Urban Rag #27 June 1999

Volcanic - Rut Records 1091 Castle Drive, Watkinsville, GA., 30677. Quirky Oddball Fun! These kids have been peeking through a hole in the woman’s dressing room at Ames. - A mixture of styles; familiar and bizarre, with enough cool little weird guitar parts to keep it interesting, without becoming just about that. Good stuff, if you like odd. - Peter Head

Birdy “Subnormal Paraphernalia” - Cropduster Records 78 Trask Ave., Bayonne, NJ 07002. In keeping with the theme, of at least one other CD in this issue, Birdy has a true, slide-ish-guitar driven country-western track on their CD. “One Pretty Mess,” which highlight’s former Aquanettas drummer Stephanie Seymour’s soulful vocal abilities. While there’s a bit much guitar at times, (this from a guy who denounced any band with keyboards until 1988) the songs are strong, well written, and beautifully recorded. - Ment

Black 47, Other Artists, East Durham Irish Festival, East Durham, NY 5/29/99 As they wound up there highly charged set with Funky Ceili, I wondered if one-hit wonders ever tire of THAT one song. Black 47 is not really a one-hit wonder but has faded from the limelight in the last five years. The band has soldiered on, touring tirelessly and playing to enthusiastic crowds like this one. I like the blend of traditional Irish instruments like recorders, fiddles, and accordions with a standard rock sound. Their forays into rap and reggae are ambitious but a little too watered down for my taste. There were many other fine bands at the fest including The Prodigals, a NYC band that is more akin to the Pogues - more traditional Irish and a little less rock than Black 47. Also saw Andrea Rice, “Ireland’s Little Lady of Folk” who performed familiar tunes such as the Pogues’ irreverent sendup of London, “Dirty Old Town” as well as her own songs. - EAK

Chef Aid “The South Park Album” - American Records Hey. Pretty soon it’s going to be 1999, and that realization gives anyone pause, from the most whacked Millennial death-cult aficionados to jaded junkie trash laying half-dead in the street. Falling somewhere in between, this writer has been thinking about the future too, and grasped quickly that he doesn’t know enough to make any cogent, worthwhile predictions about what things to come are going to be like. Except to say that sometime around 2010, there’s probably going to be a ‘90’s revival, so all the stuff that you hate about now will be dug up and glorified and will probably look good through the thick haze of nostalgia combined with evil marketing techniques yet to come. Remember how everybody used to know that as the sun rises in the east, disco sucks the root, but we all forgot about that and had to be cruelly re-educated by dressing in bad clothes and listening to the same music as our parents without benefit of the good, cheap drugs they had. One thing that will stand up on its own merits is, surprisingly enough, this South Park album. I say surprisingly because most of these gimmick TV-based albums aren’t very good. But “Chef Aid” manages to preserve the show’s humor and adds some pretty cool tunes as well. The digital glory of Cartman’s rendition of “Come Sail Away” totally kicks Styx’s ass -like that’s hard - and is genuinely moving to boot. And it’s well worth the price to have such Chef classics as “Chocolate Salty Balls” and “No Substitute”-the “Oh, Kathie Lee” song-forever available on CD. And such numbers as Master P’s “Kenny’s Dead,” Devo’s “Huboon Stomp” and Perry Farrell and D.V.D.A.’s “Hot Lava” are pretty damn good. Pretty goddamned good indeed is the brilliant mating of Ozzy Osbourne, Ol’ Dirty Bastard/Big Baby Jesus, DMX, fuzzbubble and The Crystal Method on “Nowhere to Run (Vapor Trail).” If the metal thing ever goes south, I really think the Ozzman’s got a future in rap. Also fantastic is Ween’s “The Rainbow,” where the boys fuse the Beatles with America (the old group, not the country) and give it a hilariously deranged, yet totally tuneful, twist. So if you’re going to the yard to dig a hole for your time capsule, throw this CD in. When thieves down the line try and take your money by convincing you that abominations like Monica Lewinsky, Puff Daddy, Jennifer Love Hewitt and “Dharma and Greg” are wistful reminders of a simpler, happier time, this’ll be a good antidote. - D. X. Barton.

Danielle Howle and the Tantrums “Do a Two Sable” - Daemon Records PO Box 1207 Decatur, GA 30031. It’s a little older than some of the cds in the main part of this issue, but well worth discovering. I first heard of Howle, solo, from a live CD recorded at an intimate performance in a museum, also on Daemon. Then there was a CD with band, that I wasn’t crazy about. In fact, I was disappointed. This one however... Wow! What an absolutely beautiful recording. I keep listening, like the first time I heard her come out of my speakers. Howles voice, still backed by a full band is, as it was on that first CD. Full of surprises, sexy, strong. The one tune that grabbed me the strongest was a country-western ditty called “If You Wanna Leave,” which I played over and over, and howled along with. If you like rock, if you like smart, intelligent, and clever lyrics, if you like women who can write, sing, and play rock and roll, you will like Danielle Howle. There’s just no two-ways about it. Buy it! - Ment

Gil Scott “Heron The Gil Scott-Heron Collection” - Rumal-Gia Records 23 E. 4th St. NY, NY Two major developments in 1998 - the formation of Rumal-Gia Records by Gil Scott-Heron and the re-release of rare recordings by the writer, singer, activist, and performer on the label. This CD was a sampler with recordings from the 1st three re-releases: Winter in America (1974), The First Minute of a New Day (1975) and From South Africa to South Carolina (1975)..The original vinyl recordings, which Scott-Heron recorded with Brian Jackson, are very hard to find - Winter in America was only released in New York, Philly, and DC. You may be most familiar with his spoken word piece “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised” later borrowed by Public Enemy. Whether mixing his humor, political activism, and street level view in spoken word or over some 70s blues with a African/Carribean percussive elements, Scott-Heron entertains and enlightens. Hopefully the re-release of these albums will turn on a whole new generation to a radical with a keen sense of humanity, humor, and insight. - EAK

Hot Tuna “Live in Japan” I was never into these guys when they weren’t fat and old, but fans of the band won’t be disappointed, the music hasn’t changed a bit. - Head

Loser’s Lounge Tribute to Lee Hazlewood Live at The Fez Under Time Cafe NYC 4/24/99 Who is Lee Hazlewood? Perhaps best known for penning the Nancy Sinatra hit that became a favorite cover for many punk bands - “These Boots Were Made for Walking,” Hazlewood was a highly successful writer and producer for several decades. To the lounge-y accompaniment of David Terhune and the Kustard Kings, more than two dozen performers with mostly amazing voices, sang Hazlewood’s tunes. Notable performers include Martha Wainwright (sister of Rufus, daughter of Loudon) singing Sugartown with a pure Sarah Vaughn type voice, the very bluesy Sophia Ramos, Eddie Zwieback - best known as a bouncer at CBGBs, and one of my all-time favorite musicians - J. Mascis, who played guitar and shared singing duties on “Sundown, Sundown” with the talented Tiffany Anders, who appeared on the Mike Watt all-star CD project. “Last of the Secret Agents” was vamped up by the Ho-Hos, a group including Cathy Cervenka, who I don’t believe is related to Exene but did at one time work with my friend Juan. The Fez also gets high marks for being a darn classy joint. - EAK

Make Up “I Want Some” - K Records Box 7154 Olympia, Wash. 98507. A compilation of singles from numerous labels, “I Want Some,” is an interesting look at a post-punk band that’s clearly been doing it for some time, and doing it well. It’s got that excellent organ sound that most bands are afraid to use, for fear of accusations of Doors-envy, and while I wish the women singing back-up sang more lead, I’ve got no complaints. I’m not sure this is the type of stuff you sing along with, or that you would want to, but you could definitely groove to it. Or, as the label might put it: shake your money maker. The band appears on K, courtesy Dischord Records. “We’re having a baby, it’s gonna come soon, It’s gonna be painful..” ?!? “I want to eat pomegranate seeds.” !?! aren’t those poisonous? - Ment

Molotov Cocktail “United States of Poverty and Shame” CBGB Records Ltd., 315 Bowery, New York, NY 10003. I forgot this was on the latest incarnation of CB’s record label, and figured it was another punk record, by a punk band doing it well. Punka, punka, punka, punka - then “Therapy,” and “Alcohol” played and I rose from my unexpected mid-afternoon stupor (I dunno what it is, either I was up too late, or ate too much crap the day berfore, but I felt like total hell the day I first listened to this in the office - but it got me up.) “Therapy” was the sort that you’d see buzz-cut punkers flailing their arms to at a Sunday Matinee in days of old. Of course I rarely went to those all ages shows, though for a time they were the only ones for which I was eligible. Lots of speed, and a decidedly New York sound, unlike some of that stuff New Red Archives releases, which has a decidedly “western” a.k.a. west coast flavor. If I still lived in NYC, I’d get out to see these guys- maybe even feeling like shit - they’d pick me up. - Ment

Moths, Live at Arlene Grocery, NYC 4/24/99, Valentines, Albany NY, 5/8/99 - I’ve seen (and reviewed) the Moths often enough to note changes in their performance. They were tight at these shows, while still maintaining their blend of high energy and distortion heavy guitar mayhem. Nice change-ups like a country version of Chicken Bone. I also finally figured out who I am reminded of on some of their mildly dissonant rhythms - The Faith Healers. They shared the bills with some fine acts like Swimmer (Arlene), Pour Jayce (Valentine’s) and Acoustic Trauma. The Albany show was a benefit to save Valentine’s, Albany’s last remaining home of live rock, which was recently purchased by Albany music scene veteran Howe Glassman. Good luck Howe and crew. - EAK

Motorhead, Hatebreed, Dropkick Murphys, Live at The Chance, Poughkeepsie, NY, 6/2/99. Truly a pleasure to see these heavy metal icons on the last night of their most recent US tour (they plan to be back!). This is rollicking, raunchy old metal from the 1970s, loud and hard. The band shows their age in clever innovations from years of touring, like a drink holder attached to the mic stand, but not in terms of the abundant energy that went into their 1 1/2 hour set. Set included old faves like Ace of Spades and new ones such as Love For Sale, a highlight on the Bride of Chucky soundtrack. The unique rococo theater that is The Chance provided an upstairs balcony for the long-haired, aging bikers there to see Motorhead and a downstairs where buzzcut, pierced teen-aged fans of the support acts could mosh. Drop-kick Murphys combined fast hard punk rock with a anthem-ic, bellowing baritone which indicated they may have listened to the Pogues as often as they listened to DRI. They proved they were indeed Irish Bostonites by including a traditional drinking song in their set. - EAK

Portishead “Roseland NYC Live - Go!Beat/London As long as you’re throwing stuff in the time capsule, be sure to toss in this album, if you can bring yourself to part with it. Because 10, 15 years from now, when they download directly into your cortex an ad for End Times: Best Tunes of the Last “Days” ‘90’s revival box set, they’ll have tons of stuff by Hole, Marilyn Manson, Beck and other crap-foisters, but they’re likely to forget all about Portishead. Like J.S. Bach and Vinnie Van Gogh, Portishead’s genius may never be fully appreciated in their own time. But like the aforementioned, their work will hold up in times to come. Unlike most modern electronica/trip-hop, Portishead doesn’t sound like a bunch of high school kids who got hold of that CD-ROM music maker program they endlessly shill on MTV. Nope, Portishead are real artists, and the way you can tell that is their live album makes you want to kick yourself for not going to the slow. A symphony-sized string section combined with Beth Gibbons’ earnestly longing and spooky vocals and Geoff Barrow’s spot-on scratching gives the powerful Portishead even more torque live, making the darkness flow like a rich, sweet, deadly fount from the nether depths. While many of today’s touted performers embarrass themselves and cheat their audience when they hit the stage, Portishead takes advantage of a live concert’s immediacy and turns it up a belt full of notches. Gibbons, who may yet get her due as one of today’s top vocalists, flashes the full range of her might on “Sour Times.” “Humming” sounds even more like the perfect theme music for a really good horror film (if they ever make one of them again) than it does on the studio album. And “Glory Box” made me regret all the times I didn’t give whatever romantic relationship I was in my complete effort and attention. So if you like Portishead, you’ll love this album. If you don’t like Portishead, God help you, you’re not that bright. - D. X. Barton.

Soulive, Live at Joyous Lake, 4/17/99, Woodstock, NY. This fabulous trio consists of two Evans brothers who had previously played in Moon Boot Lover - a frenetic funk band that really rocked a few years back. Perhaps the recent lounge trend gave them leave to explore a more blues-jazz sound. The Evans play clean spare jazz drums and the Hammond B3 organ - the organ sound which calls to mind New Orleans blues and early R & B. The guitarist, formerly of a band called Lettuce which I’ve never heard of, adds some masterful and sparkling guitar work. Their exuberant show really packs the dance floor, and they have apparently captured that spirit on their CD “Get Down” (Soulive Records) which was recorded with no overdubs. - EAK

Spin Doctors, Live at The Chance, Poughkeepsie, NY 5/11/99. The opener crammed onto the very front edge of the stage, the way local favorites who open for headliners often do. I forget their name - or never knew it, but their sound ranged from attempts at the pop-harmonies of REM, to the gravel-throated rock of Pearl Jam. If there’s a band opening there more than once in any given month, chances are it’s them. Spin Doctors opened the set with “Pocket Full of Kryponite,” then - and I apologize, launched into a tune I’ve never heard. Though I’ve always liked the band - and their videos (I remember something, maybe “Cleopatra’s Cat,” filmed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art), I’ve never taken the time to get my hands on an album. That may change, once “Here Comes the Bride” is released. There was an excellent new song from that one done midway, with Chris Barron rapping into a bull horn, with flashing red lights whenever he pressed the siren button, and during solos. They played other hits too. And, by the end - I was glad to have recognized more than just the first. When they wrapped up a couple of encores, the band took the time to hi-five some of the crowd, and shake a few hands - gentlemen. Barron said the band was just back from Portugal, but my girlfriend and I suspect it was more-likely a hazy weekend on the sofa. - Ment

Spitfire “The Dead Next Door” - Solid State Records P.O. Box 12698 Seattle, WA 98111-4698 Solid punk metal with screeching guitars and fast minimal drumming. The vocal keeps it interesting - varying from that throaty growl that is pretty much standard in the speed-metal genre to a sweet sounding David Pirner-ish sound on the first track. The remainder of the CD is more typical of the hardcore/speed-metal genre, but is still satisfying. - EAK

The Beta Band “The Three EPS” - Astralwerks Since I’m not that cool nor that in touch anymore, the first I’d heard of this Beta Band was when I got this CD, a compilation of-guess what? - three EPs this Anglo-Scotch outfit released in the past two years, though they’re apparently all the rage among the cool and in-touch both here and abroad. But that’s bonus for you, dear readers, as I can foist an opinion untainted by hype or legend. And here it is-the first EP, “Champion Versions,” kicks a whole lotta ass, the second, “The Patty Patty Sound,” is about 50 percent good, and the third, “Los Amigos del Beta Bandidos” is pretty much pure liquid shit. Since they were put on the CD in order of release, this inverse quality/time curve isn’t promising. The numbers that work the best - “Dry the Rain,” “I Know,” and “B+A” - are good ol’ classic rock numbers with more hooks than Melissa Mounds’ bra. Like a bottle of Saranac Black & Tan, you may enjoy detecting the flavor notes: there’s King Crimson here, pre-Dark Side Pink Floyd there, a bit of Stone Roses to freshen things up, and a nice Beatles finish. The numbers that don’t work, which un-happily make up most of the disc, are pretty much lo-tech apings of The Orb, with more noodling than a boatload of ramen. Which is too bad, because these guys obviously have some talent, but seem to lack focus and discipline. Still, if you can accept paying for a CD with about 35 percent good stuff on it (nice to know this in advance for a change, ain’t it?), you may find it a happy addition to your collection. I found it to be a nice relaxing balm to this spring’s Kosovo/Columbine widening spire of violence, as listening to the good Beta Band allows one to put up a gauzy wall of apathy. If I was walking down Fifth Avenue with “B+A” on my discman and I was to look up to see a 747 heading towards me with those two little Nazi bastards at the controls, I imagine I wouldn’t feel too upset at all. - D.X

The Revenants, “Artists and Whores” - Epiphany Recordings. Barton 1303 W. 21st Street Tempe, AZ 85282 - I generally stay off the country music with the exception of cultural icons like Johnny and crossover bands like the Old 97s. The Revenants are in the latter category which I guess is now called alt.country. This great recording has little akin to the pop country produced in Nashville these days, mainly thanks to Bruce Connole, formerly of the Suicide Kings. The winsome hoarseness in his voice and street ethic seem like they would be suited to a rockabilly band, and Connole did indeed cut his teeth in rock music. His voice meshes well with the stand-up bass, pedal-steel guitar, and Dobro, producing a satisfying product. Also features the talents of Deke Taylor, formerly of Gin Blossoms. - EAK

Tooth and Nail Records Compilation “Songs from the Penalty Box” This comp is packed with heavy, tight, punchy power bands. Lots of wild-ass guttural punk howling and dynamic stops, starts, and hooks. Occasionally there’s a band mixed in that has a more melodic sound. Every band has merit, and the sound production is of superior quality. Check it out. - Head.


because some old music is good music

Scumtron : A Tribute to Merzbow - Mute/Blast First. OK, I always get a laugh from these Cds, and the whole Electronica-Noize movement is one I used to be a part of, making strange sounds from things that weren’t meant to be used that way. Of course this one was so severe at times (in my opinion - naturally) - that I actually did pull over to skip a track or two. It’s a compilation of tracks from ‘96 mostly, I think. But, it’ll sound as fresh as ever today - if you dare. Lot’s of feedback, lots and lots of feedback. - Ment

Sister 7 “This the Trip” - Arista Austin 7 Music Circle North, Nashville, TN., 37203. Whoo-hoo. “Lovin you’s like a bottle rocket.” Get the idea, macho chick-fronted rock, the sort you hear described with phrases like kick-ass. But I don’t call it that. I call it a little predictable. At times, more interesting at others. I must have listened to it a half dozen times before pulling it from the portable. Not because I couldn’t get enough, but because I was curious to see if it would grow on me - which it never did. I like the music - but maybe Patrice Pike’s accent is a bit much for me, or maybe since dating that painter from North Carolina a few years back, I’m less inclined to enjoy that sort of southern style. I can’t be sure what it is, but I’m going to put this one aside to revisit later. - Ment

Irma Pane “Haruska: Pop Indonesia” IPDisc 10005 Crestleigh Lane, Potomac, MD 20854. Uh, yeah. Yup, Indonesian pop, no doubt about it. How do these people find me? This one may have been submitted for a&r purposes, so I guess Pane wants to join Pitchfork Militia on Wagon Train Records. I dunno. - Ment

Mirabal - Warner Western/ Real West Productions 800 18th Ave., South, Nashville Tenn., 37203. Billed as Alter-Native, for the Native-American undertones on this CD, Mirabal succeeds in mixing the traditional sounds of that culture with modern rock sensibilities. I’m not sure if the end result is sensible, but there it is. I like it, but I’m not sure I’d think to listen to it, except years from now, when I’m flipping through this issue of Urban Rag. It’s almost like the whole CD is based on such an extraordinary gimmick, or if you prefer “concept,” that Mirabal couldn’t help but be signed. And, I believe this isn’t his only album. - Ment

Jamshied Sharifi’s “A Prayer for the Soul of Layla” - Alula Records PO Box 15867, Durham, NC 27704. This is one of those world-beat-type records, that I wish I’d listened to sooner, that way I could have been enjoying it all this time. The line-up includes an experimental line-up who’s who, and who’s that? At least for me, including the likes of Pat Metheny Group vocalist Pedro Aznar, and earlier Paula Cole (I think it’s the same one you’ve heard). The CD’s got a decidedly Middle Eastern slant, although at times it’s admittedly jazzy. Largely instrumental, with a few more song-like tracks, it’s not unlike some of those sitar CDs I’ve acquired in recent years. There are mostly strong tracks up front, then a few I would have skipped had I not been driving during the multiple times I first listened to this CD, or had I the foresight to pre-program around them. Really nice stuff for the open minded - don’t get me wrong. - Ment

Scumtron : A Tribute to Merzbow - Mute/Blast First. OK, I always get a laugh from these Cds, and the whole Electronica-Noize movement is one I used to be a part of, making strange sounds from things that weren’t meant to be used that way. Of course this one was so severe at times (in my opinion - naturally) - that I actually did pull over to skip a track or two. It’s a compilation of tracks from ‘96 mostly, I think. But, it’ll sound as fresh as ever today - if you dare. Lot’s of feedback, lots and lots of feedback. - Ment