Archive for the ‘Black Flag’ Category

flies2SOUNDTRACK: CIAN NUGENT-Tiny Desk Concert #353 (May 3, 2014).

cianCian Nugent is from Dublin.  In this Tiny Desk Concert, he plays two guitars, including a crappy no name electric guitar with a great raw sound.  For the first song, he plays a pretty acoustic guitar instrumental called “Grass Above My Head.”   It has a slow melody that turns into a ragtime jaunt over the course of 6 and half minutes.

The next two songs are on that electric guitar and are both rather different (he says the songs comes from “incoherent range of the mess that is my musical career”).  Before playing “Hire Purchase” he tells a very funny story about getting a pencil from a garage (and that he uses it to keep his string from detuning–does that work?).  This is an electric guitar instrumental, bluesy and mellow with some great riffs.

The final song, “Nightlife” has words.  It’s a simple blues song. Nugent has a nice delicate voice.  I’m not a big fan of bluesy songs, but he does a great job with this and the other two styles.

He also wrote a song called “My War Blues” which is variations on a Black Flag song (I don’t recognize the original in his version, myself).  But you can hear that here.

[READ: June 4, 2014] King of the Flies 2. The Origin of the World

This book picks up right where Book 1 left off.  This edition was also translated only by Helge Dascher although it says she had help from Dag Dascher and Kim Thomspon (I didn’t notice any change in quality).

As this book starts, Eric’s mother is making serious advances with Francis–the man whom she just met but who she is already calling her fiance.  Eric fantasizes about killing him (his dream sequence mother says this is the 13th time he has killed Francis).  Marie and Eric are still together and, through a strange series of events, Ringo is asking Eric to hold on to a cool looking elephant bowling bag.

By the end of this first story, Eric has saved Becker from drowning.  And yet neither Becker nor Karine bothers to thank him.  Indeed, Karine seems even more angry at him.  But this blow off makes Eric want Karine even more.

In a later story we finally meet Karine’s family who are just as freaked out about her “dating” this old guy.  And, by the end of the story Becker has a heart attack and dies.  When she returns home after the funeral she sees Eric and she confides in him that she is pregnant.

The newest development in the book comes in the next story in which we learn that Damien is a ghost and that he visits everyone that he knew.  Some people who are receptive to seeing him can actually talk with him.  He’s obviously pissed about Eric and Sal, but he has come to terms with a lot of things.  He even forgives the man who killed him (by accident).  He also winds up meeting ghost Becker at some point. (more…)

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mouldbookSOUNDTRACK: BOB MOULD-Silver Age (2012).


I was a huge fan of everything Bob Mould put out.  And then he more or less gave up on music.  So I just enjoyed his past and ignored what else he did.  But then I heard great reviews of his new album Silver Age.  So great in fact, that I couldn’t help but listen to it.  And it is amazing.  It’s a major return to his punkier roots.  The guitars are loud and fast but the melodies are still present.  And what’s more important, his voice sounds great and the album is mixed really well–previous Mould records have suffered in production quality.  But this is a great great record.

“Star Machine” opens the disc with loud guitars, a simple melody and lots of attitude.  I love the repeated “Said It” that appears throughout the song.  “Silver Age” is something of a manifesto for Mould.  The guitars are harsh and jagged with lots of distortion and the lyrics tell you everything: “Never too old to contain my rage  This is how I’m gonna spend my days gonna fight gonna fuck gonna feed gonna walk away.”

“The Descent” is classic Mould–big guitars, great catchy vocals and really nice harmonies/backing vocals.  “Briefest Moment” starts with a thudding drum and a sparse fast guitar (which somehow reminds me of Cheap Trick).  The bass comes in with a galloping line rather than playing the same notes and it adds a lot of depth to the album.  “Steam of Hercules” slows things down a bit but “Fugue State” comes crashing back in with more fast thumping drums and sparse but effective guitars.

“Round the City Square” picks up the noise level and includes a wild guitar solo.  “Angels Rearrange” again sounds like classic Mould.  While “Keep Believing” has a great bridge that reminds me a lot of Hüsker Dü (yes I mentioned the band that should not be named).  “First Time Joy” ends the disc on a gentle note.  It’s a ballad (where you can really hear Mould’s voice and how clean and strong it sounds).  There’s keyboards on this song that add some nice dimension.  By the end the song gets bigger and more powerful, ending on a really strong chord.  It’s an awesome return to the rock fold for Mould and I look forward to more from him.

[READ: March 5, 2013] See a Little Light

After getting The Silver Age, I remembered that Mould had written an autobiography and that I’d heard it was quite good.  I don’t really read a lot of autobiographies, but my history with Mould is pretty deep and I was curious to see what had happened in his life to make him abandon his rock roots.  So I tracked it down.  And I really enjoyed it.

The fascinating thing is what a reasonable man Mould presents himself as.  I’m not disputing this–I don’t know really anything else about the guy–but every time someone dumps on him, he accepts partial responsibility for the problem and moves on.  If he’s really like that, that’s very cool.  But he almost seems too nice sometimes.

As I’ve said, I didn’t know much about Mould.  My friend Al got me into Hüsker Dü and I’ve been a fan ever since.  I’ve bought some of his solo records and all of his band records, but I kind of lost interest in him the last decade or so (during his experimental phase).  But I didn’t even really know why Hüsker Dü broke up.

Some interesting things about Bob: he was born numerically gifted–I really enjoyed the section about his childhood and the genius-y stuff he did.  Although he had a pretty rough childhood–his older brother died when Bob was young and so Bob was seen as a golden child (especially after something that happened to him which he didn’t learn about until much later).  And he started drinking at a very young age.

When he got to college he formed Hüsker Dü with Grant Hart (Greg Norton came a little later).  I enjoyed hearing about the early days of Hüsker Dü because I only learned of them much later.  And man were they productive!  They’d release an album and have new material ready to record before they even toured for the album that came out already.  It’s cool reading about the punk scene back in the days before the internet when bands had to rely on each other for support.  There’s also a lot of people who Bob name checks and it’s fun to hear all of the punk names again, especially the names of people who are still active.  (There’s also some bad vibes against SST, but since this is Mould, the bad vibes are pretty mild). (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: WAVVES-Live at the 9:30 Club (2010).

Wavves opened for Best Coast (what a great double bill).  Wavves play a raucous, rowdy set of bratty punk.  Unlike Best Coast, the lead singer seems like he might be something of a jerk.  But it played pretty well into the personality of the music (sloppy, abrasive).  And I wonder just how many times he said he was drunk?

Personalities aside, the was a really fun set.  I have the newest Wavves album, but I think their live show was more engaging.  For all of their sloppiness, the band was always together, with no missed notes (except when the drummer was apparently not paying attention).

They play 16 songs, including a cover of Black Flag’s “Nervous Breakdown” (which the play very well).  And even if you’re not won over by the singer’s personality (which is kind of funny), you’ll be won over by the simple, punky music.  You can listen here.

[READ: March 29, 2011] The Riddle of the Traveling Skull

This is the 4th book in McSweeney’s Collins Library Series.  It’s the final book in the series that I’ve read and I have to say that once again, Paul Collins has blown me away with this selection.  Collins apparently stopped his library after 6 volumes.  I wondered if there were more coming, but the Collins Library website is rather confusing.  There’s an almanac with updates as recent as March 1st, and yet the Biography of Paul Collins says: Paul Collins is currently on tour in support of his memoir, Sixpence House, which recounts his time spent living in the Welsh town of Hay-on-Wye, known as the “Town of Books.”  But Sixpence House came out in 2003 (and it sounds awesome!).

Anyhow, back to this book, which was my favorite of the bunch.  It is a genuine mystery from 1939.  Indeed, Harry Stephen Keeler was even more prolific than Agatha Christie (they were born in the same year).  The thing about Keeler though is that his stories are, well, crazy.  Many of his stories were just his attempts to meld disparate ideas into one story.  He includes crazy dialect.  He seems to have no concern for conventional storytelling.  Indeed, he has little concern for conventional mystery storytelling (in one of his stories, he introduced the murderer on the last page).

And this story has similar improbable elements.

In sum: Clay Calthorpe, a salesman returning from the Philipines picks up the wrong bag on the trolley.  When he gets home he finds a skull inside it.  The skull has a name plate affixed to it, a bullet inside it and, in the wads of paper that are keeping the bullet from rattling around, he finds the carbon copy of a poem. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: BLACK FLAG: The Process of Weeding Out (1985).

Fans of Black Flag were (justifiably) freaked out by this EP.  It’s a four songs that clock in at almost 30 minutes (from the band who gave us the one-minute long hit “Wasted”).

This album is all instrumental and it provided Greg Ginn yet another outlet for his experimental guitar workouts (see also: Gone, October Faction, Saccharine Trust, Tom Troccoli’s Dog etc.)

So what you get is Kira’s fantastic and unusual bass riffs (she did amazing work with Black Flag), Bill Stevenson’s intense (and cymbal fueled) drums and Greg Ginn’s what the hell? guitars.  I’ve always found Ginn’s guitar work to be somewhat off.  It always struck me that maybe he didn’t exactly know how to play the guitar.  And yet he was always right on with his riffs and chords, it’s just that his solos never conformed to any standard version of guitar solo I’d ever heard.

So this EP comes across more as fee jazz than punk.  “Your Last Affront” is 9 minutes of chaos all under-girded by an interesting if unconventional riff.  It’s followed by the two-minute “Screw the Law” a much faster song, with an intense riff repeated for much of it.  The last 30 seconds or so has some screaming solos from Ginn, but of all the tracks, this is probably the most user-friendly.

The second side has the title track starts with a lengthy solo from Ginn.  A few minutes in, Stevenson’s drums come clacking around the place and Kira is somewhat relegated to the back as her bass is steady but not that exciting.  Until about 3 and a half minutes in, when the band takes over and Kira plays a super cool riff and when Ginn joins in, the song is really solid.  “Southern Rise” ends the disc with 5 minutes of relative quiet.  Although the main instrument appears to be the drums.

The whole things sounds like they were jamming in Greg’s garage.  And I’ll bet lots of fun was had in that garage.

[READ: March 15, 2011] three items about what didn’t make it into Infinite Jest

In honor of The Pale King’s release this week, I’m doing this post on Infinite Jest-related stuff.  This is all of the stuff that we lay people have access to without going to the Wallace archives to find all of the cool DFW stuff.

After finishing IJ this summer, I found out that it was initially much much longer (I think around 300 pages longer).  I grew mildly obsessed with wondering what had gotten cut.  And I had to wonder, if you have an 1100 page book, what difference would an extra 500 pages make, really?  Initially, I thought that the things that were cut were just minor changes, but then I heard about fairly large things that were removed.  And I dreamed of a “director’s cut” of the book.  That will never happen, and that’s fine (I’m less obsessed now).  But these little glimpses into scenes that didn’t make the book are fascinating.

And all told, they confirm that most of the cuts were minor, although there were some large scenes that were left on the cutting room floor. (more…)

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I listened to this collection of (then) old and new SST artists almost nonstop the summer I bought this.  I remember my friend Al disliking it quite a bit–except for Hüsker Dü, of course.  (I wonder if he would change his mind about any of it now).

This LP was a kind of transition record from the standard bearers of SST (Black Flag, Hüsker Dü, The Minutemen) to the then new young bands (DC3, Angst, Gone).  The Allmusic review dismisses the disc out of hand, but I think that the disc has held up very well.  I didn’t follow SST records too closely in the 90s so I’m not sure what they were doing, but for whatever reason, most of the bands that the average listener hasn’t heard of were dropped (and sadly most of those discs are long out of print, some never released on CD at all–MP3s do appear to be available). The exception of course is any band that Greg Ginn played in (which is most of them, actually), which he of course has kept in print on SST.

SAINT VITUS-“Look Behind You” This song opens the disc and seems to introduce right away that SST is no longer just a punk label.  This is a very metal sound with a wah wahed and fuzzed out guitar all the way through.  It’s mixed in a weird way (which could be SST), which undermines the real heaviness and actually adds some cool effects.

DC3-“Theme From an Imaginary Western” as mentioned, an awesome track.

SWA-“Mystery Girl” a fuzzy distorted track.  It’s heavy, but not very heavy.

BLACK FLAG-“I Can See You” is one of those Black Flag tracks that is all about Greg Ginn’s weird guitar.  He plays a simple melody out of tune with crazy guitar solos over the top.  Rollins is on vocals which are mostly spoken here.  It’s a bizarre throwaway kind of song that I really like.

GONE-‘Watch the Tractor”  This is a wonderful instrumental.  High speed with a great riff that propels about half of the song.  The other half is a heavy kind of mosh that breaks up the proceedings nicely.  This is one of the few bands that no one has heard of from thee days of SST that actually have the album still in print (because Greg Ginn is on it).

WURM-“Death Ride” is not a very good song, but one which I always liked for its simplicity and stupidity. The screamed chorus is really catchy.

OVERKILL-“Over the Edge”  This is not the famous metal band Overkill, but a different metal band named Overkill who got shuffled aside by the (arguably) better, bigger one.  This is the only song I know from this Overkill (now known as Overkill L.A.) and I really like it.  It has a great riff and vocals like Lemmy.

SACCHARINE TRUST-“Emotions and Anatomy” is one of several odd, improvised tracks on this compilation. It seems like perhaps everyone is playing his own thing and the lyrics are some strange little rant.

PAINTED WILLIE-“The Big Time” is more raucous style of song, reminiscent of earlier SST recording.  The most interesting part comes at the end with the falsetto voices threatening to take over the song.  They play a kind of sloppy punk-lite that would likely be very popular today.

ANGST-“Just Me” After DC3 this is my second favorite unknown song on the album.  It has a great bass line with some angular guitars over the top.  It actually sounds a lot like later Hüsker Dü, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

MEAT PUPPETS-” I Just Want to Make Love To You” I’ve like the Meat Puppets for ages.  And this absurd cover of the blues song is one of the oddest songs this odd band has recorded.  The solo sounds like it comes from under a volcano.  It’s not a great song (and should probably be two minutes shorter), but it is kind of fun.

MINUTEMEN-“Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love” The always awesome Minutemen engage us with this awesome cover of Van Halen’s “Aint Talkin’ ‘Bout Love.  In 1 minute they undermine all of the overblownedness of the original.  Check out the live version here.

HÜSKER DÜ-“Erase Today” This is simply fantastic.  This is an early punk song of theirs.  Catchy and fast and wonderful.

OCTOBER FACTION-“I Was Grotesque” Another weird improv piece.   It’s filled mostly with drums and strange rantings–kind of beatniky.  Here’s a live show from the band from 1984.

TOM TROCCOLI’S DOG-“Todo Para Mi”  This song has a cool riff. Although Troccoli’s voice is questionable at best.  It more or less devolves into a nonsense jam and is too long at 6 minutes.  It’s not a great way to end the album, but maybe it’s last for a reason.

[READ: March 21, 2011] “Who Am I?”

I have been hearing about Demetri Martin for a few years now.   How he’s the hot new comic. And yet I’ve never come across anything he’s done (even though I think Comedy Central repeated his shows practically on the hour when they first aired). So this short piece is my first exposure to him.  I’m going to assume it is not a fair representation of his comedy as he is normally a stand up and writing is not the same as stand up.  (That’s not to say it’s not good, just that it’s not his natural medium).

This was a short piece in the New Yorker’s Shouts and Murmurs section. It asks and answers the titular question “Who Am I?” (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: DC3-“Theme from an Imaginary Western” (1985).

This song comes from the SST compilation The Blasting Concept Volume II, which came out in 1985.  I bought it on vinyl and was psyched when it came out on CD.   This version of an old Mountain song was one of my favorite songs on the disc (I don’t even know the Mountain version very well).

DC3 was the brainchild of Dez Cadena, former singer for Black Flag.  They put out a couple of albums and then disappeared.  And yet all these years later this song has stayed with me.  For a singer from Black Flag, this song is remarkably poppy (and features a lengthy keyboard solo!).  The real treasure of this song for me comes at the first chorus.  When the band sings “Oh the sun was in their eyes…” the vocals begin in a disparate, perhaps minor key harmony, and then merge into a perfect harmony.   It gets me every time.

DC3’s records have never been released on CD, and the vinyl is out of print. There’s a live CD out, but I’ve never heard it.   So, as far as I can tell, this is the only studio song available in the world.  Maybe the albums are terrible, but DC3 will always be great because of this one track.

Oh, and someone posted it on YouTube


[READ: March 22, 2011] Consider David Foster Wallace [essays 13-16]

This is the final batch of essays from this collection about David Foster Wallace.  The first is about Oblivion and the last three are about his non-fiction.  Perhaps it’s because I have been reading his non-fiction a lot lately (or maybe I enjoy reading essays about nonfiction more than fiction) but I found these to be the most enjoyable essays in the book.

As I’ve stated with each post, because I don’t have a lot to say about the pieces (I’m not an academic anymore), I’m only going to mention things that I found puzzling/confusing.  But be assured that if I don’t mention the vast majority of the article it’s because I found it interesting/compelling/believable.  I don’t feel comfortable paraphrasing the articles’ argument, so I won’t really summarize. (more…)

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I’ve liked Black Flag since I bought Loose Nut on vinyl way back when (1985, the year punk broke for me).  And those four bars were iconic to me even before I had heard a note (although I just learned they are supposed to represent a flag waving).

And this is where their legend really took off.  So a few things I never knew about this album until I looked them up recently.  1) That’s Rollins on the cover punching the mirror.  2) He didn’t really punch the mirror (it was smashed prior and the blood is fake).  3) I knew that Black Flag existed for a while before Rollins’ arrival and that they’d had a series of singers before him.  But I didn’t realize what a their first EP (Nervous Breakdown–Keith Morris on vocals) came out in 1978, their second EP (Jealous Again–Ron Reyes on vocals–credited as Chavo Pederast (he left the band in the middle of a live show, so they changed his name to that rather offensive one)) came out in 1980.  Their third EP (Six Pack –Dez Cadena on vocals) came out in 1981.  Rollins joined a few months after that and Damaged–their first full length–came out in December 1981.

“Rise Above” is a wonderfully angry song.  The gang vocals of pure empowerment work so well with the chords.  It’s still effective thirty years later.  “Spray Paint” goes in the other direction: rather than an uplifting, catchy chorus, it’s a deliberately angular chorus that’s hard to sing along to (even for Rollins).

“Six Pack” represents the more “popular” side of the band.  And it is a wonderfully funny single.  I just can’t decide if it’s serious or ironic (see also “TV Party”).  These two dopey songs are great to sing along to and are simply awesome.  (Fridays!)

The rest of the album turns away from the lighthearted tracks.  “What I See” is a really dark moment on this album.  And the negativity is unusual especially given Rollins’ later penchant for lyrics about fighting back.  True, Rollins didn’t write these lyrics.

“Thirsty and Miserable” is a blast of noise with some of Ginn’s first real guitar solos (which Guitar World says is as one of the worst guitar solos in history…and I say really? that’s the solo they pick?  Ginn has done some pretty outlandishly bad solos over the years…of course the whole list is questionable at best).  “Police Story” is a simple but effective description of the punks vs cops scene at the time.

“Gimme Gimme Gimme” seems childish, but that’s clearly the point.  “Depression” is a super fast track.  (Trouser Press considered Black Flag America’s first hardcore band).  “Room 13” is an odd musical track, with pretty much no bass.  It’s just some roaring guitars and drums and Rollins’s screams.  This track stands out because Chuck Dukowski’s bass propels most of the songs here.

“No More” sounds “typically” hardcore: very fast with the chanted chorus of “No More No More No More No More.”  “Padded Cell” is also fast (and is pretty hard to understand) except for the “Manic” chant, but the following track “Life of Pain” features what would become a signature Greg Ginn sound…angular guitars playing a riff that seems slightly off somehow.  Compelling in a way that’s hard to explain.

It’s funny that a band that plays as fast as they did also released some pretty long songs. “Damaged II” is almost 3 and a half minutes long.  It has several different parts (and a pretty catchy chorus).  And the final song “Damaged I” is a kind of crazed rant from Rollins;  It’s one of his scariest vocal performances; he sounds really deranged.  Especially when it sounds like he just cant think of anything else to say so he just screams maniacally.  But his vocals are mixed behind the music as if he’s trying really hard to get heard.  There’s very little else on record like it.

It’s a wonderful end to an intense disc, and the beginning of a brief but powerful career.

[READ: March 25, 2011] The Life of Polycrates

I’ve been reading Connell for a few years now.  In fact, the first time I posted about his work came with a blistering dismissal of his story “The Life of Captain Gareth Caernarvon” in McSweeney’s 19.  That story is included here, and upon rereading it, I learned two things:

  • One: context is everything.
  • Two: I was totally and completely wrong in that original review, and I take it back.

But before I explain further, some background about this book.  This is a collection of eleven stories, eight of which have appeared elsewhere.  Unfortunately there’s no dates of publication included so I don’t know how old any of these stories are.

The other thing I’m fascinated about is Connell himself.  I’m not the kind of reader who wants to know a ton of details about the author, but I like a little bit of bio (or a photo) when I read someone.  The only bio that is consistently presented about Connell is that he was born in Santa Fe, New Mexico.  I’m fascinated by this because so many of his stories are set in Europe.  So I have concocted a master biography about Connell’s life and how he has lived and toured extensively in Europe, studied theology (and found it wanting) and investigated all of the world’s darker corners.

It’s this latter aspect that really altered my perception of Connell’s writing.  I’ve liked the last few things that he’s written, but I fear that I was not looking at him through the proper lens.  And this relates back to bullet point one above.

Connell writes in a world not unlike H.P. Lovecraft–a world that is unconventional, dark and more than a little twisted.  And yet, unlike Lovecraft, there is very little of the fantastical in his stories.  Rather, his characters reside in our own world (with a little chymical help from time to time), but they are all real.  They’re just not characters most of us choose to associate with.  So, reading that first story in McSweeney’s, where it was so different from all those others, I found it really distasteful.  In retrospect, I’m not going to say that it is meant to be distasteful, although some of his stories are, but it was certainly not a pleasant story by any means.

The other fascinating thing to note about this book is that all of the stories are written in short, Roman Numeraled segments.  So the title story has 35 segments.  But even some of the shorter ones has twelve or thirteen segments (sometimes a segment is just a few lines long).    I actually enjoy this style (especially when the segments introduce something totally new into the story–which many of these do). (more…)

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