Live at the Cincinnati Zoo

My rep as an Ohio summer festival expert has been thwarted this season (apologies), so let’s shoot for fall? Plenty of ox roasts and autumnal harvest celebrations on the horizon. The summer’s been busy around Casa Zagatto-Elliot – school, work, work, work -- and thus the “stay”cation has replaced frequent travel or a real get-out-of-town vacation. I’m not complaining, it’s just we had the Olympics on schedule two years ago, and Philadelphia, two weeks ago, and neither will come to fruition. We have resigned to that NPR tag-word to explain America’s leisure weekend alternative caused by continuing economic suffocation. Regardless, I’ve always wanted to take the wife to the Cincinnati Zoo and we finally had an opportunity to see if it lived up to my highest expectations.

My girl and I are big fans of zoos, for $10 there’s little entertainment as rewarding/mesmerizing as gazing at monkeys for hours on end. The Cincinnati Zoo, built in 1873, is the second oldest active zoo in America – and besides the Central Park Zoo (heralded for its concise yet varied collection) and the San Diego Zoo (so big it takes two days to roam it) Cincy has few rivals. Of course we get all saddened by an animal pacing restlessly in a small space, but relieved when we see that Cincinnati is one of the leaders in preserving endangered species – education and conservation trumps moral quandaries.

Yes, pictured above are live vampire bats. The nocturnal house (a favorite of childhood) has scads of them in a pitch-black, cave-like enclosure. I’m pretty sure my bro was routinely scared to enter. That space is second only to the insect house, which boasts an amazing display of carpenter ants and naked mole rats. Still, this is a botanical garden to boot, so the trails through the monkey jungle and the hoofed mammal exhibits make the Columbus Zoo look barren and all-too-familiar, hence the trip South. This summer also marked the opening of Giraffe Ridge, which is basically a raised deck that allows you to view the herd of youngsters at head level, quite enlightening really (didn’t get to feed them though). The grounds are here are immaculate, despite construction for another new exhibit coming next summer (not sure what it could be?), and the exercise hiking up the Queen City's hilly terrain very beneficial.

Not exactly a play by play, but you’re already bored I’m sure. We’ve made it a personal goal to reach the Philadelphia Zoo (the nation’s oldest), the Toledo Zoo, and St. Louis (yearly voted as one of the best) by year’s end. Zoos in America are open year round, so there’s no excuse to peruse, in fact it’s better to visit in early winter (less crowds and very active animals). Should’a been a zoologist.

Oh those monkeys I was talking about...


Top Ranking = Summer Salvation

So Santi White didn't exactly thrill me like I'd hoped with that debut album (the one with gold glitter spewing out of her mouth) -- it could easily be whittled down into two amazing 12 inchers, while the rest of her (intriguing yet flawed) excursions into rock and balladry might need some re-tooling, sharpening up -- maybe next time? For now though, Diplo has saved the day (like he's always prone to do). In mixtape form, much like he introduced M.I.A. with Piracy Funds Terrorism, he's recontexualizing Santogold after the fact -- dropping in exlusive new beats and songs, ideas and experiments, to prove that those masterworks that highlight her album (and those flawed moments) deserve plenty of merit.

On the over-blogged-about, genre-hopping and indespensible Top Ranking mixtape, Diplo reigns supreme -- as eternally inventive crate-digger and increasingly corrosive beat-maker. He's found a way to flow Devo with Dancehall and make it be dub and destructive simultaneously. Plenty of extremities here, but I don't want to use that term extreme, still the beats that replace the original "Creator" almost got me a ticket in traffic last Friday. Then there's the cross-promotion of adding M.I.A. herself on the caustic "Give It Up" -- worth the price of admission alone. Bring in the unknown (to me anyways) Gerri and the Holograms (anyone know this), which adheres pretty closely to the French Cold Wave shit I've been hooked on, and I'm smitten again. This saved my staycation summer with weirdo dance sweat and will probably last into a heatwave autumn. Please give me 100 degrees in October. Diplo mixes are gold.


Oneida are Closet Deadheads?

As an appendix to my Oneida feature from last week and a nice little companion to the space-wonky intro-jam of the newly released Pre-Teen Weaponry - the boys from Brooklyn could do no better than release the Heads Ain't Ready 7" - as both a-side and b-side sport Grateful Dead covers.

Of course my own experience with the Dead is probably very similar to most of my peers who didn't have an older brother or sister who followed Jerry Garcia around the earth...or started ingesting psychedelics in junior high.....as such, I thought the group was mindless crud, and for some reason only reasonably enjoyed in the live setting, hence the boxes of tapes all the kids at Kenyon used to have -- meaning don't get anywhere near the studio recordings, as they were merely excercises to fullfill obligations. I sure did like "Touch of Grey" though, when MTV played it on repeat.

As Oneida can well attest to, anyone who slogged them off was dead wrong. Sure the tie-dyed fans and the parking-lot hippie-camp mystique turned off a generation of kids who were choking on grunge and hip-hop, but once drugs took part in our lives, so did albums like Anthem of the Sun and American Beauty, and eventually everything they did came into the fold -- save the later boots where Garcia was stoned unconcious on the guitar. Just heard Blues for Allah for the first time and boy did it blow me away.

On this extremely limited red and blue translusent vinyl, Oneida show that love in enthusiastic romps through "Cream Puff War" and "Cold Rain and Snow," both pulled from the Dead's 1967 s/t debut. You'd think it would be difficult to not play it by the book. Oneida are not book-smart -- as these two faithful covers are chugging little monsters, both with a head full of steam that hasn't been seen since the Enemy Hogs salad days. All's I can say is follow along, buy one of these soon, and continue to ride that wave, this band has a ton of perpelxing, genre-bashing, projects like this coming soon.


New Kingdom - Hip-Hop's Forgotten Acid Casualty

I’ve been spending most of my day, here at my desk, contemplating a suitable comparison to NYC’s long-lamented (by me anyways) and little heard hip-hop duo New Kingdom. That’s because calling them hip-hop would be a disservice, though this posthumous remembrance is filed in the Bo Jackson Jukebox, digging into their crate of samples wouldn’t dreg up the usual suspects. Influenced equally by hardcore and Curtis Mayfield, bong rips and Jimi Hendrix, they were truly the first self-proclaimed psychedelic rap group – P.M. Dawn notwithstanding. If you can find anything that predates 1992’s Heavy Load, I dare you to put it up for challenge against the beats and patterns laid out by Nosaj and Sebastian.

Not getting down with their catalog in a while, I just recently found their stunning sophomore album, Paradise Don’t Come Cheap (which is long out of print), and it’s certainly the high-point of an extremely tumultuous career. Their subsequent drop from Gee Street (who was bought-out by V2) might stem from audiences who just couldn’t get a head around the sound. This is the morphine drip of the rap world, crispy lysergic trails chopped and screwed -- the original crunks, the original afrostrologists -- every last inch of this record is covered in smoke and resin. Tracks like “Unicorns Were Horses” and the monster creeper “Co-Pilot” orbit in serious slow-motion, almost in a warped reverse, blaring horns samples circled by sirens and wah-wah-ed guitar riffs (some live even). And while we’re using drug references, the latter is the closest aural equivalent to the sensation produced by those festival-sized nitrous balloons. Sure this is a cauldron cooked up and geeked out upon in hazy dorm-rooms, nothing here is too intelligent, but it’s also an unadulterated joyride, a freedom cruise. Really, there’s nothing stranger than “Vahalla Soothsayer” a song that manages to travel from Appalachia to the heart of the sun, growled in distorted howls while scrap metal obstructs any hope of a clear view.

Then they disappeared. Rumors circulate about an album of new material, but nothing has been produced. At least find time for a re-ish?


Jay Gets Sweet on Number Three

If I’ve been tardy in the W.O.W., waiting in line for a Reatard single is a legitimate excuse these days. My internet’s been clogged, slowed to a crawl, as I tried three times to get my hands on what might just be the worst two songs of the bunch (unsuccessfully, I might add). Despite the expectations for the upcoming split with Deerhunter and the clusterfuck that was their pre-order procedure, Matador made good. Yippee, but I’m still eager to see how exactly they’ll remedy this logistical nightmare, and what shall become of further releases (those smaller batches). But back to perhaps my favorite of the already fabled seven-inchers so far. Number Three finds Mr. Reatard adhering himself permanently to the power pop particle board. “Always Wanting More” is that blitzkrieg bubblegum that becomes a little mantra in the skull for hours afterward, but the entire charade is fairly predictable at this point – in terms of production and process. I’m really digging the jangle he’s hooked on, but am finding his cold heart and general disdain for those around him (“you’re such useless bore”) a bit redundant. Though he is the best at writing bad lyrics – and these are the best bad lyrics in the set I can find.

Meanwhile, “You Mean Nothing to Me,” (there’s the thematic trend again, hate songs for softies) tries to melt that icy soul with the Southern Hemisphere. There’s no other point of reference here besides pretty much every great song from New Zealand. I just want to yell “Tally Ho, Tally Ho” over the squiggly day-glo organ or the rapidly strummed mandolin, instead of “I Care Nothing For You.” Tiny guitars? Renaissance of a modern punk? On one-sided, paint splattered, clear vinyl no less? This is my favorite packaging and song sequence so far. Or did I say that last time? Another high quality, intricately designed, artifact from the over-worked staff at Matador.


ESPS and the Dream of the Rarebit Fiend

I’m always interested in what the kids do for fun in L.A. Anytime I’ve ever had the displeasure of setting foot in this sprawling, salty, garden of indulgent delights, I’m turned on by all the glamour and sweat, the poverty and diamonds. Then I get to see where the buddy lives and it’s a hole stocked with porn about the size of my pantry, but at least it’s nestled in the Hollywood Hills, right? Hey look there’s Ice-T’s tennis court. Day two and you just want to get outta here. Everyone’s got agendas for their agendas, but never seem to do much but intern for some guy who works for some guy who works for Capitol Records new shitgaze subsidiary. Still – lately I’ve been hearing that the smog is clearing, things are happening, No Age is fucking huge these days, and actors are into musicians. They hang out together and start record labels together. Others just wander close by in Silverlake or Laurel Canyon and jam infinite. What the fuck am I talking about? I’m sure I’d love the north much better (we want two states).

Anyways, back to that bit about No Age. Love them or hate them, they get tons of ink. I ride the fence when it comes to this band, but their taste is impeccable. I recently read a nice little L.A. hot list by Dean Spurt and he mentioned this band ESPS, and the thangs he was saying bout them was more than flattering. Something about his words prompted me to send money in an actual envelope, with an actual stamp, in order to pick up their first offering. “Dream of a Rarebit Fiend” (on Storms of the Heart) may steal a title from one of my favorite turn of the century artists, Winsor McCay, but the song has nothing to do with nightmarish psychedelic comic strips and everything to do with that feeling I get when I’m loving L.A. – the privileged bohemian lifestyle of a young drug-fueled director, drowning in shag carpet, surrounded by b-list models/actresses, enjoying air conditioning in the parlor, while sunshine speaks through prisms like a trusting friend, spindling reels of footage you took on a trip to Morroco – oh the life.

Meanwhile ESPS, donned in 70’s vulgarity and excess, play a gnarly lackadaisical stoner sing-a-long in the corner. The great space coaster just dropped them off for the night. And boy do they love the beat and boogie, “Teller’s Line” is the closest thing to a tried and true Thin Lizzy pool party – and for that I’m am indebted to this band for the long haul. Don’t bring me down, bruce.


Going Beyond Yeti

If you follow along, you know that I often wake up wanting to hear German Psychedelic Music. I once treated you to a video of "Soap Shop Rock" and hoped you would seek some of this out. Most readers prolly already have affinity for Amon Duul II, so this might just be incidental, but I like to make with the grand statements, the realizations of truth, and I can honestly profess that Amon Duul II was the greatest band on the planet at one time. The belief used to be that all one needed from their discography was Yeti, after all it's become synonymous with Krautrock and is the cover of Julian Cope's indispensable Krautrocksampler.

I had flirted with a couple other albums around the same time but had always come back to the "Archangels Thunderbird." Lately though (blame it on the Terrastock) I've been sucking up all of it -- especially the album's after that -- Carnival in Babylon, Wolf City, Viva La Trance, and the most overlooked of the bunch Made in Germany, which is disputably the country's first rock opera. Don't get me wrong, Sabbath is a behemoth among mortal men, but imagine being an acid-washed, burnt-out, bomb-sheltered, teen in post-war Bavaria? Were I that kid, there wouldn't be much left of my b-cells. It's easy to like both sides of the band, but once they were of the impression that their arena-fortified stone-age metal would save their civilization, they were absolutely loco (by retaining the penchant to jam on forever, incoporating a stage-show, smoke and mirrors, wild costumes, more drugs). This (below) isn't that yet, but if anyone can direct me towards a dvd document of the band I'm all eyes.


The Wiggins Ate All the Pigfuck

Lately I've been hearing the term "pigfuck" bandied about a bit -- I'm friends with a Pussy Galore freak and Columbus is currently home to the nation's best approximation of pigfuck (in my eyes), the Cheater Slicks and the nation's premiere pigfuck namecheckers, the Unholy Two (with the bullets to back it up), so I'm knee deep in the shit. Research has proved that over time the term/genre/tag has come to encompass a pretty wide swath, from the Butthole Surfers to Spencer n' Hagerty's hook-bleeding snarl to any number of AmRep bands who likely only made five minutes of good records (I'll regret that one, but the discography is heavily weighted with brutality and dirt rather than sustained listening pleasure).

Well the Wiggins, especially the song "Dog" from their Dull Knife debut 7", are the closest I think one band can get to feeling that swine, sweat, skin and meat the pigfucks like to indulge in. It's the roadside bbq joint in the Texas Chainsaw Massacre, steaming from the heat, stinking of chitlins, hells creepy and insect-ridden. It's the crusty lament of the lone-star state inhabitants always stuck with a dry hole. In the new century the pigfuck gets droney and clangy, clingy and dusted. "Feed the Ghost" is even better, fluctuating between Jesus and Mary Chain entrails and MES as sherriff of twang. One of those Spiral Stairs throwaways rusted down and brought back to life if only to crawl over an arid plateau of broken glass. Ouch. By the b-side I'd had enough though. At that point I'd been properly sun-stroked, so the slow-motion-go-nowhere flip started to remind of that duo from Chicago that fried bacon behind the drummer. Please don't remind me of that time.

Still. Dull Knife and the Wiggins succeed in not falling for the obvious. This Houston outfit could have easily made pigfuck standard, garage rock Gulf-o-Mexico style, but go out and scrape enough skull and tissue to crack through to even the most jaded non-believers.