Sunday, April 17, 2005

Dinosaur Jr on the Late Late Show

I never saw the original lineup of Dinosaur Jr or any lineup thereafter. I saw J Mascis and the Fog a few years ago and it was about as tossed off and sad as this (only much louder). I'm going to be a cliche and say that my favorite Dinosaur Jr record is 1987's You're Living All Over Me but I like all of them at least a little (the last few very little) and while I never saw the band perform, I've heard enough bootlegs and seen enough of these tv performances over the years to know that my one Mascis live experience wasn't a fluke; he's only ever been a really fantastic guitarist in the studio. Still, this is ridiculous. It's getting worse as he gets older. Lou and Murph do their best to keep up as Mascis fumbles his way through "The Lung". At least pick a song you can do decent rendition of if you're going be on national television. There are points during this performance when both Lou and Murph look like they are about ready to call the whole thing off so I wonder how long this tour will last.

Or maybe I'm just being a jerk... maybe it was just a bad night and the tour will be mind-blowing. I'll go see them if I get half a chance anyway. It starts off promising but after mascis stops playing so he can sing the first verse (?!), he never really recovers. At the very least, it made me want to listen to the album.

Dinosaur Jr - "The Lung" Live on the Late Late Show video clip (free registration is required to download the video)

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

icky pre-code goodness for $1000.00

many many music videos....


Because its late and what else are you going to do at this hour? Crazy stuff, that's what. [via]

a bunch of Nirvana covers at Copy, Right?

Most of these are just awful. Nirvana is one of those bands that's hard to cover without sounding like a complete idiot (see Tori Amos). Steve Earle's version of "Breed" is the best mainly because he doesn't try to fix what isn't broken. Richard Cheese's "Rape Me" is hilarious. Herbie Hancock's "All Apologies" is nice but still somehow clueless. Sinead's is ok I guess.

Seriously though, why do people like Evanescence? I'm stumped.


Tuesday, April 12, 2005


One of the many bands signed to a major label during the "alternative" 90's in a rush of excitement only to be forgotten about and dropped soon after. Slowpoke were always better at writing songs than albums and they only really began to find themselves at the very end, when no one was paying attention anymore and they were using another name.

Started by Arlington, TX med student David Gibson and a friend on a lark, the band released a single on Direct Hit ("Limestone Friend/Plays Clean No. 5") a year or two before signing with the Dutch East India owned fake indie Grass Records and releasing Mad Chen in 1994. The single was derivative post punk that would have sounded at home on any number indie labels at the time. Early Am Rep comparisons missed the point - the sound flirted with a sort of droned out, dazed hardcore that was closer to early Sonic Youth if only there wasn't really anything to compare it to. This sound came the closest to being fully realized with the song "Ice Minus" which appeared on the We're From Texas compilation in 1992. The music seems to flow by in a haze as if it's all just a big insinuation. While recording in a cheap studio may have had something to do with this, it was nevertheless pretty interesting and fairly unique.

Mad Chen evened out the dynamics and fleshed out and mellowed the noise to the point that the comparison that popped up most in the few reviews it got was the Afghan Whigs. Imagine that band with all the angst and none of the pretend soul. This is where the problem with cohesion first became apparent. Listening to Mad Chen all at once left little impression, it sounded phoned in (a deeply inferior re-recording of "Ice Minus") and very much of its time, like the least interesting parts of a million other bands rolled into one. The bland production, Dulli-esque vocals and sour relationship lyrics heavy on the gun imagery ("Shotgun in the house/'Keep it for protection'/Or so you say") could have been any band at that point in history. Hell, it could have been your band. Revisiting it a little at a time, however, reveals some pretty interesting songs tucked away. Overall it still seems a little too heavy on the overplayed angst, but tracks like "Lopez De La Gomez", "In Time For Celius", "Coral" and especially the fantastic closer "(Sudden Death) Overtime" show definate personality. Mad Chen is the kind of forgettable album that would have made a wonderful EP.

The band was sidelined for awhile after the release of Mad Chen by Gibson's schooling. When they decided they wanted to make another record, Grass, who were in the middle of the buyout talks that would turn them into Wind Up, kept putting them off... So Slowpoke began recording anyway. It was mentioned later in interviews that at least three albums worth of material were recorded during this period only to be set aside. By the time Grass finally sent the band into Fort Apache studios with producer Wally Gagel to work on a proper follow up the few people who even remembered who they were had probably figured they weren't together anymore.

A three song tape from the Fort Apache sessions began circulating among industry people and Slowpoke, a band that even the most versed underground music fan still knew nothing about, found themselves in the middle of a minor bidding war. Grass/Wind Up spent months trying to bilk this supposed windfall for all it was worth before finally giving in. In October 1996 Slowpoke signed with Geffen and were told their album would be in stores in no time. The only new material the band had released in the two years since Mad Chen was Belated Valentine, a split single with the Toadies on Grass. Slowpoke's contribution, "She Fainted", was easily their best work up to that point. They didn't even sound like the same band anymore. Gone was the reliance on manufactured rage and sound alike histrionics. The song is driven by bass and keyboard. This new Slowpoke was all about groove and melody.

The band spent another two years waiting for Geffen to release their album. In early 1998 a CD single was released by Geffen and Last Beat Records containing the album track "Am I Shade?", "Shouldn't Be Out Late" ( presumably a song from the post Mad Chen/pre-Fort Apache recording frenzy) and a 4-track demo recording of the closest thing Slowpoke ever had to a "standard", "You Can't Trust Me". "Am I Shade?" basically sounds like a beefed up, more grooving version of one of the better tracks off Mad Chen. "Shouldn't Be Out Late" is a noisy pop song with loping bass and jazzy piano breaks. The version of "You Can't Trust Me" here was described in one review at the time as sounding like "Sebadoh covering the Pixies" and well... that pretty much nails it. It seemed like Slowpoke were really coming into their own.

In April 1998 the album, entitled Virgin Stripes, was finally released with little promotion and support and promptly bombed. Apparently the only thing Geffen really did for Slowpoke was give them hairstylists and new wardrobes and take plenty of pictures. Sadly, the album is a bit of a letdown. There are some real standout tracks, like the opener "Railroad" with it's siren like lead guitar and "Hey! Alma Mater" with backing vocals from the girl from Fuzzy (?). The problems are the stifling radio-ready production and a general nondescript feeling. Slowpoke seems to have traded one formula (angry post punk wailing) for another (modern altera-rock emoting). The album does so little to distinguish Slowpoke from every other "alterative" rock band at the time that you really have to wonder if promotion would have made much difference. Where are the bursts of personality and style (not to mention the keys) found in "She Fainted" and "Shouldn't Be Out Late"? Where is a full band recording of "You Can't Trust Me" (one would show up much later on a local music compilation)? Even "Am I Shade?" seems less interesting in this context. Geffen reportedly sent Slowpoke back into the studio to do some more work on the album before releasing it and one can only guess exactly how much was added or changed. Was Virgin Stripes a brilliant record that was ruined by too much label tinkering or a lackluster effort given an uncalled for radio sheen?

Not that it's all bad. As I said there are some nice tracks, but they only make the rest of the album that much harder to take. It's another average album that would have made a great EP. The band hoped to be in the studio again within a year of Virgin Stripes release working on another record... after all, the songs on the record were pretty old at this point. That never happened, though. Slowpoke were kept out of the studio and handed their walking papers within a year. The song "Lorraine" was apparently a bit of a minor radio hit for awhile in Florida but it was too little, too late. It's ashame because a song like "I Can't See You Anymore" would have sounded great on the radio, for whatever that's worth.

After vanishing for a while, the band re-surfaced in 2000 with the name Prize Money, released the best album of their career on a small local label, played some shows and then quickly vanished again... but that's for another post.

Limestone Friend [MP3, 3.1MB, 128kbps]

Plays Clean No. 5 [MP3, 3.5MB, 128kbps]

(Sudden Death) Overtime [MP3, 2.1MB, 128kbps]

She Fainted [Mp3, 4.7MB, 128kbps]

Shouldn't Be Out Late [MP3, 4MB, 128kbps]

I Can't See You Anymore [MP3, 3.6MB, 128kbps]

-Old Geffen Records Slowpoke Site (via Internet Archive)-

-Last Beat Records Slowpoke Site-

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Gert Wilden

I remember about 1998 or so seeing a copy of the Crippled Dick Hot Wax reissue of the Gert Wilden Orchestra's Schulmaƌdchen Report in the vinyl section everytime I went to Borders. I didn't know anything about the album or Wilden except what I read from the sleeve. I kept wanting to buy it because it sounded really interesting and because the artwork was full of naked ladies. It seems like I must have almost taken the plunge every single trip I made to Borders... and I was making pretty frequent trips at that point because I lived in Fort Worth at the time and Borders was the closest thing to a cool record store anywhere near me. I would always end up putting it back and getting something else though, worried that I might not like it and it would be a waste. I honestly don't know what I was thinking. It was an LP so it had to have been at least half the price of most of the cds I was getting. Maybe the pervy cover had something to do with it. Whatever. It doesn't matter because since finally hearing it last year it has quickly become a recent favorite.

For those who may not know, Schulmaƌdchen Report (Schoolgirl Report) is a compilation of music Wilden composed for various German softcore films in the 60's and 70's. Every thing I've read about this record usually says something along the lines of "The best parts of these films was the music". I haven't seen any of the films, and I'm not really in a hurry to either, but the music is fantastic. The tone surprisingly varied for porno music. Yeah its sexy and playful, filled with swinging flutes and breathy feminine vocalizing in places that leave no doubt as to the time the record was recorded in or it's original intention. Other times it's downbeat and jazzy ("Soul Guitar", "Ecstacy Blues") or just flat out rocking ("Follow Me", "Dirty Boy"). Altogether wonderful. Crippled Dick is a really great label for this sort of thing. They are like the Criterion Collection for weird old foreign scores.

"Follow Me" [MP3, 192kbps, 4.2MB]

"Sexy Girls" [MP3, 192kbps, 3.6MB]

"Ecstacy Blues" [MP3, 192kbps, 3.4MB]

-Crippled Dick Hot Wax Records-

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Captain Audio

I'm sitting here listening to Captain Audio and thinking yet again how I love the two records they released so much more than the two they have released since moving to New York, losing a member, gaining another and becoming The Secret Machines. I'm sitting here wondering why it wasn't Captain Audio that got to be heard by everybody instead of "Captain Audio minus one". I'm sitting here being a local music fanboy.

I like Now Here is Nowhere just fine actually, though I think I like the EP that preceded it, September 000, a bit more. Its just that neither of those records just flat out excite me as much as My Ears Are Ringing But My Heart's OK and LUXURY or Whether it is Better to be Loved Than Feared. That feeling on the one hand that this band is totally formed and they can toss off perfect chaotic pop songs and moments of crushing beauty like its a bodily function... and at the same time the sense that these aren't just songs... these guys are actually trying to do something here... and they're slowly pulling it off, whatever it may turn out to be. The Secret Machines don't have that kind of depth, at least not yet, but they clearly aspire to it. Regina Chellew's absence definately leaves a hole.

Chellew released the fine album hitsthemiss in 2001 on Last Beat Records under the name Chao and has been promising another album and/or an EP ever since that never comes. Her website was offline for the longest time but now it's back with a UK address. It says she's playing in a band with former members of Bedhead and Comet now as well.

Part of the problem is/was Last Beat. I remember when the label was started with money from an inheritance by a rabid local music fan. I remember the interviews early on where that same rabid fan would talk proudly of her plans to run it as a farm label (her words) and get all the bands signed to majors and make everybody rich. Sure it all seemed a little fishy but they were putting out some great music at that point (Captain Audio, Comet, Pervis, Tomorrow People, rubberbullet) and most people figured that, at the very least, her master plan might mean a few more people might hear some of these bands. But all it ever got was a few cd reviews in Alternative Press and some minor label interest that went nowhere.

The only updates that have been made to the Last Beat site in forever, aside from the shrinking artist roster and vanishing albums (where did PiNKSTON's cds go?) is the return of Captain Audio to the roster, the relaunching of a Captain Audio page and what's surely a hefty repressing of their two records, which would certainly have been deleted as well sooner or later if Now Here is Nowhere had bombed. Now you can buy two of the finest records Last Beat ever released... and you should because they are also probably two of the most exciting records to come out anywhere in the last 10 years

Had Captain Audio been on Matador, they would have been huge. This fanboy is still holding out for a reunion.

Captain Audio - Take It Like a Pill [MP3, 4.6MB, 128kbpsVBR]

Captain Audio - Because of You [MP3, 4MB, 128 kbpsVBR]

Captain Audio - Star [MP3, 2.4MB, 128kbps]

Captain Audio - Know It All [MP3, 5MB, 128MB]

Chao - Gotta Go [MP3, 4MB, 128kbps]

Chao - Head Cold From New York City (demo) [MP3, 3.7MB, 128kbps]

-Captain Audio-


-The Secret Machines-

-Last Beat Records-

-Ace Fu Records- (also selling the Captain Audio records now)