The King Records Puzzle Piece

Things are starting to fall into place in old age....All Music is likely somewhere we all go at some point in the day to either re-evaluate the catalog of ELO album by album or to see if that French baby from the '90s (Jordy) had another hit besides "Dur Dur D'etre Bebe". I have never trolled around the periphery of the site until last week when I noticed an article about Cincinnati's King Records, and in all of my years into the Buckeye State's musical history, I've was surprised I'd never heard of what, in this article by Uncle Dave Lewis on the All Music blog, claims was pretty much the blueprint for both country, rock, and rhythm and blues labels.

Indicative of Cincy's long racial divide, it's no surprise though that civic leaders have left the base of the groundbreaking record label and it's memory a boarded-up eyesore in a depressed part of town and an anecdote of unspoken folklore in the city's history. Little did I know King launched the careers of James Brown, Hank Ballard, Bootsy Collins, and are credited with a number of hit "hillbilly" '78s. Most of the music they released in the early '50s is commonly referred to as proto-rock (primitive futures?). Surely there's a basement in the Queen city full of this stuff (crate heaven?). Of course that's not my intention in the present. Just knowing the building is finally becoming a landmark and getting a face-lift is an improvement. Now maybe a symposium (could be in tandem with an inevitable Bubblegum retrospective), some stacked reissues, a tourist trap? I encourage any readers here to recommend any compilations that are known and any other research on the subject. I'm knee deep in Dayton these days.


R.I.P. - MC Breed

I can’t really say much in requiem for MC Breed. Other than he is the portal for my exploration into Dayton Street Funk ™ and the guy I was listening to when I was trying to work-out and fix my yellow Batavus moped simultaneously, resulting in near death (carbon monoxide inhalation) next to the lizard from Florida in the garage on Walnut. That’s how you kill yourself? Well, MC Breed and the DFC did “No Future in Yo’ Frontin’” and I suppose the proximity to Flint, Michigan allowed such cassettes to trickle down to the north Dayton Record and Tape Outlet (caddied to Cub Foods), it was exactly what a 7th grade rap-fiend in Troy, Ohio wanted to hear from his musical heroes -- the perfect mix of East and West, I was, by then, fed up with feuds and looking for something a bit different than the standard Kool Moe Dee vs. LL Cool J battle. Like I said, I couldn’t name another MC Breed cut to save my life, but in retrospect he had a fruitful, middling, career – eventually situating himself as a Dirty South garbler in Atlanta. I’m not exactly sure of the timing here, but from my perspective he was one of the first to use Zapp and Roger samples as template, and for that I, and the rest of the rap community are indebted to that early ingenuity. Here are the details, via Tiny Mix Tapes.

Rapper MC Breed, who became famous for his sing-along collaboration with Tupac, “Gotta Get Mine” and "Ain’t No Future in Yo’ Frontin,’” has died today [November 22]. He was 36.

Born Eric Breed, the Flint, Michigan rapper was found dead at a friend’s house in Ypsilanti Michigan, the Detroit News reports. His manager, Darryl Morris, confirmed his death, but the exact cause is still pending.
In September, Breed collapsed while playing basketball in his stomping ground of Atlanta, and was placed on life support for kidney failure. Friends got together to throw a benefit concert to raise money for his medical bills, but cancelled plans after his health bounced back.

Never fully reaching mainstream status, Breed rhymed proudly about the desolate town of Flint, an urban area usually masked under the wide belly of Detroit. His hit 1991 song, "Ain’t No Future in Yo’ Frontin’” sampled Zapp’s "More Bounce to the Ounce" and the Ohio Players’ "Funky Worm.” On “Gotta Get Mine” off his 1993 album The New Breed, he hooked up with a young, thirsty Tupac, and spit the famous line, “They hate to see a young nigga, come up.”

Breed’s career spans 20-years, and 13 albums.


No Age = Abort Mission

First, apologies to No Age. Not like they care, and not like it’s their fault (well to a degree it is) but the opening acts on this tour really stunk up the Wexner last Wednesday. It was perhaps the Wex’s fault (to a degree), as things there usually start on time, and it was taking way to long to get to the headliners. I’ve seen No Age, love the records, and live they do those blasts of noise and jumbled melody justice – but I just wasn’t feeling like the setting and the scene were appropriate this night. Sorry. So sorry.

It was Silk Flowers that began the evening. I thought at first this was a light-hearted take on Black Dice with three dudes doing playful things with synths and drum machines, in a semi-circle, surrounded by (sic) silk flowers. There was plenty of day-glo and neon and the type of color and tropical robotics I associate with the Smell --- but none of that came out of the wallpaper this band was slopping up the wall. The “main” dude couldn’t even keep a beat among all the knob-twiddle and goofy dancing.

Even worse was Soft Circle. I’ve liked the songs I’ve heard from this one-man band, pseudo-meditative psych loops and gamelan gong fun, but on stage he reeked of the indie-equivalent to Keller Williams – playing a little line here, then looping it, another one on the keyboard, then looping it, another guitar, then looping it, an annoying little chant, then looping it, then letting it boil before exploding on the drums for another six minutes. Predictable art-wankery – if this guy takes himself seriously, like so many in the crowd did, he’s probably the product of parents who actually like the music he makes. Which we all know is the opposite of what constitutes good music. That’s about the time we left.

The only highlight of the night was smoking till my eyes turned purple and exploring Not Al’s II – a bar on High Street I’ve never set foot in during the 13 years I’ve lived here. It’s a hole, but with no one around, a quaint, quiet, almost charming little hole. Too bad the Wex doesn’t have a watering hole to crawl into during such catastrophe. Even if the lack of great support has taken the No Age down a notch (just not buying the Smell as revolution kick) – I’m sure they’ll last long enough to get a chance to see them again. Again guys, so sorry.


Melting Faces with Los Llamarada

At first it was unknown if the band from Mexico would even show up as they had two options after their show in Philadelphia – either head to Columbus on a Sunday night to face who knows how many people, or simply finish the tour and head South with a belly full of whatever pickled gizzards and cave-aged gouda Woodbe chucked down their gullets, and probably a van full of obscure vinyl to start spinning once they got home. Around 10 it was looking pretty grim. Not a soul in the bar and no sign of Sagan and the crew. Matt Horseshit was getting prickly, worried, and unsure of himself as always. They’d show – it was in the cards.

To suffice Fey Gods stood to obliterate. Nick and Lula must be swimming in material, as now, with the FG they have created another outlet from which to slobber and moan, growl and throb. Fey Gods is more the electronic grinding/gruesome doppelganger, Suicide and Monster Truck Five colliding in the dive bar atmosphere. Soiuxsie minus the Banshees wailing along with the rhythmic choogle of motorik grunge. Since I’ve been wearing the grooves thin on the Grave Blankets “Our Love is Real” it’s getting hard to remember just exactly the difference, I love ‘em both. Fey Gods are more seductively brutal and hypnotic in tenacity. Be on the lookout for more tapes n’ shows – they’ve got a double-edged front from which to work with, and I’m tempted to say it will be the Fey Gods that end up with the long-player first.

If I were to say that the Psychedelic Horseshit set was one of their best, with Sugar Bear on bass, then I’d be one-upping my other claims as of late. Well it was, and as the new songs get polished and solid than it can only get better. Word is they’re looking to add players – and I like my bro’s comparison to the Rolling Thunder-type configuration they were working with over the summer. So here’s hoping to full-band chaos soon.

Finally – the Los Llamarada did arrive, tired and confused, happy to be headed back home with one last celebration/exorcism to perform. I’m not sure if they’ve yet become accustomed to demanding their pittance of beer from bars yet (they did claim to learn trade secrets from Hank IV) cause they asked very kindly if I’d get them some, and I happily obliged because I knew what they would give in return was worth my time and money. After a few “jazz cigarettes” courtesy of the freak LL fan who followed them to three shows using only the Megabus and a folding bike (Indianapolis natives are strange humans) I was well-primed for face melting and brain re-circuitry. I suppose you could now call their stage show “seasoned” as they’ve endured life on the road, with a set night after night. They blasted right into something somewhat familiar from their latest Take the Sky. Sagan was gurgling numbers, reaching within himself to and refracted that imploding energy towards the sizable crowd (for a Sunday). Estrella was pounding on keys with her head buried in her arms, never for a second looking at the notes or the people surrounding her. Mr. Noise knew repetition was paramount, his blunt chaotic repetition held it all together. At that end there was a lengthy “song” which was equivalent to Johnny tuning, long and drowning, but it worked – via feedback scratching at the walls. When I say face melting, that’s only figuratively, but that’s kind of what it feels like. Straining to understand and eventually giving way to the primitive form is a conflict that makes for confusion, sweat, briefs moments of unconsciousness and lack of oxygen. The room shrinks around them. Really, it does.

They’ve certainly got hours of practice under their belts, because once they switched – Sagan to synths, Estrella to the fore – things got incredibly punk. Actual anthems (like “Nobody Calls Me”) had semblance to choruses, albeit with Sagan convulsing in little patterns over his console. They were nothing short of liberating. Good thing Columbus put on notice, if only for this night, from what might just be the greatest live band on the planet right now. Tapes will be made once Horseshit and I get our audios together. Vinyl was selling like wildfires, so one of your friends can probably clue you in on this before it’s too late. Will it ever be too late? Hope not.

For now, here is a live performance they did for Brian Turner's show on WFMU. It's great.


Little Joy are as Advertised

Honestly, I'm all for the simple pleasures in life. Good coffee after work, a cigarette, a nice breeze, some Quiet Storm on the radio. Little Joy seem to search for that same simplicity. I really can't stop listening to this one, though I know it's too simple to treat as something I'll be touting years down the road. Still, it's as if the Strokes, soon after that Room on Fire peak, took the time off to chill in the suns of Brazil, enjoying those simplicities I just talked about. This is the Strokes inviting Gal Costa in for a take on smooth as coconut milk pop and bossa nova. And that I'm travelling down there very very soon, I can't think of how this one will get off the turntable for a while.


National Beekeepers Society - Pawn Shop Etiquette

Remember when Spoon were young and adventurous? Then they petered out into adulthood or a more mellow escape from thrift and snark with Girls Can Tell. From there on out it hasn’t been like they’ve turned their back on us, and it’s not like they’ve made any horrid albums (ok, Gimme Fiction ain’t that grand), but I’m still indebted to Telephono and A Series of Sneaks, as they were my stepping stones towards the same adulthood that now surrounds Spoon.

Thankfully we have Madison, Wisconsin to save us from old age. Those kids up there have not failed me yet and seem to exist in some ice cavern where oblique ideas and pristine arrangements co-exist with scruffy recordings and catchy songwriting, eternal youth – just aging in mind. Case in point is Pawn Shop Etiquette, the second record from Madison’s National Beekeeper’s Society. No offense to the latest from Pale Young Gentleman, it’s just that they seem to be aging as well, and faster than normal, it’s not bad, but I’m not seeing much progression there.

Pawn Shop Etiquette though, would fit nicely in 1998, with progression through regression, or at least remembrance – as they possess the nearly-patented Britt Daniel matter-of-factual wordplay. The shuck and jive, incomplete sentences, perfect pauses -- a post-collegiate wit beyond their years – it all appears to be here.

A handful of songs could be plucked right from Series of Sneaks, except NBS add horns and dusty loner guitar waft and their itchy attitudes towards fashion remind a bit of Trunk Federation, only on snow instead of sand. Maybe Pavement dotting the landscape with tiny guitar scrawls and twisted melody. There’s definitely some experiment going on, they’d just be pretentious to let the listener know. As a result, a song like “Lazy” packs it’s grandiosity in the last 30 seconds, kind of like thrifting and then pulling out a $100 dollar bill. Other highlights include “Sixty-Five” and “Suburbanite,” the latter cuddled by that lip of twang I referred to earlier, at least until it blossoms into a slouchy anthem of desperation. Madison does it again, and Pawn Shop Etiquette might just be the best of the bunch.


Three Days, Four Nights in NYC

While it was whirlwind....got to see the horrific results of a missing CBGB, the artwork of a Jarvis Cocker obsessed hack (see Peyton), lunch at my favorite place in Manhattan (see Habana), spent some quality bros time with the bros, and spent two luxurious nights in the TNV penthouse suite -- I could go on, but memory doesn't serve me -- below is probably the apex of my weekend zen --


Cancer - Death Shall Rise

First post of November. Arguably the darkest month in my eyes. Death and crisp air all round. So now that we’ve (at least from a weather standpoint) moved into winter, it’s time for an assessment of the fickle autumn that Ohio was handed by the heavens. It wasn’t all that festive – no trip to the Pumpkin show, no hikes through the foliage, no sepulcher-scent to marvel in, and no annual trek to New Carlisle’s Headquarters for all things illicit. However, trudging down the rabbit hole for more metal has been a habit. It always is in November, re-visiting, discovering, indulging in the most extreme metal of my youth and beyond. Rummaging through the Elliott Museum in Troy, I made a brilliant find – a cassette copy of Cancer – Death Shall Rise – significant for many reasons.

First, because this was one of my first purchases at the now legendary Headquarters, and there would be many more where that came from (still can’t find my long-sleeved Cannibal Corpse shirt). Funny though because I travelled all that way to buy a $13 cassette, only to drag it home and find the recording on the tape not Cancer, it was an early Dead Milkmen album. Even funnier because I dragged the tape all the way back to the store and got both a working Cancer cassette and Dead Milkmen’s Big Lizard in My Backyard, quite a clash of aesthetes.

Over the last few autumnal metal feasts I’ve participated in, I think I’ve drunk the death well dry – I’ve still got the go-to albums from Deicide, Obituary, and Sepultura, but there’s not much else in the vault that needs recovering. That is until I found Cancer again. They were a British trio that vanguished in obscurity until they decided to travel to the death-metal epicenter of Tampa, Florida to record their second album. It was there that they stumbled into a convergence of powers unlike any other in the death-metal cannon. Death Shall Rise was recorded at the world-famous Morrisound Studios and the production and engineering was helmed by equally legendary Scott Burns (his track record is proven). In America they recruited virtuoso James Murphy (Death, Obituary) as their lead guitarist. All the symbols of evil aligned to create one of the bleakest and loud metal albums of the era. To top it off, the single,"Hung, Drawn, and Quartered" is complete with background vocals by none other than Glen Benton of Deicide. Something you'll notice about the song is the melodic underbelly that wants to escape from the group's cadence but is held under in squeal and thunder. Cancer also had a knack for simple yet effective song titles, "Tasteless Incest," "Burning Casket," and my personal favorite "Corpse Fire." Coupled with the swarming guitar churn, the imagery they evoke this time of year is immpeccable. It's not all glorious as the first track, but it maintains the punishment long enough to keep this in the classix pile.