Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Screamin’ Jay Hawkins – Cow Fingers and Mosquito Pie [1991; compilation of songs from the 1950s]

Jay Hawkins is oftentimes regarded as the first ‘shock rocker’ and there may be something to the claim. He’s remembered as much for his voodoo-themed stage shows, which opened with Hawkins rising from a coffin and brandishing a staff mounted with a smoking skull named Henry (and when I say smoking, I mean a cigarette), as he is for his musical output. There’s nothing particularly special about the R&B and early rock n’ roll that forms the foundation for each tune on this album, but what has made Hawkins enduring as well as endearing is his outlandish vocal delivery, which ranges from a melodramatic vibrato to howls and guttural grunts. It’s shtick, pure and simple, but the lightheartedness and sense of joy in each song is irresistible. Even though the minor hit, Constipation Blues doesn’t appear on in this collection, the disc is still guaranteed to cure a shitty day.

01 - Little Demon
02 - You Ain't Foolin' Me
03 - I Put A Spell On You
04 - You Made Me Love You (I Didn't Want To Do It)
05 - Yellow Coat
06 - Hong Kong
07 - There's Something Wrong With You
08 - I Love Paris
09 - Orange Colored Sky
10 - Alligator Wine
11 - Darling, Please Forgive Me
12 - Take Me Back To My Boots And Saddle
13 - Temptation
14 - Frenzy
15 - Person To Person
16 - Little Demon (Alternate Take)
17 - I Put Spell On You (Alternate Take)
18 - There's Something Wrong With You (Alternate Take)
19 - Alligator Wine (Alternate Take)

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Meg Lee Chin – Piece and Love [1999]

Contrary to popular opinion, Invisible Records has hosted some amazing bands over the years (though I don’t really consider Pigface to be one). One of my favorites is solo artist Meg Lee Chin, who has unfortunately released only one full-length LP of original material. This is 1999’s Piece and Love, a short but sweet ride through prime nineties techno-industrial rock. The album sidesteps coldwave territory by keeping guitars spare and largely in the background. The focus of most songs are on the percussion (no surprise on a Martin Atkins-produced disc) and on Meg’s voice, which admittedly isn’t special, but can deliver the pop hooks that really make this album stand out from the pack. I don’t really think this is the best album to come from the Invisible roster, but it certainly is one that best balances accessibility, songcraft, and some very crisp production values.

02 - Heavy Scene
03 - Nutopia
04 - Sweat
05 - Swallowing You
06 - Sweet Thing
07 - Bottle
08 - London
09 - Deeper
10 - Swallowing You [Subgenius Mix]

Needle Sharing – My Kind Came First [2001]

Roland Danielzig, the man behind Needle Sharing, is a friend of Panacea’s Mathias Mootz, and it’s not difficult to see why. Both projects feature heavily distorted drum ‘n bass beats over spacey and discordant samples. My Kind Came First has even been accused of being Low Profile Darkness Jr. four years too late, but the accusation is unfair. Needle Sharing’s disc trims away a lot of the late 90s/early 00s dnb trappings – you won’t find the squiggly subbass or hoover sweeps that date Panacea’s records of the same era. Instead, the beats are monolithic, the melody minimal, and bass clipped. My Kind Came First gained a lot of traction with the powernoise crowd, though for some reason I don’t hear it talked about much today. Hopefully that just means I’m hanging out with the wrong crowd, because this album sounds just as fresh today as it did 8 years ago.
Note: If the tracklisting comes across as homophobic, take comfort in the knowledge that the titles are ironic; Danielzig has verified on several occasions that he is in fact a “huge queer.”

[YouTube] Needle Sharing - Yellow Pages

Needle Sharing – My Kind Came First [2001]

01 - Kick Start
02 - Yellow Pages (Task-Force-Mix)
03 - Overload
04 - Club Empty
05 - Gay Crisis
06 - Post Trauma
07 - Club Empty (Gay-Bashers United mix by Panacea)
08 - My Kind

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Grace Jones – Warm Leatherette [1980]

I listened to Grace Jones for the first time only a few weeks ago. I’ve long been aware of the significance that her first two albums of the 1980s had on the artists of that decade and beyond, but I assumed much of that influence was due to her androgenous stage persona, rather than the music itself. So it was from a sense of obligation that I downloaded the 1981 Nightclubbing LP, hoping only to fill in another gap in my musical background. What I found was a scintillating collection of dubby new wave pop tracks that immediately sunk their hooks in my ear. It’s a rarity that a pop song speaks to me that quickly, so I quickly downloaded 1980’s Warm Leatherette, widely regarded as Jones’ other masterpiece. Most reviews I’ve read assert that Nightclubbing is the better of the two albums, both produced by reggae hitmakers Sly and Robbie, but I disagree. It certainly is the more balanced and consistent of the two, confident in the icy electro-funk reggae sound that exists in a more primitive form on Warm Leatherette, but I’m a sucker for a heterogeneous albums that play fast and loose with diverse conventions, and that’s what WL is all about. The title track (a cover of the Suicide-esque song written the guy who founded Mute records) revolves around a hard rock guitar sting and bluesy piano that adds warmth to the original, but keeps the detached, emotionless vocals. “Love is the Drug,” another cover, marries an urgent dance beat to discordant guitar riffs. The best track, however, has got to be “My Private Life,” (yet another cover) which uses pitch-shifted vocals over clattery percussion, augmented by a rhythmic electronic squelch which I think is a guitar skank modulated beyond all recognition. The result is an alien dub gem that I have yet to hear topped
Unfortunately the version I have uploaded here is a rip of the CD version, which uses extended mixes of several songs, adding and extra minute or two to songs that are already teetering on the edge of overindulgence. Don’t let that deter you though; this is a great album.

01 - Warm Leatherette
02 - Private Life
03 - A Rolling Stone
04 - Love is the Drug
05 - The Hunter Gets Captured by the Game
06 - Bullshit
07 - Breakdown
08 - Paris

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Maruosa - Exercise and Hell [2007]

It's tough to be a breakcore fan when you’re as god-damned tired of the Amen break as I am. Not so many years ago, after slogging through another seven-inch deconstruction of the same shit that I’ve been listening to for over a decade, I wondered what it would take for me to love Amen again. It turns out that Japanese cybergrind producer Maruosa had the answer, which is to pulverize it almost beyond recognition and shove it into my ear at a bazillion BPM. The trick is making me like it.
2007’s “Exercise and Hell” walks a very thin line between break-based grind and lawless cutup noise. With a little less structure, the result would be a fairly dull mash of hyperedits, but with a bit more structure the music would lose that manic peak that pushes Maruosa beyond his peers. Beneath the boiling surface, each track is metered by a hardcore kick that on first listen seems nearly as spastic as the rest of the music, but acts to contour the din into a decipherable but constantly changing shape. Earmarked by the kick and to a certain extent by the rasping vocals, the tracks unfold, swinging between barely-contained chaos and utter chaos. It’s quite a ride, and has established – at least in my mind – Maruosa among the breakcore/grindcore elite. You gotta try this.

01 – Hell-O Everyone
02 - Death Stretch
03 - To Point Of Nausea
04 - Fatman (Feat. DISTEST)
05 - Spasm Spasm Spasm
06 - Slobber
07 - Muscle Spark
08 - Ants
09 - Lack of Oxygen
10 - Repute One's Reverse Cruciate Ligament
11 - Deep Respiration from Nethemost Hell
12 - Come Back From the Dead
13 - Shit Power in a Showdown
14 - Styx

Monday, August 17, 2009

Old Crow Medicine Show – Big Iron World [2006]

Old Crow Medicine Show is often labeled as alt-country, which I suppose is inevitable when an old-timey band has as many songs about cocaine as this one does. However, most of the songs on “Big Iron World” could have come decades or generations ago, when riverboats vied for supremacy with the railroads (as in “James River Blues”) or supporting the worker’s union was a good way to earn a new orifice (“Union Maid”). Maybe then, it’s not so surprising that OCMS were offered their big break by another artist who made his mark by updating traditional folk music – the famous flat-picker Doc Watson. Watson’s daughter was so impressed by the group, at the time busking in front of a drug store in Nashville, that she passed a demo to her famous father. He in turn offered the quintet a spot at Merlefest, his influential Americana music festival, and their star has been rising ever since.

[Youtube] Old Crow Medicine Show - Minglewood Blues

[MySpace] http://www.myspace.com/oldcrowmedicineshow

Old Crow Medicine Show - Big Iron World
01 - Down Home Girl
02 - Cocaine Habit
03 - Minglewood Blues
04 - My Good Gal
05 - James River Blues
06 - New Virginia Creeper
07 - Union Maid
08 - Let It Alone
09 - God's Got It
10 - I Hear Them All
11 - Don't Ride That Horse
12 - Bobcat Tracks

Sunday, August 16, 2009

A Fancy New Blog

That's right, internet. I heard you crying into your pillow at night, pining for a pony, a candy store, and another self-indulgent music blog. Well, here I come to make one of those things a reality. Let's see how long this lasts before I forget my password and get locked out of the site completely.