Sunday, March 25, 2007

Aloha Real Kids

Helping ensure that my work day passes quickly are two cds of pre-punk fun: Radio Birdman's The Essential (1974-1978) [Sub Pop SPCD 553] and The Real Kids self-titled debut [Norton Records CED-222].

To be perfectly honest, I probably wouldn't have liked the bands the first time around. What was I listening to at the time? Mostly Euro-Art Rock of the Rock In Opposition variety and was just getting into The Clash, Sex Pistols and the Buzzcocks. So on the one hand, over-reaching poker-faced progressive rock (I'm talking to you Henry Cow) and on the other, the art school shocks of the first generation British bands. Groups like Radio Birdman and The Real Kids would have struck me as too traditional sounding. Ack, what did I know, I was young. But as the years went on, The Stooges and the Velvet Underground climbed ever higher in my estimation, and their children along with them.

The main hook for the Radio Birdman cd is their song "Aloha Steve & Danno", an irony-free hommage to Hawaii Five-O. But the other twenty-one tracks are winners as well: think the MC5 meets The Doors minus Jim Morrison's college-boy-Carlos Castanedaisms. Never forget that they were named for a Stooges' mondegreen: Iggy was actually singing radio burnin'.

Here is Radio Birdman's video for "Aloha, Steve & Danno":

The Real Kids album was originally released on Marty Thau's Red Star Records back in 1977. Thirty years later the 'Kids' stripped down catchy-as-hell garage rock ("All Kindsa Girls", "Reggae Reggae") still sounds amazing. To think that I believed that the Flamin' Groovies were the only band keeping the traditional flame alive.

The following video is the band performing "All Kindsa Girls" at CBGB's in 2004. The Real Kids still have what it takes.

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Sunday, March 18, 2007

Outsider Art Punk

I'm not sure how the conversation started on the Up-Tight list, it might have been about outsider art and music, or perhaps the stories of H.P. Lovecraft. At any rate, there were several posts about Nick Blinko and his band Rudimentary Peni.

I had heard of them through the Crass Records/Anarcho-Punk connection, but wasn't familiar with any of their music at that point. I was told to check out Cacophony [Outer Himalayan Records 1987 - pictured left]. It's weird, it's intense and it is inspired by ole' H.P.. As I wasn't able to find a copy of Cacophony, I bought a copy of their 1995 release Pope Adrian 37th Psychristiatric [Outer Himalayan Records]recorded after or during, depending on the story, Blinko's institutionalization for schizoaffective disorder. I was completely blown away by it, from the booklet of Blinko's obsessive pencil drawings, to the very focused music created by Blinko on guitar and vocals with Grant Brand on bass and Jon Greville on drums.

After browsing in a local record shop, I did manage to finally buy the shop's last copy of Cacophony. It was everything I was promised. It's fantastic punk rock, if you want to enjoy it at that level. If one is a fan of weird fiction, dive into "Arkham House", "Nightgaunts" and "American Anglophile in the World Turned Upside-Down". Outsider art? Marvel at the detailed cover art.

To investigate further:

The Raw Vision interview with Blinko.

Blinko's art at the Henry Boxer Gallery.

Ian Glasper's book "The Day the Country Died". I'm told it has a chapter on R.P. It's on my 'to buy' list.

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Sunday, March 11, 2007

Swell Personalities

I bought, yes purchased (I hate downloading) the relatively recent Swell Maps' compilation, Wastrels and Wippersnappers [Overground Records] and the Television Personalities return, My Dark Places [Domino Recordings].

The Swell Maps set compiles home-recordings from 1974-1978 and sounds exactly like what they were: teenage Van Der Graaf Generator, T. Rex and Krautrock fans. Not that you should expect "A Plague of Lighthouse Keepers" Mark II or anything of that nature. The disc has 23 examples of engaging lo-fi experimental instros in addition to early versions of Dresden Style, Full Moon and Harmony in Your Bathroom among other favourites. I will say that no band could careen through an art-damaged tune quite like the 'Maps. The package features liner notes by Jowe Head and Nikki Sudden (RIP).

I missed out on the Television Personalities back in the 70's and 80's and count myself a recent convert. Now if anyone asks, I will say that "Part-time Punks", "I Know Where Syd Barrett Lives" and "Three Wishes" are among the best songs ever. It seems that T.P. mainstay Dan Treacy vanished from sight at one point and rumours of his demise were rife. Not dead, but a decline fueled by drug abuse had him incarcerated. He hit bottom and bounced back. On My Dark Places his whimsey survived intact; it would have to in order to sing "Don't sit under the apple tree with anyone but Lou Reed" ("Velvet Underground"). But some of the songs, Special Chair and Sick Again for example, are so raw and personal it was almost uncomfortable to listen. Still, there is no one quite like Treacy and it is wonderful to see him recording once more.

The video below is for "All The Young Children on Crack", a track from My Dark Places.

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Sunday, March 04, 2007

Arizona Leviathan

These days you know a band is obscure when they do not have A: a Wikipedia entry and B: no Youtubery. Say hello to the Black Sun Ensemble.

Back in the late eighties, I played the BSE's first two releases on the Reckless Records label to death, they were that good. The self-titled album pictured on the left [RECK 6] (a compilation of their private press lp and several cassette-only releases), and Lambent Flame [RECK 11] were bright spots in an otherwise drab period of music.

Fronted by guitarist Jesus Acedo, the BSE performed exotic psychedelic instrumental rock ragas: think a Tibetan Can via Hawkwind's "Hassan I Sabha". Yeah, basically everything I enjoy in music but isn't recorded nearly often enough.

There were a further two albums released: 1991's Tragic Magic [A Go Go Records AGO 1994-1] which featured one side of live tracks recorded in '89 and a side of acoustic tracks featuring just Acedo on 'acoustic peacock feathers' and Robert Brett on tablas and percussion. It's a good album and a nice compliment to the two Reckless lps. 1990's Elemental Forces [Reckless RECK22] I thought something of a disappointment. Not a bad album, but a somewhat ordinary one with the vocals brought forward and the exoticism pushed to the background.

I was pleasantly surprised to discover that after an hiatus, the band is back and very prolific. Follow the link for a review of their latest and an interview.

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