Wednesday, March 29, 2006

They sing the news so you don't have to

Topical ditties in doggerel from The Aural Times, including a barbersop quartet about Isaac Hayes's departure from South Park and a lovely triffle about Stanislaw Lem.
Look it up, folks.
Similar, but with better musical sense, to Songs to Wear Pants To.

Friday, March 24, 2006

I stumbled on to it it it it it it it it it...

Some of you may know that I'm an inveterate dope smoker. Which is OK, but too much dope smokin' music tends to be pretty fucking boring (jam bands, I'm looking at you).
But... A good dub out does everyone good. Check out Hearwax for some amazing dub sides. Yeah, it's another one of those intermittently updated rapidshare blogs, but his Perry A to Z is a tight mix, and he's got good taste.
So get on already!

Wednesday, March 22, 2006


I got this promo from the band The Destroyed, who were a punk band in Boston that reformed. The new album's pretty worthless, as it's guitar/drums/vocals (no bass) freeform jam sorta crap. Occassionally, it gets interesting in an antimusic way, and the drummer really does sound like a drunk Keith Moon (though arguably no records exist today with a sober Keith Moon).

But by digging at their site, I found a couple of really great old chaotic punk tracks. I particularly enjoy We Got It and War Planes.
There's also kinda noisey electronic/new wave My Dad is Dead with Anti-Socialist.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Bringin' Back that ol' Hardcore Rap

Cloak N Dagga— Def Con Zero: The Last Tour On Earth (Head Trauma, 2005)

Canibus, one half of Cloak N Dagga, might best be remembered as the also-ran MC who dissed LL Cool J with “Second Round K.O.,” which LL answered with “The Ripper Strikes Back,” way back in 1998. He’s done more since then, but Canibus has failed to make any music worth owning after going down as one of the first rappers to have their solo debut ruined by a post-Fugees Wyclef.
With that being the last noteworthy blip in his career, it’s fitting that Def Con Zero starts with a loudspeaker announcing the rules for existence in a post-apocalyptic bomb shelter. Those three diktats, that the sex in the shelter is for procreation only, that no rhymes from outside their jurisdiction will be recognized, and that it’s “not about who sells the most albums, but who sells the last album” explain all of Def Con Zero.
First off, while there are occasional tracks that celebrate the pimpin’ proficiency of our protagonists ancillarily, this is a strictly hardcore album with the blunt, flat beats and compressed cymbal hits that requires. This album is not for cruising strip clubs so much as strip malls and looking hard. Occasionally exhilarating, rarely exciting.
Second, while there are undeniably good moments in rhyme (“I’m the walkin’, talkin’ Stephen Hawkins”), there’s no doubt that the lyrics are dated. On the last track, there’s even another dis on LL. By refusing to recognize rhymes from outside, Cloak N Dagga handily insulate themselves from both being called out and having to justify their fairly monotonous flow.
Which brings us to the third point— there doesn’t seem to be any forward motion on Def Con Zero. There’s a lot of hardcore posturing, some deft boasting, and that’s about it. The theory seems to be that by remaining unchanged, they’ll sell the last album and thereby vindicate their long sojourn in the bunker.
Too bad that by remaining sequestered, they’re only likely to sell those albums to each other.

Monday, March 13, 2006

The High Strung

Part of what I like about the '70s in rock is that there's this great sense of future and purpose in the music of bands like Big Star and Mott The Hoople. Even at the downturns, even when the girls are September, even when hangin' out is a chore, there's this sense of motion forward. Perhaps it's because there's such longing, and any longing you have has to be connected with a future, possible or impossible. But how can All The Young Dudes promise anything other than a better future?

There's enough of a connection between The High Strung and '70s power pop that when I first started listening to the album Moxie Bravo, I thought of all of the places that I loved '70s rock, the places where it fit and comforted. And I kept thinking of places like the long drive down Washtenaw, out of Ypsi, back to Ann Arbor, where at night it's an endless spread of chrome dealerships under halogen, where everything is blue-lit and harsh. I think back to working in restaurants, and turning on the classic rock radio as I drove home, and how it was always a call to get the hell out.

What makes this work is the immaculate sense of flourish over fundamentally good structures— the drum roll that runs alongside the verses in "Seems it's One Thing" gives singer Josh Malerman the room to create a long-suffering character without feeling like you're suffering through a message set to music. Their predecessors in power pop should be known for this too, especially one that gets too much ink for the wrong reasons. Malerman can hit an alto that's not too far away from Jack White's, and Jack should probably be better known for his fantastic pop chops than his blues vamping, but we'll leave that aside. (We'll also leave aside how much of a kiss of death it can be here in Southeastern Michigan to invoke White in any comparison). Still, for the traditional X-meets-Y of rock reviews, you could do worse than "Pop Jack White" and "Big Star."

This isn't to discount the rest of the band. Malerman's a major factor, but one of the High Strung's strengths is their economy. In this post-Arcade Fire world of indie rock, I see bands like the Descent of the Holy Ghost Church and Canada (on the indie rock tip, Coke Dick Motorcycle Awesome on the pop metal tip) with enough members to staff a White Castle up on stage, but without the ability to write a single decent melody line for any of them. There's this belief that by mass of numbers, somehow an interesting song can be clumped together out of shifting dynamics. Instead, the High Strung are a trio, and a robust trio at that. Derek Berk's drumming is a high point of "Seems It's One Thing," with thunderous rolls like hilly giants falling down a flight of stairs. And having a bassist in Chad Stocker who's able to both play unobtrusive rhythm and provide a hook as thick as Rocky's forearm. Mallerman trust the rhythm section enough to give them the space to make a great song.

And more than anything, the virtue of Moxie Bravo is that it's infectious. I couldn't get to sleep last night because I had "A Real Mealticket" stuck in my head. It was three, maybe four in the morning before I finally dozed off. With great power pop comes great responsibility?

Anyway, there are three mp3s up on their site, the aforementioned mealticket, "N over C," a glammy single that's about the middle of their album quality wise, and "Truce," which is really about as influence-laden as they get. It's vaguely a shame that they're not putting some of my favorites up for free (like "Deck The Boy" which is going on every mixtape I make for the next year or so), but in contrast to my general demeanor, I'd like you to buy the goddamned album, you yobbos.

Anyway, I know that I get about 12 readers a day. About half of those should be random googlers who I frustrate by taking songs down even as I remain the top google hit. The rest of you? Well, take a listen. I really like this band. Would it kill you to comment?

Friday, March 10, 2006

From the google-ad gutter

Man, this is an example in how not to make a music site.
Not only is the color hideous, but the mission statement is long and convoluted (and you should be able to tell what the mission of a site is without having to read a goddamned statement), the links a poorly-rendered (here's a hint- if it says mp3 link, I don't want a .asf file asking me how to open it), and the overall thrust of the site is too broad. It's lovely to dream of changing all of the music industry, but I'd rather read a well-written niche site than one that's trying to do everything and succeeding at nothing.

(There were a couple of decent songs there though).

Which one of the Osmonds was a little bit country?

When I was a kid, I remember with a little bit of shame, I hated country music. I, frankly, blame my mother. Well, and society. I had this image of country music as something backwards and retarded, something that would somehow make me physically inbred just by playing it. If I wasn't ever vigilant, I'd end up sodomized on some rafting trip yet enjoying it. Anyway, in those days I was all about industrial music anyway, even to the point of refering to myself as a "rivethead."

Right. Well, I'm glad I got over both of those preoccupations. The country thing might have had something to do with Billy Ray Cyrus and Garth Brooks, or with my mom's combination of strong opinions and narrow taste, but I was an ass, and I've grown out of it (well, with regards to country, anyway).

With that in mind, here are a handful of tracks that I've learned to love over the years that I would've loudly decried had my dad put 'em on the stereo as a kid. They're still not proper Country, per se, but hell, you get enough of that with the Cash movie, right?

Lawn Dart by Ed's Redeeming Qualities.
A powerful ballad of love and loss, from ukelele-slingers to the K-Mart. I first heard this song on a CMJ Certain Damage comp back in the early '90s, and I spent years looking for it. The album showed up randomly on the internets, so I downloaded it and couldn't be happier. I've since bought it (though used, so the band still didn't get any money off me. You should buy it to make me feel better).
I swear that if you play this song during the summer, you will think of it every time you play any lawn game. Even croquet.

We Will Retake Saigon by Buddy Holocaust.
Great name, innit? Buddy Holocaust? Just the one guy, and this is one of those songs that no one knows whether it's a parody or not. Buddy died in a car crash that might have been a suicide soon after it was recorded. I think it's tongue in cheek, but I think that even if it were serious it would be hilarious.

The Illiad by Ed Sanders
As the astute can tell, Ed Sanders was part of The Fugs, one of America's most uplifting bands. But he was also a writer (of terrible poetry, really) and a recording artist in his own right. For some reason, his solo album Truckstop has never been reissued, despite it being, well, awesome. I had a hard time deciding what to upload, but I finally went with 'The Illiad,' which gives a pretty good indication of the tone of the album— funny, weird, but well-played. My father used to quote lines from this all the time while I was growing up, and I'm glad that I tracked it down.

Bad Blood by the Bonzo Dog Band
In fact, a lot of what I'm putting up today is stuff my dad used to sing to us, even though he'd lost his copies years ago. This one's the Bonzos, who should be known to everyone who likes Monty Python or Death Cab for Cutie. I like how far back the vocals are in the mix, it gives it an ominious feeling, even as he's singing about eggstains. Luckily, this is one that is pretty easy to find, if you look for it. It's also a song that for some reason my FTP program refuses to upload, so that's why it's a YSI link today.

Monkeys versus Donkeys by Wildman Fischer
And closing us out is another rarity, from the album "An Evening With..." which hasn't ever been reissued. There's kinda an epic disagreement between Frank Zappa, who recorded it and whose label issued it (and who was a famous asshole) and Wildman Fischer (who's crazy). There's even an apocryphal story about WMF pulling a tampon out of Frank's wife (who now controls the back catalogue) in a bathroom. You're unlikely to see this anywhere else, really. I had to go looking all over to find it last Christmas, and finally ended up patching together a bunch of different versions of vinyl rips into a cohesive album's worth. Still, it's so incredibly catchy that you can't turn away...

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

The handsome structure

Supersystem's New Album.

When Amy and I were just first dating, she made me these great mix tapes that had a couple of tracks from El Guapo's Super/System on 'em, and I loved the music. It was, in fact, one of the big reasons that I fell for her— she had great taste. And people with great taste have to be awesome, right? Well, in her case, that worked out. El Guapo was even going to play live in Detroit, and we thought about going to see 'em for our third date. Instead, we stayed here and she took me to her room to show me her 'zines. I maintain that it was a cunning plot to lure me up there, but she doesn't like it when I talk like that.

Anyway, she moved away for a year, and while she was gone, El Guapo put out a pretty mediocre follow-up called Fake French, which played into the worst tendencies of the nascent electroclash "movement." I picked up an older album, which had some of Super/System's songs done without the electronics, and really liked 'em. We've since seen them live a couple of times and found out that their very first album is a pretty boring emo-core drudge. So, it seems like they're a group that's only going to have one great album ever.

Anyway, a thread on Metafilter comes up, and I mention 'em. Somebody else lets me know that they've changed their name and some of the personelle. I track down the whole album, streaming, which is above. It's, well, y'know how they kidna jumped the electroclash bandwagon? Yeah, well, they're kinda at the tail-end of the post-punk/dancing-indie wagon now. Which is a shame, because the album is decent but not spectacular, and the weirdness is pretty well relegated to side corners. Which, honestly, should make them as popular as Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, but whatever. I give it a 6/10. Good, but not great, and not really worth buying.

Anyone wanna disagree?