Pink Reason - We'd Call for Help...

…but we ain’t got a dime. Kevin DeBroux always seems to be living on “Borrowed Time,” it just so happens to be the anthem howled repeatedly in the minute-thirty used to toss off this essential jukebox filler. By now I’m convinced the 7” is the format best suited for Pink Reason, no discredit to the sprawling wallow and desperation of the Cleaning the Mirror LP (like Don Quixote down a deep black tarpit, another entity, another realm entirely), but “Borrowed Time” is the DeBroux of recent days (though it could’ve been recorded in a number of different eras - at 14 in the rec room?), the gutter scum done good, the past an irretrievable blur, the odes to the recently departed Egor Letov and G.G. identified but borne of his own hardcore universe. It’s a choppy, simple, and quick abrasion sonically (three chords and plenty of static) -- verbally it’s one-dimensional graffiti sprayed sloppily on the wall, with no doubt as to the message.

Though he “woke up this morning on a dirty floor, with nothing to eat and nowhere to go,” he doesn’t sound any less worried/wounded about tomorrow. If anything there’s a confidence in his role as teen runaway, intellectual drop-out, harbinger of a fresh-faced, weirdo, soul-draining punk rox. The typical theme of street urchin is inherent (i.e. Suburbia, Pixote, Oliver Twist), just laying out the facts from the road, a mainline bulletin, before moving on to the next inspired squat. The b-side “Scared Shitless” draaaaaags it out into the open, every bit as evocative and baring as the Mirror LP, if less isolated, more harrowing, more blood being shed. Something brief and visceral as this is a perfect foil to the spilling of guts his debut was mucked up in – cathartic abandon, as sharp and determined as the day he decided to become the piper and the proletariat.


Monie in the Middle

Once April is over you’ll no longer be witness to MTV’s most face-saving decision in years -- the airing of vintage Yo! MTV Raps episodes in place of banal reality shows and worthless modern videos. Oh wait, they have three other channels on which to broadcast that junk. Why they don’t have separate channels that loop shows like 120 Minutes, Headbanger’s Ball, Buzzkill, and Remote Control is beyond me. VH1 Classic picks up the slack, and the new series Miss Rap Supreme shows Viacom at least investing trust in creative types like Ego Trip and whoever programs Metal Mania. This time around, along with the actual intros and outros hosted by Fab Five Freddy, Ed Lover and Dr. Dre, live performances, and extremely unknown videos, the team behind this marathon added topical segments – “best high-top fade,” “best rope chain,” etc. Genius for a kid like me who spent more hours at the Record and Tape Outlet near the Salem Mall at 9 than the baseball card shop (spent some time there as well). I would pay an extra $10 a month on top of my already ballooning cable bill if I got to see the Superlover C and Cassanova Rud do “Girls I Got ‘Em Locked” daily.

Which brings me to Monie Love, after MC Lyte my second love in hip-hop. I was probably smitten by all female rappers at the time, hitting puberty and the like, but Monie had such charm – she came from London, wore Cross Colors, hung with the De La Soul, the Jungle Brothers and Queen Latifah (making her an official member of the Native Tongue family), and could spit lightning quick rhymes on par with her male counters. Prequels like the verse in De La Soul’s “Buddy” or sidekicking on Latifah’s fierce, 7th Wonder-sampling “Ladies First” showed definite promise, a future superstar still only a teenager. Her hyper-syllabic delivery (a precursor to Das Efx, Eminem, Twista?) was certainly a bit na├»ve, and her themes somewhat silly and femme-preachy (see “It’s a Shame”), for a few months in 1990 though all her trappings were fitting. Having the distinction of being the first international female hip-hop artist signed to a major label and coming up when surgically safe pop-rap was fusing with New Jack Swing, her “Monie in the Middle” single is an ephemeral classic from the era – pocket change beats, horns, and chants. It has an edge that I could only wish for when re-trekking through Down to Earth, her debut album and a record indicative of the filler that littered full-lengths of the genre at the time (and pretty much beyond).

The fire fizzled out quickly afterwards, a lame-duck follow-up, a “hit” from Class Act (the Kid and Play movie) and eventually landing a gig as a disc jockey in Philadelphia, Monie has found herself fighting the recent maxim that hip-hop is dead, only to find her own career dead in the water. Maybe, no fingers crossed, Mo’ still has some playing power left. Highly unlikely though.


Unholy 2 - The Gutter Religion

The Unholy 2 debut still feels like a specter in my hand, a figment of my imagination, even though I’ve had it in possession over 24 hours and listened to it about four times it’s nearly invisible. It might be the same way the cum-guzzlers feel after a long, sloppy, night with Lutzko the Saudi Prince. In theory this 7” was never supposed to happen, live shows were never supposed to take place, an actually band was never supposed to be – instead of a tragically hip implosion though, the Unholy 2 have survived, and the product of that union, that fortitude and perseverance, defies the schlock rock and public displays of horn-dogged narcissism that preceded it. But if you looked close enough, you would have seen that Lutzko has been an auteur from the beginning. It was all part of one elaborate joke, only now we have to take serious notice.

Remember how he would blow his wad in those nihilistic early performances that usually ended in chaos? That was to make you believe he had no scruples. Those antagonistic, hate-filled (but hilarious) diatribes from the stage? Well, now he’s been given the right to say just about anything within ten feet of baby rape. You might blush or bat an eye, but you pretty much regard what comes out of his mouth as the all-encompassing-anti-establishment abstract gospel, with a pair of girl jeans to match. The fact that his vision started as a duo – drummer Bo Davis banging on junk – and now has bloomed into a formidable trio with Adam Smith just as much a part of the action (blasting altimeters and sonic buzz around the shitstorm), proves actual practices might take place. At first the low-brow art-damage was nearly unbearable AMREP copy, these days, any appearance and they’re the dark-horse marquee. It was part of the plan, a sleeper cell terrorist plot to burn down the beach from within.

And now? Now you get a tangible piece of art for putting up with this trash. What a beautiful piece of art it is too, every little detail taken care of by the hands of county’s favorite masochist – the nervous, off-center, type on the label, the carefully procured clip art of a naked Kate Moss (after a coke) Xeroxed with just the right amount of fuzz, the absence of a name, a title, or even a Columbus Discount logo on the cover. Herein, it is all about the entire package – not just the brazen slab of music.

Even back when they were named a Band to Watch, “Kutter” was a staple, the song about girls who can’t cook, can’t fuck, just slice. On wax it burns - magic stab wounds blown out, the Jim Jones funeral march towards the gas chambers. In the studio the band can thrive on endless scraps of gristle and scummy noise, Smith’s rightly choreographed phase waves match the atonal grind of Lutzko and Davis’ clatter like a wizard in penance.

The b-side “Porkys” follows a similar two-chord formula, and it should, just now it’s sped in the mode of Suicide on 45, a bit indie even. This, until now pretty much unheard, is the symbol of progression (Masons Unite!), and goes back to the role of Lutzko as director. “Porkys” is a cock-out concoction of guerilla film in aural form – 80’s slasher flicks with Teen soundtracks, a documentary about Steve Albini finally getting head, a dash of French New Wave leaning into the dive bar, Putney Swope in Technicolor, and Skinemax Snuff for good measure. Maybe I’m only adding to the mythology, I hope, because it simply makes it increasingly more fun. Enter at your own risk.


Yes. Ashlee Fucking Simpson

Working the stone, I'm constantly sucked into New Country and Pop Radio (101 included), and somehow always find the bright side of a good song. You could play Gordon Lightfoot all day and I'd be a happy man -- good songs. That makes me a constant sucker for pre-fab top forty. Constant love for current benders that might just have a chance at becoming something playing out of windows come summer. Hopes like Santogold and My Morning Jacket's new one (amazing interview and live show download here), plan for an interesting season. I still however give the heavyweights the benefit of the doubt. Mariah Carey's "Touch My Body" is irresistible if reheated and Madonna gives into Timbaland for a single that could potentially work well in a roller rink.

I'm intrigued though by Ashlee Simpson, yup, Bittersweet World is a painstakingly produced put-on of a career-gone-haywire that most seem to care less about. Her long struggle to hybridize everything from Amy Winehouse (on the title track) and Prince (the bumping "Boys") actually paid off, even if she had 10% to do with it (there's a mighty list of collaborators here, like Disney imagineers). I'm guilty of falling for it (you missed the Britney, jump onboard). The album is a brilliant Mechanical Animals reanimation, with a different type of androgony (she's sexy, but willing to just kick it and listen to records), less Gwen Stefani harikuju soft-porn and instead Cindy Lauper She's So Unusual, atop a rubik's cube singing "I can't here me now..." (???) A puppet, granted, playing the part quite convincingly. Her non-voice could be replicated by machines, but the plastic surgery and precise beats make her pop robotic enough. Hey, I'm also addicted to American Idol.


Happy Record Store Day

For most of my readers, today, National Record Store Day, was redundant -- but participating in such a fabricated event was salvation. I've never seen Used Kid's so crowded, almost like it was a Toys R' Us with the Breakdancing Elmo. Kids lined up with arms-full of dollar Carly Simon and ELO between the bands, and random dudes who would actually make their transaction while the band was playing (see the video) buying cds. Kinda' glorious. The readers know the value of the independent record store. They're the same people that go there week by week, and treat the internets with the same consistecy.Why? Cause we'll find it one way or another. I cut each and every one of my teeth in that store, whether it was underground or a story above.

I suppose the rest of the world (who are on the internet more than on the street) need an alarm call that a vital resource to the community is being laid waste to the instant-free-access of P2P and MP3. Hence, Record Store Day. It's certainly a holiday I can get behind, if only it makes cute girls buy vinyl for their dorm room's new turntable.

Wil Foster of the Guinea Worms certainly knows the importance. The record store is the crossroads between the living room, the bar, and the library. Here Guinea Worms do "In My Area" by the Fall.

BONUS: Go Here for the new Guinea Worms reggae jam -- "After Our Party," living proof that they're finally listening to Journey. Or my favorite "Electric Moreland Funeral" -- Foster doing Sabbath. Maybe So, Maybe Not.


Jay Does the Wedding Present

Now that Mr. Reatard is branded with the distinctive Matador logo (not that there was ever a problem with Goner, Empty or In the Red), is he expected to provide more for the underground, worldwide culture, the teens, the kids, the collector scum? Is he expected to go above and beyond the call of duty? Is he expected to become one of “America’s Greatest Songwriters”? These are questions that need to be answered with an emphatic hells yes. I expect a decade of flawless singles and nothing less. I expect Tiger Beat stardom, fold-out posters, pins with his curly locks busting out the sides. He’s the been-there done-that idol – the brat that got beat (b-side “Screaming Hand” has some daddy issues), the glue sniffer, the boombox-recording pre-pubescent Ramone, the drop-out, and the gutter snake.

My love/hate relationship with the man stems from many corners. I was never a huge Reatards or Lost Sounds fan. I saw him in Digital Leather one night baiting hatred and violence to no avail. The kids just want to have fun. All that rage seemed to taper off with the Angry Angles and his solo triumph Blood Visions - the latter a head-to-toe, Eno influenced, skate-punk, shocker, stocked tight with hook’s sharp as chum drags. The underwear and blood cover was a selling point in itself, as if saying “I made a record by myself. Ended up naked and brain damaged.”

With “See-Saw,” the first of six singles that might just define my summer, consider it nothing but love. Jay Reatard possesses a bubblegum soul. Every little nuance of his phrasing throughout this nitrous aim at nursery rhyme (the play on words, the reflection of his indifference to stardom?), the Wedding Present meets Circle Jerks pointillism of his trend towards scrappier, bright, guitars sounds, the fist-raising outro, all make for the most joyous three minutes I’ve heard so far this year. Could he purposely be ripping from Superchunk’s On the Mouth? If you head over to his blog, you’ll bear witness to his obsession with XTC (see “Tiny Little Home”) or attempts at black metal (see “Forest of Blitzkrieg”), it’s a testament that might just reveal too much, too soon -- but the guy’s recent prolific streak is flawless. An equation for “Screaming Hand” is likely to involve Queen and the Wipers, we shouldn’t get there yet. Another time? We still have three weeks till the next installment.


Early Shows and the Starbaskets

I’m not sure it mattered who played last Sunday night at the Boo Boo, cause it was an early show - an excuse to curl up in the remaining sunlight at 7 p.m. with a Bulleit and water, a few friends, not too many lot lizards, and lil’ bro being peanut. I was on the trail towards bed around 10, just buzzed enough to roll the window completely down, and satiated in Sunday rock religion.

it just so happened that Jerusalem and the Starbaskets , a duo from Columbia, Missouri, were playing -- spreading the gospel from the Ozark foothills. Spiritual, droning, slacker blues – they drifted through The Howling like nomads through the Badlands, some roads dusty and bruised, the longer ones barren, endless, stretched to a hazy horizon. I’ve been slagging the latest Dead Meadow record simply because I find it boring, grinding into a backwoods niche is fine, just don’t put me to sleep. If you’re going to dig deep in those roots, those Mississippi River or Appalachian Post-Church or Primal Stonehenge hymns, tossing in banjo and porch clap for authenticity, you’d better dirty it up, walk in high waters, overalls and muck boots. “Steeple Against the Sky” is grungy, dirt-pop, sewing the pair of Jeremy and Kim together into a brittle cocoon of exuberance. At album’s end, the live performance of “Everybody’s Dig Accounted For,” they wind up a lengthy, psych-tinged bummer. The Sun and the Dawn, indicative of a night spent with them. Brightback Morning Light might have recorded the purest rays of the prism with Rhodes and reversed ascension, the Starbaskets are the crystals shattered, picked through, amplified, and treasured.

This isn't so much about the The Howling, a late-night stunner btw (which you can purchase at the aforementioned Myspace link) as it is how Jerusalem and the Starbaskets make for perfect Sunday music, replacing the cracking Steely Dan LPs, that's a good place to be.

Look in the Mirror. More Sunday shows please.


Polvo? Really? Polvo?

Chris Woods would scoff – “This is total fucking garbage.” He was Polvo’s harshest critic. As the always divisive, North Carolina band reunite this year, the torrent of indie 90’s nostalgia has reached a lame threshold. Will the masses buy a new Love Battery album, is it too soon for a Number One Cup whirlwind tour, did anybody actually listen to Duster? Sure, I’d be happy to see this show in some small capacity, feverish and wound up – I’m as guilty as the others in the enclave of devotees that possess all the records, they were one of those fringy second-tier bands (Silkworm, Elf Power, Bevis Frond) that made you feel like you were part of the club and hence had to have all the collectible cards.

Polvo weren’t that prolific, but they did manage to glide through some expansive and tricky terrain during their tenure. Blending Middle-Eastern echoes with imbalanced rhythms and time shifts, thousand-yard stares and full-frontal guitar skronk, they made albums that were woozy and relentless at the same time. It was in the EPs though that Polvo shined. Particularly the point where I theorize they peaked, the This Eclipse extended player that fell right between Today’s Active Lifestyles and what many consider their epic Exploding Drawing. I’m a fanboy for everything, personally I adore Cor-Crane Secret (perhaps just for the honesty and scruffiness of the recording), and Exploded Drawing has thee best songs of the catalog but is marred by blind ambition. This Eclipse though is the perfect concentration of a band that must be ingested in moderation.

Chris Woods is kinda’ right after all, the detuned strings and oft-putting shredding do rattle and disorient -- they try hard to meditate at times but rarely come up for air. These five songs though, tend to go down easy. “Bat Radar” a cleaner, polished, take on the quirky math rock of the beginning, better paced and readable, maybe the first time they actually thought of themselves as compositional guys and not just stoned travelers. This goes right into perhaps my favorite song by the band, “Bombs That Fall From Your Eyes” is Polvo’s “Grounded,” a prosaic exercise through the post-rock wasteland and the chunky proto-metal mirror (solidifying them as a group as good as Slint and Chavez), gorgeous and brutal. This Eclipse present them with chops, plenty different cuts too, they could hold their own in jazzy instrumental cheek-talk and monolithic sparkling sludge. Treat it as one sonically conceptual piece, an iceberg even, and warm up to it.
But back to these reunions…

If you’re in a band contemplating re-uniting…don’t drag it out unless you planning on recording an album that’s at least as good as your good band’s worst (Lemonheads, Dino Jr., Mission of Burma). Play one or two shows. Here Polvo get a pass, but I’d love to hear something new, as Shapes I thought was going to an interesting place that never was found. Oh well, me, I’m holding out hope for a full-scale Olivia Tremor Control tour, complete with new album.


A Conversation About Thomas Function

The random awakening. The Sunday afternoon realization that the "regional mexican, visual, southern rock" of quite an obvious band from Alabama (believe me, I was thur last summer and ZZ Top was playing next to the hotel) could give me goosebumps. My inner snobbery didn't want to indulge in such indulgence, but here's how the conversation went on a glorious trip to the first Cincinnati Reds game of my season:

(the players -- MH = Mike Hinze, KM = Kellie Morgan, DE = Douglas Elliott, KE = Wumme Wenders)

MH: I've got your coffee and a burn of the Thomas Function CD. For some reason it reminded me of you, and I thought you might like it.

(hours in the car, an hour in the alley, an air-tight, offensively heavy, Reds win, and another 20 minutes before I allow the Thomas Function disc to enter the fray.)

DE: This is my morning album. I've listened to it every day this week.

KE: This sounds pretty generic. The singer sounds exactly like the guy from Clap You Hands Say Puke (backlash has happened and gone, anyone trying to find virtue in their second album is a hoax-ghost).

KM: Yeah, I agree.

(MH and KM keep the back end of the Yaris bumping despite the obvious, Celebration by the Thomas Function continues to play, certain songs are played twice.)

DE: This band has soul.

KE: Like the Delta 72. We used to like it but it reminds of the (Go!, the Deadly Snakes, the Catheters) now. Too little, too late.

DE: Think of it as Television recording in Muscle Shoals. I bet they could record in Muscle Shoals if they wanted.

KE: Yeah...he does sing like Tom Verlaine...and the guitars are all over the place in the right places.

(I think about the whole TV/VU/MS connections and have to agree totally, silently.)

The next day I instinctively replay the album on my 45 minute commute. The annoying NPR fund drive is on, so music is a given. I listened to it again on the way home. That's how good it is. Not fresh, it's honestly most linked to the Exploding Hearts, just irresistible, substantive, candy.

They are playing a house party in Columbus next week. More details to follow.


Moviola and the Broken Horse No One Heard

Dead Knowledge requires less head scratching than the ramblin’ faux-psych of Howlin’ Rain or the woodland soft-rock of Midlake, that’s what made it 2007’s preeminent unheard roots record. It has since made more ears perk up (Mosurock’s writing about them now) and a serious survey of their career necessary. Broken Horses arrives at an opportune time for anyone looking to make the trip between 1994 and 2001 (means there’s another 6 years of material?). Longtime conspirator Spirit of Orr unlock a little chest of odds and ends the band has accumulated over the time – stepping stones between fuzzy collegiate earnest, sparsely spun folk, and the sublime domestic clarity of now. Call it maturity, the evolution of aging, but through the years it never sounded like were too concerned if they ever crossed a line that made them old and in the way. Maybe it’s from always teetering on the “ledge of the weekend,” always shifting slightly without straying, recording by any means necessary (lots are these songs are 7” and 7” “meant to be”) to perhaps get it all out even when it was unnecessary.

I’m guilty of not listening during the Rumors of the Faithful to Durable Dream chapter, it was the span before those album’s that Moviola seem their most prolific, here shown in many guises – the near kiwi floater-pop of the title track, the amphetamine jangle of “Air Out the Motorcade,” or the recently discovered “Signals Crossed,” a heady adventure through Grifter’s country. Housh and Shouse do share similar drunken laments and worn edges, but Moviola are far from a poor man’s Grifter’s, a poorer man’s Yo La Tengo maybe, but nothing as tragic and bluesy-bruised as Crappin’ You Negative. I guess it’s a regional thing, a mid-western bent, a university magnet. I’m suggesting the Dead Knowledge follow-up be recorded in Harrisburg, lovingly fucked with by Mr. Rep and Mr. House (who writes the liner notes here). A craggy, forcibly noisy, cleansing, could be penultimate -- fruitful.

Anyway, Magnetic Planet, Wabana, the High Street ssshuffle, Tobin Sprout, the secrets and stories, all play a factor – it’s all worth your attention, your time, just for the history lesson. It would be easy to go on and on regarding how there are genomes connecting the shit-folk of “Rockbottom Falls” to the Whitehurst (he prolly has no idea who Moviola is, unfortunately), this is a proto-boo boo you have to experience as if you were smoking in Stache’s. You been there (sic) ? By now, not many that you will talk to were actually there (is we old?), but Moviola wuz there, in the basement, smoking dirt weed, tapping into the spirit of the indie age, and had some damn good songs to write home about.

As far I as I know, the next time you can get a dose of Moviola is Saturday, April, 19th, during Record Store Day at Used Kid's.


The Ongoing Try at Being Dazzled by the Reds

And on Day Three God gave us J.C.