restrooms

(Planet Pimp, 1998)

A warm March Saturday is a day to make it CLEAN. CLEAN of tooth (minty), CLEAN of hair (luscious locks currently drying), CLEAN of threads (just back from laundromat), CLEAN of mind (Bible), CLEAN of dwelling (broom, etc.). So it’s fitting that this Golding Institute record comes with a free sanitary toilet-seat cover – CLEAN of cheek. Ryan Kerr and his team – a female and a slow-witted male co-host – are back to explore further exotic locales through field recordings, and this time it’s “The Sounds of the International Airport Restrooms,” with visits to the potties of Hawaii, South Korea, Indonesia, Singapore, Los Angeles, New Zealand, and Australia. Hilariously earnest narrations that casually mix touristy local color with unpleasant topics (venereal disease, human rights abuses) introduce the Institute’s ludicrous real-world tapes. We hear urine splashing, feces plopping, toilets flushing, throats clearing, and horrible bursts of tape distortion. The formula is similar to earlier Golding releases, but this one is funnier, more disturbing, and better executed than the two that precede it. It would also be the last Golding Institute record until 2006, when the ASTOUNDING Final Relaxation came out on Ipecac and promptly blew the rest of the catalog right outta the water. Billed as “your ticket to death through hypnotic suggestion” and “the most unusual album ever sold,” Final Relaxation is a lead pipe to the kneecaps of your comedy-expectations, and MUST BE BOUGHT NOW.


Or: NOW!

Asshole slowguy: THEN!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Golding Institute - Sounds Of The San Francisco Adult Bookstores

(Planet Pimp, 1997)

With the Golding Institute series, Gregg Turkington gets to indulge his trash-record fetish with parodies of the bizarre spoken-word albums that clog America’s dustiest thrift store bins. “Sounds of the San Francisco Adult Bookstores,” like its two companion 7”s, takes on the world of documentary recordings in the painfully awkward – and funny! – fashion of most of Turkington’s work, with poor sound quality, strange pacing, and a straight-faced adherence to the conventions of the genre that’s strong enough to avoid betraying any overt wink to an unsuspecting listener. Boring tapes ostensibly recorded within adult bookstores – unidentifiable bumps and rustlings, a clerk making an inane phone call, nails being hammered, muffled conversation – are presented as titillating aural glimpses into the world of pornography by narrator “Ryan Kerr” (who also appears on the first Neil Hamburger single). The chasm between the naughtiness of the subject material and the mundanity of the actual field recordings makes for a disc cram-jammed with depressing absurdity. Sample narration: “What’s that vacuum cleaner doing? Wouldn’t you like to know, you dirty-minded bird.” It doesn’t get much more obscure than this in the Turkington discography, true, but laff-pals of conceptually solid Hamburger records like America’s Funnyman and Great Moments at Di Presa’s Pizza House oughta get a kick or two out of the Golding releases, all of which are truly proud achievements in the annals of dollar-bin fandom.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Go-Betweens - Was There Anything I Could Do?

(Mushroom, 1988)

Based on what little Go-Betweens I’ve heard in my life, I’m something of a prickish heretic in my bored dismissal of the group. And maybe such dismissal is unfair of me, especially since this 7” is from the last album they released before breaking up (for the first time), and by that time they’d already had about a full decade in which to get lousy. So can the legions of fankids tell me whether “Was There Anything I Could Do” is representative or not? O please lemme know, dear people. Because what I hear is sad-guy acoustic strummery done in a fashion speedy, with big-cheese string-sawin’ choruses, and an awful fiddle solo dropped into the middle… all with production values sleek enough to make dud Aussie-buds the Church drool. Yeecch. B-side “Rock and Roll Friend” isn’t on the album (16 Lovers Lane), but it IS on my stereo right now, and I wish it’d get right the dickens off and take its midtempo, 1980s-CMJ-for-crybabies stylings with it. Boo! Boo to this record! Back into the box you go!

Monday, March 2, 2009

Gerbils - Glue

(Hidden Agenda, 1997)

Again: the Gerbils. Again: not bad. “Glue” is a nasal, wussyboy take on mid-period Brian Jonestown Massacre (especially in those psychedelic guitars), while “Is She Fiona” matches the quality blown-out fuzzpop of the early Olivia Tremor Control 7”s. Slower tempos and trippier moods seem to suit the Gerbils better than breakneck boppery, leading to what’s definitely a stronger record than the “Grin” disc, and it’s currently available for less than a buck from Parasol. Still, both releases are included in full on the subsequent Are You Sleepy album, diminishing (eliminating?) the need for ownership of either single. Sorry, hoss.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Gerbils - Grin

(Spare Me, 1996)

After a poorly-planned and semi-disastrous (well, not for me; I wasn’t the one who got suckerpunched in the face) trip to Boston for a concert, it’s swell to return home and find New York City, which was balmy on Friday, in the middle of having a foot of snow dumped atop it. Tomorrow’s commute will be ugly, but luckily I was completely underdressed while visiting the nippy north, and I’m hoping that the cold I caught will soon be my ticket to sick-day paradise. Not only do I have stacks of DVDs and books that need my time, I should, primarily, be doing a better job of making my way through all the bizarre Richard Harris LPs that have been clogging my mailbox – a daunting task that requires at least a full day. Wrapping one’s head around the Gerbils, however, requires far less brainpower than the dissection of those brain-melting Harris epics, so tonight I’ll turn my busride-deadened attention to this 7” before worrying about tomorrow’s work.

The Gerbils slot easily into the larger Elephant 6 universe, cranking out the charged fuzzpop that the Apples in Stereo and Elf Power were also playing at the time; there are definitely no musical surprises here for anyone who’s heard any early E6 records. Nothing so wrong with that, of course, but unfortunately, “Grin” features an annoying carnival-barker backing vocal that does its best to ruin what would otherwise be some above-average, woozy, bedroom twee: you know that wacky vocal track that echoes Ringo in the final verse of “Yellow Submarine”? Imagine that, much louder, running through the entire song, and you’ve got a good idea of what derails “Grin.” On the other side, the energetic “Crayon Box” begs for an Elf Power comparison, though it does gain distinction for including the rather unfathomable line, “You know that Portastatic is still my favorite band.” Really?! Hear it and believe it. The guy bold enough to give voice to such an admission, Scott Spillane, also played horns for Olivia Tremor Control and Neutral Milk Hotel over the years, and while those bands were both miles ahead of the Gerbils in terms of ambition and execution, Spillane’s group – on the two singles I own, at least – was a charmingly modest, below-the-radar pop project that oughta make genre freaks pretty happy. Consider ’em the, I dunno, light-hitting, slick-fielding utility man on the Elephant 6 baseball team… never flashy, sometimes frustrating, but generally solid.