Punk on a Plate

Punk on a Plate

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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Two new compilations take different looks at punk. Shite ‘n’ Onions, Vol.
(Omnium) sounds right apt as I began
to spin it around St. Patrick’s Day. The collection is 22 tracks from 15 newcomer
Celtic punk bands. This includes acts from both sides of the Atlantic, for the
genre is now international. Standouts include The Mahones (Canada), The Tossers
(Illinois, USA), and the dub-flavored The Spunk Lads (USA/UK). John Murphy,
editor of the Boston scene mag Shite ‘n’ Onions, compiled this album
from largely DIY projects. More info on this comp at http://www.shitenonions.com
TKO Records continues to put great samplers
our at budget prices. The latest is Punch Drunk V with such obvious name
appeal as Slaughter & The Dogs, U.S. Bombs, and Texas Terri & The Stiff Ones.
While they may not be as recognizable, such bands as Broken Bottles, The Butchers,
and Smut Peddler (can you really get high on Rebatron?) offer really memorable
punk rock tunes…

Listen to or Buy Shite ‘n’ Onions at Amazon.com

to or Buy Punch Drunk V at Amazon.com


Check out the Website of Citizens Against Government
. CAGW is a private, non-partisan, non-profit organization representing
more than one million members and supporters nationwide. CAGW’s mission is to
eliminate waste, mismanagement, and inefficiency in the federal government.
Founded in 1984 by the late industrialist J. Peter Grace and syndicated columnist
Jack Anderson, CAGW is the legacy of the President’s Private Sector Survey on
Cost Control, also known as the Grace Commission. This site has, apparently,
some great publications detailing government waste. However, the real power
would be able to tell the Congressional rep for your own district not to bring
pork back home. But, the site does not offer a practical way to search for excess
by state or district, although it does rate the legislators by state and district…
The Internet tax moratorium has expired, ask your rep to support the permanent
ban on Internet access taxes proposed by Senator George Allen (R-Va.), S. 150,
the Internet Tax Non-discrimination Act. This legislation will improve consumer
confidence by assuring that Internet access will remain tax-free, and it will
prevent states or other localities from placing multiple or discriminatory taxes
on electronic commerce. In the end, this will help the growth of our economy
and allow Internet technology to continue to advance. The
ACLU has an easy way to send a missive to the right people

DVD REVIEWS ***************************

Branca Ensemble
Symphony Nos. 8 & 10 – Live at the Kitchen
Atavistic Video/MVD

While Branca insists on naming his opuses “symphonies”, they lack the structure
and episodic compartmentalization of true symphonic movements. The greatest
thing symphonic here is the orchestral arrangement on the stage of the multi-guitar
ensemble at this 1995 five-night engagement in New York City. In that regard,
Branca may not be helping advance rock as an art form. However, few deserve
the description “wall of sound” more than Branca with his cathartic, dense compositions.
Wharton Tiers was on hand to capture accurately every brick-heavy moment that
Branca, as conductor, elicits from the ten-member Branca Ensemble. The slowly
changing but ever building intensity of the work, climaxing in a prolonged meltdown,
is hard rock Philip Glass. (4)

NOTE: While this is a very recent recording, Acute will reissue Glenn Branca’s
first solo record Lesson No.1 this May. In addition to this being Glenn’s
first solo record, Lesson No.1 was also the first release on the legendary
New York label 99 Records. There will be an extra composition “Bad Smells” (originally
made for the Twyla Tharp Dance Company), a live video of “Symphony #5” from
1984, and liner notes by New York luminary Alan Licht.

on the DVD from Amazon.com

Sun Ra & His Arkestra
The Cry Of Jazz
Atavistic Video/MVD

The way this 35-minute film is credited to Sun Ra & His Arkestra may make it appeal
to Sun Ra collectors, but know that these ultra-rare images of Sun Ra, John Gilmore
and more during his Chicago period are not the main focus here. (Sun Ra does get
the lead music credit as “Le Sun Ra.”) Post-classical jazz composer Edward O.
Bland wrote this edgy and provocative 1959 film based on his book “The Fruits
of the Death of Jazz”. The socio-political analysis in the film combined with
a socio-historical overview of jazz has made this thought-provoking film appear
occasionally in the art house, but this DVD edition is the first commercial release
of a work that was a labor of love for Bland and his collaborators. The low budget
film was a DIY project for the filmmakers with about 65 people working on the
film for free. The party-like setting of a casual jazz appreciation club meeting
starts out like an episode of Hugh Hefner’s first nationally televised series,
“Playboy’s Penthouse”. It is all cigarette smoke and hip talk. However, this quickly
veers into challenging discussion of race relations and how the mistreatment of
blacks in America is intertwined in the very form of jazz music. Combined with
the historical overview, this is interesting enough and then Bland takes it up
another notch with a Nietzschean prediction of the death of jazz and something
beyond jazz in form but not spirit to arise. Passionate African-American actor
George Walker excellently delivers all this to white would-be hipsters effectively
nonplussed for the camera by the character’s radicalism and knowledge. The Arkestra
soundtrack works as an example of how early black jazz fits nicely with images
of its origins: slums and seedy bars. The “white jazz” requires bright lights
and a white woman grooming a poodle. The “black chauvinism” and revolutionary
inclination displayed in this film presage the coming black power movement by
a decade. (4)

on the DVD from Amazon.com


Joey “Shithead” Keithley
I, Shithead: A Life In Punk
Arsenal Pulp Press

Keithley formed D.O.A. in 1978, giving him a founder’s-eye view of the North American
hardcore scene and post-punk underground rock the world over. This chronicle of
his adventures shows the many sides of Shithead: musician, activist and businessman.
The meticulously researched book has all the names and dates to make this detailed
D.O.A. history extend from band autobiography into scene history. The naturally
arranged chronological history is full of lessons for would-be independent bands
and illustrative anecdotes of venues and scenes now gone. You will not find this
book pandering to a morbid curiosity about rock ‘n’ roll excess, but you will
find a triumphant and inspiring testimonial about plucky punk pioneers as loose-knit
islands of affinity grow from a casual network to a global web of labels, venues
and touring agencies. The book has plenty of pictures and D.O.A. lyrics from Joey’s
own hand. (4)

More on the book from Amazon.com

Chord Easy, 2nd Edition
Light Living Library, POB 190-ce, Phm., OR 97370

Chord Easy is a small, photocopied, saddle-stitched digest. The publication
comes in a full and short version. I have only seen the short version. Densely
packed with type, even this short work can be an intimidating read. However, it
is well worth the effort for it’s straightforward explanation of music theory
fundamentals for anyone striving to get a working knowledge of chord fundamentals.
While the aim seems to be for guitar, of all the articles and book passages I
have taken in, this is the first time I was able to grasp to the 4-3-5 and 3-4-5
rules for major chords versus minor ones. (3)

CD REVIEWS ****************************

The Hold Steady
Almost Killed Me
Frenchkiss Records

The Hold Steady is a New York City quartet fronted by songwriter/vocalist Craig
Finn from Minneapolis art-punk project Lifter Puller. Also from Lifter Puller
is the guitarist Tad Kubler. The band’s music has a loose, wide-opened jam feel.
While many indie bands are overtly post-punk, this group recalls more such power
blues projects as Black Oak Arkansas and Cream, without any gratuitous leads.
Overall, this makes the music simple and rugged, the sonic equivalent of a good
work boot. What really makes it worthwhile is the lyrics chockfull of cultural
references like decade stereotypes (“Positive Jam”), icons from Patti Smith to
Nina Simone (“The Swish”) and the bar band scene (“Barfruit Blues”). Someone looking
at indie rock through the lens of having lived through the ’80s in a
bar band and still collecting records will smile at all the references in songs
like “Most People are DJs”, “Baby take off your beret/because everyone’s a critic
and most people are DJs.” (3.5)

Listen to or Buy at Amazon.com

Jamie Rattner
Jamie Rattner
Jamie Rattner

This album is recorded by the acoustic duo of Rattner (vocals, piano) and Anthony
Calabro (guitar, vocals). Jamie has a sophisticated vocal display on this album
that has won her recognition in American and Europe. While having studied under
the same Berklee College of Music teachers as Aimee Mann and Paula Cole, Jamie
eschews direct comparison to her pop colleagues. Instead, she calls in as inspiration
poetess Anne Sexton (one of the famous examples of neurosis induced by postpartum
depression) and flamenco, the Iberian art form that choreographs seductive dances
and knife fights. This goes a long way to explaining the mystery and melancholy
of such songs as “Wayward Song” and “Marigolds & Dandelions”. Fans of Tori Amos
will appreciate this new voice. (4)

Listen to or Buy at Amazon.com

Percussion World
Percumba Records

Luis Garay is a world percussion virtuoso who combines his talents with a playful
spirit resulting in unexpectedly joyful concoctions. For instance, take the
Sino-African “Afro-Chin” with its exotic blend of tribal beats and Oriental
allusions. This percussion quartet employs an entire spectrum of percussion
instruments from kit drums to whistles and congas to chimes on this instrumental
CD. (5)

Listen to or Buy at Amazon.com

Icewater Scandal
No Handle
The Social Registry

Icewater Scandal is an indie experimental band at the intersection of Sonic
Youth and God is my Co-Pilot. The arty guitar band luxuriously spreads 50 minutes
over the space of six songs on this CD. The edgy, angular riffs support the
dreamy to squeaky vocals of Andrea Hansen. The trio succeeds best when it allows
the most melody into these extended jams, as on the catchy and wistful “Muddy
Blue” and the elongated space blues odyssey “Shiny Gold”. (3.5)

Listen to or Buy at Amazon.com

Blue Cotton Skin
Red Buttons Records

Petracovich, a.k.a. Jessica Peters, builds on her neo-folk background by adding
in post-trip hop and post-electronica elements. The result is dreamy, melancholy,
and features Peters on piano and Nord II keyboard. Jessica, with Tad Wagner
(engineer/guitarist for Buellton) as co-producer and recording engineer, spent
a year at Buonapasta studios crafting this album. The effort shows in delicately
poised arrangements and layers of carefully applied sound. Somewhat lo-fi and
delivered in a personal, ear-close breathy voice just above a whisper, this
album is intimate and warm despite the reliance on electronic tone coloring.
What guitar that is present is sparsely applied, just like all the instrumentation,
making this nearly a vocal album. Fans of Aimee Man and Beth Orton will appreciate
this nine-song debut. (3)

Listen to or Buy at Amazon.com

Milk Man
Kill Rock Stars

Deerhoof excels at a balance of memorable melody and ear-catching experimentation.
Part of the charm of the post-rock ensemble’s sound is the child-like high-pitched
falsetto vocals of vocalist/bassist Satomi Matsuzaki. Her lullaby delivery over
the angular guitar sounds and electro-beats completes the picture. The amalgamation
of cutesy pop and edgy crunchiness has been tried before, but few have or will
reach the fine heights of this weird and wonderful ensemble. The arrangements
are dramatic and open, like a chamber work, while the Japanese schoolgirl vocals
fill in the spaces with islands of sweet sound for a well rounded, varied album.

Listen to or Buy at Amazon.com

Boxcar Satan
Upstanding And Indigent
Dog Fingers Recordings

Boxcar Satan takes so much from Captain Beefheart one almost has to look past
that to realize how good the group is. Vocalist Sanford Allen is a real Beefheart
soundalike and he also plays guitar in the intricate, angular style of The Magic
Band’s Jeff Cotton. However, Boxcar Satan is heavier and darker than the Captain,
coming from the post-goth direction of bands like Scratch Acid and the early
Birthday Party. The content of such damaged characters as a bandit queen (“Shoot
Down the Sun”) and an alcoholic that trades drink for the Lord (“Drunk on the
Blood of the Lamb”) owes much to Tom Waits, I would say. Boxcar Satan certainly
has all the right references and mixes up the elements right for a manic, imaginative
damaged blues. Most press references cite a Southern influence here, but I find
that valid only when considering the gonzo early punk tradition of Texas such
as Roky Erickson, Big Boys and early Butthole Surfers. The band goes from those
roots to the artists already mentioned to approach near to the territory of
The Jesus Lizard. Few bands run such an excellent spectrum and shine so well
in its multi-hued glow. (4.5)

Listen to or Buy at Amazon.com

Jonas Hellborg/Shawn Lane/Apt. Q-258
Time is the Enemy
Bardo Records

Time is the enemy. It caught up with guitar virtuoso Shawn Lane and he passed
away in September 2003. This album is a collection of live performances from
around the globe carefully selected and exquisitely produced. These adventurous
post-fusion live jazz-rock albums Hellborg puts out are the You Can’t Do
That on Stage Anymore
editions of ’90s prog rock. The heavy, muscular approach
recalls late-period King Crimson but there is a full, boundless sound and delicate
intricacy that is unparalleled. This is an expertly remastered reissue of what
was Hellborg and Lane’s fourth album together. From here, explore the beautiful,
esoteric mysteries of the companion live album featuring the pair, Temporal
Analogues of Paradise
. (5)

Listen to or Buy at Amazon.com

Greg Brown
Honey in the Lion’s Head
Trailer Records

There is some great talent on this album backing Greg Brown. Bo Ramsey (Lucinda
Williams) plays electric and Weissenborn guitar while Bob Black (Bill Monroe)
adds some bluegrass sound with the banjo and 5-string lap guitar. There is also
Al Murphy (Special Consensus, Harvest Home) on fiddle and mandolin and Rick
Cicalo plays acoustic bass. Keith Dempster shows up for blow harp on the album
opener “Railroad Bill”. For the delicately picked crystalline melody, “Railroad
Bill” recalls Elizabeth Cotton’s recording “Freight Train” on Live!
(Arhoolie). There are nine other traditionals, including “Who Killed Cock Robin”
and “Green Grows the Laurel” on this album of richly delivered Americana. Greg
Brown has long been in a potent force in contemporary folk and this album further
cements the position of the talented vocalist. (4)

Listen to or Buy at Amazon.com


Istoriya: The Best of the Ukrainians
Omnium Recordings

The Ukrainians puts the “UK” back in “Ukrainians”. The British group emerged
from The Wedding Present and does a first-rate job at Ukrainian folk music.
However, it cannot help with its ’80s indie roots covering some stuff read from
the playlists of hip college radio stations. These are the standout tracks
for less Ukrainian ears and, sung in Ukrainian, this compilation includes covers
of “Telstar”, “Anarchy in the UK”, “Venus in Furs”, and The Smiths’ “Bigmouth
Strikes Again” and “The Queen is Dead”. This enhanced CD includes much material
about the band, multilingual lyrics and photos from a 2003 tour of Poland. The
music is bright and upbeat from the skilled and enthusiastic ensemble. (4)

Listen to or Buy at Amazon.com

Street Spankers


The Asylum Street Spankers combine vaudeville style, punk attitude and top-notch
skill for a truly unique bawdy blues and hot jazz combination. The best way
to take that in has always been live. This is due to the Spankers’ stellar performance,
audience interaction and guaranteed bevy of songs not found on many of the superb
albums. This year, Asylum Street Spankers took a two-pincer attack on the problem
that not everyone has had the pleasure of this live experience. Along with the
DVD Sideshow Fez, which gives the visual, here is an album that preserves
a cornucopia of those fun and unexpected covers of songs that have been Spanker-ized
for the live shows. This includes “TV Party” (Black Flag), “Dance this Mess
Around” (B-52s) and “Sugar in my Bowl”. Mercurial is an excellent party
record that came out with peerless sound after carefully being recorded live
to vintage analog equipment in an old church. (4.5)

Listen to or Buy at Amazon.com


Perpetuum Mobile

For this recording, Einstürzende Neubauten embarked on a daring and experimental
fan-supported recording process. After paying a fee fans could watching the
whole studio effort through Web cams and all in the studio had laptops to take
in real time fan feedback. Unfinished mixes accessed over the Web and discussed
in forums were integral to the creative process. This made a real impact, for
instance some tracks like “Ein Seltener Vogel” would have been abandoned had
not the fans directed their completion. The result is very accessible, like
Neubauten with filed edges and may be closer to Peter Gabriel’s Ein Deutsches
then much of Neubauten. There is a lot of restrained emotion that
lends an aloof, lonely air of mystery to the album. The album features a variety
of unusual instruments, from a “turntable-powered wind instrument” to Pythagorean
tubular bells. However, it must be underscored that this design by committee
approach has led to very little risk-taking so that the album is solid but sorely
lacking in surprises. (3)

Listen to or Buy at Amazon.com

Ginger Baker’s Airforce
Ginger Baker’s Airforce
Lemon Recordings

Ginger Baker’s Airforce was a supergroup in size and talent. The ten-member
ensemble produced this great live album from the notorious airplane hanger,
Royal Albert Hall, in January 1970. And this was the group’s second gig! The
fusion of hard rock, horn section and African percussion is still without parallel.
The lineup includes Steve Winwood (organ), Phil Seamen (percussion), Remi Kabaka
(drums) and great guitar playing from Denny Laine freed from the formula of
the Moody Blues. The sax trio at work in “Don’t Care” is worth the price of
admission to relive this historical moment. (4)

Listen to or Buy at Amazon.com

Darrel Katz / Jazz Composers Alliance
The Death of Simone Weil

The Jazz Composers Alliance Orchestra is a large ensemble based in Boston. On
The Death of Simone Weil the group backs Rebecca Shrimpton singing a
setting of the poetry of Paula Tatarunis. The group hearkens back to a Big Band
sound while incorporating contemporary styles. An added track, “Like a Wind”
is Shrimpton backed by Abby And Norm Group singing passages from Sherwood Anderson’s
Winesburg, Ohio. (4)

Listen to or Buy at Amazon.com

Mark Applebaum
Intellectual Property

Mark Applebaum presents a dizzying array of sounds on this album sub-titled
Works for Acoustic & Electronic Instruments. Applebaum performs the pieces
along with The Paul Dresher Ensemble, Steven Schick/Ivan Manzanilla Percussion
Duo and other musicians. The title track is a playful romp for Disklavier player
grand piano and improvising pianist reacting to played back improvisation. Note
that the improvising pianist is playing on the same instrument with its keys
jumping on the playback! It has a rollicking, ragtime feel and is a fun listen.
“Plundergraphic”, however, is sparse and mysterious. In it piano, cello, percussion
and flute/piccolo are a live acoustic section balanced by sound mixers and taped
music. The short percussion piece “Ferneyhough Remix (Aphorism 1)” has an Oriental
quality while “Activity I” or “Mouseketier Praxis” is taught and suspenseful
with the sounds Applebaum conjures from his odd assembly of “junk, found objects,
and hardware mounted on electroacoustic soundboards.” Intellectual Property
offers a treasure trove of aural discovery. (4.5)

Listen to or Buy at Amazon.com

Dead Kennedys
Live at the Deaf Club
Manifesto Records

This previously unreleased live concert is from early 1979. This was the last
performance of guitarist 6025 in the then five-man lineup of the band. At times
the band is sloppy, as in the early version of “When You Get Drafted” entitled
“Back in Rhodesia”. Also the group positively revels in the use of Echoplex
making for an incongruous but accurate look at the early sound for the group.
As Jello experiments with possibilities of extending his voice cartoonishly,
the group delivers “Gaslight”, a song heretofore unreleased. The raucous set
also includes “California Über Alles” with Jerry Brown lyrics, of course, “Holiday
in Cambodia” and even a version of “Back in the USSR” all from a time when the
DKs seemed to be on the same page. (4)

Listen to or Buy at Amazon.com

Radio One
Radio One
Disaster Records

This group, formed from ex-members of Pushers and Bleeders, has a guitar-driven
old school punk approach that recalls early GBH and The Clash. This also goes
right along with the anti-establishment and direct action message of such songs
such as “New World Shakedown” which would go right along with Sham 69’s “(Gonna
Be A) Borstal Breakout”. Great, tight arrangements accentuated with chorus vocals
really give these songs punch. Rebellion with a purpose and radicalism that
rocks carries over into other anthemic songs here, like “The Outlaw”. Before
rushing out into the street, baseball bat in hand, give a good listen to this
record, so you know what you are fighting for. (3.5)

Listen to or Buy at Amazon.com

2 a.m. Wakeup Call

Chris Vrenna, a.k.a. Tweaker, takes the heavy industrial sound we are familiar
with in his work in Nine Inch Nails and mollifies it into accessible industrial-soul
ballads. This is a new, mature, and sophisticated direction for Tweaker. He
has a lot of help as featured singers include Robert Smith (The Cure), Will
Oldham (Palace), Jennifer Charles (Elysian Fields), David Sylvian, Mellowdrone
and more. The theme is dreams, nightmares, insomnia and whatever “keeps you
up at night.” This is how Vrenna queried the guests in order to elicit appropriate
lyrics for this eminently successful concept album. (The album was written at
a time when Vrenna was helping his wife work through a bout of insomnia.) Tweaker
nestles each gem of a song with its unique vocalist by setting it off with surrounding
instrumental tracks that tend to be more insistent (like a 2 a.m. wakeup call)
than the more melodic songs. (4.5)

Listen to or Buy at Amazon.com

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