Sunday, April 20, 2014

Stuffs and such

1) Since I hate crowds and created scarcity (with RSD releases as the new Beanie Babies) as much as I love crate-digging, Record Store Day makes me feel like a Jehovah's Witness at Christmastime. So I missed out on my pals in the Me-Thinks and Pinkish Black at Doc's, and Wire Nest -- whom I think are going to be a huge deal, with a visual presentation to match their beguiling music -- at Good Records in Big D. However, when my Lawn Guyland homie Darrin Kobetich told me he was playing surf music through his pop's recently-restored old Univox amp with the Chrome Mags at Grackle Art Gallery (a guy's house just across Hulen from where I live), I couldn't pass it up.

Besides Darrin, the band includes estimable singer-songwriter Clint Niosi on Gretsch "poor man's Country Gentleman," bassist Jim Case (who also plays with D. in the Blackland River Devils and the "bluegrass Sabbath" outfit Blastula, which played at Grackle around the time I was cooking dinner), and drummer Austin Green (Telegraph Canyon). While they were a tad underrehearsed and seemed a little more nervous than I'd expect from such seasoned pros, their 30-minute set included classics like "Perfidia," "Telstar" (!), "From Russia With Love," "Ghost Riders In the Sky," "Hava Nagila," and "Pipeline," and was heap big fun.

As TCU prof/Empire of Scrounge scribe Jeff Ferrell pointed out, surf was a movement kind of like punk, where a kid with a reverb-and-tremelo equipped amplifier and a modicum of talent could create welters of head-spinning noise. It occurred to me that Dick Dale's aggressive Near Easternism isn't that far of a cry from Darrin's fiery Eastern European mojo, and the beauty of surf music is that you can make anything with a melody into a surf toon, so future Chrome Mags gigs promise to be worth catching.

An apogee of sorts was attained when somebody spilled a beer at Clint's feet, but a quick and resourceful lady was able to mop up the mess (which we speculated was done for effect, as though the surf had just come in) before anything untoward occurred. And I was home before 10. (I think one of the neighbors was waiting to call the cops, so they quit promptly -- and wisely, I think -- at 9:30.) Hooray!

2) Also performing last night, at Lola's, was Mora Collective, a couple of whom stopped by mi casa to drop off a copy of their new CD enroute to the gig. They're singing now, and while the presence of Zach Puchkors' sax is always going to get them pigeonholed as a jazz band, it's really more groove-oriented psychedelic rock than anything else, in a Traffic/Krautrock kinda way.

Zach's using fewer F/X, and the natch'l sound of his horn gives the music a nice flavor of Ben Webster via Archie Shepp. After their initial series of shows, these guys knocked it on the head a few months ago to develop new material, and they sound a lot more comfortable playing together than they did in their earlier recordings. They use the vocals the way bands like their kindred spirits the Tidbits or the Momentary Gamelan Ensemble (the outfit previously known as HIO, renamed in an effort, I suppose, to banish the whole Japanese-octopus-porn stigma since Matt Hickey also bowed out) use samples -- they're just another element in the sonic stew. Christopher Isaacs' fretless bass lends their supple grooves even more elasticity, and his guitar synth brings additional colors to their tonal palette. Drummer Eric Yacula remains a polyrhythmic wonder. The groovalicious "Liquid In the Time of Sand," the spacey "Guy Mariano," and combination-of-the-two "Bad Time to Light a Cigarette" are good examples of their instrumental approach, while "Elevator" is a standout among the vocal pieces.

3) Speaking of Lola's, a couple of weeks ago I shilled merch for the Me-Thinks at their record release party there and saw my old HIO bandmate Mark Kitchens, who continues to play with Terry Horn in the aforementioned Momentary Gamelan Ensemble (it's going to take some getting used to, saying that). Mark handed me a copy of his latest derwooka opus listening to a dying sun (cbgEP).

Besides being an architect and kicking the traps for doom-metal duo Stone Machine Electric, Mark's a builder of stringed and percussion instruments, and all of the tracks on this four-song collection were built around the sound of his cigar box guitars. The net effect is sparse and simple, like a one-man Om or Japanese folk music (albeit using different scales). On "into the day," he uses a slide to produce trombone-like tones over sparse backing that sways like bamboo in the wind. Kitchens vocalizes on "dead birds," which has an autumnal, elegiac sound that fits its title. The modified field holler "no pull" hits like some future Alan Lomax's field recordings from a slave planet. The title track begins and ends like backwoods Sun Ra and in the middle is all pleasant lope. This project remains the outlet for whatever happens to be on Mark's musical mind. I await his next communique.

Friday, April 18, 2014

The Move on "Colour Me Pop"

I've shared this before, but if you haven't seen it, you owe it to yourself.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Move over, Gene and Benny...

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Jack Bruce's "Silver Rails"

Having survived drug addiction, liver cancer, transplant surgery, and a reunion with his Cream bandmates, estimable bassist-vocalist-composer Jack Bruce returns with Silver Rails, recorded at Abbey Road last year, and it's a worthy effort from an unjustly underrated musician.

Back in the glory days of Cream -- barely two years, almost a half century ago -- Bruce tended to get overshadowed by his bandmates, but he wrote all the hits, and thus, collected more royalties (an irritant to at least one of his fellows, as anyone who's seen Beware of Mr. Baker can attest). More to the point, he sang mad poet Pete Brown's trippy lyrics (which also appear on six of nine Silver Rails selections), as well as blues borrowings, with a quasi-operatic fortissimo that paved the way for prog vocalists like Peter Hammill and John Wetton, and played a very busy Gibson EB3 that was the glue connecting Ginger Baker's polyrhythms with Eric Clapton's blues licks.

Since then, he's collaborated with both flashy rock guitarists and avant-garde jazzers, the super session mania of music marketing managing to obscure the fact that Bruce is a composer first. And if his melodies have occasionally flustered listeners who just wanted heavy jams, at his best -- on "We're Going Wrong," say, or "As You Said," or "Rope Ladder To the Moon" -- he's deployed his classical and jazz influences intelligently within a rock context in a way that's not unlike his contemporary Robert Wyatt.

So "Hidden Cities," co-written with Latin jazz conceptualist Kip Hanrahan, starts out like a Black Sabbath pastiche (with ex-Scorpion Uli Jon Roth, no less, on guitar) before taking off down a more convoluted melodic path. "Rusty Lady" is a blues abstraction in the manner of Cream's "Politician," with Bruce's '80s collaborator Robin Trower, once Everyman's Hendrix simulacrum, now displaying more of the raw emotionalism that was his trademark in Procol Harum.

On "Industrial Child," Bruce plays piano and sings a remembrance of urban decay, set to a gorgeous melody, with only acoustic guitar accompaniment. Then he cranks up his amp for "Drone," a sort of homage to the doom metal bass-and-drum duo Om, whose music he discovered via his guitar-slinging son, Malcolm, who plays the finely melodic solo on "Don't Look Now." A pleasant surprise is Whitesnake guitarist Bernie Marsden, who contributes some of the album's most stunning solo work on "Keep It Down" and "No Surrender."

Keyboardist John Medeski and drummer Cindy Blackman Santana, who play with Bruce in the Tony Williams Lifetime tribute outfit Spectrum Road, also make worthy contributions. But it's Bruce's compositions, not his heavy friends, that make the strongest impression here. Bruce's basic approach on Silver Rails remains essentially unchanged from his earliest solo excursions. His voice has mellowed a bit, and these days he's more of an ensemble player than a showboating soloist, but he still has as much to tell us musically at 70 as he did in his fiery youth.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Pablo and the Hemphill 7's "The Great Bash"

My favorite PH7 song of all ti-i-ime, rescued from the archives of oblivion by Damien Stewart. Thanks, Sticky D!


Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Wilko Johnson and Roger Daltrey's "Going Back Home"

"Roger/Wilko" or "Dr./Who" -- the jokes are ready-made, but the teaming of the ex-Dr. Feelgood guitarist (who's become something of a folk hero in the UK since he bravely refused treatment and embarked on a tour in the face of a terminal cancer diagnosis) and the 'orrible 'oo vocalist (who's done charitable work for the Teenage Cancer Trust, making a collaboration with a muso who's flipped the Big C the two-finger salute a natural) is hardly a laughing matter.

Back in the early '70s, as prog and glam were taking over and punk was still a couple of years away, the Feelgoods, who hailed from the backwater of Canvey Island, kept the flag of British R&B flying, with Johnson looking like an escaped mental patient as he flailed away at his Telecaster with wild abandon and no picks. While the Who might not have been present at the creation of Brit R&B, they jumped on the bandwagon as soon as they could, with Daltrey ceding the lead guitar slot in the band he'd formed to the walking nose of an art student that the bassplayer brought in, so that he himself could channel Howlin' Wolf and James Brown. In the fullness of time, of course, said art student became the band's auteur, with Daltrey as the iconic, flowing-haired mouthpiece for his anthems. But you always got the feeling that the old brawler was lurking just under the surface, and Going Back Home gives him a chance to step forward and roar once more.

Recorded in a week last November and released in March on Chess Records (whatever that means nowadays), Going Back Home reprises Wilko compositions from the Feelgoods and his solo career, plus a Dylan cover ("Please Crawl Out Your Window"). Of course it's a throwback, but it's a mighty satisfying one. Like Daltrey's regular guitarist, Wilko's a groovemaker, not a showboat, so the band -- Norman Watt-Roy (bass), Dylan Howe (drums), Mick Talbot (keys) and Steve Weston (harp) -- carries a lot of the weight here. They lay down a solid, no-frills four-on-the-floor in the manner of, say, Rockpile.

When Wilko steps out, he makes pithy statements that show he drank from the same deep well as Townshend -- a little Berry here, a little Hooker there, a whole lot of Steve Cropper and especially Johnny Kidd & the Pirates' Mick Green. For all one hears about the effects of age on Daltrey's pipes, he sounds remarkably like the man who growled R&B-period Who numbers like "Bald-Headed Woman" and "Daddy Rolling Stone," half a century ago. Wilko's meat-and-potatoes songcraft is a good fit for that voice, and the resultant mix would sound really good in a sweaty pub. High spots include the change-of-pace slow one "Turned 21," the almost-funky "Keep On Loving You," the Feelgoods' flag-waver "Sneaking Suspicion," and "Everybody's Carrying a Gun," the lyrics to which seem more applicable to 'Meercuh than the UK. Long live Wilko, and good on Roger for undertaking this project.

Saturday, April 05, 2014

A little Mumblety Peg history

Mumblety Peg was a punk band from Fort Worth, Texas, active between 1990 and 1994.

Matt Hembree (bassist extraordinaire and Mumblety Peg fan)They were messy and sloppy and drunk and all kinds of fun. Like a low-rent Ramones from Fort Worth. Hard to imagine a "low rent Ramones" but that's what they hit like. The first time I saw them was at the opening and closing night of Melissa Kirkendall and Kelly Parker's club On The Thrift. Open for one night, closed by the fire marshal.

Jeff Satterly (guitarist and vocalist): I worked at Sound Warehouse and Hardy would come in a lot. Hardy introduced me to Chris Emory and we formed the Losers. Hardy and Chris had talent. I learned three chords and wanted to be a punk band from Fort Worth.

Chris Emory (original drummer): We were all working together at Sound Warehouse and just started jamming together one evening after work and it just clicked. Each of the three of us were into some totally different styles of rock but we all had a great love of simple hard charging punk and offbeat music. I had just been in a band with the amazing [prog rock guitarist] Bill Pohl, so playing with the Peg was a complete turn around for me musically, but I loved it!

Jeff Satterly: When the Losers broke up, I started playing with Michael Parker. I got Chris and Hardy in on it. We had our first gig lined up and Michael moved to Cali. I got Jeff [Adcock] to sing and just played punk covers. Our third practice was our first gig. 

Jeff Adcock (original vocalist): We got a gig and then started practicing for it. That was at a club Mark Trimmier was running out in Granbury of all places. I've known Jeff Satterly since the late 80's. We bonded over our love for Queen. Specifically, Brian May. I knew Hardy before Jeff, when we both worked together at IMC (Akai, Jackson, Charvel, etc.) in the speaker shop. 

Jeff Satterly: Jeff left when the first jam room payment was due. We played three gigs with him. Hardy and I just split the set and  started singing.  After the first year, Emory had a lot of bands and no time. Chris Rayburne [replaced him] in the fall of '91.

Jeff Adcock: I was only in the band for a few months, then Jeff took over singing/playing guitar. I moved on to start Anorexic Cafe with my brother and a couple of other friends. 

Jeff Satterly: I had one [original] song at our first gig. The first two years, we made a living playing Hard-Ons songs. Sound Warehouse was a great place to learn back then. No one back then had the internet and in Fort Worth, no one know we were playing covers. Kids would come to shows and bring me LPs they thought I would like in '90 and '91. Like Sweet Baby and Green Day. Then you realize that you must start writing.

Jeff Adcock: "Power Pop Punk" was Jeff's label and I'd agree with that call. We definitely had a Ramones/Hard-Ons thing, mixed with some Soul Asylum/Buffalo Tom vibe, too.

Chris Emory: We never made any quality recordings in a bona-fide studio when I was in the band. We only recorded some stuff on simple 4-track recorders in our rehearsal spaces (one of which was next to the fledgling Toadies' rehearsal space and most of them also worked at Sound Warehouse at the time -- we opened for most of their early gigs).

Jeff Satterly: Our first cassette was called $50 Bucks. Then Planet Dallas later on. We were more a live band. Studios always tried to make us sound like whoever was popular. Never got it right, I thought.

Hardy Bennett (bassist and vocalist): We came in at the crossover time, when metal and punk were crossing over. We were actually the first punk band to play at Joe’s Garage. We’d all come out of the metal scene, getting into Black Flag, Misfits, and the Ramones – total Ramones fans! – put a little punk band together, and started playing Joe’s. There was a scene at the HOP for a while; we were playing there. That was where I really started getting into it. I’d actually been in a glam-metal band at one time, with the poofy hair, the spandex, a gun belt, a leather vest and cowboy boots.

Jeff Satterly: In the beginning [we played with] all death metal bands at Joe's Garage. Darrin [Kobetich, then with Hammer Witch] gave us our first gig there. It was great to be different. All the metal bands' girlfriends liked us. We got the Toadies in there and things stated to blow up. We played with Ed Hall, Bat Mastersons, Pop Poppins and a bunch of HOP bands we had nothing in common with. Then we started getting our friends to play like Jeff Adcock's Anorexic Cafe, Southpaw, Jon Teague's first group Little Boy, and so many more.

Hardy Bennett: Once we started headlining Joe’s, then we were able to start bringing other bands in. We brought in the Dragworms and the Toadies, started trying to create sort of a punk scene. Mumblety Peg was really following in the footsteps of Lickity Split, which was Carey Blackwell’s first band. So we weren’t the first punk band in Fort Worth, but we started paving the way for more bands to get into the scene.

Jeff Satterly: We played for a year and a half and cleared most places we played. Hardy and I both would pile stacks (both cabinets) in the HOP and crank it. I had a 1970 Plexi that was the best amp I ever had. After Nirvana broke, all kinds of clubs were calling the three piece punk band they used to hate. We played the HOP a lot. Mad Hatter's and the Crossing were very cool Fort Worth clubs for original music. Freedom Club (a reggae club), Trees, and some places that were not even clubs. Sometimes we would play to a full house. There was a great scene happening and we were right there. Sometimes not. TV theme songs you might get one night, or a Ramones show, or Hardy beating someone up has happened during a few shows. Carl Pack [later of the Gideons] started singing by closing our set. It always seemed like the high point. The first two years, he would say he didn't like us but show up every time.

Jeff Adcock: Our audience? Mix of punks/alt and some metal heads, too.

Jeff Satterly: Drunk. We drank a lot. That became our biggest problem. Hardy and I were older than most of the bands around. We already had our drugs days. We were a fun band to come drink with because you never knew what was going to happen. Hardy was unhappy with our unsuccess. Tensions were high for a few weeks. We played our last show at the HOP with the Nixons and never talked again for years.

Jeff Adcock: Mumblety Peg is the only band to play all of Kelly Parker's clubs -- The Axis, Mad Hatter's, The Impala, The Engine Room, and The Thrift (which got shut down right after their set, and just before the Toadies played...Kelly didnt have a "dance" permit...the mosh pit was considered dancing by the FWPD).

Chris Emory: We definitely generated some active mosh pits! The Cartoon Lounge gig in Monroe, Louisiana with Salem (metal band) was wild. Might not ought to talk about some of that debauchery!

Jeff Satterly: If you saw Peg once you probably didn't get it. If you saw us a ten times I bet you saw a one or two memorable shows. Playing two to three shows a week for beer was FUN enough for me, and the best times.

Jeff Satterly will perform at the Harlyn Hill Memorial Benefit Concert at Lola's on Sunday, April 13th. Chris Emory is a photographer; you can see his work on Facebook as Sundog Art Photography.