This Disaster is a Success


Outsight brings to light non-mainstream music, film, books, art, ideas and opinions.

Published, somewhere, monthly since July 1991. Feel free to re-print this article.

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Duane Peters is a skateboarder boasting serious street punk cred. In 1994, together
with guitarist Kerry Martinez, he recruited other Orange County punk band refugees
to form U.S. Bombs and keep classic, noisy punk alive in a feisty, unruly spirit
unhampered by corporate commodification. Later, in 2000, he formed The Hunns
for a more guitar-based punk sound, and keeps both groups active. Finding other
like-minded souls in America, Duane founded Disaster
to help promote these groups. A trinity of new releases on that
label touches on all these points of the Duane Peters career. The U.S. Bombs’
Lost in America/Live 2001 documents the group’s Back at the Laundromat
tour with raw, visceral recordings that could be soundboard bootlegs of early
’80’s hardcore. There is something faintly English about Duane’s delivery,
as if it could be emanating from a rowdy pub. The cleaner, more guitar-based
sound of Duane Peters and the Hunns on Wayward Bantams gives this album
as much an Oi sound as West Coast punk. However, Disaster Records is more than
the Duane Peters experience. Peters shares the stage with excellent new acts
like recent finds The Sign Offs. Check out their self-titled debut. This Cleveland
punk group of buzz saw guitars and explosive energy could be G.B.H. fused with
those Cleveland greats The Dead Boys.

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Universal Music Company, the world’s largest music conglomerate, continues to
reissue classic recordings from its bottomless vaults as outlined at
The MCA-Chess segment of this concern now puts out the classic blues album series
the Real Folk Blues and More Real Folk Blues combined onto four
individual CDs separately representing some of the best recordings made by Muddy
Waters, John Lee Hooker, Sonny Boy Williamson and Howlin’ Wolf. These records
originally came out during the folk blues popularization period of the ’60’s:
The Real Folk Blues was issued in 1966 and More Real Folk Blues
in 1967. (The Hooker More Real Folk Blues album was not discovered and released
until 1991.) Each pair of albums for each artist are now digitally remastered
but conveniently combined onto one CD, with original artwork and liner notes
plus a new historical essay. The four MCA/Chess/UME albums are the latest additions
to Blues Classics Remastered & Revisited, a major UME series of the most
significant and popular blues albums in history.

Howlin’ Wolf’s Real Folk Blues marks him as the original bad boy of this
blues resurgence period with such rugged anthems as “Killing Floor,” “Tail Dragger”
and “I’m The Wolf.” The sound of this giant man and his big-sounding Hohner
harmonica still reverberates today. The veteran bluesman provides songs from
as far back as 1956 (“The Natchez Burnin'”) to latter material like 1965’s “Sittin’
On Top Of The World” here. The flashback is the focus on More Real Folk Blues
moving chronologically from 1953 Memphis recordings made before Wolf’s move
to Chicago, to 1956 tracks from 1955 for an overview rarities collection from
the 300-pound blues master.

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Muddy Waters’ Real Folk Blues similarly looks
back on the career of a man that was a legendary blues performer by that time.
This time we skip all the way back the ’40’s, for example “Canary Woman” (1947),
on up to some of his more current releases, like “The Same Thing” (1964). This is
a diptych picture of Waters’ career up to then; half the recordings come from
1947-1950 and the rest from 1955 (“Mannish Boy”) to 1964. This gives us a portrait
of the man as rural blues troubadour and later urban blues innovator. As with
Howlin’ Wolf’s album, More Real Folk Blues looks at the nascent beginnings
of Waters’ career. We hear material from 1948-1952 plotting the ascendancy of
Muddy Waters from a slide guitarist with bass accompaniment on the 1948 tracks,
to the fuller band sound of the early fifties that Muddy used later that finally became a rock
trio combo create the urban blues genre

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Sonny Boy Williamson, acknowledged harmonica king, reigns
supreme though his Real Folk Blues album. Praised by Willie Dixon as
“one of the most amazing persons I have ever known,” the seminal harp master
inspired everyone from Junior Wells to James Cotton. Williamson was the only
member of this Mount Rushmore of blues artists already deceased when these recordings
were issued. 10 of the 12 tracks on Real Folk Blues are from 1960-1963
and represent the culmination of the artist’s career: melodic, emotional, song-oriented
rootsy blues. Though Williamson had been recording for Chess since 1955, More
Real Folk Blues
again targets the last few years, 1960-1964, featuring guitarist
Buddy Guy on Dixon’s “Close To Me” as well as “Decoration Day,” “Trying To Get
Back On My Feet” and more.

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The signature “One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer” and
such memorable offerings as “Let’s go out Tonight” mark John Lee Hooker’s Real
Folk Blues
collection. Already owning a thoroughly incorporated formula
for the blues by this time, Hooker laid down all of the 18 tracks on both albums
in one productive 1965 session. His idiosyncratic rhythms, as on the free-form
versification in “Let’s Go Out Tonight” and the simple, primal rhythms echoing
from his boot-stomp days make these albums a cohesive document when packaged
together and a still vital, thumping, visceral collection of tough-boogie blues.

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Listening through any Melvins recording released this year without the context of their prior discography
and you’ll see an excellent example of evil post-grunge art-rock. But, the fact
that The Melvins largely inspired the entire Seattle grunge scene through such
pale imitators as Nirvana goes to show how ahead of the curve they are. Ipecac
got these challenging creators together with the label’s other
first band, label co-founder Mike Patton’s Fantômas. (This group also features
King Buzzo of Melvins on guitar.) Released in time to celebrate Ipecac’s third
anniversary, Millennium Monsterworks by The Fantômas Melvins Big Band
is an out-sized aural assault of noise and post-rock recorded live on New Years
Eve 2000 by this rare assembly or angry rock deconstructionists.

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Meanwhile, Melvins soldier on and the 18th release is
Hostile Ambient Takeover (Ipecac Recordings). There’s nothing ambient
here, but there’s a lot that’s hostile. The sound is great on this recording
made at Hook Studios. Interestingly, Hook Studios is known for their impressive
array of vintage microphones and successful use of them. It’s a point to wonder
about; did such antique equipment contribute to the success of this recording,
where not a single nuance of Melvins-orchestrated cacophony is lost? The Melvins’
sublime sludge and portentous post-Black Sabbath hard rock fused with a smatter
of electronic effects is the foundation for the group’s trademark Seattle sound-inspiring
vocals on this sampling from the Pacific Northwest’s
seminal heroes of the harsh art.

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DVD Reviews *********************

The Beatles

Big Beat Box


This is a DVD and CD set. The DVD and CD contain a baker’s dozen of songs by
and covered by The Beatles. The Overtures and other musicians perform this music,
not The Beatles. Included in this music are vocal and instrumental versions
of “In Spite of all Danger.” This is the title of a supposedly lost John Lennon
track here re-created by the musicians. While The Beatles are not heard directly
in the music, their voices do come across in press conference interviews presented
in the 50-minute DVD. These segments and other vignettes are (somewhat distractingly)
colored in hues of red, green, orange, etc. As the music plays they flash like
a slide show portraying the chronological tale of The Beatles’s sudden and growing
popularity. Their entrance and early appearances in the U.S. are well known,
but this collection includes less-seen footage from continental Europe, Australia
and more. (3)

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Ian McLagan & The Bump Band

In Concert


Ian McLagan, with a history in The Small Faces and Faces and as a important
sideman for three decades, still can perform fun and upbeat Britpop as he does
on this DVD of a German TV concert. Singing and jumping from behind his organ
and electric piano on this hour-long video, McLagan is the sparking point for
the audience. (This is especially true since his sidemen, mostly much younger,
seem less enthused.) The instrumental “Can’t Stand Still,” worthy of Booker T
and The MGs, the sentimental “Hello Old Friend,” a new composition during this
2000 recording, are standouts. Also memorable during the strong set (only “Big
Love” is corny), is the rowdy break-up song “She Stole It” and fun and mysterious
“Don’t Let Him out of Your Sight.” These are both energetic McLagan originals
in a set drawn mostly from Best of British and Turn Faces. (3.5)

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Johnny Winter

Pieces & Bits


The is an overview of Johnny Winter’s four-decade career made personal by personal
photos take by his wife and Winter’s own verbal recollections. (These sometimes
are distractingly juxtaposed with paragraphs of unrelated on-screen text.) There
are several other luminaries performing with Winter. Among them: B.B. King, who
recalls their first meeting, Dr. John, Muddy Waters, a frantic Edgar Winter
and more. The first of several vintage video clips is both blurry looking and
muddy sounding, but the rest of the vault films are amazingly crisp and crystalline
sounding. Songs include “Rock & Roll Hoochie Koo,” “Mannish Boy,” and performed
with the Bob Dylan Celebration Band “Highway 61 Revisited.” (4)

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Various Artists

A Scottish Christmas featuring Bonnie Rideout

Maggie’s Music

In A Scottish Christmas, veteran Celtic players form in varying arrangements
for a festive yuletide celebration and generally uplifting music. Augmenting this
already impressive cast is traditionally-clad Highland dancers and members of
The City of Washington Pipe Band. Charming and talented Scottish fiddle champion
Bonnie Rideout is prevalent through this live concert recording, acting as musical
director and M.C. She provides a full audio commentary track on the DVD that
also includes discographies and biographies for her and the other talented contributors.
Each of these master musicians takes his or her turn in the spotlight: singer/guitarist
Tony Cuffe, Uilliann pipe played by Jerry O’Sullivan and the woman behind Maggie’s
Music: Maggie Sansone on the hammered dulcimer. The warm, acoustic sounds, presented
with love and skill, are not so overtly a Christmastime soundtrack that the
DVD cannot be enjoyed year-round as a touchstone of traditional Scottish music
making. (4.5)

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CD REVIEWS *******

Maggie’s Music Artists

Carolan’s Gift: A Tribute to the Legendary Irish Bard

Maggie’s Music

Late Renaissance Irish harp styles were characterized by crisp, bright melodies that sparkled
in the courts of kings and Celtic chieftains. King of the harp-playing Celts
was the virtuoso Turlough O’Carolan (1670-1738). He created over 200 compositions
mating Gaelic folk styles with the then-new styles originated by Vivaldi, Corelli,
etc. Maggie’s Music brings its own masters of Celtic chamber styles, for instance
Al Petteway, Maggie Sansone and Ceoltori, to play fourteen of ‘Carolan’s gifts’
in chamber arrangements of Celtic harp, Irish flute, fiddle, hammered dulcimer,
viola da gamba, guitar and piano. These antique baroque instrumentals are delicate
and enchanting pieces. (4.5)

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The Aqua Velvets

Radio Waves

Mighty/Milan Entertainment

This is a 2-CD set of radio broadcast recordings by the slippery, slightly surf-sounding
instrumental combo. That is actually a bit misleading, because CD 2 is actually
a 4-track EP but does include a reverb-y treatment of “Smells Like Teen Spirit”
recorded by surf archivist Steve Brown. Consider it a bonus CD EP. Recorded
at various Bay Area college radio stations, this disc has the fun and loose
delivery of a live show but with studio production and no distracting audience
noise. Their psychedelic surf sound is a time machine back to the early years and
the group can easily place their covers of “Walk Don’t Run” or “Pipeline” (here
in medley with “Auld Lang Syne”) along with such signature originals as “Spanish
Blue.” Rhino chose that song to represent the contemporary surf sound on a compilation
it produced for Hard Rock Café. So many signature tunes and great covers, this
is a veritable live greatest hits from the group. (4)CDNOW MUSIC (replace item

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Otis Taylor

Respect the Dead

Northern Blues

Otis Taylor began playing blues in London in the ’60’s and brings much experience
about dramatic and compelling approaches to the genre in this recording. Rather
like the understated rural blues of John Lee Hooker, Taylor exhibits an understated,
even sparse sound that is at times spooky, ominous. Writing for this disc began
even before the critically acclaimed White African was released in 2001. The
result is a cohesive vision of gloom-soul blues informed in the history of racial
prejudice and the more intimate scales of personal grief. (4.5)

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Jonathan Richman

The Best of Jonathan Richman


Jonathan Richman exudes joy and a free, easy happiness in his music. He often
effectively personalizes his delivery by opening up interior monologues, or even
whole interior conversations as in the biographical “Monologue About Bermuda.”
This touches on the psychological transition from the Modern Lovers to his solo
career. Richman celebrates in his music; “Everyday Clothes,” gothic girls and
dancing freely in a Lesbian bar are all origin points for cheerful, idiosyncratic
songs on this collection, a worthy edition in Rounder’s thirty-album Heritage
series, marking true highlights in the Rounder catalog. It may be more difficult
to swallow his cartoonish renditions of “Action Packed” or “The Heart of Saturday
Night,” but listen to his “Parties in the U.S.A.” done to the tune of “Hang on
Sloopy” and you will know Jonathan Richman is a pocket reduction of that party-inducing
frat sound. (4.5)

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Joshua Gabriel

Movement No. II: R for the NM

372 Music

Sampling his own percussion and bass rhythms on this EP, Gabriel conceived this
recording as a cohesive opus with returning leitmotif and interwoven themes. Breakbeats
and blunt, simple rhythm lines are the intoxicating foundation of an audio collage
of looped voices and disembodied lullabies. This expansive multi-instrumental
turntablist references trip-hop, and samples sitars on this music mosaic just as byzantine
and obsessive as the detailed, hieroglyphic artwork he festooned the recording
with. However, this is not a ‘not-for-the-faint-of-heart-recording.’ It is instantly
accessible to the open mind, the only thing bracing here is the title. (4)

Teenage Fanclub


Thirsty Ear

Pure-spun joy, the indie pop confection on Howdy is the essence of Teenage Fanclub:
flawless execution, dulcet pop hooks and sweet melody with hum-along lyrics. The
bright, uplifting vocals ride along effortlessly on equally scintillating guitar
lines. This Scottish group cleanly exudes a direct and apparently effortless pop
sensibility. Drinking from the same fountain as Big Star and The Byrds, Howdy
welcomes with transcendent good humor unflagging in energy and appeal. (4)

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The River Made no Sound

Kranky, POB 578746, Chicago, IL 60657

The title suggests a river at night and that is the lonely, detached tranquility
conjured by the ambient electronica displayed on this, Mark Nelson’s sparsest atmospheric music. Mark Nelson is also a guitarist for Labradford
but puts that instrument aside for a hyper-minimalist dub sound here. Just the
bare essentials for an audio chill-out are all this Pan-American needs on his palette
to create the canvas that can serve as a backdrop to dreams. (4)

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World of Tomorrow


World of Tomorrow, 45 First Ave., #5-0, NYC,
NY 10003

World Of Tomorrow deals in group jazz improvisation by all members on drums, bass,
trombone, sax, trumpet and a few more surprises. The group tends to present a
gently cascading array of shifting rhythms and themes rather than any one member
charging forward with a melody for the others to follow or expand on. This gives
a somewhat exotic feel to the music, suggesting distance and expanse, like desert
nights. This is a live album from the group performing their extemporaneous compositions.
These tracks became over modulated at times during the recording, but the point
gets across that this a decent, shape shifting psychedelic space-jazz band. (2.5)

Billy Music

Midwest Index

Low of Inertia Productions

This Sioux Falls, SD band performs emotional, song-oriented indie rock with carefully
enunciated lyrics closely following the rhythm. The melodic rockers are akin to
Sunny Day Real Estate and Jimmy Eat World. Their brand of emo juxtaposes the careful,
precise phrasing with crunching guitar rhythms and brittle leads that give an
edgy feel to the album. (2.5)

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Chuck Leavell

Forever Blue: Solo Piano

Evergreen Records, 665 Charlane Dr., Dry
Branch, GA 31020

Throughout the ’70’s piano was an anchor instrument in combos performing popular
rock. Quite often, Chuck Leavell was there, in the Allman Brothers Band, Eric
Clapton, Rolling Stones and more. Bands of this stripe were often rooted in the
blues and grew out of blues cover outfits. This is Leavell’s solo blues instrumental
piano album and is a testament to his talent and the rootsy sounds that run through
the veins of time-tested rock and pop. (4.5)

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Gas Huffer

The Rest of Us

Estrus Records

This is the sixth album from veteran garage-a-billy rockers Gas Huffer and their
first full-length on Estrus. There are deep roots in this Gas Huffer punk rock.
If Neil Young blended with The Cramps, or Bill Kirchen merged with Reverend Horton
Heat, this could be very well the result of that mixture. Their hard country sounds
are delivered with a fun spirit and a heavy, melodic post-grunge sound. Guitarist
Tom Price’s work in the U-Men presaged the grunge movement and now Gas Huffer
takes that sound forward while still looking back to the backwoods roots of rock and
boiling it all down in a garage. File next to Mudhoney! (4)

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Soledad Brothers

Steal Your Soul and Dare your Spirit to Move

Estrus Records

Soledad Brothers come from Toledo and that’s long been a cultural suburb of Detroit.
Soledad Brothers wholeheartedly accept that, sending specific props to the Motor
City on two tracks here. Like much that came out of Detroit in the 60’s, like
the MC5 and Psychedelic Stooges, Soledad Brothers artfully blend heavy blues and
burly hard rock. Horns and electric piano give the music real life and style on
this mighty and muscular album of alt-blues rock. (4)

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Star Room Boys

This World Just Won’t Leave You Alone

Slewfoot Records, POB 390, Crane, MO

Star Room Boys is the masterful and moving vehicle for the melancholy songs of
lead singer Dave Marr. His achey-breaky heart material is convincing and moving,
a confessional authenticity that remains after repeated listening. The group has
a history with Dave Barbe of Sugar. Barbe produced the group’s debut and likewise
this sophomore release, where he also plays piano on some tracks. Born of the fertile
Athens, Georgia scene, this one has some of the saddest ballads to ever flow out of
a truckstop jukebox. The downbeat melodies are excellently delivered in arrangements
of acoustic and electric guitars along with pedal steel and more. (4)

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Doc Watson with Frosty Morn

‘Round the Table Again

Sugar Hill

The death of Merle Watson in 1985 effectively brought an end to Frosty Morn, but
the rest of the group still gets together annually for a nostalgic MerleFest.
This album was recorded live at such a reunion at Wilkes Community College.
As it was not long before Doc Watson got involved in his son’s outfit back when
Merle led it, Doc came around to join in with Frosty Morn for this 2001 gathering
that also featured Merle’s son Richard Watson on guitar. Beside such signature
Watson tunes as “Lynchburg Town” and “Blues Walkin’ ‘Round my Bed,” these mountain
music masters also have fun with such rural blues staples as “Sugar Babe,” “C
C Rider” and “On a Monday.” (5)

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The Church

After Everything Now This

Thirsty Ear/Cooking

Long since past their beginnings in superficial jangle-pop, The Church is now
a well-honed machine for producing shimmering, sophisticated pop. The always elliptical
lyrics more prominently mention religious themes on this more reflective and searching
album. These masters of moody mystery never fail to succeed in delivering true
emotional affect with each song, despite the rich wordplay that allows purely
cerebral appreciation. Their classicism is refined perfectly here on an album
of all new material that came out of compositions gathered from work done during
the recording of Box of Birds. Tested and reworked before audiences during that
tour, the mature band got into the studio and captured this matured music for
After Everything Now This, an album of substantial depth. (4.5)

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So Kalmery


Tinder Records

The multi-lingual guitarist and vocalist So Kalmery present ebullient and joyous
music on the infectious Bendera. Kalmery weaves strains of gospel, soukous,
rumba and more through his music. Kalmery runs the gamut from Taj Mahal’s blues-folk
sound to international reggae sounds for a wide spectrum of afro-pop in a single
album. His contemporary African music also contains a positive, spiritual message
of faith and unity that he traces back to the brakka tradition of ancient Egypt.

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The Venus Fly Trap

Anthology of the Food

SPV Poland/Spiral Archive

Anthology of the Food is a collection of works by the group from the years
1989-1999. The Gothic music of The Venus Fly Trap is here sampled from Mars, Totem,
Pandora’s Box, Luna Tide and Dark Amour. Haunting and gloomy, their ominous beat
music is midway between Bauhaus and Wall of Voodoo. Containing not only album
tracks, this compilation features 12″ versions, three non-album tracks and the
previously unreleased “13 O’Clock.” Arranged chronologically, the album traces
the arc of the band from its Gothic roots to its still guitar-based underground
dance music on “13 O’Clock.” (3)

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