Friday, December 30, 2011

Grazhdanskaya Oborona - Svet & Stulja [1988-1989]

This is a band I have hinted at on this blog a couple of times, so I figured I had better post something from them. Гражданская Оборона (English: 'civil defense,' or abbreviated GrOb 'coffin') is the most famous and probably the most influential of the 1980s Soviet punk bands. The only constant member was Egor Letov, who was active right up to his death in 2008 (many of his friends, bandmates, etc. ended up committing suicide in the '80s and '90s). I don't speak Russian, but the songs seem to be about anarchism, running from the KGB (they had Letov committed to a mental institution in the mid-'80s), totalitarianism, depression, feelings of powerlessness, and all that kind of stuff you'd expect to hear from a punk band from a country with an overtly repressive government.  Musically, it's lo-fi punk (most GrOb recordings were recorded to tape on boomboxes in various apartments and kitchens) with chord changes and melodies characteristic of Russian folk music. Letov has an extremely expressive singing voice, and, like a good deal of other Russian punk musics, he communicates a desperate pathos commensurate with the fucked-up conditions in which he lived. Complete and total outsider music.

Egor was seriously prolific in his lifetime, with most of his earlier work coming in the form of homemade tapes traded among the Russian punks. My own collection of his stuff doesn't even scratch the surface, but this is a  double album of two live performances (which, you must understand, were risky and infrequent events) from 1988 and 1989 in Novosibirsk and Moscow, respectively. It's as good an introduction to GrOb as any, and the songs are all great. If none of this intrigues you, I have no idea what would. I'll finish by saying this band is one of the inspirations behind Pink Reason, who I recently posted. Here is a WFMU show on which Kevin Failure of PR plays GrOb and a bunch of other great Soviet underground bands, and shares some knowledge. The Russian sites linked below are pretty readable using Google Translate, so have at it.

GrOb official site (Russian)
GrOb fansite (Russian)
Polish blog with more GrOb albums
Everything is going according to plan

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Some records I enjoyed in 2011 MEGAPOST

This is not a top ten. I'm not ranking them or anything. I'm really pretty slow about getting hipped to new music every year, but here are a dozen or so that I have been digging throughout 2011. Buy all of these.

1. CAVE - Neverendless

More tight motorik grooves from Chicago's best krautrock enthusiasts. The first and last songs are my favorite ones on here. I'll defer to the wonderful review in the Chicago Reader from a couple months back, since I can't write a better one.

CAVE on Drag City
On the rise

2. Peaking Lights - 936

This album just feels good to listen to (especially in the summer, or when you're trying to pretend it's warm). I first saw Peaking Lights at Bitchpork a couple of summers ago, and have been digging them ever since. This is probably the album from 2011 I have played the most. Repetitive, bouncy dub basslines with psyched-out, homemade synths and pretty words. If that doesn't sound like much then you don't know what you're missing.

3. Death Grips - Exmilitary

I'm not gonna pretend to be some connoisseur of rap music, but this mixtape is pretty sick. You've got rhythmic extraordinaire Zach Hill making fucked up beats for MC Ride to spit all over. The ridiculousness is turned all the way up for the whole set, and it is pretty damn intense. Critics are all saying this is hardcore punk pretending to be rap, which I guess isn't too inaccurate. If Black Flag samples are cool to you, or if you enjoy lyrics about being fucked up on DMT and listening to Sonic Youth, you should probably get this. I put up my own link but it appears to be free from Death Grips' website. Here's a video:

4. The Psychic Paramount - II

Holy christ, what an album this is. Like the CAVE album above, the song titles are pretty much indecipherable, and the emphasis is on the extremely tight instrumentation. Besides liking some bands such as Tortoise, I have no idea what the term 'post-rock' is supposed to mean, but it has apparently been applied to the Psychic Paramount. Regardless of what you take away from that description, know that these dudes most certainly know how to rock. II is noisy, psychedelic, incredibly rhythmic (the songs were composed on drums), and easily one of my favorite albums of 2011.

5. Pink Reason - Shit in the Garden

Pink Reason songs often sound like they're recorded on the comedown from a heroin binge (see the excellent Winona 7" for prime examples). And that's cool. But this year Kevin De Broux (sometime member of Psychedelic Horseshit) put out something bigger. Shit in the Garden definitely sounds more produced than most of Pink Reason's previous work, but not in a bad way. Just sounds like Mr. De Broux spent more time putting this one together. There's electronic glitch-beats, soaring pop anthems, swirling psych-punk guitar, banjo, and equal doses of bitter and sweet throughout. This album reminded me of some of Egor Letov's early '90s stuff (Egor who, you ask? I'll post later), which makes sense since Kevin lived in Siberia for a couple of years in the '90s (and is compiling info for a book on Soviet-era Russian punk while touring Eastern Europe). Listen, this record is really good.

6. The Spits - V

If I tried to write too much about the Spits, it would come off as unnecessary intellectualizing. For those who don't know, the Spits are a punk band. They play punk music and they play it well. If you dig the Ramones and Misfits, then there's nothing not to like here. Seriously, just look at the cover art.

7. Matana Roberts - Coin Coin, Chapter One: Gens de Couleur Libres

What we have here is a brilliant (free-?) jazz concept album about an 18th-century slave who manages to get herself freed, and all of the agonizing shit that happens prior to that. It ends on a hopeful note but I won't spoil anything, since I can't tell it as good as Matana. The playing is good, and runs the gamut from bouncy swing 1920s jazz to cosmic free jazz with prepared guitar, but the thing everyone will really like about this record is Roberts' fierce storytelling vocals. This record is punk as fuck, and my stupid review can't possibly do it justice.

8. Tom Waits - Bad as Me

He's still good. Overall, I'm not really familiar with Tom Waits' recent stuff, but my dad burned me a a copy of this CD so I've been digging it. It's a mix of Beefheartian blues free-kouts, soulful laments, and rocking the fuck out. There's even an aside of 'Auld Lang Syne,' just in time for your depressing plod into the New Year. My favorite song on here is almost definitely the Iraqistan-vet dirge 'Hell Broke Luce.' My god, it's Tom Waits, why are you still reading this? Just get it.

How many ways can you polish up a turd (DMCA'd)

9. Dirty Beaches - Badlands

This, I believe, is Taiwanese-Canadian Alex Zhang Hungtai's first proper record as Dirty Beaches, although he did release some instrumental stuff under the name. Badlands is a minimal, lo-fi, washed-out perversion of 1950s rockabilly. Songs of isolation, empty highways, and dirt, coming out sounding like Alan Vega singing for Les Rallizes Dénudés (the song 'A Hundred Highways' is, in fact, just like Rallizes' 'Night of the Assassins'). What's that, a Suicide reference AND Rallizes? It must be good...

10. Iceage - New Brigade

Basically everyone ever thinks this record is amazing. With that kind of hype, one must wonder: is it actually good? As far as I can tell, it is very good. Iceage sound a bit like Wire playing hardcore, or like if Jay Reatard was from Denmark instead of Memphis. I was so pissed to have missed their Chicago date this past summer (Raw Nerve was opening, I believe), because they're supposed to be even better live. In any case this sub-25 minute post-punk blast is something you probably have already, but check it out if you haven't. New Brigade has been confusingly in and out of print all year (selling like fucking hotcakes, man), so I just posted an insound link for those of you cool enough to buy it. 

BONUS: Great EPs and 7"s of 2011

1. Cülo - Toxic Vision

Cülo never fails to impress, and this is probably my favorite record they've put out so far (that new split with Tenement is pretty tight, though). I guess 'Brain Cavity' and the titular track are my favorites, but it's sort of pointless to pick because it's a short record and all the songs are great. It has been many a morning these past few months that Toxic Vision was the thing that got me out of bed to bike to class. Some of the best hardcore Chicagoland has to offer.

2. Broken Water - Peripheral Star

Broken Water are a spaciously-noisy post-punk band from somewhere in the Pacific Northwest (Olympia? Portland? I forget), and this EP was their follow-up to 2010's Whet, which was also great. Peripheral Star is a winning combination of pop brilliance and punk aggression with male-female vocals and Sonic Youth sheets of noise. 'Stop Means Stop' is straight-up riot grrrl.  The last song is sung in Japanese, so that's pretty cool.

Peripheral Star on Perennial Death (scroll down a little)

3. Poor Choice - Teenage Love is Beautiful

Hardcore that's not too (read: unlistenably) hardcore and punk that is plenty punk. All the songs except for the title track are less than one minute, and cover such topics as hating work, playing D&D, and being at house shows (or so I think; the lyrics are rather unintelligible). The music itself is just perfectly executed, and the bass throws mud and shit all over the place. I regularly listen to this on repeat; if you play it 6 times it makes for a great LP.

4. Tyvek - Time Change

Tyvek sounding like Tyvek in three quick garagey punk bursts. As usual, the fidelity is fucked and the instruments are trashed. This was a 7" from their tour of Europe or something. In any case it burns as well as any other Tyvek release.

Nothing is wasted (DMCA'd, and let me say a special FUCK YOU to Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation.)

5. The Outs - We Are the Outs

This is one that I posted earlier in the year, but if you didn't get it then you should get it now.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

John Cooper Clarke - Innocents 7" [1977], Post-War Glamour Girl 7" [1978]

Here are a couple of fantastic singles by the Bard of Salford, Greater Manchester's punk-poet himself, John Cooper Clarke. He's probably best known (if he's known at all) for his a capella rapid-spat poems, but on these records he's backed by a group which called themselves the Invisible Girls. Clarke's lyrics are great as one might expect, and the backing band doesn't sound tacked on, instead straddling the border between krautrock-influenced post-punk and good old '77 rabble, managing to find themselves in disco territory without sucking, on the second record's A-side.

In the 1980s Clarke spent a lot of time being addicted to heroin with the famous Nico, so maybe that will pique your interest. He's also in the 1982 film Urgh! A Music War, which is worth finding for his performance as well as those of the rest of the underground bands in it.

Mr. Clarke performs to this day, so you should go see him if you get the chance.

Here's a video of one of his poems:

Bring back hangin', for everyone
Outside of the take-away, Saturday night
Official site

Mutant Sounds in the Wire magazine

I'm a big fan of the blog Mutant Sounds, so it was pretty cool to read this article in the Wire written by one of their contributors. Good stuff about the value of sharing music via this vast series of tubes.

Speaking of music in tubes, check out this psych duo jamming in the Chicago subway:

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

VA - Short Circuit: Live at the Electric Circus [1978]

You're cool, right? You like the Fall, right? Joy Division? Here's a 1978 10" comp of Manchester bands, including some of the first recordings by the aforementioned two bands (when Joy Division was called Warsaw) and more. My favorites on this are probably the spoken-word raps of John Cooper Clarke [I'll probably post some more of him later], or the black-up jam "Macka Splaff" by reggae punks Steel Pulse. Oh, there's also a Buzzcocks song, and although I'm less interested in them, it's a good song. This short album plays through really well.

I used ta believe everything I read
But ya can't get a nipple in the Daily Express [file is slightly mislabled, should say 1978]
For record nerds/snobs

Friday, October 28, 2011

J.T. IV - Cosmic Lightning [197?-1980s]

Hit play and read:

The consummate loner punk J.T. IV [John Timmis IV] lived in and around the fringes of Chicago, and made some fantastically damaged glam-folk-punk tunes, first releasing the "Waiting for the CTA" 7" in 1980. It's a localized version of the Velvets song, sung over Blitzkrieg Bop chords. The song starts out pretty cheesy-sounding but devolves into a noisy mess foretelling the rest of this compilation of super-rare singles (with originals going for over $800). My favorite thing on here is the two-song folk lament suite "In the Can / Out of the Can," which communicates alienation and pathos as can only be done by a dude who's been institutionalized. On the rest of the songs there's all sorts of what Timmis called 'destructo rock,' an umbrella under which the MC5 and the Dead Boys would probably fit. All of this stuff languished in obscurity for the whole of Timmis's life (he died in 2002 in Nowhere, PA), but was released by Drag City in 2008. It's out of print now, but when it was available it came with a full-length DVD containing performances and home-movies (trailer below). More of his stuff remains unreleased and nearly impossible to find, but I hope it gets reissued like this album. If you can track that DVD down, let me know.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Can - Tago Mago [1971]

I don't really know how much I can say about this album that hasn't already been said (which itself is a pretty cliche thing to say about an album, I guess). If you like Can you already have this. Tago Mago is the first in the 'holy trinity' of Can musics featuring Damo Suzuki on vocals, the others being Ege Bamyasi (1972) and Future Days (1973). It was my introduction to Can and remains my favorite. And it blows my mind that this is 40 years old.

First is 'Paperhouse,' which might deserve the descriptor "perfect slow-burn" more so than any other song I've ever heard. It is really one of the best opening tracks on any album, ever. 'Mushroom' is post-punk circa 1971, and 'Oh Yeah' (see below) is zen in the beauty of its aural production, gliding over a motorik rhythm borrowed from Neu! 'Halleluwah' takes up the whole of side two -- in the hands (and feet) of a lesser drummer than Jaki Liebezeit, such an attempt might fall on its face. But instead, Liebezeit rides a tremendous, primal funk groove that rewards repeated listens. The rest of the band is improvising for pretty much the whole piece, but thanks to the discriminating x-acto knife of bassist/tape editor Holger Czukay, none of the time is wasted and the whole 18 minutes is full of musically potent jamming.

Then you put on the second slab. Side three is the drifting, 17-minute opus 'Augm,' and here things start to get really weird. If the first disc was smoking weed, the second is mescaline, or something. But even 'Augm' might not be able to prepare you, young psychonaut, for what awaits on side four. 'Peking O' develops into the most intense, freaked-out part of the whole album over its 11 minutes, with panic-attack beats and keyboards, glossolaliac vocalizations by Damo, and a noise section near the end that you should really hear instead of just hear about. The result is an intense catharsis, finally releasing the listener to enjoy the last seven minutes of the trip with 'Bring me Coffee or Tea.' It's the perfect comedown from the psychedelic heights reached on sides three and four.

The song 'Oh Yeah' includes Damo Suzuki briefly singing in Japanese, for which not a single translation exists on the whole internet. Or at least, I haven't been able to find it. So I figured I'd give it a try. I have no idea if it is correct (Japanese has an incredible number of homophones). If anyone with greater Japanese proficiency than me can correct this, by all means do so, but here's what I heard:

これで底意素ばてる     [kore de sokoi su bateru]
Tired of this obvious conspiracy
頭のいかれたい圧     [atama no ikaretai atsu]
Madness pressure in my head

位置の上から小便     [ichi no ue kara shouben]
Pissing from above their position
我らがいもと呼ぶ     [warera ga imo to yobu]
We call on all the fools

LSD の真力     [LSD no machikara]
Pure strength of the acid
あ戯れ楽器を恐れ     [a zare gakki wo osore]
I fear the instruments which I play

麻がまだこんな異能      [asa ga mada konnna inou]
Marijuana has mystic power
幸いだ殊に     [saiwai da koto ni]
Feeling very happy now

See if you agree:

And here is the song played backwards:

One last thing: I saw Damo Suzuki perform live in Osaka last month, and the dude still kills it on stage. His band was made up of the local opening groups and he pulled them along on a 40-minute rhythmic pummeling the likes of which I may never see again. So if you see Damo touring around where you live, by all means go see him play.

Can on Amazon ... but you know you'd rather get it at your local record store.
Tago Mago  DMCA'd, but this one ain't hard to find

Monday, May 2, 2011

Can - Delay 1968

Here you have some sweet Can jams from (as the title might suggest) 1968. Their first album, Monster Movie, was released in 1969. This set of songs didn't see the light of day until 1981 -- hence the title. My favorite songs on here are probably “Nineteen Centry Man” (German rockers and heads certainly had one hell of an older generation to rail against), “Uphill,” and the slow-burning “Thief.” This recording definitely plays like a band still finding its groove, but that's no mark against it; Delay 1968 is a seriously valuable document of early Can. If you're like me and enjoy Malcom Mooney's staccato vocal style, you'll dig this no doubt. 

Download  DMCA'd. Buy it ya pirate.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Vivienne Dick No Wave Cinema - Beauty Becomes the Beast [1979]

I just finished watching this and figured some of you would dig it too. Starring Lydia Lunch, though you'll probably recognize a few other names in the credits if you're into any of the no wave shit from end-of -the-seventies NYC. Starts off a bit slow but it's worth the watch. There is some great imagery of the city in the gutter here. Being a no wave movie, you'd be foolish to expect much real plot, but the themes of anti-patriarchy and urban decay are clearly present.  The soundtrack is superb as well. If numbers are important to you this has an 8.8 on IMDb (only five votes but hey). Runs approx. 45 min.

Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:

Part 4:

Saturday, April 30, 2011

X-Ray Spex - Peel Session EP [1978]

A few days ago the music world lost Poly Styrene, best known for her work with X-Ray Spex, one of the very best bands to come out of the initial wave of U.K. punk. Not a lot of bands sounded like the Spex, and Poly's opera-singer-punk wail remains a major contribution to the genre. Seriously, why weren't there more saxophones in punk music? You can (and probably did) read more eloquent pieces on her life and music elsewhere on the web, but grab these Peel Sessions and scream along, why don't you.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Гражданская Оборона

Been away from this space for a while, and am about to leave the country. When I get settled in posts shall continue. Til then, enjoy some pitch-perfect Russian punk from the end of the Cold War:

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Elton Motello - Victim of Time [1978]

Alright, here's a nice little slab of glam-punk from the days when saxophones were more common in this type of music. Most notable for the song 'Jet Boy Jet Girl,' a song about the homosexual frustrations of the 15-year-old narrator. Based on the French tune 'Ça plane pour moi' but with new lyrics, 'Jet Boy' went on to be covered by a bunch of other bands. The Damned played it live pretty often. The rest of this album is some pretty damned good power-pop, with totally fun lyrics ('Artificial Insemination: Do the Sperm!') The title track shamelessly apes the Ramones' 'Hey ho let's go' (you call it a ripoff, I call it an homage), before playing for your ears some of the catchiest stuff you won't feel bad for liking. In my experience this album is fairly overlooked, so do yourself a favor and get it.

He gave me head

The Samples - Dead Hero 7" [1982]

I haven't got much to say about this one. What you've got here is some pretty basic, solid good UK punk. Songs about war and The Man and whatever ("Dead Hero," "Fire Another Round," "Suspicion," you get the gist). This is a quick one, so just download it already.

Get it

Friday, January 28, 2011

The Ex - Catch My Shoe [2010]

Here's the most recent from everyone's favorite Dutch improv-anarcho-post-punk-world collaborators the Ex. They've been called the Dutch answer to Crass, but the Fall might be closer to the mark (but without the associated dickishness). Maybe This Heat? Most all comparisons fail though, as the Ex is a pretty unique group. Some bands just get better with age and these guys are one of them. This album (their 25th, I think) is a jam, front to back. The opener, "Maybe I Was the Pilot," is different from the version released as a single earlier in 2010, with the new horn section. Really, the dissonant trumpet adds a lot to the sound of this album; it's well-executed and improves the urgency of the record. Katherina Bornefeld's propulsive drumming has a singular rhythm which is an absolute joy to watch live (see video below). And there's plenty of electric guitar free-kout stuff, like in "Bicycle Illusion." "Keep On Walking" is a triumphant anthem, totally accessible and inspiring. I can only think positive things about this band and this album. Highly recommended.

Buy the damn records
Why take a risk when you can take a vacation
Free music direct from the Ex
See them live, holy shit

Saturday, January 22, 2011

The Outs - We Are the Outs [2011]

Here's something I've been listening to on repeat. New band, new recording. Hearing this, I'm doubly pissed I couldn't make their  first show last night. Anyway, this is some fantastic, fast punk with female vocals. Brilliant rage spanning six songs over seven minutes. Listen, you won't be disappointed.

1. Girlfriends
2. Get Creeped
3. Boy Scout
4. Just Can't Win
5. The Outs
6. Rebel Girl [Bikini Kill]


Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Wire - Red Barked Tree [2010]

Wire has made some wonderful music and certainly gained acclaim for it. But most of the praise goes to the 'holy trinity' of Wire albums (you know which those are). When the eighties started up the band called it quits, but reformed in 1985. Here's an interesting anecdote courtesy of Wikipedia:

[Upon reforming] Wire announced that they'd perform none of their older material, hiring The Ex-Lion Tamers, (a Wire cover band named after a song title from Pink Flag), as their opening act. The Ex-Lion Tamers played Wire's older material; Wire played their new material.

Fast-forwarding to the present, here is the latest album from Wire. I like it, especially the opener 'Please Take' ("fuck off out of my face; you take up too much space"), and the aptly titled 'Two Minutes,' which is the closest you'll get to any Pink Flag-ish stuff. The title track is a great. Makes me want to go to the redwoods or Sequoia or something. But really, I don't think there's a bad song on the album. If you're familiar with and/or dig A Bell Is a Cup ... Until It Is Struck (1988) and Send (2003), this is probably for you. If not, you should check out those records anyway because they are fantastic.

Buy it straight from Wire
Wire tour dates

Friday, January 7, 2011

Nerve City - Nerve City: Recordings 2007-2008 [2010]

Somewhere in Virginia, the dude behind Nerve City sits and cranks out well-crafted pop/psych/country-folk tunes and then splashes them with reverb and other such guitar noise. It's home-recorded, and you can tell, but not in such a way that it's obnoxious; these songs speak for themselves. My favorites are probably 'Living Wage,' 'Junkyard,' and 'Mothers.' There's an uneasy sense of death about this record, and some songs, like 'Holy Ghost,' are just scary. I remember one time describing Nerve City to a friend as sounding like "a spaceman-cowboy playing guitar on the moon, in your TV." If that sounds at all appealing to you, then check out this record.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Tyvek - Nothing Fits [2010]

I don't know how much there is to say about this record. I love Tyvek and their loose, urban-decay-of-Detroit-informed noise. They sound like your friend's punk band and they're totally fun live. First song '4312' is about as catchy as you can start an album off, and the rest continues from there. The indignant title track is one highlight, and 'Pricks in a Car' is pretty brilliant also. I dunno, if you've heard Tyvek before, you already know what you think of them. If not, this is a good album to start with.

Is Tyvek coming to YOUR TOWN? tour dates
Buy 'Nothing Fits' [In the Red] on Goner

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Pissed Jeans - Hope For Men [2007]

This band is a work of jeanius. Slow- to mid-tempo hardcore with brilliantly dismal lyrics about the miserable and mundane, from dudes who know their shit. Everyone's favorite thing to mention about this band is how one of them works in an insurance firm or something, and Pissed Jeans' noise does sound pretty much like the impotent rage of the archetypal white-collar American who's aware of a better existence, yet can't quite get there. Highly recommended. The fellow who sold me this LP at Saki was lucky enough to have seen them live. They don't get out to play much, so FFS see them if you get the chance.

Buy Hope for Men on Sub Pop

DV8 - Learn to Say Goodbye b/w Guns on the Right 7" [1981]

Here's a quick post of early-eighties Chicago punk for ya. This is a really good 7" from a band who are admittedly little more than a footnote in the scene, itself often relegated as a footnote of the early punk sphere. DV8 consisted of vox/guitarist Lorin Klugman, drummer Eric Spicer, and Bob Hanchett on bass. Spicer provides the obligatory Naked Raygun connexion; he played with them from '84 to '92, playing on the records after All Rise, released in 1986. This is the band's only release, and they broke up in 1982.

But on to the actual songs. The A-side is the best Clash song the Clash never wrote, and the B-side is just as good. This is a single I find myself returning to often, because it's a fucking good record. If you've got $300 to blow, it shows up on eBay for about that amount every once in a while. Needless to say, it's long out of print.

Get it
DV8 on the Chicago Punk Database