The Rise and Fall and Rise of Scat Records

"Save a spot for us, Right behind the Pretty Things."

That line from Prisonshake's recently released "Cut-Out Bin" 7" pretty much sums up the legacy of Robert Griffin, his band, and his empire, Scat Records. I'd love a tell-all from the guy -- Were Guided By Voices the doing and undoing of the label? Why so long between Prisonshake releases? Why the eventual move to St. Louis? Is Damon Che as much of an asshole as they say?

Scat can be ranked alongside Siltbreeze as a 90's harbinger of lo-fi and the DIY spirit (or avant can also = pop). Griffin was responsible for the resurrection of the 70's Cleveland punk scene (with the Those Were Different Times comp.), wonky pop from Franklin Bruno, pre-Smog outsider folk from A Bullet for Fidel, sprawling, unheard, guitar masterstrokes from Thee Speaking Canaries...and of course he was the man who took a chance on Vampire on Titus and a little record called Bee Thousand. After that the catalog gets kinda' cagey, if only because the gems start coming few and far between, though we do get an essential Mice re-issue around SCAT65.

As far as I can tell Prisonshake haven't released a proper record in 15 years. The Nice Price EP, which showcases "Cut-Out Bin" doesn't completely make up for lost time, it does however contain enough acerbic venom and Lake Erie art-skronk to justify there's no need for Griffin to pack it in. He's got a good grasp still on the vision of his band and where he places among the current underground. It might be a bit crankier, more lucid and less stoned (mature?) -- but the sound that he grew up with followed him down to Missouri. There's promise of a double LP in June, hopefully not a record full of "Song 3 Side 2," still Scat needs to be propped back up in its own right, and a monster Prisonshake statement is the perfect place to start.


Times New Viking vs. the Endless Groove

It's been a pleasure and a privilege to share DNA with the drummer from Times New Viking this past week. The media blitz has made me a giddy fanboy and proud brother. Rip it Off will prolly garner a Metacritic rating over 90% as critics and bloggeratti alike lauded the album's pop virtues. It pains me that I can't take the time to review such an incredible step forward for the band, but I'm likely to be the slightest bit biased. Doug has an exhausting list of links to prove my point. Let me add one more from People with Animal Heads (an excellent daily read, btw), and while this is not exactly an article specifically regarding TNV, it's interesting nonetheless. There's really little for me left to say, and what I can and will say is strictly indie-rock Nostradamus-esque hyperbole -- like it or not Times New Viking are the harbingers of the Shitpop (edit: excuse me, Shitgaze) Revolution. And by Revolution I'm speaking of a giant cultural shift that 's about to take place, of which TNV's trademark sound will remain at the forefront. Believe it.

I would however like to comment on my favorite song (at least in the present) "Relevant:Now," the mammoth (in Viking vernacular) mountain of fuzzy riffs and tortured strings (courtesy of C. Spencer Yeh) that ends side one. If you own the vinyl (trust me, it's worth owning) you'll notice it falls into a locked groove -- which potentially means this thirty-one minute record could go on forever if you want it to. Sure it's a novelty, but here it takes on new life as a chain between the trio's noble aesthetic experiments and their penchant to alchemize noise into pop. I've done a little trolling to find similar albums that contain the endless groove and so far have only found 2 -- Brian Eno's Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy) and Lindsey Buckingham's oft-overlooked solo outing Go Insane. I'm sure there are plenty more, so I ask readers (all three of you) to help in my quest and here compile a list of any others you know of or find through freak accident.


R.I.P. Clancey Elliott 1992-2008

Clancey's the one on the right. My dog, Mooch is sticking his tongue out in awe of his uncle's infinite wisdom. Didn't Edie Brickell sing something about how religion is the "smile on a dog"? I'll miss this guy.


All the Way with Tommy Jay

!!! Columbus Discount Begin Their Campaign for 2008 with 3 New Releases !!!

The real treasure of this recent batch is the re-issue of Tommy Jay's Tall Tales of Trauma -- originally released as an Old Age/No Age cassette in 1986 it's been generally unheard, ignored, and somewhat lost in the shuffle until the kids from Waverly so graciously unearthed it.

Tommy Jay has always been in the mix -- writing songs and playing drums for the Quotas or the True Believers farther back, collaborating on a number of Nudge Squidfish self-releases -- but even as an equal in the now legendary Ego Summit, his contemporaries main projects (V-3, TJSA, Bassholes) out shined Jay's dark horse status. Only now does one realize that his "Novocaine" was the fulcrum of the entire project. He was the poignant, coherent, folkie among a barn full of well-medicated genius.

The balance between these crisp psych-folk nuggets and direct contact with the lunatic fringe (be it "little black jelly beans," blotter, and blue oyster cults) make Tall Tales a rewarding time warp through twelve years of Central Ohio lore. In the record's earliest documents (circa '74, Timberlake) the Velvet's influence is obvious, not just on the cover of "Ocean" but also in "I Was There," a jangly, kaleidoscope of bittersweet pop that never edits his repeated guitar freak-outs. Into the 80's the specter of Lou Reed (or perhaps more referentially precise, the echoes of Mayo Thompson) loomed large in Jay's voice, phrasing, and tragic moods evoked, still the mysticism of Harrisburg is the overwhelming resonate. May I be crucified for such statement, but Tall Tales is infinitely more colorful and strange than any Reed solo venture (save Berlin), because it's the quirky folk record Reed never made. It tip-toes around Indian burial grounds, abuses cheap-drug in dingy basements, chronicles the lives of gypsies, tramps, thieves, murderers, the village idiot and the quintessential anti-hero in all of us (who may or may not still live on Weber Rd.)

Back to that lunatic fringe -- the cast of characters Jay surrounded himself with give the songs their creepy (and often beautiful) skin. Squid's pedal-steel synth on "Memories" transforms it into dim-lit neon honky-tonk or the flute and harmony provided by Jennifer Eling and Mike Rep respectively on the Joni Mitchell cover "Dreamland" is the closest thing to Laurel Canyon sunshine these ears have heard in the Columbus pantheon.

But the star here is Tommy Jay and his paradox sparring a warped ideal of weird America ("Last Hurrah," "Fear of Shadows," "The Bugmen") against a couple shots at cult eternity (in the straight-faced demeanor of "Old Hemingway" or the heart-felt "Lust, Honor and Love") is truly an emotional and sonic blur which always makes for the world's most cherished and puzzling musiques. Treasure indeed.


Skullfucking with Prosanctus Inferi

Chrome Leaf has always been a main contributor to the thriving local metal scene, even though their catalog is scant. Being the guys who put out Deadsea's brilliant Desiderata is enough clout in my book. They could shut the door tomorrow and I'd be appeased. Thankfully they're promising greater happenings in 2008, branching out worldwide with a release from Australia's Portal and an upcoming LP of "armegeddon necrokang diy hardcore punk" from Black Dove -- much, much to look forward to. But for now the order of the day is this creepily incredible one-sided long player from Prosanctus Inferi. Sacreligious Desecration in Excelsis from all the research on the band that I can gather, is a demo, but should not be treated as such. This is bludgeoning. I've not spent much time in the black metal underground, but I can fairly say this is inventive and brutal, something I'm physically scarred to put on some nights. The ultra-cryptic liner notes provide enough mystery, I'm not sure if I need a proper bio.

"Ejaculated on 12.25.06 in utter mockery for divine procreation by a harlot, in a barn, amongst beasts of burden."

Could it be from Trondheim, Helsinki, Antwerp....heck I'd even guess San Fran since the guys at Aquarius Records have made it the make-shift black metal capital of the world. They green-light any record with an illegible logo and a Scandinavian address. But this is from Columbus by way of Zanesville (a quaint, working-class, panoramic town covered in soot), and there the sediment of the Muskingum River that runs through it must be as thick as the smoke of a burning Christian church.

Like fellow labelmates Deadsea, the duo of J. Kohn ("infester of sacred dream and voice") and S. Mercer ("martial marriage of cruciated vanquish") formerly of Vomitrocity, are a metal bouillabaise. Death, grind, speed, a bit of unwanted but necessary hick Pantera obsession, all presented in a quick, seamless, punishing fury. It's all intercut with bells from a Catholic mass and Gregorian chants, and a deep appreciation of the classics, be it Deicide, Morbid Angel, Napalm Death, or Venom. In moments it might even go beyond that. How serious they are about their Satanic claims? Who knows, but who cares? I'm just preparing my skull for two sides from this crew. Advance to Morrisound Studios, collect total fucking destruction.

There were only 100 of these beauts pressed and rumour has it they're just about gone. Get one while you still can. This is essential soul crushing vinyl.


The Year in Beach Talk

If you've read even an inch of my personal spew on W.O.W. you know it's been a bountiful year for local music along our concrete shoreline. 2007 was as diverse, enlightening, and nationally heard as any year I can remember ('95-Present). Of course I wasn't around for the Pica Huss years, but I had the shitty demo tape while living in Troy. I tried to get out as much as possible (harder now with a mortgage in Lil' Vegas), but thankfully the kids keep churning out piles of thoughtful vinyl to keep me company till 3 a.m. Facing facts, what shall forever be known as the "preemptive Spin Magazine trifecta," was the be-all end-all. There's a reason Times New Viking, Psychedelic Horseshit, and the Black Swans got there first -- they all made wonderful fucking records. So that's one, two, and three.

Let's end rank there. Everything else isn't lesser by any stretch, just loved in different ways. Believe me or countless others taking notice, the beach is spreading (now all the way down to Rontown).

Moviola made arguably the best record of their career drifting through a portal of Modern/Aoxomoxoa freakness without ever sacrificing the mature grandiosity of the recording process or the humbleness of the songwriting. Dead Knowledge is an album indelibly Classic on first listen. Meanwhile Deadsea's Rising is the fiercest offering from Adam Smith's death squad without penance towards his band's enigmatic quest. In other words, formidable local monsters are constantly evolving.

Though I'm compelled by The Casualties of Happiness and Entrance respectively, both Hugs and Kisses and Sword Heaven are best served live. One completely nostalgic and absurd, the other beastructive and enthralling. It's comforting there are now tangible documents of both. DVDs?

Look what the rookie did/// RTFO Bandwagon made the make-shift folk-punk album of the year in Flagships, but I've yet to see them play without reminding me of keggers on 15th Ave. I heard they might have imploded? I sure hope not.

Which leaves us right back where we began the year...it wouldn't be full circle without another mention of the (what's now becoming annual) January Surprise Columbus Discount Records singles dump. My brother re-iterated the fact with his excellent year-end singles list (maybe we'll join forces soon for a megablog, who knows), but I had to re-enforce getting right with the Magic Jesus and their brilliant little Funeral Home Session/Abracadabra 7". This chunk continues to puzzle, wound, slash und burn, and smoke-out any semblance of of reality in the room. Could be subtitled "Columbus Drug Experience - The Ride" or could be held as the purest form of "real" "true" "disturbing" psychedelia this town has seen in a long, long, while.
Just wait until '08. Methinks CDR is campaigning quite early.


Live from Maid-Rite

I'll admit the notion of a "loose-meat" sandwich doesn't sound too appetizing (imagine a sloppy joe without the tomato slop), but when it's simply called a Maid-Rite my mouth actually starts to droll now. I've always known of the tiny Maid-Rite diner nestled in the rolling farm community of Greenville, OH (home of Annie Oakley, Kitchen-Aid, the immortal Darke County Fair), I've just never known the history behind the place. Founded in Urbandale, Iowa in 1926 (the first car-hop restaurant in the country), president Fred Angell went on to start only 4 original franchises before selling the brand. Greenville's quaint dive is one of those four. Why? That's one of the mysteries I've yet to solve. What's a "Green Wave" represent? Water or Wheat? Why is the only thing you can order in addition to your Maid-Rite or Cheese-Rite Mike Sells potato chips and mini-bottles of Little Kings Cream Ale? Why didn't they sell off the place when the chain went big-time?

I hadn't had a Maid-Rite in over a decade, but they're more than worth the 45 minute drive to nowhere (actually minutes from the Indiana border, likely why the town was painted in Pacer's gold and blue) and the additional 45 minute wait to get our order. There is usually a line out the door and a row of cars around the block -- and of course a brick wall filled with other people's gum (just stick it and shut-up about it). Basically the Maid-Rite is a smallish sandwich (slightly bigger than a slider) on a sweet, unadorned bun. Inside is the aforementioned loose-meat (seasoned with a secret recipe -- possibly cinammon), pickle, onion, and mustard. It's easy to eat four or five of these with feelings of guilt and grease minimal. The smell stays around for a while, though after you've finished it's almost a welcomed scent. There's certainly a lot of planning and time invested in obtaining the sacred burger, then again Roseanne Barr would fly in specifically to get these things, so a relaxing cruise through Midwestern Ohio is minor for the prize involved.


The Albums of 2007 You May Have Missed

Manishevitz - East to East (Catbird)

I always thought these Chicagoans, Jajaguwar free-agents, were some minimal slo-core bore, without ever bothering to listen. I was wrong, very wrong. East to East is late-night decadence served elegant and quirky similar to Roxy Music and the Contortions. Even the ever-present sax here, which veers between smooth jazz and Morphine, fits properly into the landscape. Their back catalog is well worth a trip to the bins.

Reports - Mosquito Nets (Paper Cities)

This is one of those modest yet adventurous small-press records you mistakenly stumble upon. Full of scruffy tuneful moments barbed like Polvo and at times wide screened into grand distorted fits. Matches well with Columbus' current crop of "Shitpop" revolutionists.

Deathspell Omega - Fas (Norma Evangelium Diaboli)

The bulk of my metal listening came from Guitar Hero ashamedly, but I also think that's indicative of the genre possibly reaching a threshold. Still, I'm constantly digging deeper to find the most bludgeoning and imaginative albums I can find and these Frenchmen fail to disappoint. Fas is simply bizarre -- heart of darkness black metal filled with woozy, distant acoustic passages and plenty of earthy production tricks. Evil fucking Evil.

Britney Spears - Blackout (Jive)

Yes. I'm serious. Dead serious. Most probably never gave this a chance. This is candy, purely, but candy you can't stop craving. Tantric Future-Funk that allows her producers to vie for Timbaland's throne -- she's just a perfectly robotic/psychotic conduit. The slowly leaked, unpolished demos are even better. Sure to be a cult hit years from now. At least the guy on NPR agreed with me.

David Vandervelde - The Moonstation House Band (Secretly Canadian)

Goodness gracious T. Rex. Have your Devendra (though he's valiantly trying to channel Brazil now, Smoky was a bit tedious) I'll take this slow-burning, psychedelic folk prodigy. When I'm "in the mood" this is the perfect John Cougar Donovan album.

Super Furry Animals - Hey Venus (Rough Trade)

I wouldn't blame the world for judging this one by the cover. Hey Venus has kind of shaken up the entire graphic aesthetic of why SFA are so intriguing. Sad because this might be their best since Rings Around the World as it's as brilliant a batch of pop songs as Gruff and Co. have ever written. A nice companion to his also unheard solo album, Candylion. More and more I'm beginning to think Super Furry Animals are the most severely underrated band of their time.