The Unholy Spew

Let's hope Texas gets a piece of this (my first SXSW hyphy tip of the season). Let's hope some surly European throws a tons of Euro and coke his way for the German tour -- they love shit-punx I hear. Let's hope this first little movie for the Unholy Two's seven-inch premiere makes the rounds again. Let's hope Cokesucker Blues gets a re-release. Let's hope that the "Altamont 1969/Beirut 1983" gets some more comparisons to Spiderland so the kids eat it up like poison. Fuck, I just wanted you to see this genius again, maybe for the first time. If you don't belong to the CDR Singles Club, I suggest giving up your dirty bird for one -- I think he accepts that....and drugs.


Mexico Has a Herzog in Carlos Reygadas

Sadly, I only had the pleasure of catching one film of the Wexner Center’s excellent Cinema Latino series, but fortunately, through research and a little luck, the one that I did see, Silent Light, may have been the most enlightening film I’ve seen this decade. Honestly, it’s up there with There Will Be Blood and City of God – just a shame more people haven’t had the opportunity to witness the healing power this film possesses. What first tipped me off were the many reviews that, besides raving about the majestic opening shot, called director Carlos Reygadas an auteur descendent of Carl Theodore Dryer – and anyone who has seen Dryer’s Ordet or Vampyr will know exactly what to expect from Silent Light. Without giving away too much, the final scene here is a direct lift from the Ordet’s ending. But before we get there Reygadas moves in long, meditative, sequences not unlike Mallick, Bergman, and Ozu. He slow immerses us in the dawn of a typical day in the life of a Mennonite family in a remote Mexican village. By film’s end, it’s as if you are a participant in the community. Through studied (almost still-life) tracking over the landscape, you get a sense of the isolation and the attraction to lust the main character, Johan, wrestles with when he contends that God has guided him to his mistress. That’s the extent of the plot, but there’s little to tell -- every nuance in his walk and talk (the film’s in the Russian Mennonite tongue, Plautdietsch), his faith and action is enough to become transfixed upon, that and the green of the hills, the reflection of the water, the glare of the sun. All pretty hypnotic.

It’s Herzog that I’m reminded of most though, especially after my recent re-viewing of all the Herzog I own and a reading of Herzog on Herzog (I’m a bit obsessed) – in that Reygadas finds surreal beauty in the most ordinary of worlds. Of course a salt-of-the-earth Mennonite family in the hills of Mexico is exotic to the average viewer, but their lives (this was shot entirely with non-trained native actors) are slow, deliberate, and somewhat desolate. There are many moments throughout Silent Light, and even more so after seeing Reygadas’ first feature, Japon, that remind me of the spirit Herzog can inject into a film without an inch of stylization, simply letting the camera capture this new civilization he has found.

So Mexico has their Herzog and I’m begging someone to find me a copy of Reygadas’ second movie, Battle of Heaven. For now though, I’ll keep watching this trailer for Silent Light. (Bonus: here’s the opening scene, though a tiny computer screen does not do it justice.)


While We Wait...Tyvek's Born Cauldron

To be honest, I’m about to reach a tipping point of frustration in waiting for something new from Tyvek. On the tundra, where feets of snow and ice can crush a man’s soul, and the lack of quality bands rolling through town is equally frustrating in these bitter months, we need some new Tyvek. As I surveyed the band I’d like to see most, again, from last year’s bacchanalia of shows, Tyvek usually ranks the highest. Even lugging around a void of new material, they never failed in their rankled quest, each show got furrier and furrier, snarled and loud, more guitars, more drums, more guitars. Those songs in the pocket, “Air Conditioner” or “Needles Drop” or “Still Sleep” have become traditionals for those of us who hold few rivals to this screeching soul-punk from Detroit. And in successive jaunts to Columbus, these songs just got more intense, nearly crossing a threshold where they would become unhinged and not resemble a tune at all, just a pile of tangled chords and noisy shards.

Listening over their Born Cauldron CDR for the fourth time this week, we’ll have to give them a pass – they are progressing, there’s light at the end of the tunnel. This is only a practice “recorded by Damon, in Larry’s basement,” but it sounds as if it’s the ultimate, end-of-days, versions of these Tyvek standards. And, as it’s a fairly raucous practice, it sounds like you’re standing right up front, drowning your sorrows in swill and shaky anthems. Born Cauldron is punishing. And that light at the end? There are a few new ones here -- especially rewarding is “Flowers,” a full-on chugger that gets even higher as it pushes past the two-minute mark and the sci-fi weirdness of “Outer Limits.” Then again we’ll need to wait it out just to see how these coalesce, if they’re even on those new releases? The waiting game continues.


That Other Group From Compton

Usually, when I think of or find and decide on an addition to the Bo Jackson HOF I refer to allmusic for historical perspective and accurate names and release dates. They’re good for that. But many of those short retrospective discography reviews are spotty and quick – and their representative “picks” and star system is sometimes misleading. Compton’s Most Wanted’s debut It’s a Compton Thang get’s the brunt of this slack. Throughout the entries on the group they casually drop terms like “icon” and “prototype” but equally include “novel” and a grand conclusion that they did not live up to snuff with that other Compton group. Regardless of how far the group took the group…and regardless of how solo careers unfolded, anyone who made one of those brilliant St. Ides commercials, deserves mention as one group that defined the golden age of gangster rap (especially that of the South Central neighborhood that spawned a phenomenon), though we should probably elect Ice-T as grandfather/godfather. What? Are they the Go-Bots vs. N.W.A.’s Transformers?

Besides St. Ides, this debut is the prototype, representative, and, after a few nostalgic listens for prosperity, a landmark in the genre. Only one year removed from that other album re: Compton, it’s of that mind-set – drugs, guns, bitches, and cold-blooded revenge – and still on the opposite end of anger-management. MC Eiht and the Unknown DJ’s chemistry is blue-cool, a cadence between the two that shoulda’ and kinda’ begat the “laaaaaaid-back” g-funk click of Dre and Snoop.

Obviously in that year ('89-'90) I owned a solid black fitted cap (missing the Compton rep-font, but purely influenced by), so the title of the tape alone was enough for purchase at RTO (Record and Tape Outlet, the one a block from Cub Foods) and it didn’t leave the yellow sport Walkman for many a paper-route. Begin with the chill of “One Time Gaffled ‘Em Up,” where you can almost see the smoke snaking off the porch, the conversation/story of a cop bust unfolding in front of your eyes, and the stoned swagger of MC Eiht red-eyed and familiar. You can listen to his relaxed flow for hours without tiring of it. Even better is the pimp-mode of “Late Night Hype,” a quiet-storm manifestation of the gangster, full of smooth jazz and double entendres – Eiht was a master at that. Another highlight, and shoulda’ been hallmark of the era, is “This is Compton,” a hard-knock piano hook giving the world another perspective of life in the CPT.

MC Eiht would go on to secure a modicum of solo success, even as those records were constructed as grimier and darker tales of the street, with less of the hooky anthems CMW produced. To a degree his name alone eclipsed what his group did previously, but their pinnacle single “Growing Up in the Hood” from the brilliant Boyz N’ the Hood soundtrack, has survived even when this solid debut wallows in out-of-print obscurity. Who wants to start a Bo Jackson re-issue label? Me.


On Pollard's The Crawling Distance

Nothing against Robert Pollard's FAIL. Well FAIL has become an internet meme (first use of the word meme!) that stamps sketchy behavior as complete failures, universally, instantly -- the Bush administration, the new 90210 (it is growing though, right?), Chinese Democracy, most Robert Pollard creations in the last five years. Wait a minute...did I just put Uncle Bob in the FAIL column? Superman Was a Rocker? FAIL. Motel of Fools? FAIL. The last three Circus Devil's releases? FAIL. But I get nostalgic, very nostalgic. I start going through the highlights from those years -- Coast to Coast Carpet of Love, Lightningpot to Coffeehead, the theme to Bubble -- all genius. So why the abundance of dirt-weeed served up as legitimate releases? Why all the karp-filled lake-water (no lake in Dayton, Akron?) mucking the vision? I suppose it's in his blood to write songs, it's his job. Besides a couple pick-up basketball games a week, that's what the guy does. The theory is that his legacy will be so thick by the time he's gone that it will take historians years to sift through it to find all the gold, and when you start sifting now, through his post-millenial output, you'll likely find some gold. Fiction Man?

Which brings us to The Crawling Distance...the gem of this crop so far (though it has been eight years), unless of course you include Half Smiles of the Decomposed, which might just be the greatest record he's ever made, honest (then all bets are off). Ears were peaked with Off to Business, and as I mentioned in my recent review of The Crawling Distance, the Pollard solo records are your best bet. Fiction Man?

Perhaps it's the introspection gained from picking back through the BOX, with Self-Inflicted Ariel Nostalgia and Same Place the Fly Got Smashed being just the icing on the cake, or the fact that The Crawling Distance is the first time since Under the Bushes, Under the Stars that Uncle Bob sounds completely at ease, without ego (excepting the final song here, "Too Much Fun"), in a zone of melancholy. I suppose I can judge it on the number of times I've paid attention to a Pollard album in the oughts. I lost track, fallen of my course. By now I should have two shelves of GBV/Pollard vinyl, but there's only one (why the ridiculous price of your LPs GBV Inc?). I suspect though that, at age 60, there will still be six albums that year, and I will lovingly go through them all at least once. There's a prodigy in Ohio -- and The Crawling Distance should stand as, yet another, benchmark in his stature as a stately treasure. Go forward, young (old) man.

Though he's always been quite prolific with videos for each release (due to the number devotees committing their art/time) all I could find, so far, from this record is "The Butler Stands for All of Us" -- and anthem rocker, but nowhere representative of the beauty The Crawling Distance reveals.


Poolside with Stevie B.

I'm not here to convince y'all that Akon's "Right Now" is a wonderful song. It is, but it's more about how "Right Now" was the soundtrack to my recent Brazilian experience. That's the m.o. in the country, one song sticks and then plays infinitely for months on end. I couldn't escape a corner without hearing the sickly sweet and infectious chorus. It seemed to perfectly match the beaming sun, the quick, frenetic driving of my in-laws, and the electric pulse on the streets (at all times, in all places). I'm certainly in withdrawl, especially now back on the tundra. I miss that electricity.

But this isn't about Akon. It's about Stevie. B., poolside. Remember how I begged for some Latin Freestyle tips, knowing that it would put me in the right frame of mind? Well, I step into my cousin's new Rio apartment and start picking through a plastic bag of her cds. And she says, "I bet you want to listen to some Stevie B. ?" I couldn't refuse, it was a magical momement. The Brahma started to flow and the balcony was forced to withstand improvised dancing, while the neighborhood below absolutely bustled with that pulse again. It was Rio after all.

So though Stevie B. did do "Because I Love You (The Postman Song)" -- he was also responsible for "Spring Love" and this fly little hairdo....


Daycreeper NOT a Band to Watch ? (Sad Emoticon)

Here in Columbus, the annual Bands to Watch ritual officially jumped the shark years ago. In 2008 I had a hard time thinking of any band deserving of such a title, and now it has become even harder. It’s obvious that Columbus is actually a thriving community of musicians with a laundry list of innovative and established bands, but there hasn’t been much in the way of blow-me-away moments in the past 12 months. And that’s not for a lack of trying – I’m not in the slightest a crusty old jaded local who doesn’t give the young a fair shake. I explored the clubs and the music, admired the twee-glory found in Karate Coyote (gruesome name though) and Super Desserts (disqualified, as they’re a super-group of sorts), but found nothing amounting to “worthwhile” (Main Street Gospel has been around for quite a long time, they don’t count yo). I’m not trying to make enemies here and nothing against the bands picked -- it’s a daunting task to make this list, lots of hurt feelings and nasty comments – but just looking over 2009’s “varied” list of entries, I’m hard-pressed to get very excited. It’s notably underwhelming, almost depressing, and enough proof that the BTW has run its course. Even Our Cat Phillip, as banal and Oberst-aping as they are, would have represented the city better.

I guess I’m so grumpy for the deletion of DayCreeper. Anyone who’s seen the trio would have likely put them on a short list for this year. Aaron Troyer is easily the city’s best songwriter since Matt Horseshit – only a bit more polished, nervous as a richter scale, and capable of fidelity-disabled, bluesy, stomp when it’s needed. As new as they are, they do qualify for whatever parameters would put them in this elite group – don’t make that excuse. And judging from the live shows I’ve seen recently, his chops are getting closer to white-hot with each new song he spits. Exile on High Street as played by a teenage Jonathan Richman, in the spirit of Pavement and others slightly bent. Whatever, it’s hard to get upset since the Alive went from “alternative weekly” to “lifestyle magazine.” Really, I was over all the sour grapes, until I saw this new tragedy unfold. Such a shame, such a shame.

Moving on…I could write endlessly about the Tuesday night Box Elders show, and how Matt Horseshit really doesn’t need a band anymore (he played “Negative World” by the way) because his solo shows are entrancing, and the robotic gnarl of Guinea Worms, but I’ll just focus on the problem at hand. DayCreeper getting the snub. Give credit where it’s due. Troyer pretty much killed it - playing last - while the hanger-ons were drunk and cajoling.

Need proof? New song...


In Defense of Animal Collective (and Myself)

Just yesterday I was gushing on about Merriweather Post Pavilion, the latest triumph from Animal Collective. Not sure why I'm feeling the need to defend my opinions, but opinions about the band (especially since the leak of this album) usually fall into categories of extreme opposites. You're either on or your off. Of course, I've been on for a long while and was well aware (back on the Strawberry Jam '07 tour) that they were soon headed for a breakthrough. This album is it, love it or hate it -- it's truly hard to ignore. I think my unashamed dalliance with Animal Collective is rooted in the malleable psychedelics they mine. In theory they are not unlike Faust, Beefheart, Boredoms, and (wait for it) Psychedelic Horseshit - in that these bands spread myraid tentacles out beyond the normal constructs of song and melody. One is free to follow whichever one they choose, a new adventure with every listen, the ability to pad and fill the holes with imaginary noise or sate the nerves by focusing in on one particular path. Merriweather Post Pavilion ebbs and flows in a similar fashion, but continuously (with the exception of maybe "Bluish" and "No More Running") crests in day-glo and tribal rhythms. It's not a dance record, it's not electro, it's not mongoloid-funk or hep-folk -- this band has wild aspirations to create fresh, pop wonders, and if that comes clad as the "event of the year" only days old or causes the latest/greatest blog-splosion since the birth of the internet, so be it. I enjoy every minute of it.

As a side note...I'm equally in love with Hipster Runoff's theory that Animal Collective is a band "created by/for/on the internet" and how the internet has forced us all to love them. Much of this is true, but who's counting. I enjoy every minute of it.


The Goldmine that is Baratos Afins

It has always been a quest of mine, whilst traveling in Brazil, to find the Wailing Wall of Brazilian record stores. You know? The ones that have no problem digging through a crate of vinyl to pluck out two examples of Os Mutantes solo projects or hip me to the eternal quirk of Ney Matagrosso or sell me lovingly worn copies of Raul Seixas for a little under $10. After four visits, and endless research, I finally found that place in Baratos Afins. Fodor’s put a little star by it in my guide, so I knew it was legit. What I didn’t know is the scale of my journey to find it. Arriving at the American Consulate in sprawling Sao Paulo on a rainy Friday morning, I was unaware the lengths involved to locate my destination. Good thing even in a city of 18 million, even in an concrete jungle that seemingly goes on forever, the cabs are cheap and the drivers surprisingly friendly – even chatting up spots for lunch once I finish scouring (if of course my goose hunt turned out to be worth it). Though dumped upon one of the skuzzier neighborhoods in old downtown, flanked on both sides by ominous porn theaters and sleeping vagrants (reminded me of something out of Children of Men), our search turned out to bear fruit.

Baratos Afins was started in 1978 as both an independent store and label, created in part by Arnaldo Baptista of Mutantes to outlet his solo records (follow the link for the full story). Remarkably the store, which probably saw a heyday in the midst of the early ‘80s post-punk scene (many of those records, including the first Nao Sao Paulo comp. were released by BA), is still intact though it’s surrounded by what is the equivalent of a four-story, open-air, punk mall – a massive Hot Topic/Ron Jon’s for urban bohemian youth. Most of the place was somewhat bombed out and covered in soot, crawling with the occasional weirdo, but up on the third floor, tucked away in a tiny rectangle, was a room stuffed to the rafters with vinyl. I doubt they could cram in any more – so I politely informed my wife that this was Shangri-La and I would be here for a while. I spent a good two hours in the racks, went home with R$200 of (in my eyes) priceless vinyl, and made friends with the clerk who kept shoving gifts into my bag (complete with an interesting story about the “blood” paper). Thanks for everything. I will return.

This was what I’ve been waiting all my life for, I kind of wish I went back another day – I’d likely be broke though. Stay tuned as I intend on going through my stash, one by one, and divulge about my treasure.


Here Comes Mallu Magalhaes

Delayed reaction. There are always a few days of unwinding needed after nightmare air travel, which I experienced two-fold (don't ask). And there's a ton to get organized, still, before I lay out complete survey of all that I dug up in Brazil (and this trip was a dream come true). So for now, my latest little obsession, Mallu Magalhaes, the newest indie-pop sensation to flood the MTV airwaves (and home-grown to boot). Truth be told, the South American MTV airwaves are actually fun to watch. During NYE alone I spied a triple play of the Fall's "Victoria," a self-produced Tom Ze spot, and Sepultura's "Dead Embryonic Cells," so the programming is grab-bag, but top notch.

For now, all I know about Mallu is this -- she's 16, dating the 30-yr-old from Los Hermanos, stars in some mobile phone commercial that plays ad nausea, and has yet to release her infectiously twee album here in the states. When she does, it won't be hard to compare her to other nymphs with a distinctive voice and oddball arrangements -- see Lykke Li, Bjork, Soko, Marit Larsen, Kate Nash (also huge in Brazil now), etc. More investigation to come. For now, here's the video for "Tchubaruba"