This is an mp3 blog attempting to document the gross amount of music I listen to. About once a day, I'll post something I like. If you're a copyright holder on anything I host, get in touch, and we'll settle things in a steel cage instead of a courtroom.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

"Destructive, you're too wild!" - Dead Kennedys, Pt. 1

There have been artists I've been reluctant to blog about because their numerous albums have meant so much to me throughout my life that I was afraid I couldn't truly do them justice with a few songs and a couple hundred words. So I decided that from time to time I would do a multi-part series on certain artists that I adore, approaching things from an album-by-album breakdown. First up? Dead Kennedys, the band that got me through high school.

Dead Kennedys are a band that are never given enough credit and given the shortest of shrifts in the history books (barring anything written by Steven Blush). Even my beloved Lester Bangs gave them a drubbing. I would argue that they were the best of the second-wave punk bands, mixing rockabilly, surf, Ennio Morricone, and noise rock into a scene while thrashing and spitting venom from the mouth of someone who could actually sing...*cough* Darby Crash *cough*.

Started in 1978 after Ray Peppernell (aka East Bay Ray) posted an ad after having given up on his rockabilly band Cruisin', the band first consisted of Ray, stellar bassist Klaus Fluoride, mysterious drummer 6025 (later replaced by "Ted"), and hellcat singer Jello Biafra. Their first performances (starting in July of '78) and recordings are primitive blasts of buzzsaw punk, heavily influenced by the Ramones, but there was something different about them. They came from a dark place that wasn't goth, and the humor was of the cynical and malevolent stripe (see "Chemical Warfare," where Biafra fantasizes about spraying mustard gas in a country club, especially the waltzy, mocking bridge).

Almost a year after their first show, they put out their first release, the single "California Uber Alles." Mocking then-governor Jerry Brown, it was an instant classic, ignoring standard structure of punk songs of the time, featuring a push-and-pull time scheme and more tension than a Cassavetes film. It did relatively well in their hometown of San Francisco, and they were thus invited to play the Bay Area Music Awards, which existed basically as an excuse to give a free meal to the members of the Grateful Dead once a year. It was this that the band used as a platform for what might be the greatest musical prank ever pulled.

The band was scheduled to perform "California Uber Alles" in front of a crowd packed with Fleetwood Mac-types, coked-out hot tub types with gold chains and long hair. They came onstage wearing shirts with a spray-painted "S" on the front. About 15 seconds into the song, Biafra stopped the band and said "we've got to prove we're adults now. We're not a punk rock band, we're a new wave band." They they turned around the neckties they'd been hiding behind their backs, forming dollar signs. They then burst into "Pull My Strings," a riotous send up of the music industry that parodied the Knack and featured lines like "I''ll make my music boring/I'll play my music slow/I ain't no artist; I'm a businessman/No ideas of my own!" They weren't invited back in subsequent years, but it was totally worth it.

That spring, they released the single "Holiday in Cambodia" (backed by the wickedly good "Police Truck" and my favorite song in high school) and the album Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables. It was a slab of everything the band was at the time - blitzkrieg guitar, cardboard drums, Biafra's sneering delivery of lyrics that trust no one with any kind of power and authority, and Ray's creepy, Echoplex-laden leads. Highlights include the nihilistic "Forward to Death," the anthemic "Let's Lynch the Landlord," the fuck-off "Your Emotions," the hilarious "Stealing Peoples' Mail," and a cheap-speed take on the Elvis Presley standard "Viva Las Vegas."

Early in '81, Ted left the band. His replacement? The peerless DH Peligro, a dreadlocked mountain of a man who lived up to his surname. Additionally, having a black man in a hardcore punk band at a time when it was seemingly a white boys' club was pretty healthy, too. It was this line-up that recorded the In God We Trust, Inc. EP, a tossed-of short collection of songs that aligned them with the then-burgeoning hardcore scene. It was also allegedly a response to Ray's insistence that they sign to a major label - Polydor, namely. Polydor backed out, however, when they found out the next single was going to be "Too Drunk to Fuck."

Alright, I think this is long enough as it is. Part two follows tomorrow.

Holiday in Cambodia:

Police Truck:

Pull My Strings:

Let's Lynch the Landlord:

Your Emotions:

Stealing Peoples' Mail:

Moral Majority:

Hyperactive Child:

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

The Weakerthans - or - more Canadian goodness for your ears

From my list of good Canadian rock bands, I can't believe I left out the Weakerthans! In an effort to correct that, I offer you this humble posting in the the hopes that you get turned onto one of the best bands of this modern age.

Back in the early 90's, anarcho thrash-punk band Propagandhi was looking for a new bassist after their second one had departed. I guess it seemed like a good idea at the time to hire a bookish, poetic guy named John Samson, but in retrospect, it seems a little weird. (Just see the Propagandhi song "Showdown," and you'll get an idea of what I'm talking about.) Anyway, he amicably left the band after their second album to write and start a publishing company.

In 1997, he started the Weakerthans as an outlet for some of the songs he was writing. Their debut album, Fallow, was released to positive reviews on his former bandmates' new label, G7 Welcoming Committee. Three years' time saw the release of the astounding Left and Leaving, one of my favorite records of all time. Punk-influenced, melancholic, mournful, folky, introspective, and heart-rending all in one, Samson's trembling singing voice gives even the simplest imagery and observation unbelievable weight. It's a perfect solo road trip album, soundtracking a long drive for someone with everything to think about.

2003's Reconstruction Site, released on mega-indie Epitaph, spit-shined the production and saw the band move in a more streamlined direction, but it was still better than the records most of their peers are putting out. It also got them on the radio in their home country, and stands as their best-seller. They've yet to release a follow-up, with Samson saying it takes him a long time to write songs. The other three members of the band moonlighted as Greg Graffin's backing band on his last solo album, and Samson himself has been involved with projects with his wife, fellow musician Christine Fellows. I'm pulling for a 2007 release, but quality's always worth waiting for, kids.

Confessions of a Futon Revolutionist:

Letter of Resignation:

Everything Must Go!:


This a Fire Door, Never Leave Open:

Plea From a Cat Named Virtue:

One Great City!:

AC Newman - or - maybe all you bacon jockeys are onto something

Finding out a band you like is Canadian is kind of weird. I mean, it's not a bad thing, but it creates kinda of a "do I really know you?" moment. It's like realizing Super Troopers was made by a Canadian comedy troupe or that a close acquaintance is gay. It doesn't change things, but it certainly throws a WTF factor into the proceedings.

Just as many assume Canada is America's parking lot, most people are operating under the assumption that Canada rock music is essentially America-lite, a nice, white-bread, smiling take on an artform we created (or stole from an oppressed minority, but this ain't This is not entirely far from the truth. While Canada has spawned a number of great bands both past (SNFU, DOA, the Subhumans, Teenage Head), present (the Evaporators, Matthew Good Band, Propagandhi, Sloan) and weak (Our Lady Peace, Avril Lavinge's latest aural abortion), honestly most of it was done by Americans first and better (except maybe DOA). This isn't some nationalistic chest-thumping so much as it is an American rock critic surveying what he knows and reporting back what he's seen. For the record.

So it's mildly weird to me when one of the best power-pop bands since Cheap Trick (if not the best) comes in the form of Vancouver's own the New Pornographers. They've been dubbed a "supergroup" of sorts, which is retarded, since most of the people I know never gave two shits about Destroyer until Dan Bejar was singing backup in the Pornographers.

Same goes for their essential frontman and principal songwriter AC Newman, who was in Superconductor and Zumpano before conceiving the idea of the Pornographers. The man is an amazing modern songwriter if there ever were one, an equal of Ted Leo or Tom Gabel or Matthew Good, someone who can consistently turn out whole sets of compelling songs that always intrigue and entertain with a success rate hardly rivaled by his peers. His sole solo record, The Slow Wonder, is a modern classic. "Drink to Me, Then, Babe" stands head and shoulders with Cat Stevens' most intimate, haunting work, while "The Battle for Straight Time" ride a hooky guitar effect to memorability. If you need me to remind you of which group "On the Table" is the equal, we need to have words.

For people who like piano leads, mellow indie rock, and Bun E. Carlos randomly showing up in comic strips.

Drink to Me, Then, Babe:

On the Table:

The Battle for Straight Time:

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Heptones gonna fight!

I should probably go back and change the title, considering how misleading it is. It makes 'em sound like rude boys, when they ain't. The Heptones always put me in a mellow mood, unlike a lot of rocksteady. (Don't get me wrong, I love Alton Ellis to death, but dude needs to sing about something other than unrequited love once in a while.) Like the All-Girl Summer Fun band, this is definitely beer-on-the-porch-in-spring music.

Fronted by Leroy Sibbles, the best singer this side of Toots Hibbert, they were one of the first self-contained Jamaican musical acts, writing much of their own material and playing their own instruments in the studio. They also acted as a backing band for several years in the insanely influential Studio One, with Sibbles even coming on board as a staff songwriter and arrangers, leaving his fingerprint over some of the island's biggest songs of the decade.

Unfortunately, as happens to many Jamaican and Jamaican-influenced artists, a Rasta influence began to creep in (see HR of the Bad Brains). Despite this massive buzzkill, they signed to Island in 1975 and had a relatively big hit with their Lee Perry-produced album Night Food, but managed to drop off the radar soon afterwards, with Sibbles going for a solo career. They reunited in 1995, but honestly they probably shouldn't have bothered. Ah well, at least we have a couple decent albums from their early rocksteady period. Enjoy! I'm going to drink more. It is my holiday after all.

Fattie Fattie:

Be a Man:

Heptones Gonna Fight:

Friday, March 16, 2007

So close! - or - The All-Girl Summer Fun Band

It's rainy and miserable here in the DC (don't call it that*), so I decided to break out my old copy of the All-Girl Summer Fun Band's second LP, the aptly titled 2. It's a fun burst of catchy springtime songs, perfectly suited for a cold beer on a warm afternoon sitting on a porch in Anytown, USA. Jeremy Romanga's production really brought the gals to life. It also helps that they wrote their best set of songs yet for the release.

Of course, it's been four years since it dropped, but we've heard not too much from the band since then. It doesn't help that Kathy's other band, the Thermals, really took off, while Jen is pulling duties with the more popular Softies. As far as I know, they're also still working that summer rock camp for girls (misandronists).

And honestly, let's face facts here. The members of the band are like a point or two off hot, which unfortunately still affects female bands in the indie world. As great a voice as Neko Case has, I doubt she'd be as wildly popular (in terms of the fringe acceptance) if she looked less like a striking redhead and more like your Aunt Gertrude. If the AGSFB was as boneriffice as, say, the Pipettes, they'd probably be a huge draw in a scene full of bespectacled, nerdy guys. Oh well, at least we'll have two good records of big hooks, sing-a-long harmonies, and pure guitar sugar. I honestly love listening to them when grilling.

* Arrested Development reference, DUH.

Car Trouble:

It's There:


Million Things:

Thursday, March 15, 2007

"What's your reason for existence?" - The Subhumans (UK)

In the process of writing a review of the new Leftover Crack/Citizen Fish split LP out now on Fat Wreck/Alternative Tentacles (depending on whether or not you cast your lot in with the digital age or stay stuck with yours truly in the bygone age of analog), I ended up thinking of the Subhumans, largely because 1) Citizen Fish is the Subhumans in ska disguise, and 2) Leftover Crack covers what might be my favorite Subhumans song, "Reason for Existence."

The Subhumans (the ones from England, not to be confused with the rad band from Canada) have been one of my favorite bands since high school. In fact, the time in school when I got picked up by the cops, I was wearing a shirt depicting the cover art to The Day the Country Died, which you can bet nothing but help my case for not being a gun-toting loner (long story).

ANYWAY, they made a bunch of killer records and broke up for a while so they could play political ska in the guise of Citizen Fish, but they're been playing shows as the Subhumans again in recent memory. I dunno if I'd wanna hear a new record from them, though, to be honest. Fat Mike'd probably stick 'em in a studio with Ryan Greene, making them sound like a skate band (cross reference the first couple Good Riddance albums). They were definitely a band that benefited from poor production, which goes for most hardcore bands. That way, the bass melody is audible and you can hear the singer over the guitars. God only knows what the the Adolescents would have sounded like if they'd come up in the age of xBroxCorex.

ANYWAY, the Subhumans always stood out from the rest of the streetpunk/Oi! bands they came up with because there was always something weirdly atmospheric about their music. Maybe it was the Sabbath-esque minor keys, but they always sounded like a cross between the Sex Pistols and Joy Division to me. (The snots amongst you are saying, "durrr, they call it Warsaw, LOSER." To them I say, stop cranking it for five minutes. You're just as bad as World of Warcraft dorks.) If you're working on your punk collection, the Subhumans' Day the Country Died and EP LP are absolutely indispensable.

Drugs of Youth:

Reason for Existence:

Mickey Mouse is Dead:

Subvert City:



Sunday, March 11, 2007

"Picking your things out of the trash" - The Scourge of the Sea

Fun times with Chris last night. We went to the Velvet Lounge to see Lexington, KY's own The Scourge of the Sea, and those dudes killed it. I liked the few songs I'd heard by them, but you never know how mellow indie rock a la the Shins or AC Newman's solo record will sound on a stage facing a room full of rowdy, mouthy drunks. I was was surprised how well it came across, honestly. Usually, sadsack post-indie songs appeal to me largely in certain circumstances, i.e. a back full of bed and an gaze full of ceiling (and a heart full of melancholy, but saying that out loud makes me sound like a homo). They ended up balancing everything really well, and the cello and accordian were nice flourishes that added rather than detracted. Besides, unlike swishier acts from the same genre, Andrew English can actually fucking sing, which is a nice change of pace.

I ended up buying a CD from them, which I almost never do, so you know I was impressed. Make Me Armored is rad, and might have made my 2006 year-end list if I had heard it early enough. "Smitten Kittens" has been playing on endless loop all day, and it's good enough to make me put off spinning the new Brother Ali record, if that tells you anything.

They start another tour at the end of this month, so go check 'em out if they're coming to your city. Good way to spend a hazy, laid-back night out on the town.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

The Kinks - or - Paul who? McCarthy?

Whenever some magazine or website does a ranking of the best albums of all time, it usually ends up a depressing exercise of which Beatles albums go in which order. (Unless it's some insane British periodical putting the Happy Mondays at #1, but even then, at least it's not a boring choice.) Forgetting that Sgt. Pepper's was a boring piece of hokey, conservative shit, it's depressing that it's same same five Beatles records occupying the top 10 when artists like the Zombies, the Sonics, the Byrds, Desmond Dekker were all making records that were just as good, if not better. Included in this list should the Kinks. (Isn't it great when Amy and I have the same idea on the same day?)

I've always thought of the Kinks as this weird, alternate universe version of the Beatles, if that makes sense. At least, what the general consensus on the Beatles is, i.e. four moppish Brits hit it big with simple music before expanding into progressive albums that forever changed the rock soundscape. Yeah, the Beatles were more influential on account of sheer popularity, but Paul McCartney never wrote a gentle standard as genuinely affecting and brilliant as "Waterloo Sunset," though Lord knows he's spent his whole life trying. The Beatles never rocked harder than "All Day and All of the Night," and their little slice-of-life song subset doesn't include anything on par with "Situation Vacant." The aforementioned Sgt. Pepper's is quasi-pastoral and straight-faced; the Kinks' album The Village Green Preservation Society is the same thing on the surface, but it becomes quite apparent quite readily that it's a wicked piece of satire, mercilessly skwering the fogheaded types who pine nostalgically for an age which never existed. I think it's telling that the best of the post-70's rock songwriters - Costello, Leo, Weller, - have taken many cues from Kinks frontman Ray Davies and virtually none from the Lennon/McCartney tagteam.

I'm including a smattering of my favorite Kinks songs, be they hits, ignored album cuts, or b-sides (including the absolutely jaw-dropping "I'm Not Like Everybody Else," which the Sex Pistols definitely should have covered).

All Day and All of the Night:

Gotta Get the First Plane Home:

I'm Not Like Everybody Else:

Tired of Waiting For You:

Situation Vacant:

Johnny Thunder:

Acute Schizophrenia Paranoia Blues:

The Hanson Brothers - or - shut the puck up!

My puns are getting worse and worse. I think I need to start drinking more.

Saw Zodiac with Chris tonight. Fuckin' amazing. David Fincher wins again. Anyway, since the movie was like three hours and it's almost two in the morning, I'm gonna make this short so's I can rest up and go party tomorrow night.

The only problem I have with telling people I like the Hanson Brothers is that they assume I'm referring to those towheaded, shoulda-been-abortions trio of girlish looking pop singers whose song "Mmmbop!" has become more than ubiquitous enough to make buzzed secretaries at happy hour play it on the jukebox while squealing through its runtime. No campers, I'm referring to the ridiculously fun Canadian punk band.

So imagine this. Your day job is playing in NoMeansNo, one of the most intense, complicated, off-kilter punk-influenced bands of all time.* What do you do to blow off musical steam and have fun with your craft from time to time? Start a Ramones-style band with short, goofy, catchy songs about hockey and getting drunk. It only seems appropriate that they would name themselves after the trio of borderline-retarded ice hooligans in the riotous movie Slapshot. To this day, they're the only punk band to play the NHL All-Star Game, and songs like "Duke it Out" show you why. I recommend starting with the Matt Party Standard albums Gross Misconduct and My Game, which might have my favorite parody cover of all time.

For people who want to hear the equivalent of Brian Cox starring in Super Troopers (sort of).

*For the record, I would just like to say that the Mars Volta wish they could make a record like NoMeansNo's Wrong, but then what would they do with all their spare wankery?

My Girlfriend's a Robot:

Duke it Out:

I've Been There:

Honey, I'm Home!:

Thursday, March 08, 2007

The Have Mercys - or - let he who is without groove cast the first Pebbles

I apologize for the badness of the above joke. This is the first entry I've written sober in a while, and it was the best I could come up with.

Anyway, if you're from the DC area, you should be checking concert schedules to see when the Have Mercys will be playing. I saw these cats when they were opening up for the Hall Monitors at the Velvet Lounge two weeks ago, and the only reason I waited to write about 'em was because I wanted to get a posting closer to the date of their next show. They're opening up for the Ambitions on Tuesday at the Black Cat, so get your asses in gear, kiddos. For $6, how could you go wrong. I'll be there, so be sure to come by and say hi.

Anyway, when I saw them at the Velvet Lounge, they came onstage in Andy Warhol wigs and sunglasses (see the picture) and declared "ahhh, we ah zo German" in their best impression of Dieter from Schprockets. Equal parts Stooges groove, Pebbles pop, and Rumbleseat atmospherics, they slayed, even with jackasses like me yelling "mach schnell mit der Wienerschnitzel!" and offers of mustache rides between half the songs.

Check out their demo and come get drunk with me Tuesday.

Save My Soul:

Rock 'n' Roll Radio:

Witching Rod:

Suicide Love:

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

The tempestuous life of Charles Mingus - or - you just got knocked the fuck out!

I think what I love most about music is the canonization of the asshole as an iconic archetype. In what other field would a dick like Axl Rose prove to be a more compelling, charismatic, and just plain interesting figure than a goody two-shoes like Bono? The jazz canon might be filled with nice guys like Gerry Mulligan, but it's the Charles Minguses that make for the snake-like mezmerization.

And what a raging asshole he was, too. When he wasn't depressed and ballooning in weight, he had frenzied creative periods where he would write and record at a furious pace. In between, he would stop performances to berate audience members who would not shut up (saying, memorably, "Isaac Stern doesn't have to put up with this shit"), throw bandmembers out in the middle of performances (if not outright assault them), destroy expensive instruments, and he once punched a trombonist so hard in the face that the dude lost use of his upper octave range.

Of course, this is America, so all is forgiven if someone is artistically talented (or at least famous). Of course, calling Mingus "talented" is an understatement bordering on criminal. Dude might be the single greatest bassist of the recording age, not to mention one of the best composers, to boot, writing music that often veered between conventional hard bop and wild free jazz in unpredictable, thrilling ways. He often wrote with his bandmembers' strengths in mind, leading to entrancing, mind blowing recordings and live performances.

Even in the face of all this, though, two things will always be tantamount in my mind when I think of Mingus: his bass tone, which a better writer than I described as the sound of a telephone post wire being thumped against a redwood, and probably my favorite ever quote about this arts, one that I try to apply to all my creative endeavors: "Anyone can make the simple complicated. Creativity is making the complicated simple."

Rest well, you talented douchebag.

Haitian Fight Song:

Tonight at Noon:

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

I'm into pop-punk - or - I don't care what Pitchfork thinks

So with the release of Pop Punk Isn't Dead, I felt the need to reinforce this belief for people that might be a schoch incredulous. I'm way too drunk to do anything but defend a subgenre against spurlious claims made by people that have no clue what they're talking about.

If you think a genre is defined entirely by New Found Glory and Good Charlotte, check out this mix. Maybe it'll save you from the dark side. Mitch Clem can feel your pain.

If you need hooky breakdowns, maybe you need to pause here.

01. Alkaline Trio - Armageddon:

02. Dead to Me - Don't Life:

03. The Descendents - Sick-o-Me:

04. The Methadones - Say Goodbye:

05. The Soviettes - Hanging Up the Phone:

06. The Queers - Never Ever Ever:

07. The Huntingtons - Jeannie Hates the Ramones:

08. The Lawrence Arms - The Rabbit and the Rooster:

09: One Reason - The End Never Mattered:

10. Osker - Lucky:

11. Latterman - Doom, Doom, Doom!:

12. None More Black - Oh, There's Legwork:

13. The Ergs! - 3 Girth Units:

14. The Mr. T Experience: She's Coming (Over Tonight):

15. Jawbreaker - Boxcar (2):

16. This is My Fist - Story of Reconversion:

17. Teen Idols - Her Only One:

18. Dillinger Four - Let Them Eat Thomas Paine:

19. Grabass Charlestons - Prosthetic Soul:

20. Screeching Weasel - I Wanna Be a Homosexual:

21. Discount - Bloody Mediocrity:

22. Millencolin - Montego:

23. Vandals - I Know, Huh?:

24. The Manges - Do the Loser:

25. Sloppy Seconds - So Fucked Up:

26. Teenage Bottlerocket: Go Away:

27. Dag Nasty - What Now?:

28. Leatherface - Baked Potato:

29. The Copyrights - Crybabies:

30. Fifth Hour Hero - Reticent to Romance:

Thursday, March 01, 2007

"Some people think little girls ought to be seen and not heard" - X-Ray Spex

News item the first: I've come to the realization that I don't need friends so much as I need a case of beer and the Mr. Show box set.

News item the second: I'm seeing the Thermals tomorrow, and tickets go on sale at 5 PM tomorrow for the Dismemberment Plan reunion. You better believe I'm gonna be glued to Ticketmaster, credit card in hand. So long as I get to hear "Tonight We Mean It" and "What Do You Want Me to Say?" and "The Ice of Boston," all will be rad with my $15. Besides, it's a benefit for Cal.

I meant to write about Charles Mingus tonight, but glancing over my last couple entries, I realized I needed to post some good, solid punk up in here. Since the intro to the book I'm currently reading, Rip it Up and Start it Again, mentions X-Ray Spex, why the fuck not?

In a scene brimming with creative pioneer-types (first wave punk), X-Ray Spex still managed to stick out, both through Poly Styerene's strangely charismatic screeching and Lora Logic's (later Rudi Thompson's) wailing sax leads. They were great right out the gate - their debut single, "Oh Bondage, Up Yours!" is one of the most crucial, enduring punk songs ever recorded, and it's probably the first riot-grrrl song, to boot. Women were a rarity in the early punk movement (and boy, a LOT has changed, hasn't it? *rolls eyes*), and Styrene's force-of-nature wailing was something with which to be reckoned. With her mop of wild hair and braces, she was a weirdo even to the gals with the $50 haircuts and cat-eye makeup.

They put out one killer album, Germfree Adolescents, before splitting. What was the cause? Drugs? Creative differences? Competing stylists? Nah, kids, Poly ran off to join the Hare Krshnas. Yeah, the only person who ever really freaked out Johnny Rotten joined the airport cult. The band got back together in 1995 and put out the alright album Conscious Consumer, but the broad, strident politics seemed to clash with what made the band so endearing to me, which was their absolute paranoia about the increasing banality and phoniness of a world based more on advertising and self-promotion than compassion. Or some shit.

For those who think girl rock is all about Lilith Fair horseshit.

Oh Bondage, Up Yours! -

Art-I-Ficial -

The Day the World Turned Dayglo -

Cigarettes -