The Freelance Mentalists.
Tuesday, September 28, 2004
Introduction: San Francisco's Crime was/were not punks. That's what they said, and I believe them. That's why they called themselves Crime and also Ron the Ripper and Hank Rank and Johnny Strike and Frankie Fix and were long known to me only by "Hot Wire My Heart" (covered by Sonic Youth on something or other), and also "Baby You're So Repulsive."Actually they were known to me only by those titles, because I'd never heard a note. They must have been bikers. Yeah, that's it. Also ex-glam, and reaching back through silver-coated Berry licks to the science-fictionalized rhythm & blues and blues of Jorma. So their newly expanded, expansively tight-assed (you can come in, butt you can't sit down) blacklist, SAN FRANCISCO'S *STILL* DOOMED, is stomping something juicy. (They broke up in '81, just as "hardcore punks" Talibanned all banana appeal).(,
CHAPTER ONE: "Theme From GONE WITH THE WIND": I'm doing forestry with/for Scarlett. On the last hour of the last day, at dusk, as we make one last inspection of the loggers' wake, a stick in a pile of debris stabs the base of my shin, and I fall down, breaking the bone in my little toe, which leads back towards the base of my shin (give or take a few strata). Only connect. Worth it, because we've never spent so many (eventful!) hours together in a single week, despite having known each other for 40 years.
CHAPTER TWO:Carla Bley/Steve Swallow/Andy Sheppard/Gary Drummond: THE LOST CHORDS (Watt)
Past her legendary JCOA and other orchestral experiments/hijinks of late 60s and 70s, Carla's small groups have often seemed to me like well-groomed small potatoes. But here and now, on Ivan Eve, listening on headphones while stuck on the couch, rather than pumping my head full of stinky old metal while riding exercycle, I find this music's pulse, its focus, and even excitement: What *shall* we find tonight, children? Move over Miss Frances, Miss Carla's taking over Ding Dong School (TV nursery school that got me so stoked for First Grade man, later for your kindergarten). Not Latin American, but they know from that, not Euro (except for Andy, if you count Brits), but they got the wee wee Paree moderne. The beats, the double-jointed chords,the intentness, the chamber breath, all occasionally get stuck circling the lamplight, but, especially as the album proceeds, I hear schoolin' like rigor as such a given you can slide on it, not slack but slide into the cockpit, as you get older, losing your hair (many years from now).C.O.B.(Cool Old Broad). It's that kind of assurance.Sha-ha-ron! "These are blues you can play sitting down. You might have to lean forward a little," thanks for the tip, Mr. D. Focus on the keys, then, while playing, you can tilt your head all the way back, as your coulda-been-the-inspiration-for-the-whole-LION-KING-on-BROADWAY-production-design mane slips back(if you're Carla), and: watch the skies, couch potato.
CHAPTER THREE: RIO BAILE FUNK:FAVELA BOOTY BEATS (, dist. by Darla): Ruffantuff as Jorge Ben and toasting, persistent as them and dancehall too, audacious and tunehead as Tom Ze, inescapable as Jobim, flamboyant and all-the-above as the best Miami Bass, incl. Bass Tribe's JUNGLE BASS (Pandisc), catchy and clever and simple and straight ahead and never ever as easy as the time it seems to be having, or the world, not being *that* dumb, would be made of it. Redeeming even 80s-style soundtrack synth cheese I abhor by gnarling it to tiny crunchy stars in the devil's sidewalk (on the one about the slum called City of God, re an actual movie, justly enough).The final track is a medley of the kind of voice-and-drum-choir, concrete canyon reveries of awesome length and intimacy, that you find at yard sales for twenty-five cents, if you live in the kind of Air Force town where Staff and Command students from Classified are constantly getting transferred, having to ditch a little more ballast. Only this medley's down to one voice, one K-Mart Casio "drum," and yet as one-to-one as the favela multitudes ever were.(A favela's a ghetto yknow.)(Paul Simon tried to bite the choral on RHYTHM OF THE SAINTS, but I've barely heard any of that.)Rap's in there too, but only a couple of tracks fall behind the language barrier hell even a lot of AMERICAN hiphop albums do worse than that (not that I don't *think* I understand what they're saying, but the hiphopping takes a dive when the rapper opens his mouth, too often, not the words but the sound that's done). So!Get up! And schlep that foot-thick plastic! Bang that plywood over here, and spray paint it: YALL AINT READY IVAN. Except for not really, cos I don't live on the coast like Scarlett (cue:"Word On the Wing," then "Wind Cries Mary," but don't even think of "All Along The Unowatt"). Say a prayer for her, and then the lights go out.For five days, and landlines and cells for two of those But it turns out she didn't go back yet, she's safe up here for now. She was when I wrote most of this. She's gone back now. I wonder what she's found. One of these days, and it won't be long, she's gonna look out her window and find THE LOST SESSIONS, of our late mutual friend Stan Getz, that is, whom she introduced me toom not tomb.
Tuesday, September 21, 2004
Over half a year ago (yeesh, has it been that long?), as my inital post to this site, I took one track each from five random CDs I was getting rid of as part of a grand apocalyptic sweep through my recollection and measured them against one track each from five random CDs I was keeping; the idea was to see if the saved sample would be obviously superior to that being tossed. They were.

About four months later I finished that laborous exercise and compiled my favorite tracks from the albums deemed wanting onto a large pile of CD-Rs. I got rid of so many albums that three of the CDs I reviewed as "keepers" wound up getting tossed as well.

So here's the new test: which will be superior, five random tracks on the all-wheat/no-chaff CD-Rs or five random tracks from my still-hefty-for-a-commoner collection of full-lengths? It seems logical that the CD-R's have a higher batting average of awesomeness (using the stoplight scale there shouldn't be a single red), but I feel like finding out for sure).

OK. Green=I need to keep this track, Red=this track is worthless and Yellow covers all that falls between.

Track #1 - Drive Like Jehu, "Luau!"

Taking its sweet time starting. Indie-trudge drums and guitars...Drive Like Jehu? AND HOW! "Luau!" Shit, talking about opening with a bang. I prefer the snap and concision of Hot Snakes overall, but if I was going to keep only one Jehu track, this would be it. Guitars being bent and squoze like tubes of toothpaste over the loping beat as Rick Fork yelps golden phrases like "THIS FUCKING SUCKS!" and "WHEREFORE ART THOU?" (at least I think he is) before sliding into the climactic chant of "Aloha, aloha, suit up! Luau, Luau, Luau, Luau." More bands should just throw the novellest of seeming non-sequiturs over their plod. Especially if they've got Fork's ability to keep it from seeming cutesy-poo. Green, baby. GREEN.

Track #2 - X, "In This House That I Call Home"

Rockabilly with distorted guitars. X? Yeah, X. Ok, I've got to turn this up a little cuz the mastering on this Los Angeles/Wild Gift two-fer is wack. Sigh. I like X, don't get me wrong, but I don't love them yet. The Doe/Cervenka harmonies annoy - they're always out of tune in the same way, no matter what the song's emotional content is. Their allegedly awesome lyrics aren't particularly audible. "In this house that I call home"? I don't even remember if that's the name of the track. Sigh, yeah I'm keeping this around in case I grow into it or somethinhg. Either I'll toss this in two years or I'll wonder why I never understood it before. YELLOW.

Track #3 - Talking Heads, "The Big Country"

Meanwhile, this song has been knocking me out for longer than I've had chest hair. We only had one CD player in the house, so I would play my stuff in the living room when my parents were home or when they felt like putting up with it. They were usually cool with the Talking Heads. My dad even started doing the cha-cha around the room one time this was on. Part one: objective description of small town life. Part two: bitter dismissal and sudden bitch about touring life. Part three: Goo Goo, Ga Ga Ga. GREEN.

Track #4 - Eminem, "Drug Ballad"

Hahahahaha! Man the CD-R's are gonna have to work real hard to beat this line-up. One of my favorite Eminem tracks - right from "back when Mark Wahlberg was Marky Mark." Catchy, playful, inspired. One of the few tracks that have the calm rational detail of "Marshall" with the humor of "Shady." "I still got a lot of growing up to do, I still got a WHOLE lot of throwing up to spew." GREEN.

Track #5 - Strokes, "When It Started"

I forgot the name, but it's the track that replaced "NY City Cops" on Is This It?. Room On Fire was disappointingly draggy compared to the original (one of the six tracks I kept might show up for the opposing team, who knows?), but anybody who dismisses the Strokes outright can bite my ass. Julian may be the son of Iggy Pop and Eeyore, but the crisp beats and layers of nervous guitars make for something as caffeinated as the finest Feelies with a staccato attack that makes the sound entirely their own. Nikolai's bass burblage makes this one kinda jiggy. It's been too long since I threw this album on. GREEN.

Track #1 - Gomez, "Shot Shot"

Grifters! No wait, Gomez! Hi, Matt! This is off of In Our Gun, I think it's "Shot Shot." Yeah he just said "Shot Shot." Great grody little groove; that sax part reminds me the one they use on that one rap track repeatedly used in Bring It On (Chuck Eddy and Frank Kogan voted for the soundtrack back in 2000 P&J, I think. I should check it out). Hey, Matt, did you ever explain how the new Gomez album DOESN'T suck? Only song I liked was "Sweet Virginia." This song's pretty quick, but I need that hook. GREEN.

Track #2 - Giant Sand, "X-Tra Wide"

Wow, how many slack-ass G bands are there? This is from Chore Of Enchantment the best Giant Sand album I've ever heard (and I've heard most). Still didn't make the cut. Why own a bunch of albums that depress you in their relative mediocrity when you can make a truly enjoyable CD-R or two of your cherrypicked faves? Besides, some indie dink's going to see all those albums in the used rack and have a big ol' dump just like you did when you first found 'em. And the clerk, who was there when you bought it AND when you sold it back, can either laugh or question your rockism. "Dusted" and "Shiver" are the crucial tracks, sorry. YELLOW.

Track #3 - Rocket From The Crpyt, "U.S. Aim"

Ah! One of the sweet Holly Golighty-assisted tracks they made around RFTC but didn't release. Not sure what it's about (the military, I'm guessing) but that Why don't more people give it up for Speedo's hookcraft? Horns, riffs, chants, melody - all stellar (Chuck E thinks the rhythm sections flat or something but this stuff makes me move, albeit pogo-wise, a whole lot more than Boney M does - save "Rasputin"). Speedo's shit is so consistently chewy (though the rarities comps have a little too much filler to keep around in their entirety) and with Live From Camp X-Ray he's upped his lyrical game too. They've been around for ages too. Where is the critical LOVE? GREEN.

Track #4 - Tubeway Army, "Me! I Disconnect From You"

It's been a while since I said that I don't get Simon Reynolds. I don't get Simon Reynolds. He gave Replicas a 9 in SPIN, so that's the Gary Numan I picked up when curiousity struck. It's fun, don't get me wrong, but unlike somebody like Christgau, who just has a different value system, I wonder if I'm even listening to the same album Reynolds is (I'm probably missing historical context or lacking the correct drug supplement or something). I find the Human League more fascinating than Numan cuz Numan's a sad human who wishes he was a robot and Phil Oakey's a robot who wishes he was a sad human. Numan's type is way more common. I kept Dare and only kept the catchiest, peppiest stuff from this album (and this is one my of my faves). I forget what he said the big deal was about this album, but I'm sure he's wrong. GREEN.

Track #5 - Killing Joke, "Requiem"

Does Alex In NYC from ILX read this site? I highly doubt it. This song is nearly identical to Adam Ant's "(You're So) Physical." I can rarely tell what Jaz Coleman is yelling about and Girls Against Boys put some sex into these searing sonics. I don't feel like honouring the fire right now, sorry. YELLOW.

Man this was WAY more pleasurable than the one in March! Close match, and two of the yellows were due to me giving the alt-canon more credit than it deserves! I did a good job keeping stuff I enjoy and getting rid of songs I don't like. Thanks for bearing witness.
Thursday, September 16, 2004
"Ballroom Blitz," Sweet, 1974.

When I was in third grade, my best friend, S., lived across the street. We were geeky sports nerds together, did plays and wrote sci-fi stories, etc. His older sister C.J. was kind of a hermit, she sat in her room doing homework listening to the radio. Once, when me and my friend were kind of bored with each other, I went to go talk to her, asked her what she was doing with that huge bunch of paper. She said, "I make a list of every song I hear on the radio. Then, when I hear it again, I put another tally mark beside it."

Made perfect sense to me. I went home and did the same thing. But I kept losing that list, so I started to make lists of my 100 favorite songs, updated weekly like it was a chart. I remember that "December 1963 (Oh, What a Night)" by Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons and "Have You Seen Her" by the Chi-Lites used to jockey between #1 and #2 a lot, "Bohemian Rhapsody" was always a top tenner, "Shannon," the song about the dog dying, was more like #33, etc. I wish to god I still had those lists.

"Ballroom Blitz" probably wasn't too far up on the list because it scared the bejeezus monkeys outa me. First of all, it's got about three pre-choruses, always the buildup, inexorable and maddening like Gerald Ford. The extremely high-pitched harmonics on the actual chorus itself. The refusal to commit to either bubble-gum or metal. The fact that I always kept forgetting and thinking that it was "Barroom Blitz." The football chant of the chorus at the end, which I didn't know from having never actually heard one. The introduction of the band members at the beginning, which I knew was the punkest statement ever, only two years before anyone had heard the word "punk" in music.

And then, of course, there's the not inconsiderable fact that the lead voice is constantly devolving into madness. This is the single most unhinged vocal performance in the history of songs that got played on my little blue transistor radio. We cranked that thing up when we went to 7-Eleven to buy the new X-Men or Avengers comics, nothing but all my life coming out of that tiny speaker, me and my brother(s) and neighborhood friends singing along, me correcting them on the lyrics and telling them what the song was really about, I heard it on Casey Kasem's American Top 40!

These lyrics, about the freaks in the scene who instigate some kind of danzehall putsch riot, were never going to be figured out by anybody. To this day, I don't know if it's a narrative or just an impressionist fry-up. But this thrilled, and repulsed, and intrigued my young self too. It was just the most unhinged song and therefore perfect.

I just listened to it again and it all goes double. Those guitars really do chug, the drums are rocking some kind of schaffel train rhythm (and go all Burundi at the end! Malcolm Mclaren, you done been caught!), everyone gets his little "Radar Love" two-bar solo moment, God's in his heaven, all's right with the world.

Because Chinn and Chapman were clearly trying to start a revolution of little girls and boys here. It's a call to arms, mostly, as are "The 6-Teens" and "Teenage Rampage," The Man at the Back who says "Everyone Attack!": Stalin? Mao? Nixon? Even when I was young, I realized that it would take some powerful womanmojo for someone to kill me with a wink of her eye--then, one day in the carpool to St. John Fisher School, I saw that wink from my NEW best friend, L., and fell in love with her (and all dark-haired blue-eyed girls and women) forever.

So this song shoulda been higher on my lists. C.J., if you're out there anywhere, I hope you're still keeping your weird OCD book, still rockin' that radio, still holding it down until the band starts leaving cause they all stop breathing.

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