Tuesday, May 31, 2005

the big guns

back in prehistory, mike haskins played gtr for the nervebreakers, dallas proto-punks who actually existed from around '73 but gained fame, acclaim, and notoriety closer to the end of that decade, opening shows for the ramones, sex pistols (remember the pic in rolling stone of barry kooda with the fish in his mouth? of course you don't), and like that. plus, they served as roky erickson's backing band before relinquishing the duty to the explosives out of austin (two of whom were once-and-future members of jerry jeff walker's lost gonzo band). despite the fact he looked like donnie osmond (still does), mike knew the good shit and laid it down with conviction. i especially remember one memorable gig at tootsie's with the fort worth cats where somebody called the cops and mike continued playing "the kids are alright" right up until the moment when one of fort worth's finest pulled the plug on his twin and forcibly removed his les paul jr. from his hands.

these days, mike leads the big guns, an instrumental outfit that blends surf 'n' twang with a healthy dose of morricone-esque spaghetti western flavor. he still has a full head of hair, although most of his band boys don't, and they'll be holding forth this saturday at lee harvey's in dallas. because i suck and hate driving to dallas, i doubt i'll make it, but if you're not similarly challenged, tell mike i said hey. they start at 9pm, play three sets, and have a new cd, to boot.

the best garrruuunk food on earth

that'd be the fajita tacos made by the guy and his wife out on the patio at the black dog. i once spent a month of weekends haunting j&j's blues bar looking for this guy (out of season), providing a very drunk panama with an oppo to heckle kenny traylor. sorry, kenny.

anyway, these tacos are truly the food of the gods: hot greasy delicious hunks of meat, accompanied by hearty slices of peppers 'n' onions. they're _the best drunk food ever_, better than fuzzy's fish burritos, as good as the camarones de veracruz (that's shrimp fajitas for you gringos) at superior bar and grill in shreveport. why, i bet they even taste good sober.

only delta: the paucity of places to perch while enjoying the comestibles on most nights when the foodstuff is on offer. i worked in retail all through high school, so i'm experienced at eating standing up, even stuff (like softshell crab sandwiches...sigh) that it's hard to eat without wearing. on one recent weekend, though, i forgot that there's a reason why treats like these come wrapped in foil, and wound up baptizing my pants in a mixture of succulent meat juices and (prolly) veggie oil that was used to keep the good stuff from sticking to the grill. i threw the pants in the hamper and forgot to pre-treat 'em before throwing 'em in the wash. as a result, they now look like the receptacle for the most embarrassing piss-accident imaginable. oh well. time to make a trip to thrift town to buy s'more. this won't deter me from eating the scrumptious tacos any time i'm in the black dog and they're available, i just need to remember to _lean forward_ while eating 'em...

Sunday, May 29, 2005

another great robopirate blog post

like john steinbeck and mike watt, steve steward is a native californian. his latest scrawl is so good it makes me wanna go back to the woodshed, or whatever the writer's equivalent of doing that is.

outcats (black dog, confusatron, flipside)

yeah, so flipside is bringing their movie-for-your-ears back to the black dog next friday (uh, that'd be june 3rd, i do believe) and you oughtta go see 'em.

inasmuch i've said often that in the future, no one will have to smoke cigarettes because tad gaither will be there to sell them clothing that's impregnated with nicotine from having been worn by black dog habitues, and he often gets ribbed for being 1) notoriously tight-fisted and 2) an insane conspiracy theorist, i also think it's time that someone rendered props to the cantankerous old yank for consistently offering up the most eclectic and interesting mix of music available here in the fort these past eight years or so. time was when his sunday night jam (hosted by michael pellecchia) was pert near the only straightahead gig in town (johnny case's long-standing residency at sardine's excepted), and bertha coolidge's lengthy association with the dog allowed messrs. bubeck, carter, metzger and stitzel to open the ears of dozens of kids that teethed on '90s alt-rock and jam-band toonage to the true faith o' jazz.

beyond that, tad's sweaty basement (which, in a previous incarnation, served as the home of the tarrant county democratic party -- how _appropriate_) has played host to some of the most transcendent pablo and the hemphill 7 gigs, offered kulcha far i a venue when no one else in town would book 'em, gave dave and daver a place to land when their time at the moon ran out, and served as the hothouse in which confusatron blossomed from a streetcorner curiosity into a full-on _experience_. (the confusatron boys -- all bullshit aside, now a truly great, groovin'-thinkin'-and-feelin' eight-headed hydra -- are fixin' to pare back their weekly residency to an every-other-week thang; one hears that they're peeved with the thursday night poets for running over into their time slot to try and capture some of confusatron's crowd. hopefully brian batson and his crew can still recall the time not so long ago when they were gassed that some of the poets wanted to stick around and freestyle over their jams. while it'd be overdoing it to say that pride cometh before the fall, an attitude of gratitude is always a good thing to cultivate.) nice work, tad (and jimmy, and billy, and shaggy, and damian).

but i digress.

flipside's a band i only recently discovered (when some intrepid soul at kntu spun some of their music before being hustled off to the college radio gulag), but they've been at it for close to a decade now. to these ears, they're the closest thing the metromess has to a '60s aacm or '70s noo yawk loft aggro (imagine a non-afrocentric art ensemble of chicago, or one of henry threadgill's '80s or '90s units) -- imbued with tradition but not constrained by it. their freewheeling sets veer from bop to funk to free and back, hitting all the signposts in between (mambo, circus music, stripper-blues, believe-it-or-not heavy riff-rock) with intelligence, wit, and humor. dave monsch colors and shapes the music with his battery of saxophones, flutes, and small instruments, as well as providing valuable compositional input (in a just universe, his monkian theme "bitch" would be a bona fide hit). bassist paul unger has the biggest sound this side of charlie haden's coupled with a similarly prodigous melodic imagination (particularly when he picks up a bow). to top it off, he plays funk on stand-up better than any four-stringer i've ever heard. and dennis durick is living proof of the adage, attributed to art blakey, that "if the drummer isn't the best musician in a band, it isn't a jazz band." durick, who's played and recorded with quartet out, ex-miles sideman dave liebman, and seemingly every jazzbo in denton and dallas, brings the sound to life and makes it breathe and dance.

a secret: this is some of the _sexiest_ music you'll hear anywhere. while it might seem like lunacy to make such a claim for freeblow, hear me out: the difference between this challenging music and the room spray they play on the oasis is the difference between sex and seduction. while purveyors of smoove "jazz" spew like kenny g and grover washington, jr., offer up polite pastels and hallmark card sentiments, someone like cecil taylor, say, can hit you where you live with an unquiet storm of tumultuous emotions and near-brutal physicality, if you're up for it. i say music like cecil's, or flipside's, is the best mind-fuck you can get.

Thursday, May 26, 2005


proof positive (as if anymore were needed) that real life is much stranger than anything you could make up: he's a rockstar! he's a counterterrorism expert! he's _both_! ladies and gentlemen, i give you jeff "skunk" baxter!

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

no mama jokes!

mr. t says, "treat your mama right!"

(thanks, byron.)

Tuesday, May 24, 2005


phil irwin, aka the whiskey rebel, plays with rancid vat, one of my least favorite bands of all time and proof positive (as if any more were needed) that raw 'n' raucous doesn't necessarily equal, um, _good_. but, he's a hell of a writer, and his book jobjumper includes some of the funniest stuff i've read anywhere about one of my old employers, which explains (among other things) why fully 50% of their store managers are opting in to a class action suit against them (for classifying folks as management so they don't make overtime while their duties are primarily those of a clerk). i mean, retail is _supposed_ to suck, but jeez.

fred fest cometh

one of the coolest events of the year (and for a good cause to boot) is upon us once again. that'd be fred fest, the annual fundraising event for the tarrant area food bank, held each year on the patio of fred's cafe on the wild west side. this year, it'll be saturday and sunday, june 11-12. starting at noon on each day of the event, three cans of non-perishable food is all it takes to get you in to enjoy an embarrassment of local riches. myself, i'm probably going to opt for sunday, to see ron geida play twice (with jasper stone and kulcha far i) as well as goodwin, sally majestic, woodeye, and a-hummin' acoustical acupuncture, but you might wanna check out saturday's festivities, which are headlined by scott copeland, honchie, and peach truck republic. the beer's cold 'n' cheap, too.

Monday, May 23, 2005

happy birthday miles

where else but the fort can you listen to the van cliburn competition on the radio like it was a sporting event, then head for the black dog tavern to hear a galaxy of stellar jazz musos pay tribute to the sorcerer, the prince of darkness his own self, miles davis, on what woulda been the 79th anniversary of his arrival on earth? nowhere, that's where. so much culcha, so little pretense; gawd, i love this town.

the miles tribute, brainchild of bassist paul unger of fort worth symphony and flipside trio fame and peripatetic trumpeter karl poetschke (ex-sivad, ex-ghostcar, and so peripatetic in fact that he didn't bother to show up for the gig at all), is the first of what, with any luck, will wind up being many evenings of jazz repertory in fort worth. the concept was an overview of milestory in three acts, starting with kind of blue, the 1959 album on which miles invented modal jazz and defined his era in one fell swoop; moving on to miles smiles from 1966, on which a band of young firebrands took the earlier album's innovations and ran with 'em, adding their own compositional elan; and finishing up with the controversial period that started with the serenely lyrical in a silent way and the dark, dense convolutions of bitches brew, which found miles incorporating rock and funk influences, alienating much of his erstwhile audience, and paving the way for many of his sidemen's crossover success.

it's a testament to unger's organizational ability and the talents of his all-star cast that they were able to pull off this ambitious program without the benefit of a single rehearsal. aficionados who showed up at the scheduled 9pm start time got to see unger scrambling to hand out lead sheets and "batting orders" while the musos set up and tuned up. i had visions of players lined up three deep on the stage, so that when the first rank got mowed down by the surly black dog claque, field marshal unger could rush in his reserve quintet from the alleyway.

since i had to leave midway into the second set (it was a school night, after all), i don't actually know for sure if karl poetschke ever arrived or not. in the absence of poetschke -- much of whose work with ghostcar sounds like an homage to in a silent way anyhow -- the role of the electric-period miles would have been played by leonard belota, a musician whom i've seen turn on his heels and walk out of a club because he saw a fender bass on the bandstand. while belota's agreeable post-bop style seems downright loquacious compared to the succinctness of miles' song, the trumpeter seemed unintimidated by the thought of whose shoes he was filling, soloing effectively on the '50s and '60s material. joining him in the front line were saxophonists jim sangrey (quartet out) in the coltrane tenor slot and dave williams (dave and daver) on alto a la cannonball. williams is a skillful but self-effacing improvisor; hearing him stretch out is always a treat. my friend who analyzes jazz solos in baseball pitching terms (too much ken burns? _you_ decide!) had this to say about sangrey: "he's throwing all spitballs and sliders. when's he going to _bring the heat_?" for the second set, williams reverted to his usual tenor. does it really take two tenormen to make one wayne shorter? perhaps.

of course, a lot of the action took place in the riddim section. during the kind of blue segment, bassist drew phelps was uncharacteristically on-point (had his "inside" circuit breakers engaged), while it was an absolute stone pleasure to hear dave karnes behind the traps, playing the music he loves best (rather than slumming with some rock band). things started to heat up when unger and his flipside drummer dennis durick stepped up during the miles smiles set. joey carter, who should know, called durick "the best jazz drummer in dallas or fort worth," and the subject of the hyperbole did a pretty good job of proving carter's case, churning up a polyrhythmic firestorm during pianist joe rogers' solo spot in "orbits." (to experience the unger-durick tandem in their natural environment, you need to hear flipside's live double cd raw.) it was a rare pleasure hearing rogers, who's spent 20 years laboring behind the curtain at jubilee theater, dancing on the keys in a straightahead setting. one of my earliest fort worth musical memories is of hearing him playing fusion with master cylinder at the ass-end of the '70s.

speaking of fusion, by the time the band had finished playing "footprints," the clock on the wall said it was almost 1am, and you could feel the mahaherbiehancockorea contingent getting antsy. joey carter, on hand to provide extra keyboard firepower for the electric set, got on the drums and funked up "dolores" a little. there was a line of gtrists, including tom reynolds and bertha coolidge's paul metzger, and an even larger contingent of rabid gtr freaks in the audience. as we were leaving, they were about to get their wish: i saw metzger heading for the stage with his es-335. if i'd heard the opening dulcet tones of "in a silent way" before we hit the door, i'd have had to turn around, but barring that, it was time to go; i'm trying to get over the idea of life as an ongoing sleep-deprivation experiment.

overall, it was a great night of music that pulled a good-sized crowd (and only about 30% of 'em musicians, at that), considering it had minimal publicity at nearly the last possible moment. i suggested to unger that next, he oughtta do a monk tribute at sardine's with johnny case. "i wanna do _ornette_ next," he said. someone from jazz by the boulevard needs to talk to this guy (and festival organizer ricky chewning was in the house, so maybe that'll happen). rumors of the fest's demise have been greatly exaggerated, but an embryonic plan to try and book ornette this year apparently sleeps with the fishes. an all-star ornette tribute might be the next best thing, though: a way of celebrating both fort worth's illustrious jazz past and its rich (if subterranean) jazz present.

aw shucks, the darkness split

the main interest in this piece for me was a factual error. call me old fashioned, but i thought roy thomas baker was best known for his work with queen. feh.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

further villain vanguard

listened to their mp3's and am happy to report that they're _fonky_, with riddim, gtr, keys, and a punchy horn section of sax and trumpet. looking forward to hearing 'em over memorial day weekend.

the art of the jam 2

ok, first, full disclosure: i've been playing some gtr at the wreck room's wednesday night jam. i was hesitant to ask, then lee allen (who runs the jam with carl pack) invited me one night. (he was shithoused, but i figured it still counted.) it's the most fun i've had playing in a decade: no slouches onstage, but no showboaters, either (or at least not for long) -- instead, a cooperative, listening-and-responding kinda vibe, using simple forms to create a multi-level conversation, a one-time spontaneous event. by the nature of what it is, there's a certain chaos factor, but that's mitigated by the fact that lee's a consummate bandleader, structuring and directing the event in real time. sure, it's limiting in a certain sense, but no more so than playing somebody's songs the same way night after night. i'd gladly be a color in lee allen's palette for a long time.

last week, f'rinstance, there were four gtrists in the house, so beforehand, lee pulled 'em all together for some quick instructions: "ok, let's see. you two are kinda bluesy, then we've got mr. shredder over here, and i know _you're_ great at laying in the groove. watch me for signals. i'll point to you when it's time to solo. fingers like this means that's how many people i want playing; i'll show you who. or if we're getting ready to end, i'll show you fingers for how many more times we're going around. concentrate on playing rhythmically and not filling the same space. otherwise it'll be a clusterfuck." lee looks kinda like a mad scientist, and when somebody plays something he digs, he grins bigger than dallas. who _wouldn't_ wanna play music, watching this guy?

(lee and dave karnes just opened the fort worth school of music, kinda modeled on the austin rock summer camp where lee taught for the last few years. eventually, their goal is to teach all instruments and all styles at all levels -- an idea with some potential.)

there are some "standards" that get played nearly every week, sometimes altered and extended to epic proportions: chick corea's "la fiesta," funkadelic's "maggot brain," the beatles' "come together" and "tomorrow never knows," hendrix' "manic depression." you can tell lee would like to have more material that all the jammers know; he keeps mentioning the red hot chili peppers' "stone cold bush," and talks about having a week that's all metal. at this point, anything's possible.

the jammers range from unknowns to wreck room staff to local heavies from bands like pablo and the hemphill 7, confusatron, the me-thinks, and kulcha far i. a mainstay has been violinist steven huber, a guy who makes his living playing classical scores but has more melodies floating around in his head than yr average improvisor. seriously, he'll play from the moment he unpacks his fiddle until it's time for him to go, like he was coltrane or something. an inspiring cat. a couple of weeks ago, he opened the proceedings with an original piece in 7/4, introduced as "dry hump burn," that should be played again and luckily was caught on digital recorder by the wreck's wizard of sound andre edmonson. dre promises to record all the sessions; a buddy of mine in new york who heard one recording suggested distributing the jam tapes via subscription -- "free at first, then charging when people inevitably get hooked."

goodwin, sunday drive

the goodwin show at the moon last night was a reminder of why chris maunder's room is my fave place to hear bands outside our beloved wreck room. while it might lack the wreck's neighborhood-bar vibe and colorful cast of characters, the moon's little do-it-yourself p.a. serves bands better than the sound systems at lotsa "venues" (proof positive, as if any more were needed, that a band should be able to sound good with just vocals mic'ed), the crowd is almost always attentive and enthusiastic, and maunder himself is the perfect host.

it's always a gas to hear goodwin play a couple of sets, because that's the only time i get to hear infrequently-played faves from the debut c.d. like "february 3rd" and "to the people." by now, though, the highlights of their live set are as-yet-unreleased gems like "write for you" and "new" and "revelation of revolution." (work on the second cd, momentarily knocked off track by work schedules and live commitments, will resume next month. says gtrist/songwriter/evil dictator gomez, "we're gonna treat this record like it's our last.") the dreaded "telekenesis vs. indifference," with its daunting tempo changes that usually leave audiences scratching their heads, got a decent response from the moon crowd. (to my ears, it's the closest thing to a bindle song in goodwin's repertoire. but i can't help wondering how much it'd take to bribe them to play "state of girl?") they even broke out their covers (the always reliable "just like heaven" and the sometimes shakey "jet") to good effect.

for the smaller stage, gomez brought out his peavey classic 50 from muffinhead days, and unveiled a new toy: a gibson explorer. (or was it a clone? i couldn't read the headstock.) sticky d was playing his new ludwig vistalites, which we'd seen him play with pablo and the hemphill 7 the night before (it's a damien stewart weekend!). said sticky, "if only some tejano band sees me playing these, i'll have another gig!" he's been holding down the drum chair at the wreck room's wednesday night lee allen/carl pack invitational jam, and he says the ideas he's developed in that environment are spilling into both of his working bands -- a good thing. while the whole band performed exceptionally well at the little moon, the riddim boys in particular were on fire. sure, mistakes were made (particularly after a fan bought the boys jager shots), but that's part of the fun of playing live, and goodwin's reached a level of consistency where even on an off night, they can still out-rock 95% of the bands on the metromess boards.

being the shitty scene supporters we are, we missed most of sunday drive's set enjoying a cold beverage with paul boll in the early summer swelter outside fuzzy's, but any band with four-part harmonies (and four lead singers -- shades of the yayhoos, or the band, whose "the weight" they covered) is all righty right with me. have to see 'em do their whole thang some other time.

Saturday, May 21, 2005


while the world continues to await the long-heralded arrival of the band alan's debut full-length the universal answer is both, chris hardee and co. have released a live dvd of a recent austin show that you can cop via their website for the incredibly low price of just three bucks -- apparently the same as what it cost to get into the show. and i thought only fort worthians were used to hearing live music for cheap or free.

green porn

the world's oldest vegetarian organization has come up with a novel way to lure carnivores to the green side: vegetarian porn. no fooling.

ph7, the brokers, sin-c

the last time pablo and the hemphill 7 played the ridglea theater was three years ago. back then, opening for the wailers, they'd been a band for about four months and played mostly covers. on friday, the current lineup (now expanded to the fullness of seven, including confusatron's matt skates and jonathan irwin on trombone and percussion, respectively) took the big stage to deliver an hour and a half of mainly original toonage. they're _this_ far away from finally releasing their bona fide debut full-length c.d., and they have the satisfaction of knowing they've sparked a mini-wave of reggae-inflected acts here in the fort. at last november's "sound clash '04" show at axis, joe vano and crew shared the bill with darth vato, sally majestic, kulcha far i, and sin-c. on friday's undercard were sin-c and the brokers, a new band fronted by sin-c's drummer. while it's a given that pablo shows are collective ecstasies, akin to sub oslo's new year's eve exorcisms on a more regular basis, in this case, both opening acts were revelations.

here's the backstory on the brokers, from vano his own self: "their singer called me up and asked if they could play the show. i liked the balls of that. this is their first show ever. the drummer drives up from austin to play with them. he's played with them maybe three, four times." visually, the brokers come across like a junior high talent show version of the mighty mighty bosstones, or maybe a failed bluesband (helpful fashion tip: lose the fedoras), but once you get past that, they look and sound a lot more comfortable playing together than their brief history might indicate (i think some of these guys have played together before in other bands). they have a supple skank that newbie reggae outfits usually take more than one gig to master, and the tenor sax solos give their sound some uniqueness. (anybody remember saxa from the english beat? i thought not.) their two-song demo cd, while kinda tentative, has the correct spirit. i'm looking forward to seeing how these guys develop over the next coupla years.

the night's "most improved bowler" trophy definitely belongs to sin-c, however. for a long time, these guys seemed more like a drunk 'n' drugged trainwreck than a real serious band, and it was hard to believe they'd been together as long as pablo (although in fairness, they were probably just learning their instruments around the time they formed, whereas ph7 coalesced from relatively long-in-the-tooth veterans of enoch, slowpoke, the visitors, hillary tipps, root 420, brasco, bindle, etc.). perhaps the sin-c guys have been practicing. perhaps they've realized that it's a more effective performance strategy to avoid getting fuuuuucked up until _after_ the show. perhaps fronting the brokers has given their drummer a different take on the whole process. whatevah. in any event, sin-c rawked the ridglea with real authority, a righteous groove, and actual _dynamics_. having abandoned his edward scissorhands mohawk and metalhead gtr for more of a john frusciante/strat kind of thang, their gtrist has learned to syncopate and use his effects well. their frontguy, who still looks like a hyperactive mini-vano, is projecting some real personality, and most importantly, their jams move the crowd. check 'em out the next time you get a chance.

now that willie nelson is releasing a reggae album and bob dylan is playing at willie's annual 4th of july picnic, it seems like a no-brainer: pablo needs to play the picnic. smith music group, officed in the stockyards, is promoting the show. someone oughtta suggest it to 'em. just a thought.

Friday, May 20, 2005

kulcha far i, villain vanguard - wreck room, may 27th

y'all should be aware that the fort's most underrated reggae outfit, kulcha far i, will be at the wreck room on friday, may 27th, with unheard-by-me-but-reportedly-intriguing jazzers villain vanguard (who'll also be at the halo lounge -- formerly scooner's, on south university across from tcu -- the following night). be there -- aloha.

coldplay: stockholders "evil"

hahahaha. just got this from paul boll. so coldplay are running late w/their new alb (kinda like the eagles back in '79, when their label boss sent them a rhyming dictionary to try and get 'em out of the cocaine doldrums). no big deal, except chris martin comes out in the press declaring his contempt for their label emi (which the sex pistols did much better back in prehistory) and shareholders in general, whom he refers to as "the great evil of the modern world." what the funk?!?!? methinks he doth protest too much.

whip them jar-jar

is jar-jar binks the devil? _you_ decide!!!

big weekend

looks like it's gonna be a goodun, between pablo at the ridglea tonight, goodwin (two sets!) at the moon tom'w, and the miles davis trib at the blackdog sunday. also on sunday: roller derby. in haltom city. and it's byob. (thanks for the heads-up, marlin.) it's a great life, if you don't weaken...

enron movie

wow, they've made a documentary about enron. this should be interesting, to say the least...

samuel l. jackson -- WARNING! SPOILERS

when mace windu bought it in the new star wars flick, i was actually surprised. apparently i haven't been attentive enough to slj's career...

the new star wars flick - WARNING! SPOILERS

so i took my dtr and nephew to see the new star wars flick (thanks google) and it was boss. in spite of the last two installments, i was kinda anxious to see it, in part because of the online review i read that called it "the most violent and disturbing" of the series. perhaps this was because of the high number of decapitations, or the dante's inferno-like planet where obi-wan and anakin/darth have their final showdown. or what happens to anakin/darth at the end of said showdown. or, in a different sense, perhaps it's all the _moral ambiguity_: darth vader as hamlet? _you_ decide!!!

equally horrifying was the fact that natalie portman actually looks like shit in her first few scenes, esp. the one in which anakin/darth tells her "you're beautiful." (is it just me, or is that actor growing up to be lorenzo lamas in falcon crest? personally, i think the point of the scene is to show how anakin's confusion is eroding his judgment.) she actually looks better when she's dead. sigh. could she be a victim of "baby alligator syndrome?" is she evolving into another faye dunaway or sally struthers? film, as they say, at 11.

scott from my work points out that the stuff in the "past" actually looks a lot cooler than the stuff in the "future" (episodes 1-3 versus 4-6). my dtr wisely observed that 1-3 take place after civilization-as-they-know-it has been destroyed, so it makes sense. unless he was just commmenting on the fact that it's possible to do _much_ cooler shit with cg animation today than it was back in the '70s.

i'm proud to say that i figured out that palpatine was the emperor two episodes ago. i'm usually the last to catch on to plot details like that. it was easy: the weak chin. some of his pronouncements made me think of our prez, which moveon.org obviously picked up on. (i returned to my inbox to find an e-mail from them with a subject line in yoda-speak. jeez.)

perhaps as a result of having seen moulin rouge, i kept expecting ewan macgregor to break into song. thankfully, he didn't.

oh yeah, and luke and leia are brother and sister. that explains why she was never attracted to him (because she's not from arkansas). and she was raised by jimmy smits (which had me flashing on mi familia for a second; i'm gonna have to go back and look for indicators of chicana soul in carrie fisher).

happily, while jar-jar makes an appearance, he doesn't get to talk. or does he? (i missed the first 10 minutes or so.)

and that's all i have to say about that.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

lexicon devil

speaking of stuff that's out there in the (in this case) blogosphere, here's a cat that blogs pretty sanely and sensibly on rock (or rawk). if he wasn't missing an "i," i'd think he was the dogmeat records fella from orstralia. but i'd prolly be wrong. i'm guessing dave laing-with-an-"i" never read ayn rand.

more catch-22

matt found this in the wikipedia. dig the entries on _all_ those characters. hooray for the wikipedia: so comprehensive. so participatory. it's everything we like about the little internet.

where'd you get that t-shirt, punk?

the robopirate weighs in with some thought-provoking musings on fashion and the appropriation of culcha here.

the mars volta

back when i was writing about music with some degree of commitment, i spent several years listening to the same record over and over and over again. after awhile, it grew tiresome. this is one reason why i missed out on at the drive in: it just so happened that the relationship of command arrived laden with the requisite mc5 comparisons at precisely the moment when that was the one thing i _didn't_ want to hear. (coming out of some club the next-to-last time i was at sxsw, some street team guy pressing his band's cd-r into my hand -- _not_ at the drive in's -- and assuring me it "sounds just like the mc5." "oh, christ," i remember thinking, "not _another one_.") i wouldn't even buy the album when i saw multiple copies of it at cd warehouse for a buck.

so now omar rodriguez-lopez and cedric bixler-zavala (great names!) have a band called the mars volta, and they're stupendous. a couple of years ago, an obnoxious kid who took my part-time employment with the local alt-weekly rag as license to impose his latest enthusiasm on me anytime we were in the same bar ("what do you mean you never heard interpol? what do you mean you never heard franz ferdinand? what kind of music critic _are_ you, anyway?") dropped their name, which was another surefire way of guaranteeing i _wouldn't_ go out of my way to check 'em out. my loss.

try as they might to dodge the prog bullet, it's a fair cop. which is fine: complexity and, uh, good musicianship are no sin, even in rock/rawk, as long as they're deployed in service of some value other than "look at me! look at me!" show[boat]manship, and the mars volta play much harder (one man's aggression is another's passion) than yr average band of twee limeys singing about the lord of the rings or something. on their new cd, frances the mute (apparently some kind of "concept album," but i haven't bothered to read the lyrics yet, and half of the songs are sung in spanish), passages of battering percussion-and-gtr firepower rub shoulders with string sections and spacey electronica. there's even some salsa, with real-life fania all-star larry harlow along for the ride, and towards the end, the ghost of john coltrane ca. ascension puts in an appearance. (a couple of red hot chili peppers also check in.) heady stuff, dude.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

the worst band name ever

graham said, "there was this kid that hitchhiked down from oklahoma once to hear anal cunt play. he was like 17. he got here in the middle of the afternoon and sat in front of the bar drinking nyquil until the band showed up. then while they were playing, he stood in front of the stage carving their name in his arm. we finally had to throw him out. the guys from the band came up later on and said, 'thanks for throwing that kid out. he was creeping us out -- and we're in a band called anal cunt!"

what's incredible is that there are like 10 pages of links to anal cunt on google.


i finally figured out why the mix at the aardvark always sounds like ass: it's optimized for the booth, and so improves the further back in the room you get. myself, i like to stand up front for bands i like. musos tend to encourage their fans to come up there, too, which sets 'em up for an auditory beating in this particular venue. this also accounts for the 25-foot "line of death" in front of the aardvark stage. sigh.

an admission: i've always felt like a chaperone at "the vark." ("you boys -- put out those cigarettes! and have fun...within limits.") it's where undergrads go to try on personas (and mostly talk over the bands). lately, there's been an epidemic of bad '80s rawk haircuts. now that i no longer have to go there for "professional" purposes, i'd rather go where there are people closer to my age, where we can continue wearing the personas we put on 20+ years ago, and (usually, at least) stand up front without getting our ears blown out. (helpful hint: lower stage volume = a more controllable mix, even for "loud" rock'n'roll, with all kinds of collateral benes like audible voxxx and lyrics, if you like that sort of thing.)

Saturday, May 14, 2005


i just finished re-reading joseph heller's catch-22, one of my fave reads of all time and one that i used to revisit every coupla years or so. i hadn't had a copy in a decade or so, but when my dtr brought a disintegrating copy from half price books into the house, i quickly co-opted and re-read it. it's a truism, but it's also true, that when you periodically return to a piece of literature, it means different things to you over time. for me, this time, catch-22 seemed less like the surreal vision of a world gone mad that it seemed the first time i encountered it. instead, it seemed like a pretty accurate depiction of the illogic of things in the "real world." maybe it was easier for me to get a handle on this time because i'm familiar with the time-leaping ebb and flow of the narrative (which so flummoxed my dtr that she put it down, like her grandmother when confronted with any movie made after 1973 or so). what was also new was the humanity i saw in heller's exploding universe of improbably-named characters, and the compassion i felt for some of them.

Friday, May 13, 2005

gang of four

when i moved back to the fort from colorado in the spring of 1980, after an interval of cooling my heels back at my parents' house on long island, i lived in a duplex off of 5th st. near university. my next door neighbors were a couple of ripping-off truckdrivers who were always offering me stuff they'd stolen, which i invariably declined. one night i heard the guy in the house on the other side pleading for his life. the next day, he and his family had evaporated. for awhile my buddy j.d. and his wife stayed with me. she used to come to the record store where we worked and sit behind him while he ran the register to make sure he wasn't flirting with the female customers.

the windows to this place were painted shut, and the only heat came from gas space heaters which sat on the carpeted floors. there was no air conditioning. in march, when i got back, it was still cold enough at night that i'd put on every stitch of clothing i owned before climbing under the covers and shivering, because i was paranoid about the heaters falling over and setting the place on fire. when it got warm, it got really, really warm. if dan lightner hadn't lent me a small electric fan, i'd have perished. i used to sit in front of the fan until i'd sweated every molecule of moisture from my body, then walk three blocks to the 7 eleven to buy more gatorade or beer.

sometime that spring i took a day trip to austin with brian quigley and tim schuller and wound up getting thrown in jail in fairfield, in ellis county, for having a car full of empty beer cans when the local cop pulled me over on i-35 for having a taillight out. schuller (who was much more inebriated than i was) wound up driving the car back to dallas, and after lightner came down and bailed me out, i rode the bus over to schuller's sumptuous oak lawn palace to retrieve my ride. i got home that night, flushed the toilet, and all of a sudden i felt like i was in a jerry lewis movie. water started shooting out of the toilet tank. i managed to direct it into the shower. if i'd had half (make that a quarter) of a brain, i'd have just _turned the water off_ from under the toilet tank, but instead i unassed the joint, called my landlady, who said she'd send her son over to check it out. then i went to check into a motel 6 on las vegas trail for the night.

the next day i got back from work and found the water was still spraying out of the toilet tank. the place was as humid a swamp, and there was water lapping at the carpet next to the bathroom (which would give me a sense of deja vu when i encountered the three inches of fetid water on the floor of the men's room at the triad club on keesler air force base a couple of years later). i threw all my shit in the car, called the landlady and told her i was moving, then went to check into the rio motel on camp bowie until i could find another shitty apartment to live in. again, all i really needed to do was _turn the water off_, but by that time i was tired of the place anyway.

for most of the time i lived in that apartment, i owned two tapes: the debut albums by the specials and the pretenders. i listened to them continuously for about three months. then around the time i moved, i got a promo copy of the first gang of four album from work. i was already a clash fan. i'd seen 'em twice the year before, once at the armadillo in austin, then a couple of nights later at the palladium in dallas, where i walked in just in time to see charles and barbara buxton running out with their hands over their ears and figured, "this is going to be _good_." i watched joe strummer pound his mic stand against the stage and spit imprecations through ruined teeth while mick jones strutted around like a stormtrooper and thought, "these guys are _the shit_."

i liked the idea of english punk better than the american variety because, y'know, those guys were _political_, their economy in the shitter, unemployment high (although nowhere near as bad as it'd get in the '80s and '90s); hell, they'd had rationing througout the '50s, it was like world war II never ended there. but the clash were really more rock than punk; they started showing their true colors (or colours) on london calling, which i rode down to denver with glenn gutierrez to buy on the day it was released: strummer starting to gravitate more and more towards the american roots music he'd tried to play with the 101'ers, while mick jones revealed that he just wanted to be in mott the hoople.

the gang of four seemed a lot more to the point. they sang in their own leeds university student accents, not foreign service brat strummer's affected cockney. rather than the grand anthemic rock the clash played once they'd gained sufficient control of their instruments and added journeyman topper headon on drums, gang of four played a crabbed, beefheartian version of funk, with andy gill spraying jagged shards of splintered gtr notes every which way, and sang about meaningful stuff in an intelligent way that offered no cheap slogans (except for the occasional advertising mantra turned on its head), no messianic bullshit. later on they veered off into dance music (of course).

i hear they just played coachella, and are getting ready to re-release their debut (good) album entertainment! on rhino. i was reminded of 'em yesterday, when kcrw played "to hell with poverty," which i used to have on their brief history of the twentieth century comp. it'd be good to hear them sing "damaged goods" and "at home he's a tourist" again. i'd forgotten how much decent music there was between '80 and '82, when i kinda lost the thread for awhile.

shhhh, don't wake him

the nation's capital goes apeshit because a cessna strays into the no-fly zone and the prez remains blissfully unaware while he's off on a bike ride. what's wrong with this picture? (caveat: takes awhile to download, even w/broadband.)

grocery store wars

this is insane and geeky, but funny. wonder if lucas is going after 'em for trademark infringement? join the rebellion!

jazz repertory comes to the fort

so on may 22nd, the regular sunday night jazz thang at the black dog is gonna be transformed into a special celebration of miles davis' 79th birthday. it's a great concept: the first set recreates miles' epochal '59 album kind of blue and the sextet with trane, cannonball, and bill evans/wynton kelly; the second set features material from the benchmark '66 alb miles smiles by the second "classic" quintet of hancock/carter/williams/shorter; and the third focuses on miles' late '60s/early '70s electric period (in a silent way/bitches brew/jack johnson). the lineup includes (but is not limited to) members of bertha coolidge, flipside, ghostcar, master cylinder (remember them?) and wednesday-night black dog regulars dave and daver. it's a show conceived in jazz heaven that will hopefully draw real big and lead to further like-themed evenings. (i'm voting for a monk tribute with johnny case.)

Thursday, May 12, 2005

the faces

listening to kcrw at work today, i was surprised to hear "bad 'n' ruin" by the faces. this was the band, a kind of sloppy-drunk poor man's rolling stones, with whom rod stewart -- hard to believe there was once a time when i didn't loathe and detest the ground he, aka "mr. whining-about-'why-haven't-_i_-won-a-grammy yet?'," slithered across -- hedged his bets while waiting to see whether his solo career was viable, and ron wood (of whom we used to say, "he's either a really a great guy or he has _really_ good dope, 'cos he's the sloppiest mothafuckin' gtrist _alive_") marked time before getting a full-time job as keef richards' shadow.

previously, as the small faces, the other three had gone from amphetamine-gobbling mod r&b poseurs to acid-addled fairytale popsters and incidentally made some decent music before steve marriott (whose hectoring, histrionic vocal style i once admired) decided to go form humble pie with, um, peter frampton and just be awful (although i'll admit i still drive faster on those ever-rarer occasions when "i don't need no doctor" or "hot 'n' nasty" comes on the radio). for what it's worth, echoes of the stewart-fronted, not-small faces can be heard in the work of such worthies as the replacements, the georgia satellites, the yayhoos, and being there-era wilco. in a just universe, the good-timey faces' shadow would loom as large as those of their bad-timey contemporaries black sabbath and the velvet underground.

i almost split my sides laughing last year, reading the collective rockcrits of the world losing their load over the not-inexpensive faces boxset five guys walk into a bar, 'cos one thing i haven't forgotten about their records (which i haven't owned in years; i don't even know if they're individually cd-available) is how uneven they were. sitting at work, though, grooving to their streaming sounds through my tiny computer speaker, i could experience all that was best about 'em without having to spend a dime or punch through any dreck. hooray for the internet.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

canadian air guitar contest

wigs? "sex, drugs, and rock-roll, man!"??? bloody viscera?!?!? ha. haha. hahahahahahahaha.

i suppose this was inevitable. sadly, though, no mention of the rheostatics.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

joe carducci

listen, kid: there have only been three rock writers worthy of the name. i repeat: three.

the first was nik cohn, most famous for writing the story that was filmed as saturday night fever, who grew up in england in the '50s and whose awopbopaloobop alopbamboom: the golden age of rock purportedly came off the top of his head (_not_ out of his ass) in a single weekend of manic inspiration when he was 24 and thought the whole thing was dead. (i only wish that da capo had re-pubbed the 1968 original and not the 1973 revision, which softened a few punches that i suppose might have been deemed libelous.)

the second was lester bangs, sainted savant-clown of punk, mythologized in, um, almost famous, who laid down the law while writing for creem and the village voice before checking out in 1982 from too much drink, drugs, and utopian idealism. his testament is the posthumous anthology psychotic reactions and carburetor dung (although some people will tell you that the later main lines, blood feasts, and bad taste: a lester bangs reader contains sharper prose).

the third and, i'd say, the greatest: joe carducci, who thinks of himself as primarily a screenwriter, worked at sst records during its heyday, and subsequently had a career in radio. this cat understands the process of music-making better than any non-muso has a right to, as well as what i like to think of as _the political economy of rock_ (read: the biz). he sees the world as it is, not as it should be, focuses exclusively on what's important, and calls it more clearly and succinctly than anyone save his contemporary steve albini. he plays the realist to bangs' idealist (and greil marcus' lefty academic pedant). the third edition of his 1990 tome rock and the pop narcotic: testament for the electric church was just pubbed by redoubt press. (i got mine from forced exposure, but you might wanna go right to the source.)

i don't have words that can do justice to the heft of carducci's insight or the elegance of his style. suffice to say, you gotta read the bits about playing the drums ("there are many useful approaches to rock drumming...") on page 17 of this edition, the bit about performance ("the variables in good rock bands' stylistic character may be innumerable...") on page 27, the one that starts "rock reaches the spiritual by way of the physical..." on page 55...hell, this doorstop is filled with pages like some of the ones in the adventures of huckleberry finn or the last one in the great gatsby that'll make you shake your head in wonder if you care at all about words (or in this case, _music_ and words).

all bullshit aside: buy this book. read this book. you owe it to yourself.

EPIC 2014

this is for sci-fi fans and technogeeks with long attention spans only (it's about 8 minutes) -- a kind of network for this here cyber age..

chatterton, scott copeland, woodeye

in his unassuming way, scott davis kinda defines "musician's musician." since he blew in from houston as an early-'90s tcu undergrad with his high school bandmate jared blair in tow, he's provided much of the musical muscle behind two of the greatest songwriter's band's this town has produced: woodeye (which he joined at age 21 -- he's 30 now -- after experiencing an epiphany while opening for slobberbone with his high school band crinkleroot and realizing, "wow, the band i'm in really sucks") and chatterton (the band formed by ex-brasco frontguy and longtime woodeye pal kevin aldridge when _he_ returned from nine tempestuous months on the west coast).

scott's rough-hewn but melodic guitar has always ensured that woodeye is the most rockin' of y'allternative outfits, while his keening lap steel keeps the grit and soul in their roots. in the studio, he's broadened the band's sonic palette with plaintive harp and keyboard flourishes that finally found their full fruition in chatterton, where (with two other guitarists available) he's been able to channel his inner benmont tench. you can tell that scott (and journeyman drummer kenny smith) have been having fun helping shape chatterton's material, and that spirit has spilled over into woodeye, where the performance dynamic has shifted from days gone by when most of the onstage animation came from bassist graham richardson's coiled-spring presence.

having busted their studio cherry with jordan richardson at first street audio (surprise surprise, a _rock record_) and matt barnhart at the echo lab (most indie-licious), lately the chatterton boys have been laying down tracks at scott's house, where a coupla judiciously-placed mics and a stripped-down version of pro tools have given them a sound that's as ambient as a classic '60s side -- you can hear the room where they're playing, and that's a good thing. in a world where there were still real country stations, "you will see" -- on which kevin harmonizes with scott's wife kristen davis like a pair of, um, grievous angels, in a tandem that sounds a lot more organic than emmylou did with that kid from omaha with the funny haircut -- would be a massive hit. (note to self: must make an oppo to hear scott and kristen's "side project" band, quaker city.)

scott knows something about radio, having been on-air on ktcu back when that station sounded more like, well, a _college_ station and less like an amalgam of every clearchannel monstrosity, when the talent had something more intelligent to say about the music they played than, "um, that was the beatles from, uh, the '60s or '70s or something" (in the name of god, people, have you never heard of the all music guide?).

yeah, chatterton's sound comes from the confluence of musos who've gotten to know each other's riddim well enough to instinctively fill the right space, without clutter. (for proof, hear "rainbows and open bars" -- also proof that kevin's cynicism hasn't deserted him.) and that's with less than a year as a band under their belts. woodeye's had, um, _eight years_ to perfect their special thang, going through drummers like they were spinal tap or something until kenny smith finally came on board to lend some stability to the percussion seat. in the last year, their stage set has expanded to accommodate keyboards (and kevin aldridge) before returning to the four-piece format their fans have come to know and love.

at the wreck room's eighth anniversary bash, from their opening "what's the matter with me?" to their closing "fearless," they proved that it's unwise to take old standbys for granted. carey wolff's songs remain some of the most evocative around, and his voice -- a blend of phlegm, bile, whiskey, and nicotine -- is the perfect instrument to put them across. the years may have mellowed him a bit, but they've hardly softened him. and scott davis -- who, earlier, had joined scott copeland's new electric band onstage to play some blistering lap steel -- raised his guitar over his head like the rockstar you always knew he was, as if he was graham or something, as he blazed away into the night.

Monday, May 09, 2005

d/fw local bands encyclopedia

not real up-to-date, but still an occasionally useful resource.

worst songs ever

are these really the worst songs ever? YOU decide!!!

myself, i'd disagree, only because "seasons in the sun" is omitted, but i think this was probably compiled by a person who wasn't born yet when that particular abortion was tainting the airwaves.

new jack radio

can this be the final solution to the radio dj problem?

Sunday, May 08, 2005

the power of creation

cadillac fraf said:
"i was hitchhiking one time
and i got picked up by this guy
who had all these tools in his truck.
i told him, 'you sure have a lot of tools here.'
he said, 'those aren't tools.
they're the power of creation.'
i wasn't going to argue with him.'"

virtual drumkit

you wanna play the virtual drums? you can do so here.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

pierre moerlin

fans of "weird music" will be saddened to note that pierre moerlin, drummer for the anglo-french psychedelic band gong back in the early '70s and again in the late '90s, left to join the cosmos last monday night. go easy, bro...

Friday, May 06, 2005

wow, has this been an exciting news day or what?

where to begin? a middle school band in michigan was first prohibited from, then allowed to play "louie, louie." incredibly, the old "unintelligible lyrics are obscene" argument remains alive almost 50 years after the song was written. luckily, somebody must have showed the responsible adults the relevant scene from mr. holland's opus. the ghost of richard berry smiles.

speaking of obscenity, coffee goliath starbucks has decided _not_ to sell the new broooce springsteen album because it contains a song about having anal sex with a hooker. is it just me, or does this have the smell of a desperate attempt at "edginess" by a past-his-sell-by-date-"future-of-rock'n'roll?" i'd like to meet the a&r genius who came up with this brainstorm.

finally, audioslave is gonna be the first american rockband to play in cuba. not long ago, i was wondering, "where the hell is rage against the machine now that we need 'em? oh, yeah -- dr. morello and co. are off _making money_ with the little guy from soundgarden." personally, i'm of the opinion that zack de la rocha was the real political thinker in that particular crew, harvard ph.d. or no.

messkins in orbit

went to the moon to see steffin ratliff and tony diaz play their debut gig as "chicano space program": just a coupla guys sitting around playing songs they dig, acoustically. to hear tony sing beatlesongs is to be reminded that our barrel-chested boy can prolly sing the shit out of _anything_ that's put in front of him. most singers wouldn't tempt jeff buckley comparisons by singing his "grace" or leonard cohen's "hallelujah," a song most people under 25 probably know best through him. while tony fudged on some of the high notes, he still had the right spirit. biggest surprise of the night was hearing steffin do about half of the singing while playing neat fingerpicked accompaniment (is there anything this guy _can't_ do with a guitar?). daniel gomez raised the on-stage mexican quotient by sitting in to play a few goodwin songs with tony. the only semi-disappointment of the evening: the ex-bindle bandmates only played _one_ bindle song, "10,000 miles." but...they promised they'll do more next time. (matt hembree was in the audience and kevin geist woulda been there if he hadn't had to play in a dart tournament or something.)

proof that i need to get out of the house more: i hadn't been on berry street in six months or so, and the street seems to be a little more jumpin' than it usedta be during the middle of the week since the frog (aka "the door south") and panther city coffee opened their doors, fuzzy's expanded, and perrotti's pizza got bought out.

even more fz interviews online

you gotta love the euros. they're really scholars of this stuff. thanks, damien!

Thursday, May 05, 2005

new chatterton toonage

because i'm afraid of myspace (is it just me, or are the profiles for these online communities like filling out a job application?), i just discovered two new songs on chatterton's site there. "wagon" is a soaring rocker with great scott davis organ work, while "you will see" is a lot more countryish than we've come to expect from kevin. makes me wish i could be in two places at once this weekend, but since i can't, i'll be helping celebrate eight years of the wreck room while these guys are at the moon. feh.

wow, ryan adams shows ass to canadians

i'm not a big fan of the ex-whiskeytown front, altho i do think it's hilarious that he's thrown people out of his gigs who mistook him for brian adams, he of "summer of '69" fame. apparently, ryan put on a less-than-stellar show up in brian's backyard recently, but at least was man enough to admit it. the writer is pretty good, too.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

a veritable geek clash of the titans

microsoft running scared of google? it could happen. i do all of my stuff at home without using a single ms app.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

mercury rev

i used to think mercury rev were english, but they're not. au contraire, they hail from buffalo, new york (where i claimed to be from when i was six and briefly lived in illinois; it was at least _on the map_, unlike the tiny bumfuck town i was actually from). they say they got together when they were all patients in the same psychiatric institution, but that could be bullshit (or maybe not). they have connections with: 1) tony conrad, an early associate of future velvet underground-ites john cale and lou reed, who mentored some of the mercury rev peeps while they were attending the state university of new york at buffalo; 2) the esteemed flaming lips, with whom their frontguy jonathan donahue has toured as a gtrist; and 3) the poet robert creeley, with whom they once made a record. their music started out as gorgeously ethereal psychedelic dream-pop with gtrs that sounded like jet planes or dentists' drills, which is probably what got them thrown off one of the early lollapalooza tours. since then, the sweep of their music has grown even more cinematic; imo, their 1998 release deserter's songs is about as close to a perfect record as anyone's come up with in the last decade. while i wait for the copies of their first coupla albs that i ordered from amazon to arrive, i listen every morning to "chasing a bee" and "frittering" from yerself is steam and "something for joey" from boces (i like the fact they named a record after the place in new york where my mother wanted me to go learn to fix cars when she thought i was going to drop out of school) via their website's vibration page. it seems to get my day started on the right foot.

in search of the tokyo happy coats

it always gives me big yuks when i meet people in their 20s who are infatuated with japonica (why? i dunno, but i blame anime, although hello kitty and pokemon are probably equally culpable) and assume that i'm an authority.

the sad truth: i am the worst japanese person imaginable. reason: i grew up in new york while my parents (children of immigrants, they) were in the process of becoming acculturated to _ameercun_ culcha. i remember as a child watching my mother trying to sound her vowels the way the people on the brit shows on channel 13 did, the better to lose her hawaii pidgin accent. (she was born on the big island, on the mcbride sugar plantation, in the neighborhood they used to film the julie andrews hawaii flick. at the time, the mid-'60s, the houses were being torn down as their occupants died off or moved away, but when she was younger than i am now, my mom used to be able to remember the names of every member of every family that lived there when she was growing up, and every kid who was in her class every year while she was in school. i always used to say i was going to roll tape while she was telling her stories, but i never did, and now she says she can't remember them.)

in the environment where i was growing up, there was no utility to learning my ancestral tongue, although when we were nine and eight respectively, my sister and i were sent to a lady in our town who attempted to teach us. of course, i lost interest after i got her to teach us the "bad" words. part of the problem was that our parents used japanese as a secret code for talking about money, as a result of which i can neither speak japanese nor handle money. when i was in the service, i got to talk on a secure-voice phone, where the people on both ends of the conversation have to turn a key to scramble their words to gibberish before they can talk. it reminded me of listening to my parents discussing family finances at the dinner table. my sister actually learned to speak japanese as an adult, when she spent a couple of months traveling around the ancestral homeland with our parents, meeting all the relatives who remembered our grandparents, etc. i was stationed in korea at the time and my first child had just been born in texas, so when i had the opportunity, i came back stateside instead of joining them in japan (although i did spend four days in yokota sitting in the mac port, "showering" in the sink in the men's latrine, and listening to a japanese elvis presley impersonator at the nco club in the evenings). after that, my sister continued studying the language formally for years. she could actually write it well enough to correspond with my father, and once translated an aria from italian opera into japanese and sang it for a class. i shit you not.

as an adult, i learned to appreciate kurosawa films, bento bowls, and sake, but through my teen years, i was openly derisive of the tidbits of japanese culture that entered our home (like the four hours of costume dramas my parents would watch on the puerto rican station from newark every saturday night after we got cable, especially when an airplane or suspension bridge appeared in the background of a story that was supposed to be taking place in the 18th century). best (or worst) of all were the japanese mechanical toys my grandfather used to send us back in the'60s. they all made creepy noises and smelled like electric trains. i wish i'd held onto some of 'em; i'd be making a killing on ebay now. my fave: "mcgregor," a little scotsman in a kilt, sporran, and tam o'shanter. when you pressed his button, he very laboriously stood up (with a mechanical grinding sound that went something like "GRRRRNNNNNNRRRRRRRZZZZZZRRRRRR" and was guaranteed to set your teeth on edge), took a "puff" of his cigar, blew a ring of foul-smelling smoke, then sat back down (with the same hideous metallic grinding sound). a classic.

on _almost_ as exalted a plane were the japanese rock'n'roll records he started sending when we were of _that age_. gawd, they were awful. my favorite (the name of which, of course, escapes me) had blaring saxophones playing what sounded like music from godzilla movies and an overemoting singer, kinda like the one in the musical number (scroll down, link is near the bottom) from the bollywood movie that plays at the beginning of ghost world. the one i _can_ remember the name of is also the lamest: a single by a group called the tokyo happy coats that had a sappy ballad called "forevermore" on one side and an instrumental cover of "harlem nocturne" that i preferred on the other. incredibly, these people used to record for king records, the same label as james brown.

i started doing some net surfage on the tokyo happy coats, and made some interesting discoveries. apparently, they were a lounge act that toured the states pretty extensively from the mid-'60s on, playing las vegas and the ed sullivan show as well as dives in pittsburgh and detroit. between 'em, those happy coats played a whopping 26 instruments. this info came from the liner notes to their live album, the track listing from which kinda tells the whole story:

Side A
This is the life
You are my sunshine
Tea for two
The best goes on [presumably "the beat goes on?"]
Spinning wheel
Windmill of your mind
For once in my life

Side B
Exodus-Hava nigla (sic) [i'll bet this was choice]
Little green apples
Along came jones
Bala bala bala bamba [presumably "la bamba?"]
When the saints go marching in

in my mind's eye, i'm seeing a '60s version of some of the godawful lounge bands i got to hear in asia, the ones that were too pathetic to make it on the uso tour. an even bigger surprise was that all of the happy coats were women -- something i never realized back in the day because all i had was a single and the only way i ever listened to it was at the wrong speed, with the spindle off-center, just like the scene in one two three (which might have been jimmy cagney's last movie, about a coca-cola executive in berlin around the time the wall went up) where the horst buchholz character gets arrested by the east german police and they torture him by making him listen to "itsy bitsy teenie weenie yellow polka dot bikini" through headphones at the wrong speed with the spindle off-center. we didn't just listen to japanese records that way; we gave the same treatment to the rays' "silhouettes"/"daddy cool," the eloise trio's "chi chi merengue," or anything else we thought sounded "funny."

with that background, words can't express how disappointed i was when i actually heard "forevermore" for the first time in 30+ years recently. (you've gotta scroll down a bit; the link is under the review of a compilation called island '60s and '70s.) it sounded so _normal_, nothing like the caterwauling noise that used to drive me and my buds into fits of hysterical laughter back then. personally, i think the latter-day fetish for '60s and '70s japanese pop is a sure sign that we live in a decaying civilization.

Monday, May 02, 2005

fz links

holy wow! are there a ton of zappa links on the web or what?!?!?