Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Monday, November 27, 2006


I gotta start checking out newyorker.com more often. Had I known this profile of Crazy Lou Dobbs was online, I could have saved myself $4.50. It's a pretty fact-heavy but useless piece, doing exactly what Dobbs himself stands most firmly against: giving all sides a chance to filibuster without ever calling bullshit on anybody. Sure, it's objectively pro-Dobbs; the photo's a goddamn campaign ad. But still, Auletta seems unwilling to actually sack up and take a side on Crazy Lou's frothings one way or the other. Me, I think he's the king of dinner-hour comedy - some of what he says is true, but it's true in the most felt-not-thought, no-such-thing-as-gray possible way. (And that dead-eyed female substitute they get to run the show while he's out patrolling the border, or whatever, is like something out of They Live.) Anyway, read and enjoy, but don't expect to come away with your mind expanded, or even changed about anything. Ken Auletta's an empty-suit access-broker, one more rich white typist whose reputation is utterly mysterious to me.


Here's a little thing I wrote about Sepultura for the Scene. I don't know; the idea that Andreas Kisser is the sole remaining original member bugs me somehow. I guess it shouldn't, given my feeling that Napalm Death, who have no original members, have only gotten better since their lineup stabilized (give or take the late Jesse Pintado) in 1990 or so, but it does.


Monday Morning 20:

Bad Brains, "How Low Can A Punk Get (Live)"
Blue Cheer, "Summertime Blues"
Willie Nelson, "She's Not For You"
Louis Armstrong, "I Can't Give You Anything But Love (Rare Take)"
Agoraphobic Nosebleed, "The House Of Feasting"
Marc Ribot, "Saints"
Wayne Shorter, "Super Nova"
Isis, "C.F.T. (New Circuitry And Continued Evolution)"
Isis, "Weight"
Falkenbach, "Laeknishendr"
Agoraphobic Nosebleed, "Lithium Daydream"
Che, "Blue Demon"
Louis Armstrong, "Gambler's Dream"
Decapitated, "The Fury"
Beck, Bogert & Appice, "Livin' Alone"
Melvins, "Queen"
T.Rex, "To Know You Is To Love You"
Warren Zevon, "I Was In The House When The House Burned Down"
Motörhead, "The Wolf"
Isis, "Celestial (Signal Fills The Void)"

Friday, November 24, 2006


Interesting article about the AARP getting into the music-marketing business, or trying to. I think it's a good idea. I've never believed in pop as community. Even when I was twelve and listening to American Top Forty every weekend just to hear "Rock The Casbah," I didn't think it meant I had anything in common with anyone else who liked that song. Music was already a solitary pleasure, something (taste) that separated me from other people, not something that bonded me to them. If someone recommended a record and I liked it, I was grateful, but I didn't invite them to my house so we could listen together. And while concerts aren't fun alone, I've always preferred going with one friend rather than in a group. So the increased narrowcasting of media outlets is a blessing as far as I'm concerned. There's no such thing as all things to all people, at least not where music or art is concerned. Once you're old/self-aware enough to know what you like, why not seek out as much of it, in as pure a form, as possible? If your taste changes, you can seek out another outlet that will give you an uncut and uninterrupted stream of whatever it is you've just discovered you like.

Example: I decided recently to dip a toe into dubstep. Off I went to barefiles.com, and downloaded five or six hour-long mixes by various DJs. I soon discovered that the stuff wears mighty thin mighty fast, that its vision of urban (American) black culture verges on gangsta minstrelsy and black-dick fetishism, and that I didn't need any more than what I already had, and maybe not even that much. But when I wanted to hear dubstep and nothing but, I knew where to go. The same is true of death metal, and of free jazz. There's still an element of surprise, but within narrow and prescribed parameters. And that's how I like it.

(Jello Biafra called a DKs compilation Give Me Convenience Or Give Me Death. That's the problem with him; he doesn't see what a grand and glorious thing target marketing is. Or maybe he's just pretending not to; he sure seems to know exactly where to find each year's crop of dumbasses ready to lap up his pesudocontrarian spiels. Always going for that anti-marketing dollar. Very smart.)

See, the thing is, not only do I not want to share what I like with you—beyond getting paid to write reviews of it and occasionally talking about it on this here blog—I don't want to have to hear what you like. (Especially if you like mainstream hip-hop and R&B, or reggaeton, or mainstream country.) The supposedly halcyon days of the Sixties and Seventies, when "free-form" radio would play just any goddamn thing at all right next to any other goddamn thing, sounds like a nightmare to me. If I like Grand Funk Railroad, what in the fuck is gonna make you think I wanna hear Melanie? Nope. Keep your singer-songwriters over there, and let me fry my brains with amp damage over here. We'll wave at each other as we pass, like Sam and Ralph.


(Tradition is tradition. So even though, or maybe because, recent political events have given me slight hope that this country might be worth saving after all...)

Thanks for the wild turkey and the passenger pigeons, destined to be shit out through wholesome American guts.

Thanks for a continent to despoil and poison.

Thanks for Indians to provide a modicum of challenge and danger.

Thanks for vast herds of bison to kill and skin leaving the carcasses to rot.

Thanks for bounties on wolves and coyotes.

Thanks for the American dream, to vulgarize and to falsify until the bare lies shine through.

Thanks for the KKK.

For nigger-killin' lawmen, feelin' their notches.

For decent church-goin' women, with their mean, pinched, bitter, evil faces.

Thanks for "Kill a Queer for Christ" stickers.

Thanks for laboratory AIDS.

Thanks for Prohibition and the war against drugs.

Thanks for a country where nobody's allowed to mind their own business.

Thanks for a nation of finks.

Yes, thanks for all the memories - all right, let's see your arms!

You always were a headache and you always were a bore.

Thanks for the last and greatest betrayal of the last and greatest of human dreams.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006


The Carnegie Hall Concert

Pianist and occasional vocalist Keith Jarrett's solo concerts are among his most impressive achievements, whether they're mammoth documents like the six-CD (down from 10 LPs) Sun Bear set or this relatively intimate, 110-minute excursion from last year. This return to unaccompanied performance after a decade (in North America anyhow) marked a substantial change of style. Despite the fact that all tracks (save the encores) are untitled improvisations, they seem like structured and fully thought-out compositions. Some creep toward the 10-minute mark, but others barely last more than three. Jarrett has clearly come to realize the limits of discursive nonstop performance, a form few can pull off with consistency. Even Cecil Taylor occasionally falters in solo performance, although he can always recover with a two-fisted outburst of volume and power - an option Jarrett prefers not to exercise. Carnegie Hall is delicate and romantic even at its most energetic moments.

The set is somewhat oddly packaged: On this night, Jarrett apparently performed a 33-minute set of five pieces, followed by another five-part second "set" of equal duration, and a five-song encore that included "Paint My Heart Red" and "My Song," along with the standard "Time On My Hands." Despite sharing its title, "True Blues" is another improvisation (as is the first encore "The Good America"), not a version of the Modern Jazz Quartet track. Disc One contains the first five tracks of the primary performance, while Disc Two holds the second five and the encores. One could quibble with this structure, arguing in favor of the 10 untitled pieces appearing together, followed by the encores on their own disc. But if it's all gonna wind up in an iPod anyway, the question becomes academic. And anyhow, the point is the music, which is pure beauty, rewarding to the longtime fan and the first-time Jarrett listener alike.

Friday, November 17, 2006


So I got this Rhino Handmade set by Rufus Harley - who apparently passed away earlier this year - in yesterday's mail. He was the only jazz bagpipe player to date, an idea which immediately appealed to me, and I might not be alone. Given the general popularity of drones within the indie music community of late, as well as the mini-vogue for 60s jazz (think of all those BYG and ESP reissues of the past few years), Harley's moment might well have arrived. The set is called Courage: The Atlantic Recordings, and it stuffs all four of his studio albums for the label, recorded between 1966 and 1970 (Bagpipe Blues, Scotch & Soul, A Tribute To Courage and King/Queens) onto two discs, along with one previously unreleased cut from the King/Queens sessions and a track from a Sonny Stitt album on which Harley blew. I listened to Bagpipe Blues and the first four tracks from Scotch & Soul on the way to work this morning, and...well, I was a little let down.

I'm not saying the music's bad. It's not. The two or three cuts on Bagpipe Blues that actually feature the bagpipes are pretty great, particularly the opening title cut, which puts the pipes atop a kind of blues-march rhythm that works very well. But it's too short, and fades out before any kind of real catharsis is achieved - a disappointment for an album from 1966. I get the feeling that producer Joel Dorn was treating Harley as a novelty act (I get that impression from a lot of the Roland Kirk albums he worked on, too) while pretending/loudly protesting that he wasn't doing anything of the kind. This impression is solidified by the fact that the bagpipes actually only appear on less than half the album; on other tracks, Harley plays flute, soprano and tenor saxes. The bag is there to get curious record-buyers out of the store with a new purchase, but the majority of the record is straight modal/bluesy jazz, fine, but hardly surprising. The same is true of Scotch & Soul, where only three of seven tracks actually feature the bagpipes. (The Sonny Stitt track, "Pipin' The Blues," which closes Disc One, is ironically a much better showcase for Harley than many tracks from his own first two albums - he takes a terrific, high-energy solo over pulsing organ and a hot, funky/swinging drummer, effectively seizing control of the song from its putative bandleader.)

I'm looking forward to checking out the other two albums, particularly King/Queens, which features bagpipes on six of its seven tracks, and despite the slight feeling of producer-induced bait-and-switch, I highly recommend picking up Courage: The Atlantic Recordings, even at the inflated Rhino Handmade price of 2 CDs for $39.95, whenever they issue it (it's not on the site yet).

Thursday, November 16, 2006


I don't get free copies of The Wire unless I ask for 'em, and I only do that when I've got the cover story, and it takes my local newsstand almost the whole month to actually get copies, so I just read the new one yesterday. Here's my sole contribution to it.

Sunn O))) & Boris
Southern Lord
The idea of Boris and Sunn O))) collaborating is both natural and brilliant at first, but doubts quickly set in. On their own, both groups have developed highly individual sonic vocabularies which seem to share common roots in the late 80s/early 90s Pacific Northwest heavy rock scene - Sunn O))) are descendants of Earth, while Boris are named for a Melvins song - but are in fact largely incompatible. Sunn O)))'s drumless roar doesn't really benefit from the addition of Boris drummer Atsuo's cymbal crashes and thundering kick/snare action. On the other hand, Boris are perfectly capable of droning on and on all by themselves (cf. 1996's Absolutego or 2001's Flood), so why do they need Greg Anderson and Stephen O'Malley?
Altar works as well as it does because all involved understand that transcending earlier successes, not rehashing them, is the key. So even more guests are invited to the party, like vocalist Rex Ritter on the keyboard-driven pastorale "The Sinking Belle (Blue Sheep)" and former Soundgarded guitarist Kim Thayil, one more feedback wave on the ocean of sound that is album closer "Blood Swamp." Earth leader Dylan Carlson makes the most of his appearance, doing his cowboys-in-hell guitar thing all over the 28-minute "Her Eyes Were Wet With Venom," a bonus track only available on the limited edition two-CD version, which is well worth tracking down.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006


Here's a piece I wrote awhile ago (so long ago, in fact, that I forgot I wrote it) about technical death metal, old and new. If I'd had more space, I'd have gotten into the weirdness that is Francophone Canada (Voivod, Gorguts, and now Neuraxis and Cryptopsy), but I think I made my general points pretty well. I did forget to mention that folks should under no circumstances waste their time listening to Behold...The Arctopus, though, so heed that advice now.


This Slate piece brought back fond memories for me. My dad was a huge fan of "bus plunge" stories; when I was younger, and he was still alive, he told me about how the papers used to pack the bottoms of columns with these little nuggets of anonymous mass death. By the time I started reading newspapers, this kind of thing had faded away. I wish they'd bring it back. All those dead foreigners in their plunged busses and flipped ferries deserve some kind of memorial, even if it's just in a tiny filler piece at the bottom of a newspaper column.

Friday, November 10, 2006


Longer than usual commute this morning (train stopped for an open bridge).

Yoko Kanno, “ELM”
Deep Purple, “Child In Time”
Steely Dan, “The Royal Scam”
The Cables, “Baby Why”
John Coltrane, “It’s Easy To Remember”
Iron Maiden, “Gates Of Tomorrow”
The Doors, “My Eyes Have Seen You”
Sol Hoopii, “Hula Breeze”
Eyehategod, “Anxiety Hangover”
David Bowie, “V-2 Schneider”
Decapitated, “The Eye Of Horus”
Destruction, “Nailed To The Cross”
Agoraphobic Nosebleed, “Black Ass, White Dick”
Venom, “Voyeur”
Sonny Stitt, “Sunset”
Brant Bjork, “Kinda 65 (Return Flight)”
The Fall, “Hip Priest”
Bebe, “Revolvió”
Converge, “Lonewolves”
The Ramones, “Cretin Hop”
Bad Company, “Bad Company”
Alarm Will Sound, “Gwely Mernans”

Thursday, November 09, 2006



Let's pretend the Doors are not one of the most overplayed bands in that wasteland of sonic saturation, classic rock radio. Let's also pretend that deluxe, super-fancy boxed sets like this one are not aimed at middle-aged, deep-pocketed fans who already own most of the music within them in at least one other format—that, instead, they're about bringing an artist's or band's music to brand-new listeners in the most efficient manner possible.

Given those two conditions, what do we learn about the Doors by going track-by-track, album-by-album through the six CDs that constitute Perception? The first notable fact that leaps out at the listener is that the Doors discography is pretty much split between three very good albums and three pretty bad albums, and the running order must have been seriously discouraging in real time, because the debut was great, but the three discs that followed it were disappointments, with a few interesting ideas scattered among them. So only diehards were still paying attention by the time the final two discs—Morrison Hotel and L.A. Woman—dropped in '69 and '70. Those two albums, though, showcased a muscular band toughened up by misguided experimentation (on the schizophrenic The Soft Parade in particular) and transformed into a blues-rockin' machine with a little of what would soon become prog-rock sprouting in the corners of their sound.

Jim Morrison was a pretty good singer, especially when he let his Florida redneck background seep around the edges of his Sunset Strip Dionysus mask. Still, do yourself a favor—ignore the lyrics and listen to the band. The Doors could really play, in a variety of styles—the Latin jazz instrumental "Push Push," one of the many outtakes here, and the disco breaks on "The Soft Parade" are about as far from "Light My Fire" as one can get. Furthermore, the album cuts are frequently more impressive than the singles. "The Changeling," a Junior Walker steal that opens L.A. Woman, is the equal of the album's title track, and would have made a much more impressive single than the portentous "Riders On The Storm." Yeah, this band the Doors, they're not geniuses or anything, but they've definitely got their moments.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006


To celebrate the removal of the crooks and the pedophiles from Congress (you can have one, but not the other, and if you're a Bible-thumping freak, you for sure gotta go - thanks for playing, Rick), here are two reviews from this week's Voice. The Isis one is the same one that ran in the Scene already, but the Meat Loaf takedown is new. Go download "Bad For Good" if you can find it online - the album's a real piece of crap, but that song's great.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006


This is being published in the UK in April. (No known US release date.) Will it be as good as the greatest celebrity autobiography ever written? Of course not. Will it be at least as good as Lemmy's? Probably. I'm not the world's biggest Fall fan by a long shot, but I'm sure hoping my local library scores a copy.


Got this thing in the mail today—The Singles, a 19-CD set of every Clash single, packaged in lil' replicas of the original 7" sleeves. Each A-side is paired with every B-side from every country, every 12" promo version, etc., etc. This means the "London Calling" disc has seven tracks, and "The Magnificent Seven" (disc 14) has eight. Most of the others have two or three. A total of 66 tracks—that's probably two full-length CDs, maybe three at most. But heck, it sure is purty. Aging punks, whip out those platinum credit cards. Joe would have wanted it this way. Right?

(no reflection on the quality of the actual music which is fucking awesome and life-altering, yada yada, blah blah blah...)

Monday, November 06, 2006


Got the new Arsis album, United In Regret, in Saturday's mail. It's even more mind-roasting than their full-length debut, A Celebration Of Guilt (I haven't heard the in-between EP, A Diamond For Disease, though I'm almost surely going to buy it when they come to town next month). These two guys (vocalist/guitarist, and drummer) are making highly intricate but also extremely melodic death metal that, to be frank, blows Necrophagist's last album right out of the lake of fire. It's not as fist-pumping as Arch Enemy or some other Scandinavian acts; more in the spirit of the recent Deicide album, packed as that was with loop-de-loop guitar solos and other ear-pleasing treats, amid Benton's usual yammer. (Oh yeah, Arsis are also another one of the young bands who've decided Satan really doesn't need them bigging him up all the time; their lyrics nudge right up to being intelligent.) It comes out tomorrow, so go pick it up. And they're on tour, so go check 'em out. I saw them as part of a Willowtip package at BB King's awhile back (Necrophagist/Neuraxis/Arsis) and left with ACOG in my backpack, so I hope you'll be as impressed as I was.

Friday, November 03, 2006


Today I'm listening to Arch Enemy's Doomsday Machine, and yeah, it was on my top ten of 2005, but holy fucking hell. I've listened to so much stuff since then that I'd frankly forgotten how skull-crushingly, ass-rapingly awesome this album is. "My Apocalypse" alone is worth a dozen metalcore bands' entire careers. (Not I Killed The Prom Queen, though. I got their album in the mail the other day, and was surprised to find myself air-drumming. Clearly, further attention is required.)

Thursday, November 02, 2006


I thought this was gonna run in the Village Voice first, but the Scene beat 'em to the punch. In any case, here's my review of the new Isis album.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006



I needed something to watch on Halloween, and I figured John Carpenter was a safe bet. But rather than reach into my DVD cabinet and pull out The Thing or Prince Of Darkness (the two of his films I own), I decided to get Cigarette Burns, his episode of Showtime's Masters Of Horror series, from Netflix. I was disappointed.

Carpenter's directing skills haven't gone soft; he's as economical and powerful a storyteller as ever. In fact, I'd argue that Ghosts Of Mars is a better movie than Assault On Precinct 13, and Vampires, its first half in particular, is criminally underrated. But he had bad material to work with here, and he couldn't save it.

The story is basically this: creepy Eurotrash film collector Udo Kier hires dumbass ex-junkie horror-revival theater owner Norman Reedus (best known, if he's known at all, as Wesley Snipes' traitorous sidekick in Blade II) to find the one existing print of the legendary film La Fin Absolue Du Monde, which provoked mob violence and death in the theater at its sole screening. Off we go: stooge seeks film, wallows through decadence and degradation, including a totally gratuitous decapitation (though to his credit, Carpenter throws in a nice line of deflating dialogue immediately afterward - "That's not art, that's just murder!"), stooge delivers film to rich creep, everyone gets their comeuppance. This is an old story, told lots and lots of times in different ways, and it always fails at the same point: the reveal. Remember how un-creepy the images on the unholy videotape in The Ring were? When we inevitably get to see La Fin Absolue Du Monde (and by the way, hearing Reedus mumble his way through that title about six dozen times in an hour gets really fuckin' old), it looks like a particularly arty Deicide video - an angel having its wings sawn off, a woman scraping her fingernails off against a wall, in black and white of course, and 1, 2, 3, yaaaaaaawwwwwwnnnn. Once the film-within-a-film actually started rolling, I ceased to give a shit. Sure, it'd basically been a gorier ripoff of 8mm to that point, but I'd been willing to ride along with Carpenter because there were a few good lines, especially one riff on the idea of removing the "cigarette burns" (the small circles that appear in the corners of movies to indicate an upcoming reel change, or if you're watching it on TV an upcoming commercial break) from films. But economical storytelling doesn't help when you've got a crap story to tell.