Tuesday, March 31, 2009
Friday, March 27, 2009
Why am I telling you all of this? Aw hell, I don’t know. Blog posts just have a way of writing themselves, usually poorly. So anyway, around this time, 1992-93 or so, my mind was opening to country music in a big way, and that’s when Bettina turned me onto her new signing, FREAKWATER, featuring not one but two fantastic female vocalists. The sad one and the happy one! They’d just released a 45 (not on her label) called “Your Goddamn Mouth”, backed with a cover of Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs”, done all country/a capella-like. I thought the B-side was pretty unamusing, but “Your Goddamn Mouth” totally slayed me. It still does. The follow-up album, the band’s third, on Thrill Jockey, “Feels Like The Third Time” (ha!), was just as good if not better, and I bought pretty much every LP or CD that came after it. Live, they were a hoot. They played a free show in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park on my 40th birthday last year – uh OK, the year before – and I had to get together with my family or whatever. So I’m not sure what’s going on with them now. This 45 represents when they burned their brightest, though the rest of the discography definitely deserves some scourin’.
Play Freakwater “Your Goddamn Mouth”
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
Here’s what I wrote about this song on my old blog in 2003 after incessantly playing it one weekend:
Untold repeated spins this past weekend of my #1 favorite SOFT BOYS tune, the overlooked and underplayed “Rock and Roll Toilet”, from the "Invisible Hits" LP. If anyone not named the Glimmer Twins has written a Rolling Stones song as fine as this one, I haven’t heard it. This is first-class gutter rock, played with a cocky, bold swagger unbecoming of a band better known for psychedelic, thoroughly English eccentricities. It’s a killer. Listen closely and you can even hear the groupies mounting the tour bus in the background.
It would make me so, so happy if you’d listen to it or download it and see what I mean.
Play The Soft Boys – “Rock and Roll Toilet”
Download THE SOFT BOYS – “Rock and Roll Toilet” (from 1983 “Invisible Hits” LP)
Monday, March 23, 2009
We are currently in the midst of an extended revival and belated celebration of lost outsider folk music of the 1970s, defined by obscurity more than anything else, with simplicity & pureness of sound running a close second. Examples of said 70s folk artists include the excellent VASHTI BUNYAN, LINDA PERHACS and SIBYLLE BAIER. It may be many years before the lost acoustic children of the 1980s are accorded the same due respect, yet the magical, often experimental New Zealand duo THE KIWI ANIMAL deserve their just psychic rewards posthaste. It’s probably a decent time to be paying them as well, as there’s an oft-delayed CD retrospective set to come out “soon” – current rumors place it this year, in 2008 – on a German label called Pehr. This set encompasses both of the band’s LPs: 1984’s minimal, beautifully weird “Music Media” and the following year’s sinister, ten-song acoustic concept piece “Mercy”. Completists, of whom there will surely be more of once this music sees a wider release, will be shattered to learn that the band’s 1983 7”EP “Wartime” & assorted cassette-only live tracks won’t be on the CD, but I’m certain that this is due only to the 80-minute space limitation of the storage media itself. These fragile and wonderful sounds weren’t asked to be “file(d) under New Acoustic Music” on the back of their first album for nothing.
Let’s take a step back for a second and think about what the 80s represented in terms of New Zealand and its place in the larger world of independent rock music. This small two-island country garnered an obsessive amount of “indie cachet” during the decade – I knew of Americans at the time who would have given a left arm for the complete discography of Flying Nun records; later in the decade, the rough & homemade Xpressway label burrowed an even deeper level of allegiance to the country and its seemingly endless supply of strange & unique bands.
When Hayward, then in Auckland, met theater performer and local artist-around-town Julie Cooper, a bond was sealed, a pact was made, and in 1982 The Kiwi Animal arose. Both played guitar, and both sang, sometimes in unison but more often taking turns or signing entirely different but complementary vocal lines at the same time. I’m unfortunately unable to comment on the band’s work the first eighteen months of their existence, having mistakenly spent my time in America as a teenager during those years, while also not having sufficient current adulthood resources to procure a copy of their debut single “Wartime”. But here’s what Gregor Kessler wrote about it online (see the bottom of this article on how to access this piece on the “internet”):
“….their first output, the purely acoustic Wartime five-track 7" EP, released on their Brent and Julie Records label, oscillated between near-classic minor-key folk territory (in the achingly beautiful "Flying (Again!)" or the sinister "Back to the Moon" which, in all its purity, gains a menacing touch through the floating chord changes that convert dissonance into sinister hypnosis) and Smelly Feet-like sparse and angular song sketches like "Private Stanley." Julie’s input and especially her crystal-clear voice had added a breathtaking gentleness, and at the same time intensity, to Brent’s formerly often harsh musical ventures. The combination of their voices and guitars in songs such as "Jokers & Clownes" make the back of your neck tingle time and again…..”
I can imagine, because that’s what happened to me the first time I heard their debut album “Music Media” a couple of years ago. I immediately decided I needed to spread the word about their majesty, in hopes that others could approximate the same sensations. This twelve-song set could be easily, and somewhat mistakenly, summarized as a lovely acoustic folk record with a not-too-well-hidden experimental streak. The strange echoes, baroque instrumentation and the uplifting, pitch-perfect clarity of Julie Cooper’s vocals have many parallels with Barbara Manning’s late 80s LP “Lately I Keep Scissors”, especially on ghostly, hypnotic tracks like “Just How Close”. Her voice has this ethereal but not corny quality that drifts way, way beyond “pretty” – it’s an accented aural massage, one that you can’t imagine ever shifting out of pitch or yelling, screaming or cursing.
This darker undercurrent comes full circle on 1985’s “Mercy”, a record almost completely taken over vocally by Hayward, though still very much a Cooper/Hayward production. Patrick Waller, who played a bit of viola and cello on the first album, is also given equal billing on this one as being a full-fledged member of The Kiwi Animal, and he plays on nearly all of the tracks. It is a record that perhaps lacks the instant gratification and classic status of “Music Media”, but its rewards are returned in proverbial spades with repeated listens. Only one track truly sounds like something that could be plopped back onto “Music Media”, and that’s the opening “Flesh and Time”, perhaps not coincidentally only one of two songs that feature Brent & Julie and no one else. The experimental nature of this LP at times reminds me of soundtrack work rather than out-and-out folk music. I hear the sorts of sounds in “Conversation Piece” and its companion “Fag Piece” that could have scored bleak, wintry tales like those in Krzysztof Kieslowski’s incredible 10-part “Decalogue”. Haywood works some anger loose into these songs, some of which appears to be remotely political in nature, and yet it’s a sort of gently seething anger, on a slow boil rather than a big bang of released tension. As mentioned previously, one also gets the feeling that there might have even been a “concept” at play behind the record, but it’s certainly not easy to put a finger on. Pluck just about any single track from the record and you’re left with stark, minimalist folk music, full of warmth & depth, and bursting with strange & wonderful feelings of all kinds. Peter, Paul & Mary this most definitely ain’t. I can only hope that when the 80s folk revival steamrolls through your town in a few years, you’ll remember to give your thanks & prayers for the glories of The Kiwi Animal, and tell that bandwagon that they arrived just a little too late at your house.
** Much – no, check that – all of the “history” portion of this article was swiped from a great online piece/interview on & with Brent & Julie, written by one Gregor Kessler, who appears to be one of the folks behind the upcoming CD reissue. You can find said piece by typing the following into your browser window: www.pehrlabel.com/kiwianimal/index.htm .
Tracks from "Music Media" LP
Play The Kiwi Animal, "Time of the Leaves"
Download THE KIWI ANIMAL - "Time of the Leaves"
Download THE KIWI ANIMAL - "Assassin"
Download THE KIWI ANIMAL - "Blue Morning"
Download THE KIWI ANIMAL - "Just How Close"
Friday, March 20, 2009
Wait, where were we? Oh yeah, THE GIBSON BROS put out a rash of 45s on this time, including whoppers on Siltbreeze, Sympathy and elsewhere. "My Huckleberry Friend" has a riff I'm pretty sure you're going to recognize right away, and "Old Devil", like a lot of this band's later-period B-sides, is just strange. It wasn't too long after this that the band toured the west coast of the United States, and I got to see them play live at San Francisco's Paradise Lounge, along with about 15 other people. They were outstanding - kinda surly, kinda pissed-off, maybe a little drunk, and really raw & loud as hell. Hope you've enjoyed listening to this band this week as much as I have posting their stuff for ya.
Play The Gibson Bros, "My Huckleberry Friend"
Thursday, March 19, 2009
I also have this great photo of guitarist/singer Don Howland with a tuff “FMLN” hat on, live at the Paradise Lounge in San Francisco, 1991. Photo courtesy of Nicole Penegor, the staff photographer on my own SUPERDOPE fanzine back then. Enjoy.
Play The Gibson Bros “Broke Down Engine”
Download THE GIBSON BROS – “Emulsified” (A-side)
Download THE GIBSON BROS – “Broke Down Engine” (B-side)
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
Monday, March 16, 2009
Thursday, March 12, 2009
Totally have appreciated the seething scorn heaped upon me every time I mention my love for the first couple of BANGLES releases. It certainly makes it all worth it, doesn't it? Well in high school I got really into that first EP of theirs on IRS (recorded when they were still called THE BANGS), and I still believe every track on it to be fantastic 60s fuzz/jangle with harmonies to die for, including their outstanding cover of New Zealand 60s punkers THE LA-DE-DAS ("How Is The Air Up There").
When their real first album came out, of course it was a total slide down the dumper, and after that into the realm of the unmentionable. I've told this story before on other blogs, but I've got a pal who claims he saw the very early Bangs totally blow away BLACK FLAG and RED CROSS at the Cathay De Grande in LA around 1981; four mildly scared, miniskirted young women who decided to play their bouncy 60s pop at lightning speed to the assembled meathead multitude, and won at least one new fan in the process.
So I got to college and had this clued-in next door neighboor in the dorms, and he had that first BANGS single, the one I'd never heard. Totally dug it, and still do. "Getting Out Of Hand / Call On Me", from 1981 on Downkiddie Records, apparently got a smidgen of local airplay, but was really only one of dozens of cool Los Angeles records coming out at the time. Because of their sixties leanings, these ladies got lumped in the with "paisley underground" of the Three O'Clock, Dream Syndicate, Rain Parade et al. I guess that's fair, but they exited the paisley ghetto just about as fast as they could, and their bank accounts are undoubtedly still thanking them. Hope you enjoy it as much as I do - c'mon, it's OK to fess up.
Play The Bangs, "Getting Out of Hand"
Download THE BANGS - "Getting Out of Hand" (Side A)
Download THE BANGS - "Call On Me" (Side B)
As a bonus, I'm also including a very early send-up The Bangs did of "Getting Out of Hand" for the Los Angeles art/punk magazine NO MAG in 1981. The magazine was great and incredibly un-PC; each issue filled in every random spot in the layout with scary pictures of mentally retarded individuals. It was comped on the first "Radio Tokyo Tapes" LP the next year. Again, thanks to Leah for sending this track along to us here at the 'Twang.
Download THE BANGS - "No Mag Commercial"
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
“….brings forth Link Wray’s pencil-poked amps as played through by a ham-handed SONICS. And that voice – man, what a howler. Loud, overloaded, garage scorch with no precedent and no antecedent – something pure & unique and totally wild….”
Play The Night Kings “Bum”
Sunday, March 08, 2009
Download THE BRIDES – “Pushed Around”