Sunday, February 26, 2012

Mission for Christ
"Nancy Reagan Is a Plastic Bitch"

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Mission for Christ
2 Jews, a Black, a Woman and a Cripple...
cassette
(self-released, 1983)

Politicians sometimes (ok, often) say really stupid stuff. Take former U.S. Secretary of the Interior James Watt, for example. In September of 1983, he decided to jokingly mock Affirmative Action policies by pointing out the wonderful diversity of an advisory panel with whom he was working. He chose to illustrate this by saying the board had, a black . . . a woman, two Jews and a cripple. Of course, that's pretty tame compared to what former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Earl Butz said in 1976 about a particular segment of the population: I'll tell you what the coloreds want. It's three things: first, a tight pussy; second, loose shoes; and third, a warm place to shit.

The latter was the inspiration for the European title of Alex Chilton's final studio album, Loose Shoes and Tight Pussy. His US record company timidly retitled it Set, however, and replaced the nice cover with a particularly ugly one, to boot.

The first quote above, however, was immortalized in the title of Mission for Christ's 1983 demo tape, 2 Jews, a Black, a Woman and a Cripple... The ugliness of Watt's comment complements the ugliness of the music quite nicely. From what I recall, they had a Black on bass, and the singer may have been Jewish. It's been 25 years, however, so I have no recollection of the guitarist or drummer, though I'm fairly certain neither was a Woman [or] a Cripple.

You'll notice on the typed sticker glued to the cassette case that this song is entited simply Nancy Reagan. Well, when I saw them play it live, it had the much longer title as written above, so I chose it instead. It's my blog; you can't stop me. Please forgive the somewhat spotty sound on this one; it was dubbed on a cheap tape twenty-five years ago. I don't know how many they made, but the sticker being manually typed (please, see above) would seem to suggest not many. Who knows, I may have (politely) harrassed them into selling me the tape. It could be the only copy! I doubt it, though.

Though Mission for Christ were a Washington, D.C. area band, they got little attention, sadly. I went though all of my D.C. 'zines from the period and found precisely one mention of them: a short bit in a review of the Rock Against Reagan preview show at Space II Arcade in 1983. If I remember correctly, they and Maryland's Braille Party were the standouts on that (very long) day. It was summer, it was boiling hot, there was no air conditioning, and the friends I took with me kept whining all day:

  • Who's playing next?
  • When's the next band going to play?
  • Are we there yet?
  • I have to go potty.
  • etc.

Mission for Christ eventually released the song Pennies from Hell as a single, along with the dub version for the b-side. I've always wondered why they did that instead of, perhaps, using Nancy Reagan for the flip? From what I recall, it got good reviews outside of D.C. Sadly, they never released anything else. They do have the distinction, though, of being the only band other than No Trend to be preserved in wax on No Trend Records.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Calamus
"Boobtown"

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Calamus
Highdrive
CD
(Daredevil Records, 1999)

NYC scuzz metallers Angel Rot came to town a couple of times back in the late '90s. I think it was the second time that they came through that they were touring with the previously unknown to me German band Calamus. Whereas Angel Rot were dissonant and ugly (and fantastic), Calamus were more thick'n'groovy (and excellent). I was impressed enough that I bought the CDR EP they were selling that night, and I spun it many times in the ensuing weeks. A trip to their (now defunct) website showed that they'd released a couple of CDs already, plus a split 7" with the band Duster69.

The first of the CDs was a two-tracker named The Road Trax, but that's not what I'm featuring today on the jukebox, even though it's a fine slab of metal and plastic. No, today's song is the leadoff track to Highdrive, their first full-length album. The CDR EP mentioned above ended up being a teaser for their next album, These Days, released on the gently named I Used to Fuck People Like You in Prison Records, though the label website seems to have toned it down a bit, to simply People Like You Records. Wussbags.

When These Days was released, Calamus came back to town with NYC doom metallers Slow Horse, who featured the guy (Scott Sanfratello) who'd played drums with Angel Rot on that earlier tour. Crazy, man! Calamus never made it back over here, to the best of my knowledge, though they did release a couple more CDs: a self-released EP entitled A Few Lines in Mind and a full-length, The Same Old Demons.

These days (ha!), vocalist Ralf (in the cowboy hat above) sings for a band I found on-line the other day but whose name I now cannot for the life of me remember. The other guy in the photo is guitarist Jens. The two of them were responsible for all of Calamus's original material, with Ralf penning the lyrics and Jens planning out the notes.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Baltimore Lightning Toast
[a recipe, not a music]
[adapted from The Joy of Cooking, ©1931]

Ingredaments:

  • 5 eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 tbsp bourbon
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • ½ tsp salt
  • dash of cinnamon

Heat up a frying pan, or the griddle if you have a fancy schmancy stove.

Mix all that stuff up there with a nice, sharp fork.

Soak bread* in mixture, but don't let it get too soggy to get back out of the bowl! Fry the bread in a pan. Repeat until all the batter is gone.

Serve with real** maple syrup and butter.

EAT.

You may, if you cannot finish it all, refrigerate or freeze the rest for later.


*Good bread, of course. I recommend a hearty multigrain or, for variety, cinnamon/raisin English muffins.

**Yes, 100% real maple syrup, preferably from Vermont. Use of Mrs. Butterworth's may involve a fine and/or imprisonment. The same goes for margarine. This is food, gosh darn it!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

ゆらゆら帝国
「貫通」

ゆらゆら帝国
『冷たいギフト/貫通』
2 x 3" CD single
(MIDI Inc., 2002)

Sometimes, bargain bin finds can end up costing a butt ton of $$ in the long run. Such is the case with ゆらゆら帝国.

There's a book and music store here that used to be on the outskirts of the Asian area of town. Used CDs from Japan showed up on a regular basis, and I often would take risks on them (and non-Japanese CDs, as well). One such risk was on this CD; I think it was either $4.79 or $5.59. See, the store prices most all of its used CD stock at $7.99 per disc. They use a letter & number system to track how long things have been sitting on the shelf, and prices used to drop in 10% increments the longer things sat (nowadays, the prices lose a dollar at a time).

As it turned out, it was ゆらゆら帝国's second album, and they'd released a buncha stuff since. The album was an interesting mix of garage rock, prog rock, and avant garde-isms like drum patterns pretty much lifted directly from early Captain Beefheart songs. It was really good! My friend Charlie was about to go to Japan for a business trip, so I asked him if he could check for their CDs while he was there. Shortly after he returned, a box appeared on my doorstep jam packed with ゆらゆら帝国 CDs.

O_O

I got worried; what if I ended up not liking them? With much trepidation, I opened one and put it in the player. It was great! Whew!! As I listened to the rest, they just got better and better!

Naturally, this put me on a quest to get the rest of their releases. I ended up spending a lot ordering their CDs from various on-line stores in Japan, as no one stocked them in the USA at the time. I'm not going to admit what I paid for it, but I paid probably at least three times as much as the second most expensive CD I've ever bought on a copy of this, their extremely rare first album. Not long after I bought it, ゆらゆら帝国 played their first ever shows outside of Japan. I drove 1,000 miles one way to see them, and it was totally worth it. I stayed with my friend James in Brooklyn for four days and got to see ゆらゆら帝国 twice! I also caught excellent shows by Alice Texas and by CocoRosie with Dirty Projectors opening.

Today's song comes from the limited edition single they issued prior to the release of their 2003 concurrently unleashed albums 『ゆらゆら帝国のしびれ』 and 『ゆらゆら帝国のめまい』. The former was their most out-there album yet, while the latter expressed their softer pop side. When I put the latter in the CD player for the first time, I thought it was a mispress and not the right disc, until the voice of leader and guitarist Shintaro Sakamoto appeared and allayed my fears.

『ゆらゆら帝国のしびれ』 featured today's song, but in a rather different arrangement. I had no idea that the single version was different until I decided, a few years later, to go ahead and snag the copy I found on-line of 『冷たいギフト/貫通』. I mean, it was not only a 3" CD (cute city!) but a double one, at that! In a tiny gatefold sleeve, even. It was also released on vinyl as a 10" single, but that's not nearly as adorable.

Interestingly, the video I later discovered for the song is, in addition to being super cool, the single version, rather than the album one. So, you can watch the video on YouTube, but you can't get the single unless you want to spend a fair chunk of change. Or you could just download today's song. ;-D

Sadly, ゆらゆら帝国 decided to part on friendly terms in 2010, as they felt they had accomplished all they could/wanted to as a band. Former leader Shintaro Sakamoto just released his first solo album, How to Live with a Phantom, in November of last year. I cannot wait to hear it!


Translations:

  • ゆらゆら帝国 = Yura Yura Teikoku = Swinging Empire
  • 冷たいギフト = Tsumetai Gifuto = Cold Gift
  • 貫通 = Kantsuu = Penetration
  • ゆらゆら帝国のしびれ = Yura Yura Teikoku no Shibire = Numbness of Yura Yura Teikoku
  • ゆらゆら帝国のめまい = Yura Yura Teikoku no Memai = Vertigo of Yura Yura Teikoku


Saturday, February 11, 2012

Gift Horse
"Men of God"

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Gift Horse
Gift Horse
CDR EP
(self-released, 2008)

What can I say; I'm a sucker for cool type fonts. The artwork of this lil' puppy snagged my eye as I perused the free bin at my fave local store, due in large part to the font used for the band name. When I popped it in the player, I found my gut feeling was right, and 'twas a keeper. I very much dig the mellow yet heavy sounds they produce. The guitar on this track is pretty crushing in parts.

Since this intro EP, they've released a full length album, Mountain of Youth, and appeared on a compilation album put out by local institution Wuxtry Records for Record Store Day 2011, along with R.E.M. and a buncha other folks from the Athens/Atlanta nexus. I put Athens first, as that is the grounds for stomping of the Gift Horse boys. Also, I believe the Athens Wuxtry was opened before the one in Decatur, which is in the Atlanta area.

NOTA BENE: Gift Horse re-recorded two of the five songs from this EP for Mountain of Youth. This is not one of them.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Robert Hollis·Christopher Swartz
"Rebels in Eden"

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Robert Hollis·Christopher Swartz
11 X 2
LP
(Perimeter Records, 1988)

Ever see an odd-looking record, or perhaps records, in almost every store in town, only to ignore them? That's what I did with the albums of Robert Hollis·Christopher Swartz. I used to see them in the local bins all over the place. All three had similar covers: stark white background, Robert Hollis·Christopher Swartz written at the same spot at the top in Microgramma D Bold Extended, a picture in the middle, and the title in the bottom in the same font, only much more huger. The only significant difference was the first, Iso, had a drawing rather than a photograph and used red ink in addition to black. Oh, and 11 X 2 had nothing printed on the back (more on that later).

A few months ago, I came across a cheap used copy of Iso and decided to give it a shot. It turned out to be very cool. The music was mostly instrumental and played on a variety of homemade instruments. A few pieces had vocals, but they were more recitative than singative. After several spins of Iso, I went on a mission to find the others. It took several months, but I finally found copies at local (and semi-local) stores of Music for Homebuilt Instruments and 11 X 2 for around $5 each, as opposed to prices I found on-line that were sometimes in the triple digit range!

Today's piece comes from side two of 11 X 2 and features Robert on the 2 String Guitar (Bottleneck) and Wood Slit Drums, while Christopher twangs the Birimibau. The album comes with a folio jam-packed with photos and technical diagrams of the instruments played (all homebuilt by Christopher), along with all sorts of ephemera, like info on building instruments, recording studio invoices, tax forms, etc.

Remember I mentioned the back cover being blank? Well, there's a plan for that, per the last insert in the folio. There was never a fourth album, though, so I left the back cover of mine blank, in solidarity.