Wednesday, December 15, 2010

12.15.2010, FTW

Feeling pretty wound up lately. Tomorrow night I'm going to buy all new preamp tubes for the Twin, hoping that'll resolve my grinding noise problem. Friday morning at TCU, I'll pin second lieutenant's bars on my son-in-law, and wear a tie for the first time since RadioShack went business casual. My middle daughter's baby is due the day after the next Stoogeshow is scheduled.

So lately I've been stumbling around in the messy New England attic that is Allen Lowe's Jews In Hell: Radical Jewish Acculturation, which is further subtitled Or: All the Blues You Could Play By Now If Stanley Crouch Was Your Uncle and Or: Dance of the Creative Economy: How I Learned to Stop Worrying About the Space Gallery and Love the Music Business. Like my other inspirators Josh Alan Friedman and Jeff Liles, Lowe's a writer who plays music (or a muso who also writes), a deep and distinctive thinker about all kinds of American music. (Think: Joe Carducci if he didn't have as big of an axe to grind, or maybe just a different axe.) He's a fan of the _real_ "old, weird America," not the NPR-sanitized version of same that's come about in the past 15 years or so via No Depression (R.I.P.), T-Bone Burnett, et al. And like Darrin Kobetich, he's a homeboy to boot, having grown up in Massapequa, Long Island, with Elliot Easton (ne Steinberg) of the Cars, although he unassed as soon as he could for Boston, New York City, and New Haven before settling in Maine in the mid-'90s.

Jews In Hell is a sprawing 2CD he self-released in 2007, and it's taken me a few spins to get into its ebb and flow, which encompasses a handful of disparate elements: 1) Lowe's skronky, garage-blues guitar playing (he also plays beautiful post-bop alto sax, electric banjo, bass, and synth), which reminds me of guys-that-can't-play in the same way as fellow Yankee free jazzer Joe Morris' fretwork sometimes does, but with ideas that are way too developed not to be intentional -- crazy like a fox; 2) his lyrics and vocals, which sound like d. boon singing through a karaoke machine, an effect that is not wholly inappropriate; 3) a wind trio in which Lowe plays alto alongside Randy Sandke's trumpet and Scott Robinson's contrabass clarinet; 4) two tracks of estimable avant guitarist Marc Ribot's solo interpretations of Lowe compositions; 5) three tracks where front-rank jazz pianist Matthew Shipp performs on Lowe-penned homages to Jaki Byard -- another ivory-tickler who knew how to look both forward and backward -- either solo or in duo with the composer. Listening to stuff like Eugene Chadbourne, the Godz, Double Nickels On the Dime, and the Art Ensemble of Chicago prepared me for this stuff, which veers wildly from the sublime to the ridiculous and back again, but it's definitely a worthwhile listen, one I still haven't fully absorbed yet.

My other obsessive listen o' the moment is GOD, a 2CD reissue of basically everything recorded by the late-'80s Orstralian band of that name: 40 tracks consisting of an album, a single, a "mini-album," a couple of tribute compilation tracks, and a live recording of their last-ever show. These guys were like 16 or 17 years old when they were laying this stuff down, which makes them the greatest high school band since the Rationals, and they switched instruments and lead vocals like they were the Yayhoos or something. Their sound was equal parts punk, metal, and arena-rock, their riffarama tough enough and their lyrics sharp and funny enough to give a more seasoned and mature band like, say, the Celibate Rifles a run for their money.

They went on to big things, too: Joel Silbersher, who had his own radio show as a pre-GOD teen, went on to found Aussie stoner-rock institution Hoss; Tim Hemensley was in Bored! (a right mess of a band, given frontguy Dave Thomas' penchant for self-destructive onstage dementia, but one that did a better take on the early Stooges than anyone else outside of Mudhoney) and the Powder Monkeys (with his Bored! bandmate, John Nolan; the onstage visual contrast between fireplug Hemensley and gangling Nolan was quite striking); Sean Greenway was in the Yes-Men, and Matty Whittle in Sauce. Sadly, both Hemensley and Greenway OD'd in the early 2000s. There's a bit of video I've got that isn't on Youtube, but should be, of a funny interview they gave in conjunction with the live-on-TV version of their single "My Pal" that _is_ Youtubeable. (For an example of their humor, hear their fake 'Meercun horror movie at the end of the "unabridged version" of "Chockablock Rock 'n' Roll.") It's only heartbreaking if you know how two of the kids wound up.


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