Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Michael Wohl-Eight Pieces for Solo Guitar

This is the sorta album you listen to alone, with a bottle of booze and the stillness of the night to keep you company. Not because it's the sort of misanthropic swill I love so much, but 'cause it's actually worth paying attention to. Occasionally I like to rant about how no one truly listens to music anymore (read my polemic about the last Beach House LP for more info on that front), but instead just goes for a given sound. They then download any and every example of said sound-as imparted to them through SoundCloud or LastFM or whatever website you use to steal music and scam on girls or boys-without ever hearing that noise blurbing outta yr speakers for something other than another example of whatever Pitchfork told you is good shit this week.

Which of course I'm guilty of, so fuck off. The point is that these eight meandering, rambling tunes are meant to be heard. Which is to say, if you give them a cursory listen, everything will sound the same. That's sort of the point, with any band or musician I can think of, from Arvo Part to Lou Reed's best. I couldn't begin to dissect this cassette tape's worth of long-time-rambling blues musicologically, but I'll give you some reasons your equally musically-illiterate ass should like it:
1) There's music for every mood, for every time of day, on here, and Wohl's always been good at writing songs to the tune of Old Man Time, that is to say, the witching hour when shit's weird, there ain't many people around, and you can only focus on one or two things. One of those should be "Poor Boy Long Way from Home Blues," which manages to be complex without ever being boring (if you don't understand that statement, go listen to any Led Zeppelin LP and ask yourself if you felt a single, solitary organic emotion the whole time except sheer disgust at any and all forms of arrogance and misogyny. If you did, you're either 1)a bigger crank and misanthrope than I am, or 2) a lunatic, so get back to listening to this tape!).

2) The "come for the nighttime melancholia, stay for the morning after effect": As best displayed on "Rainin' Sideways". While I'm a cranky jerkoff on the best of days and far worse typically, Wohl's plucking style has forced even me to consider that there may in fact be rays of sunshine poking through the incipient autumnal gloom. Even more impressively, he conveys this plucky mood without words: the best instrumentalists say more without speaking than most singers can get across their whole career.

3) This is just good Americana, kiddies. "Americana" is a loaded term, given that it can include everything from Abner Jay to, well, this.* Americana is also a dying genre, these days: for the most part, assholes buy collections like the Anthology of American Folk Music out of some consumerist sense of obligation ("ugghh my RECORD COLLECTION isn't COMPLETE without this ugghhh) than 'cause they actually wanna hear weird shit from the American backwoods ca. 1920. Well, I happen to dig all that weird caterwaulin', and this dood (Wohl, that is) is one of the only people trying to add something new to the genre (expansive as it is). "Long After We Are Dead" is a fucking great guitar piece, which also strikes a uniquely American chord**: this is music only statiunitese***, white or black, could make, and which we apparently are still decent at playing despite all the dogshit we've been spewing out onto the music scene since Skip James died and Lou Reed, god rest his soul, got clean.

But don't take my word for it, go listen to it, then buy a copy of the tapes before you can't, sucker! Physical copies of the tape come with sweet quotes from revered old American heroes such as John Fahey and Barbeque Bob, while also being way cooler than the mp3 files you're streaming through bandcamp. Party on, Blind Willie McTell; party on, Didier Hebert.

*Truth be told, I love "I'm A Good 'Ole Rebel," moral qualms aside. If any of you want to wade into the historical-ethical-political quicksand on this one, you're welcome to try. Just email me.
**All due respect to denizens of Latin America, the Caribbean, and Canada for equating "American" with "music produced in the nation-state of the U.S.A."
***Further deepening the waters of political correct bullshit, I'm using this term because English doesn't have an apposite term to denote people and things from the U.S. as opposed to the rest of the Western Hemisphere.

Monday, October 28, 2013

R.I.P.: Lou Reed, 1942-2013

So Lou Reed died yesterday. Most of us, myself certainly included, are probably amazed that he didn't fizzle out in a swirl of heroin, speed, and various other bad life decisions sometime around 1976. Nevertheless, the old coot was responsible in his youth for laying the groundwork for virtually everything that's been interesting in rock since the '60s: sleaze, celebration of the low bottom end of life, using distortion and tone as highlights and not mistakes on rock records, and in general a "I don't give a fuck, and neither should you" attitude that Elvis hinted at but never, ever, truly embodied.

Bangs said everything worth saying about the man back in that slew of alternately vicious and humorous interviews-cum-verbal-duels from '72-'76. All I'll add is that Reed made a slew of records, some of them very bad but many of them some of the best music ever put to vinyl, and hinted to a lot of us that there's more to life than whatever pile of misery we're currently putting up with.

Without further ado, here's a youtube playlist of my fave-rave Lou Reed/Velvets tunes, in no particular order. Maybe it's different from your fave-rave list. Good night and God bless, you cranky old man.

*edit, 11.25.13: And, to fully and finally puncture the "oh he's dead so let's absolve him of his duties to the rest of humanity" miasma that hangs over every Great Dead Man, check out this interview, where 'Ole Lew does his darndest to destroy and utterly mortify some poor Swedish guy who just wanted to get a few minutes of facetime for Godknowswhat. Really, Lou-you were in your 60s, why did you have to be such a slimy shit to someone who so clearly loved your work? But of course, asking that question answers it: Because you're still-deep down in your "I'm a New YAWWWWK legend" soul, and no matter how long you've been/were married to Laurie Anderson-a flaming asshole who only lived to make living humans miserable. Because, fundamentally, that's what most good art is, is it not? That is, destroying yourself and the living, breathing humans around you so that you can construct brilliant, undying synapses or snapshots of these dying/murdered humans in song/cinema/whatever. Not for nothing, Lou, but you shoulda died a long, long time ago . Oh well, whatever, nevermind(oh hey, Kurt Cobain, we love you too!).

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Pyschedelic Horseshit-Who Let the Dogs Out? EP (2007)

"in this world of mine nothing lasts/it's got to/BLOW UP"-The Avengers, 1979
"All the blended days and photocopied mornings..."-P.H., 2007

Well, I guess this as a good an introduction to the Midwestern misery embodied in Psychedelic Horseshit as any other of their legion of one-off-who-gives-a-fuck-about-quantity releases. Undoubtedly one of the best bands to emerge from that weird coulda-been-a-movement we call "shitgaze" (I think 'cause one of the jamokes in this band invented the term), back in the mid-'00s, PH is an on-again-off-again crew of garage-born deadshits from Colombo Ohaioh.

Scratchy acoustic guitar, talk-singing, hollering, pitterpatter drumming, and I think there's a bass guitar in there somewhere (sometimes): Yeah I think that's Psychedelic Horseshit in a nutshell. Yeah there's a bit of clamor and hectic yammering and yowling but mostly this is whatcha play on a rainy weekday when there ain't shit going and all you wanna do is stare out of the window mindlessly waiting for rain that never comes.

it's like that, and that's the way it is. I'm pretty sure that this thing is out of print, but try throwing Matt or Rich an email and they might be using an old copy as a beer cosy or cup coaster. Now that I'm done writing this shite review I'm gonna drink boxwine by the river and yell at tourists.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Deformities-Sometimes I Wish for my Own Death EP (2013)

What do you get when you throw Bodymore's finest together? The best throwaway EP of the year (anyone who thinks that a record consisting of 2 songs that don't exceed two minutes can't be the year's best EP shouldn't be reading this blog). Drew from Sick Thoughts and Nick from Kent State team up for epic, and epically brief, scuzzfuckery on this one.

The eponymous opening track mixes the hilarity and relentless monotony of Sick Thoughts' best with the (slightly) better production and (slightly) more complex guitar work of Kent State. A goblin may have invaded the studio while they were cutting "Still Separated II," to take over signing duties. The guitar slices in and out, and Drew's arrhythmic patter makes it sound like to drummers were dueling while the tape was rolling.
There's not much else to say: you either love sloprock noise or hate it. The latter type can fuck off, the former can revel in Deformities' idiot majesty.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Chief Thundercloud/Walrus split CS (2013)

Just in time for creeping fall blues, Halifax drops two offerings in one on ya. Walrus is a tried and true DrugPunk fave, while Chief Thundercloud slipssome downer blooz your way that forms a nice contrast with the former's sedate neopsych.

It's a dicey proposition, jacking riffs from Daniel Johnston: mere competence at evoking DJ's sound don't cut it. There's two ways you can go about aping the great D.J. The first is to act as "quirky"* as Johnston is on early favorites like "I eat cigarettes." This is the tack favored by dipshits such as Devendra Banheart, who mostly just come off sounding like shitbirds whose parents bought them a recording studio and a bag of mushrooms as a present for graduating from RISD. OR, you can go out on a limb and try to convince us that you're just as sad as Daniel Johnston. To succeed at the latter, you either have to be such a good actor, you might as well be on Broadway, or in fact be seriously deranged//depressed and walk around every day feeling like I do after polishing off a 6-pack and Tuscan red after getting in a screaming match with an ex.

Either way, Chief Thundercloud manages to pull it off. Of course, some of this is due to the clever use of hushed production. But he hits just the right note for when you're feeling sad but not exactly despondent, if y'knowhatImean. "Nothing's Gonna Stop" has some of the best dumb-straightforward lyrics I've heard this year. Here's the chorus: "I need you in my life [full stop] More than any other time [full stop]." Sneer all you want, can you do any better? The rest of CT's side is more of the same: wistful, forlorn, and subdued strings of autumn anomie.

Walrus, true to form, continues down the road carved on previous splits and brief EPs. "Brian" is a jaunty bit of airpop: almost-bouncy drumming, truncated singing, and minimal guitar. "Little City People" might be my favorite Walrus tune yet, gliding by under the radar sounding like  Jefferson Airplane outtake with a majestically surprising finish. Listen to it instead of reading my description of it.

Taken together this is a dynamic split-which is more of an achievement than it sounds, given that most splits I've ever heard might as well be a full album by a single band, given how similar the two sides are. Play the Chief Thundercloud side when yr broken up over yr ex but already have a new one in the works, play Walrus the morning after you've hooked up with said new rose for the first time.

Walrus lives here, while Chief Thundercloud skulks over here.

*"quirky": a nice, pleasant euphemism that lame cunts use to paper over the fact that Johnston is a schizophrenic who, as far as I can tell, has lived his life in immense pain; mental illness isn't cute, it's sad and shouldn't be glorified by anyone, present drug punk included. 

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Not dead...

....just busy pretending to be an adult (Har. Har. Har.), and also homeless at the moment. I'll be back soon, kiddies, once I find a place in the godforsaken Old Country with a steady internet connection. Stay tuned.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Alone & Forsaken XVIII: Razors in the Night

Yes, kiddies, I'm alive, narcotorpors and booze binges aside. I'm in the process of moving (back) to the Old Country so posts will continue to be intermittent for the next two weeks or so, but then I'll get back to the ever-present pile of shit (er, new releases) clogging the innards of my Gshit account.

In the meantime, have a gander with some classics of the "loud, young, dumb and violent" variety. Some of these tunes appeared on previous installments of the A&F series, but they're classics and zippyshare deleted those long ago anyways.


1. 86 Mentality-Intro/LifeTrap
2. Blitz-Razors in the Night
3. X-Nausea
4. the Germs-Communist Eyes
5. Social Unrest-Making Room for Youth
6. Youth Brigade (LA)-Violence
7. Ultimo Resorte-Cementerio Caliente
8. The Mau-Maus-Society's Rejects
9. Uproar-Rebel Youth
10. Negative Approach-Ready to Fight
11. The Fix-'Cause the Elite
12. SSD-Boiling Point
13. Born/Dead-No One (Necros cover)
14. Cro-Mags-Show You No Mercy (demo version)
15. Government Issue-Self-Destruct
16. Iron Cross-Wolfpack
17. Criminal Damage-No Solution