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Archive for the ‘Sonic Youth’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: TRAGIC MULATTO-“Freddy” (1987)

I knew of Tragic Mulatto because they were on Alternative Tentacles records (home to Dead Kennedys).  But I’d actually never heard them before, I don’t think. I knew they were a noise rock band, but I had no idea they were quite so explicit.

The main band members were singer Flatula Lee Roth (Gail Coulson), guitarist Richard Skidmark (Tim Carroll) and bassist Reverend Elvister Shanksley aka Lance Boyle (Alistair Shanks).

This five minute song starts like a deranged circus with a swirling saxophone and  a muddled guitar and drum stomp.  Once the music establishes itself, the vocals come in, a deep growly evil spokenish rhyme that I can’t exactly make out.

Around 1:45 Flatuta takes over, singing a refrain of

“Don’t let him cum in your … butt … ear … rear … head … bed … feet … all over your sheets.” etc. that runs for the rest of the song. It’s surprisingly catchy, but you’d not want to sing it at the dinner table.

Fascinatingly, this album is described as featuring more tightly structured music that emphasized melody was less satirical and more serious.

It sounds like Tragic Mulatto, and especially Gail Coulson, (who is said to have possessed a simply astonishing vocals range) were really ahead of their time.

[READ: July 10, 2019] “Marmalade Sky”

I love Nell Zink’s writing and was pretty excited to see that she had a new story.  This is an excerpt from her new book Doxology.

It is 1990, Pam went over to Joe’s place to listen to records.

Joe let Pam in and introduced her to a man holding a piece of black plastic.  His name was Daniel Scoboda and he was holding the Sassy Sonic youth flexi.

Joe said he subscribed to the magazine as soon as he heard about it. But Pam, who introduced herself as Pam Diaphragm, said the magazine wasn’t long for the world.  Whats the demographic? Thirteen year-old girls who fuck?  Advertisers really go for that.

Joe said he’s a Sonic Youth completist. The only thing he doesn’t have is the single “I Killed Christgau with My Big Fuckin’ Dick.”  Daniel said its not a real record, the editor of the magazine made it up.  [I love this Sonic Youth indie rock banter]. (more…)

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 SOUNDTRACKLONELY LEARY-“Flaneur” (2018).

At the end of every year publications and sites post year end lists.  I like to look at them to see if I missed any albums of significance.  But my favorite year end list comes from Lars Gottrich at NPR.  For the past ten years, Viking’s Choice has posted a list of obscure and often overlooked bands.  Gottrich also has one of the broadest tastes of anyone I know (myself included–he likes a lot of genres I don’t).  

Since I’m behind on my posts at the beginning of this year, I’m taking this opportunity to highlight the bands that he mentions on this year’s list.  I’m only listening to the one song unless I’m inspired to listen to more.

One of the things that I love about Lars, and this list is a great example, is how effortlessly multicultural he is.  He doesn’t listen to music because it’s from somewhere, he listens to music wherever it;s from because he likes it.  So this band, with the decidedly English-sounding name Lonely Leary is actually from China.  Lars says that the

The excellent label Maybe Mars documents the current Chinese underground music scene, from the psych-rock of Chui Wan and surfy shoegaze of Dear Eloise to P.K. 14, Beijing’s experimental rock pioneers.

Lonely Leary is a post-punk band which sounds like they would fit right in with Protomartyr or even The Fall, Sonic Youth or Joy Division.  The fact that they are from China and sing in Chinese doesn’t affect the tone and overall feel of the music, it somehow makes it more intense (to my ears).

Lars describes their debut album as one “where noise needles into perversely kitschy surf riffs and hoarsely barked punctuation marks.”  Although I hear less kitschy and more Dead Kennedy’s guitar and feedback noise.

The sounds they achieve throughout the album are great.  “Flaneur” opens the disc with a screaming feedback followed by a rumbling bass.  There’s some great guitar lines from Song Ang (which remind me of Savages) and then Qiu Chi barks his dissatisfaction through to a satisfyingly Dead Kennedys-ish chorus.  There’s even some Savages-esque chanting as the song squeals to and end.

This is great stuff.

[READ: January 4, 2019]  “Father”

Here is a new year and a new essay from Sedaris that perfectly mixes emotional sadness and hilarious light-heartedness.

The night before his fathers 95th birthday, his father turned in the kitchen and fell.  David’s sister and brother-in-law discovered him the next day and brought him to the hospital.  They felt the most disturbing thing was his disorientation, including getting mad at the doctor: “you’re sure asking a lot of questions.”  He was lucid the following day, but he was quite weak.

David was in Princeton on the night his father fell [at a show that I could have been at–we opted not to go this year].   He called his father and said that he needed him to be alive long enough to see trump impeached.

A few months later, his father moved into a retirement home.  David and Hugh visited and at first he seemed out of it, but hr recognized both of them instantly.  The thing was that he was no injured.  He had tried to move his grandfather clock (one of the prized possessions he brought to the home) and it fell on him (for real).  Many family members called the clock Father Time, so David said to Hugh “When you’re 95 and Father Time literally knocks you to the ground, don’t you think he’s maybe trying to tell you something?” (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: MUDHONEY-“Halloween” (1988).

Mudhoney recorded a cover of Sonic Youth’s “Halloween” just two years after the original was released.

Mudhoney, a deliberately noisy and abrasive band recorded a deliberately noisy and abrasive version of this song.  And yet at the same time, it doesn’t hold a candle to Sonic Youth;s version for deliberate noise and chaos.

On the other hand, in many respects the Mudhoney version is better.  It feels more like a “real song” with the guitar, bass and drums all playing along fairly conventionally.  It follows the same musical patterns as the original, with that same cool riff, but it just feels…more.

Mark Arm sing/speaks the lyrics more aggressively and less sensuously than Kim Gordon did.  In some way it helps to understand the original song a little more, as if they translated it from Sonic Youth-land into a somewhat more mainstream version.  Although it is hardly mainstream what with the noise and fuzz, the cursing and the fact that it lasts 6 minutes.

It feels like Mark emphasizes these lyrics more than the others although it may just be that the songs builds more naturally to them:

And you’re fucking me
Yeah, you’re fucking with me
You’re fucking with me
As you slither up, slither up to me
Your lips are slipping, twisting up my insides
Sing along and just a swinging man
Singing your song
Now I don’t know what you want
But you’re looking at me
And you’re falling on the ground
And you’re twisting around
Fucking with my, my mind
And I don’t know what’s going on

Happy Halloween

[READ: October 24, 2018] “From A to Z, in the Chocolate Alphabet”

Just in time for Halloween, from the people who brought me The Short Story Advent Calendar and The Ghost Box. comes Ghost Box II.

This is once again a nifty little box (with a magnetic opening and a ribbon) which contains 11 stories for Halloween.  It is lovingly described thusly:

The Ghost Box returns, like a mummy or a batman, to once again make your pupils dilate and the hair on your arms stand straight up—it’s another collection of individually bound scary stories, edited and introduced by comedian and spooky specialist Patton Oswalt.

There is no explicit “order” to these books; however, Patton Oswalt will be reviewing a book a day on his Facebook page.

Much respect to Oswalt, but I will not be following his order.  So there. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: SONIC YOUTH-“Halloween” (1986).

This early Sonic Youth song is creepy mostly for Kim Gordon’s whispered, drawling, sexy delivery.

The music is a simple, somewhat pretty guitar melody.  The drums are almost tribal toms, that propel the story along.  There are noisy shards from the other guitar.  I don’t hear any bass at all.

The musical motif repeats itself over and over as Kim whispers

There’s something shifting in the distance
Don’t know what it is
Day as dead as nights
Except for the feeling That’s
crawling up inside of me As you
sing your song As you
swing along, and you’re
It’s your, your song
It’s the Devil in me
makes me stare at you As you
twist up along, you
sing your song And you
slithering up to me and You’re
so close I just a
Wanna touch you and I
sing your song And you
don’t know what’s going on
But you want me to come Along
As you sing your, your song

It ends with a hollow bell ringing over and over.

I don’t know what it has to do with Halloween, but it’s pretty creepy (and sexy at the same time).

[READ: October 23, 2018] “The Lake”

Just in time for Halloween, from the people who brought me The Short Story Advent Calendar and The Ghost Box. comes Ghost Box II.

This is once again a nifty little box (with a magnetic opening and a ribbon) which contains 11 stories for Halloween.  It is lovingly described thusly:

The Ghost Box returns, like a mummy or a batman, to once again make your pupils dilate and the hair on your arms stand straight up—it’s another collection of individually bound scary stories, edited and introduced by comedian and spooky specialist Patton Oswalt.

There is no explicit “order” to these books; however, Patton Oswalt will be reviewing a book a day on his Facebook page.

Much respect to Oswalt, but I will not be following his order.  So there. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACKJUST SAY NOËL: A Gift for You from Geffen Records (1996).

This is a weird mix of songs.  I purchased this all those years ago because I loved the Sire Records Just Say series, and this seemed like a fine addition.  But this album really pushes what might have been anticipated in a Christmas collection.

Look at the names!  Beck! Sonic Youth! (when they were riding high), Elastica! But man, this is just a crazy mix of stuff.

BECK-“The Little Drum Machine Boy” (NSFC)
This is like 7 minutes of drum machine nonsense from Beck.  There’s mention of the Hanukkah robot funk.  Gonna drop some Hanukkah science.  And then 7 minutes of Beck’s nonsense lyrics.

AIMEE MANN with MICHAEL PENN-“Christmastime” (NSFC)
This is a little mopey because Aimee is always a little mopey.  The Michael Penn parts are a bit more upbeat.  They sound great together, but “all alone at Christmastime” isn’t really much for holiday cheer.

SONIC YOUTH-“Santa Doesn’t Cop Out On Dope” (NSFC)
I had no idea that this was a cover.  Martin Mull recorded this back in 1973.  That explains the spoken word part that doesn’t sound like something Sonic Youth would construct.  But after the spoken intro, they turn the end into 2 minutes of utter noise.  Thurston sings the actual song almost a capella with strange noises in the background and twinkling bells.  The last 40 seconds are just squelching noise.  And they end with Thurston saying “Merry Christmas, David Geffen.”

THE POSIES-“Christmas” (NSFC)
This song is downbeat and sad (“you made me for the last time.  That’s okay Christmas means little to me”).  The chorus is kind of pretty though.

THE ROOTS-“Millie Pulled A Pistol On Santa” (NSFC)
I had no idea that this was a cover.  And never would have guessed it was originally by The Roots.  It is shockingly about incest. The Roots version is even darker (and the recording features an echoed voice making it even harder to hear the words).

SOUTHERN CULTURE ON THE SKIDS-“Merry Christmas Baby” (NSFC)
This version is bluesy and slightly funky in a very white way.

REMY ZERO-“Christmas” (NSFC)
This is muted and mopey and I have literally no idea what its about.

ELASTICA-“Gloria” (NSFC)
This is without a doubt the best song on this record.  Although as far as I can tell aside from chanting (and playing) the melody from the Christmas song “Gloria In Excelsis Deo” there is no connection to Christmas whatsoever.

WILD COLONIALS-“Christmas Is Quiet” (NSFC)
This is six-minute mellow folk dirge.  Her voice is pretty, but good lord, six minutes?  Even a build up and backing vocals doing la las can’t rescue this.

XTC-“Thanks For Christmas”
Obviously, I love this song as I have mentioned elsewhere.

THE MUSICAL CAST OF TOYS FEATURING WENDY & LISA -“The Closing Of The Year”
The Toys song is such a weird inclusion–clearly it’s only here because they own the rights.  But it’s a really pretty song and it should be played more at the closing of the year, for being a lovely optimistic song.  Even though I like this version, I’d like to hear a cover from someone else with a strong voice (and not necessarily Seal, or whoever that is, joining in).  I’ll bet it could be done really well.

TED HAWKINS-“Amazing Grace”
Hawkins has a low gravelly voice.  This is a lovely cover of just him and his guitar.

So overall, this is a disappointing collection of songs.  Most of them can’t be played in a festive way.  But there are a few rocking standouts.

[READ: December 12, 2017] “Announcements”

Once again, I have ordered The Short Story Advent Calendar.  This year, there are brief interviews with each author posted on the date of their story.

Hello. Welcome. It’s finally here: Short Story Advent Calendar time.

If you’re reading along at home, now’s the time to start cracking those seals, one by one, and discover some truly brilliant writing inside. Then check back here each morning for an exclusive interview with the author of that day’s story.

(Want to join in? It’s not too late. Order your copy here.)

This year I’m pairing each story with a holiday disc from our personal collection.

This was a fun, light-hearted look at Wedding announcements.  And of course, as with any fun, light-hearted look at something, there were undercurrents of seriousness that made the story even better. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: July 22, 2017] Thurston Moore Group

I’ve loved Sonic Youth since the late 1980s.  And yet in all of those years I never saw them live.  Never!  So to make up for that, I quickly snatched up tickets for Thurston Moore’s show at Underground Arts (such a great intimate venue).  Inexplicably, I don’t  think the show sold out.

For this show his band consisted of Thurston on guitar and vocals, Steve Shelley on drums (1/2 of Sonic Youth right there), My Bloody Valentine bassist Debbie Googe (!) and maniac guitarist James Sedwards.

I had the impression that they would play most if not all of their new (fantastic) album Rock n Roll Consciousness.  And that was fine with me.  They did play the whole album, but not in order.

I was talking to the fans around me and we marveled at the lo-tech way their gear was set up–the bass was propped on the bass drum case, guitar amps were stacked on chairs.  And, everyone (except Thurston) came out to prep their own gear.

There were a couple lunatic bozos nearby who just screamed and shouted through the set, but it’s hard to overpower Thurston and Co.  One of these bozos took off his short and threw it on stage–it actually landed on Deb’s bass which I could see pissed her off.  After the song she threw it back into the crowd–it sailed right over my head. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: June 22, 2017] Sneaks

Sneaks was second on the bill opening for Chastity Belt.

I ended my post about Joy Again by coming out of the bathroom.  Well, while I was on line, I kinda thought that Sneaks was standing behind me.  But I’d only watched one video from her so I wasn’t sure and didn’t want to be presumptuous.  Well, I was right, because the woman wearing the Space Jam T-shirt climbed up on stage with the same shirt tied in a knot and, now, glitter all over her face.

I hadn’t heard Sneaks, so I checked out her bandcamp.  Sneaks is basically a one-woman show.  She plays bass and sings/raps/freestyles over her punky bass and a drum machine.  She has a lo-fi recording out and a more polished disc.  I would have loved both of these records when I was in college–the DIY punk attitude is pretty great.  But I didn’t love either one all that much the other day.

But she was great live. (more…)

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