Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Visit the new Ear Candle Productions site

Our new website is looking good. Come on over and dig it.

Also, have you heard the Granite Countertops' Linda Smith cover yet?

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Ear Candle Radio's Top 20 for October 2015

1. Dr. Spaceman - Jaded - Menno!
2. Andre Williams - Bacon Fat - Songs The Cramps Taught Us Vol.1
3. Naahant - Uhh...Yeah - (nei-haent) EP
4. Blind Willie Johnson - I'm Gonna Run To The City Of Refuge - Straight To You: The Gothic Country & Blues That Inspired Nick Cave
5. Minutemen - Have You Ever Seen The Rain? - 3-Way Tie (For Last)
6. Jenny Hoyston - I Don't Need 'Em - Isle Of
7. The Experimental Bunnies - Uncertainty - Music For The Integrity Tone Scale
8. Thomas Mapfumo & Blacks Unlimited - Disaster - Chimurenga Explosion
9. Chris Knox - Song For 1990 - Song For 1990
10. The Cannanes - Nearly There - Living the dream
11. African Head Charge - Conspiring - Great Vintage Volume 2
12. Varnaline - Lbs - Man of Sin
13. Throbbing Gristle - United - The Second Annual Report Of Throbbing Gristle
14. Erase Errata - How To Tell Yourself From A Television - Other Animals
15. Die Geister Beschwoeren - November Song - Past Historik
16. Marianne Faithfull & Chris Spedding - Ballad Of The Soldier's Wife - Lost in the Stars: The Music of Kurt Weill
17. Lee Perry and the Upsetters - Kung Fu Warrior - Return Of Wax
18. Johnny K Killen & The Dynamics - I Don't Need Help - Eccentric Soul: The Deep City Label
19. Dire Wolves - Marching Goth Soldiers, Blood, Diamonds, and Black Silk - The Bernal Codex
20. Rob K/MDA - Third Night's Dream - The Purgatory Home Companion

Saturday, October 10, 2015

The Granite Countertops - High Definition

The Planets Don't Twinkle video album is coming along nicely. Here is the latest video, featuring our new improved GoAnimate characters!

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Ear Candle Radio's Top 20 for September 2015

1. The Temptations - Don't Let The Joneses Get You Down - Psychedelic Soul
2. Doctor Pablo & The Dub Syndicate - Doctor Who? - North Of The River Thames
3. Carole King - Pleasant Valley Sunday - The Legendary Demos
4. Magazine - Shot By Both Sides - No Thanks! The '70's Punk Rebellion
5. Wire - A Touching Display - 154
6. Psychic TV And The Angels Of Light - Godstar [Hyperdelic Mix] - Godstar 12"
7. Ex Hex - Hot And Cold - Rips
8. Miles Davis - Recollections - The Complete Bitches Brew Sessions
9. The Clean - Do Your Thing - Anthology
10. The Au Pairs - Headache For Michelle (remix) - Playing With A Different Sex
11. Tony Burrello - There's a New Sound - Lux and Ivy's Favorites Volume 13
12. Sound Dimension - Congo Rock - Studio One Roots
13. Raspeani Skopjani - Air - Live Outdoors Somewhere In Macedonia
14. The Pioneers - Samphie Man - Leslie Kong's Connection
15. Leonard Cohen - Going Home - Old Ideas
16. Julia Holter - Hello Stranger - Mojo Presents : 2013 The Best Of The Year
17. Jeffrey Lewis & The Junkyard - Mini-Theme: Moocher From The Future - Em Are I
18. Nico - Ari's Song - The Marble Index
19. Elevation - Caribbean Sea - Animal Dub
20. Bruce Ruffin - The Bitterness Of Life - Best of Bruce Ruffin 1967-71

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Ear Candle Radio's Top 20 for August 2015

Jennifer Hall of Ovarian Trolley's new band Condorosa storms to the top of this month's charts. Also, several songs we added for a special set with a "communication" theme appear here. Ladies and gentlemen, we submit your new earworm from the little known but wonderful Twin Diet! Ear Candle Radio has just renewed for another year with more goodies ahead. Keep listening!

1. Condorosa - Sweet Dopamine - Condorosa
2. Pink Floyd - Crumbling Land - Zabriskie Point
3. Led Zeppelin - Communication Breakdown - Led Zeppelin I
4. Peter Cook & Dudley Moore - The L.S. Bumble Bee - 7" Single
5. Hüsker Dü - Newest Industry - Zen Arcade
6. Laurie Anderson - The Big Top - United States Live
7. Suns Of Arqa - Acid Tabla - Arqaology
8. Gene Marshall - Jimmy Carter Says "YES" - Do You Know the Difference Between Big Wood and Brush?
9. William DeVaughn - Be Thankful For What You've Got - Be Thankful For What You've Got
10. Alternative TV - Communicate - The Radio Sessions
11. The Who - I Can't Explain - Ultimate Collection
12. Twin Diet - Communicate - Sub Pop 7
13. The Wailing Souls - Hot Road - Wailing Souls
14. Keith Levene - Cops Too - Violent Opposition
15. Chris Spedding - Bored Bored - The Very Best Of Chris Spedding
16. Amon Düül II - Archangels Thunderbird - Yeti
17. Sun City Girls - Trippin' On Krupa - 1st Album (1984)
18. Nat King Cole - Straighten Up and Fly Right - The Very Best Of Nat King Cole
19. Iggy Pop - Purple Haze - 1985 Demos
20. Ninety Nine - Hemispheres - 180 Degrees

Sunday, August 30, 2015

The Tiger's Dream

The fourth track on Bunnies At Large features just myself and Davis Jones. One afternoon we fooled around with instruments for hours in the kitchen and, boiled down to eight minutes, this was the result. She even played the guitar here while I twisted the knobs on my delay pedal, making the sounds that you hear at the beginning! The last half of this piece is the two of us at a keyboard, following our bliss. Originally recorded on the ADAT and transferred to ProTools, where I quantized the bejeezus out of the more rhythmic improvisations in the beginning and used the Boom instrument to add a hip-hop drum loop, adding instant funk to our randomness.

In short, this is the sound of a boy and girl feeling free and playing with their toys.

Falling Into Place

A long one from MENNO! This took a lot of editing to get it to feel right. I decided to wipe out the bass on the first half so it would have a real impact when it finally comes in. I think it does.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015


The opening track of the second Dr. Spaceman album. A little touch of dub to set the mood.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

The New Klondike Loop

The third track on Bunnies At Large and the most recent basic track we put down. Now this one was a sweet moment of serendipity. I felt a need for something else that we didn't have so far in this collection of sounds we were accumulating. The solution arrived in the form of our visiting friend Jeremy Hanberry: world traveler, film buff, and former mastermind of the band Electric Color Wheel. Jeremy had contributed dumbek and backing vocals to the Content Providers on many occasions, but we had never collaborated with him on guitar before. The time had come to create something spontaneous together.

We set up, I got a slow-jam riddim going, and out came this dreamy, drifty thing with myself on bass, Jeremy twanging blissfully on guitar, and Davis Jones flicking flurries of notes on her Roland Juno keyboard. Only the slightest post-production after the fact (I cut a few slack minutes out, put down a little MIDI chord bed in the second half, and overdubbed a melodica) and this lovely groove is the result. When we were done, we snacked on Klondike ice cream bars and named the song after them.

Get your Bunnies At Large here.

The Rooster's Dream

The second track on Bunnies At Large is one of two that came directly out of Mark Altin's ProTools class at CCSF. The assignment was to send everyone out in small groups with little digital recorders to capture any interesting sound they could find on or around the campus. (The noisy old elevator behind the creative arts building made an amazing sound!) Then everyone had to create their own sound collage out of this material. Considering that Revolution 9 is one of my top ten Beatles songs of all time, I was totally down with this.

Get your Bunnies At Large here.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

What's happening with Ear Candle Radio?

It has come to our attention that Live 365 has disabled their widgets due to some hackers getting into their system, so the Ear Candle Radio player on our blog is not available for a while. In the meantime, you can tune in here.

Brain In A Chair: The Video

The official video for BRAIN IN A CHAIR by THE GRANITE COUNTERTOPS. Animated office drone avatars appear courtesy of Go Animate!

Move This Monster

This is the opening track from the most recent Experimental Bunnies album. It began with a quasi-"township jive" groove we fell into with Glenn Stevens, and then Frank Lev and Steve Mackay came over to play at different times. I love the contrast between Steve's gritty outbursts and Frank's creamy tone. Beautiful work, everyone. Seemed appropriate to kick it all off with a collage of San Francisco foghorn sounds like the ones we hear through our window in the middle of the night. The title came from something Davis Jones said in passing: "What's it going to take to move this monster?"

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Ear Candle Radio's Top 20 for July 2015

1. Chastity Belt - Joke - Time to Go Home
2. Solex - Pick Up - Pick Up
3. Ken Nordine - Reaching into In - The Best of Word Jazz, Vol. 1
4. dot Vom - Legs For Days - Love Weights
5. Cream - Deserted Cities Of The Heart - The Very Best of Cream
6. Neo Boys - Split - Sooner Or Later
7. Chuck Willis - Hang Up My Rock And Roll Shoes - Atlantic R&B Volume 4: 1957-1960
8. Dilate - Tangerine Sky - Space Box - 1970 & Beyond: Space, Krautrock & Acid Trips
9. The Granite Countertops - Rainy Night In Florida - Planets Don't Twinkle
10. Blondie - In The Sun - Blondie
11. Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band - Kama Sutra - The Doughnut In Granny's Greenhouse
12. Sam The Sham & The Pharaohs - Little Red Riding Hood - Wooly Bully: Little Red Riding Hood
13. The Delta Rhythm Boys - I'm In Love With A Gal - Jump & Jive 'Til One O'Clock (Anthology Vol. 2 - 1947-1950)
14. The 6ths - All Dressed Up In Dreams (with Mary Timony) - Wasps' Nests
15. Siouxsie & The Banshees - Jigsaw Feeling - The Scream
16. The Original Bushwackers & Bullockies Bush Band - South Australia - The Shearers Dream
17. Courtney Barnett - Avant Gardener - The Double EP: A Sea of Split Peas
18. Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band - Rhinocratic Oaths - The Doughnut In Granny's Greenhouse
19. Peter Jefferies - White Prole - Electricity
20. Lou Reed & John Cale - The Trouble With Classicists - Songs For Drella

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Ear Candle Radio's Top 20 for June 2015

1. Tom Heyman - Chickenhawks And Jesus Freaks - That Cool Blue Feeling
2. Sonic Rendezvous Band - City Slang - Sonic Rendezvous Band 7"
3. Ornette Coleman - Peace - The Shape Of Jazz To Come
4. Courtney Barnett - Elevator Operator - Sometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit
5. The Blame SF - Outside The Blue Room - The Full Disclosure Principle
6. Six Organs of Admittance - A Thousand Birds - Dark Noontide
7. Merry Clayton & Bernard Krause - Performance - Performance: Original Motion Picture Sound Track
8. Ex Hex - Radio On - Rips
9. Deerhunter - Desire Lines - Halcyon Digest
10. X-tal - Long Dark Night - Everything Crash
11. The Silver Jews - San Francisco B.C. - Lookout Mountain, Lookout Sea
12. Rodriguez - I Wonder - Searching For Sugar Man
13. Patti Smith - This Is The Girl - Banga
14. The Velvet Underground - One Of These Days - The Velvet Underground: 45th Anniversary Super Deluxe Edition
15. Mecca Normal - Odele's Bath - Empathy for the Evil
16. J Neo Marvin & The Content Providers - Take Me By Surprise - What Is Truth?
17. The Granite Countertops - Brain In A Chair - Planets Don't Twinkle
18. The Dirtbombs - I'm Qualified To Satisfy You - Ultraglide In Black
19. The Beach Boys - This Whole World (A Cappella) - Made In California
20. African Head Charge - Fruit Market - Great Vintage Volume 2

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Ear Candle Radio's Top 20 for May 2015

1. Wendy Atkinson - Ukulele Shock - The Last Fret
2. Scrawl - Don't We Always Get There? - Nature Film
3. Viv Albertine - The Madness Of Clouds - The Vermilion Border
4. Laetitia Sadier - There is a Price to Pay for Freedom (and it isn't Security) - Silencio
5. The Flowers - Tear Along - The Ballad Of Miss Demeanor
6. Tegmentum - Experiential - Passage
7. Cadallaca - Pocket Games - Introducing Cadallaca
8. Gong - A P.H.P.'s Advice - 1974 - You (Radio Gnome Invisible, Pt. 3)
9. The Specials - Man At C&A - More Specials
10. Sabrina (Tobi Vail) - Sun Somewhere - Typical Girls Won't Pay More Than $3
11. Pentangle - Sally Go Round The Roses - Basket Of Light
12. Moving Targets - The Other Side - Burning In Water
13. Marianne Faithfull & Chris Spedding - Ballad Of The Soldier's Wife - Lost in the Stars: The Music of Kurt Weill
14. The Action 13 - More Bread To The People - Rebel Music - Songs Of Protest And Insurrection
15. Culturcide - Land Of Birds - The Men With The Deadly Dreams
16. Jah Wobble & Keith Levene - Back On The Block - Yin & Yang
17. Forehead Bros - Circular Motion - Pay It All Back, Volume 2
18. Can - Tape Kebab - The Peel Sessions
19. Edwards Crossing - Thick Like Blood - Edwards Crossing
20. Luna Lee - Voodoo Child - Gayageum

Friday, May 1, 2015

Ear Candle Radio's Top 20 for April 2015

1. The Who - Waspman - Rarities
2. Robin Crutchfield's Dark Day - Bird Brain - Typical Girls Won't Pay More Than $3
3. Masonic - Nightminded - Modoc Records Sampler, Vol. 3
4. Laurie Anderson - From The Air - Big Science
5. BlackCloudMC - Let Go - Electronic Instrumental LP
6. Pulp - Birds In Your Garden - We Love Lif
7. Ninetynine - I Could Not Recall Your Name - Bande Magnetique
8. The Magnetic Fields - Blue You - 69 Love Songs, Vol. 3
9. Lonelady - Fear No More - Nerve Up
10. JOOG - Caked - Modoc Records Sampler, Vol. 3
11. Hamish Kilgour - Hullabaloo - All of It and Nothing
12. Fuxa - Some Things Last A Long Time - Electric Sound of Summer
13. David Kilgour & The Heavy Eights - Dropper - End Times Undone
14. The Verms - Master Manipulator - Burst & Bloom
15. Sun City Girls - The Vinegar Stroke - Torch of the Mystics
16. Jeffrey Lewis & The Junkyard - Slogans - Em Are I
17. Golden Retriever - Canopy - Yeti 11
18. Dolly Mixture - He's So Frisky - Demonstration Tapes
19. Deerhoof - No One Asked to Dance - Deerhoof vs. Evil
20. Alpaca Brothers - Hey Man - Legless EP

Friday, April 3, 2015

Ear Candle Radio's Top 20 for March 2015

1. X-tal - Basics 101 - Who Owns Our Dreams?
2. Run On - Half of Half - No Way
3. Junior Murvin - What Is This - Best Of Lee Perry & The Upsetters
4. Funkadelic - Groovallegiance - One Nation Under A Groove
5. The Cult Inside My Head - Pacifica! - Omnipowerless
6. Bo Diddley - Diddley Daddy - His Best: The Chess 50th Anniversary Collection
7. Prince Far I - Wisdom - Message From The King
8. Fuxa - Some Things Last A Long Time - Electric Sound of Summer
9. Francis Bebey - Binta Madiallo - Akwaaba
10. Exuma - Zandoo - Exuma II
11. Dr. Israel - The Doctor Vs. The Wizard - Inna City Pressure
12. Trader Horne - The Mutant - Morning Way ...Plus
13. Robin Crutchfield's Dark Day - Bird Brain - Typical Girls Won't Pay More Than $3
14. Pearls Before Swine - Playmate - One Nation Underground
15. Liliput - Your's Is Mine - Liliput
16. Jefferson Airplane - The Ballad Of You & Me & Pooneil [Live] [Long Version] - After Bathing At Baxter's [Bonus Tracks]
17. ESG - There Was A Time - A South Bronx Story 2: Collector's Edition Rarities
18. The Dirtbombs - I'm Qualified To Satisfy You - Ultraglide In Black
19. Blackedout - Vessel - An Alluring Aura, 2/12/14
20. The Granite Countertops - Daredevil - Planets Don't Twinkle

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Just like spring rain

Ear Candle Productions is busy with several things at once, just the way we like it!

The second ambient electronic set by Dr. Spaceman, entitled MENNO!, with dramatic, Neu-referencing cover art to match, is mastered and ready to go. Available soon at all your finer mp3 shacks.

BUNNIES AT LARGE, the fifth Experimental Bunnies collection, is tantalizingly near completion. Ten songs, ten years in the making, ten amazing musical contributors. This time around, we veer into jazz territory with free form horns everywhere. Hope you like our new direction. Coming in April, probably.

The post punk singer-songwriter project is still on the back burner. We still need a "band name." This morning I said "too bad the name Magazine is already taken" (because this will be created from the works of many different contributors) and Davis Jones said "what about 'Pamphlet'?" We'll see if it sticks.

Also coming up: new Granite Countertops videos! Lots of new ideas a-cookin'.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Ear Candle Radio's Top 20 for February 2015

Posting the charts a little late this go-round. Tripped up by the shortest month of the year! Nevertheless, a great selection here. Thank you listeners, and don't touch that mouse!

1. Sweet Baby - Andorra - The Thing That Ate Floyd
2. Paul Revere & the Raiders - Observation from Flight 285 (In 3/4 Time) - Hungry for Kicks: Singles & Choice Cuts 1965-69
3. The Magnetic Fields - Washington, D.C. - 69 Love Songs, Pt. 2
4. Husker Du - Afraid Of Being Wrong - Everything Falls Apart
5. Generation X - Ready Steady Go - Generation X
6. Alpaca Brothers - Hey Man - Legless EP
7. Yoko Ono - Air Talk - Approximately Infinite Universe
8. Silver Jews - Night Society - American Water
9. Kevin Ayers - May I - June 1, 1974
10. Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes - Wake Up Everybody - Teddy Pendergrass and Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes
11. Foday Musa Suso and Pharoah Sanders - Samma - Jali Kunda: Griots of West Africa & Beyond
12. The Firesign Theatre - Bob's Brazerko Lounge - Dear Friends
13. The Experimental Bunnies - Grief - Music For The Integrity Tone Scale
14. Dr. Israel - The Doctor Vs. The Wizard - Inna City Pressure
15. Cringer - Cottleston Pie - The Thing That Ate Floyd
16. Blackedout - Vessel - Blackedout RIP
17. Rebby Sharp - Some Men - In One Mouth And Out The Other
18. Lou Reed - Gassed And Stoked - Magic And Loss
19. Mudwimin - Cloud Rodeo - Skiz
20. Jefferson Airplane - The Ballad Of You & Me & Pooneil [Live] [Long Version] - After Bathing At Baxter's [Bonus Tracks]

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Ear Candle Radio's Top 20 for January 2015

1. Donovan - Sunny South Kensington - Mellow Yellow
2. Thunderclap Newman - Hollywood Dream - Hollywood Dream
3. Tarika - Zotra (Transport) - Son Egal
4. Peter Tosh - I Am That I Am - Equal Rights
5. New Order - ICB - Movement
6. Mark Silverman - Space Song - Medieval People
7. Link Wray - Alabama Electric Circus - Wray's Three Track Shack
8. The Incredible String Band - Sleepers, Awake! - Changing Horses
9. The Feminine Complex - I've Been Workin' On You - Livin' Love
10. Butthole Surfers - In The Cellar - Rembrandt Pussyhorse
11. Poly Styrene - Electric Blue Monsoon - Generation Indigo
12. Big Star - Thank You Friends - Third/Sister Lovers
13. Kevin Ayers - May I - June 1, 1974
14. Dot Vom - Turtle Hill - Demos
15. Killing Joke - Turn To Red - Wild Dub: Dread Meets Punk Rocker
16. The Cannanes - Tiny Compartment - Small Batch
17. Edwards Crossing - Thick Like Blood - Edwards Crossing
18. Charles Bradley - Why Is It So Hard? - No Time for Dreaming
19. Mecca Normal - Odele's Bath - Empathy for the Evil
20. YAT-KHA - In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida - cover the earth

Sunday, January 25, 2015

"He was a man who was staunchly confused about most things, but in his role as head of the household, he felt compelled to have strong opinions."

Empathy For The Evil

When I read that Mecca Normal would be recording their thirteenth album with former Shimmy Disc founder Mark Kramer as producer, I admit I was slightly skeptical. How do the poster children of sparse, cutting, post-punk minimalism find common ground with the king of the reverb-laden psychedelic wall of sound?

I've never been happier to have my expectations dashed to the rocks. What has Kramer brought to Mecca Normal? Clarity and subtlety. Jean Smith's nasal-yet-powerful vocals (sometimes double-tracked for emphasis) and David Lester's assertive, scene-setting rhythm guitar are right there in front of you. Kramer's bass and keyboards, Smith's sax and keyboard additions, and Lester's occasional melodic guitar overdubs add color without getting in the way. The sound is sensual, warm, and balanced. Mecca Normal have already put out an imposing amount of great music over the years, but Empathy For The Evil may be the best-sounding album they've ever made.

The new twist this album offers is that the lyrics to all but two tracks are taken directly from two of Jean Smith's novels, The Black Dot Museum of Political Art and Obliterating History. This does not mean Empathy For The Evil is a "spoken-word" album. The songs are vivid fragments of stories with intriguing bits of information left out, spun into elegant phrases sung over Lester's catchy, poignant chord progressions. The more you listen, the more these elusive character sketches stick in your consciousness.

The album opens with a typically jagged Mecca Normal grind called "Art Was The Great Leveler". Over David Lester's choppy punk chords (one of that rare breed of guitarists who is instantly identifiable from the first strum), Jean Smith dissects the social rituals of a community of artists who fancy themselves able to transcend class differences. The words are deadpan and descriptive, but the voice is full of skeptical amusement. When it gets to the part where she reveals the great effort the characters make to hide uncomfortable details about themselves, it simply confirms everything her tone of voice already implied. (Her wry delivery of "art...and hiking" alone is a crackup.)

In contrast, "Wasn't Said" takes a resigned character's internal monologue and elongates the words over slow folky heart-tugging guitar and organ. The emotional effect of the repeated phrases "none of this will matter" and "no communication, no communication" is devastating. Another slower number, "Normal", is a portrait of a petulant boy passing judgement on his mother for her nonconformity. (He sounds utterly insufferable, but Smith is a gifted and confident enough writer to let him speak for himself without editorializing.) "One Man's Anger" dissects another character who hides his fear (and his fear of his fear) behind a more socially acceptable veneer of anger while hypnotic circular chords revolve around him as if to emphasize his own psychic trap. "Naked And Ticklish" is a comical series of character studies of men and dogs that hearkens back to the outrageous tales of disastrous online dating experiences on Mecca Normal's previous album, The Observer.

The album ends with a two-part portrait of a young girl growing up on a remote farm in the Depression with a gruff, abusive father and several brothers, thrust into the role of the hard working "farm wife" for the males of the household after her mother's death. Odele's inner life and her struggle to come of age in an ugly emotional environment is rivetingly told. In the end, even the good side of country living is spoiled for her as she runs away from home at 16 and resolves to "never again eat anything green." To find out what happens to her after that, we'll all have to read The Black Dot Museum of Political Art when it comes out.

Turning long, thick passages of prose into singable, memorable songs, Mecca Normal have revolutionized their music again. If you think you've already heard everything this band is capable of, you need to hear Empathy For The Evil and find out just how wrong you are. After a long-delayed release, you will finally get a chance. Do not miss this one.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

I've Always Been On Fire

Dirt EP

Rip Reed and I go way back. The second gig X-tal ever played, we opened for Trial, a Joy Division-influenced anarcho-punk band he briefly played guitar with. Back in the 80s, Rip cut his teeth on the more challenging end of the punk scene, playing with Trial and Ⓐ State Of Mind as well as recording EPs by Atrocity and Liberté. Even as a youngster, he was focused and brilliant, and very much a fixture on the scene back then. I still crack up remembering the time we were at a New Years Eve show at the Victoria Theatre featuring the Dicks (Gary Floyd made himself up as a dead ringer for Divine in Pink Flamingos that night) and hanging out with a freshly-shaved Rip when a drunk skinhead stumbled up to us, bellowing, "YOU'RE not a skinhead! I'M a SKINHEAD! YOU'RE just a BALD MAN!" It took some effort for us to maintain our cool and not burst into giggles until the guy moved on to some other distraction. Ah yes, punk rock was still fresh and a bit dangerous back then.

After decades of being out of touch, it's nice to discover that Rip is at the helm of a new vehicle called Spider Heart. As I would expect, the guitar and production are absolutely stellar. Rip now favors big room-filling chords and basic, satisfying riffs with a slight Ron Asheton tone, especially when he hits the wah-wah pedal. Lead singer May Black is no slouch on guitar herself, and their combined tones go down like a shot of whiskey. With Juli Sherry on bass and Chris Maneri, their current drummer, filling out the rhythm section, Spider Heart pounds out their songs with pure confidence and authority. At the center of it all is May Black's voice, a feral, intoxicating thing that moans, shouts and sneers at the world. Imagine a throatier version of Kat Bjelland of Babes In Toyland and you might be halfway there.

On their diverse debut album, Under The Gun, the standout tracks included the brooding "Book Of Poems" and the cascading 3/4 wall of sound "Spark." The album was a long time in the making; on the band's Soundcloud page, you can hear the songs develop over the years. In contrast, the new 5-song EP, Dirt, sounds more like a spontaneous, unified outburst. The two-guitar tone has been honed into something even bigger and more undeniable. The EP seems to unfold in a very deliberate fashion: big drone stomp; midtempo minor-key bluesy rocker; crazed punk screech; bigger slower drone dirge; despondent/defiant crawl. The five songs fit together like a cathartic ritual. It all feels right.

The lyrics are...how do I put this?...very dramatic teen-angst rock stuff. Everything is devils, dirt, guns, bullets, crime, fire, dead this, dead that...in the hands of a less powerful band and singer it would start to sound kinda corny after a while. But the way Spider Heart tear into these songs, you just want to jump around and wave your fists joyfully. Also, it has to be said, I've never heard a more convincing delivery of "fire" as a metaphor for the libido than the song by the same name. "Fire" is a thrilling undertow of noisy longing. Oddly enough, the manic middle track, "Love/War", manages to take one of the worst rock clichés ever (gun=dick, bullets=you know the rest) and twist it by 1) the words being written and delivered by a female singer, and 2) upping the violence ante with a chorus of "My love's a bullet, I'll shoot to kill!" followed by an insanely screamed "KILL! KILL! KILL! KILL!" Suddenly it feels like we're in the head of the perpetrator of the next big mass shooting, and we've moved beyond mere AC/DC or Motley Crue style cock-rock japery into a scary evocation of the reality of gun-crazy America. Meanwhile, the music and the vocals are madly exhilarating. It wouldn't be as disturbing and disorienting if they weren't.

Maybe they weren't intending this to be anything more than a cool, bad-ass song and broader social commentary was the last thing on their minds. It doesn't matter, really. This is the kind of impact punk rock used to have: a dive into the abyss in search of unsentimental truth, no matter how nasty or hideous the result may be. If you see culture as pure pedagogy, you'll hate it. If you see it as a reflection of the Zeitgeist, you'll nod your head sadly while banging it at the same time. Turns out punk rock can still be fresh and dangerous sometimes. Spider Heart are already on to something. I look forward to where they go from here.

Coming up: Reviews of 2014

I've been laid up with a nasty flu since the new year began and am finally starting to feel just a little bit better, so it's time to make good on some promises from the year before. I have been asked very nicely by a few people to review their new releases on the blog, and though I said yes, procrastination is a very powerful force. But here I am, still calling in sick from work, and busy doing nothing. Time to get cracking. See you soon.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Ear Candle Radio's Top 20 for December 2014

1. Zap Mama - Africa Sunset - 7
2. Steve Mackay - Zombie Chevys - Sometimes Like This I Talk
3. Snapper - Cause Of You - Snapper 12" EP
4. Mammals - Robocop - Demos
5. Bob Mould - Fugue State - Silver Age
6. Thee Oh Sees - No Spell - Floating Coffin
7. Marianne Faithfull & Chris Spedding - Ballad Of The Soldier's Wife - Lost in the Stars: The Music of Kurt Weill
8. Lonelady - Immaterial - Nerve Up
9. Jeffrey Lewis & The Junkyard - Mini-Theme: Moocher From The Future - Em Are I
10. Fifth Column - Don't - Free to Fight
11. Dr. Spaceman - Tap Into The New - Zwanzig Kilometer Stau
12. Linda Smith - A Crumb of Your Affection - Love Songs For Laughs
13. Brian Eno - Horse - Small Craft On A Milk Sea
14. Alec Bathgate - No Taxi To Hoboken - Gold Lame
15. Woody Guthrie - Jackhammer Blues - Columbia River Collection
16. The Television Personalities - She Can Stop Traffic - My Dark Place
17. Swell - Forget About Jesus - 41
18. The Saints - River Deep Mountain High - (I'm) Stranded [Bonus Tracks]
19. Ruby Howl - Armadillo - Heaven Hides There Too
20. Love - The Castle - Da Capo

Wednesday, December 31, 2014


Finished the Alex Chilton bio. Holly George Warren managed to dramatically describe his death at 59 (right at the very moment he seemed to finally be happy with his life) without giving the actual cause, so I sought assistance from Wikipedia and got this:

"Chilton had experienced at least two episodes of shortness of breath in the week prior to his fatal heart attack, though he did not seek medical attention in part because he did not have health insurance."

A truly American death, then. If we had single-payer, would Alex Chilton still be with us today?

Friday, December 26, 2014


A 33 1/3 book on Liz Phair's Zeitgeist-seizing classic Exile In Guyville seemed like a sure-fire good read, so I added it to my Christmas list without hesitation. It was only when I took it out of the wrapping that I noticed it was written by, of all people, Gina Arnold. Now, to most people, Arnold may be best known for the book Route 666: On the Road to Nirvana, which was a pretty decent memoir/travelogue/meditation on the previously under-the-radar indie scene that made Kurt Cobain's accidental mega-stardom possible. But for people in the Bay Area, Gina Arnold was briefly notorious for her weekly music column in the East Bay Express, which, at the time, seemed frustratingly "almost good." Week after week, Arnold would often come close to making a point and then derail herself with non sequiturs or glaring factual errors. My overall impression was that she was well-meaning but clueless. Puncture rejected her writing, but Rolling Stone and Spin embraced her with open arms, leaving some bewildered. How did this writer, of all people, become the alleged spokesperson for our scene?

OK, indie-rockers of the 90s were a self-important, presumptuous lot, and yours truly was no different. In a world without search engines, it could be argued that knowing everything about everything was itself a mark of male privilege. Certainly, Arnold had her defenders that argued just that. I was not buying it at the time; clearly she was just a bad writer! (Actually, she has always written quite well. Even when she came to rather silly conclusions, her ability to craft words really can't be questioned. This is precisely what made her column so frustrating.) In the days before the Internet, writing on the printed page seemed to matter so much more, and the idea that someone was writing future history and getting so much wrong was infuriating.

But most of the flack Gina Arnold caught back in the day had little to do with the flaws many of us railed against. I remember seeing her do a reading at a bookstore in Berkeley and the evening basically degenerated into watching a sincere, opinionated young woman getting shouted down by butthurt Rolling Stones fans who were livid that some girl had dared to treat their latest mediocre product with less than unquestioning reverence. Whatever Arnold's faults as a critic may have been, they melted into insignificance in the face of this display of misogyny-laced mainstream rock conservatism. The letters to the editor in the East Bay Express tended to reflect the same attitude. None of this made me any more of a fan of Gina Arnold's writing, but my respect for her definitely grew. A lot of people in her position would have wilted and hid, but she kept coming back, writing on from a perspective that may or may not have made sense to the reader, but it was her own and she wasn't backing down.

So here we are two decades on. I have not paid attention to Arnold at all until I opened this book, but something told me that I should be open to it, that maybe this is the perfect writer for the subject. 33 1/3 has a great track record in this, of course. But here we have a female journalist who was treated not merely as just another critic one disagreed with, but an interloper who had no right to put her views out there at all. Now consider Liz Phair, an indie-rock singer-songwriter who seemingly shows up out of nowhere and polarizes everyone. How many people wrote about Exile On Guyville as if it was nothing but 18 songs about blowjobs, as opposed to the masterful song cycle of catchy tunes and complex, wryly funny, irreverently lurid, and often-poignant emotional statements that it was? Maybe it's time to look back on the ruins of 90s indie rock and mainstream rock in general and confront some ugly truths about misogyny, pretentious notions of authenticity, and projections about other people's perceived privilege.

Arnold has come along as a writer, and now has the PhD to prove it. Some 33 1/3 books are delightful immersions into studio minutiae, full of wonderful stories about how a song was put together. Others focus on shining a light on the time that the album was a record of, how it was received, what it meant to listeners, and why it mattered. This book is definitely the second kind. It's refreshing to see someone take on Exile In Guyville as the serious, multi-dimensional work it is, and Arnold is spot-on when she recaps some of the more vile criticisms it and its creator endured at the time. (Steve Albini gets singled out for special attention.) Phair's inability to perform the album live is touched on as part of the supposed "authenticity" problem some critics invented. I would just add that much of her troubles in that area were purely technical: you can write and perform a song solo with your guitar in your room, or in a studio, and be able to sing softly in the lowest part of your vocal range, but trying to do the same thing in a live room with a full rock band is nearly impossible. I remember watching Liz Phair on TV struggling to get out one of her catchiest songs, "Never Said". She was forced to sing it an octave higher in order to simply be heard, and the song just didn't sound right. Liz Phair has gotten a lot of flack for her more recent attempts at slick pop where she sings in a high voice, but I have to sympathize with someone whose very signature sound...that deep, worldly-sexy whisper...can't be reproduced in the jangly rock setting that suits it best. Who can blame her for trying other genres and searching for a more comfortable way to employ her undeniable talent?

Caveat: This book is strong regarding culture in general and how both the music business and pop culture have changed. Where it falls short is (surprise!) if you read it without ever having heard the album in question, you will be none the wiser as to what any of the songs actually sound like. Oh well, somehow this manages to be worth your time to read and ponder anyway.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Ear Candle Radio's Top 20 for November 2014

1. Paleface - World Full of Cops - Paleface
2. Reverb Motherfuckers - Joe Of Arc - Route 666
3. Lost Cherrees - Escalation - In the Beginning: The Studio Recordings 83-85
4. John Hartford - The Wart - John Hartford
5. Jeffrey Lewis - Back When I Was 4 [Version Three] - It's the Ones Who've Cracked That the Light Shines Through
6. The Selecter - Black & Blue - Too Much Pressure
7. Alec Bathgate - No Taxi To Hoboken - Gold Lame
8. Jefferson Airplane - The Ballad Of You & Me & Pooneil [Live] [Long Version] - After Bathing At Baxter's [Bonus Tracks]
9. Jah Wobble & Keith Levene - Back On The Block - Yin & Yang
10. Steve Mackay - The Prisoner (featuring Iggy Pop) - Sometimes Like This I Talk
11. Angst - Looking For a Reason - Mystery Spot
12. The Mekons - Trouble Down South - Fear & Whiskey
13. Mammals - Robocop - Demos
14. John Lee Hooker - I'm In The Mood - 20th Century Masters: The Best Of John Lee Hooker
15. Jeffrey Horn - Slipping - Jeffrey Horn
16. Fuxa - Electric Sound Of Summer - Electric Sound of Summer
17. The Dirtbombs - F.I.D.O. - Dangerous Magical Noise
18. Big City Orchestra - There Will Come Soft Rains - K7
19. Jeffrey Lewis & The Junkyard - If Life Exists? - Em Are I
20. Vomit Launch - All Fouled Up - Dogeared

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Interesting review of Planets Don't Twinkle

Awesome pull quote:
The Granite Countertops will take hold of your life’s view and throw it in new light. They have a keen sense of this world and simply have chosen their music to reflect it upon us. So keep your eyes and ears open for their call.
Read it all here. The fact that they rave about "High Definition", one of the more challenging songs on the album, is very impressive. This site is clearly a resource for the unusual. We will be adding The Equal Ground to the Ear Candle blogroll forthwith.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

A song for the morning after

Standing on a ship that’s going down
Fighting bravely for the right to drown
The house is filling up with fire and smoke
While they throw bottles at the fire truck

(This is why we can’t have nice things!)

They don’t know what they’re talking about
But they know how to jump and shout
Raw meat raining on the angry herd
“Liberty” is now a meaningless word

Chasing demons in their wet fever dreams
The future’s scary and it makes them scream
Sincere citizens with godly goals
Modeling hats and digging six foot holes

(This is why we can’t have nice things!)

Bag of hammers on a bed of nails
Freedom trains are flying off the rails
Jumbo packages of cheap concerns
Country fiddles while the planet burns

(Oh, damn it!)
Don’t you know you’re being played for a fool…
Bag of hammers, raging over nothing…
It really doesn’t have to be this way…
(Ytrap aet a ton si noitulover a.)

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Ear Candle Radio's Top 20 for October 2014

1. The Shaggs - It's Halloween - Philosophy of the World
2. Siouxsie & The Banshees - Jigsaw Feeling - The Scream
3. The Dirtbombs - I'll Wait - Ultraglide In Black
4. The Holy Sisters Of The Gaga Dada - Paranoid - Radio Tokyo Tapes Vol. 4 - Women
5. The Hairem (SHE) - Like A Snake - Wants A Piece Of You
6. The Experimental Bunnies - No Fighting In The War Room! - Aranka
7. Tommy McCook - Everyday Sax - Blazing Horns/Tenor In Roots
8. Rob K/MDA - Spirit Level - The Purgatory Home Companion
9. Hanging Gardens - Come Over - Modoc Records Sampler, Vol. 3
10. Flight Of The Conchords - Bowie - Flight of the Conchords
11. The Delta Rhythm Boys - One O'Clock Jump - Jump & Jive 'Til One O 'Clock - Anthology - Volume 2
12. Thomas Mapfumo & The Blacks Unlimited - Mugara Ndega (True Born African) - Chimurenga For Justice
13. The Sleepers - Forever - Painless Nights
14. Mammals - Robocop - Demos
15. Luna Lee - Voodoo Child - Gayageum
16. Jeffrey Horn - Slipping - Jeffrey Horn
17. The Granite Countertops - Brain In A Chair - Planets Don't Twinkle
18. Firekeeper - Bali Song - To Wake The Living
19. The Experimental Bunnies - No Sleep Till The Pleiades - Aranka
20. The Aislers Set - Mary's Song - Terrible Things Happen

Thursday, October 9, 2014

We've got a show!

Come on down, come on down, the orphans gathering all around...

And now, for your enjoyment, an entire set by Vomit Launch.

Here they are, just as I remember them. I kind of wish they kicked the set off with another one of their great originals, rather than their cover of one of my least favorite Barbara Manning songs ever. Once that's out of the way though, it's mesmerizing. I also like the way Trish takes charge when the guy "introducing" them starts to get really tedious.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Mission Bells still ringing in my ears


It's harder than it used to be to recover from a late Sunday night gig and go to work the next day, but this night was the kind of event that made it worth the trouble. One of the bands that defined "turn of the century San Francisco" were reuniting in their hometown. Most people think of the Aislers Set as an indie-pop band, and sure, they have those elements of melody, jangle and casual sincerity, but to put them in such a narrow category is to do them an injustice. AV (formerly Amy) Linton is a rare artist with a gift for capturing a time and a place, pulling off the neat trick of writing songs so specific and personal they end up both universal and surreal. Three albums, Terrible Things Happen, The Last Match, and How I Learned To Write Backwards, constitute a snapshot of a Mission District that thrived briefly between gentrification surges, chronicled through a fistful of songs that were poignant, wry, colorful, and occasionally saucy.

Two bouncy, catchy, Flying-Nun-crossed-with-the poppier-side-of-the-Ramones kind of bands opened. We enjoyed them thoroughly while they were playing and forgot them immediately. Soon as the Aislers Set came on, the music was riveting yet delicate. Linton's aw-shucks, breathy delivery and unique 12-string guitar sound is as familiar and engaging as ever. Supported by the How I Learned To Write Backwards lineup plus two horn players/percussionists, the band ran through songs from their three very different-sounding albums without cutting any corners. Finally, after avoiding the instrument all night, Linton joined in on the ecstatic trumpet climax of "Mission Bells". It was bliss.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Ear Candle Radio's Top 20 for September 2014

1. Mecca Normal - Art Was the Great Leveler - Empathy for the Evil
2. Snapper - Cause Of You - Snapper 12" EP
3. Rebby Sharp - Some Men - In One Mouth And Out The Other
4. Y Pants - Magnetic Attraction - Y Pants
5. Firekeeper - Bali Song - To Wake The Living
6. Eric's Trip - Secret For Julie - Love Tara
7. Dot Vom - Fat Case (demo) - Demos
8. The Clean - Point That Thing Somewhere Else - Anthology
9. Pete Seeger - Garbage - Pete
10. Rico Bell - The Whole Thing Stinks - Darkside Of The Mersey
11. Paleface - World Full of Cops - Paleface
12. Harry Belafonte - Go Down Emanuel Road - Jump Up Calypso
13. Darlene Love - A Fine, Fine Boy - Phil Spector Back to Mono (1958-1969)
14. Cryptohelix - X-City Rockers - The Nostalgia Bottle Breaks
15. Nocturnal Projections - Alone in the Corner - Nerve Ends In Power Lines
16. Laurie Anderson - Language Is a Virus from Outer Space - United States Live
17. Jeffrey Horn - Pulsar - Jeffrey Horn
18. Public Image Limited - The Pardon - This is What you Want...This is What you Get
19. Vital Disorders - Tough Times - ZOMBIE
20. Mecca Normal - Wasn't Said - Empathy for the Evil