Pavement Revisionist History

Live. 1997. Koln, Germany. Never hated the song “Kennel District,” but the Preston School of Industry has always been the butt of many extremely nerdy indie-rock inside jokes, right? The specter of Pavement as an incredible live band also lingers as a punchline. I’ve got a few pieces of evidence to go on – the Crooked Rain era, still in a small venue, with GBV as an opener…or….the Lollapalooza (you’re gonna have to play “Cut Your Hair” and why not?) baking in the sun version of the band…or ….the “definitely the last tour” Pavement would ever do Pavement (wherein Mr. Stephen Malkmus goes off). It should be understood that whichever era that you saw, Pavement were quite an amazing spectacle to behold in any format (if only for the consistent demeanor and guitar prowess of Malk). This recently record-store-day vinyl-only release proves that.

Basic evidence of this can be found in the manic solo on “Fin,” which here sounds like Malk’s grand finale, for the band and for the Pavement trademark. In listening it almost seems like Malk was Cobain with a good head on his shoulders, having the foresight to know that things were crumbling, but instead of sulking into horse and public misery, started building his solo endeavors within the Pavement architecture. A song like “Blue Hawaiian” with its chilled séance intro and its wave-bending chorus imagines the path Malkmus would take, especially since the Steely Dan quality of the mood is momentously interrupted with another Malk solo kind of crying its way out until the very end. This live album shows the depth that the band was working with even towards the twilight – “The Hexx” and “Transport is Arranged” were hefty staples included to show a “maturity” post-Wowee. And even if Malk was fed up, he allows Spiral Stairs to have his day as there’s “Date w/ IKEA,” not one of my favorites, and a raucous version of the aforementioned “Kennel District.”

Not sure where I'm going here....but going beyond just the itchy anticipation of seeing Pavement again, reunited, reconciled, I’m just as interested to see what they’d play and how they’d play it, and if they still have the chops they once had. Plus S.S. prolly needs a summer job.


Veckatimest Vinyl Confirms It...

Even though I was extremely underwhelmed by Yellow House, thinking that album was a total bore for a band existentially linked with Animal Collective, I had the heart enough to give Veckatimest a fighting chance, what with it being at our fingertips months before the “actual” physical release. Listening to it on the plane to Austin I found myself in and out of conciousness – there were points that pricked my ears, gentle calming orc-pop, but overall I was yawning, head drooping for the duration. Still, the internets persisted, screaming in my face that this was the record that would change all of our minds about Grizzly Bear if they weren’t convinced already. I skipped their blogger infested patio show at SXSW, cause at the time I’d rather be awake and alert – but now I’m kicking myself for this err. As the release date approached I was inundated with videos, live takes, and higher and higher quality rips from VKTMST, and slowly and slowly starting to drink the kool-aid. Then the vinyl came out (finally) and I was hooked. This is one of those infamous records that expands and contracts in its own grooves, its own reverb and atmosphere. Listen to it loud on the turntable, start to hear the miniscule arrangements hiding in the background – the luxurious ebb and flow of a band coming into their own chamber, opera house, stadium. This is one of those records that can only be heard on vinyl, some East Coast Boarding School Dark Side of the Moon made by band geeks and literary magazine editors. 2009 is starting to remind me of 1999, a year when a lot of (now) classics emerged. Rank and file.


Ipps (Tape)

IPPS.Uggah. There’s therapy in “Yr Thick,” a Sunday afternoon reggae attempt where all the liquor bottles are broken on the floor already and no one seems to give a damn. The Davis couple (2/5 of Necropolis) held a BBQ and subverted the entire Columbus discography in the CDR vaults-party room with pukey sunshine and more broken liquor bottles, maybe some downers. This doesn’t sound like a suicide of last sips mind you -- it’s kind of a new beginning. The other vowel-less song here “Wr Dead,” will submit you to a very familiar narcotic slumber, drones and all. Who’s for sure if this is a knee-jerk to the Necropolis stasis or simply a way to kill the boredom? I’m not calling a Necropolis stasis here, they kind of started it all (i.e. CDR) and their underground game-plan (for that scorching Hackled Ruff follow-up) is respected with the utmost secrecy and discern. So if you love Necropolis you’ll not be surprised that Ipps frequently run off the rails, though most of the time in slow-motion. Especially In the case of “Bluebirds Over the Mountain” a slurred blues last-call.

There’s nothing to prove in the extended nyquil jam of “Go Away,” that’s the charm (or sedative) of Ipps – to drown out “that other noise.” This is a “home” project, maybe cooked in the kitchen for all I know, maybe seriously getting some steam for all I know. For all I know, I have yet to see this live, and for that please forgive my sin (old age?). There is a spiritual connection with Ipps as I listen to the “tape” on the same “pioneer” I would have listened to them on be it 1995-99. We need more tapes.

Looks like they're playing June 20th at the Summit on an excellent bill -- both the Strange Boys and Mika Miko will be playing.


Three Times Dope too Ackinickulous?

In retrospect I’m not entirely sure why Philadelphia’s Three Times Dope never excelled into the upper echelon during their coming-up in hip-hop’s golden age. Their debut, Original Stylin’, remains a lost classic (demanding an easy $50 on eBay), which is the reason for the ink here – but going deeper I have to question why they stalled after that. Were they too clean (nary a cuss-word in sight)? Too clever (leader EST was known for his imagined Philly neighborhood slang and commanding wordplay)? Too romantic (lots of their themes revolve around EST as the king lover, but that was a position firmly held by Big Daddy Kane at the time)? Too concept-heavy (their convoluted sophomore follow-up made them appear as X-Clan rookies)? The verdict is really still out. Though EST (aka Robert Walker) has made living penning pop schlock, it’s the invention of terms like “ackinickulous” and “the giddy up,” that have kept him afloat in my nostalgia. I was pretty excited in my research to find EST had just recently given an interview regarding Philly’s original hip-hop scene, in which he defines “ackinickulous” as “the utopian state of being nice.”

For a short while there, at the height of Yo MTV Raps, Original Stylin’ was the “utopian state of being nice” in the rap game. Though EST would boast he was the “Greatest Man Alive” (complete with perfectly clipped Muddy Waters sample) it was more a tongue-in-cheek stunt. Songs like the dancehall-inspired title track and “The Giddy Up” possessed a fluid old-school progression that still sounds fierce to this day, even if you can perceive the trio was searching for more than gold chains and bragging rights. Perhaps they never caught on due to their somewhat naïve vulnerability. Take “Funky Dividends” for example – the group’s biggest hit and a top-ten favorite of mine – wherein EST gives a convincing argument that his girl is taking him for his paper, but by songs end fails to really do anything about (except let her know “this ain’t working”). More or less he was a gentleman, but also a pushover, something that didn’t mesh with his street-savvy rhyme-style. You be the judge. Despite the theories about their demise – I’m just going to flow with the fact that Live from Ackinickulous Land was minus the same highlights of their debut – what shouldn’t be judged is the lasting effect of (at least) the two lead singles on Original Stylin’. It’s definitely worth the search. And if you find (or have) a copy for cheap, please don’t hesitate to contact me.


The Beets vs. The Beets

Of the moment, my favorite export from NYC is the naive pop of the Beets. Even more so after the brief interview I conducted with them on AGIT-READER last week. Finding out they were from Uruguay was a bit of trivia that adds another layer of love, seeing as that country is where I eventually found love and life-livin' skills.

Even better is the fact the Beets had never heard of the Beets. Above the "new" Beets. Below the "original" Beets. Preferences?


Poolside with Arkarna

Poolside is soon to become a reality as Summer is right around the corner, so I thought it necessary to pull out the go-to poolside pop in my arsenal. In 1996 I stubmled upon Arkarna waking up late night to the International video channel that I don't think exists anymore. Arkarna never became the worldwide success their producers/handlers thought they might become -- a techno-infused version of Hanson for tweens? You can likely find this in any $3 bin the globe over. It's worth it for the pop essence of the chorus to "So Little Time." I've long annoyed anyone who's ridden shotgun with me in seasonal sun, as for some reason this song hits a nerve every time. Perfection. I've also long threatened to cover this once my long-gestating solo career takes off. For now, enjoy. Try your best to put images of Mary Kate and Ashley aside (they covered this for a series theme song) and take pleasure in this at face value.


The Mysterious Sperm of Finnland

Last week in the AGIT-READER I wrote a glowing review of the latest re-ish from De Stijl, Hannover, Germany's 39 Clocks, but that label gets even deeper and daker with the vinyl only release of Sperm's Shh! Now this is a strange one, and certainly the few that drop $20 will likely know what they're getting into with this album. If you're buying it blindly be advised, this is not easy listening, or some lost psych wonder, but it is a spindly root of musique-concrete, scalpled jazz, and primitive plunderphonics -- falling squarely between Cage, Stockhausen, and the Los Angeles Free Music Society.

Shh! was recorded by a trio of Finns from Helsinkin -- Pekka Airaksinen, Jan Olof Mallander, and (more of a spiritual adviser than participant) Mattijuhani Kaponen. I'm still in research mode as to if this record was the impetus for the wild Finnish noise underground, or just an integral part of it -- those long oop comps are hard to come by, even through file-sharing. Shh! is for the most part, considering this was 1970, avant-collage. There is some decomposition of In a Silent Way's minmalism, but all bets are off on the close of the first side, where air raid siren, fog harbor traffic, and Boschian dementia takes hold. The second sides jazzier leaning is apparent, but this falls closeset to something like Sun Ra rather than Miles, still though, it's pretty far towards left-field, as strings pluck in space and long-meditations on skonk unfold slowly. I've always wondered where the Fonal camp got their mojo -- scavegering in the dense forests of Finnland, tapping into wells of mystic psych blueprints -- somewhere along the voyage they found Sperm (and that gave them life?) Who knows?


Tough Luck at GABP...Soon to Clear Up

This is a post about my first trip down to Great American Ball Park this season – our annual Mother’s Day excursion – to see last Sunday’s titanic struggle with the 1st place Cardinals, but as I type the Cincinnati Reds are currently in a three-way tie for the top spot and gaining momentum with every series (they just swept the lousy Diamondbacks if you aren’t following along). Forever the Red’s optimist, I’d have to say this “winning” should probably stick if we keep the right guys on the field. And talking about an epic loss seems trivial now……

Still, Sunday’s 10 inning, 4 hour, 8-7 loss was some of the most complete baseball I’ve ever had the pleasure to witness. Dusty Baker and Tony LaRussa were locked in a human chess match the entire game – pulling double-switches and surprise moves throughout, never giving into the other’s advantages. So they say the Reds can’t hit, this weekend has silenced the naysayers to a degree. The team hit five HRs in this game alone. And one came off the bat of pitcher Micah Owings, in the bottom of the 9th, with a 3-2 count, to tie it all up. I could play armchair manager and bitch about Jerry Hairston Jr.’s inability to lay down a routine bunt or Dusty’s decision to put in Danny Herrera and Chris Dickerson even when the team was still hot, but I won’t (or I just did). Oh well. It’s over.

They lost, and I left the ballpark happy and satisfied. For one, this showed that this Reds team can battle with the best, blow for blow. No sweep, but winning the series against your divisional nemesis (and only giving Puhols one HR) is none two shabby. This is a hungry team and despite my wishes for some kind of trade-up/shake-up, messing with the chemistry might throw things off course.

In addition, I’m pleased to announce I’ve turned my Brazilian sister-in-law into a Reds fanatic. We enjoyed the game from the best seats in GABP in which I’ve sat. The new Elliott section is 135, right in line with the opposing team’s bullpen path and within earshot of any shmuck who gets the pleasure of hearing my drunken taunts. The park continues to get more fan-friendly every year, though that scoreboard needs some zen auditing (much too crowded).

And….continuing to be my favorite Red, despite a slow start…..

Brandon Phillips signed autographs from about the end of BP to the exact start of the game. Stand-up guy.


Shitgaze Anthems as Advertised

Here's what Woodsist says about Shitgaze Anthems, it's almost as hilarious as that Washington Post interview:

"After about a 2 year absence, Psychedelic Horseshit is back with an EP of alleged B-sides from an upcoming full length..."I only listen to OK Computer and Cranes. The Fall sucks, DIY sucks, we suck, you suck." said Matt Horseshit in a recent interview."Why should anyone listen to you then?" replied the reporter."Because we're FUN, duh." And even though you wanna hate 'em, you gotta admit, they kinda are fun. Matt is a dick, of course, and Rich is hilariously clueless mostly, and by all means most of the stuff on this SHITGAZE ANTHEMS EP should'nt work, whether it be the white-boy dub section, the cliche acoustic ballad with backwards guitar, the blatant Dylan rips, or the overall amateur playing, but for some reason these elements that usually reek of pretention and failure actually endear you to the band and their songs. Yes, they're called Psychedelic Horseshit. Yes, they do suck, but I'll be damned if they aren't one of my favorite bands in the world, and they're only getting better, but if I tried to tell you why it'd only make 'em sound worse. So it goes..."

I beginning to believe, with each sucessive record that Matt Horseshit will make both his MBV rip-off LP and his, proposed,threatened, trip-hop project. We should all start believing. Shitgaze Anthems takes him one-step closer -- while the songs are structurally the same, the sonics around them and the lyrics that continue to baffle me are what gives the reason for worship. Just in the first minute of "We're Pink Floyd, Bitch," there are sensations of solar warmth and crystals shattering surrounding the cruddy-art-punk PHS whip up quick. If you've caught a recent live show, you'll no doubt find "Dreadlock Paranoia" familiar as it usually ends the set in a 10 minute plus dub jam -- well here it's sits permanently, and perfectly, just as disorienting.

Matt Horseshit has turned into a kind of Stoner Frankenstein, with eight arms to hold every subculture that finds solace in herb and psych -- the collector scum, the rastafari, the fuck-off folkie, the neon club-kid, the shoegazers, the shitgazers. Not much metal, but you can't win them all. Oh, and "Are You On Glass?" is the hit. If these are b-sides, I'm looking forward to the kush.

I exhausted trying to come up with more words as to why I love this band. Be prepared.

Bonus: -- my favorite line from the record -- "Pontificating trivialities and wasted steam/Should be getting off the internet and into the streets."



Report on Reports

The latest offering from Cambridge, Mass’ Reports is one of the more intriguing surprises I’ve found in the mailbox this past week – and by surprise I mean this came without warning, from the band, as a gift -- not the surprise of finally finding those records I pre-ordered over a month ago. If you read here you’ll know Reports first LP, Mosquito Nets was one of those under-the-radar releases that didn’t get passed around too many circles, but it still shone with a pop bent that couldn’t be denied. I said it was crammed with “scruffy tuneful moments” and I meant it. That record’s still sitting on the “play” shelf, even though I was getting anxious to see how they would evolve.

Their latest 7” on Ride the Snake gives us some clues. “Bill Wyman, Metal Detector,” reiterates the fact that Reports are currently my favorite (unashamed/unabashed) disciples of Guided By Voices (sorry High Strung), and you can really hear it in the ascending vocal melodies. The music on the other hand, is more like an agitated GBV (or Arlo, for those in the know), influenced by a slanted form of punk Pollard would rarely touch. I enjoy the fusion, as there seems to be both slop and tightly wound dynamics to what they do as a band. The b-side, “Attleboro Trails,” mines a similar bop but its groundwork is purely – what’s the word here? – choogling in the way Zen Guerilla or Delta 72 would work a white-funk groove, except sterilized and dripping in echo. It’s not what you think. They actually don’t play out of character -- it’s simply a nice diversion to their already increasing profile in shitpop centers.

But I need the whole quest guys. I need to hear what this would sound like stretched over a full slab. There’s got to be some label out there hearing this. Reports deserve a shot and a wider forum from which to yell. Grab it.


Days of Luniz and Spades

Here I sit. Thinking back to 1995 and the Smith Hall Spades Society (we'd literally play cards all night). Half of them dropped-out of OSU before the winter break, but those of us that remained listened to nothing but this song by Luniz and Genesis' Lamb. I can't get this out of my head. So much I went out and found the source material to accentuate my obsession. Club Noveau, by the way. This will make up for my lack of 4/20 content.


Ghost Shirt vs. the Kids (and the Pop Hook)

The kids and I spent our Thursday night venturing out to the Scarlet and Gray Café of all places to witness a duo of bands a lot of message board trolls in Columbus have recently been cawing incessantly about. Before rushing judgment and slogging said bands off as just another cycle of safe, treehouse fodder, friend-rock, in my old age, I decided to give them both a legitimate chance, experience what they have to offer, then decide. I also decided in my old age to go see a couple bands that didn’t enroll a member who once lived with Chris Lutzko – go figure? Actually the Scarlet and Gray Café was a suitable alternative to the dive-bar fungus that regularly rots my brain, still this is a college dive-bar, and it stinks in that place. Saw at least two Jagermeister polos. And had to deal with bro-hawk leering over our billiards game. All just to see Ghost Shirt and Karate Coyote – two of the worst monikers in the pantheon of Columbus music.

Why Ghost Shirt? I’ve been intrigued since said trolls have extolled the group as some saviors of pop music in Columbus and the quotes of lead singer, Branden Barnett, being tired of the “noisy nothingness” that passes as music in this town. To further twist the knife, right before the group went on stage I found another Columbus glossy ad-mag, 614 (which makes the alive! look like the Economist), in which Barnett goes on to harangue an entire sub-culture of Columbus musicians as if it’s his job, and as if he’s got a posse to back him up, and as if there’s no such thing as pop music in our town anymore.

Barnett’s quotes from the 614:

“I don’t want to be confrontational, because a lot of my friends are in those bands – I think you need both,” he said of local acts that have made some noise by…making noise. “But, it’s very under-represented and almost shameful in Columbus to be poppy. I think it’s completely ridiculous. I think you can write a really good pop song and dress it up in interesting clothes without being pretentious about it.”

From the Columbus Alive:

“I just get so tired of Columbus being about the new movement of noisy nothingness.”

He who cast the first stone…. Is this a publicity stunt, as your songwriting Mr. Barnett and, ahem, “arrangements”, didn’t leave much of a mark? Who said it was shameful to write pop in Columbus – in my book the Sun was just as “pop” as the Feelers. Just because you place a cute little Asian violin player over top of your Replacements-derivative bar-rock doesn’t make you Brian Fucking Wilson Jr. Apologies to Samantha Kim, as she was the only fireball on a stage full of limp wrists and bad ideas, the only ounce of joy I could squeeze from this turgid display. Pop implies that you have hooks – its noon on the day after and I can’t remember a single melody, save the semi-excellent “Alexandra,” but that seemed cribbed directly from the Arcade Fire songbook. You can dress up a pop song in “interesting clothes” and if there’s no hook, there’s no hope.

Ghost Shirt’s front is not putting on a front, melting their hearts for rock and roll, and that’s as pretentious as the pretension Barnett accuses the city’s more popular bands of blinding the public with. Have you heard a Psychedelic Horseshit album, a Times New Viking album? Like it or not, it’s all pop, some of the catchiest records made in the history of Columbus music are being made right down the street, in a basement, a living room, and it’s now become your agenda to tear down that enthusiasm with an overwrought, over-long, over-emotional (fake emotion), set of post-Shatters monotony. Go ride your scooter dude. You’ll get your Off-Ramp masturbatory loco slot, so cool off coconut.

As for Karate Coyote, they aren’t wunderkinds or anything of the sort, their spritely movement and collegiate look wasn’t my thing, but at least they aren’t guilty of knowing their faults. They seemed to be genuinely growing, genuinely inventing in whatever early 20-something sphere in which they write their songs. Ironic in not knowing they aren’t ironic, they exist for the joy of live performance and invited every friend in their crew to join in. The lead guitarist worships Alex Lifeson apparently; the guy has some interesting chops. The lead guy who glues it all together has a gift for quirk. The two girls who both appeared to have rolled out of bed that night have chemistry, irresistible harmony, and a perfect sense of how two female voices should interact in the live setting. Like I said, they’re still finding their feet, but jeezy can they write a pop song. “Move Yourself” and that one they always play on CD101 (the song that dragged me there in the first place) are infectious as they come, with a few jagged edges. I’m not sure what this band wants to be, and for right now that’s fine, they can juggle Yeah Yeah Yeahs sophistication, with twee sensibilities of multi-instrumental psych-units like Broken Social Scene, and even slightly prog-metal elements that don’t bother me one bit if it’s coming from a pop craftsman like the guy from Coheed and Cambria. I’m going to see them again. I love the youth. Mr. Barnett, this is pop sir.