Friday, February 25, 2011


Rock and roll is full of weirdos, which, of course, is pretty much the beauty of the whole thing. First of all, would you buy a record made by a non-weird person like Jim Nantz or Eric Staal or John Tesh? The answer is not just no, it's heck no! I was thinking about including Wolf Blitzer in that list, but when you think about it, he seems right weird. I hope he makes an album.

One of the most genuinely weird bands I ever heard was the great Killdozer. To begin with, they're from Madison, Wisconsin. They came along at a time when punk music was loud and fast and anarchic, and created music that was loud and slow and, well, bolshevik. Or maybe you could call it 'extreme working class'. Or maybe, when you think about it, you could conclude they were just messing around when they called their albums things like "Intellectuals are the Shoeshine Boys of the Ruling Elite" and "Uncompromising War on Art Under the Dictatorship of the Proletariat"(on which bassist/singer Michael Gerald is identified as Michael "Che" Gerald. After all, they populated these albums with songs like "Knuckles the Dog (Who Helps People)", "Earl Scheib" and "King of Sex." And although there was a sort of earnestness on the records, it wasn't an ideological earnestness. It was more the earnestness of a guy who walks around the neighborhood for 2 hours looking for a big pile of dogcrap to put in a bag and light on fire on your front porch. It really didn't take much thinking to get the joke.

I first heard Killdozer on Chicago/Evanston's WNUR in '88. They played a couple of songs, including their cover of Jessi Colter's "I'm Not Lisa". That song was on the EP released that year called "Burl", not-so-famously "dedicated to the memory" of Burl Ives (who dutifully passed 7 years later). Here are a couple of great concert vids from "Burl"-era Killdozer, which includes the opener, "Hottentot".

Killdozer loved doing covers. They covered "Cinnamon Girl". They covered "When the Levee Breaks". They covered Creedence and ZZ Top. My two faves, though, are the aforementioned Ms. Colter tune and the late-lamented Black Oak Arkansas classic "Hot 'n Nasty". I'm sure Jim Dandy would have been proud (not that he's dead or anything).

Oh well, I couldn't find "Hot 'n Nasty", so this'll have to do. This is a pretty recent performance, confirming that their "farewell tour", 1996's "Fuck You We Quit" tour, was pretty much a joke too.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Old Stuff Friday Reggae: Dancehall Days

In one sense, nearly all reggae (and its ska and rocksteady predecessors) was intended for the dancehalls. However, "dancehall" also is used to designate the reggae style that emerged in the late '70s and lasted into the mid '80s. This music was more likely than the early to mid 80s reggae to have secular themes and it emphasized pure rhythm. Unlike Bob Marley's socially conscious crossover reggae, this wasn't music that cared about gaining international converts. This was music to make the island move, sing, and make love. In fact, in the last few years of his life and career, Marley's music was a bit out of fashion in his homeland.

Here is Barrington Levy in his herb-promoting "Under Mi Sensi", produced by Jah Screw.

Levy had a massive dancehall hit with with a beefed up version of the same rhythm in "Here I Come", where he declared that he was 'broader than Broadway'.

The irrepressible Lone Ranger recorded "Love Bump" for Studio One.

The bluest man in the dancehall, General Echo sings his song "Bathroom Sex" off of his album 12" of Pleasure. And the General on "This is a Lover's Corner:

A dancehall man even made Top of the Pops -- the late Sugar Minott with "Good Thing Going".

Many of the rhythms (in reggae terminology, that refers to the instrumentation, melody and sometimes some of the lyrics) often were recycled from rocksteady hits of the '60s. Other rhythms were composed for the original dancehall record, but used by the same artist or different artists for later recordings. One example of the latter rhythms was the "Hard Drugs" rhythm. A radio DJ here in Seattle once played a set lasting about 40 minutes of songs based on the Hard Drugs rhythm. Below is the original recording by the dancehall artist called the Cool Ruler, Gregory Isaacs:

Friday Old Stuff - The Soul Corner - Why Can't We Live Together

The 70's were certainly not all disco and cannot be overlooked while we go mining for great soul music. One of my favorite, and perhaps most unlikely Billboard No. 1 hit singles was Timmy Thomas' "Why Can't We Live Together", which topped the charts in January 1973. Unlikely for its long instrumental intro, sparse instrumentation and unknown artist. But the B3 organ is so soulfully delivered, and the vocal so heartfelt and perfect in every way, any more would have detracted from the composition. The producer and record co. folks got it right here to leave well enough alone.

And while the song has been covered many times, it got attention when it appeared on Sade's debut for example, my personal favorite cover artist for this one is the gifted vocalist Joan Osborne, seen here performing it live in 2002:

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Getting in Bed with Exlovers

One of the things I love about music is the spontaneity. The music hits my ears and my brain reacts. I can't predict before I hear the music what emotions I'll feel as I hear it, or the emotions I'll feel when it ends. And so it is with today's blog post. I'd planned a post about three rock/pop bands from the UK, one of which I'd only heard for the first time this morning. But as I examined that band a bit closer, I tossed the original plan into the mental file cabinet (no peeking, it is a bit of a mess in there) and climbed into bed with the Exlovers.

The Exlovers are a London based guitar pop band consisting of four guys and one girl. If my research is correct, they have released four singles since they formed in late 2007. The guitars jangle and chime, and the voices harmonize. I think one could be forgiven thinking they sound a bit like a reinvention of Teenage Fanclub.

The band seems to have toured and practiced enough to produce a tight sound, and despite the melodic pop sensibilities of the songs, the twin guitars provide a satisfying amount of rock drive and muscle.

While I'm loathe to provide readers I've never met with relationship advice, try (the) Exlovers -- you may fall in love all over again.

Exlovers webpage
Exlovers on Myspace
Exlovers on Facebook

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

New Sounds of Scotland--Part 5: Lord Cut Glass, The Phantom Band, People Places Maps...

As a recording artist, the name Lord Cut Glass is relatively new to the scene, although the man who created the alter ego and named him after a character from a Dylan Thomas play has been around for a long time. Alun Woodward was a songwriter, singer and guitarist for the iconic Glasgow band The Delgados, and with his former bandmates he formed the Glasgow label Chemikal Underground Records (Chemikal Underground Website). A few years ago Woodward started working as Lord Cut Glass. In the resulting album, Lord Cut Glass, the instrumentation tends toward acoustic guitar, piano and full orchestration, but the songwriting reflects the wry, acerbic, and sometimes bittersweet observations that will be familiar to fans of his former band. In the first single, "Look After Your Wife" , his Lordship shares some common sense domestic advice:

One of my favorite songs from the album is Holy Fuck!. The song begins as follows:

Daylight came and you refrained from calling me your love
The truth to me seems fair, a Faustian despair
That I love you much more than you can bear

Walking close and talking loads I'd love you to love me
But you live inside a safe, and the code's been worn away
so gelignite is on my mind all day

But a stanza later the narrator reveals a bit more about the relationship:

See, I believe you and me will never be
A Fred and Ginger matinee romance
I'm not wild, and you're not clean
But those other girls they don't mean what they mean

Holy fuck, I've found a buck who's willing to believe
I'm not entirely mad, there's a love here to be had
And everyone's got a reason to be sad

The song seems to me to be about the bit of decay in every romance, and the kernel of redemption that exists in the decay. I could be wrong, but that hasn't happened in years.

Woodward's second single from the album is "Big Time Teddy":

If you are interested by these clips and the portion of "Holy Fuck!" I provided above, take a chance and buy "Holy Fuck!" online.

Lord Cut Glass on Myspace

Another Chemikal Underground Artist is The Phantom Band. Their 2009 release,Checkmate Savage, was very popular in Scotland and parts of the UK (one large Manchester record store named it the album of the year) and the band has been endorsed by Peter Buck of R.E.M. The sound of the band is similar to the late Beta Band, but I think more disciplined.

"The Howling" was a single off of Checkmate Savage:

"Folk Song Oblivion"

In 2010 the prolific fellows released another LP, The Wants.

The Phantom Band on Myspace

People, Places, Maps ... -- sometimes referred to a PPM -- is from Dumfermline, Scotland, and was formed in 2010.

I'd love to tell you more about them, but I don't know much. There are six members and their style is folk/pop/rock. However, other than the free download at the Bandcamp link below, there isn't much music from them out there at this point.

"People, Places, Maps... on Bandcamp (above songs available free)

People, Places, Maps... on Myspace

Joey Ryan and the Inks: Well Here We Are Then...

Really good, well-executed power pop... I hear a lot of attempts at this sound, but these guys are really hitting the mark. The vocals are strong, the guitars chime, and the rhythm section is solid. I even like the ballads, which is usually where weaknesses show through for young bands. They released an album, Well Here We Are Then, in May 2010, and are putting finishing touches on another one now. They're playing around the Midwest currently, I expect they'll tour once the new album is finished.

Here's the video for "Spitting in Tune":

Here's a live in-studio performance from Minnesota Public Radio's "The Current":

Website: Joey Ryan and the Inks

Myspace Page: Joey Ryan and the Inks