Friday, April 25, 2014

Blue Oyster Cult-On Your Feet Or On Your Knees; Columbia Records, 1975

Of all the mid-period Rock bands, say 1970-1980, Disaster Amnesiac's favorite, and one that finds me having occasional obsessive listening periods, is most definitely Blue Oyster Cult. There's something about the way that the band approached their guitar craft that rings solidly, satisfactorily, within my cranium.
As for said listening, it's currently On Your Feet Or On Your Knees, the band's live two-fer from 1975, that has Disaster Amnesiac gripped in a Cult obsession. It's here that what one of the top drawing live acts from that era laying down compelling versions of their early repertoire, their Psychedelic- shaded Doom Rock tunes getting the hell played out of them: Cities on Flame, ME 262, Hot Rails to Hell, The Red & The  Black, and more, all getting the up front throw it down live attack from the 1970's preeminent American Guitar Army.
BOC plays the shit out of all of it, front men Bloom, Buck Dharma, and Lanier pushed and pulled by the Bro-down Bouchard rhythm section: siblings Joe on bass and Albert on drums, always sinewy in their heaviness.  Disaster Amnesiac revels in their playing. While not the most rhythmically direct band, their changes are always compelling in their slippery groove before the band hammers down on some Boogie. I hear a lot of Big Band from Al's kit, in a way that's much more interesting than, say, that of another Krupa man of the era, Peter Criss. Hell, those guys could easily have had the same teacher.
As for said Boogies, I figure it was the 1970's and the Cult (the ONLY Cult), were just giving the People what they wanted; plus, there is so much great heavy rockin' before, after, and even inside them as to be rendered almost enjoyable as the more complexly satisfying tunes.
Did Disaster Amnesiac mention guitars? At one point, the expressive guitar was the hallmark of Rock (it seems to have been replaced in large part by having the correct tattoo on the forearm or something), and Blue Oyster Cult had sacks of that action. Listeners may cringe at having to play a tune called Buck's Boogie in 2014, but, man, can D. Roeser play a mean melodic line. Alan Lanier earns points for great Rock keyboard playing on this one, too, while E. Bloom ain't no slouch either. What Rock fan doesn't love a little bit of Stun Guitar? Their physical attack is just slathered all over the twelve tracks of On Your Feet.
One just also has to love the sardonic, down to earth feel of the band's vocal delivery as well. Disaster Amnesiac has always been able to relate the BOC here. If one is American, one probably can't help but feel an inviting, "man on the street" vibe from this, especially when it's coming from Bloom. Check his Punk Rock ('murican wing) The Red & the Black. Or, sing along with Joe B. on Hot Rails To Hell and understand. No pomp here, just dudes singin' for their supper, take it or leave it. Either way, a ton of folks lined up for that delicious, devious snake oil that they were slinging. It often is how you say things that matters, at least in a competitive market, right?
Blue Oyster Cult went on to even bigger things immediately following this one, and deservedly so. Still, if you want to rock with some Ur-Cult, cooked up live and served hot and shiny, go and grab your copy of On Your Feet Or On Your Knees. My copy is a beat up promo, with nothing checked in the "Suggested Cuts" boxes. Disaster Amnesiac figures you could just as well choose any of them and have a fun listen. 

Thursday, April 17, 2014

A trio of 3 inchers!

Disaster Amnesiac bears the compact disc no ill will. I am often fond of declaring that I'd buy 8 track cassettes if they were still being produced (are they?), or any other format for musical sound delivery for that matter.
That said, the 3" CD just seems really strange to me. Is it an approximation of the 7" record? Is it meant to be a willfully obscure medium? What's the point of releasing a disc that won't fit into most current hard drives?  I have an older Sony portable disc player with which to play the ones that I own, and, after very recently buying Matt Davignon's Charcoal 3", I dug up a few others for the patented Disaster Amnesiac describing and enthusing.

The Big Drum in the Sky Religion-Qalander Girl; A Beard of Snails Records, 2012
It's really perplexing to me that Brown Hat the Espresso Shaman's Shenandoah Roots Psych movement is not more well regarded. His The Big Drum in the Sky Religion always provide nicely droned, ear cleaning blasts of Rural Psychedelia. Qalander Girl is no exception, its 20 minutes of incessant banjo riffing and hand percussion provides the listener with an aural magic carpet on which to mentally drift away. The drone arises from the simplicity of the strumming and percussion, their interaction becoming a forest of ritualized tone matrix. Vocals eventually come by way of a child's ABC's chant, a sweet, youthful refrain that gives a nice sense of whimsy. This 3" also has really nice cover art, and I lament the fact that mine is getting so worn out. It spent a ton of time in my work-related back pack last year, as it was a favorite lunch time escape jam during the week.

The Locust-s/t; Gold Standard Labs, 2004
This little guy will always remind Disaster Amnesiac of the Tower Records in Emeryville, CA, now long gone. Jam packed with eleven of the Locust's patented Grind, it also has these San Diego thrashers playing Space Rock, Synth Punk and Hardcore, all mashed up within their extremely concise aesthetic, and pushed with awesomely pounded drums and whirling vibrato. I always marvel at the whip smart tightness of groups like this, and wonder, "how much did they rehearse?" After which I wonder as to the sanity of the poor bastards. Seriously, the Locust music is f-in crazy. I guess that explains all of that screaming. Oh, yes, dig that Chic Comics worthy "monster" on the cover! Spooky!

Matt Davignon-Charcoal; Ribosome
Like I said, it was purchasing this disc from Matt the other day at the Berkeley Arts Festival Building that prompted this post. Stoked on the purchase, too, as it features the kind of inwardly focused mystery electronics that make for such nice headphone listening experiences. Charcoal's five tracks bounce and ping around your skull, electronic echoes of deep process complexity and atmosphere. Disaster Amnesiac would even go so far as to call this Industrial music, in line with that genre's originators, all of whom seem to have been inveterate electronics tinkerers and innovators. Davignon's sound on Charcoal is a dark, gloomy one, heavy in its blackened mood.

In closing, Disaster Amnesiac would like to let it be known that, should your band or project have a 3" or 8 track or any other odd type of release format, you can always send me a message as regards hooking up review material. And it ain't the object, it's the sound contained therein.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Larry Livermore-Spy Rock Memories; Don Giovanni Records, 2013

It seems fitting to Disaster Amnesiac that I would find a copy of Larry Livermore's great autobiographical work, Spy Rock Memories, at the Goodwill in El Cerrito. One could walk over to Gilman St. Project, a place that Livermore had a huge hand in developing, from there within an hour or so.
That said, the SF Bay area plays a supporting role, almost that of a foil, really, for Livermore's compelling and emotive reminiscence of his time spent in Laytonville area of Mendocino County: Iron Peak, Spy Rock, and the town of Laytonville itself are the places in which Livermore's memories were lived.
Along with telling the fascinating, and, I'm sure, for most Bay Area residents, obscure stories of life in rural Northern California, so very different from that of the Bay, it's really the way in which Larry goes about telling that story that makes this book so compelling. Written in a frank style, in which he gives plenty of space for naked self reflection and self revelation, Spy Rock Memories really lets the reader in on Livermore's amazingly rich life, both the more readily apparent ups (massive success as an independent label owner, foremost), and the more seemingly ignominious downs (deep senses of self doubt and self-sabotage at the fore here). The reader really gets to know a flesh and blood person here, and the book is really great, just for that fact.
Add in the recounting of all manner of Nor Cal history that Livermore was pretty much an early first hand witness to, such as early SF Punk Rock and Hardcore, the previously mentioned nascent Gilman St. Project, Judi Barri and Earth First!, the shockingly brutal methods of the 1980's era of the War on Drugs (CAMP: as if the Vietnam Conflict had been moved wholesale to the "Emerald Triangle"), and his Gonzo Journalist activities by way of his Lookout magazine, and it all adds up to a great, quick, and really fun read.
Do seek this one out, you will not be disappointed. 

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Random 7" Round Up, Spring Time Edition!

Apropos of nothing, save the desire to write about some music, and perhaps that it's been several months since Disaster Amnesiac's last 7" roundup, I figured I'd bust out some of those delicious little slices of plastic. A few of these are long time faves, a few are recent arrivals to the library at Chez Amnesiac.

Beatnik Termites-Ode to Susie and Joey b/w Termite Hop; Recess Records
Disaster Amnesiac must admit that an appreciation for Pop Punk is not exactly my strong suit, but this one from Cleveland's Beatnik Termites makes me want to walk on over to Gilman St. (about 2.5 miles from where I sit) and pogo with the teen set. The drummer is key here, in that he or she actually plays a stompin' 4/4, often pushing things along with a really sweet ride cymbal beat and a nice, fat snare drum sound. The guitarist sounds to me like a Steve Jones acolyte: the tunes' chords are rung out and let to reverberate a bit, none of the characteristic staccato chunkiness that seems to mar so many other Poppy Punk bands. Of course, there's a Ramones bite here, but, I'm sure that at least one band member must have paid some coin for the mandatory Ramones t-shirt at least once, yeah?  The lyrics describe a lifestyle that Disaster Amnesiac was never privy to, even as a teenager, but it sure sounds like fun when narrated by these Termites.

Wemean-Faida b/w Goddam My Eyes (Live); Scheming Intelligentsia
This here hot slab of 7" wax has been a favorite of mine for years now. Zurich-based Wemean deliver a heavily rhythmic pounder on the A side, their double time, almost Hip Hop sounding chanted group vocal pushed by a really great bass drum and tom tom heavy trap action, scratchy six string chuck and thickly plucked bass. The whole thing slams to a stop, the gals of Wemean declare some emphatic point, and then they wind it down. FAIDA! The flip side's live spieling (in English, varum?) feels a bit more thin, but the drummer and bass player keep things tight and the guitar player practices the art of the wah wah to nice effect. Disaster Amnesiac will always come back to side one.

Crungehouse-New Society b/w Chocolate Love Groove; Bomb Apple Records
This Kramer-associated group will always bring cannabis to the mind of Disaster Amnesiac. I saw them play some Legalize It type of event on the National Mall in D.C., and picked up their 7" in Arcata (you know HUMBOLDT COUNTY). New Society has the band's guitarist jamming out hot and funky and Page-like to the accompaniment of some Rand Corp. type nerd as he pontificates about how the Psychedelic Indians of the 1960's will surely put an end to all that is Right and Good in 'merica. Point taken, but, hey, if these guys were teetotalers, they'd probably sound like Joy Division or something, so fuck it and pass the bong. Chocolate Love Groove marries more guitar flippin' with an almost Go Go beat and Surrealist Dream narration. That title just screams out "1988 Underground", but the tune's groove still holds up in 2014, even though it's over much too soon. Did Crungehouse put out an LP?

Las Mordidas-Surrounded b/w K.I.T.A; Compulsiv/Dischord split
The dudes in Las Mordidas may have been neighbors with Crungehouse, but something tells me that their song writing was not fueled by the same type of chemical intake. Not that that could ever stop Jerry Busher, one of the greatest drummers I've ever seen play (9:30 Club 1988), from laying down the heaviness; his stomping beats on Surrounded pair sweetly with the original Punk Funk fusion bass of Dug E. Bird and the skittering guitar stutter of one Jon K. Disaster Amnesiac fave man on the mic, Chris Thompson, made his debut on vocals with this band (switching over from bass guitar in Ignition), and, as we all now know most definitely, he was UP for the task. His lyrics are simultaneously sharp, insightful, disturbing, and mysterious. One of his best couplets ever, "the world don't owe you nothing/'cept for maybe a kick in the ass" graces the B side as Mr. K gives snaky lines while Busher and Bird absolutely don't fake the Funk. Another long time fave here. Would that they had released a whole LP!

Artimus Pyle-The Absence of Life (plus four other songs); Prank
Disaster Amnesiac always loved the name of this band, and, upon seeing this 7" at the Half Priced Books store in Berkeley for pennies, well, how could I resist? The listener is treated to five blasts of very Bay Area Thrash, more in the Christ on Parade style than that of, say, Exodus.  More rooted in Punk Rock but tempered with Metal power. D-beat, I guess? The songs fly past as chaotic whirlwinds, guitar/bass/drums making a harsh, noisy cloud wall while the singer tells you about a lot of really fucked up stuff in the world. Loud and frustrated Hardcore from the depths of Oakland. ARGH!!!!

In parting, Disaster Amnesiac would just like to give my thanks and regards to everyone who has ever read this little blog. Y'all are really great, even though I'd bet that most of you will never agree with me about the greatness of the reconfigured Black Flag. Who are playing in Oakland in next month! Do stay tuned!

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Azure Carter & Alan Sondheim-Avatar Woman; Public Eyesore, 2014

As Disaster Amnesiac listens to Azure Carter and Alan Sondheim's great new CD, Avatar Woman, I keep reflecting on the concept of American Folk Music and its relevance within our culture, currently and in the past. I am also thinking of Pop, but in a way that juxtaposes the more subtle and accomplished blending of styles and influences of Pop from long ago against the more linear and ridiculous form that Pop has morphed into as time has gone on and people have seemingly stopped caring about anything but the most easily comprehended bites.
It strikes this listener that Avatar Woman is a very subtle and beautiful blending of those two elements (among many others, of course). The more overtly Pop feel of the music comes from the clearly intoned alto vocals of Azure Carter. Disaster Amnesiac hears many different influencers within her fantastic delivery: Billie Holiday, Anita O'Day, and Ella Fitzgerald, from that Golden Age of Female Vocalizing, all seem to emerge from her singing. I hear the American Pop reflections of Harry Partch and the Beats from her lyrics, ones that describe and detail the observances of the smaller, but often so much more poignant, aspects of our lives as we live them. In the perfect utopian visionary state that exists in the mind of Disaster Amnesiac, Carter would be as big a figure in the Pop vocal landscape (and the ones of Jazz and Rock, for that matter). Her incantations are mesmerizing in their subtle simplicity, so much more powerful, in their restraint, than those of whichever divas are currently being foisted upon the American public by the Big Money Music Machines of New York and Hollywood. Avatar Woman's Folk element comes not only from Carter's "humble" vision, but also from the Alan Sondheim's artful expression on any number of stringed instruments from all over the globe. He coaxes micro-tones from violin, dan moi, suraz, sarangi, electric guitar, oud, etc. The listener is treated to his subtle backing of Carter's vocals; if one chooses to focus deeper into his playing while the singing is happening, one hears his freaked out aspect. That is to say, the man has such control, he essentially sounds as he is playing completely Free (as in Jazz), even while being an accompanist. Of course, he gets plenty of time to wail and solo, and when those spaces are approached, just be prepared to listen to universes growing and collapsing within their sound worlds. Saxophonists Christopher Diasparra and Edward Schneider give earthy, inward, and rooted contributions to several tunes. The entire ensemble sound is one of controlled, focused torsion; the sounds are close, warm, intimate, even at their furthest ranges. Their control is the control of Folk musicians, working within their own worlds and owning them.
Avatar Woman is fine example of the kind of subtle blends that can so easily happen in America, if only its citizenry cared about such things en masse. Come on, my fellow country men and women, let your Freak Flags fly again!