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Music Reviews

Smith, Slim/Aggrovator [coll] – [Abraham Records]

Rococo   7/5/2005   7-inch, Reggae

The history of reggae music was written on 7″ singles and here’s another slab of musical history courtesy of Slim Smith & The Aggrovators. Smith was one of the leading rocksteady vocalists, a one-time member of vocal harmony group The Techniques and later his own group, The Uniques. “My Conversation” is one of his most famous records and was recorded with The Uniques, although the record label gives credit to him alone. It’s a superlative rocksteady track, with sweet falsetto vocals that owe much to 60’s American soul groups like The Impressions or Smokey Robinson & The Miracles. On the B-side you have an instrumental version from The Aggrovators, slightly dubbed out but not as radical as the dubs King Tubby would start turning out a few years later.

Prince Far I – “Bedward the Flying Preacher ” – [Sound Boy]

Rococo   7/5/2005   7-inch, Reggae

Originally released in 1983 on the album STAGGERING HEIGHTS by Singers & Players, this Adrian Sherwood/On-U Sound production still packs a punch 20 years later. Prince Far I, aka the “Voice of Thunder,” narrates the tale of Alexander Bedward, a turn-of-the-century Baptist preacher and founder of Bedwardism, one of the precursors to the Rastafari faith. It seems poor ol’ Bedward thought he could ascend to heaven by jumping off of a building. Unfortunately, he only flew in one direction, and that was down. Backing up Far I’s tale are members of the On-U house band circa 1983: Eek-a-Roo on drums, Lizard on bass, Crucial Tony on guitar, Flash on saxophone, and Bubblers on piano. The spatial separation and dynamics of the mix are practically jaw-dropping…but that was standard operating procedure for On-U back in the day. The B-side features a previously-unreleased (and somewhat milder) dub version of the track. Released on the Sound Boy label, a new spinoff from On-U Sound which promises a full slate of new and classic releases in vinyl format. Plenty more to come!

I-Roy – “Welding ” – [Disco Rockers]

Rococo   7/5/2005   7-inch, Reggae

More classic reggae on 7-inch. This mega-hit from 1975 starts off with deejay toaster I-Roy being woken from his sound slumber by a young girl in need of some “welding.” I don’t think I need to tell you where he keeps his tool. Recorded by Jo Jo Hookim at his Channel One studios, this record practically defined the Channel One sound and spawned scores of imitations. On the B-side you get the instrumental version, sans I-Roy but highlighting the crack rhythm section of Sly & Robbie. Five stars.

Fireballs of Freedom “Exorcism in the Key of You” 45 rpm [Wantage]

Thurston Hunger   5/16/2005   7-inch, A Library

Rock ‘n’ roll with its heart in the right place, smack dab
in the middle of its inflamed liver. Each song kinda climbs
up little ladders of riffs, with retro dirtbag guitar work
and those damn ninth chords. Kah-runchy. Very, very blarey,
and you can taste the amp hum on the “Exorcism.” Vocals are
that kind of pent-up soul screaming, with RNR-101 emphatics.
On the flip side a couple of covers, more party flavor…
kicking you square in the beer nuts. This time with cheeze
organ nacho baking on a copy of the Barkay’s “Copy Cat.”
Finally to top things off, Hendrix’s “Ain’t No Tellin'”
gets flamebroiled by these Oregon accumulators.
Shot-callin’ and fireballin’

KARP – “KARP” [Up Records]

jack soil   3/6/2005   7-inch, A Library, Format

Power Scare trio outta Olympia, Washington, where “it’s the water” translates in
to some serious rock. Heavy, rhythmic, angry, combative sounds emanate from both
sides of the white vinyl UP Records supplies. Supposedly creating sensory overload
when taken live; this 7″ caputures the vibe well. Wounds that won’t heal are the
result of Side A, and Side B applies sandpaper to those same festering, oozing sores. Unmerciful,crushing, massive release.

Xiu Xiu vs Bunkbed – split 33 rpm [Turn Records]

Thurston Hunger   3/5/2005   7-inch, A Library, Format

Xiu Xiu’s Jaime Stewart sings from a pulsating amnion of
keyboards, rippled acoustic guitar and a slow-motion marimba.
Gutter-gasping “It’s over” in an intimate tale of immolation.
A piercing light shines through towards the end but the grey
overcast nature of the song is what resonates and remains with
you. That and the fact the composer of the song is no longer
around, Bunkbed’s Keith Krate died in September 2002.

The tragedy of that death is driven home on the other side,
a Bunkbed song that sounds like a ballon tied to a hundred
synth strings. Another sort of womb warping to this track,
but Krate’s sugary harmonies float above the liquid sound this
time. Too pretty to stay aloft?

Each song invokes the power of dream in words and hopefully
beyond. Between the countless “It’s over” refrains, Stewart
also sings, “It never ends.” Whether that refers to the dream,
or the pain, only Krate knows now.

Sexy Prison “Bury My Heart at Vladistovok” 33 rpm [toneVENDOR]

Thurston Hunger   2/13/2005   7-inch, A Library, Format

While some will prefer the B-side to this single sided 7″,
the boys cooped up in Sacremento’s “Sexy Prison” probably
wouldn’t mind. Them boys would be vocalist John Pritchard and
de-bassist Robert Pickle, together they may have given birth
to the recently added “Babyhead” comp. Gotta love reproductive
technology these days. Pritchard’s reverby singing is like a
woman with too much mascara, you kinda wonder what it would
look/sound like without it…but you can’t stop staring at it
nonetheless. The second track has a sample at the root that
might be “Funky Cole Medina” or something, it gets briefly
excavated for a spell along with four bars of a Tiki calypso.
These two numbers are as subtle as a drag racing commercial,
fervent with left-over machines from the disco age rebuilt
with illegal parts and maximum squelch. The lyrics are so
warped, I thought they were singing about Boz Scaggs at one
time. Even if they weren’t this is still tremendous.

Selfish Cunt “Britain is Shit” 45 rpm [Horseglue]

Thurston Hunger   2/13/2005   7-inch, A Library, Format

Possibly the best of use of a cheap drum machine ever. It
fires a machine gun stacatto attack during “Britain is Shit.”
It then has a series of spasms on “Fuck the Poor” that keep
that track off balance. Vocals are more leery on the latter,
which also has a tiny little pachinko synthesizer buried
somewhere in the grooves. “Britain is Shit’s” pressure-cooked
vocals are stringier, longer notes sung lifting up at the
end of each phrase, as if grabbed on the ears by an unstable
constable. Plus when everything drops out, that damned drum
machine gets a chance to just jackhammer away. Selfish Cunt
contains shouter Martin Tomlinson and beater Patrick Constable
within it. Working out of East London, these lads know there
subject matter, even though one of ’em is evidently and old
New Zealot. Both sides dirty as their titles.

Scholastic Deth “Killed by School” 33 rpm [625 Thrashcore]

Thurston Hunger   2/13/2005   7-inch, A Library, Format

Razor sharp, whiplash rock from the now-defunct Scholastic
Deth rockers…though one of the band members evidently still
runs 625 Thrashcore. Songs hit escape velocity pretty quickly,
often leaving with dual feedback whines. But tracks jump on
quickly…so be prepared for life after a Deth track. It’s
just as well, the energy on one side alone can light up the
Central Valley. Songs come out swinging, and occasionally may
end up cold-cocking a friend or themselves. Speaking of
friends…the frenzy here connects back to Spazz per the 625
web site as well as to Capitalist Casualties. More often the
blows land where they are intended, and as all four of the
band are UC grads, it’s nice that they bite the hand that
fed Enron and other dodgy investment schemes. There may be
cursing in the lyric sheets, but sadly people who would be
offended by that, wouldn’t take the effort to stop and listen
to this rock solid 7″. Advanced degrees of ire via their
Evelyn Wood speed thrash edumacation. Repeat multiple times
for multiple credit. Core requirement.

Deerhoof s/t

outlier   2/9/2005   7-inch, A Library

Se Piagi Se Ridi- Perfect for the next wake party you may be planning. Maybe like a Caroliner pop excursion if it existed. Funeral organ, banjo (?) and drums accompany this eulogy for the pop song. Childlike vocal wanderings call you to the netherworld where pop icons are smothered with makeup buff pads. Slightly disconnected and ethereal but luring nonetheless. A rather mature sound in an unusual space from a quite unusual band. Strawberry Banana- that lost backtrack to the Abba song that Bjorn farted around with for years but never found the right lyrics for- another stake in the false heart of pop music, the jokes on those who thought Deerhoof could never make it as a pop band.
3w: Caroliner on Prozac
– Outlier

Nice Nice “There Will Be Slogans” [White Denim]

Thurston Hunger   2/3/2005   7-inch, A Library, Format

Portland, Oregon duo – guitarist Jason Buehler
and percussionist Mark Shirazi. Kitchen sync
and sample stampede over drums that touch on
tangents to dub. Guitar bubbles served over
some piledriver basslines in other parts.
Tweaked and twiddled transmissions.

Hood / Themselves – split “You Shins Break My Heart” [Rocket Racer]

Thurston Hunger   1/29/2005   7-inch, A Library, Format

Further fruits from the cross-pollination of Hood with the
cLOUDDEAD heads. We get more solid drifting vortex pop from
Birmingham’s Hood…a constant state of exhallation. Breathe
out…breathe out again. Repeat until you pass out blissfully.
Themselves (aka Dose One along with Jel and Dax) then take
that track as inspiration and P.U.S.H. it up with their tiny
trademark martian vocals and their own sped up swirl of
sound. Only seven inches, but seventy layers of sonic veils
wrap this little picture disc gem.
Streamy dreams of subconciousness.

Glass Candy “Bicicleta Emociona” [Troubleman Unlimited]

Thurston Hunger   1/27/2005   7-inch, A Library, Format

Ida No yelps and screams with the best of
them. Glam slammed rock…she’s traded in
her Bowie bent this time for a Bryan Ferry
fix. Her voice still has a unique frenzied
whorl to it. Johnny Jewel’s guitar is a
leather clad shark swimming around the
tank. More anachronism than anarchy…but
pure fun nonethelees. The Roxy Music cover
slips down through some tar pits to a drum
solo finish. Retro and active.

Fucked Up “Baiting the Public” [Deganged]

Thurston Hunger   1/25/2005   7-inch, A Library, Format

Breakneck, breakface punk rock out of Toronto and a group
that was allegedly started as a joke, but a clever one at
that. Realizing that all bands ultimately lead towards
horrible fights, the idea here was to put a bunch of people
together who were already primed to go at each other. By
the sound of this, it was a complete success. Aggravation
fuels this 7″, with quick fisty drums, and good sawing
guitar. Basically we get a siamese twin of a song split into
two with different lyrics, but a shared chomping whole lotta
riff. The lyrics are punctuated by spittle, for “The Public”
the band meanders into some clarinet and sax spirals. All
in all a damn fine outing, as much fun if not more than the
photo inside. Double dirty ditties, take a grave shift just
so you can play this!

Reed, Michael & Peter Pan Orch – “Tubby the Tuba ” – [Synthetic Plastics Co.]

David Richoux   1/16/2005   7-inch, B Library

This is not actually ‘Tubby The Tuba? but more of a copyright skirting song ABOUT the song ‘Tubby the Tuba.’ A 1960 release by kiddie music rip-off artists Michael Reed and the internationally infamous Peter Pan Orchestra. A bit scuffed and scratchy, but fun/stupid. Flip side is not much better… The REAL ‘Tubby? was written by George Kleinsinger in 1946 with lyrics by Paul Tripp – first of 4 different Tubby episodes (Circus Band, Jazz Band and Further Adventures of Tubby – with a marching band!) and has been performed by such greats as Danny Kaye, Annette, Julia Child – and all four were done recently by The Manhattan Transfer.
Tuba players do this at gunpoint (or for big piles of money) but it has stereotyped the instrument worse than any other song I can think of! *review by David Richoux

melt-banana / big d and the kids table split 7″ – [fork in hand]

Funkminsta Fulla   11/3/2004   7-inch

melt-banana / big d and the kids table split 7″ (33rpm) – [fork in hand records]

melt-banana – high octane Japanese noise-core cover of Toots and the Maytals’ “Monkey Man” complete with aye-yae-yae’s and yo-yo guitars segues to “Operation 3rd Attack”: wildlife noises then mad scratchin’ and finally full-on noise + feedback + drum bludgeoning, albeit brief.

big d et al. – this is ska-core from Boston, Mass. hard-core riffin’ w/ skankin’ horns. first track is a rockin’ cover of Ministry’s “Thieves” (despite the label’s reversed track ordering), tr2 is original “Apologies” – solid youthful angst w/ decidedly DC sensibility coupled with great primal tom playing finally capitulates w/ almost Morphine-esque closure.

mad hatter

Volumen/No-Fi Soul Rebellion – “Lady Cop/Ch*rch” – [W?ntage Records] — 45 rpm

Hunter Gatherer   10/20/2004   7-inch, A Library

Two bands from Missoula, Montana release a split 7″ on a label based in Missoula, Montana. Coincidence? You decide.

Volumen take the A side with the song Lady Cop. It’s 3:42 of funky fun with fuzz guitar and synthesizer. For some reason I was reminded of Urge Overkill circa The Kids Are Insane. Let’s hope this isn’t the last we hear from Volumen for a while – according to their website one member just got married and another is expecting a baby. Let’s all hope for a long winter with lots of studio time.

No-Fi Soul Rebellion is essentially one guy, Mark Heimer, who wanted to perform in a band but didn’t want the hassle with bandmates. His solution? He invented the “Soul System,” a bass guitar with the strings removed and a mini-disc player embedded inside. On stage, his wife dances around wearing the Soul System while the husband karaokes to his own songs. They’re like a post-modern Partridge Family.

Anyway the B side, Ch*rch, is a more mechanical, synthesized funk than the A side. It’s the kind of music that Morris Day and Devo could have made if only they had put their petty jealousies aside. Oh, and NFSR lose points for rhyming “lurch” and “jerks” with “church.”

–Hunter Gatherer

Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings – “What If We All Stopped Paying Taxes?” – [Daptone Records] — 45 rpm

Hunter Gatherer   10/20/2004   7-inch, Soul

Ms. Jones is not happy with the foreign and domestic policies of the current administration. So she rounded up the Dap Kings, house band for the Daptone label, and put her feelings into what she describes as an “anthem of discontent.”

The first song asks the musical question “What If We All Stopped Paying Taxes?” It’s the sort of blistering retro-soul that we’ve come to expect from Ms. Jones & co. Sharon’s pissed, and as the song goes on you can feel the band absorbing her anger and reflecting it back to us as heat. Bush and Iraq aren’t mentioned explicitly, so this song will work just as well for the next country we invade.

The B side is a slow but impossibly funky version of the public domain song “This Land Is Your Land.” Woodie Guthrie is dancing in his grave somewhere. The song is great from the horn section’s sour Yankee Doodle opening to the fade out, but the highlight for me is the way the trumpet solo enters.

If you can listen to either song without shaking your ass you are probably Ralph Nader.

–Hunter Gatherer

Zdrastvootie “” 33 rpm [self]

Thurston Hunger   9/7/2004   7-inch, A Library, Format

Hauling sprawl free-rock from four Santa Cruzers nourished on
Beefhearts. A-side has a definite Lucas film on the fingers
of the guitar. Songs sort of explore, bump in the dark. Like
stairs built by hallucinating carpenters. A-side after its
Lucas leap settles into a walking rhythm then drops through
some trapdoor chords before striking the anthem ore for a
few measures then drizzles out softly to black inner groove.
B-side explodes out of the gate, drums alternating between
pacemaker ticks and heart attack thwacks. Then song comes
to a twang bar in the middle of the road, up the fretboard
go fretting fingers things get chittery for awhile, then
in comes the secret stair mantra. Whenever a rare chord is
struck, it’s heavy with ninths, flats, sharps, and other
accouterments. Quiet comes in (like a second track) and
it’s a race up a mountain to the finish (where it almost
sounds like a live gig). Flustery…in a good way. -Hunger
PS name is hello in russian, “zzz-draw-stvee-cheh”