Sunday, February 25, 2007

The Reich Fest in Pictures

As promised, I took a few photos for those who couldn't make it to Times New Viking's Paisley Reich Fest. What a blast! One of the best nights of music Columbus has ever seen. I'm not really one for show reviews so I'll make it short: it was (very) crowded, Cheater Slicks sounded better than ever, Clockcleaner blew some Columbus minds (especially mine) and TNV proved once again that people will never stop starting unnecessary mosh pits. Can't wait to see what they have in store for the Matador release in the Fall. It was dark, so there's a lot of flash in these poor shots. Check out Rep's hair!

Thursday, February 22, 2007

No More Paisley Underground

The past 18 months have been like a whirlwind for my friends in Times New Viking. I remember wondering, back in late 2005 at their first release show (for both the Busy Making Love & War 7'' and the Dig Yourself LP) at Andyman's Treehouse, if they would ever break out of Ohio and fully realize their potential. I don't think it was ever a question of whether they would continue to do great things - it was obvious then how easily ideas and songs would just flow out of the three of them - it was more an issue of whether the rest of the world would catch on. While those in attendance back then were most likely in-the-know with TNV, I don't think anyone could have predicted what has happened between then and now: a flood of praise for Dig Yourself and the 7'' (from Spin to Wire to every blog worth a damn), their virtual perfection of the 40-minute live rock set, shows with everyone from Mission of Burma to Endless Boogie to Burning Star Core and the ensuing flood of praise for their live show....courting from Fat Possum, Sub Pop and Matador, among others, eventually amounting to a three-album agreement with the label they dreamed of joining back in high school.
But for now it is time for the celebratory, as the band continues their finely-tuned vision this week with Present the Paisley Reich and the Paisley Reich Fest. Many have noted that with the Paisley Reich Times New Viking are saying goodbye to Siltbreeze, the classic experimental label once stagnant (two years ago) but now making a very strong case (already) for label of the year, but I see it as just the opposite. The TNV'ers are eloquently passing the Siltbong from one generation to the next, and they'll be at TJ's side every Spring on draft day. One look at the lineup for Bourbon St. on Saturday night and you'll see a virtual museum of Siltbreeze past present and future, from label vets Ron House (playing a rare solo set) and Mike Rep (whose Siltbreeze classic, Stupor Hiatus Vol. 2 will get the reissue treatment later this year) to future friends Clockclean er (Lax will be doing a 7'' with these Philadelphians) and Psychedelic Horseshit (folky discharges in '07 as well). You also get the triumphant return of the almighty Cheater Slicks, who've been on injured reserve for the better part of a year and are looking to absolutely destroy in '07 with their upcoming full-length Walk Into the Sea. If that's not enough for ya you get our city's premiere noise duo, Sword Heaven, and a set from the hugely entertaining pop-theater-doo-wop crew Hugs and Kisses (with brand new album Casualties of Happiness in tow), who'll be joined by everyones hero, Envelope. If you can't find something to enjoy about this show I feel really bad for you.
As for the actual Paisley Reich release, I'll leave it up to the rest of the world to slobber over its greatness. Let me just say that Jared, Adam and Beth make this look too damn easy, and they should take this weekend to breathe in all the compliments and alcohol and good times, because they've earned it. The world needed a band like this and Times New Viking are more than willing to share the love. They're one of the hardest working bands I've ever seen and this show will be a testament to that.

Saturday, February 24th @ Cafe Bourbon St.
Tentative Line-up:
Mike Rep & the Quotas - 7:30 (happy hour drink specials)
Sword Heaven
Cheater Slicks
Hugs and Kisses/Envelope
Ron House
Psychedelic Horseshit
Times New Viking

Be sure to check back on Sunday with plenty of pictures and commentary.

Friday, February 9, 2007

Not Quiet on the Eastern Front

Teenage Panzerkorp
Harmful Emotions LP
Siltbreeze (SB83), 2007

Afternoon, comrades. Just wanted to take a few minutes out of your busy Friday to request that you do two things over the weekend. First, go and take a look around Marble Stature, my good friend and Columbus legend Sean "Seanzilla" Wright's fantastic music blog that is the major inspiration behind what I'm doing here. How Sean finds time between graduate school at RISD (finals this weekend) and songwriting duties in the Stapler to come up with such dead-on cultural analysis remains a miracle. He'll be writing for the Z-Gun print zine as well. A complete joy to read. Next, get out and buy a copy of the new limited edition LP by Teenage Panzerkorp, also known as Der TPK (or even Teenage PzKps, if you are keeping track), the newest brigade in Lax's Siltbreeze army.
2007 will most definitely be the year of the Siltbreeze, and what a way to start out a season crammed full of incredible releases. After two cdr-EP's on the Pink Skulls label, the label run by Korps member Glenn Donaldson (of the Jewelled Antler fact every member minus singer Bunker Wolf are/were in various Jewelled Antler bands) and a 7'' reissue of the Gleich Heilt Gleich EP on Skulltones, comes Harmful Emotions, the full-length that does nothing but further mystify these Bay Area bandits. The sound of TPK on Harmful Emotions is gloriously damaged art-punk. And I really mean damaged. If you've ever heard the fuzzed-out, ghostly sound of the legendary German Oak record you have an idea of where this is going. Bunker Wolf's heavily inflected German accent will surely pile-up the Mark E. Smith Dragnet-era comparisons, as it should, along with Lydon's howl. Plenty of Anglo post-punk love here. Also a total Mars obsession, as the guitars rhythmically swell and scatter like only the no wave legends could. Throw in some 60's-beat organ drones and another layer of mushroom cloud fuzz and you almost have it. Now, project that noise through air raid sirens across the Eastern Front and you have Harmful Emotions.
The songs are completely delirious. They start then stop, stomp along with the Neu! motorik, stop again, carry on in waves of feedback for minutes at a time, then coagulate into a muddy ballad straight out of Peter Laughner's bedroom. There's a locked groove that ends Side A that moans like a demon for as long as you like, and when you start Side B that melody is reinterpreted in song. Fucking amazing. All of it fits perfectly alongside Siltbreeze's most cherished albums, nudging up with Harsh 70's Reality or Under the Blood Red Lava Lamp just fine. A psychedelic-punk mindfuck of the highest order! I could go on and on but lemme just say that this is instant cult material. Limited to only 500 vinyl copies, you better get in now. Try your local record dealer or, if you prefer the online method, Midheaven and Aquarius still have copies. Don't sleep.

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

The Day Devo Game Me a Surprize

Duty Now For the Future
Warner Bros., 1979

No matter where you go in Ohio, Devo are typically considered punk gods, especially the more north and east you are. You know the old saying....the more your city smells like rubber, the more Devo nerds it contains. Across the globe, in fact, in cities just like Akron, there are thousands of Devo faithful who will put aside their greasy comics to argue about what their best record was, which piece of memorabilia is most valuable, and whether or not Eno really did ruin their debut album. I'm talking seriously obsessed people, and to be honest, I've never been one of the fanatics. I've always liked Devo enough, you could even say loved them - but I wouldn't say I hold them up as gospel.
But as each year passes that seems to be changing. A few months back I picked up a cassette copy of Duty Now For the Future at a Salvation Army, just for something to play in the car on mt way home from work. I had a vinyl copy at home but rarely ever played it. Always thought it was a little overrated by the Devo-heads (my good friend Serie Ozna, especially, who for eight years now has insisted this is the one) - I much preferred Freedom of Choice, the follow-up to Duty Now - but something about the cassette format gave me a new perspective. It sounded flat and a bit distorted, like a relic from an older, more primitive American generation...I let it play for weeks straight, front to back.
It's safe to say that the songwriting on Duty Now For the Future is probably the weakest of Devo's first big three. Are We Not Men? benefited from the six year old repertoire the band had built up, and it shows; nearly every song is a classic. Listening to the Hardcore Devo comps, though, you get the idea that their debut wasn't exactly what it could have been. With his production work, Eno (along with Warner Bros.) transformed the group from a bunch of basement rat sci-fi nerds, banging out three-chord pop songs on homemade synths, into a marketable new-wave gimmick of sorts, albeit one of infinite intellect and potential. Not that Mothersbaugh(s), Casale and Co. didn't have anything to do with this, because, in hindsight, much of what happened seems to have been in Devo's master plan, it's just that the sound and feeling of the debut feels a little boxed. I'm convinced Duty Now is what Devo intended for the debut to sound like. Make any sense? Maybe I am becoming a Devo nerd.
Duty Now For the Future is Devo's great, weird transitional record - a rare album that is impressive because of its transitional nature. Thematically, the record is all over the map. They pull ideas from decades of the American Pop aesthetic - Warhol's supermarket consumerism, Saturday morning cartoons, surf-rock, science-fiction UFO's, Cold War paranoia - to tell their stories of sexual frustration and humanoid inferiority. It comes off cold, awkward, tremendously weird and considerably anti-punk. By the time of Duty Now, Devo were beginning to take hold of the band-as-commodity reality and run with it (check the bar-code emblazoned sleeve). Much has been said of John Lydon being the first punk to become the quintessential psuedo-celebrity anti-hero with the first PiL album, and rightly so, but Devo accomplish a similar feat with Duty Now's pop funhouse.
Musically the album is a synthesizer smorgasbord only Bob Moog himself could fully appreciate. The band use synth as rhythm, synth as bass, synth as melody, synth as background...synth for no damn reason other than to sound different. It's a tight, focused sound, with guitars spiking in and out, drums punching hard and steady and vocals simulating the stiff keyboard stabs. Devo on Duty Now are so tight they at times remind me of James Brown's JB's, the way they made every instrument percussive. Elsewhere they sound like a computerized version of Pink Flag-era Wire, or even a jerkier entity of the polyrhythmic explorations that the Talking Heads were also mining. Sometimes I'm even reminded of a synthesized Magic Band minus the stoner haze.
The album contains a few classic pieces of songwriting, especially on the A-Side. "Clockout" kicks things off as well as any Devo album, in all of its Captain Caveman meets the Ventures glory, and "Wiggly World" is a brilliant Adult-ADD Beefheartian rocker, one of the finest lesser-known Devo songs (seek out This Moment In Black History's cover from a few years back). "Strange Pursuit" perfects their weirdo synth-pop before a similarly styled Freedom of Choice brings the band unlikely stardom. Aside from a few ill-advised conceptual pieces and a fairly boring rendition of "Secret Agent Man", Duty Now packs a punch in every corner.
While I'm still not sure if Duty Now For the Future is Devo's best or most important album, I will say that it is Devo's most interesting piece. Stuck between two very strong voices, Duty Now often gets lost in the shuffle. Well I'm here to tell you: don't let that happen anymore! It's your duty to give this album the credit it is due. For the future!
Bonus: I found an old review of the record stuffed in my vinyl copy and scanned it for your enjoyment. Even back then people weren't sold on this album. Click on picture to enlarge.

Thursday, February 1, 2007

Snorting Blotter, Vol. 1

Blue Phantom
Vedette, 1971

It's been a particularly acid-drenched winter so far here at the pop:doug headquarters, despite the fact that physically I've remained fairly sober. Winter in Ohio can be rough and it seems we all tend to find something to keep our minds off the short days and long gas bills, whether it be alcoholism, psychedelic music, a combination of both...etc. Now sorting through psych "rarities" online is something that can occupy any weirdo no matter what the whether is like outside, but I'd like to think that 27 years of frostbite has given me the patience to sit on my ass and tear through these creatures until something really smells funny. And for the past few weeks Distortions, by Italian band Blue Phantom, has been stinking it up daily in my parts.
Don't ask me where I found out about this one - I think it was a vague, second-hand reference on some psych music message board - because a quick Google search on the record will turn up practically nothing on Distortions. What I've gathered so far is that it was a one-off, instrumental studio exploitation record originally released in 1971 on Vedette - an Italian label specializing in mostly library music - with the songs primarily composed by a man named Henri Tical. With that knowledge you'd think it'd sound like fairly pedestrian studio psychedelia. There were literally hundreds of records like this released around this time in mainland Europe alone, not to mention hundreds, maybe thousands more in the U.S. and Britain. What does this album have that the others don't?
Variety, for one. Distortions effortlessly stomps its way through a number of the era's genres while firmly holding onto a fuzzed-out, progressive-garage core. Now I wouldn't necessarily call this a library album - it's just too heavy, and too damn good - but this genre-jumping does give it some library-ish tendencies. You have your upbeat groovy spy film track in opener "Diodo", a sludgy, spaced-out blues number ("Distillation"), some space-aged, Mooged-out lounge tracks ("Equilibrium", and the even spacier, Moogier "Psycho-Nebulous"), your acoustic Morricone-ride-into-the-sunset atmosphere piece ("Equivalence"), a playful, Canterbury jazz-rock song ("Compression"), a psychotic, repetitive party jam ("Microchaos", Daft Punk before they were out of diapers) even plenty of Axelrod proto-funk sprinkled throughout. All of it driven by some completely wild, consistently inspired lead FUZZ madness. Some of it reminds me of Italian progressive legend Franco Battiato, who's masterpiece, Fetus, came out a year later. Other parts remind me of a heavier, less slick version of Northern Euro-prog bands like Focus. And then there are definitely strains of stoned madness that are channeling the same wavelengths as Kraut legends Guru Guru and Agitation Free. Hard to believe Distortions is only 35 minutes long!
And how about that album sleeve?! I've actually discovered three versions (one of them has the title as Distortions Pop), but the original Italian sleeve is the keeper, depicting the all-seeing eye spying a fetus, surrounded by a destroyed Stonehenge, dinosaurs, a mushroom cloud, the star of Bethlehem, a crucifix....geesh, I'm not touching the meaning of this one, but it sure looks cool, and it just adds another notch in the totem pole of mystery for this record.
There is some information out there on the further work of Mr. H.Tical, as he was credited, including an experimental synthesizer album titled Impact (which I'm in the process of tracking's just been reissued by the wonderful Creel Pone label) as well as soundtrack work for Italian cult director Jess Franco. But it's Distortions that needs more explanation, or at least a proper, widely available reissue. Why records this incredible continue to go unnoticed, while crap like Thick As a Brick or whatever gets a 2-cd expanded treatment every other year, I'll never understand. For now, it's up to you to track this one down...sniff it out online, look on eBay, pray to the heavens for a random vinyl copy (a promptly send it my way)...just give your brain a taste of Distortions as soon as possible. I just cannot recommend it enough.