Monday, February 26, 2007


Sure it's something of a conflict of interest but I'll say it anyway - a new podcast called NEST OF VIPERS has just made its regal debut, and despite it being hosted or contributed to by people with whom I've broken bread in the past, it's still the most entertaining & laugh-out-loud funny one I've ever heard. DANNY PLOTNICK hosts a show that's billed as being:

"Like the unholy coupling of Fresh Air and The Best Damn Sports Show, Nest of Vipers is smart, funny and irreverent. Each episode features the rantings, ravings and erudite patter of independent musicians, filmmakers, writers and comedians holding court on cultural topics of the utmost importance...."

Like, for instance, the current episode, "WORST ROCK SHOW EVER", which is just over a half an hour or so. Psychefunkapus gets namechecked. "Robe rock" (Sunn O) is discussed. Pain is felt. I've heard a couple of the upcoming ones as well & they're a blast. You can subscribe via iTunes or just go right here and listen up. I recommend that you do.

Friday, February 23, 2007


I’ve found over the years that the eras that I consider the “best” for the sort of music I listen to happen to correspond with the same years that I happen to be paying attention the most closely. Over the past 3-4 years, I’ve naturally concluded, as one who’s been blogging about music nearly every week during that period, that we’re in a pretty solid era of microgenre-bending rock music right now, with fantastic bands or acts popping up every few months. Here are 10 that I’m really into that I want you to be into as well (all names link to the individual band’s sites):

1. TIMES NEW VIKING(pictured here) Scattered but harmonious, joyful but ear-bleeding, TNV are the 2007 equivalent of the late 70s UK DIY bedroom recording movement crossed with that berserk 1979 Half Japanese triple-LP box set, with dueling male vs. female vocals rattling off of every surface. Their new CD “Presents The New Paisley Reich” blows away their (excellent) previous efforts and is the early favorite for record of the year around these parts.

2. JOSEPHINE FOSTER – Strange and ghostly folk chanteuse who can hit the upper registers & the lower depths as well as any Maria Callas you care to put forward. She never stands in one place too long and may be an acquired taste, but once acquired, wow. She bends vocal notes and guitar chords in ways that generate shudders and deeper wisdom. (warning – her most recent CD-R hints at a very experimental record to come later this year; I suggest starting with “Hazel Eyes, I Will Lead You”).

3. THE WOODEN SHJIPS – The prototype band for what I’d want “psychedelia” to sound like in 2007 – heavy but nimble; referential to the flipped-out greats while not overly apeing them; and full of layered, screaming keyboards, guitar and revved-up, droning sound. Only two small-form records in (a 10” and a 45), and they’ve already built up a cult-like following, of which I am a member.

4. NOTHING PEOPLE – Also mining the weirdo garage/psych vein are California’s Nothing People, but they do it in a much more lo-fi, splayed-out, guitar juggernaut sort of manner. Their 2006 EP is a godsend, and hopefully portends a lot, lot more to come like that.

5. PSYCHEDELIC HORSESHIT – Columbus, Ohio-based genre-crappers who play with such confidence and fuck-it panache they remind me of a pumped-up early FALL minus the repetition, but with all the bizarre cut-ups and decided lack of recording quality. I guess you’d call it really loud folk, but sometimes they explode into total noise, and that’s not very folky, is it? Just one and a half 45s so far, both fantastic.

6. THE TIME FLYS – The standard-bearers for punk rock right now, as far as I’m concerned, but these guys + gal are so goddamn fun they can probably even connect to a much wider, non-punker audience (though some people just HATE ‘em!). I compared them to the NY Dolls and old Texas punks earlier in the month, and was corrected by one wag, who said he heard RED CROSS’ “Born Innocent” more than anything else. Bingo! That’s why I like ‘em so much!

7. CHEVEU – Way cool, experimental French garage punk band who’ve already developed a reputation for complex, dirty, gruff songs built around simple, exploding riffs and a variety of tempos. These guys seem to have nothing but upside; I’m totally stoked to hear what an LP from them might sound like.

8. PISSED JEANS – It’s hard to pull off a sound that reminds this particular late-thirtysomething so much of his ear-bleeding youth & the bands from it, but these guys do it, approximating Black Flag, Drunks With Guns and the Laughing Hyenas with every monster riff and every tortured scream. It doesn’t sound dumb, it doesn’t sound dated, it sounds totally raw & alive and worth savoring. Please tour!!!!

9. MISS ALEX WHITE – She’s slipped under too many radars for my liking, which is a crime since every record she’s put out so far is a blast. Tuff, tuneful garage rock that constantly reminds me of some of the late 70s Masque bands from LA like The Eyes, The Bags and The Weirdos or slightly later ones like UXA.

10. CORTNEY TIDWELL - Guaranteed to be loathed by 75% of those of you reading this right now – but I shall soldier on. Miss Tidwell is an up-n-comer from Nashville who I read about & then downloaded a couple tracks from a few weeks ago; her m.o. is to graft exceptionally sparse arrangements & her lovely vocals onto to a template of OPAL-ish, even COCTEAU TWINS-ish melancholy country & electronica. Yeah, I know! Electronica! Put that in your pipe and smoke it! I recommend downloading her track “Eyes Are At the Billions” and proceeding from there. The album’s got more gems like that one.


Wednesday, February 21, 2007


That’s right, four months and two days ago I started this site with no goal in mind other than for it to be a repository for things I wanted to write about, and maybe the odd mp3 or two. Mission accomplished, I guess. (We haven’t completely morphed into a free mp3 site, I promise - that’s just the kick I’m on right now). Though we haven’t seen the lofty heights of web trafficking achieved by my previous all-music-based site Agony Shorthand, there are about 170 of you that see fit to click this way on a given day to see what I’m blathering on about. And that makes me proud. Here are a few items you might have missed during the last 122 days:




Friday, February 16, 2007


THE SWELL MAPS are probably in any right-thinking individual’s personal Top 10 punk-era British acts, despite their experimental, sonic distance from punk and the fact that they slot much better into the DIY, homemade post-punk “Messthetics” world so popular with the kids today. Several of their most “famous” tracks – famous being relative for a band still so little-heard – like “Dresden Style”, “Vertical Slum” and “Read About Seymour”, are surely punk rock on wheels, but they also feature the scarf-on-the-mic-stand, beatnik/French-like vocals of Nikki Sudden, and there’s just something very strange about the construction of each tune. That’s why I love ‘em. They often went totally ambient, too, or showcased piano ballads, 10-minute soundscapes, or tribal, polyrhythmic percussive workouts. Some of these worked better than others, but it’s a good bet that there weren’t many bands this far-reaching & still good anywhere at the time. There were only two real albums (1979’s “A Trip To Marineville” and 1980’s “Jane From Occupied Europe”), some amazing 45s, a couple posthumous collections, and then this: a 1981 double LP on Rough Trade called “Whatever Happens Next”.

When I found my copy of “Whatever Happens Next” in the early 90s I was just becoming wise to the charms of the Maps, and I felt like I’d struck gold at Sutter’s Mill. This collection was rare to begin with, and has never been put on CD, even with two US Swell Maps reissues having come out just over the past 6-7 years. I did my research, and the three tracks I’m posting for you today are not only fantastic, fantastically rare, and fantastically fabulous, but they exist only on that great “Whatever Happens Next” 2xLP that nobody has (not even me, I eBayed & digitized it a few years ago). Strong recommendation to you to buy buy buy the two LPs (now on CD with loads of extra tracks), plus the “Train Out of It” and “International Rescue” comps while you’re at it…..

Download SWELL MAPS – “Armadillo”
Download SWELL MAPS – “Sheep Dip”
Download SWELL MAPS – “Bandits On Fire”

Friday, February 09, 2007


I'll admit, I thought the Australian 70s/80s punk goldmine had long been tapped. Ever since I bought the "Bloodstains Across Australia" comp LP & then sold it back (because I thought at the time that it had nothing in the league of The Victims, Razar, Rocks, Psycho Surgeons et al), I counted myself fortunate to have ingested & mentally tagged every great Aussie punk 45 of the golden era. But that's before I heard this great new compilation from Dropkick Records - and specifically, the band the YOUNG IDENTITIES. Their "Positive Thinking" 45 from 1979 is one of the most raw, crazed & wacked-out punk rock singles of any era, totally in league with the MENTALLY ILL and sharing many of the same fine traits (like an unglued singer with a whiney. nasally voice + a bass player who seems content to hit the same chord over & over as fast as possible). You get all three tracks from that and their other single too, plus some great stuff from JUST URBAIN ("Burning" is fantastic), the BODYSNATCHERS and SECTION URBAIN. Ironically, several tracks were on the "Bloodstains" comp I didn't like, which proves again the wisdom of age. For some reason there's the nearly-hideous Bauhuas ripoff band called KICKS on here too, 8 of the 26 tracks in fact, but you know how to use the skip button, dont ya? Here's what Dropkick has to say about this compilation, just so you know:

Shake Records and Savage Music (essentially the same thing) was the label run in Brisbane during the late '70s by David Holiday and Peter Miller from Just Urbain, and Rod McLeod from the Young Identities. The first release orchestrated by this brains trust was the Cigarettes and Alcohol" 7" from local heroes The Leftovers. With no-one within earshot waving chequebooks at them, and having caught the DIY bug, they had nine releases in all, eight 7"s and a live cassette. Roll call: Just Urbain, Young Identities, Bodysnatchers and Kicks.

The bands here are among the most primitive, inept and snotty DIY noise to be found in Australia at the time. The singles sold out their tiny hand made pressings (usually 100 to 200) within months and quickly became highly sought-after. These days they are next to impossible to find. Almost the entire label's output is compiled here (save a few songs from the Kicks cassette), complete with plenty of band photos, flyers, artwork and lengthy recollections from Messrs Holiday and Miller.

I say it's a great one, and seriously, if you don't hear that Young Identities stuff you're going to the grave with only a life half lived.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007


I’ve only had a second or two to look over this new website called SHIT-FI.COM, but they’ve captured a slice of the microscenia zeitgeist that warms the cockles of my heart. That is – off-putting, poorly-recorded accidents of history that in themselves became influential musical masterpieces. Think MIKE REP & THE QUOTAS, the ELECTRIC EELS, the first GERMS single. I think it’s important to read both their manifesto and their shit list of worthy recordings, many of which I’d count among the greatest sounds of all time. And as you can see on their home page, they have a very classy logo. Hear hear!

Monday, February 05, 2007


I wussed out on the record release party last Friday but rest assured this thing's brand new - the second full-length from 21st Century punk rock's primary exponents. These guys somehow just make it all sound so easy, no straining to be heard, no over-the-top stupidity, just a totally hotwired, glamarama middle point between "The New York Dolls In Too Much Too Soon" and THE INFANTS' "Giant Girl In The 5th Grade" (hey, you know, that's a song we should post here soon...). The TIME FLYS, when they're on, can make the tired garage punk subgenre seem ballsy & fucking alive again - witness this one's "This Is Stoner Rock" (wha...?) and "Romance + Violence", two songs as good as any you're going to hear this year. Part of the reason I like them so much is they've still retained this can't-barely-play sound that threatens to send each song sputtering into pure noise ("Romance + Violence" almost falls apart at least twice), and yet their chops are loud & fast & wild, just like they are live - and I've seen them a good half a dozen times and hope to at least double that amount in 2007. This one's even better than "Fly", so take it from a brother and get that wallet in your back pocket now -- and see these fellass + gal if they ever come to your town.

Thursday, February 01, 2007


My three personal connections to the nation of Finland are my former Nokia cell phone; my favorite of the San Jose Sharks' two goalies, Vesa Toskala; and the sprinkling of wacked-out avant-punk I have from Finland in my record collection. To me, a trip to Helsinki or Oulu would be to visit the furthest stretches of imagination, even more so than my visits to the faraway land of Sweden in 2002. Finland to me is cold, distant, dark, scary and full of hard Baltic liquor, but then again, I've never been there. It might be a total upscale, yuppified place. I do know that some of the wildest & weirdest records I've ever heard come from there. Take "Ma Vihaan" by RUTTO, for instance. Rutto are this total off-the-rails hardcore band from 1983, with this shrieking, instantly-falling-apart shitstorm of a sound that is just candyfloss to my ears. Their "Ei Paluuta" 7"EP is a ballistic, Black Flag-ish classic, and their "Ilmastoitu Painajainen" single from 1984 only slightly less so.

Then there's THE SILVER. A late 70s lost pajama party stab in the dark, so retarded and fried it makes 1/2 Japanese from the same era sound totally sane & with-it. Yes, "Do You Wanna Dance" is the Beach Boys/Ramones classic. You'll never hear it the same way again. Finally, the first Finnish band to win my heart - of course I'm talking about LIIMANARINA. Bizarre, low-fidelity, glue-sniffing "snot folk" played at top volume, with the de rigeur Finnish stream of vowels slurred & screamed over the top. This one ("Turistit") is from their first 7"EP which I believe came out in 1989 or 1990. Amazing, destroying, a burnout classic, and all that. Ignore that Drag City record they did and find their singles - they're great!!!

Download RUTTO - "Ma Vihaan"
Download THE SILVER - "Do Ya Wanna Dance"
Download LIIMANARINA - "Turistit"

(click on these links above, then download from the page the links take you to - or just play the songs there first)