Wednesday, December 28, 2016

When Kristin Hersh returned

A few weeks ago, Kristin Hersh walked into a live set in Los Angeles that ought to have been quite the clusterfuck; she'd skipped soundcheck, used long tuning pauses to show for it, destroyed her G string (the funniest string, at least), and killed time while her producer attempted to replace said string. But she'd marvelously passed these tests of character, and kept a straight face throughout, gracefully transitioning between the stories that complemented her lyrics: post-fight drives in the snow, pieced-together bar chatter, Throwing Muses' recipe for hooker gazpacho. She's warm and witty and likable and the type of person you hope always gets her due, and it's fulfilling to see that she's figured out how to make her career sustainable.

As she mentioned to Vanyaland last month, "Right now with the music business toppling onto its face it’s a good time to open up your product to other media [...] people pay money for that while they won’t really pay for music anymore." Other media refers to her partial transition from musician to writer, following up two full-length books with a five-book deal and promoting an album that's paired with a book of essays and memories, Wyatt at the Coyote Palace. She figured this thing out years ago.

In three decades, her voice has transformed into a mish-mash of a child and everybody's smoking aunt, and while she's bold and tough with a full band behind her, she sounds a little terrified and reluctant when she's on her own. But some of the best writers are the ones who observe and record what is rather than making up stories from scratch, and she's an excellent writer, keeping tabs on the funny and frightening moments and turning her notes into something that [perhaps hopefully] passes for abstract poetry. So it's no wonder that she sounds like she's in hiding -- she's sharing the type of stuff she's always written about, but telling us openly that it's not in fact abstract.

Wyatt runs long and is very much of her time [the '90s], but it's Kristin on display as a versatile musician, a skilled guitarist, and above all else, a proper writer, in ascending order.

Not only can you purchase Wyatt at the Coyote Palace, you can sponsor Kristin's work in exchange for rewards like concert tickets, albums, and the chance to join her in the studio.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Hamburg saves Christmas!

Tan LeRacoon has gone and made the best new Christmas song since Mariah's masterpiece. It's naïve and timely and idealistic, the understated anthem for peace and unity when it's most appropriate and most needed. Which makes it consistent with Tan's idealism and long-term hopes. The single also includes a new mix of "Hurt pt. 1" from this year's Dangerously Close to Love and a brand new, mildly bluesy instrumental that creeps along. Really marvelous seven-inch worth going after this season.

Purchase the loveliest Christmas single of the year.

Monday, November 28, 2016

The sky is falling down: Mark Sultan returns!

Nine years ago, The King Khan and BBQ Show toured, and made a cheery little appearance at Spaceland in Los Angeles, and if you'd asked their handsome German merch guy which of their albums he preferred, he might've said something along the lines of, "Oh, it depends. This one [holding up an album] is more doo-woppy than that one [pointing]. It all depends on how doo-woppy you like it." In fact, this is what he'd said. 

In August 2016, Mark Sultan returned to Los Angeles on his own, as part of a solo tour marked by angry social media posts about not receiving support unless he was touring as part of his band. The show was equally uncomfortable, Sultan alternating between his energetic croon and aggressive threats to end the show, responding to interruptions by a persistent heckler. Naturally, this distracted from what would otherwise have been wildly apparent, the fact that Sultan happens to be a hell of a singer who actually sings. With his newest LP, BBQ, which is available digitally but can't seem to make its way to press, one gets the impression that Sultan just can't catch a break. 

He's done the one-man band thing for years, but his teenage longing on this album is more akin to a middle-aged ice cream man, demanding that you get in his truck, little girl. He's the 43-year old who's never stopped pining, only these love letters are interspersed with moments of brilliant madness; listen for "Agitated," "You to Be Mine," and "Black and Blue." This is no longer doo-woppy crooning and daydreaming, it's sneering and bitterly insisting that you're mine, goddamn it. He's been singing the same song all along, but he's grown a bit impatient, and he's created the soundtrack to a life that sounds to have fallen in a hole, regardless of whether it's really the case or not. So when this record manages to get released (and it appears to exist nowhere), give it a purchase and help him get to a nice, happy place where he can get back to being more doo-woppy.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

While Trump was giving his victory speech, I desperately wanted to explode with some comment about how no one looked more horrified than Barron Trump, or that, you know, if nothing else, at least the Imperial Wizard is happy tonight. But the alcohol has long worn off, and all I can feel is incredibly disappointed that this is the best we could do. I'm baffled at how many people place faith in the idea of a single candidate reversing the world, and the spectrum of what reversing the world means; I'm disappointed that Clinton gave Debbie Wasserman Schultz a new campaign role right after she'd resigned as DNC Chair; I'm disappointed that we've handed control to a wild card with no political experience and six bankruptcies behind him, because "at least we know what we're not getting." Never mind what we are getting.

Maybe we won't build a wall or create a registry of Muslims or repeal Roe v. Wade in the next few years; the terrifying thing is that we managed to elect him in spite of everything he's put out there, and in support of it. The smartest thing, at this point, would be to sort out what Democrats officially stand for so that we can rally behind whoever runs in 2020, as a single party.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Lower Plenty - Sister Sister

A couple years ago, Al Montfort gave an interview in which he suggested that the difference between American and Australian acts is Australia's lack of ambition, that "you're not going to go very far so you might as well try to write something that you really love rather than something that will sell." And maybe the freedom they've granted themselves is why this site seems to be filling so quickly with Montfort's incestuous circle in Melbourne; just a few months ago, it was time to sing the praises of his band Terry, and already, we've got another album by the six-years-in Lower Plenty to look up to.

Part of Sister Sister harks back to the freak folk movement of the early 2000s, and the album might be at its best during the pairing of "Ravesh" and "All the Young Men," though album closer "Treehouses" is soothing, almost like an adult attempting to be earnest and childlike. Lower Plenty's brand of mopey folk, doing its best impression of '90s individuality but with Velvet Underground-style strings, vocal duties split three ways, has character without being zany. In fact, it's a beautiful, rainy day collection, and what with some of their singing duties handed to Sarah Heyward, there's an awful lot of My Bloody Valentine's "Lose My Breath" seemingly scattered throughout the album. Not that they haven't already proven their sense of humor, of course, and one gets the impression that they might be playing these melancholy songs on the living room floor while laughing about them all the while.

Purchase Sister Sister on Bandcamp.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Aldous Harding will make you weepy

The woman who once told Australia's Beat"I look a little bit upset when I dance," and "I want to write a song like 'Quicksand,' by golly!" is unexpectedly healthy-humored in the way that Fiona Apple could give a funny and self-deprecating interview about weed shortly after releasing the saddest collection of breakup songs imaginable, or the way Rosie Thomas has managed for years to split duties between singer-songwriter and playing Sheila.

New Zealand's Aldous (Hannah) Harding is dry and confident and makes the face of a boxer when she sings. Her singing accent is a goddamn mystery. And she makes some of the most stunning but dour folk around right now, lending lines like "here I find no peace at all" and "I would rather die than sleep tonight." She wouldn't be out of place positioned between Delia Murphy and Molly Drake on a long, dark day's listening, which is really to say that she's perhaps singing in character as an Irish housewife whose husband has left for war and won't return. Or, really, who is preparing for death. You might feel the same way listening to Harding that you felt listening to Lhasa's last record. If you go and see her sing at the Smell in Los Angeles on Wednesday night, you can ask her yourself where that voice comes from.

Purchase her self-titled record, which has been out for a bit in New Zealand and was slow to reach the rest of us.

Monday, October 17, 2016

In a nutshell

Leftover from a 30-day songwriting challenge by Samira Winter, the happiest musician in Los Angeles. Essentially all of her songs are about dreaming and longing for love, and as with many of the others she's released, "Dreaming" sounds like most every movie made about drugs. She'll be at the Bootleg Theater in Los Angeles tomorrow with Ducktails.

Since being turned onto London nu jazz ensemble Kinkajous two years ago, they've actually taken a really fantastic turn, letting go of some of the electronic influence and embracing the jazz aspect of their genre. Which is really much easier to latch onto and more conducive to a live setting. Still happy to see the clarinet getting its due. They'd be enormous for a bit if they lived on the west side of Los Angeles.

The third Terry Malts record just came out last Friday and it's so incredibly straight ahead. Between the faux English accent, the three-minute track average, and the quality production that seems to have softened them up, it's a reliable go-to for poppy California rock, but is neither as jarring nor as humorous as it needs to be to make itself memorable. Still, they're good for a half-hour live set.

Jay Som's Turn Into is getting re-released on November 18, and though female acts generally don't deserve to be lumped together, she'd make a perfect fourth to Speedy Ortiz, Mitski and Winter on a single lineup. This record is dreamy and thoughtful, but she's halfway between Ash Bowie and Sadie Dupuis on guitar, wonderfully innovative. And she'll be at the Echo in Los Angeles on December 3, as part of a San Francisco lineup.

Pesaro, Italy coldwave revivalists [feeling ridiculous with these genre names] Soviet Soviet are putting out a sophomore record called Endless on December 2 and they've just released its first single. The album is in pre-order mode for another month and a half, and there are only 78 copies remaining of the initial 1000 pressed!

Monday, October 3, 2016

An Interview! With Georgio Valentino.

I first became acquainted with Georgio "The Dove" Valentino about four years ago, after posting about a split he'd done with the great Vic Godard. When I'd first run across his half of the release, "Marolles," he'd sounded so ridiculously debonair [in fact, he's been described as a one-time "impossibly debonair keyboardist with the impossibly tall pompadour"] that I assumed him to be masquerading in costume as a European. To an extent, he is, at least part-time. Originally from Palm Beach, Florida, Georgio [real name Γιωργος Jesús Παπανικολοπουλος] moved to Detroit in his 20s and then left for Brussels, where he continues to reside and collaborate with old heroes and new friends.

He's a natural writer with a knack for description, and aside from the unusually formal manner with which he presents himself, his greatest asset might be his ability to channel certain elements of his favorite musicians into his own work without managing to mimic them in the slightest. He doesn't quite sound like anybody else, and his voice and arrangements are stunning. In hindsight, an interview might've been long overdue.

Choir Croak Out Them Goodies: You've described yourself as having been "exiled" from the U.S., which speaks a great deal about how poorly matched you felt at one point. But you've also mentioned that you like the idea of one day returning to Florida part-time, and since physical environment tends to affect the mood of what we create, do you think the return and change in scenery would make it difficult to keep up your music [as it is], or that you still wouldn't be able to find your audience?

Georgio Valentino: I’m not sure I felt so poorly matched. The vicissitudes of the business are well known so I never expected much. I was happy to learn and grow and explore the world around me. And I wasn't short of like-minded souls with which to share the journey. It is true, though, that one pays one’s dues and begins to wonder what’s next, if anything. I was slowly bending toward that asymptote. But what really drove me into exile—before I even had the luxury of disillusionment with my creative situation—was debt.

As Beau Brummell quietly slipped across the English Channel and into debtor’s exile one seemingly random night in 1816, I absconded to Europe in 2008 without even saying goodbye to my boon companions in Detroit. In that sense I think I might actually have been matched all too well. Lehman Brothers reaped the whirlwind for its predatory lending practices while I was airborne over the Atlantic. It all felt rather poetic then, being one of millions who said "no" to organized extortion. For a brief moment it seemed that we had forced some kind of reckoning, that things wouldn't be the same after, or at the very least that if we went down we'd take the loan sharks down with us. Wishful thinking, of course.

Anyway, it turned out for me an opportune interruption of business as usual. I had always had a vague yearning to see more than my corner of the world. Circumstances obliged me to satisfy it. I stayed away for a few years until the dust settled but eventually became a fairly regular visitor to my home state. We even played there last year. We drafted an old pal from Jacksonville to bang the drums. Good times. We were heartened by the experience. I’m due back again in November to bolster the Democratic vote and plan to play some shows while I’m at it. It would be divine to be able to take a few months, absorb the place and the people, and develop some new material there. It’s on our bucket list.

CCOTG: Have you found what you were looking for since leaving the U.S.?

GV: Yes, I found respite from the debt collector! And in the process I found some breathing space in which to collect the scattered thoughts of my youth. And I found some perspective on “culture” generally and cultural production specifically. Last but not least, I happened upon a host of inspiring friendships.

CCOTG: Has living in Brussels and having access to Europe opened you up to partnerships you wouldn't have found here, or has social media really been the thing to create possibilities for you as of late?

GV: It’s a combination of the two. It takes all kinds but I myself subscribe to the old-school view that you have to go out into the world and see what’s doing. I find some social media helpful but only insofar as they facilitate the kind of internationalist RL that we get up to. Our bases in Brussels and now Luxembourg are ideal points of departure for almost any kind of European adventure. And there are but few that we didn’t venture. We spent years throwing metaphorical spaghetti against the wall. [Double-LP] Mille Plateaux is essentially a journal of the whole thing. We ended up recording and collaborating with folks in the places where it stuck (Edinburgh, Amsterdam, Toulouse).

CCOTG: You met Patrizia [Finzi, Georgio's bass player and girlfriend] when she was performing in other bands, yes? What is her musical background? Having watched you perform together, there's a great contrast between you two; she's got a lot of thunder in her, and I imagine her playing in punk bands prior to joining you. Is this so? 

GV: True enough. Her musical education consisted of playing punk squats in Germany and Belgium. She still hangs with Luxembourg’s only surf-punk group Surf Me Up, Scotty, which she helped form back in the ‘90s. I met her in a town called Dudelange, slightly larger than Oberkorn. I appreciated from the start that there was nothing groovy about her approach to the bass. It’s some kind of a fuzzy, minimalist grind. Just the thing to ward off evil spirits and funk musicians.

CCOTG: A great deal of your writing, in different contexts, is spent paying tribute to other people: Piero Ciampi [about whom you are writing an English-language biography], Chuck Berry [however loosely], Michel Foucault, Scott Walker. You write about the local art scene at home as well. Do you find it hard to write about abstract ideas or prefer to have someone or something tangible to reflect on?

GV: I do find it useful to hang ideas on concrete histories. (Chuck Berry’s might be the most useful of all!) Ideas are always expressed and reproduced in situ. This tangibility has a double edge, though.

CCOTG: [Regarding Piero Ciampi] I'm quite interested in how you were turned onto him, where you made a connection, and how that biography is coming along.

GV: Before I seized on Piero Ciampi as the subject of my Geistbuch, I planned to write about Paul Quinn. My book was to be titled Paul Quinn, ou les Malheurs de la Vertu. It became clear after initial interviews with friends and associates that the project was too real. I would likely never be able to approach the principals and it would be irresponsible to just make lemonade and spin a self-serving Romantic essay around a human being who is suffering profoundly. Ciampi exists at a safer distance. And still the work drags on. I hope to wrap by the end of the year but I’ve said that before.

CCOTG: You've just finished a single with some of our shared musical heroes! "Satyros Ironykos" very much sounds like a song that Mick Harvey could have created on his own, but my understanding is that it was really an initial collaboration between you and David McClymont. What role did each of you play in putting together the tracks for this seven-inch?

GV: Aye, the project started with David. We had already collaborated by remote on a Proustian sound-and-vision situation titled "It’s a Funny Religion When You Pray, ‘Hey Mr. Tambourine Man, Play a Song for Me.'" The thing was eventually presented in Edinburgh in 2013. We didn’t meet in the flesh until the following year when he and his partner Janet passed through Paris on a Grand Tour and invited me down to spend a couple of days. They’re charming folks and we hit it off. I left with an open invitation to visit them at home in Melbourne.

Fast forward one more year and it was decided, as Patrizia and I were due to play a handful of shows in Los Angeles at the end of our U.S. tour, to just call it a circumnavigation and return to Europe via Australia and Hong Kong. From there David and I started bouncing musical ideas back and forth via email, with an eye toward recording something in his home studio. He sent me a musical sketch of what would become “Satyros Ironykos” around the time we hit the road. I spent a few weeks with it, marinating, usually in the shower.

Once we landed [in Melbourne], things gathered momentum. I had a solid melody and a lyrical direction. David and Janet’s longtime friends Dave Graney and Clare Moore (ex-Moodists, Coral Snakes) came on board, making us a self-sufficient live band. The icing on the cake was when David asked Mick, another of his old pals, to record the session and play piano. Generous and talented people all around. The whole thing was an immense pleasure. Like Bill O’Reilly, we did it live with minimal overdubs. For the B-side we almost cut a Charles Aznavour cover (still warming on the back burner), but instead decided to revisit a Mille Plateaux cut that David fancied, a number titled “Washed-Out World, or Holidays in the Colonels’ Greece.”

CCOTG: Curious, what made you strike up a relationship with David and not Edwyn Collins, given that they are both accessible by social media [and given that most tend to gravitate toward the most visible member of a group]?

GV: Edwyn is not really accessible anymore. It used to be you could knock on his door at West Heath and he'd entertain you with tea and rare records all day. I know—I did it once, way back in 2001! But since his [two cerebral hemorrhages in 2005], he's well insulated by his team and, of course, he's a changed person. I never approached him about "Funny Religion," though. It just happened organically between me and David. I sent him these long-neglected tracks for shits and giggles one day when he must've been on an iMovie bender. Next thing I know I'm crashing a sold-out Edinburgh poetry slam with a defiantly conversational spoken-prose riff and a screening of David's old home movies set to a bedroom recording of a Japanese pop group from the '90s covering Orange Juice.

CCOTG: Tell me a bit about your partnership/friendship with Blaine Reininger; at this point, is he a full-time member of your band or do you collaborate and play on each other's stages when you have the chance?

GV: He's both! Uncle Blaine is indeed a member in good standing of the Société des Mélancoliques, although he hasn’t performed live with us in a couple of years. He’s been busy lately with other gigs, including a couple of tours during which he and I played material from his solo catalog. (Rumor has it there’s another such tour in the works for 2017.) Most recently I tagged along as support act on one leg of Tuxedomoon’s Half Mute anniversary tour. It’s like Hans said in Naked Lunch: “Americans love to travel but then they only want to meet other Americans and talk about how hard it is to get a decent hamburger.”

CCOTG: You've mentioned that you're a tough sell because you don't fit neatly into a genre, that you've struggled to get your records into stores. But you're not on Bandcamp or Soundcloud, which is how many artists are now getting themselves out there. Has this been a conscious decision on your part? 

GV: I think we cover the necessary bases. We have our own modest plot of internet real estate, complete with its own URL and up-to-date information, streaming media and other basic necessities. Our records are available anywhere in the world via a reliable, independent distributor with whom we have a longstanding relationship. For the rest, we go out and engage the world in all its ambivalence. We find kindred spirits not by algorithm but by happy accident, by ending up in the same venue on any given night. Once our dog-and-pony show packs up and moves on to the next town, of course, that bond is cemented by lots of telecomm glue. But I don’t know what these “social” platforms would add, besides a few cents to their own valuation. I don’t need a dashboard. I’ve learned not to worry about diagnostics. Indeed, we would only be embarrassed by the numbers. Still we feel plenty compensated by the quality of the feedback we do receive.

And yet I suppose I do moan a lot. Frustration is endemic in this line of work. I don’t think anyone is ever satisfied with their lot in the culture industries, probably because rewards are so arbitrarily decided. Like Waylon’s lover, this old business gives me just enough to keep me hangin’ on. That said, I reserve my biggest complaint not for “the culture industry” per se but its para-/quasi-/crypto-industrial fringes, those liminal spaces where professed values of respect, solidarity and broad-mindedness are tested—and often found wanting—by tech-enabled saturation and plain, old-fashioned bad faith. The underground ain’t what it used to be. Maybe it never was what it used to be. Either way, it’s a particularly ironic sting one feels being unceremoniously bounced out of the odd “independent” record shop because, “dude, nobody’s ever heard of your band. Your record’s just gonna sit there taking up shelf space.”


All of Georgio's releases, including "Satyros Ironykos," are available for purchase here.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Cool Ghouls! Animal Races!

There's a nice little array of bands touched by the hands of Mikey Young and lurking around the greater Melbourne circle that birthed Total Control; there's Terry, of course, featuring members that aren't Mikey Young. He's mastered albums for Wireheads, UV Race and-- oh, hell, Impose already got around to this a few years ago. But he also made his way to California's bay area and played with Kelley Stoltz for a bit, and now he and Stoltz are respectively recording and mastering records together, which they did for Useless Eaters earlier this year and which they did more recently for Cool Ghouls.

The albums they're working on would've fit beautifully into the lo-fi-garage-slash-surf rock movement we seemed to have a decade ago (which might've started around the time everyone caught onto Black Lips and won't stop, thanks to the Burger/Castle Face revival-revival still taking place in California). San Francisco's Cool Ghouls are already several years deep into this never-ending rock 'n roll period, though they're not patient enough to be called fully psychedelic; they're too alt-country to be called punk; they're not innovative enough to lead any sort of movement. They're neither wacky nor annoyingly sincere, and they don't sound to be reaching toward any source of inspiration in particular. This odd little no man's space, the vague idea of a 2010s band inspired by a few 1990s bands inspired by a few 1960s bands, is where they fit. Which, as it happens, is where Kelley Stoltz also fits, and where Mikey Young occasionally finds room to sit.

There's the moderately paced almost-freakout, then there's the sad pop, which they of course label as such and which of course features pedal steel. The track that could've been written by Greg Ashley. And then there's the song whose riff falls somewhere between the Gin Blossoms' "Until I Fall Away" and George Harrison's "What is Life." It sort of lacks aim, but the harmonies are nice enough, and Animal Races is ultimately an enjoyable album, the kind of reliable comfort you turn to when you'd like to put on a record and dance for your cat on a Saturday afternoon, nothing more.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Entertaining yourself in Port Townsend: Jherek Bischoff's Cistern

Cistern might not be so much for those who crave traditional classical music as much as for those who crave something to visualize or identify with -- much like a film score, or Margaret Leng Tan's toy piano. It is cinematic and may somehow please fans of post-rock; think Japancakes' Belmondo or even Explosions in the Sky (refer to Bischoff's "Headless" in particular). Above all else, it's the score to a movie that hasn't been created, and really, to a place.

Jherek Bischoff wouldn't be the first to draw inspiration from the Dan Harpole Cistern at Fort Worden. Long ago emptied, it extends any sound with a 45-second reverb, and requires visitors to enter through a tiny entrance, down a ladder, into the dark, dark room. Given the latter issue, it would be difficult to drag a full orchestra or even, say, a cello down there, so Bischoff composed a collection inspired by the impact of the cistern and gathered a group of musicians to perform and record it traditionally. What resulted is a collection of instrumentals in which every note slowly drags, quite beautifully, in self-awareness.

When Bischoff is live with whatever handful of musicians he manages to pull together, he's a ball of energy and a natural leader; he's an excitable storyteller, difficult to physically contain, at once like a very tall child who only recently gained the voice to say "look at me" and old enough to have built up the experience necessary to make composing and conducting fun. And still, none of this is apparent in Cistern because the album was designed around an echo and projects the emptiness of a large, dark space, which is of course quite a lonely sound.

That lonely sound is strongest on the album's title track, which Bischoff's orchestra saves for the second-to-last spot, and which is the real finish of the album. If Cistern were a movie full of wonder and opportunity, containing perhaps a tragic turn that ends in death, or the conclusion that "we were all wrong in the end" (I'm not sure what kind of script I've written here), closing track "The Sea's Son" is the piece that plays behind the end credits. If the climactic "Cistern" is the death that brings you to tears, "The Sea's Son" is the sun coming up the morning after. It's Will eating with his family after Eleven sacrifices herself to kill the mega venus flytrap whatsit. It's the asteroid breaking apart and missing Earth after Bruce Willis lets fucking Ben Affleck live. It's the dénouement after the story arc has completed. It's the sigh of relief after a really beautiful and dramatic collection.

Monday, September 12, 2016

An Interview! With Dan Melchior.

Many of the interviews featured on this site shine a light on newer artists, and given how easy it is to release music online and how difficult it is to find a gem among all those new releases, the focus on what is current partly serves to help sift through the proverbial slush pile. But it's a real joy to be able to highlight a longtime favorite, and it's been a pleasure getting to know Dan Melchior. Dan is a part-time painter, and more famously, a full-time musician who essentially plays blues in all forms. He's proven himself a witty and honest lyricist, as well as a skilled guitarist, and he releases more music in a year than many artists release in the span of a career. 

He recently returned to Durham, North Carolina, where he'd previously lived with late wife Letha Rodman Melchior, and kindly spent some time chatting about some of his work old and new. We only made it through a small ratio of his output, of course.

Choir Croak Out Them Goodies: How's the day going?

Dan Melchior: Not bad! A bit hungover earlier.

CCOTG: Ah, dear! A good yesterday, then. I was going through a couple of old interviews [of yours], and a couple years ago you said you don't like to listen to O, Clouds Unfold!, but years prior you'd said "Sticks Vs. Smoke" off it was your favorite song of yours to date. And separately, that your favorite work was usually the most recent. I think this speaks miles about the way you like what you've done until you can look back on it in hindsight and hope to evolve. It seems you're always very much about moving forward. 

DM: [Moving forward is] my main aim in doing music. I sometimes think I might be a bit too focused on it at times. I was just thinking the other day that I should try and follow up some of my previous ideas a bit more. I don't like O, Clouds Unfold! much because of how weak it sounds. It wasn't recorded well, or mastered well. I wish we had done a better job with it. It sounds puny to me, it is also very clunky in places, as I was just desperately trying to get away from the whole Medway/garage thing. We had just been on tour with a couple of really terrible bands, and it was painful to me to realize that we were thought of as playing a similar type of music to those bands. I became pretty obsessed with breaking out of that perception, and I think I tried far too hard to break out of it – it gets a bit too close to generic indie rock in places. And it is also not a very powerful sounding record. The guy who recorded it really didn't know what he was doing, and it very thin and overly compressed.

CCOTG: Do you have an idea of when it was that you realized you didn't want to be a part of a wider genre? Whether it was finally hearing too much of the same, or otherwise?

DM: I never wanted to. I always thought the Broke Revue stood apart from other bands perceived as being similar. I thought all these subtle little things that we did made us really different, but I was not seeing things from a wider perspective – not realizing how much people like to pigeonhole things, and how little it really matters, ultimately. Sixteen years later, the name Billy Childish still comes up in reviews, after several years of field recordings, backwards ukeleles, and obscure mutterings – there's no escape!

CCOTG: I think that's a double-edged thing, because of course you're your own person with your own style, but a lot of people might've initially found you through the albums you did with him or with Holly Golightly [myself included, many years ago!].

DM: Yeah, I don't care at this stage. I did then. I like some of my old records a lot. I was never part of that really, it was something I fell into. Those people were very opposed to the modern world, dressed in antique clothes, played antique guitars through antique amps, etc. I was never a true believer. I bought a couple of garage rock comps from Our Price when it was closing down, and I liked the stuff on there better than U2, so to that degree I could have been said to be a garage rock fan. However, the first music I was ever really into was hip-hop, and I was very much interested in that from the age of eleven on.

When I discovered some of the more “down home” type blues stuff later, I was struck by the same elements of groove and repetition in it. I have always been attracted to that drive, and that was something that was very much missing from the current rock music of that time. The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion was the first band I ever saw that actually managed to bring some of that into their music, and it was also the first gig I ever went to that didn't bore me to death. All those Medway types would have considered the Blues Explosion terrible because of their lack of puritanical revivalism. I always thought these garage rock bands were like people who go to Renaissance faires. Some of them had something going for them, because they managed to bring some of their own personality to the music, but on the whole it has never been a very interesting scene to me.

CCOTG: That's a tough call – our Renaissance Faires are quite painful.

DM: Oh, we don't have them in the UK. I found out about them here.

CCOTG: [Going back a bit, your need to constantly evolve] got me wondering about your records this year – what made you redo "Bottom of the Sea" for Plays 'The Greys?'

DM: I was in a phase of seeing how little cohesive structure could be applied to something that could be called a “song” when I did that version.

CCOTG: You touched on it with the mention of hip hop – the interest in groove and repetition. Are you familiar with Kristin Hersh and Throwing Muses? I ask because, while I don't think you'd love most of her music, she started making music to force it out of her head. And though I don't imagine you have the same issues [with concussion and bipolar disorder], I do see certain similarities in the way [your] music is done. Throwing Muses had certain wacky patterns in some of their songs that were very daring, and you've had a bit of the same throughout your career. I think it was the Das Menace s/t release that reminded me of this – "Spectral Birds," particularly. It made me think of the Muses' "Garoux des Larmes."

DM: Yes, I know who she is, and I remember her struggling with mental illness. I've had problems with anxiety and OCD-like symptoms over the years. It was very bad when I was about seventeen, which coincidentally was the time I first started trying to play the guitar with dedication.

The structure of my songs tend to be extremely simple, as I don't like to think while I'm playing. At this stage I've pretty much lost interest in chord changes or singing, as what I love most in music is the aspect of losing yourself in it.

CCOTG: Do you think the music gave you an outlet for obsession or pushed it forward?

DM: Well, being obsessive about doing music is pretty positive, so it gave me something to focus on. I'd always put energy into art and writing poems and stuff, but music certainly gave me something to put my excess energy into – a nice channel for those feelings, and refuge from the normal strains of life, which can overwhelm people like me pretty easily sometimes.

CCOTG: When you're writing, do you start with a pattern you can't get rid of or do you start with nothing and see where you get lost in it?

DM: Yes, a pattern is usually the start – a simple hook or riff. Then sometimes words present themselves, sometimes not. Words are often just sounds for me now – I'm not trying to express my feelings through words anymore, really.

CCOTG: Which is very noticeable when I go through your records in chronological order – early on there was a lot of lyrical content, a combination of love/heartbreak, extremely British stories, and your ability to create a broad message without being preachy. Thinking "Your Lousy Floor," there. Is there less that you want to share now, or less that you find interested in putting into words?

DM: I used to write songs about my life, but apart from The Backward Path, I haven't done that for more than ten years. I think these days I just try to create an atmosphere through words. Usually a chaotic sort of thing. I suppose that's how life seems to me, quite bewildering and malevolent! Words fall together in these little patterns, with repeated phrases of almost percussive sounds. It's like using the voice as an instrument. Whether there's some hidden meaning, I don't know.

CCOTG: Is there a difference in what you're inclined to create [either music or art] based on each new place you move and settle into? You've talked about how much you love England but your music's obviously become more abstract since [living in the U.S.]. Has your work been affected by what your surroundings look like, or influenced by where you and [late wife] Letha had been in life? Or for that matter, is what you create affected by who you spend the most time with?

DM: Yes, my music is definitely influenced by surroundings, and relationships. My relationship with Letha was the pivotal thing in my life so far, and when she was here I felt far more secure and connected to things. Coming back to Durham has brought a certain amount of that back, as I just love the country here, and the people are so friendly and open. I don't really know what will result musically, but being up in Ohio was actually very productive for me. I didn't go out much!

CCOTG: Do you have the open space to experiment where you are in Durham?

DM: I am in an apartment, but I don't really need to make a lot of noise to record the way I do. No drummers smashing on things.

CCOTG: I'm really happy to see you in a new relationship, moving ahead. Do you see your [creative] style changing now that you've had [girlfriend] Emily for a bit? I saw [your recent] video for "It's a Hard Life at Sea" and I really love that you have another partner you can also collaborate with in some context.

DM: Yes, Emily is very supportive of my music, and I think she is a talented photographer. I've been on a pretty eclectic path for a while now, and I think things will continue to be pretty varied for the foreseeable future, although, as I said before, I do sometimes think that following through on some of these beginnings a bit more could be good. It becomes a pattern in itself to approach each new album as a completely new, separate thing.

CCOTG: Do you ever feel any sort of personal conflict with starting fresh versus moving back to where you shared life with Letha and staying close to Letha by putting out the last of her work? Does it affect you to have both women nearby, in a way?

DM: Well, it's hard obviously, and there is a little bit of a conflict as I still miss Letha everyday and no one will ever be able to replace her. I'm not looking for that, though. I'm just trying to keep going, really – trying not to end up living in the past. The music is just a part of it. Emily is good about it though, as she knew Letha, and admired her. She doesn't mind me talking about my feelings for her.

CCOTG: "All the Clocks" has been one of my favorites of yours for a couple years [speaking of Letha]. It's one of the nicest songs you've got and I hope she'd gotten a chance to appreciate it.

DM: I really like that [Backward Path] LP, although I don't feel the need to listen to it. I know it's there when I'm ready.

CCOTG: All understood. Speaking of family – Glen [Dan's bird]. My cat is absolutely terrified of "Elmore Blues" off this year's Home of the Blues LP. Every so often I think about his response to the music I play at home. Do you ever look for a response from Glen when you play [your own music] at home?

DM: Glen's reaction to practically every noise is to try and drown it out with his own (incidentally he is currently trying to chew a hole through some shelves, and bugging the hell out of me). I need to set up his Discogs page properly, as he is on at least twenty [of my] records. I just set my stuff up here the other day, and he managed to appear on the first thing I recorded twice. I don't begrudge him his backing vocals.

CCOTG: Does he often sing, or just create some sort of noise about the house?

DM: Well, he sings, screeches, cackles, whistles, and says “be right back,” “beaky,” “sweet bird” (in two ways: one the way Letha said it, and one the way I do), “good morning,” “hi beadle,” and “don't you know?” He also impersonates Emily's laugh and makes a gulping sound when someone takes a drink. There's a lot of cackling. That's often his reaction to loud noise.

CCOTG:  Will be going back for a listen to look for "be right back" in some of your old records! Glen aside, while your music is very much yours, is there anyone you haven't yet collaborated with that you'd like to or would've liked to? Time period/distance/status not being an issue?

DM: I would like to collaborate with lots of people. Most of them probably wouldn't be interested in working with me. I would really like to collaborate with guitarists I admire in a live setting – just improvising. One of my absolute favorites is Willie Lane, he makes fantastic records. I would also like to do something with my friend Pat Gubler. I'm up for any interesting pairing, really.

CCOTG: Why are you convinced that most wouldn't want to work with you? 

DM: Um, probably snobbery regarding perceptions about my music.

CCOTG: In an interview with Decayke a few years ago, you'd referred to "Only Fools and Horses," and mentioned a love of "middle of the road English comedies of yore." For those of us who grew up without them – what's a good starting point?

DM: Haha – well, it depends how low you want to go. “One Foot In The Grave” is pretty weird and “edgy” by the standards of the genre, but still beloved by pensioners. I like “The Likely Lads” a lot. “Open All Hours,” “Porridge” – then you've got real detritus like “On The Buses” and “George And Mildred.” I bet they're on YouTube.

CCOTG: Will make note of all. Aside from the more recently streamable “Keeping Up Appearances,” I need a good starting point. Finally – is there anything that you never get a chance to share that you'd like to?

DM: Um...Durham rules! So glad to be back here!

CCOTG: Do you have any favorite spots over there?

DM: Where I'm living now there is this amazing network of little paths that can get you where you want to go (I don't drive) by cutting through the woods. They aren't even on maps, so you just have to find them on your own. Beautiful scenery all around.

CCOTG: That sounds lovely! Thank you so much for spending a good chunk of time chatting today.

DM: Thank you! I hope you have a good day!


Dan has many, many albums for sale, available here. This year's releases include Filthy Frozen River Rag, Home of the Blues, and Plays 'The Greys.'

Thursday, September 1, 2016

A Bit Batshit: Where I'm Matt

When the Soft Pack were the Muslims, and then, when they weren’t, singer-guitarist Matt Lamkin received a couple Charles Grodin comparisons – which used to seem fitting given his polite deadpan and affinity for sweaters. Today, the similarity is apparent more in the "I just can't win" attitude, which is strongly present right off the bat on Where I'm Matt.

Opener "Here I Am" is, for a track that's so middle-of-the-road retro that it's nearly yacht-rock, purely fantastic and sets an unexpected tone: "Here I am/I make the bed I make myself sleep in/The same idiot I've always been" is the chorus that comes shortly before "I'm getting my fill of being a fool for hire." There aren't a lot of songwriters out there who use self-deprecation as an introduction, but, you know, here he is. And this might be one of the best songs to come out this year.

Years ago, Lamkin expressed an interest in seeing his band dabble in electronic music, and though he indeed dabbled the tiniest bit with a synth, the Soft Pack seemed aware of its strengths and limitations, and what they were great at was being a modest rock band with a lot of power. Part of this was in Brian Hill's drumming. He really was a fantastic drummer. On his own, Matt Lamkin experiments much more than he could've in an established group, though he's a now-33-year old who still sings like a 21-year old Jonathan Richman and pulls off a few songs that could have worked with his old band (namely "Can't Give it Away Anymore").

The most exciting aspect of this record is how cohesive it isn't; its order was well-sequenced, but no three consecutive songs have anything to do with one another. You might get the sense that he's becoming much more carefree with age and giving himself the space to ask what if? He's growing increasingly out there as a musician, perhaps in the way Ariel Pink is considered "out there." But creating with a carefree approach – this is how musicians ought to age, and this record is enough of a peek into his head that it'll be lovely to anticipate what pops up from him in future albums.

Listen to a far-less produced and less lethargic version of "Los Andes" from 2014.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Sweepin' Chimbleys: Fellow Fellow

It might be too bold to suggest that there's a turning point in music that took place somewhere around the rise of Neutral Milk Hotel; that pre- and post- dividing line paved the way for whimsy, and orchestral instruments in non-orchestral settings, and it made literacy king. It made room for Beirut, and the Decemberists, and perhaps should've made crossover artists out of jazz groups like Hot Club of Detroit. What kind of people claimed to pull influence from Sicilian funeral marches or drew attention to Bulgaria in the early 2000s? People dabbling in the vague genre of chamber pop, that's who.

Years later, it's still going here and there, and can be found in an unlikely place, L.A., via Fellow Fellow. Fellow Fellow shares a guitarist with Fell Runner [Steven van Betten], and is a seven-piece complete with trumpets and tuba and Wurlitzer, dabbling in waltzes and polka, all that good stuff. True to their predecessors, the band is led by a soft-spoken singer-songwriter [Cooper Wolken], and true to what it is to be a band in 2016, they are doomed to attract comparisons to those who've previously conquered this whole old timey fusion thing. But they're good at what they do.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Good Throb gives you a good shake!

London's Good Throb might be better at punk than half of its originators; thanks largely to frontlady KY Ellie, they boast a vicious delivery that seems to be missing in a good lot of American bands that give it a go. They've got the desperation that only comes with needing to spit something out urgently, and they've got the balls that post-punk acts like French Vanilla are so unfortunately lacking. This is what happens when a lyricist might have a sharp sense of humor but doesn't feel the need to hide behind it.

Ellie firmly says, "Give me validation" the way Poison Girls' Vi Subversa would say, "Now I feel just like my mother/her price is low," or Eve Libertine would say, "You take what you want when you want it." 

And they've come so, so far since 2013.

Good Throb is being very kind and offering their music for free. Be kind in return and purchase it.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

The damn summer's nearly over!

If you're a bit on the anxious side and looking for something to match the mania you feel, Montreal quintet Look Vibrant wants to meet you! No idea where they get their energy but they've kept this batty thing going for at least three years. They're musicians' musicians.

There's this nice band from Brighton that just joined FatCat Records and they have a seven-inch coming out on Friday!

Somehow managed to miss a new This is the Kit EP back in January. This is a nice bit off Rusty and Got Dusty, which also features a cover of “Les Plus Beaux.” Even having gone electric to an extent, Kate Stables continues to make some of the most stunning folk around.

Sharing the Brassland label with This is the Kit is Fusilier, a fella whose new single might stand out as the "which of these doesn't belong?" in this post. But he's exciting, makes dark stuff you can dance to, and gives the bass its due. And he's sassy as hell. Southerner living in New York, natch.

No joke, I've been standing next to Bratmobile/Cold Cold Hearts/Cool Moms frontlady Allison Wolfe at shows around Los Angeles for years (she likes Wreckless Eric and The Mummies, for the curious), and in all that time, her newest band Sex Stains somehow hadn't put out an album. That lull comes to an end in September! Sex Stains' debut is coming out September 2. One-minute single "Don't Hate Me 'Cuz I'm Beautiful" was floating around Soundcloud for a while and has since been replaced with You Tube audio.

It's also on their demo from last year. This is worth a little hurrah!

Monday, August 8, 2016

Another exercise in bumming out: Stove

Ovlov released a near-perfect rock album three years ago and then they ended on a swell note so that Steve Hartlett could release an album under the name Stove, for which he played all instruments. That break was short-lived, and Ovlov is once again performing together. But drummer Theo Hartlett released an EP as Flat Swamp earlier this spring, and Stove, whose Is Stupider wasn't entirely separate from Steve Hartlett's songwriting for Ovlov, already has an EP out, less than a year after his debut album's release.

So that EP, a cassette release called Is a Toad in the Rain, is performed by a full band, and is partly acoustic, partly programmed beats, and 100 percent unexpectedly, ah, chill. It would be easy to say that Hartlett went from emulating one '90s act to another with this Stove release, but for a more contemporary point of compare-and-contrast, it would likely appeal to fans of that recent Warik debut.

An exercise in bumming out: Snail Mail

The youth and androgyny in 17-year old Lindsay Jordan's voice is enough to bring Baltimore's Snail Mail into a relatively obscure position, as an American counterpart to onetime Sheffield act Standard Fare. [And if you're wondering what happened to Standard Fare, they split up and youthful/androgynous-sounding frontlady Emma Kupa released an album with Mammoth Penguins.]

Snail Mail is more mopey and less 2010s British indie pop than Standard Fare, and what Jordan particularly adds to the slow-paced grunge of Habit, outside of her tomboyish vocal quality, is the sort of harmless hopelessness that only seems to come when you're young and haven't yet sorted out the world in your mind. This is the perfect type of band to listen to at 17, and Snail Mail's followers will likely be extremely loyal and get them and eventually turn 23 and snap out of it. What's happening:

I wanna spend the entire year/Just face down

There's a weight and I feel it and it's pressing down/And it won't be for nothing/And it won't stick around/If it is about anything that I can fix/Then I'll see you on the other side if it really exists

Purchase Habit here.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

This world ain't big enough for your feelings! (A couple of lady singles.)

If anyone brings to mind Emiliana Torrini circa 2005, it's Austin-based singer-songwriter Alex Rose. That is, until you hear the B-side of "Grandmothers," a folky breakup song that aligns words like coattails and contrails like only a millennial could and would.

And life isn't always full of whimsy. 
So don't fall in love! 
Don't fall to pieces! 
This world ain't big enough for your feelings! 

Enough of that, though. Here's the A-side.

Los Angeles band JODY just released a single yesterday (recorded at the soon-to-be-kaput Smell), and they are quite a lot catchier than the Fratellis-esque Jody from Australia. Look for them out and about in Los Angeles.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Celebratin' King Khan and BBQ

Yesterday, Mark Sultan posted a digital upload of the King Khan and BBQ Show's seven-inch for "We Are the Ocean," originally pressed in 2011. This is the A-side.

He also has a solo seven-inch coming out later this year, and this is the B-side. He needs money to buy a compressor! And he's going to be at Los Globos in Los Angeles on August 9.

Meanwhile, King Khan put out this beaut last week, and with it he sends this message:

To celebrate the new birth of the Invaders International...I offer it as a healing blessing to this very sick world...may this song get into your hearts and minds and may the world finally understand the suffering of others and try to mend the wounds rather than create new ones. 

Monday, July 25, 2016

Going mad on a Monday

There's nothing original to say about a band that's not churning out anything original. But San Francisco's The Love Dimension [Ahem. The Luuuhhhve Dimension.] are solid at what they churn out, and what they churn out is properly retro surf rock that'll turn you into a dancin' machine. Plus, this video for "Together Again" will make you literally woozy!

[Brian Jonestown Massacre, etcetera...]

Ty Segall is like the James Franco of garage rock. Worth a buy, of course.

For those who enjoyed spazzy folks Terry or Wireheads, London's Dog Chocolate is in the same category but one point higher on Team Shouty-Crackers. They've been described as sounding "like a crowded room," and that about sums it up.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Catching up on spring and summer

Grey Malkin (Scottish goth-folk project The Hare and the Moon) and Michael Warren (Hare collaborator and psych artist) just released a stunning cover of Pink Floyd's "Jugband Blues" in honor of Syd Barrett's deathday. No easy feat without a Salvation Army band behind it, but marvelously done. Part of a tribute EP.

Bry Webb (dreamy fella, former Constantine) put out a 7-inch split with Chad Van Gaalen in late April, and this is his half of the record:

English post-punk group Primetime put out this little EP in May and it's doing a swell job of filling the gap left by the absence of Grass Widow and the Raincoats.

In late June, longtime PJ Harvey and Nick Cave collaborator (and dapper gent) Mick Harvey put out a third volume of Serge Gainsbourg covers, Delirium Tremens. It follows 2014 double album Intoxicated Man and Pink Elephants, and Intoxicated Women will conclude the set later this year.

Wireheads to the rescue!

It's been another devastating week for the U.S., and so we find ourselves once again looking to Australia for comfort, and music in which to escape the now-constant reminder that we haven't yet sorted ourselves out.

Adelaide's Wireheads are a lovely group of weirdos whose songs show a good deal of patience; they're a nice combination of Suburban Lawns, the Fresh and Onlys, and Swell Maps, the sort of group that Gen X's misfits would've embraced and who probably would've belonged in Los Angeles thirty years ago. Less than a year after releasing their second record, made with perpetual weirdo Calvin Johnson, they've got Arrive Alive, a wacky adventure that boasts twenty musicians, two of whom play bicycle wheel.

This is a great, organized mess of saxophone and improvisations and beginning guitar abilities and shouty exclamations and all the things a band should be fearless enough to throw into the mixing pot.

Listen to Arrive Alive here, and purchase here if you're in the U.S. And while you're spending some time on Wireheads, sit down for a tiny literature lesson:

Monday, June 27, 2016

Thank god for Terry

While half the world goes on wondering when the shit is going to hit the fan and we can begin counting the last of our days, it seems as though our friends to the south are perfectly content, churning out new music and not shooting each other and having the fun that the rest of us don't seem to be having. South meaning Australia, and not, say, Venezuela. They're having a terrible time.

Moreover, now that Dan Treacy's ambiguously alive at this point, the world desperately needs another Television Personalities, and Terry appears available and eager to fill the gap. The Melbourne-based, kinda-sorta-supergroup just started putting out releases this spring, with two EPs out last April (both boasting perfect cover art), and a concise LP out July 1. With our political landscape looking primed to shove its way to the right in a matter of time, there's no doubt that we're about to receive a new wave of socially aware music that seeks to start a revolution -- and let's face it, the good lot of politically inclined music tends to be more drum circle than Zounds and Crass these days. So before the musical revolution takes place, it's a breath of premature relief to come across a perky, say-nothing number like "Tippy Toppy Terry" off April's 8 Girls EP, or a nice song about working your way toward death, something for the everyman. It's tiring to always be on and ready with a message, isn't it? We need the wacky, punk-ish band, the one whose lyrics are gibberish, or perhaps tell a story whose truth is hidden by the guise of humor, to tell us that it's okay to exhale and laugh about the absurdity of things. God, I miss you Dan Treacy.

So Terry's got Al Montfort and Zephyr Pavey of Total Control (a favorite 'round these parts), and their guitar and bass work carries over as loyally as a Total Control fan would hope. But they've also got a nice thing going, male/female shared vocal duties with their girlfriends, somehow giving the feel of a band much larger than it is. Terry is a party that's already quite full but has room for one more if you'd like to join in. And sure, they've got the aforementioned humor and nonsensical lyrics, but they also have lines like "What's a war without the poor" and "Back to work again/a shirtfront for the worst cunt" in album opener "Moscow," so this isn't all the stuff of vapid non-stories, really. Bless this band for balancing us out when we need them.

You'd be ridiculous not to buy this record. Purchase here, it's a lovely time.