Monday, September 16, 2013

"Mein Leben"

Rasende Stümper
(Clarita Gomez Tapes, 1989? 1990?)

Jan and Kai Damkowski were a couple of really cool brothers from West Germany with whom I was pen pals in the late '80s/early '90s. Jan put a song from one of my old bands on a compilation tape he released and Kai took some pictures of my band that we ended up using on the back cover of one of our records. Kai also sent me tapes of a few bands in which he and/or his brother Jan played. One of those bands was Stümper, a loose-knit band composed of a bunch of energetic German teenagers.

Kai sent me a couple of Stümper tapes and they are a big mess of chaotic fun. I can't find the booklet he sent that went with this tape, so I have nothing at the moment but the song titles and a note in English that he stuck in the tape box. I don't throw stuff away, generally, so I'm sure I have the booklet somewhere, but I've been searching for days to no avail. Anyhow, per Kai's note:

We rotate on instruments. We use no distortion or effects mechanisms and no fuzzbox apart from one guitar on 'Gitarrenkampf'. . . . We never played a song twice and we are not planning to do it.

The song I've chosen for today is Mein Leben, and Kai had this to say about it in his note:

Translates as 'My Life' and has everything in it. Love, Pain, GG Allin, Highway-deaths, Oliver North, Freezer, Horst Hrubesch, money, sex, HSV, Genscher, Aussiedler, and more. A song about life that offers you absolutely everything. This is the ultimate tragedy.

Tragically, one of the founding members of Stümper, Flassoff, drowned in the Elbe River in the early '90s.

I stupidly lost contact with Kai and Jan ages ago, but I did some research this weekend and discovered that Kai was later in a band called Hrubesch Youth, named for the apparently famous footballer Horst Hrubesch. They released at least a few records and a CD, so I'm hoping I can find copies. Also, Kai is a published author!

Monday, September 9, 2013

The Screaming Gypsy Bandits

The Screaming Gypsy Bandits
In the Eye
(BRBQ Records, Inc., 1973)

The world is full of unexpected connections. For instance, one would not be likely to think a link might exist between avant garde art punks MX-80 Sound, Top 40 popsters Looking Glass, mid-'70s metallers Starz, and contemporary jazzers like John Zorn, Tim Berne, and Satoko Fujii.

I'd like to introduce you to that link. Ladies and gentlemen, The Screaming Gypsy Bandits.

Their output during their lifetime was scant: this album and the compilation LP Bloomington 1, where I first heard them, released on the same label a couple of years later. Their members went on to stardom as the years wore on, however. Guitarist Bruce Anderson went on to fame, of a sort, with MX-80 Sound and its various offshoots. Guitarist Brendan Harkin joined Looking Glass, after their mega-hit Brandy (You're a Fine Girl) but in time to play on their final single, and stayed with them as they morphed into Fallen Angels then Starz. Bassist Mark Dresser (who left before this album was recorded) has played with the above jazz luminaries and scads more.

Three of the songs from this album were added as bonus tracks to the CD reissue of vocalist Caroline Peyton's 1972 album, Mock Up, so I've chosen one of the remaining six for today's post. It was written by Mark Bingham, who penned all the tracks on the album plus all of the songs on Mock Up. Junior is the longest track on the album and allows the members to really stretch out.

The liner notes for the Mock Up CD mention a Screaming Gypsy Bandits album that was never finished, Back to Doghead. In 2009, that album hit the shelves, finally, in compact disc form. Unlike In the Eye, it's a much more out there affair, with obvious inspiration from Captain Beefheart and The Mothers of Invention. I think it's pretty fabulous.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Crap Sandwich!

Yes, I've not posted in quite a while. My apologies! Unfortunately, it appears that the little Flash player that my blog uses to stream the songs in the individual posts no longer works. I thought perhaps I'd inadvertently screwed up my template, but it still didn't work after I loaded an older, saved template as a test.


I guess I'll need to get on updating the posts older than the most recent one to use HTML5 audio. Don't hold your breath, though, or you'll die.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Death Piggy
"Mangoes and Goats"

Holy crap! A POST! Alert the press! Slaughter the fatted calf! Drink some hot benzine!

OK, maybe don't hurt the poor, baby cow. I'm a vegetarian, after all.

So, I've not been posting for a number of reasons, all excellent. One of them is I've wanted to implement HTML5 Audio, for browsers that can use it, especially those that can't use Flash, like my newest phone (an otherwise kickass Motorola Atrix HD).

I wanted the HTML5 Audio stuff to be fancy-ish, and emulate the colors and whatnot of the rest of my blog, but I've just not had the time to sit down and learn Javascript well enough to do all that gunk . . . yet. Never say never, but, please, don't suggest that we sleep together.

Anyhow, I finally decided today, To heck with it, I'm tired of putting off posting, so here's a new (old) song!

Many, many years ago, my old punk band opened for Death Piggy in our hometown of Charlottesville, VA. We ended up becoming friendly with Death Piggy, who were from the distant environs of Richmond, VA, a full hour's drive away, and played a buncha shows together over the next few years.

Death Piggy released three kick butt little 7" EP records full of dadaist, chaotic punk rock before morphing into the band today known as GWAR, whose name may ring a bell. GWAR are great fun live, but I prefer the musical output of the original band. They followed their debut EP, and source of today's song, Love War, with Death Rides the Fairway . . ., then, finally, R45.

Those three records were all fairly limited press runs and went out of print rather quickly. A CD was released in 1999, SMILE or DIE !!!, with the entire contents of the three records, but it, too, was limited, and it's long gone, as well.

NOTA BENE: Death Piggy also had an exclusive song, Fear of Murder, on the Mutopia cassette compilation released by D.S.I. Records. I almost included it instead of Mangoes and Goats, but the sound is super muddy and it's just not as good a song. Still, completists be aware! Or should that be beware?

Saturday, April 20, 2013

UPDATED: An Open Letter of Apology for My Blog and to Those Who Have Been Hurt by It

A few days ago, a music blogger by the name of Kitty Vincent posted, on a music blog, a scathing blog post detailing how music blogs are ruining music.

Kitty made some very insightful points, especially regarding how the Seattle music scene of the early 1990s was so great, because it was, a small, tight-knit community of people who went to each other’s shows, played in each other’s bands and created a sound though collaboration. [emphasis mine] She contrasts this with the charge that today's young musicians are, so busy jumping on each other’s bandwagons, [that] nobody has bothered to notice their wagon train has been driving in a circle for roughly a decade now. [Again, emphasis mine]

Yes, that's right, kids, imitation is a positive and wonderful thing when it means there will be more cookie cutter bands, if the sound they produce is one that you find pleasing to the ear. However, imitation is a horrible, horrible thing that is responsible for killing music when it involves music you dislike.

Oh, no . . . wait . . . sorry! It's music blogs that are killing music, by supporting bands that sound alike. This is, of course, nothing like the early 1990s, when fanzines and magazines all over the US and Europe were dripping in jizz and excitement at all the SubPop (and other) bands that sounded remarkably similar. See, that was different, because, um, well, it wasn't blogs! It was print media, which is inherently above reproach, I guess? Even though the kids who did zines before the dawn of the 'net are the same sort of kids who now do music blogs.

Hey, whatever, man! Here's Kitty's post:

Hey Kids, Grow a Pair: How Music Blogs Neutered Indie Rock

For my birthday this past January, a friend bought me a book called Everybody Loves Our Town: An Oral History of Grunge by Mark Yarm. It’s a collection of stories told through interviews with the folks involved in the creation of the Seattle scene all those years ago. The stories come from band members, club owners, press members, booking agents, sound guys, and kids who just hung around the clubs. Mostly anecdotal stuff, stories about rock shows and getting high in the parking lot before hand.

Having entered adolescence in the early 90’s, the music of Seattle and Olympia played a huge role in the development of my musical tastes, so the book felt like a great chance for a stroll down memory lane. But as I got further into it, with its stories of how The U-Men once got shut down for setting fire to a lake in front of their stage at the Bumbershoot Festival or the time Mark Arm, singer of Green River, finished a set swinging from a fluorescent ceiling light over a crowd of sweaty kids, I began to get more and more pissed off.

I’ll explain. Around the same time I got the book, I’d been trolling the blogs for the ubiquitous end-of-year top 10 albums, and time after time the lists I found would have made dry toast seem fucking electrifying. Here’s an example from an actual blog that I won’t name to protect the utterly boring.

  • 01: Of Monsters and Men – My Head is an Anima
  • 02: The Lumineers – The Lumineers
  • 03: John Samson – Provincial
  • 04: Mumford and Sons – Babel
  • 05: Sufjan Stevens – Silver and Gold
  • 06: The Walkmen – Heaven
  • 07: Beach House – Bloom
  • 08: Matt & Kim – Lightning
  • 09: fun. – Some Nights
  • 10: Jack White – Blunderbuss

Seriously? This is the best 2012 had to offer? Beach House? Mumford and Sons? fun.? Number 5 on the list is a Christmas album for Christ’s sake. And this is from a reputable indie blog. (And yes, I know The Lumineers are a beloved Denver band made good, so don’t write me letters about it). But honestly, when did all the skinny jeaned, fedora clad 20 somethings of the world decide to get together and completely fucking neuter music? It’s like a whole movement of eunuchs out there walking around with synths and tambourines.

I’m so exhausted by this generation of watered-down, vaguely 60’s or vaguely folk, mid-tempo, non-offensive, cutesy indie music. When I was 16 or 22 I wanted to break shit. I was pissed off at an unjust world, at the indignities of high school, at my parents, at that ever-present dude who grabbed my ass at rock shows (I’m still pissed off at that dude, by the way). I don’t get it, these kids grew up in a post 911, Patriot Act world where they will likely never make as much money as their parents or pay off their student debt and yet all they want to do is grow a beard, play the banjo, and hold hands. What the fuck?

This can be blamed, to some degree, on the rise of the music blog. I realize the irony of writing that on a music blog, but it is the reality all the same. The Internet has created a space in which every journalism-major with an ironic t-shirt and a laptop has the power to shape popular culture. It doesn’t matter that he doesn’t know who Brian Jones is or that he’s never listened to a T-Rex album all the way through. It makes no difference that he can’t identify anything in the Talking Heads’ catalogue besides Burning Down the House. You can’t see this person, you’ve never met him, and you have no idea if he has any credibility whatsoever, and yet, you’re letting him dictate your musical tastes to you. For all you know this kid spent his high school years listening to Linkin Park while trolling the web for date-rape porn. He may have been a Juggalo until he was 18 when he discovered The Postal Service through some girl he had the hots for. You don’t know.

Blogs have created a structure in which the handful of kids writing for the elite establishment like Pitchfork or Stereogum choose whatever unoriginal crap they like that week and all the little blogs fall in line. They are all so busy jumping on each other’s bandwagons, nobody has bothered to notice their wagon train has been driving in a circle for roughly a decade now.

I say fuck the blogs. Stop reading them (except for this one). Lets go back to doing what we used to do. Hanging out at record stores, going to shows, talking to actual people about what they’re listening to. And stop buying singles from bands who put more energy into their hair cuts than they put into their songwriting, for fuck’s sake. (I’m looking at you fun.)

There is a reason why bands like Nirvana took over the world in 1991 and why the new generation hasn’t been able to recreate that energy. Nirvana came out of a small, tight-knit community of people who went to each other’s shows, played in each other’s bands and created a sound though collaboration and an authentic desire to make art that mattered to them. They did this for no one but themselves, with no hope of achieving fame in a city that didn’t even exist as far as the industry was concerned.

In 1992, when Donita Sparks of L7 pulled out her tampon and threw it at the crowd at the Reading Festival, she didn’t do it to create a YouTube sensation or to make a Pitchfork top 10 list. She did it in a moment of genuine defiance and frustration at a crowd flinging mud onstage. She knew what was between her legs and she wasn’t afraid to use it. And by that, I don’t mean a bloody tampon; I mean a serious pair of balls. She had more balls than the members of Fleet Foxes can ever hope to have. And that kids, is what rock and roll is all about.

Naturally, a lot of commenters criticized the post, me included. However, plenty thought what Kitty wrote was just the best thing ever! Here some of my favorite supportive responses (some are complete, others are merely excerpts):

  • Derek Traxler

    What is sad is that what you say is true. I have been deprived of anything new without searching really fucking hard.
    [I honestly am not sure what this person is trying to say, but, hey cussing!]

  • Grunge boy

    Neutered is a good word for today’s indie rock. It is a mirror image of the people who go to the shows. Girls dress like boys, boys dress like girls. Everyone is a gender neutral looking crowd. Nothing deep and angry. Highly intellectual. Nothing from the visceral gut. No slam dancing, just lame ass 3rd grade style dancing. No real deep passionite meaning in the music, at least from what I can see.
    [Yes, indie rock is bad because people don't properly conform to gender stereotypes. Plus, why is no one slam dancing to Mumford & Sons?]

  • convolutedmind

    I really enjoyed your post. I grew up in a era of where you had to actually seek out music. Where you went to live shows to find out who you liked. Where you spent your hard earned check on a band that you never heard before only to find out they sucked. But every now and again you would find a gem and be hooked on them for the rest of your life. We would make mix tapes for our friends to introduce them to cool music. We cared about what we listened to and we were pissed off at the world and didn’t just roll over and take it.
    [Just ignore that music blogging is merely a new take on making mix tapes.]

  • 1991rtk

    I was born in the 90s, and missed most of the 90s Alternative phenomenon. When I was more conscious of music, I had Linkin Park, Three Days Grace, My Chemical Romance, Rise Against, among others. Guess what? As I looked deeper, I found that the 90s were better than that stuff, because it felt real and not formulaic or made to ‘fit in’. I don’t mind early 2000s stuff, but look at what has happened to Muse, Linkin Park, among others: THEY ADAPTED AND BECAME TRENDY. They pulled away from their own ways to become part of a system which is not as profitable as it once was, they sold out. Music out today is both good and bad. A lot of it still feels like it is being made for the sake of money or the ‘casual’ music listener. Devoid of meaning and motivation, a lot of today’s music has become music for the sake of ‘something listening to’. There’s no more conviction…and therefore the content and quality takes a major hit.
    [Um, Linkin Park hit the ground trendy. Or was I mistaken when I thought most of the opening acts when I went to OzzFest in 2000 or 2001 all sounded the same? Other similar bands on the bill that day, that I remember: Crazytown, Papa Roach, Disturbed]

  • griggsy

    The thing about these so called music blogs is that they’re run by attention seeking dweebs who not only lack a passion for music, but are not even curious. They’re usually doing it for the free crap.
    [My empty bank account and house chock full of records, tapes, and CDs belies the claim that music bloggers lack passion for music. As for free crap, I ignore offers from bands to get free music in exchange for a blog post. Or I write them snarky responses, if it's obvious they've not really looked at my blog. Claiming they like the bands I interview is always a good clue in that regard. I've not interviewed a band since 1989 or '90, and never for this blog.]

  • Jim

    This is dead on. All the whining comments need to go jump. You’re obviously all very happy with the homogenized drone that is indie rock so ignore this post and go enjoy it. I’m turning 40 this year and every new record I hear bores me to death. I’m supposed to be scared of new music by this point. The author is exactly right. Indie rock has lost its teeth b/c it’s being made for faceless morons on the internet, not for actual people situated in a specific time and place dealing with specific circumstances. Anyone who feels like they need to pipe up and disagree with this article or take a jab at the author is an isolated, complacent, wussbag.
    [I'm turning 50 this year, and I constantly hear new music that excites me.]

  • independentmusicpromotions

    Some of the hecklers in the comments are doing so out of mere defensiveness. The fact is, this is a brilliant post. Why? Because, much like the music of the early 90′s Kitty is describing, the blogger CARES. They have passion. That’s clear whether you respect the opinion or not.
    [Yeah, I'm defensive. I also CARE about music. I also have no respect for an opinion that is merely gussied up ad hominem.]

  • AD (@ADsXe)

    youre fucking awesome.

    when i was teenager in a band on the warped tour confused about life who didnt know what tomorrow would bring i wanted to play music loud and ( to quote rollins) fuck on the floor and break shit…. now im a grown up with a bit more of an idea of what makes my world go around, a mortgage and a job ive been at for 7 years and … i want to play music loud fuck on the floor and break shit.

    while i love what it’s done for communication ( and porn ) , i hate what the internet has done to music. When I had a band.. all we had to do was come to a town, play an awesome show, and if we were on our game, when we came back again.. there would be more people there next time. no mailing list, no online panhandling for facebook likes and kickstarter dollars or youtube views, just a burning desire to start some shit , enough gas money to get to the next city, and the determination, sweat, and live show to make it happen.

    you rule. i wish everyone was like you
    [Ah, yes, the good ol' days, when one could be in a band on the corporate-sponsored, heavily-promoted-via-social-media Warped Tour. Back before the internet and corporate money ruined everything. Obliviousness, thy name is ADsXe.]

Sorry for ranting at length about this. I get defensive when something I enjoy doing (when I can) to share music I love is attacked by someone with a chip on (in this case) her shoulder as somehow being responsible for the death of independent music.

UPDATE: Ms. Vincent's band Le Divorce has a Facebook page. Under their interests, they list not making a myspace page. I guess the absurdity of slamming a social media site from within another social media site escaped them.

If you'd like to hear the music of Le Divorce, head to their music page on Facebook. In my opinion, they're not terrible, but they're also rather shamelessly imitative of '90s alt-rock of the sort that used to clog the airwaves 15 to 20 years ago. If you pine for the days of Better than Ezra or Marcy Playground, you'll probably love them. If you're expecting something with the visceral punch that Ms. Vincent claims is lacking in today's indie rock, you can be the judge for yourself whether or not she has the balls to back up her convictions with her guitar, or just with her spittle-flecked keyboard.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

100 (Allegedly) Influential Albums

There's a list of 100 Influential Albums making the rounds on Facebook. While it has a lot of great records, there are also a bunch of really weird inclusions, bizarre choices for the represented artists, and ridiculous oversights. For example, there are no Black Sabbath albums and no hardcore of any sort. Plus, there's a massive single jazz album; either list a few or list none!

Here's the entire list, in the order it is presented; the ones I own are highlighted.

  1. The Pretty Things S.F. Sorrow
  2. Ride Nowhere
  3. Wire Chairs Missing
  4. The Jesus and Mary Chain Psychocandy
  5. Jimi Hendrix Axis: Bold as Love
  6. New Order Technique
  7. Harry Nilsson Nilsson Schmilsson
  8. Mazzy Star So Tonight That I Might See
  9. Captain Beefheart Trout Mask Replica
  10. Elliott Smith Roman Candle
  11. Devo Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo!
  12. Tim Buckley Goodbye and Hello
  13. Big Star Third/Sister Lovers
  14. Incredible String Band The Hangman's Beautiful Daughter
  15. Public Enemy It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back
  16. Van Morrison Astral Weeks
  17. Yes Close to the Edge
  18. Pink Floyd The Piper at the Gates of Dawn
  19. T·Rex Electric Warrior
  20. Talking Heads Remain in Light
  21. Bloc Party Silent Alarm
  22. The Flying Burrito Brothers The Gilded Palace of Sin
  23. The Fall Perverted by Language
  24. Blur Parklife
  25. The Stooges Fun House
  26. Love Forever Changes
  27. Cocteau Twins Heaven or Las Vegas
  28. Magazine Real Life
  29. Slint Spiderland
  30. XTC Drums and Wires
  31. Donovan A Gift from a Flower to a Garden
  32. The The Soul Mining
  33. Nirvana Nevermind
  34. Dexy's Midnight Runners Searching for the Young Soul Rebels
  35. Nick Drake Five Leaves Left
  36. Sonic Youth Daydream Nation
  37. Lou Reed Transformer
  38. The Stone Roses The Stone Roses
  39. AC/DC Back in Black
  40. Joy Division Closer
  41. Bert Jansch Bert Jansch
  42. The Go-Betweens Before Hollywood
  43. The Cure Disintegration
  44. Jeff Buckley Grace
  45. Pere Ubu The Modern Dance
  46. Bob Dylan Blonde on Blonde
  47. Belle and Sebastian If You're Feeling Sinister
  48. The Beach Boys Pet Sounds
  49. The Breeders Last Splash
  50. Stevie Wonder Innervisions
  51. David Bowie Hunky Dory
  52. Ramones Ramones
  53. Oasis (What's the Story) Morning Glory
  54. King Crimson In the Court of the Crimson King
  55. Johnny Cash The Man Comes Around
  56. Neil Young After the Gold Rush
  57. Sufjan Stevens Illinoise
  58. The Strokes Is This It?
  59. My Bloody Valentine Loveless
  60. Led Zeppelin Led Zeppelin IV
  61. Massive Attack Blue Lines
  62. Slowdive Souvlaki
  63. REM Automatic for the People
  64. Mercury Rev Deserter's Songs
  65. Sex Pistols Never Mind the Bollocks
  66. Patti Smith Horses
  67. Gerry Rafferty City to City
  68. The Chameleons Script of the Bridge
  69. Brian Eno Here Come the Warm Jets
  70. Roy Harper Stormcock
  71. John Cale Paris 1919
  72. The Velvet Underground The Velvet Underground
  73. Spritualized Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space
  74. The White Stripes Elephant
  75. Leonard Cohen Songs of Leonard Cohen
  76. Clap Your Hands Say Yeah Clap Your Hands Say Yeah
  77. Felt The Strange Idols Pattern and Other Short Stories
  78. The Clash London Calling
  79. Arcade Fire Funeral
  80. Marvin Gaye What's Going On?
  81. John Martyn Solid Air
  82. The Delgados Peloton
  83. Bon Iver For Emma, Forever Ago
  84. Super Furry Animals Radiator
  85. Cream Disraeli Gears
  86. I Am Kloot Gods and Monsters
  87. Pixies Doolittle
  88. The Wedding Present George Best
  89. Dave Brubeck Quartet Time Out
  90. The Smiths The Queen Is Dead
  91. The Beatles Revolver
  92. The Kinks Face to Face
  93. Television Marquee Moon
  94. Can Tago Mago
  95. Radiohead OK Computer
  96. The Smashing Pumpkins Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness
  97. The Rolling Stones Exile on Main Street
  98. Joni Mitchell Hejira
  99. Kraftwerk Computer World
  100. Primal Scream Screamadelica

NOTA BENE: The Devo album actually belongs to my husband, but I probably listen to it more than he does.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Not dead!

Please, forgive the complete lack of posts for the past two-plus months! I'll be posting again sometime soon, I hope.