Sunday, February 7, 2016

Music from Doug (1994)

For several years, dating back to a time without a working turntable, and just as this ridiculous cassette craze was beginning, I have been waiting for CDs to get sexy again.  However, in that time, even I went and sold nearly all my CDs and virtually ignored what could have been many goldmines of low-priced, high-quality, un-erasable, un-degradable music.  The popularity of cassettes continued to grow, and crate-diving for records continued to be rewarding as Lewis became a legend all while CDs were phased out of more and more retail environments.

No one crate dives for CDs.  While people will still spend hours searching for funny-looking releases made for 60s grannies and the third world like irony was still entering style, some of the greatest music off all time was being rejected from the most profitable record stores in the world.  Even I have on many times held a jewel box of intriguing mystery and thought "I'd rather keep that dollar."

There are plenty of reasons for this.  Music of the CD era is the worst, and none of your favorite post-hardcore "masterpeices" are going to change that.  CDs are easier to produce than LPs, decreasing the private press success rate from less than one percent to less than point one percent.

That is why when I found myself with time to kill at the Orlando Public Library book store I was surprised to see myself looking so closely through the racks of compact discs.  Mixed in with the garbage were masterpieces like, Paul's Boutique and assorted Bob Mould releases that will continue to be passed over in a city not known for its musical taste.  Assuming it was still cash-only I left a lot behind including this promising nugget with artwork that turned me off from the beginning.

Look up this band for reason why I would be even remotely interested in something that looks like it came out on Asian Man records.
However, after a few minutes I found that holy grail - something I would have bought already had I known it even existed.
Note the other CDs in the background.
Turns out the reason I did not know this existed is because it doesn't really exist.  The note appears to be from "Fred," presumably Fred Newman and is labeled as for promotional use only, leaving one to wonder jsut how many of these exist.  The artwork appears to be printed on a printer - granted one of extremely high quality for 1994, but not a professional printer used by even the lowest-budgeted of labels.  The CD, however, was factory quality, with information printed in a green to match Doug's pathetically uncool sweater vest.

It is noted that this is from the first three seasons (there were four, not counting Disney's imposter version), so not all the hits are there.  In fact, some of the hits may be missing.  I have not listened to the whole disc yet, but I have yet to hear such memorable pieces as "Japanese Restaurant," "Judy's Theme" or my personal favorite, "Cool Shoes."  However, all the Beets songs (except so far for the "Where's My Sock?" fragment and the "My Shoes are Cheap" song that Skeeter sings) are there, and that's most likely what people will enjoy this for most.

Below you can see the beautiful way that the tracks are grouped and titled.  

There isn't much left to say as this music, and the video below really speak for itself, but in case anyone who isn't a nostalgic 90s kid, just know this great music is not just for us.  I would recommend this to any fans of the Residents, Frank Zappa, Ween, the indestructible beat of Soweto, and of course, Mark Mothersbaugh who's excellent work on Rugrats has always overshadowed the brilliant music of this less visually-innovative Nicktoon.

Terri's loss has been all our gain.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Pudge Athena

Upon a visit to my mom's I found this old picture of HurtuThe Shears, or Love Athena - depending on when you look at it.  It was our official "promo" photo from summer music programs taken in July 2003, the week we recorded Swing Pad!


In other news sorry for not writing much lately.  Been working on 33 1/3:  Real Estate's Days.  Hopefully it will get made some day.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

London Can Keep It: A Rough Trade NYC Retraction

Somehow I've been kind of uninspired on finishing my best bands in the world for every year, but I'll finish it someday.  Also been thinking a lot about "Top 10 Most Overrated Artists of Our Time" (just guess who #1 is...) and "Top Influential Deaths" or something else that conveys an idea better on that subject.

But most importantly I wanted to take back most of the nice things I said about Rough Trade US.

I really apologize to anyone who went there after reading my review.  I want to make it clear, though, that the prices were pretty friendly when I went there that first time.  I went again on December 30th and everything went up $3-6 in price making the place really overpriced even by NYC standards.

The fact that they don't buy/sell used items is also so royally fucked.  Who do they think they are, Barnes and Noble?

Actually, they think something else about themselves, they think they're Amoeba, they think they're CBGB, they think you hold them in really high esteem because you read about them in some book written by another British Baby Boomer.  That's why so much of their store is dedicated to their self-glorifying merchandise.  This is coming from a guy who proudly wears Amoeba T-shirts, I even bought one from all three locations.  What Amoeba does, though is keep as many records, CDs, DVDs, and ephemera out on the floor, after all they are there to sell it.  At Amoeba if you want a T-shirt you'll have to ask your cashier to get it from a place where only employees go.

The store's attitude is totally wack, as if they're some kind of great British hope we need in America and everything we buy there should be cherished as if we're privileged to own it because hey, this brand new store in Brooklyn is owned by some of the people that put out good music over 30 years ago.  Really, all they're good for is books, but instead of having Ugly Things they just have very source you could ever want on English nonsense, because everyone in Brooklyn is an Anglophile who thinks that country has put out decent music after Radiohead.

In short, I hate this store.  My hope is that they go out of business and Amoeba takes over their spot and their stock.  Until then I recommend sticking to Academy records so highly that I will provide instructions how to get to their location from Rough Trade:

Walk towards the river to the final perpendicular street.  That's Kent Street - head North toward Greenpoint, the street will change names to Franklin Street (this is not apparent on Google Maps, which threw me off the first time) and stay on it until you get to Oak Street.  At that point it looks like a neighborhood again, rather than an hndustrial hellhole.  turn left on Oak and there it is.  That store has probably treated me better than any other in New York even though they insist on stocking a lot of that new San Francisco dumpster music.

As for Rough Trade a more fitting grade would be a D.  Gonna delete that last review.

"The Americans are finally starting to get the upper hand"
-The Sweet, 40 years ago

Thursday, December 19, 2013

The Best Band on Earth, 1967

Of course with this being probably the best year for music of all time, this was tricky.  However, I don't even have to list all the reasons why it's the Velvet Underground.

I should mention that they released two masterpieces in this year - their only two albums featuring John Cale, making them on par, or even surpassing the sum of their parts.  In 1967 their connection to Andy Warhol brought them to great prominence even if their records didn't sell that well (though by today standards peaking at 182 is hardly a failure).  They did that whole thing with the art freaks and then ditched them to get even weirder with White Light/White Heat.  For Those reasons this incarnation is seen as the more experimental side, but I prefer to see the aggression of their experimentation as their sign of being a true rock band.  While it may sound avant-garde, songs like "Run Run Run" and "Sister Ray" have been proven by the rest of rock history to be the definition of the genre.  With the more conceptual and experimental pieces like "All Tomorrow's Parties" and "The Gift" being balanced out by the sweet sounds of "Sunday Morning" and "Here She Comes Now," the Velvets seem to have more in common with the Beatles than with Captain Beefheart.

Prior to their run-in with Warhol, the Velvets were just another rock band playing teen beat shows around the New York area and their maturity and bend for weirdness never detracted or even distracted from their ability to rock hard.  With that, the original quartet had that raw cohesion that makes 60s punk such a special kind of music.  While I will admit they still had that power with Doug Yule, few musicians can approach John Cale's level of talent and creativity - an undeniable part of this era's sound.

Though as much as one can say for Cale and Reed, I refuse to keep allowing the greatness of Sterling Morrison to be overlooked, and hey as reprehensible as her later political affiliation is, Moe Tucker was the first woman in a band outside of vocals/tambourine to not have a gimmicky element.  Plus she played a weird kit.

Honorable mentions:  Moby Grape, Love.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Best Band on Earth, 1966

Missed yesterday on account of the yuletide obligations.  Now, on for another underground hipster snob pick for 1966:  The 13th Floor Elevators.
Though I'll be one of the first to tell you that Easter Everywhere blows the debut away, the 1966 Elevators are the greater band.  The core of Roky Erickson, Tommy Hall, and Stacy Sutherland was augmented by a rhythm section that matched them on a more even level and included the highly-underrated drummer John Ike Walton who many considered the band's secret weapon.

These days people focus the most on the Elevators mystic/psychedelic aspect, but Erickson's energy and the band's attack made them as much a proto-punk group, making "You're Gonna Miss Me" a staple of Lenny Kaye's Nuggets.  The band's debut is furious statement that was originally intended to be a crash-course in psychedelic enlightenment orchestrated by Tommy Hall which would have made it one of, if not the first concept album.  The 1966 Elevators truly vied up to the 4 P's with their attack, concepts, freeform experimentalism, and great catchy songs.

The Elevators were on a speeding upward trajectory this year as the quintet and their entourage of new age contributors including Clementine Hall and Powell St. John created a massive, yet under-appreaciated shockwave.  They scored a national hit, released an Erath-shattering album, and moved on to show San Francisco the real meaning of psychedelic rock thanks to Janis Joplin.  The band was on top of the world and still had great music ahead of them, and the raggedy that surrounded the band had not yet begun to destroy it.

Honorable mention:  The Kinks.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Best band on Earth, 1965

The shape of rock music had changed radically in its brief existence at this point,t hough few noticed.  That's why for 1965, I am giving you its first deconstructionists the monks.

Maybe all you Trans-Atlantic Feedback devotees are right and the whole concept was a couple German guys' ideas, but that can't discount the fact that these five Americans played the music.  After all, they weren't the ones who kicked off an album saying, "alright, my name's Gary."  It just wouldn't have the same impact if they did anyway.  With guitar, bass, drums, organ, and electric banjo they already had an all new post-beat sound that is more proto-krautrock than pro to-punk.  Still that doesn't acknowledge the fact that Gary Burger could be described as the first true noise guitarist.  To those of us in the know it is a fact that Jimi Hendrix saw the monks right when he came to England.

Still, the guitar is such a small part and their rhythmic droning, sometimes stripped down to a mere fuzz bass and drum kit puts the Velvet Underground's to shame.  While simplicity was already considered a virtue in rock, the monks' primal minimalism was something all new and Larry Clark's organ was as bold in its merciless cacophony as the guitar, to say nothing of the metallic crunch of Dave Day's banjo.

Their appearance wasn't even as radical as their lyrics which presumably were accepted only due to being in a country that might not grasp every aspect that makes "I Hate You" and "Monk Time" so powerful.  They were probably just happy bopping to the linguistic unification of "We Do, Wie Du."

The monks were a howling, crunching music machine that completely reconstructed rock music for the future, and as simple as it may appear, not just any five guys could sound like this.

Honorable mention:  The Byrds

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Best Band In The World, 1964


Luckily the Rolling Stones at the top of their game were captured on film in the unbelievable TA.M.I. Show on which some people feel that their closing performance even outdoes James Brown's.  I am not sure if I concur, as it is just not right to compare.  Regardless I have see few performances on par with the Stones'.

That being said, this performance pre-dates the Rolling Stones that people born after the fifties (or possibly even most of the fifties) knows, still long before defining hits like "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction," but the familiarity with the material is hardly an issue.  In 1964, few people other than the band's biggest fans would know much about the individuals that made up this group.  There's the wild frontman oozing with sex, the the drugged-out genius on lead guitar, the barely competent madman wildcard on rhythm guitar - and I believe four maracas, the creepy older lech holding a bass like a real weirdo, and a quiet fellow behind the traps serving as the ringleader.  It's more than than just the way that they are dressed that made their performance the most casual.  When the Stones abandoned their Beatles-esque uniforms they brought on the artist of rock artists just not giving a fuck, providing many with the "Stones are better than Beatles" argument that still rages on.

If, this seems to focused on the T.A.M.I. Show it's because it could make a greater argument than any person ever could.  The producers wisely chose this band, still called by some a flash in the pan, to close the extravagant show and forever solidified the band's greatness before they even came into themselves.  They played the music they all loved, they were young, and they sere still far come bloated or drug-damaged.  For those reasons the Rolling Stones, regardless of how much greater they may have become, were the best band in the world in 1964.

Friday, December 13, 2013

The Best Band on Earth, 1963

With this band it's wasn't a matter of if, but rather when, so of course...  The Beatles.


I still refuse to take sides on the early vs. later Beatles argument, but what is unarguable is the fact that 1963 was the year the Beatles rose to the top of the world where they still are.  They could not have done that without their unrelenting schedule of killer live shows - already in top form from their years in Hamburg.  Footage from this era shows a band that delivered anything anyone could want from a rock show.  Brian Epstein also made sure they were extra charming and looked great, even if the suits were a bit weird.

Though they were still playing a lot of covers at this point that is what many fans loved most and groups like the Cyril Jordan era Flamin' Groovies owe their whole persona to this era and their re-workings of original classics like "Misery" and "Please Please Me" have been kept alive.  These songs showed that Lennon and McCartney had even greater skill than the guys they were covering with tunes as diverse as the sweet love of "All My Loving" to the determined punk fury of "I Wanna Be Your Man."

These performances were effortless to this unmatchable quartet and for those lucky enough to experience these times they remain the fondest of all Beatles' memories.  Of course, the music only got better, but we've all heard enough about the Beatles.  There is no need for me to further ellaborate why they were the best band in the world in 1963.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

The Best Band on Earth, 1962

It begins in 1962 as this was the birth of the "band" era.  Before that, in rock at least, it was all about singular performers and perhaps some acknowledgement of their side men.  This concept is based on the idea of cohesion, energy, and unity.  No bands repeat, so I guess it's not totally accurate.  It has very little to do with records and some bands will be number one when they did not release anything or maybe even released a weak album.  So, with that, the best band of 1962, The Beach Boys.


So, obviously I am not trying to say that the Beach Boys did their best work in 1962, but merely that they were the best band in the world at the time.  In a lot of ways, they were the best band they ever were at this point.  As the music got better they became more a project of Brian Wilson making use of five other vocalists and one other guitarist.  Then really just six solo projects that would share LPs.

1962, though the quintet of Brian, Carl, and Dennis Wilson with Mike Love and David Marks were the tightest and liveliest band so far.  Brian's songs were getting better and better by the day as he expanded beyond surfing and car songs into the likes of "Farmer's Daughter" and "Lonely Sea."  Though a weaker record, their debut Surfin' Safari showed how much potential the soon-to-be legendary band had and considering the hypnotic harmonies on "Ten Little Indians" were recorded live they may have already been there.

There is still a lot of controversy surrounding rhythm guitarist David Marks, but the extraordinarily young guitarist contributed much to the band being so cohesive.  The 1962 lineup was essentially a power trio of brothers plus one cousin and Marks.  Growing up in the same neighborhood as the Wilsons he was Dennis' young sidekick and even learned how to play guitar side by side with Carl.  These familiar bonds gave this era a rhythmic lock never head before that even a mature musician like Al Jardine just could not outdo.

The mostly teenage band did a lot of touring already and maintained a live schedule far more demanding than most bands since the 80s and their playing was improving as rapidly as the songwriting.  Sure, it may pale in comparison to Pet Sounds, but the 1962 Beach Boys were a live musical force far beyond many of over 50  the groups that will follow.  Plus, consider that the average age of its members was only 17!