Beyond the Petty Issues
Just who is this Billy Mays, anyway?
by Thomas Schulte
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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News And Views
Petty In Pages
A Tom Petty book released this fall precedes the 30th Anniversary of Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers’ first album. Paul Zollo, who conducted a series of in-depth discussions over a six-month period with Petty about his career, with special focus on his songwriting, wrote Conversations with Tom Petty. The book will feature rare photographs and the conversations will be in a Q-and-A-type format. Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers are headlining a summer tour currently underway. This is the band’s first major North American tour in nearly three years. For the most updated info on Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers, visit http://tompetty.com/.
Axis Of Justice Redesigns Website
Axis of Justice, the non-profit, grassroots, pro-social justice organization formed by Tom Morello (Audioslave) and Serj Tankian (System of a Down), has redesigned and launched its new Website: http://axisofjustice.org. The site offers practical information to further AOJ’s mission – bringing together musicians, fans of music, and grass roots political organizations to fight for social justice. Among the site’s redesigned features are regularly updated links to news stories from around the world that deal with social justice; recommendations of books, films and other media that focus on activism; and most important, a list of activist and charity organizations in the United States and around the world endorsed by AOJ as a way for anyone to take that first step towards getting involved. The new site also features a Message Board and a Store where Axis of Justice shirts, posters, buttons, stickers and the Axis of Justice: Vol.1 CD/DVD can be purchased. All profits go back into furthering the goals of Axis of Justice. Tankian and Morello continue their monthly radio program, the “Axis of Justice Radio Network”, that combines music, passion, politics and activism. The radio show can be heard online at http://www.kpfk.org, and on XM Satellite Radio. Previous Axis radio shows are archived on the site.
“Bohemian Rhapsody” Racks Up “Song Of The Decade”
In London on May 26th, Queen collected two major awards at the 50th Ivor Novello Awards (The Ivors). One of these Ivors was Outstanding Song Collection, which salutes the creator(s) of an outstanding body of work. Queen’s Brian May and Roger Taylor were on hand to accept the award. Queen’s second award was for “Bohemian Rhapsody,” which was voted Song of the Decade 1975-1984 by the public through the UK’s most listened to radio station, BBC Radio 2. Unique to this year as part of the 50th anniversary of The Ivors, Songs of the Decade was devised by the Academy to find the most influential songs of each decade over the last 50 years. The voting criteria were the song’s influence on other writers, its originality and the effect it had on the particular decade.
Each month I try to find a CD or two sent to me that is perfect, soporific audio to drift off to sleep to. This month, Seasons Of Serenity and Seasons Of Tranquility from record label Relax With Swan were easy to pick for this purpose. Seasons Of Tranquility, the instrumental version of Seasons of Serenity, is the more suitable of the two: “soothing melodies compliment many forms of healing and relaxation.” Seasons of Serenity is guided imagery with calming music featuring electric piano, harp, temple blocks, recorders, strings, and more.
Russolo On The Brain
Label Russolo’s Brain specializes in noise art of the mind-numbing and attention-grabbing variety. Whether it is blanketing or buffeting, the releases here cannot be ignored. What I have heard is out on tidy three-inch CDs, such as Will Soderberg’s Fuck the Swells, a nineteen-minute, anvil-heavy parade of needle-bending over-modulation. This is an odd-order distortion opera: tuneless as it is wordless. Also available on the label is m00k13 Innercitypeepshow and The Electoral College & Sandwiches Fight For Mustard In A Gloomy Pit Of Feces Shaped Like A Mustache from The ‘Stache. m00k13 runs the label and offers a live track from The Knitting Factory… Another label in the territory is Load Records (www.loadrecords.com). A recent release is Ultralyd Chromosome Gun. I especially favor on this disk the minimalist doom of “Last Resort”. It is Black Sabbath reduced to a few rumbling bass lines with a handful of Sun Ra Arkestra sax shrieks tossed in from afar. On the subject of shrieking, Coughs uses a lot of high-pitched screaming as a noise accelerant on the Load Records’ release Fright Makes Right. But of all the noise music out there, it is the white noise of ambient noise I like the most and Load Records offers that from Excepter on Throne…
Relaunch Of Combat Records
Koch Records and Entertainment Services Unlimited are thrilled to announce the relaunch of the classic Combat Records label whence cometh Venom, Exodus, Megadeth, Possessed, C.O.C., Nuclear Assault, Death, Venom, Dark Angel and many more. There are no immediate plans to re-issue previously out-of-print catalogue titles, the joint venture will focus entirely on new releases. The first wave of releases will be full-length albums from At All Cost, Horse The Band and Look What I Did, beginning in September 2005.
Rev-Ola, an imprint under the umbrella of Cherry Red Records, specializes in remastered reissues of choice and quality from the ’50s. Following on the passing of Martin Denny earlier this year, Rev-Ola reappraises the great man’s works with a series of eight Digipack albums. The series began June with the release of Exotica and Exotica 2 and continues over the near future.
Suicidegirls Launched Suicidegirls Radio
On Sunday, May 22nd, SuicideGirls launched SuicideGirls Radio, a new relationship advice show on KDLD 103.1 FM in Los Angeles. The weekly show, hosted by SG founder Missy Suicide, airs every Sunday night from midnight to 2AM and features some of your favorite SuicideGirls discussing a variety of topics you’ve always wanted to ask but were afraid to because they would mock you, including romance, relationships and dating. The hosts take phone calls from listeners, discuss news and culture stories from the SG News Blog, play music and feature celebrity guests. SuicideGirls Radio programs will air live on the radio and on the Web and be available through SuicideGirls.com as a weekly podcast. Outside Los Angeles, listen on the Web through http://suicidegirls.com/radio/ or http://indie1031.fm/listenlive.html.
Bill Bruford is using two of his own labels, Winterfold and Summerfold, to release his own classic material. Summerfold exists to keep alive Earthworks material from the past and promote new releases from that jazz ensemble. Available now is Dig? and Bill Bruford’s Earthworks, both with bonus tracks. Summerfold goes in the direction of the more electronic fusion material, such as One of a Kind (1979) and the precursor to the Bruford band, Feels Good to Me (1978). Both of these albums also have bonus tracks. Each CD is also packaged with an additional disc dedicated to either the Winterfold or Summerfold labels and includes Bruford music and interviews to contrast the two catalogs.
Beth Custer is just creating so much new music that there had to be two new releases from her BC Records label. The first is from her clarinet quintet, Clarinet Thing, and the name of the album is Agony Pipes And Misery Sticks. This is an album of live instrumental material from various venues spanning 15 years. The music is fun, free, and joyous. Also available is The Beth Custer Ensemble Respect Is A Religion. This album is as funky as it is political. This ensemble includes such talent as guitarist David James (Spearhead) with Marika Hughes (Charming Hostess) livening things up with some cello. There is a potent horn section consisting of Ralph Carney, Ben Goldberg, and Marty Wehner. The hip and aware commentary in such songs as “Empire of the United States” gets a soundtrack that is the nexus between Laurie Anderson, Soul Coughing, and recent Ani DiFranco.
Ray Russell Celebrated By Angel Air
At the beginning of a serious and successful career in jazz and rock in England, guitarist Ray Russell (John Barry Seven) appeared in two bands that put out now rare and sought after albums. Angel Air now makes available both Mouse’s Lady Killer (1973) and the Running Man’s The Running Man (1972). Lady Killer goes from quiescent piano instrumentals to heavy, Cream-like power blues as on one of the four bonus tracks, “Hit & Run”. More Spencer Davis-like rock ‘n’ soul can be heard on The Running Man with its lengthy jams and sax solos.
-bc Listen to or Buy Lady Killer at Amazon.com
Listen to or Buy The Running Man at Amazon.com
A Brother With Perfect Timing
Film Resource Unit/Music Video Distributors
Much is made on the cover of this DVD that this is not a biography of the great South African jazz musician. Indeed, while some biographical topics are included such as his start and musical inspiration in Cape Town, this is more an exploration of the Ibrahim worldview than the story of this life. As such we find a mind steeped in the most primal beginnings of jazz and taking a very spiritual approach to the power and meaning of music. This is an engrossing documentary that is both cultural history and engaging enlightenment. (4)
Johnny “Guitar” Watson
Inakustik/Music Video Distributors
This 1990 concert video, with the exception of a brief and ill-thought rap episode, is great and fun Watson material. The funky guitar antics that made Watson an inspiration to Frank Zappa are relegated to a minor portion of the set, now, but the talent and spirit is definitely there. With a run time of 75 minutes, this DVD includes such Watson classics as “Superman Lover”, “A Real Mother For Ya”, and “Gangster of Love”. Do not watch this disk without taking in the best part, an extended live version of “Gangster of Love” from 1987 included as bonus material. (4)
The main feature of this DVD is the documentary exhibiting how the progenitors of “deathpunk” reformed once again as Turbonegro, having defeated self-destruction, substance abuse, and, it would appear, ennui. The well-produced documentary is subtitled in English. The “TV rockumentary” includes a lot of live concert footage and more from 2002, and is included here in the extras. (3.5)
The Spencer Davis Group
Gimme Some Lovin’: Live 1966
This DVD has two major portions. The first is an excellent set of classic British rock. The eight songs include an interview subtitled in Dutch. This raunchy power blues set includes “Dust My Blues”, “I’m a Man”, and “Georgia on my Mind”. This is the original lineup, including the Winwood brothers. The second half of the DVD, with only some of the narration translated, is the post-Winwood group in 1967 presenting a very candid, even goofy, side to the seminal group. (4)
GG Allin & The Murder Junkies
Savage South: Best of 1992 Tour
There certainly is better – as in more shocking and explosive – GG live material out there, but this has all the key GG Allin elements. That is, the shows are complete with a defecating, coprophiliac GG Allin barely containing a self-destructive rage. There are three concerts from Atlanta, San Antonio, and Austin. The Atlanta show features nearly naked dancing girls and a spectacularly iconoclastic anti-Christian GG Allin performance. San Antonio is more barroom brawl than concert and in Austin GG merely cleared the room by threatening with feces when things got heated. (3)
Live San Fran 1981
Target Video/Music Video Distributors
For most of this concert, Iggy is in drag, complete with garter belt and leather jacket. He seems a bizarre cross between Lux Interior (Cramps) and Alice Cooper. This show, part of the tour in support of Party, includes Clem Burke (Blondie) on drums and guitarist Carlos Alomar (David Bowie). The small stage and crowded venue affords Iggy little room to operate, adding a tension to the atmosphere where Iggy seems more the caged animal than the unleashed beast in better appearances. What makes this concert most interesting is that it is from a period in Iggy’s career that is not thoroughly documented. Songs include “Lust for Life”, “I’m a Conservative”, “I Need More”, “T.V. Eye”, and “1969”. (3.5)
A Beatle in Benton, Illinois
The February 9, 1964 appearance of The Beatles on the “The Ed Sullivan Show” in New York is a huge moment in pop history. However, just as Christopher Columbus had his predecessors, so did this momentous event have its foreshadowing. This documentary charts the discoveries and success of fan Bob Bartel in retracing the steps of a summer 1963 visit from George Harrison to Benton, Illinois. The ultimate success was he jumpstarted a coalition of investors and fans to save from destruction the private home Harrison stayed at. (The home is now a bed and breakfast.) This was the home of George’s garrulous sister Lou Harrison who features prominently in the documentary. Bartel also uncovers a significant influence during the brief visit of Kenny Welsh. At the time, Welsh was a much more experienced guitar player than George and George glommed onto Welsh. This relationship inspired Harrison to buy his first Rickenbacker. Other stories related include how a local DJ became the first to play music of The Beatles in America and how Harrison was extremely interested in American country music. (3.5)
26 Scientists: Volume One Anning – Malthus
This concept album is the first half of an opus offering a song for every letter of the alphabet and each song being a biography of a scientist. The loose, jangly, garage pop here features homemade theremin on two tracks, some accordion, toy piano, and percussion from Alfredo Ortiz (Beastie Boys 2004 world tour). This all makes for varied and punchy indie rock that is also educational. (3.5)
In the Court of the Crimson King
Discipline Global Mobile/InnerKnot
Of the entire range of wonderful concept albums to come out of the ’60s, the “uncanny masterpiece” (as Pete Townshend called it) that is the King Crimson debut remains distinct and nonpareil. Interestingly, the original master tapes were lost but were discovered in late 2003 in time to form the basis of this remastered CD issue approved by King Crimson founder Robert Fripp. The first song “21st Century Schizoid Man”, with its unforgettable opening chords, is memorable and potent enough to have become the Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony “Allegro con brio” movement of classic rock. It is interesting that this CD may be more historical restoration than a new “observation by King Crimson” from the aspect of current technology. We are told the “music provides an edition that is close as it is possible to get, on a standard compact disc, to the sound the musicians heard in the studio and approved at the time of the album’s completion.” That may be true, but, along with the 30th anniversary edition of In Wake of Poseidon, the levels and mix is too uneven to find one volume level for consistent clear listening. I recommend get as close as possible and make it a headphones adventure of serious listening. You will be glad you did. (4.5)
Fripp & Eno
The Equatorial Stars
The world of electronic music has changed greatly since Fripp & Eno collaborated on Pussyfooting (1973) and Evening Star (1975). Interestingly, the pair got together again to create The Equatorial Stars as if nothing has changed since Evening Star. You must respect that. The album is one of quiet but alien soundscapes. A soft, veiling mist of Eno’s mysterious keyboard backdrops is a fitting setting for the distant shine of Fripp’s languid and quiescent guitar solos. It is time to grab the headphones, lay back and travel to the gateway of The Equatorial Stars. (4)
Life in Pictures
By the Sign of the Spyglass
Clockwork Recordings/Pluto Records
This screamo band has a hard rock, even metal, edge to its hardcore music. The band “plans to tour relentlessly”, says its press sheet. “Relentlessly” I have no doubt about, as that is the same approach it takes to the songs on this album, raising questions on whether it is playing music or beating it into submission. The rhythms are early Metallica, the leads are hard rock and the vocals are grindcore. (2)
Burn Bright… Burn Fast!
Long after Electric Frankenstein had made its name in high-energy, fast-paced, rocking hardcore a fast and furious reality, I heard people start to call such rock “drag rock”. That is, like drag racing. Sure, I can feel the tires grabbing the asphalt, as they turn semi-liquid under friction, and the g-forces of going faster, more dangerously than man was meant to be. So, if you would like that feeling while still hanging in your living room by the speakers with a cold one in hand, this is the soundtrack for that. Electric Frankenstein also gets credit for picking some winning covers to tie off the end of this platter burning magnesium-white hot: “Talk, Talk” (Music Machine), “Moving Targets” (Flo & Eddie), and “Candy-O” (Cars). (3.5)
Slave to Fashion
Angry, rugged, hard rock guitar and simple, direct drum rhythms are the background for Jerome T. Youngman’s songs. The numbers come in variety of styles: depressed (“Black Hole Calling”), defiantly individualist (“Slave to Fashion”), and just plain zany (“Pants on Fire”). A cover of Bob Dylan’s “Blowin’ in the Wind” is thrown in for good measure. Pick up this, Jerome needs that to cheer him up, and you will be triple-cool ultra black hip in the eyes of your friends. (3)
A Taste of Revolution
This five-song EP is just a taste of the thought-revolution Onewordsolution wants to instigate. Battling conformity and apathy with a message, music and hardcore, Onewordsolution offers songs with lyrics you can believe in and mull over. (3)
Portrait of a Decrepit Nation
This 2002 release from the band is more varied and visceral than current new release A Taste of Revolution. It seems back in ’02 the band members could still taste revolution in its mouth, and that made them scream and yell with gusto. On variety, this album has soundbites (“3n2”) and can even be goofy (“Threat?”). It all makes it fun and focused on meaning and music. If this is not a political hardcore classic, it should be. (3.5)
This band offers a two-guitar punk rock assault with an emphasis on “rock” and leaning toward old school punk. Independently released and featuring real independent attitude, this album, produced by Kerry Martinez of US Bombs, may not kick it hard enough to make you fall in love with punk rock all over again, but it is one of the better new punk releases that I have heard. (3)
OGX – Old Gold 10th Anniversary
The noisy and rugged little nuggets are not going to polish up like unearthed gems. Rather, enjoy them for the dusty, ugly, and unique items they are. That is the spirit to best appreciate the Danger Woman dance party (“1, 2, 3-4-5”) that leads off disc two of this double-CD set. There are some notable note makers here, such as Eugene Chadbourne, Jad Fair, and R. Stevie Moore. The wonderful thing about this release is you will feel the same about the less recognizable names here, such as Bad Poet and L. Contra. (4)
“Bass Jihad” uses an approach of understatement and circular rhythms akin to Bill Laswell, Jah Wobble, and Muslimgauze. This is high-end music from the low end of the sonic spectrum. Out of cosmopolitan New York, Dub Gabriel internationalizes his drum-and-bass music with subtle dashes of world music in his hypnotic trance tunes. This album is a nu-dub travelogue taking you on a tonal trip to the streets of Brooklyn, deserts of the Middle East, temples of India, and Jamaican hills. (4)
White Out With Jim O’Rourke And William Winant
China Is Near
This experimental sound project uses analog synths, Autoharp, flute, gongs, bells, chains, and more in its palette. It does not use this varied sonic spectrum as the arsenal for a noise assault, but rather uses it for an aural creation of shimmering, beautiful complexity. These voiceless sound sculptures want to glisten in the bright sun from a prominent location in front of a large, ornate public library in a bustling downtown. (3.5)
Dread More Dan Dead
Ari Up has been making what Bob Marley would call “punky reggae” since starting The Slits in the shadow of The Clash in 1977. This is, finally, her first studio solo album of blue-eyed dancehall. She continues to grow into tight, punctuated dub and has long ago left behind the ragged punk. This enhanced CD includes a video for “Me Done”. (3.5)
Florian Keller Presents: Creative Musicians, Vol. 2
DJ Florian Keller gathers together forgotten but florid funk tunes from the classic funk era. Many of these are highly salacious, which may have limited their commercial potential, such as jams by Jimmy Lynch, Josephine Jones (“Candy Man”) and a piece inspired by The Doors, “No Time to Wallow in the Myrrh” by Bo Baral. (4)