Categories
Event Reviews

Collective Soul

Collective Soul

Busch Gardens, Tampa, Florida • February 29, 2020

Tampa, Florida’s Busch Gardens Food & Wine Festival Series kicked off its 2020 concert lineup with a bang as ’90s alternative darlings, Collective Soul, played to a packed audience on a very chilly evening. The temperature may have been cold, but the music was red-hot. Freshly purchased Collective Soul swag including zipper hoodies could be seen all about, a smart purchase for many underdressed patrons. Founding frontman, Ed Roland (who now goes by E Roland) and the rest of the post-grunge group offered up 80 minutes of their signature heavy riffs and catchy hooks that have long endeared the multi-platinum rockers to a very loyal fan base. There’s a good reason for that, too.

Dean Roland

Michelle Wilson
Dean Roland

Collective Soul is one of the few acts that successfully blends the heavy stuff with the pop crackle to create an aural triumph. But it’s even more than that. They own the stage from the moment they appear. E Roland’s easy rapport with the crowd combined with the high energy and genuine smiles on stage makes it obvious that these guys still love every minute of what they do. The Georgia-based collective also includes Roland’s brother, guitarist Dean Roland, and bassist Will Turpin, both also original members, as well as guitarist Jesse Triplett and drummer Johnny Rabb.

Will Turpin

Michelle Wilson
Will Turpin

Taking the stage at 8pm after Elvis Costello & The Attractions’ “Pump It Up” engaged the crowd, the band members took their places including the flamboyant frontman, who sported a yellow plaid suit with a black tee shirt and a white cowboy hat. Kicking off strong with “Heavy,” “Why Pt. 2” and “Shine,” everyone was up on their feet dancing and singing along. Roland sat down at the piano and played a beautiful intro to “Shine,” bringing enormous cheers. It happened to be Johnny Rabb’s birthday, so Roland offered Happy Birthday wishes and joked, “leave it to Johnny Rabb to be born on leap year.”

Jesse Triplett

Michelle Wilson
Jesse Triplett


Johnny Rabb

Michelle Wilson
Johnny Rabb

Culling from their career-spanning archives, the Peach State entertainers treated the theme-park throng to such hits as “Better Now,” “Precious Declaration,” “December,” “AYTA (Are You The Answer?), ” “She Said,” “The World I Know,” “Gel,” “Where The River Flows,” and “Run.” Also featured were two tracks off their latest release, Blood (2019), including “Over Me” and “Right As Rain.” E Roland played acoustic guitar on several of the songs. The original show set list had a new tune, “All Our Pieces,” but it was not played at this show.

E Roland

Michelle Wilson
E Roland


Jesse Triplett, E Roland, Will Turpin

Michael Yanko
Jesse Triplett, E Roland, Will Turpin

Paying homage to fellow Georgia boys, Roland and company did an incredible cover of REM’s “The One I Love.” “We’re from Atlanta, Georgia and growing up these guys were our idols. They are only six or eight months older than us,” joked Roland. He explained that they really wanted to do one of their songs because it was very important to them as a band.

Johnny Rabb, Jesse Triplett, Will Turpin, Dean Roland

Michelle Wilson
Johnny Rabb, Jesse Triplett, Will Turpin, Dean Roland


E Roland

Michelle Wilson
E Roland

As a writer and photographer, Collective Soul is one of my absolute favorites to cover. The consummate musicianship and unfeigned stage camaraderie paired with sincere fan interaction all add up to a show that never disappoints and always concludes on a positive, uplifting note. As a concertgoer, you walk away just a little bit lighter than you came in, and that’s a great feeling. Don’t miss Collective Soul if they come through your area. It will be money well spent.

E Roland

Michelle Wilson
E Roland


Check out the full gallery of photos from Rock Legends Photographers.

rocklegendsphotographers.smugmug.com/ROCK-CONCERT-PHOTOS/COLLECTIVE-SOUL-Busch-Gardens-Tampa-FL-2-29-2020

www.collectivesoul.com

Categories
Music Reviews

Krantz

Krantz

Misty Morning Dew

Indie alt-rockers, Krantz, have a bona fide ten-song winner of refreshingly unique material with their latest release, Misty Morning Dew. They’ve taken all the best elements of classic and 90s post-grunge rock and created a record brimming with their own brand of poetic lyrics, psychedelic crunchy grooves and catchy hooks. I was a fan on first listen and that doesn’t happen often. The Nashville-based trio includes Jeffrey Krantz (vocals/guitar), Tee Tallent (keys) and Adrian Flores (percussion). Krantz himself describes the music as “Weezer meets The Beatles,” a spot-on assessment. The mixture of hard rockers, pop ear worms and soft, acoustic musings works perfectly on an album that shines from beginning to end.

The title track opens the record with a swirling sound that pulls you in instantly and falls somewhere between The Who, The Beatles and Alice In Chains. And it works. Brilliantly. Followed by the bouncy, acoustic, Ian Moore-ish “Happy,” the band immediately showcases their versatility.

“Sweet N Sour Mary Lynne” resides somewhere in the neighborhood of Tom Petty, REM and an unnamed 90s band that I cannot put my finger on – maybe Fountains of Wayne? Or maybe the 2000s/Bowling For Soup? Whatever it is, I am diggin’ it.

“Lilah” flows along with an ethereal vibe and some great guitar work followed by the strongest ear worm on the record, “Kitty Kat,” a rock/pop combo that highlights the skills of all three band members. You will walk around with it in your head all day – trust me.

The dreamy, pop-oriented “Alone,” an acoustic love song that everyone can relate to, could easily be on the radio.

In a seemingly apparent homage to My Chemical Romance, “Home” opens with clear echoes of “Welcome To The Black Parade” and is one of my favorite tracks.

“Beyond Your Control” kicks off with a very AC/DC vibe morphing into a David Bowie-esque pop groove, followed by another acoustic track, “Livin’ Large (I Don’t Know),” a sort of carpe diem song. Here we go another day another song/The afterglow can only last so long/I don’t know how it’s all gonna end/Yeah all I know is that while I’m here I’m livin’ large with friends.

The record wraps up perfectly with “The D,” a heavy, guitar-driven track that also features some fun keys accents.

There’s a big, welcome sound coming from this small three-piece band, and in the sea of today’s cookie cutter groups they certainly do stand out. Their combination of psychedelic throwback and modern flair is extremely appealing. I can’t imagine anyone sitting still while listening to this record. I highly recommend checking it out and give a double thumbs up to the mighty power of the trio. Long live indie rock!

www.krantzmusic.com

Categories
Music Reviews

The Minus 5

The Minus 5

Stroke Manor

Yep Roc

When Scott McCaughey, the mastermind of Young Fresh Fellows and the Minus 5, had a stroke in 2017, his doctors didn’t think he’d ever play music again. In the immediate aftermath of the stroke, Scott couldn’t talk and his right side was paralyzed and his thoughts were scrambled. McCaughey is a stubborn cuss. While he was still in the ICU he started writing. It didn’t matter that a lot of what he wrote down was incoherent. Scott was fighting to piece together the connections in his damaged brain. McCaughey was lucky. Just a few months later, when his friends threw a benefit concert to help pay off his medical bills, Scott had recovered enough to play a few songs with his friends.

The core of Stroke Manor comes from Scott McCaughey’s struggle to recover. The lyrics are culled from those notes he made in the hospital. The fractured sounds of “Beacon from RKO” reflect the effort to relearn how to communicate. “Bleach Boys and Beach Girls” is a would be summer time hit single from an Alice in Wonderland radio station. The Beatle-seque harmonies of “Message of Mother” mask words disconnected from meaning. The psychedelic textures of “Top Venom” provide appropriate context for words originally written on flash cards as a way to communicate in the ICU.

Stroke Manor is a testimony to one man’s indomitable spirit. It is also a testament to the community that came together to support Scott’s recovery. Peter Buck, Corin Tucker, Joe Adragna, and Jeff Tweedy are among the friends who helped bring these songs together. The most remarkable thing about the record is that it is a powerful album even without knowing the back-story. This summer, you can catch Scott on the road with The Minus 5 and the Baseball Project celebrating the joys of simply being alive.

Categories
Screen Reviews

New Wave: Dare To Be Different

New Wave: Dare To Be Different

directed by Ellen Goldfarb

“It was a lifestyle, WLIR.” – Steve Thompson, Music Producer

WLIR was the first stereo FM station from Long Island, New York, established in 1959. In the early 1970s, the Hempstead radio station adopted a progressive rock format and even promoted Southern rock, including groups such as The Marshall Tucker Band and The Allman Brothers Band. Growing up on Long Island with older siblings, I can still vividly recall my big sister’s WLIR “Party In The Park” baseball shirt. I sure wish we still had it. It would be just a few years later, on August 2, 1982, that a handful of forward thinking radio pros led by legendary Program Director, Denis McNamara, would take a bold leap of faith, break all the rules and change radio programming forever. Realizing that they could not compete with the bigger stations and tired of the same old music, this tiny station defied all the odds and started a new trend in radio. Director and Long Island native Ellen Goldfarb has done a spectacular job with New Wave: Dare To Be Different, taking viewers on a trip back in time to relive the ’80s in all its glory. It is particularly appealing to those of us who grew up right in the thick of it, but anyone who is a fan of ’80s new wave and alternative music will love this journey down memory lane, right to the moment it all comes crashing down and the station loses its five-year battle with the FCC to keep its 92.7 FM frequency. The station was running without a license since 1973 when the late Elton Spitzer took control and continued to run on a special temporary authority granted by the FCC. They signed off for the last time on December 17, 1987.

Chock full of behind-the-scenes station footage from the early days as well as interviews with djs, musicians and industry luminaries, this 135-minute documentary truly gives a firsthand look into the hurdles and challenges that the station faced. But it also has some very funny moments. WLIR didn’t exactly have the strongest signal and people would have to get very creative to get the station to come in. Donna Donna, Malibu Sue, Larry The Duck – they’re all here. Interspersed throughout are images of iconic Long Island clubs where many of these artists played including Oak Beach Inn, The Calderone and My Father’s Place, all long gone, although the latter has reopened recently in a new location. Owner Michael “Eppy” Epstein is one of many people interviewed throughout the film.

The music I was hearing was unlike anything I had ever heard before. Here was a station playing American music as well as British imports from bands that no one had ever heard of and no one would play, but with the help of this station many of those bands went on to be huge: The Police, U2, Depeche Mode, The Alarm, Billy Idol, The Cure, The Smiths, Duran Duran, Tears For Fears, Simple Minds, Thompson Twins, The Fixx, INXS, A Flock of Seagulls, Midge Ure/Ultravox, Howard Jones, Yaz, Erasure, General Public, The English Beat, Thomas Dolby, Ramones, Blondie, Joan Jett, The Pretenders, REM, The B-52s, and on and on and on. It was fascinating listening to the many artists reminisce about the early days and their first trips into New York. But the one common thread was their respect and gratitude for WLIR. Every time I watch this I get chills during the U2 segment when it bursts into “I Will Follow.” At the very beginning of the film there is a sound bite from a U2 show at Nassau Coliseum, April 3, 1985, and Bono mentions how WLIR was one of the few stations playing their music at the beginning. I was at that show and I recall Bono stopping mid-song because security was beating up a kid who was trying to get on stage. Bono brought him up and finished out the song. I remember I cried. A few years prior in 1981 U2 played Malibu Nightclub in Lido Beach. I was just a few years too young, but I did manage to catch The Alarm there a couple of years later.

“If I had found [W]LIR when I was 13, I would have felt that I had found Disneyland, but it was a radio station.” This quote in the film from Sire Records’ Seymour Stein could not ring more true. Much of this success can be directly attributed to Denis McNamara. John French of Twisted Sister called him “the Walter Cronkite of rock – if he said you’re ok, you’re ok,” while Joan Jett called him “a music god.” It was McNamara who wanted to get his hands on all of the post-punk music coming out of England. “I can remember walking around London literally with these plastic bags eating into my hands full of records because I wouldn’t say no.” Staffers would even drive out to the airport from the station once a week to meet the plane and get the hot-off-the-presses hand-off of new music. “Off The Boat” was a weekly Sunday night program hosted by Larry The Duck that would feature new imports, while the “Screamer of the Week” was a wildly popular contest that allowed listeners to call in and vote for their favorite new song of the week, each one nominated by a different dj. Not only was it a fierce competition among the djs, but it also helped to sell records and promote bands. If your song was voted “screamer,” it was a big deal and you were a hot ticket indeed. I can recall combing through records from my favorite WLIR artists at the local record shops, frantically searching for that one B-Side or rare import that no one else had. The station also did numerous radio contests and gave away records and concert tickets. I was always very lucky and would call in and win tickets to shows. They even had a “WLIR” van – it was always cool to see it driving around town. You felt some special connection when you saw it, as if you were part of a secret club that not everyone “got.” I even had a WLIR bumper sticker on my car.

For me, personally, watching this film placed me right back in the early ’80s, discovering WLIR as an awkward, insecure teen desperate to find my niche. It was a profoundly pivotal moment in my life. This small, low-budget radio station changed who I was, how I acted and dressed, and how I perceived the world, giving me a new-found self-confidence. Tom Bailey of Thompson Twins summed it up best: “[We were a] magnet for the misfits and the freaks…they saw in us some kind of kindred spirit.” I couldn’t agree with that more. This film has captured the essence of that time and is a must-see for any fan of ’80s music and culture.

newwavedaretobedifferent.com

Categories
Music Reviews

Guadalcanal Diary

Guadalcanal Diary

At Your Birthday Party

Omnivore

It’s great to hear Guadalcanal Diary in their natural state. I only got to see them once in a little basement bard in East Lansing. I could have reached out and grabbed the mic stand (but that would have been rude). Roaring out of the Atlanta suburb of Marietta, Guadalcanal Diary were part of the second wave of rock bands to come out of the South in the wake of the success of REM, Pylon and the B-52’s. Their first album, Walking in the Shadow of the Big Man created a huge buzz that saw them getting signed to Elektra Records.

As often happens, the major label didn’t quite know what to do with them. Their second album had great songs but the production muted the passion that made Big Man pop and the band never quite recaptured their initial buzz. Guadalcanal Diary broke up after four albums.

At Your Birthday Party was recorded a decade after the band’s break up. The album grew out sessions for vocalist Murray Attaway’s second solo album, which featured the rest of the Diary crew playing on the sessions. They had fun. They decided to play some shows as Guadalcanal Diary. They had more fun and decided a live album would be fun, so they recorded one.

Fun is definitely being had. The sound is clean, crisp and in your face. Songs like “Cattle Prod” that suffered from muted production on the original release, jump out of the speakers here. The songs waver between the serious “Trail of Tears” (which has a bunch of Civil War and forced removal of Georgia’s native population references) and the silly “I See Moe” (yes, a Three Stooges reference). “Litany (Life Goes On)” hit the anthemic nail on the head and “Pretty is as Pretty Does” should have been a hit. “Dead Eyes” and “Whiskey Talk” are just good rock and roll songs. The set ends with a fun version of “Watusi Rodeo”, a song that I assume was inspired by a weird 1967 TV show, Cowboy in Africa. It’s a wonderfully silly song about riding zebra and roping water buffalo.

At Your Birthday Party is a very welcome blast from the past. It’s a wonderful reminder of a time and place. I do miss hearing the Guadalcanal Diary rocking out on “Kumbaya”. It was really fun when I saw them, but I suspect they were over it by 1999.

www.omnivorerecordings.com

Categories
Music Reviews

Peter Holsapple

Peter Holsapple

Game Day

Omnivore

Peter Holsapple’s career has been a tragicomedy. He first came to attention as co-leader of the dB’s (with Chris Stamey), one of the vanguard bands of the “jangle-pop,” New South, College Rock or whatever else you wanted to call it scene. While their contemporaries, R.E.M. and the B-52’s were working their way up through American indie labels; the dB’s were releasing albums that were only available in Europe. When they finally got a stateside deal, their label Bearsville went belly up and Like This was in limbo for years. By the time their final album (of the band’s original run) came out, there was a revolving door of guitarists and bassists filling out the lineup and the group dissolved.

Peter’s post dB’s career included a short stint with The Chills as part of the band that recorded Soft Bomb. He toured as an auxiliary member of both R.E.M. and Hootie and the Blowfish. He recorded a duo album with Chris Stamey and joined the Continental Drifters. Peter was somewhat the Nils Lofgren of his generation, the perpetual next big thing until it was too late to be the next big thing.

In the notes to Game Day, Peter says, “With all the hard competition in the music business, it’s almost impossible to come up with anything totally original. So I haven’t. But I had a lot of fun making Game Day and I hope it comes through when you hear it”. I’d say Holsapple succeeds at achieving his modest goal. On the title track, Peter asks, “Do I still have what it takes to pull this off?” He does. The Dire Straits-inflected tune recounts stories about bands taking their shot and falling short. On the chorus, Holsapple sings, “if you put me in the game I’ll play. You don’t, I won’t just fade away.” It’s a tune about being a survivor in a very fickle industry.

Loss is a theme that runs through out Game Day. “Inventory” deals with the strange feelings of clearing out the family home after your parents have passed on. Having gone through that ritual, I recognize the emotion, nostalgia and regret that comes with cleaning out the old homestead. “Continental Drifters” is a eulogy for the band of the same name. Peter sighs, “Never was a better time had, never was better band… until it fell apart in our hands.”

The most devastating tune on the album is “Don’t Mention the War”. The builds slowly like something the Band might have done on Music From Big Pink. It’s a story about living with a relative suffering from PTSD. The song contrasts the fun loving, guitar playing, joke telling, favorite Uncle with the haunted man who sleeps on the couch reliving the war in his dreams. It’s a song that requires your attention and is utterly devastating when you realize what’s happened.

Game Day is a really solid effort. We’re beyond grabbing the brass ring in the music industry. That’s a young person’s game. This is a record that had to be made because that’s what Peter Holsapple does. He writes really good songs and there is no reason to stop.

omnivorerecordings.com

Categories
Music Reviews

Arthur Buck

Arthur Buck

Arthur Buck

New West

Peter Buck has been the most prolific of the former members of R.E.M., although most of his activity has been fairly low key. He’s been in the studio and out on the road with Robin Hitchcock and the Venus 3, The Minus 5, the Baseball Project, the Filthy Friends and more. He’s released several vinyl only solo records on the tiny Mississippi Records label. Buck lives part time in Todos Santos, Mexico where he curates a laid back music festival bringing together a lot of artists Buck has worked with over the years and local acts, all to benefit the Palapa School.

Joseph Arthur has been a participant in the Todos Santos festival, which led to this collaborative project. Joseph left one of his guitars in Todos Santos after the 2016 festival. When he went to retrieve it, he stayed with Buck and they went on a songwriting bender. Everything was done quickly with Buck and Arthur coming up with the basic songs (the lead off track “I Am the Moment” was written between sound check and performance at a gig). With the basic tracks laid down, Arthur took the songs back to his studio to flesh out the tunes with drums, synths and vocals.

“I Am the Moment” opens with a signature Buck guitar riff harkening back to classic R.E.M.. The buoyant tune sets the tone for the record. Arthur’s lyrics about spiritual growth and striving are themes that recur throughout the album. While I don’t think it was intentional, the fanboy geek in me can’t help but associate it with the 50th Anniversary Doctor Who special. That story revolved around a doomsday weapon that developed consciousness and encouraged the Doctor (three of them) to find an alternative to mass destruction. Lines like “Just ask yourself, am I aware and see what happens next” and “find a kind of spiritual plan too go beyond space and time and all of this predicament” do make me think Joseph may be a Whovian.

“Are You Electrified” is an anthem to persistence and spiritual growth. Joseph sings “Are you Electrified, is your Third Eye open?” and uses the metaphor of jumping the turnstile to catch a subway for seizing opportunity. It’s one of many NYC references that crop up on the album.

“If You Wake Up in Time” points to the other recurring theme of the album, grappling with the darkness that threatens to overwhelm us. Joseph asks “Cause you hate almost everyone, so how come you want to waste my time?” He doesn’t have an answer beyond suggesting “save your life if you wake up in time.”

That darkness is most clearly defined on “American Century”. Generally, the tunes on Arthur Buck are infused with optimism and the promise of change. “American Century” comes close to succumbing to the despair of living in Trumps America. “When you needed love, all you got was pain… Social media diplomacy leaving Puerto Rico out in the dark. Tax the middle and give to the rich as the devil eats the rest of your heart.” The song is a lament to the suicidal policies that are destroying America and questioning why there isn’t a more active opposition to the obvious evils. I can’t help but hear “Wide Awake in November” as hoping for an electoral sweep to drive out as many of the reality show politicians as possible. “Wide Awake in November” is a quiet, somber tune suggesting that the folks who need to be awake may well still be asleep.

There is a lot going on here. Arthur Buck is an album that has been stuck in my player for weeks. It’s been awhile since I’ve felt compelled to take a magnifying glass to a lyric sheet and ruminate on how the meaning of specific words is colored by the sonic choices the artists made.

I’ll close by warping the old American Bandstand cliché; I like it. It’s got a good beat and you can think to it.

www.newwestrecords.com/artists/arthur-buck

Categories
Interviews

Tom Smith and Rat Bastard

Tom Smith and Rat Bastard

Tom Smith and Rat Bastard

Tom Smith and Rat Bastard

A baker’s dozen years ago I wrote a musician’s profile for another publication, opting to give considerable space to the musician’s own words — direct quotes in lieu of my wry commentary. The piece was unreturned for my corrections; rather, an editor embellished my writing. I was paid. I made some noise. And if so-called noise/music is your thing, not my grumbles but speaker rumble, feedback, howls, whispers, volume, drone, glitch, tension/release or pure unease, then prep for an overview of two Americans who’ve stayed busy recontextualizing “noise music” for nearly four decades.

So, have you heard of Tom Smith? What about Rat Bastard? What about To Live and Shave in LA? International Noise Conference? Let me begin with Herr Smith and some name-dropping to whet your blade and wet your whistle. Smith performed with Pussy Galore and recorded with Mike Stipe. With Mr. Bastard, Shave iterations have included Andrew WK and Thurston Moore, and Smith made a film with the legendary Doris Wishman. Its title? “Dildo Heaven”. And Rat Bastard is the King of Miami. Ready for ‘sup? Good.

Smith’s personal and professional history will largely frame this feature. Rat’s truncated tale will also be told. The frame is askew, as if a Suprematist woodsmith prostrate under barbed wire fencing was stretching for the pasture cubensis then realized his left index finger was MIA. Gulp.

But seriously, read commentary about Smith, or Rat, or by Smith and Rat, and Imagism crosses words and puzzles. In my case, loose ends were tied and the breadth of their collective work better understood.

• •

Upon Smith’s upbringing in Adel, Georgia in the ’50s-’70s, and early fondness for sound:

My dad was a skillful mechanic and he cobbled a car, driver and small team together. I was six or seven. Those quarter-mile figure-eights were so extraordinarily loud. The announcer’s voice would sputter through the threadbare PA system. Cones wired to utility poles, basically. That’s a holy text for me. That, and the hum of a high-tension line about 60 feet from my bedroom window on High Street, and the mournful hiss of tractor-trailer tires on wet asphalt. Highway 76 to Nashville, GA. Those were divine revelations.

Then splitting Georgia for NYC with Adel friend and noted producer Don Fleming:

Don and I, and doubtless thousands of others, felt the change was coming. In ’76 I left university and drove straight to CBGB, like the hayseed naif I was. The door was open. Lenny Kaye was inside. True. We talked about “Nuggets” and “Horses.” That was my intro. I stayed for maybe half a year until I was totally broke and had dropped to about 145 pounds from having too much fun!

And eventually back to Georgia, Athens to be exact. Fertile college town that it was, Smith found collaborators and instigators and so Boat Of came to be. When we corresponded mid-March, Smith had news of Boat Of, his first band and the (if I do say so long-awaited attention to these fictive and latter-day recordings:

Right now — this very sec — I’m prepping the Boat Of comp cassette for Hitomi Arimoto’s label in Osaka. I haven’t listened to these recordings so fully in decades. There’s some crazy good stuff in there. Humility check and all manners noted. Still, pretty decent! Hitomi is a noise freak and he wanted the more outré material — the stuff that in retrospect might be described as proto-noise. About 65 hours whittled down to 60 minutes. That’s my ambit. I’m looping segments from each tape to create composite windows into the various moments. 1979-1983. I was tasked with the limitation of a 60-minute cassette, so I went through all the extant recordings and turned all of them into non-static, two-minute loops, reflective of our initial aesthetics.”

Let’s say the reader missed Boat Of. What were they about?

Tom Smith

photo by Walter Wlodarczyk
Tom Smith

I got to Athens in ’79. I’d known Mike Green since maybe ’76, but we became pals in ’77. I was working at some dopey pizza joint at Emory Square and I was wearing a red sweater backwards. We started talking, and stayed in touch. I heard of a vacancy at 270 Cobb, aka the Cobb Institute. What a rogue’s gallery. Mike lived there, as did the David Gamble and Vic Varney (aka Method Actors). A cast of characters passed through on a daily basis. We lived a very debauched existence — it was wonderful. Concurrently, Mike and I were working on Prepared Party, which soon became Pre-Cave (summer of ’80). Carol Levy joined us in May; Stipe in late summer. By autumn we were called Nest (adj.) — our first gig (40-Watt Club, October) featured Carol, Stipe, my then-girlfriend and me. Sadly, we forgot to record it. A good turnout, maybe 85 people? We stayed Nest (adj.) through the new year.

Our second gig was at a Valentine’s Day party at the Cobb Institute (also unrecorded). We took another break while Mary and I played at being married in a snug log cabin lodge in south GA, but reconvened in May for our debut as Boat Of, again at the 40-Watt. Me, Carol, and Mike Green. This one was recorded, as were all subsequent others. No more name changes followed, even though the original notion was to switch out the moniker with each performance. It was a conceit which crumbled as soon as we were asked back to play a venue a second time!”

During our electric conversation, it occurred to me that Smith’s philosophy of “PRE” (more to follow) was too ambitious, or maybe even a lark. It was neither, rather being an example of American underground music the sort escaping the pages of Trouser Press. I wondered aloud about the formality or informality of the sonic world he crafted, one informed in large part by Marcel Duchamp and Henry Miller. Lee Perry’s “Super Ape” and Roxy’s “Editions of You.” As Smith qualified, “That’s really all it took.” So I pressed:

It may smack of arrogance, but these sounds have always been with me. Willful, demonstrative, and intuitive partners help hone one’s attack. We (Boat Of) weren’t mimicking the WJIZ / WBIT / WCUP spots and programming, but were rather excited by their de trop formalism. In other words, they hewed to downmarket formulae, and this seemed a glaring, blaring metaphor for our conception of dub and musique concrète, as we attempted and, in retrospect, routinely we were distancing those notions from context. The tape edits and manipulation played a big part in it as well. I had no role models, as I was using cassettes, but of course I knew of Cage, Schaffer and Henry. When I heard Holger Czukay’s “Canaxis” for the first time, about two years after Boat Of morphed into Peach of Immortality, I realized that the sort of looping I did was really nothing new; aesthetic linearity is def a thing. The germ drifts, regardless if you’ve never rubbed up against its initial host. There’s a lot of turntable work going on in Boat Of. I loved Boat Of so much, but after years of struggle and never catching a break with releases, management, proper tour planning, etc., the key membership drifted away. The last two DC gigs were just me (with local guests), perplexing the fuck out of the Dischord / Tiny Desk Unit types with ‘beautiful music’ loops…”

• •

At this juncture you may wish to hear Boat Of. Link included to Smith’s own Karl Schmidt Verlag label. Given the Boat Of releases and June 2018 To Live and Shave in LA tour, please explore. Smith was also a founding member of Peach of Immortality, a Washington, DC band which shared rehearsal space and tour dates with a very young Pussy Galore. Nothing comes between me and the promised link: tomsmithksv.bandcamp.com

• •

Onward … To Live and Shave in LA formed after Peach of Immortality. Those aware of South Beach’s Rat Bastard and his sensational International Noise Conference, near-residency at Little Haiti’s Churchill’s, Laundryroom Squelchers, and various other Miami/South Florida musical endeavors may know Shave. Way back in 1990. TLASLA got busy. The Fates provided me several opportunities to see the original line-up of Smith, Bastard, and Ben Wolcott. ’94-’97. And I reviewed Shave releases for the late Muckraker zine, a Midwest noise/improv magazine, as well as Ink 19. See, hear:

A partially-instinctive list of modifiers for the Shave sound: corpulent, Sweet 16, hybridized, id, ego, superego, perspiration, pyloric, swoled, La Brea, homiletic, authentic, AT&T&T&A, long distance runners, diplilatoric, “grease trap”, your mom.

• •

In their 27-year run, the band has overturned convention tables in near-circadian fashion. Band membership has varied save for Smith and Rat. One of the few constants? These two make a sound that’s the computer error in the programmer’s mind, correcting itself with twice the confidence of HAL.

As Rat remarks concerning TLASLA’s M.O.: (We are) “proving where music can exist forced and not forced at the same time.”

Then Smith:

Shave was just an exposed raw nerve in those days. The absence of reserve embarrasses me now, but at the time our ire seemed essential — at least to us. It’s far more refined today, but at least we never succumbed to stuffiness, proselytization, neuralgia, runny nose, scratchy throat… I met Rat on one of my first visits to South Beach, pre-move, maybe autumn 1990. I don’t have a lot of my old docs and address books here — most everything is in storage Stateside. Rat had a tiny record shop on Lincoln Road Mall, adjacent or attached to his studio, Sync. I came to MB for love. Friends hooked me up with an audio gig at Telemundo (where I moonlighted nights in the production lab — I edited and EQd the first Harry Pussy LP there, as well as remastering lots of unissued Peach of Immortality albums, projects for various labels, proto-TLASILA material, etc.) and a substitute teaching assignment at Miami-Dade in their film department.

Rat Bastard

photo by Walter Wlodarczyk
Rat Bastard

I started recording at Sync as soon as I had a bit of money coming in. This was pre-DAW, pre-Internet, even pre-CD burning. The engineer originally assigned to me was a decent bloke but slightly behind the aesthetic curve and not really up to snuff on the gear. I worked through a lot of material nonetheless, and in that first year we completed five or so pieces that would end up on “30-Minuten Männercreme”. Rat came aboard in the fall of ’92 after I’d finally given up on the other dude. We knocked out the “Spatters of a Royal Sperm” EP in two sessions. We’ve been together, including quarrels, spats and hiatuses, for 26 years. He (Rat) helped change my life.

• •

These fellows do not sit still for long. The TLASLA record release output manic. Live (peep) shows 20 minutes and that’s that. I asked Rat about the contrast in to-the-damn-point live shows and richly considered studio work.

As Rat sees it, “balance is the key to everything” and as for one foot in front of 1,000,000 others’, he adds: “[We move] always forward and blow the moss out of our way.”

Please open links, ye seekers:

Smith’s archival skills (and output) with and beyond Rat’s collaborations exceed. Dig into this buffet to better understand salted and sugared soundbites and trust me.

• •

I’m hardwired with these aesthetics. There’s been little deviation. Push, push, push, push the damn thing ever forward. Away from the moorings. Rat wouldn’t describe our processes similarly — he’d quite likely not describe them at all. But he’s always felt it and got it and he’s been a remarkable partner and ally. Genre is obsolete, but limitations are perennial. I never wanted to plant a flag.

I just wanted to grow into me. Ever forward, away from the comforts and nicely unholstered stylistic digs to a less well-groomed but infinitely more rewarding plane of yearning. Of unknowing.

PRE is that trust in oneself.

The liberation that leads one to aesthetic abandon. The freedom to channel the signal directly from the source.

On Karl Schmidt Verlag, Smith’s imprint, home to books, outside music makers, varied Smith aliases:

OK! I thought I’d ask you to consider my German trio, Merkwürdig Riechnerv. (Pronounced M’airk-voor-disch Reek-nairf. It means “odd olfactory nerve.”) We’ve been at it since 2012, and in our new lineup since early 2017. Lots of releases, some touring. Check out last November’s “Spit It Out Versions” 10″. Rat cut the entire run on his lathe in Miami Beach.

And “Approach to Fear: Regeneration.” That was an international-ish response to the rightward tilt, and prob the largest overt protest project of 2017. Quite the wee meow in terms of sales potential, but more than a few decent souls were moved by it.

Rat Bastard

photo by Walter Wlodarczyk
Rat Bastard

Requisite tour info and Cracker Jack surprises follow. Let’s say you’ve read this because of the earlier name-checking. You cringed or mobilized. Maybe even were lost for an hour or so in the Smith and/or Rat links and mole holes. That’s cool. Smith knows something that might encourage the reader if she/he could not shake the “what ifs”:

Of course, one must remain social! Mingling and mixing and fidgeting and ruminating — there’s nothing more satisfying. It’s our species! As for the art bit, though, if you’re not messianic about it, absolutely dead sure about yourself and what you know to do — well, it’s likely complete rubbish, isn’t it? PRE is the backlight that one must extinguish. Others less adept will pore over speculative contexts. TLASILA’s job, my job is to obfuscate, to encrypt.

• •

Check local live listings as TLASLA may play your town in June or July 2018. Smith’s Wavefarm DJ sets are spectacular, a rain-glazed Bobcat scraping through the muck to di-ahhh-mons — wavefarm.org/archive?q=R.E.M.&sites=&types= — and most recently To Live and Shave in LA’s “The Death Truth” album just got picked up for release by Independent Woman out of New Zealand. TLASLA will tour east of Mississippi June and July 2018.

Personal favorites:

Cover photo by Walter Wlodarczyk, www.walterwlodarczyk.com

To Live and Shave in LA: toliveandshaveinla.bandcamp.com

Categories
Music Reviews

Technicolor Paradise: Rhum Rhapsodies & Other Exotic Delights

Technicolor Paradise: Rhum Rhapsodies & Other Exotic Delights

The Numero Group

The world used to be a simpler place. Before the advent of 24/7 cable news and social media, folks found time to travel the world, one record at a time. A form of sophisticated pop known as “exotica” captured popular culture (at least in America) with a mixture of jazz, easy listening and quasi-World music, transforming basement rec rooms into Tiki bars, complete with wooden native heads and plenty of rum. It seems hard to imagine now, but dozens of labels released hundreds of sides during the late ’50s and early ’60s, beckoning listeners to explore the far-off islands with cuts such as “My House of Grass” by The Potted Palm or “Voodoo Drums” by Akim.

This expansive 3 CD set by the legendary Numero Group features 54 cuts of mind-blowing grooviness, a 100+ page book which hosts detailed info from Ken Shipley as well as rare photos of labels and bands that have been nearly lost to the ages. Exotica, like many cultural landmarks, was started as a marketing tag by Liberty Records’ Si Waronker (if the name sounds familiar his grandson is Joey Waronker, who played a bit with R.E.M.) to garner interest in Martin Denny, who’s “Quiet Village” is considered the start of the exotica craze. It’s included here twice, once by Five Glow Tones, and another by former “Our Gang” regular Darla Hood.

The music collected here is intoxicating. From lesser lights such as The Sound Breakers with their “Marooned” to soul-jazz leader Jimmy McGriff with his smoky “Jungle Cat”, this is an overdose of pop perfection. The first disc, Daiquiri Dirges focuses on guitar-oriented music, such as “Driftwood” by the Pacific Northwest’s champions of garage rock The Wailers and “Cobra” by Bailey’s Nervous Kats. Rhum Rhapsodies is focused on vocal numbers, while the final disc, Mai Tai Mambos is full of dance tracks, which would be a swinging soundtrack to your next summer party. Yes, the world was more fun years ago, and Technicolor Paradise: Rhum Rhapsodies & Other Exotic Delights proves it. Now give me another one of those drinks with the umbrella!

www.numerogroup.com

Categories
Music Reviews

Charlie Pickett w/Peter Buck

Charlie Pickett w/Peter Buck

What I like About Miami

Bloodshot Records

Back when I first moved to Florida in the 1980s, Charlie Pickett was something of a legend. He was a Miami punk spewing out primal rock that would later be embraced as Americana. His music was all about a vicious guitar hook and a story. His music career never really got much beyond cult status and Charlie eventually went to law school. These days, he’s a lawyer who plays rock and roll on the side.

“What I Like About Miami” is a new song. It’s from an album that’s still in the works, Charlie’s first new album in years. He brought in Peter Buck to trade guitar licks while Charlie sings about the things that keep him in the South Florida. Things like South Beach, Cuban girls and spending all night at Churchill’s Hideaway. It’s under three minutes of snarl and slicing slide guitar begging to be the title track to a gritty true crime drama.

Charlie and the folks at Bloodshot have released the single early because Hurricane Irma fucked up all of South Florida. All profits from the sales of this single (and the 2008 compilation album Bar Band Americanus) will go to Direct Relief emergency response for Hurricane Irma victims. In the press release, Pickett said, “Watching the storm approach, I wanted to do something to raise spirits as much as money. This song has been a celebration in our shows, and it’s a song that rallies around what makes South Florida what it is.

bloodshotrecords.com