Sunday, February 24, 2008

We'll get over it,
we'll go
around it.

It took me a while, but I finally dipped into the second disc of The Clean's 2003 Anthology collection. The first disc's '80-'82 material -- garage-y punk filtered through New Zealand hillsides, inexplicable hippie/Rugrats artwork, goofball/potentially serious shit going down at the same time -- became a weekly, then daily thing for me without me even realizing it. Meanwhile, the second disc sat there, filling me with later-era LP dread (see: Black Flag, Minutemen, Bad Brains, etc.). But as it turns out, the songs culled from 1989's Vehicle, 1994's Modern Rock, and 1996's Unknown Country that fill up disc 2 are perhaps catchier, stranger, and more endearing than even their classic early work. The tracks from Vehicle illustrate the correct use of late '80s/early '90s college rock (a genre I have an endless soft spot for, if not always the stomach) and have been playing on a loop in my head for weeks, while the songs from Modern Rock and Unknown Country get mellow and odd, sometimes turning into Spacemen 3 jams minus the drugs, if that's possible. The end result is a lot of instant nostalgia tripping to that '90s era I was born just a little too late or too shy to be a part of, and I guess that's really the main draw for me as far as The Clean goes. They wrote great pop songs without being super obvious about it, that remind me of things I didn't get to do. They were informal and had sort of a small-town vibe, and did simple things that worked while doing weirder things that worked just as well.

The Clean - "Drawing to a Hole" (from Vehicle)
The Clean - "The Blue" (from Vehicle)
The Clean - "Secret Place" (from Modern Rock)
The Clean - "Franz Kafka at the Zoo" (from Unknown Country)

Part of the reason I haven't posted much in the past few weeks is that I've been been working these really long days that put me in general space-out mode, delivering mail like a zombie, driving dead-eyed through dark grey countryside, and not moving for whole weekends at a clip. It's not a life I would recommend to anyone, but it puts you in the ideal mindset for Guitar Soli, the Numero Group's latest addition to their Wayfaring Strangers lost-folk series. If you're not into solo acoustic instrumental finger-picking in the Fahey/Kottke/American Primitive vein, I would say maybe stay the fuck away from this. But I would also say that even within the songs that are too bluesy or showy or formal, there are solid genuine moments, and that the best of Guitar Soli's obscure, self-funded, mostly-'70s material works with mood and creepy notes and uses blues-slides only enough to remind me why I like stuff like Beggar's Banquet. There is also the added bonus and mystique of lost '70s dad dudes who became religiously obsessive about acoustic possibilities and forms, some developing and building their own instruments, and some recording lone genius demos and then saying "I was just too lazy to retune the guitar". And as usual, The Numeros' impeccable research and beautiful packaging are on display, with particularly awesome original artwork from Mike Davis.

Richard Crandell - "Diagonal"
William Eaton - "Untitled"
Dan Lambert - "Charley Town"

First of all: belated song for Linda Werts is "The Golden Age". Second of all: Drill, Saw, Vise's "Local 12" kills and I feel retarded for having forgotten about them. Thirdly, here's that Bonnie "Prince" Billy cover I mentioned a couple posts ago. A couple TV things that deserve entire posts unto themselves: the Faces doing "Maybe I'm Amazed" and Johnny Knoxville & Co. dancing around to "Alright" at the end of their MTV takeover (sorry there's no clip of this...or is there??). They're also good for counter-acting the unstoppable despair of The Wire's final season. Goddamn.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Secret thinkers sometimes listening aloud.
It's a shame that Weird War never really caught on. What was the problem exactly? Were the line-up and name changes too confusing? Was the mission behind this particular Ian Svenonius-led group not clear enough (if so, go here)? Was their aesthetic too much of a pastiche? Were people alright with perpetual teenage greasers seceding from the U.S. and '60s garage gospel, but not alright with economically disadvantaged Funkadelic/foreign psych pop theorists trying to dismantle the culture? Were people tired of trying to figure out if something was for real or a joke, or if it could be everything at once? Were people not into Alex Minoff's guitar tone? And what about 2004's If You Can't Beat 'Em, Bite 'Em? It wasn't the second coming of I Suck On That Emotion (nothing could be), but it was something. It had "AK-47", perhaps their greatest moment/greatest song ever written. It had these great inspirational songs, like the title track (which has a rap at the end by JJ Rox that reminds of that part in "She Ain't Got The Boom Like I Do") and the soothing, Eddie Hazel-ish "One By One". It had cover art inspired by Lou Reed's Live: Take No Prisoners, and came with a fold-out board game. Not to mention, have you seen the video for "Grand Fraud", or their performance of "AK-47" on the first Burn To Shine DVD, or even just a picture of it? OR their performance of "Session Man" from Las Historias Mas Sexy Del Mundo? Not saying Soft Focus and The Psychic Soviet aren't great, or that Extra Golden isn't cool, or even that everything Weird War did was spectacular. But even when they were off, they were still kind of on.

Weird War - "AK-47"
Weird War - "If You Can't Beat 'Em, Bite 'Em"
Weird War - "One By One"

Some 30 years earlier, there was David Bowie's Young Americans. Ostensibly his Soul/R&B record, it was coked-out and personalized and skewed enough to be closer to a white pop Funkadelic thing (sidebar: if there's a connection between Young Americans and Weird War, it's a song like "Fascination"). It also features two of his more enduring hits (the title track and "Fame"), Carlos Alomar playing guitar, a Beatles cover, and sometimes brilliantly shoddy vocal work. When I think of Young Americans, though, I immediately think of the song "Win". I got really obsessed with it when I first heard it, right around the time I was making a 2nd mix cd for my friend Teresa. I haven't seen her in a while. I saw her at my friend John's wedding, where we realized we both dance like '80s teens, and then I saw her again exactly a year ago, at my surprise 27th birthday party, where she and her husband, Jeff (aka Licky), gave me a plastic robot claw and a large poster of hairless cats. A few years prior I made her a cd just before she left for school in New York, which included, among other things, Bowie's "Sons of the Silent Age" (from 1977's "Heroes"). Months later I sent her the crappier sequel mix that also included "Win", and it struck me later that in both cases the Bowie songs felt like centerpieces. I wanted her to hear "Mannequin" and "Hoe Cakes" and everything, but the Bowie shit was a little more important. Lyrically both songs say things that would make more sense coming from someone else, a real intimate hysteria and weirdness that was world's apart from where we were. But they're also full of dialogue with a more general sense of personal history. Bowie isn't singing to someone he barely knows, he's singing to someone who's going to understand what he's trying to say, even if it's something like "I feel you driving and you're only the wheel". Even if it's a couple really good songs that have nothing to do with anything, but are kind of like, "Our history isn't exciting, but it's a still a history, and that's something."

David Bowie - "Win"
David Bowie - "Fascination"
David Bowie - "Young Americans"

Total hits from another great Tyler Wertsday mix include Al Kooper, Funkadelic (did I just fucking mention them again??), and Scorps, and that's just within the first five songs. Mi Ami's "Ark of the Covenant" is music to my ears, LITERALLY. Their African Rhythms 12" is finally out and I'm pumped and psyched, but I was big into Black Eyes, like a lot. Also--The fucking Whip demo! Also, Thin Lizzy is awesome and Soulja Boy constantly outdoes himself. These are facts.