Archive for the 'Frightening' Category

17
Nov
20

Gibson Bros. “The Man Who Loved Couch Dancing”

There was a time (in the late 1980s, I guess) when the Gibson Bros were my very favorite band, and I suppose one moves on, but I’m still quite fond of them. I have a number of their records on vinyl, CD, and cassette. This 1990 release might be their most bizarre record, and funniest. It’s all over the place, from an intro by a radio DJ that sounds kind of manufactured, but might be real—as well as some other collage songs that seem to be constructed from roughly recorded bits, and found sound pieces. I’m not going to try to explain the Gibson Bros for people who aren’t familiar with them—it would be too daunting of a task, and I’d get it wrong and just confuse you. You’d be better off getting confused directly from the source—that is if you can find this record (there’s always the internet). It’s a great record, at any rate, and would be the perfect one to clear the room at parties—I’d be all about that if I was still going to, or throwing, parties. You put this on to find out what people are made of.

The two “Bros”—at this point—are Jeff Evans and Don Howland (who both have gone on since to similarly hard core, country blues roots music that is seriously informed by punk rock—apart from each other). They are pictured on the hilarious album cover, sitting with 40s of Colt 45 and Olde English 800, looking through the legs of a stripper, who is looming over them. It looks exactly like a low-budget imagining of a stripper bar scene, which it is—meant to illustrate the title song, which is nearly as funny as the cover. The two sides are subtitled “Homes” and “Abroad”—the latter being live recordings (though I think the first side also has live tracks, or who knows what). Anyway, taken as a whole, this album really captures the essence of the Gibson Bros—especially the more bizarre and inscrutable spectrum of their art. I can’t really pick out a favorite track on this record—I find it works best as a whole. Also, of note, Jon Spencer plays on the live side. Between the three of those guys, you’ve got a lot of bands and almost-band projects that approach the blues in a way that some purists find offensive or annoying—but I really appreciate, as I think their their take on the music is to get at the essence of it by finding the insanity at the heart of the best of what’s out there—with equal parts dumbness and intelligence, and never too far from humor.

30
Oct
20

The Cramps “Psychedelic Jungle”

I use a random number generator to pick what record to write about next, and today it landed on this one, which is highly appropriate for Halloween! (I don’t make this stuff up, as much as it might sound like it. Alphabetical, right there between Crabby Appleton and David Crosby.) Actually, I was surprised I hadn’t written about it yet—well, I have, but not on this site. It is one of my 10 favorite records of all time, and I don’t mean the 100 that I say are my top 10. It’s definitely the best LP to come out in the wasteland of the Eighties (1981). The album cover is just a fisheye photograph of the band in a spooky attic (or your mind) but it’s just kind of the perfect album cover. The first time I saw The Cramps (can’t remember the year or where!) is one of the best live shows I’ve ever seen. As a band, they’re basic and inevitable, as if they have always existed, generation after generation after generation. It’s hard to describe the position they occupy in my brain. It’s like they are extreme at the edges, and there’s no middle ground. On a scale from 1 to 10 (1 and 10 being both the best and worst) they get all 1’s and 10’s. Not for the squares.

This is their second LP, but it was the first one I heard, and I remember when—it was one of those experiences that are rare—when you hear something and can’t believe what you’re hearing—it makes no sense based on previous knowledge. Ron Metz (drummer for The Human Switchboard) played it for us in his apartment in Kent, Ohio, summer of 1981. He found it baffling—this is when punk and new wave was getting faster and poppier and louder—and this was the slowest, most droning, most minimal thing I’d ever heard. Ron put the record on at 45 RPM, just to try it, and at that speed it sounded like normal music. But it’s not normal, and that’s what makes it great. You don’t want to get to know these people. They sound like they might legitimately drink your blood—they must be either a cult, on drugs, or some form of un-human—likely all of those, to some degree. Or maybe it’s all an act, in which case, it’s more fun to just be scared.

There are 14 songs on this record and they’re all excellent. Half originals, and half covers—by people (until I heard this) I’d never heard of. I couldn’t tell which were which, and for years paid no attention to that. It all sound like The Cramps, and no one else. The originals are by Poison Ivy Rorschach and Lux Interior. She chews gum while playing guitar, and I maintain is the coolest person in the history of rock’n’roll. Lux Interior was a local guy, from near Kent, apparently from a normal family, if such a thing exists. He definitely went over to some version of the other side—that shadowy, depraved region of no return. Nick Knox was the most minimally extreme drummer I’ve ever heard. And then, on this record, Kid Congo Powers joined them—the only person to ever play guitar with The Cramps and The Gun Club and Nick Cave (the Rolling Stones probably should have hired him).

“Caveman” and “Can’t Find My Mind” were always my favorites—two of the most druggy extreme songs you’ll ever hear. “The Natives Are Restless” is almost shocking in how upbeat it is—the most danceable song about cannibalism I’ve ever heard. I think ultimately my my favorite part of this record are the first two songs, which—both fit the whole perfectly—and sound like nothing else on the album. It starts with “Green Fuz” (a cover, originally by Green Fuz, naturally). And then “Goo Goo Muck” (Ronnie Cook and the Gaylads—it’s very much worth finding that version!), which has my favorite guitar solo of all time. The way those two songs work together, the atmosphere they create, and the world they introduce you to, and the way it sets up the rest of the record… It’s kind of like reliving, all at once, the first time you did all those bad things that are going to send you straight to hell.

26
Apr
20

Rolling Stones “Let It Bleed”

I’ve got this beat up, old copy of this record, cover falling apart, scratchy, and I’ve heard every song at least one too many times, and my stereo is messed up, cutting out, channels not playing equally—but I’ve been listening to only digital music lately, from my computer (doesn’t help that I have crappy computer speakers) so when I put this on, despite the rough shape of everything, it felt like I was hearing music for the first time. Also, you forget how kind of low-key, relaxed, a little sloppy this era of Rolling Stones were, and also, just something in the recording, and mix, lately—it just sounds so warm and organic and present. It still sounds a dangerous to me. I so much wish I could go in a time machine right now to the week this record came out. At one time the song, “Let It Bleed” was my favorite song. I know it’s ridiculous to have a favorite—but why not. What is your favorite song? If you had to pick one. Leave your comments below. It’s not my favorite now, because I’ve heard it one too many times, but I have to say, it’s got to have my favorite drum sound of any recording I’ve ever heard—not so much the splashy cymbals later on, but just the drums toward the beginning of the song—very subtle, or maybe not so subtle—but hard to explain it—just the feeling, it’s like just total bad-ass-ness, or bad-attitude or just the essence of bad (when bad meant cool, fucked up, excellent, unreachable). If you ever want an illustration of why Charlie Watts was as important to the Rolling Stones as Mick and Keith, the drums on this song—that explains it.

The cover I have looks like it’s been in thrift store for 100 years—I don’t know if when this came out it had a sleeve with credits, or what, but this cover has like no information other than the band name, title, record company, and songs (in the wrong order). So maybe you had to wait until you read about it somewhere to know the cover art is a sculpture by Robert Brownjohn. I always loved this album cover, even if I never thought about it too much (kind of took it for granted, I guess). It’s funny how the back cover is the same thing, but partially eaten/destroyed. I guess it always struck me as a little disturbing, just because it kind of makes no sense—why is it floating in space? What’s the record sitting on? The weird thing though, is that I just went several decades without actually looking at it, and now I just noticed for the first time that there’s a pizza there! You might not notice the pizza on the front, but on back, there’s a slice with a bite taken out of it. I also never noticed the nails in the tire on back. I guess I forgot there was a clock there, too, and a big, metal film can, closed with red tape, on which is written: “Stones – Let It Bleed” (which kind of makes the band name and title a bit overkill). I wonder if there were discussions. Also odd: the five members of the band at that time (which still included Brian Jones, though this was the end of the line for him) are depicted as little wedding cake figures, stuck in the frosting, and on back, they have all been knocked over except for the one that’s Keith Richards. I wonder if there were discussions about that. I’m sure it didn’t mean anything.

28
Mar
20

Matt Dennis “Welcome Matt”

I kind of expected the worst from this record, pop music corny-ness, and it is pretty friendly, but also, it kind of strikes me as odd, how it’s recorded—Matt Dennis’ smooth, crystal clear voice is recorded so loud relative to the orchestra—he sounds more like he’s in the room here with me than if he was in the room here with me. Maybe that’s how pop vocalists were recorded in 1959, and I’ve just listened to so much Sinatra everything else sounds kind of crude in comparison. I’m not sure, though, as I don’t listen to a lot of comparable stuff. Maybe this reminds me a little of someone like Mel Tormé? Anyway, good songs, some standards like “You’d Be So Nice To Come Home To” and “Cheek to Cheek,” and there’s a particularly nice song called “Home” that I’m not sure I’ve heard by anyone else. Then there’s “Welcome Mat” by the man himself—it’s a little goofy. The version of “My Blue Heaven” sounds really weird to me—like he’s flattening the end of each line—maybe that’s a style. Maybe that’s how the song was written. I don’t know know—I wish I knew more—I’ve got more questions than answers about this one. But I like it. My favorite, though, is “A Cup of Coffee a Sandwich and You”—a song I’ve never heard before, and probably for good reason—it’s insane. I mean, a sandwich? I guess the idea is, the simple things in life are good enough for him—but then where does that put “you?”

The cover particularly cracks me up—it’s a photo, taken in an actual apartment, of Matt Dennis in formal wear entering, carrying a welcome mat on which “Welcome Matt Dennis” is crudely rendered. There’s a woman standing there (who presumably put out the mat) who looks either annoyed or overwhelmed by the Matt Dennis sex appeal. Her long dress is an odd design of brown and gray plaid—it’s a really weird print for a dress—I have no words for it, I’m no expert. It looks like some kind of curtains or a tablecloth, to me, more than a dress, but what do I know? She’s wearing more pearls than can possibly be healthy—which are kind of overwhelmed by the plastic doorbell, peephole, and three brass doorknobs also visible in the photo. I mean, there was absolutely no art direction involved at all here (other than that cheesy “Welcome Matt”)—which, when I think about it—makes it actually more interesting than if a lot of care was taken to make it look not weird. I miss these times, from the past, when things didn’t have to get worked over and homogenized by a team of boring, frightened, accountants. When a doorstop was a doorstop, and “I love you” meant… Okay, maybe I should just stick to talking about the cover art, here.

28
Feb
20

Big Bay Band “Heathsville”

This is one of those records that makes no sense, as nothing on the front cover, back cover, or label matches up that well—you’d almost think it’s in the wrong cover, but the songs actually match up. According to the label, it’s “The Big Bay Band,” who sound to be an accomplished swing band, and do put some flair into some of these songs. Of course, some of them are too corny and unlistenable, but others, like “I’ve Got the World on a String” are pretty inspired (well, it’s a great song). The cover is a $1.98 photo session out in the woods with three women holding up various horns, jubilantly. If you squint, they actually look like zombies in a scene from Dawn of the Dead. Only the closest woman’s grin gives it away—not zombies—jubilant. Which makes me think about all the people who have been playing zombies, or extras as zombies. It’s probably a little harder than it looks, to get the facial expression and the movement just right. Though it’s beyond me, at this point, why anyone cares.

24
Feb
20

The Young Gods “The Young Gods”

I thought this record might be contemporary—even though it’s not 800 gram vinyl and a triple album with no information whatsoever—because the cover is really effective at looking exactly like the name “The Young Gods” is carved into a rock face, like you can almost taste it. But on back there is a date: 1987—which means over 30 years old—kind of shocking. There are three stick figures carved into the rock on back, which I think indicates either there are three members of the band… or something else. This record actually sounds like the Mid-Eighties to me, I can’t exactly say why. It kind of reminds me of a band my contemporaries might have had back then—heavy, noisy, yet sparse, a little corny, industrial, and the singing is this guttural style I’ve heard a lot of—which always makes me want to say: “You don’t have to be so guttural.” But I guess they want to get across the idea that this is Satan speaking. Ever since that Exorcist (1973) movie, we’ve had to entertain this idea that that’s what Satan sounds like (okay, well, maybe it comes from way back, even). Oh, wait, there’s lyrics—in some language that looks like French, and English next to it—that’s kind of cool. I had just assumed that I couldn’t understand the lyrics because I can almost never understand lyrics. There is indeed three band members, simple credits: vocals, samplers, drums. What’s that mean, samplers? It that like a Whitman Sampler? Is this music, essentially, cream filled chocolates, live drums, and Satan? 1987—I wonder if they ever played on a double bill with Sonic Youth? I wonder if they’re still around, still playing, and if so, do they still call themselves The Young Gods, or The Old Gods, (or Thee Olde Gods)—or maybe something else entirely?

22
Feb
20

Parliament “The Clones of Dr. Funkenstein”

“Funk is its own reward.” “May frighten you.” I think someone speaks those words, in a kind of intro, or did I just imagine that? There’s a giant list of credits that reads like a funk all-star band, so I’m not sure who is doing what on any song, but I assume there’s a lot of George Clinton. There’s a couple of short songs, then the epic song, “Dr. Funkenstein,” which is a fairly slow, laconic, extremely funky whole-world of a song, with a chanted chorus and voices coming in from all over the place, speaking, singing, stream-of-consciousness. There is this pretty simple but genius repetitive guitar part that runs through it that I just want as the theme song for my life. The song is six minutes, but I wish it was a lot longer. I never do this, but I’m going to buy this song for my computer (sometimes I listen to music there, at home, when I’m not playing records) so I can just play this on repeat for hours. It’s like a TV show theme song, or a whole TV show, or movie. This record came out in 1976, and I may have heard it at a party, but probably not. I was in the phase of progressing directly from prog-rock to punk rock, but I missed the boat here. A few years later, one of the funniest and most offensive punk records I’ve ever heard, Black Randy and the Metrosquad’s “Pass the Dust, I Think I’m Bowie,” has songs that just lift directly from Dr. Funkenstein. I don’t know why, exactly, but I just keep listening and listening to this song. With all the sound effects, and odd vocals—spoken parts, some in annoying cartoon voices, some in frog-voice—stuff that would normally get on my nerves—but here it sounds like a symphony of good insanity. All of the songs on this record are good, including one of those super-long-title ones, “I’ve Been Watching You (Move Your Sexy Body),” and “Let’s Funk Around,” which exploits that tireless and seemingly inexhaustible tradition of using the word “funk” in place of the word “fuck.” The cover (front and back) is also first-rate, with members of the band, presumably, dressed for the stage, or the lab, in some kind of a 1970s television sci-fi set, a good one. I remember looking at a partial discography for Parliament—just the list of titles from the Seventies—all just excellent, mysterious titles. I wonder if these are easy to find—I mean, not for hipster prices, normal person prices—I’ll keep an eye out for them. It’s like a crime against my sensibility that I don’t own any Parliament Funkadelic vinyl.

09
Feb
20

Frank Sinatra “Watertown”

In an attempt to keep these reviews shorter, I’m going allow myself the option to write about a record and then return to it if I feel like I have something to say—and this is one where I’m sure that will be the case. I am currently obsessed with this record, which Frank Sinatra put out in 1970, quite possibly to a bit of head scratching. I think it’s one of those records that has been “rediscovered”—though that’s probably kind of annoying to people who were big fans of it all along. I would always group it with the later, sometimes weird and goofy Sinatra albums (like the one where he sings about Uranus), but I was wrong about how much I’d grow to love it. In fact, as of this Saturday, I have roughly 400 vinyl records (I had many more at one time but lost almost all of them) and this, right now, is my number one favorite, which also means it’s my favorite Sinatra record—and I have a lot of favorites.

The album cover looks like the menu of a vegetarian restaurant in 1979—though, I actually love the cover, and will buy an extra copy to hang one on my wall—but it sure isn’t a glossy photo of Frank in a hat with a cocktail. The lyrics are inside, and the lyrics are crucial. This is a concept record, produced by Bob Gaudio and written by him and Jake Holmes. It’s not so unusual for Sinatra, a concept record of sad love songs—except this is not standards, but late Sixties pop. It’s somewhat similar to what was previously my favorite record, Richard Harris and Jimmy Webb’s The Yard Went On Forever, in both themes and style, and seeing as that came out two years earlier, I wonder if it was an influence for this one? I also wonder (and I’m sure I can find this out someday) if Sinatra and Richard Harris were friends or rivals? Anyway, Bob Gaudio was one of the Four Seasons, which almost sounds like a Spinal Tap-ian joke when you say it that way, but look at his songwriting credits. He’s no less legendary than anyone who’s written a pop song, yet his name was not familiar to me until very recently. It seems weird to say that people like him and Jimmy Webb are underrated, but that’s our culture for you—and the Dylan and Beatles world we live in. If anyone ever wants you to explain that fuckin’ black rectangle in 2001: A Space Odyssey, tell them to think of the Beatles—not so much what they were, but how our culture creates these things that suck up all the light, rendering us blind to everything else, and create so much noise it also deafens us. Then those are those things, and there are very few of them at that—and everyone else is washing dishes at Applebee’s, if they’re lucky.

Since I’m a song person, I can love a record for one good song, or hate it because it only has one good song. A collection of great songs, especially in order, and creating a story—that doesn’t come along very often, but here it is. I’m going to have to write about this again just so I can go through song by song and really appreciate each one. I’d say half of them should have been major hits, as standalone songs—and would have been if our world wasn’t bullshit. The other thing I want to do later is read more about this record—I think there might be websites and newsgroups about it—has anyone done one of those 331/3 books yet? This would be perfect for one of those. Maybe I’ll finally do a proposal. But it would be daunting, too, because there’s got to be some people out there for whom this record is it. Maybe I’ll meet one of those cats sometime, maybe online, or we can write a good old-fashioned letter. Or maybe I can start a Watertown meeting in my town. Oh, one thing I do want to mention right now—after I bought this record and was immediately impressed by it, for about the first hundred listenings I felt that it kind of pooped out at the end—didn’t finish as strong as I’d have wished it to. That was before I paid close attention to the lyrics (as much of a lyric fanatic as I am, sometimes when the music is strong enough, I just kind of ignore the lyrics for the longest time). You’ve got to pay attention to the lyrics on this record, and especially on that last song. It’s just devastating.

30
Nov
19

Lana Del Rey “Ultraviolence”

If you call your album “Ultraviolence” are you making a reference to A Clockwork Orange, either the book, or the movie, or both? Though maybe there was something (band, ad agency, hoagie) with that name—referring to the book, or the movie—in the vast cultural wilderness of the last four decades that I missed—and this record is actually referring to that. Is it a fragrance? If not, it should be! Well, in this case, it refers to a (seriously creepy) love song, on the album. I was happy to see a lyric sheet, but it isn’t a lyric sheet, it’s song by song credits, typed with a seemingly very, very small typewriter—I read some of them before my eyes hurt too much and I had to stop—but if you can find another woman’s name anywhere in the vast sea of dude-ness, Leave a Comment, and I’ll issue a personal apology. Like so many records by young people, this one has a thick cover, super heavy vinyl, and is a double record. I guess when I’m thinking back to some of the most exciting records of all time, like from the Seventies, quite a few were double records—I guess it was supposed to announce a spectacular surge of creativity, and also the record company’s boundless love for the artist. But for people who grew up in the CD era, maybe a record seemed like it should be 14 or 18 songs and well over an hour, and to put that on vinyl you need two records. Oh well, the important thing is, are there are good songs—and there are lots here. I think they’re all written by Lana Del Rey, along with someone else, in many cases. I like the songs, I like the sound, I like her singing—I should probably end this review here—the new concise and positive me. But I’m not getting paid by the word, so I’m also not getting paid for brevity.

“Cruel World” is pretty, and melancholy, and pretty damn melancholy, but at least, given that title, relatively free of irony? I love rhyming “Bourbon” and “suburban”—has anyone else used that rhyme? I’m sure, but I can’t recall any, offhand, you need the proper stars to line up. There’s a really familiar sounding song, maybe a hit? Or maybe it’s just growing on me from repeat listens. All solid songs here—I like this record—it’s just relentless in its dramatic, melancholy sound. You want to text her and say, “It’s not so bad. It’s all going to be okay.” But what if she texted back: “How do YOU know?” Well, okay, maybe not then. Keep doing what you’re doing. Apparently she has, with more records since this one, and they’re all hit records, I believe. It’s kind of hard to know, as least for me, anymore, the difference between relative stardom, and stardom, and superstardom, and the next thing. She’s definitely getting “paid by the tear,” as David Berman said. Of course, there can be a cost to that, of course, but maybe those bills have already been paid. Just last week I read an interview, by chance, online (as those things happen, these days, seemingly at random) with a woman singer and songwriter, apparently quite successful, though it was the first time I heard of her (and since forgot her name). What caught my attention was the seeming openness with which she talked about unhappy relationships—and it just struck me, made me kind of sad. I know these are rich people problems, but love is one place where we’re all equal, at least to a great degree—and being famous, or revered, or having money, doesn’t necessarily make it easier. Honey is wonderful, but it attracts everything, including dirt. I’m sorry I can’t remember who the interview was with, but Leave a Comment if you think you know, or maybe I’ll include it as a comment here, later, if I remember. Oh, also, that reminded me of Randy Russell’s excellent short story about falling in love with a singer’s songs, then meeting the person. It’s called “Fiddle o’ Blood,” and I recommend it.

It’s a good album cover, with big, casual photos. It’s kind of refreshing in that the photos on both the front and the back take up the the whole covers, with white letters superimposed, and they are both black and white, and look like from the same day, same photo session. Lana Del Rey is wearing the same kind of white, V-neck T-shirt I wear to work under my white work shirt, though hers looks pretty new, not gnarly like mine, and also, she’s wearing a bra under hers, which is a nice look—though not one I could pull off. On the front it looks like she’s getting out of a car, though I can’t tell what in the world is going on here, or what kind of car it is—from the small details, I’d say it’s a 1970s crap car. It’s a nice, kind of blurry photo—she looks like she’s about 20. Maybe she was at the time. It looks like there’s a tattoo on the outside of her left hand—the part you’d use to karate chop something. Then on the other photo you see a tattoo on the inside of her left hand. Or maybe they’re not tattoos at all, but simply reminders, written with a Sharpie (“Remember photo shoot,” and “Call Speen”). I’m kind of hurt that she needs a reminder, but on the other hand—well, I’m not sure what it says on her right hand. There should be a website that just tells you what famous people tattoos say. Oh, right, there probably is one. I’ll check that out now. On the other hand, no, that’s gross. I’d rather not know.

22
Nov
19

Gene & Debbe “Hear & Now”

I spotted this record used, a beat up but playable copy, and it was the first I heard of Gene & Debbe. It’s a great cover, with the words in a slightly psychedelic font, each a different color: ghost green, hot pink, acid orange, and boring blue. Mostly, though, it’s this big b&w photo of Gene & Debbe—Gene staring at the camera like you’ve got exactly four minutes to get this photo, and Debbe just in front of him in profile (she’s quite beautiful) with her hair up in a beehive that won’t quite behave. You know there’s an empty can of Aqua Net very nearby. Liner notes on back (as well as two songs, the saddest ones) are by my man, Mickey Newbury, short, but concrete dense. Not one for the light touch. Though he does slip a little—perhaps unnerved by Debbe’s luminance—and says, of her: “Like the cream in a morning’s first cup of coffee.” I, for one, forgive him. Gene Thomas and Debbe Nevills were a Nashville pop/folk/country duo who had a hit song (“Playboy,” on this record), a handful of other singles, and one album, this one, from 1968.

Odd LPs with great covers are often bummers musically, but I’m liking this one a lot. I’m guessing the hot playing by some uncredited Nashville pros doesn’t hurt. The eleven songs are all catchy, and six are by Gene Thomas. The cover song of greatest note is “Let It Be Me”—which happens to be one of my favorite songs of all time—recorded by everyone and their mother. Gene sounds more than a bit like Sonny Bono. Debbe doesn’t sound like Cher, that would be weird, but her voice is similarly striking—her voice is great. It makes this record, really. It’s kind of like the morning’s first cup of black coffee. You know, my life has been so much better since I got used to drinking coffee black. It wasn’t easy (kind of like quitting smoking), but now I prefer it. Truthfully, this record, as pleasant and listenable as it is, really comes to life every time Debbe sings. Gene’s a tad whole milk, or even 2%. I guess I’ve kind of developed a crush on Debbe, as I listen to this again. “Go With Me” sounds really familiar, I wonder if someone else did it? Debbe takes these kind of simple words (“take my hand”) and just twists them, so they just pierce your heart—and I don’t even think she knows. I guess they were a couple, for awhile, then broke up. I suppose it wasn’t easy, being either a duo or couple, with people like me trying to steal Debbe away from him—but who can blame us?




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