Friday, June 27, 2008


When Chris D.’s final 80s lineup of the FLESH EATERS breathed their last breath in 1983 (“Hard Road To Follow”), D, as I understand it, set about on hitching up with what was then a very distinct Los Angeles phenomenon: the urban, punk rock-schooled honky tonker. Remember Green On Red, Rank & File, Los Lobos, Tex & The Horseheads and those “Town South of Bakersfield” comps? Yeah, me too. Well D put out what was essentially a solo album filled up with guest stars from that scene called “Time Stands Still” in 1984, and dubbed the band that put it out CHRIS D. & THE DIVINE HORSEMEN. The “Divine Horsemen” reference, of course, was to the epic life-changer of a song on the Flesh Eaters’ second album (and the Maya Duren film of the same name). This act then morphed into a real band simply called THE DIVINE HORSEMEN featuring Chris D. and his wife Julie Christiansen as a sort of a dueling-vocal Sonny & Cher of the gritty, nails-tough urban honkin’ scene. The band played a number of club dates during 1985-88 or so, hit the road a few times, and released two very solid records on SST that still have yet to come out on CD. Given the economics of making and selling CDs these days, I highly doubt they ever will.

Since The Flesh Eaters are my all-time favorite band and I never got to see them in the 80s, I at least am proud to say I saw this version of THE DIVINE HORSEMEN in 1986, at the Variety Arts Center in LA. They were opening for fIREHOSE, and they were a blast. It was right around the time of their first group LP, “Devil’s River”, and its still that record and that era of the band that does it most for me. Calling it “country” is definitely a misnomer, as you’ll hear from listening or downloading the tracks below. This material hues a lot more closely to what the Flesh Eaters were going for, though Chris screams less and the band has an expansive twang to their sound that was definitely a little softer on the ears. "Roots rock", some have said. OK, whatever. I’ve picked what I think are the three best tracks on the record, but you should track the whole thing down if ya can, as it’s a real good one.

This LP was fairly quickly followed by an EP (or “mini-LP”) called “Middle Of The Night” that was also splendid. It has my absolute favorite thing the band ever did, a raw, soul-scraping cover of their own song “Little Sister”, which Chris D. & The Divine Horsemen did on that earlier, acoustic LP. Of course, it’s posted for you below. The EP also had a killer cover of “Voodoo Idol” by THE CRAMPS. At that time in my life listening to my #1 rock and roll hero (Chris D) pay tribute to the band that pretty much introduced me to “good music” (The Cramps) was exceptionally gratifying. I’m not going to pretend that it was all roses after this. Their next LP “Snake Handler” bored me to tears, and I can’t even listen to it to this day, no matter how much I heart Chris D. and his body of work. Nope, this is the best stuff right here:

From the “Devil’s River” LP

Play or Download THE DIVINE HORSEMEN – “My Sin”
Play or Download THE DIVINE HORSEMEN – “Love Call”
Play or Download THE DIVINE HORSEMEN – “It Doesn’t Matter”

From the “Middle Of The Night” EP

Play or Download THE DIVINE HORSEMEN – “Little Sister”

Tuesday, June 24, 2008


Perhaps I was just waiting for the perfect modern underground rock band to embrace dub music & ricocheting, echo-laden sounds in perfect union with the times. Perhaps I figured the analog synthesizers and dub could never successfully meet. Folks, they have, in the person of Australian duo the FABULOUS DIAMONDS, whose two recordings, a 7”EP and a new LP/CD on Siltbreeze, are rapidly making their way to many a hipster’s lips. In fact as I was marinating this post in my head, I flipped open the excellent new Z-GUN #2 old-school fanzine, and right there on page 2 is an interview with the don’t-call-us-a-couple “band”. You can’t get any more ’08 street cred than that. In fact they give some pretty good copy – a brawling anti-couple locked in verbal combat with each other while coming off as perfectly and totally harmonious through their music. Having seen them play live just over a week ago, I can safely say they’re pretty much my favorite band of the hour, having bested Times New Viking, the Hank IV and Psychedelic Horseshit on the same goddamn night.

The Diamonds’ have already been quoted from their presskit extensively (nice work, Tom Lax) as being a hybrid of “Augustus Pablo, Young Marble Giants and Suicide”. Except this time it’s true, though I’d tip over heavy on the Pablo side of the scale. Horns snake in & out of the mix like Pablo’s melodica, as tension builds and releases through warped washes of sound. Drummer Nisa gets away with most of the singing on both releases, and usually that involves repeating a simple couple of lines and letting them swirl around in the reverb and the delay. There’s a quiet, restrained tribalism here that reminds me a little of the polyrhythmic sounds of late 70s compatriots SPK. In short, I totally dig it, and so do all right-thinking punks of today. See if you can join the crue by clicking the links below.

Play or Download FABULOUS DIAMONDS – “Side A, Track 2” (from 2007 7”EP on Nervous Jerk)
Play or Download FABULOUS DIAMONDS – “Side A, Track 3” (from new mini-LP on Siltbreeze)
Play or Download FABULOUS DIAMONDS – “Side B, Track 3” (from new mini-LP on Siltbreeze)

Monday, June 23, 2008


In all my years I've never actually sat down and done a recorded interview where I was the fella being interviewed, until yesterday. VINDALOO COCKTAIL is a cool podcast created & managed by the Cousin Creep media empire, run straight outta Bakersfield by way of Melbourne, Australia. "Cuz" was kind enough to want to talk with me about the various blogs I have something to do with, primarily FIRST PRINCIPLES (so be warned!). I don't know what I said or if I sounded like a mo-ron, but that's your call. If you're even the least bit interested, the show can be streamed here - it's "Episode 5 - Insert Caption Here".

Wednesday, June 18, 2008


So I finally went out and got one of those VHS-to-DVD converter things a few weeks ago. It’s a cord that allows me to feed my old videotapes directly into my computer, and then roast them up onto DVDs. In the meantime, I also figured out how to take the captured file and make it into an “.flv” file and upload it onto YouTube. The first self-referential fruits of my labor are posted below, which you’re totally free to ignore. In 1987 my college friends Mitch (Rubin Fiberglass) Fogelman, Grady Runyan & Beth Allen asked me to join their new band as the singer. Though I’d never sung a lick of music outside of my car and had a monotone voice, I think it was because I was angling to be the town drunk and had a decent record collection. Beth and I were 20 years old; Grady & Mitch were 19, and drummer Mickey (Miki) Vuckovich was around that age as well, if not younger. In other words, a first-time, learning-to-play, not-entirely-serious college party band. The band had already been named: THE UMBILICAL CHORDS. The sound had already been set: raw, unsophisticated, “KBD”-style punk with elements of Red Cross, Ramones and one of our favorite bands of the time, The Lazy Cowgirls. Grady & Mitch pretty much wrote the songs and called the shots – all lyrics & music were theirs (though everyone had say in the end result), and I simply “sang” them in my completely undistinct monotone. We performed covers of The Electric Eels (“Agitated”), Red Cross (“Every Day There’s Someone New”), The Ramones (“Loudmouth”), Radio Birdman (“New Race”) and a great Misfits/Flipper medley (“Where Eagles Dare/Ha Ha Ha”). It was, as drunken college things often are, a total blast.

Grady was majoring in film studies at UC-Santa Barbara, and he, Mitch & our friend Chris put together a short, 12-minute Super 8 document of the band, filmed in early 1988. This was the UMBILICAL CHORDS MOVIE, which I’ve had to break into two parts because You Tube only takes videos up to 10 minutes. I think they did a fantastic job. Of course I’ve watched it a bunch in the nineteen years since it was made, but not at all in the last 8 or so. It has the power to make me both cringe AND want to stand up & be counted. There are things on it that are only funny when you’re young, like the master plan we had to provide the audience with cabbage to throw at us during every show. Radio Birdman, whose “New Race” we cover in Part 2 of the video, is a band I haven’t listened to in ages, as they sound totally ridiculous to me now. If you lived in a college town like Isla Vista, California, you may have had a gaggle of local bands like ours that you saw at parties & bars. You probably took them about as seriously as they took themselves, which is to say not very.

What happened to the ‘Chords? Well, though accounts vary, I think the band broke up because Rubin Fiberglass and Grady Runyan were doing more musical “growing up” than Beth, Mickey & I were, and wanted to play more fuzzed-out, slowed-down rock music, and formed MONOSHOCK during late 1988. Beth and I, at least, were still stuck in louder/faster/shorter. Monoshock were fantastic, and the “real band” that we never were. They moved to the San Francisco Bay Area in the early 90s, released several 45s and an LP, and are now considered to be a very influential band on bigger fish like Comets On Fire. Grady also plays in LIQUOR BALL and the outstanding BAD TRIPS. Mitch plays in the mighty ABOMINOG, sometimes with Grady. Beth went on to play in COCKPIT, THE LOUDMOUTHS and an all-female Mentors tribute band called THE WOMENTORS. I talked to her at a wedding a few weeks ago, got her OK to post this video, and learned she’s in a new band whose name escapes me. I do know it’s punk, that’s for damn sure. Mickey Vuckovich, where are you? Phone home!

Songs (note that the audio is not synched with the video, and are from different recordings):

1. “Coitus” (an instrumental that the band started every show with)
2. “Filth” (recorded at our first 5-person practice, the first time I ever sang in front of another human being. The results are telling)
3. “A Few Of My Favorite Things” (vocals by Rubin Fiberglass)
4. “New Race”
5. “Coitus (Reprise)”

Monday, June 16, 2008


I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: if music was the only consideration in life, and I could time machine back to any era, it wouldn’t be Vienna in 1910, Detroit in 1969 nor New York in 1977. Nope, it’d be to Hollywood in 1977-78, so I could get all beaned up on stimulants at the Canterbury House every weekend with my ne’er-do-well friends, & then head over to The Masque to watch The Bags, The Germs, The Weirdos, The Flesh Eaters, Middle Class and all the rest of the crew. Man, when that bootleg “ME WANT BREAKFAST” compilation came out in 1986 with all the early Dangerhouse 45s on it, it was a total life-changer for me. Later, in 1991, “The Dangerhouse Collection, Vol. 1” LP came out (officially, this time). At the time I couldn’t make much sense out of the lone synth-driven track on there, BLACK RANDY & THE METROSQUAD’s “Trouble At The Cup” – it was not of a piece with the rest of the roaring, well-recorded punk rock screamers, and I figured it was some lark put out by friends of the label. In a sense that was true, but as it turned out, Black Randy ended up having more releases on that short-lived label (4) that anyone did, including a full-length LP (“Pass The Dust, I Think I’m Bowie”).

There are untold stories of the depravity and the cunning stunts pulled by Jon Morris, aka Black Randy, a guy who was already 27 years old when punk rock fully arrived in Los Angles. Many of these can be found in the great oral history paperback, WE GOT THE NEUTRON BOMB. The music he & his gang of Dangerhouse friends & family put together has gathered a head of steam in recent years as well, and deservedly so. I’ve not only made my peace with it, I’ve really come to dig it myself. It’s sloppy, loose, angry, comedy-driven synth punk, and more on the level of contemporaries or near-contemporaries like ½ JAPANESE, SMEGMA and WHITE BOY, minus some levels of out-and-out noise. I’m posting the first single here, from late 1977. Members of The Screamers, The Eyes and The Dils play on this one, as they did on subsequent releases – they were, in fact, “The Metrosquad”. Enjoy.

Play or Download BLACK RANDY & THE METROSQUAD – “Trouble At The Cup” (A-Side)
Play or Download BLACK RANDY & THE METROSQUAD – “Loner With A Boner” (B-Side)
Play or Download BLACK RANDY & THE METROSQUAD – “Sperm Bank Baby” (B-Side)

Friday, June 13, 2008


Rob Vasquez is, for all intents & purposes, the forgotten man of late 20th Century rock genius. Because he loosely plied – nay, still plies - his trade in the semi-derivative field of 60s-inspired, garage-based punk rock, he’ll only get a footnote in the history books, except, for better or for ill, within “the garage community”. As a person who sometimes tries to look beyond the world of garage rock, I would like to nominate him for higher honors. His guitar-playing & throaty, snarled vocal delivery in THE NIGHTS AND DAYS, THE NIGHT KINGS and a handful of other strange & wonderful combos, trios and duos is at such a high and unique level, that I’ve made it my life’s work to help expose his gifts to the world’s populace. Perhaps I exaggerate the point. That said, here are Detailed Twang links to play or download four of his releases: the first NIGHTS & DAYS single, the second NIGHTS & DAYS single, two totally crazed NIGHT KINGS comp tracks, and a GORLS song. I’ve also recently discovered a terrific Nights And Days Myspace site built & maintained by Vasquez himself. There are songs on there that you can’t hear anywhere else.

This brings us to the sole 2003 single by RIGHT ON, a Seattle-based trio made up of Vasquez, Dan Wood (now of THE PETS), and Charlie Ryan. It was released on France’s Royal Records in some absurdly low amount – and it’s excellent, as you might imagine (I've just been informed that they still have some left!!). Nothing else ever came out from them, and they are no more. Until I saw Vasquez’s current duo (!) NICE SMILE play last year, it was the only Vasquez act I’d ever seen play live, and I’m still blathering on about how great it was. See what you think by clicking on the blue underlined parts below.

Play or Download RIGHT ON – “Buried Alive” (A-side)
Play or Download RIGHT ON – “Love” (B-side)

Wednesday, June 11, 2008


I’ve had toxic resistance to the English punk bands of the early 80s, almost as early as I became aware of them back in the day. Man, you couldn’t push aside a hippie with a stick without finding some young Mohican sniveling in the bushes right behind him. His new leather jacket was almost always adorned with colorful patches or stickers from “the Big 3” – GBH, DISCHARGE and THE EXPLOITED – as well as lesser lights such as ANTI-PASTI, ADICTS, CHELSEA, 999, COCKNEY REJECTS, VICE SQUAD etc etc. (though truth be told, in high school I was a biiiiig Vice Squad fan). Those bands always sounded totally comic to me – three-chord music for children, played ham-handedly and full of sloganeering, particularly when put up against the amazing California punk of my youth. Or against the US punk of the east coast, Midwest, Northwest and South. Or Sweden, or Australia, etc. With a few exceptions, and contrary to the fight songs coming across the pond at the time, it seems as if punk rock really did die in England around 1980 or so - but thankfully the UK had a lot more to be proud of the first half of that decade, just not from the leathered & mohawked contingent. If there’s anyone out there who wants to fight about this, get in touch and we’ll meet behind stoners’ cove or at next week’s DRI reunion.

Then I heard a song from THE EXPLOITED around 1986 that knocked my goddamn socks off, a roaring 45 that to me, is the apotheosis, the “absolute”, if you will, of moronic English punk. Of course I’m talking about “Dead Cities”. Can’t. Be. Touched! I saw a stage production of the book, later the film, “Trainspotting” at San Francisco’s Edinburgh Castle around 1991 or ‘92 that ended with this song cranked to ear-ripping levels, and I swear the smile on my face could’ve split the building in two. Resisted early 80s English punk until now? Good for you. But download this one, as it’s the proverbial exception that proves the rule.

Play or Download THE EXPLOITED – “Dead Cities” (A-side of 1981 45)

Tuesday, June 10, 2008


This Wellington, NZ band set a few hearts a-flutter in the early 1990s with a two-pronged strategy of 1.) out-and-out feral noise/guitar damage (“Catnip”), and 2.), the side I came to appreciate them for – a gentle, baroque sort of weirdo folk hum descended in part from (guess who) the Velvet Underground. In case you hadn’t deduced, that’s the side found on this single’s Side B, “Carousel”, and it was my introduction to the band when this single came out in 1992. I was pretty smitten with the song, and still am. As I understand it, and if you follow the path on the GARBAGE & THE FLOWERS MySpace page – they’re still together, living in Sydney, and are down to a 3-piece from the augmented 5-piece that made this record sixteen years ago. Singer Helen Johnstone is the perfect vocal foil for this band, and on “Carousel”, she sings in a lovely, but cracked, heavily-accented New Zealandese as the band meanders between classical beauty and completely falling apart. Totally dig it, and hope you do too. There was a good, if uneven, archival LP called “Eyes Rind As If Beggars” (hunh?), and it looks like maybe a couple of more recent LPs as well…..lots more to look into beyond this lone 45.

Play or Download THE GARBAGE & THE FLOWERS – “Carousel” (B-side)
Play or Download THE GARBAGE & THE FLOWERS – “Catnip” (A-side)

Thursday, June 05, 2008


Last night was supposed to be this straightforward hangin’-out-at-the-club sort of night; I’d heard that a couple of fellas from Bay Area garage punk bands of the early 90s were going to knocking around a few goodtimey rock-n-roll tunes, and it was an opportunity to get over to Oakland and stay out late for a change. Little did I know that “garage punk legends” THE MUMMIES were going to be playing their first show (at Oakland’s Stork Club) since they broke up in ’93 or ’94, as a super-secret-surprise prelude to a money-grubbing European tour in a couple weeks. Honestly, it was just happenstance that I made it out there; partial penance for all the times I got a phone call the day after some event saying, “dude, you won’t believe what you missed last night”.

So THE MUMMIES were a band that I probably saw at least a dozen if not more times circa 1989-93. Their shit-fi, organ-drenched, heavy-bash approach to 60s garage was just what I was looking for at the time, and though it’s hard to call them innovative in any way, shape or form, they sort of “led the way” into hundreds of like-minded bands who played sloppy but ultra-panicked SONICS-styled rock. Even though they dressed up in filthy mummy outfits, I still had a blast at their shows, and the records were pretty hot as well. I haven’t given them too many thoughts since then, my contention being that of the local bands of that ilk, SUPERCHARGER are the ones that have aged the best, and the Mummies were perhaps buried in the legacy of lame-ass bands who claimed them as the One True Band. But I still got a goofy grin on my face when they hit the stage. Thankfully it was sans costumes this time; they rightly deduced that fortysomethings jumping around in Halloween outfits would, uh, “stain the brand” a bit.

Guitarist Larry told me before the show that they hadn’t even practiced since the early 90s, so it was nothing short of amazing to hear the band on total fire like they’d not missed a practice session since the Clinton years. THE MUMMIES played a bunch of material from their 45s, their one official LP, and of course Sonics and Larry & The Blue Notes covers, among others. The kids, many of whom got the word in time due to frantic text messaging all over the Bay Area, went nuts. Some paunches, bald spots and décolletage were present among those reliving their wild and drunken youth (like me), but the Mummies fellas themselves all looked fit as a friggin’ fiddle. They’ll be wound up and driving Europeans crazy in a few weeks, and hey, who needs practice, right?

Postscript - looks like it's just a single show in Spain, that's it. More details here.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008


Ah, grunge. Sounds kinda hokey now, doesn’t it? The only time modern variants on this sound have anything going for them is apparently when they bury the vocals, head back to the 60s and turn everything up to “stun”, a la hot new band BIRDS OF MAYA, whose debut CD “Volume 1” is one of the fave listens around my house this year. But we’re not here to talk about them – we’re here to revel in some early 90s rawk from MONSTER MAGNET, their second single to be exact. You may recall that we posted their first one on this site right here, and made reference to there being one other good record squeezed out by the band before they took a dive down the dumper. That would be the “Murder / Tractor” 45, which is full of feedback, pedal-hopping, distortion, and all that you’ve come to associate with the crème de la crème of grunge-related musics. At the time this band struck me as being more in the HAWKWIND/MOTORHEAD vein, crossed with that dirty & dingy DRUNKS WITH GUNS sound we dug so much back then. A slightly later contemporary was MONOSHOCK, except that Monster Magnet headed to the stadiums while Monoshock headed to the futon.

Here's what I wrote about the single on an old blog:

I dug this 45 out from under a ton of rubble and detritus in my garage this weekend, in hopes of recapturing whatever magic I heard in it when it first came out in 1990. I’m too lazy to look up the review I wrote on it in my then-fanzine at the time, but I’ll bet I told a whopper of a tale about blazing wah-wah, screaming guitar fury, the second coming of the Stooges blahdy blah blah. Just LOVED this band’s first two singles when they came out (“Lizard Johnny/Freak Shop USA” got a spin last year and I’m proud to say it held up). So what about now, hunh? Well, let’s take it from a couple of angles. First, the band’s record label is called “Primo Scree”. Please allow me the opportunity to say “that is so gay”. Second, there’s a big sign on the front sleeve that says “Drug Rock”, right next to the photo of some hippie who’s just shot someone dead. Drug Rock. Pardon my French, but that’s a little gay as well. (I mean gay as in happy).

Vocals, too, are more than a little over the top: “well I awwwlwayz trah ta do tha right thang bayyy-bah” etc. I guess you gotta remember that Mudhoney had been blowing a lot of minds during the previous 18 months, mine included, and this sort of Arm-esque vocalizing was allowed – nay, encouraged – at the time. Look up the 1990 indie punk rulebook, you’ll find it under rule 3:16, I promise. What I still really enjoy about this record is the actually understated feedback and wah-wah (at least on the a-side) – “Murder” really does have a distant, murky, lo-fi, almost dangerous feel to it that still sounds terrific. “Tractor” is more heavy screech a la “Loose” or ”TV Eye”, but both tracks are pretty smoking. Maybe because the recording quality is sub-optimal, it doesn’t stray into the jukebox hero arena metal these guys later became famous for & instead sounds like a scary piece of underground punk rock vinyl from an bygone era when new 45s could still be pretty fucking exciting. If it came out today no one would hear it nor care, but this one was heralded pretty unanimously upon release ways back. Nice to hear it retains at least 50% of its luster fourteen years on.

I think you get the picture. It’s still a great, if dated, rock and roll recording.

Play or Download MONSTER MAGNET – “Murder” (A-side)
Play or Download MONSTER MAGNET – “Tractor” (B-side)